Tip 2 – Improve your indoor air quality for better health and well-being
Since we rarely have to remind ourselves to take a breath (although most of us could benefit from a deep inhale and exhale from time to time) it’s easy to overlook the importance of air quality. And that is unfortunate, because indoor air quality has a huge impact on our health and well-being. Just think about how much time each of us spends indoors every day (for most of us we’re talking around 18-20 hours per day). I learned this the hard way when my children started developing asthma. As I began to search for causes and tried to eliminate various toxins in the house, I learned about numerous culprits of indoor air polluters. The more I learned, the less I trusted traditional household products. This is why Tip #2 addresses steps you can take to make your air as fresh and clean as possible, and eliminate some of the common causes of indoor air pollution. Get ready, as there is a lot of information here!
First always say no to VOCs in your paint. VOC stands for ‘volatile organic compound’ and includes a whole host of nasty chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene and acetone that off-gas particles into the air which irritate the skin and mucus membranes and cause many short- and long-term adverse health effects. Traditional paint is full of VOCs – that is the typical ‘new paint smell’. Happily, excellent quality, no-VOC paint is readily available these days in most big box hardware stores like Ace and Home Depot. My personal favorite brands are Mythic and Yolo Colorhouse. I also really like Benjamin Moore’s Natura, and you can find it almost everywhere!
Think carefully about laminated wood, as it is usually dressing up MDF…
Another sneaky hidden culprit of indoor air pollution is MDF, a basic staple of most cabinetry and furniture. MDF, which stands for ‘Medium-Density Fiberboard’ is ground up wood pulp bound together with adhesives. Most inexpensive and mass-produced furniture, cabinets and wood floors are made from composite board these days, but typical MDF uses urea formaldehyde in the resin, and formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen that off-gases vapors into the air and has been associated with nasal cancer and leukemia.
When shopping for furniture and cabinetry, make sure that any and all MDF that you see is ‘non-toxic MDF’ which is made with formaldehyde-free resin. Additionally, look for products from companies that use non-toxic finishes (such as varnishes, paints and lacquers). Mainstream brands like IKEA and West Elm are great options for inexpensive low VOC furniture, but if you want something special that’s going to last many years take a look at some of the beautiful styles offered by Q Collection and Ironies.
The greenest piece of furniture is one that already exists.
I’m a huge advocate of vintage furniture. Not only is it more eco-friendly to reuse an existing product rather than get a new product, but most vintage furniture uses solid wood and is much better quality and craftsmanship than mass-produced furniture that is churned out of factories today. I love to browse antique fairs like the Alameda flea market, and shop on Ebay for vintage diamonds in the rough that I can refurbish myself and turn into treasures.
DON’T FORGET THE BASICS
Don’t forget the small things that can make a big difference! Simple things like removing your shoes in the house and making the most of cross-ventilation can have a huge impact. It’s also important to use only gentle, eco-friendly cleaning supplies. My favorite brand is Method – especially Method’s Wood for Good floor cleaner.