Air conditioning vs. fresh air: 10 ways to “keep our cool”

therm risingAt the start of every summer, as the temperature rises, my husband and I seem to have the same discussion… when to turn on the air conditioning!

This is never an easy discussion (okay! read: argument!) as this is the man who wears shorts and t-shirts around the house when it’s 19 degrees outside in the dead of winter.

I prefer the open windows and doors, and want to breathe the fresh air.  To this my husband responds “Babe, it ceases to be fresh as soon as it’s 85 degrees with 70% humidity!”  Well, it’s still fresh but I guess it does cease to be RE-freshing!

Just like heating your house in the winter and whether you do or don’t choose to crank the AC, there are ways to keep your house cooler, stop some of the cool air loss and use less energy in the process:

  • Close blinds or curtains in various windows throughout the day to prevent the sun shining in.  If it’s coming in, so is the heat.
  • Use ceiling fans. They circulate the cool air and don’t use a lot of energy.
  • Program your thermostat.  No need to keep it blasting in the evening or when you aren’t even home.
  • When it’s cool outside at night, shut off the air, open the windows and take advantage.
  • 74 degrees is all you need.  This is a bearable temperature, and if you can tolerate it higher, do it!  Each degree saves 3-4% on your cooling/energy expenses.
  • Don’t worry about unused rooms.  Close the windows, doors and vents in these rooms, and block the bottom of the door if they aren’t frequently occupied.ceil fan
  • Run appliances at night.  This includes dryers & dishwashers that give off heat. Avoid using your oven… give it a rest and grill instead!  And if you do use the stovetop, be sure to use the exhaust fan to take away the heat.
  • Turn off unneeded lights, TVs, computers, etc. when you aren’t using them.  They all generate heat too.
  • Keep heat generating appliances away from the thermostat (TVs, lamps, etc.).  They’ll make the thermostat think it’s hotter than it really is.
  • Don’t chop down trees that shade your house.  They simply keep a house cooler.  And even plant strategically.  Shaded AC units run more efficiently, but just be sure not to block the airflow.

I do try to take my own advice.  It’s not always easy (living with my husband who compensates by turning up the ceiling fans to “jet speed”) but it’s a compromise we always seem to manage when it all “boils down”!

The “Toxic 10”… everyday products you should avoid

toxcWhen making the decision to “go green” the list of “should nots” is equally as important as the “shoulds”…

I’ve posted this list before, but with the amount of questions I’ve been getting recently, it’s worthy of a refresher course.  This list originally came from Healthy Child Healthy World and includes the top 10 toxic products that you DON’T need in your home. Without further ado, start checking the checklist!:

  • Air fresheners – they’re full of chemicals, synthetic fragrances and even anesthetics that can be inhaled into our lungs! (All you really need is some essential oils & water in a sprayer bottle!)
  • Bottled water – this water is no less contaminated (and sometimes MORE contaminated) than your tap water… add the BPA content of the plastic bottles and they are simply bad news. (Reusable stainless steel bottles are the only choice.)plastic bottle
  • Canned goods – their epoxy resin linings often contain BPA, linked to hormone disruption, heart disease and obesity. (Buy fresh, organic and/or join a CSA.)
  • Couch cushions – avoid anything containing foam that says it meets California TB 117 because they contain toxic fire retardants (like those horrible mattresses!  Remember, there ARE better choices.)  Those chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects, and thyroid, reproductive and neurological disorders.
  • Drain, oven and toilet bowl cleaners – they contain lye and acids that can burn skins, eyes and internal tissues. (A homemade cleaner of vinegar and a few simple ingredients can do the job just as well.)
  • Dry cleaned clothes – even though the chemical perchloroethylene (or perc) is applied elsewhere, it is linked to a number of cancers and even bringing home those clothes (and wearing them!) dramatically increases your exposure. (Choose a “green” dry cleaner or simply avoid “dry clean only” clothing.)
  • Oil-based paints and finishes – they can contain up to 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens … enough said. (Okay… a few more words: choose no-VOC paints and finishes only.)pain't cns
  • Perfume and cologne – one formulation can contain literally hundreds of chemicals that can absorb through the skin and accumulate in the bodies. (Again, just an essential oil is fantastic!)
  • Pesticides – these chemical poisons linger and contaminate the air and undoubtedly get dragged into our homes. (Take off those shoes in your house!)
  • Rubber duckies! – okay, more than rubber duckies… ANYTHING that contains PVC or vinyl.  They can leach phthalates (linked to hormone distruption) and lead (a potent neurotoxicant).

Please check out Healthy Child Healthy World’s original post for more great information on all of these “toxic 10”, as well as other important suggestions for substituting better options…

So, how many are still in or around your home?… I’ll bet you’re about to change that, aren’t you?!?

Toxic mattresses?… What you NEED to know!

mattress fillIt has long been a mission of mine to tell readers of dangers in products that we don’t typically consider potentially harmful.  Mattresses happen to be one of those products.

The reason?

Beginning July 1, 2007, Federal Fire Retardant Regulations mandated mattress manufacturers to INCREASE their levels of toxic fire retardants, but DO NOT require them to list the chemical ingredients in the contents of the mattresses!

