Why Natural Cleaning Products and Practices?
Americans use an extremely high amount of the toxic chemicals to clean their homes and offices. The off-gases (VOC’s) from these chemical mixtures are toxic and linger in the homes and offices in which they are used. Inhaling and ingesting toxins can, over time, cause cancer and other physical ailments. But, we can make a difference by choosing to purchase natural cleaning products and by supporting the companies that are choosing to use natural products and use earth-friendly practices. For more, see the EWG Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
If we all make an effort to make eco-friendly choices, it will help:
- keep us healthy
- keep our homes clean and our indoor air quality healthy
- reduce the output of VOC’s into the earth’s atmosphere
- set an example for others
- tell corporations through the power of the dollar that we want eco-friendly products and a commitment to integrity
Tips for Energy Conservation
Top-five easiest things to do to conserve energy:
- Change the filter in your furnace: keeps heating and cooling systems running efficiently.
- Use to fluorescent light bulbs: they use far less energy than incandescents.
- Combine trips: plan your errands to reduce transportation time.
- Lower the temperature on your water heater: you’ll still have hot water, but it means the heater uses less energy when you are not using hot water.
- Check your car’s tire pressure: poorly inflated tires wastes gas and causes more pollution.
Five choices you could make that will make a big difference:
- Buy a fuel efficient vehicle: include the fuel economy rating as part of the decision making process.
- Buy green power: some utilities will give you info this; otherwise, consider a Green Tag.
- Install a programmable thermostat: it takes about 10 minutes to install and allows you to save lots of energy costs when you are not home.
- Buy less stuff: everything we buy creates waste and uses energy both in the manufacturing process and after we use it.
- Stand up for what’s right and keep in touch with what’s happening on this issue locally, nationally and globally.
Conserving Energy at Home
- Turn off the lights that you are not using.
- Buy compact fluorescent bulbs, which reduce energy use by up to 75 percent. Set a goal of at least replacing the bulbs that are most commonly on in your home.
- If your older children live with you, put them in charge of the electricity bill. They’ll make sure all the lights are turned off if they are responsible to for paying for the electricity.
- Do not place lamps near a thermostat. The thermostat senses the heat produced from the lamp which can change how often your furnace or air conditioner will run.
- Consider safer, more efficient Energy Star torchiere lamps over popular halogen torchiere lamps. The halogen lamps can cause fires, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. While relatively inexpensive to purchase, halogen lamps are expensive to operate.
- Use dimmers, timers and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.
Heating and cooling your home:
- Change or clean your furnace and air conditioner filters regularly to keep heating and cooling systems running efficiently. Dust can restrict airflow and stress the system. Filters can be washable or disposable. Measure the existing filter to make sure to buy a filter that fits properly. It is best to keep several filters on hand as replacements during the cooling season.
- Instead of disposing of a dirty furnace or air conditioner filter, you could vacuum it once per month to extend the life of the filter.
- Install a programmable thermostat to regulate your heating and cooling when you are not home.
- Test windows and doors to see if they need new weather-stripping by lighting a candle and moving it around the perimeter of the window or door. If the flame flickers, you need to install new weather-stripping. Don’t put the candle near curtains or blinds though.
- Get your furnace and air conditioner inspected every few years.
- Install “draft blockers” or gasket insulators behind light switches and electrical outlets.
- Install window film for windows that you don’t open often, or that seem drafty.
- Plant deciduous trees outside windows on the south side of your house to provide shade in summer and allow sunlight in winter.
- If you live in a house or apartment with water-heated radiators, put foil-faced insulation board between the radiators and the outside walls, with the foil side facing the room.
- Avoid water beds which use a lot of energy to heat in the winter. If you have a water bed, insulate around it and cover it with many blankets to keep the heat in.
- Install ceiling fans to improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems.
- Add attic insulation to increase the efficiency of both your furnace and air conditioner. A good standard is to reach “R30,” which a contractor should understand.
- Make sure draperies, furniture or rugs do not block vents. These vents should also be cleaned regularly with a vacuum or a broom.
- Set your water heater to a lower setting or call a service person to adjust it for you.
- Put an appropriate insulation blanket around your water heater.
- Run your dishwasher without the “drying cycle” and just let dishes drip dry.
- Do full loads when you use clothes washers and dishwashers.
- To reduce the amount of dishes to wash, label the bottom of cups and mugs with family member’s names.
- Reduce the amount of towels to wash by labeling towels or hooks.
- Choose cold or warm cycles over hot cycles because heating the water for laundry consumes 90 percent of the energy of the laundry process.
- Hang your clothes to dry either on a clothesline or a clothes tree, at least some of the time. In the winter, this is a natural humidifier in a dry room.
- Reduce ironing time by taking clothes out when they are slightly damp and hanging them up, or right away when the clothes are dry. If you get to the dryer too late, you can put a damp towel inside and run the dryer for a few minutes to get the same effect.
- Empty the lint trap after each use of the dryer.
- Dry light and heavy clothing separately for maximum efficiency.
- To make room for drying clothes, buy an expandable shower curtain rod and put it in the shower. Hang clothes on hangers.
- Install a dryer vent hood where your dryer discharges to the outside to reduce the amount of heat escaping from this hole.
- Buy rechargeable batteries and a recharger.
- Only purchase toys that don’t require batteries.
Refrigerators and freezers:
- Keep condenser coils clean on the back of your refrigerator. Gently wipe and vacuum them once a year. Many fridges have a removable panel around the coils. Keep the back of the fridge at least four inches from the wall.
- Make sure the fridge door gasket seals tight. Test it by putting a piece of paper in a closed door. Pull on the paper and if it comes out too easily, you need to replace your gasket. Test at several places along the door. Another way to test: put a flashlight in your fridge and see if the light leaks out when you close the door.
- Check the temperature of your fridge and freezer by putting a thermometer in a glass of water. Put the glass of water in the center shelf in the center of the fridge. It should read 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer should read 0-5 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If you have a large freezer, keep it in the basement or as cool a room as possible.
- The fuller the freezer, the more energy efficient it is.
- Let hot food cool down a bit before you put it in the fridge.
- Install your fridge away from direct sun or your rangetop or oven.
- Try not to use a second refrigerator. Make sure your fridge is absolutely level to ensure the door gets closed every time you open it.
- Choose small appliances over big ones, such as a toaster oven, electric teapot, rice cooker, electric fry pan or a crock-pot.
- Cover pans when cooking to keep heat in.
- Turn off the burner or oven before the food is completely cooked.
- Use a pressure cooker whenever possible.
- Make more food than you need for one meal and then heat the leftovers in a microwave (although it is not recommended to use a microwave at all).
- Bake with glass or ceramic pans which allow you to set the temperature in the oven by 25 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the recipe calls for.
- Thaw food on metal such as in a stainless steel pan (we do not recommend using non-stick pans).
- Keep the grease plates under your range burners clean to ensure the most heat is being reflected up.
- Use the appropriate size burner on the range – small for small pots, large for large pots.
- Don’t worry so much about preheating for most recipes, except fragile pastries or cakes.
Large purchasing decisions:
- Contact your utility company to see if they have a “check meter” which you plug into an appliance and get the exact voltage. This will help you decide whether it is worthwhile to replace an appliance.
- When shopping for home appliances and electronics, look for the “Energy Star” label. For more information, go to www.energystar.gov.
- Choose an energy-efficient front-loading washing machine.
- If buying a new dryer, find one with a moisture sensor that turns off when the clothes are dry.
- Avoid automatic ice makers which use substantial energy.
- Side-by-side refrigerator freezers use more energy than a typical model.
- When buying a new stove, the induction cook tops are the most energy-efficient. These look like a ceramic cooking surface, like a countertop.
- If available, buy “green power” that comes from non-polluting sources of electricity such as solar cells and windmills. For more information on green power availability, visit www.green-e.org.
- Replace very old windows with more energy-efficient ones.
- Choose a natural gas furnace over an oil furnace, which produces more CO2.
- Since dark colors absorb heat, choose a light-color roof shingle if you have a choice.
- You can apply a reflective coating to your existing roof. Two standard roofing coatings are available at your local home improvement store. They have both waterproofing and reflective properties and are marketed primarily for mobile homes and recreational vehicles. One coating is white latex that you can apply over many common roofing materials, such as asphalt and fiberglass shingles, tar paper, and metal. Most manufacturers offer a five-year warranty.
- Put on an air conditioner cover during the winter to reduce drafts.
- Wear slippers and light sweaters so you can lower the temperature a few degrees.
- Cover your legs and/or torso with a lap quilt or blanket when sitting still at home.
- Set the air-conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees or higher for the most energy-efficient operation.
- Install shaded window film to block extra sunlight and reduce air conditioning costs. Some states have tax incentives for you to do this. Some films are permanent so you might not install them if you want to get sun in your home during the winter.
- Use your microwave or outdoor grill instead of a range or oven to reduce the amount of heat you produce indoors.
- Use fans to move the air inside your home. This gives the sensation that it is 5 degrees cooler than the actual temperature.
- Shade windows on the sunny side of your home. Keep drapes closed or add room-darkening shades to block out the heat from the sun.
- Keep the outside portion of a central air conditioner clear from dried mud, debris and grass clippings. Check after an intense rain. Mud can splatter onto the unit and block the air after it dries.
- Plant trees or shrubs to shade air-conditioning units but do not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.
- On hot summer days, avoid opening doors and windows in your home during the afternoon. This allows cool air to escape and hot air to enter the home. Choose activities that are either indoors or outdoors and restrict activities that require many door openings to the mornings.
- Shift energy-intensive tasks such as laundry and dishwashing to off-peak energy-demand hours to increase electricity reliability during heat waves.
- Save jobs that produce moisture – such as mopping, laundry and dishwashing – for early morning or nighttime hours. The humidity from these activities can make homes uncomfortable.
- Make sure the attic is properly ventilated to relieve excess summer heat.
- Install a radiant barrier on the underside of your roof to reflect heat. A radiant barrier is simply a sheet of aluminum foil with a paper backing.
- Turn off or even unplug your televisions when not in use. Televisions draw power constantly for the instant-on functionality.
- Compost kitchen wastes rather than use your garbage disposal.
- Recycle aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastic, cardboard and newspapers. Using recycled materials in manufacturing consumes less energy than using virgin materials.