And what do these fire retardants contain?… boric acid, melamine, antimony and formaldehyde… all chemicals linked to cancer.  Antimony alone causes heart muscle damage and (as much as I dislike testing on animals) a single dermal application has been fatal to laboratory animals.  Additional tests on Memory Foam mattresses even detected 61 chemical emissions and off-gassing from a single mattress.  Think about how many hours you spend sleeping on your mattress… every… single… night.  All the while, you are inhaling these toxic off-gassing chemicals. I find it both frightening AND infuriating, especially where our children are concerned.Nat bed matt

The ONLY answer is an organic mattress.  They’re made of pure organic wool, 100% organic cotton covers and 100% natural latex cores, providing even BETTER fire retardancy than the chemicals… naturally! The reality is that mattresses do NOT need to be sprayed with chemicals to make them fire retardant; they need to meet standards for BEING fire retardant… and that’s exactly what you get with organic mattresses.  They are chemical-free AND fire retardant!

When we purchased a new mattress for our son, we chose an organic mattress from Natural Bed Co.  They’re the real deal… helpful, reliable and honest (unlike some other mattress companies our friends have had to deal with!).

If you’re in Northeast Ohio, you can visit their showroom but, luckily for everyone, they’ll ship nationwide! They have literally everything you could need for restful, peaceful sleep, WITHOUT harsh and harmful chemicals sprayed all over your mattress.

Nat bed logoI truly suggest you bookmark this post for when you’re in the market for a new mattress and/or bedding.  But I believe in Natural Bed Co. so much, there is also a clickable link in my sidebar that has taken permanent residence.  Click and take a look… they have exactly what you need.

And by the way, you might be asking yourself if they’re affordable… well, I assure you, they are.  And afterall, considering all of the hours you and your family spend sleeping on your mattresses, can you really afford anything except the safest (and healthiest) choice?

A little “Laundry Room Love” for method (+ giveaway too!)

mthd laund(This giveaway is now closed for entries.)

I made a confession quite some time ago declaring that I’m a “method head”… yes, I am clearly addicted to method products.  And I’ve talked about them again, and again, aaaaand again.

I just happen to love pure products that are committed to a healthy environment and a safe “us”.  Since I started using their products they just get better and better.  They’re constantly improving them and I happen to like that too.

I’ve been using their laundry detergent forever (okay, not really, but for quite a long time). Now they’re super concentrated, so just one bottle tackles 50 loads of laundry, and the pump makes sure you don’t overuse.  Add to that the fact that the ingredients are 95% natural and renewable, in a recyclable bottle, and oh yea… you guessed it… the love and addiction continues.

Now they’re making a “Laundry Room Love” music video where YOU can be one of their stars!  Just visit their Facebook page to get the details and learn how to submit your award-winning performance.  As an extra reward, you’ll get a $2 off coupon at the end of the how-to video.  Savings… nice!mthd clean

They’re also hosting a little giveaway here at Mom Goes Green.  Would you like to see why I love method and score a bottle of your own?  Well, just leave a comment here saying you’d like to win, or send a Twitter message that includes a reply to @momgoesgreen and a link to this blog. Facebook friends can also leave a comment to be entered. The winners will be randomly selected on April 22!

Now, join me in some “Laundry Room Love”… grab your video camera, perform your heart out, submit your entry, become a star, earn a coupon and enter to win my giveaway!  Phew!… (and you wondered what you were going to do today)… get to lovin’!

Spring is in the air… all the ways to “green clean”!”

sprng clnSpring is one of my favorite times of the year. Everything feels new and there is something very refreshing about sitting back and seeing things literally spring to life.  One thing that does need our assistance, however, is our home. Unfortunately there is NOTHING refreshing about a house that has been closed for months on end.

The problem is that, while we attempt to do our spring cleaning, we can be tempted to grab the commercial cleaners and create a lot of waste too.  Here are some tips on avoiding the pitfalls:

  • Open windowslet the fresh air come in. It does wonders!
  • Buy distilled white vinegar – and lots of it.  The uses are amazing… everything from cleaning and sanitizing to disinfecting and stain removal.  Check out vinegartips.com for ideas, but whatever you do, do NOT use commercial household cleaners… they are harsh, harmful and unnecessary.
  • Buy hydrogen peroxide – you may not have considered this as an option before, but it’s a great alternative to bleach.
  • Buy baking soda – fantastic for cleaning but also for removing odors from rugs and carpets.  Sprinkle some on, let it sit for 30 minutes and vacuum it up… nice and simple.spry bttl
  • Make your own multipurpose cleanerI have a recipe and I use my own cleaner daily.
  • Make your own furniture polish – I have another recipe for you!
  • Skip paper towels and sponges – gather old t-shirts and towels (not suitable for donation) and put them to work.  Skoy cloths are another favorite of mine, and they can all be washed and used again for later cleaning projects.
  • Recycle – magazines, mail, catalogs, any needless papers, packaging….the list goes on and on.  And don’t just put them in the garbage can.  Put them in the recycling can. All of these papers are recyclable!
  • Food cupboards – you thought you’d need it, use it, want it, but alas you did not.  Donate it to a food pantry if it hasn’t expired; otherwise make sure the packaging, cans and containers get recycled as well.
  • Donation boxes – inevitably you will find lots of things that no longer have usefulness for you but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful for someone else.  Clothing, shoes, household items, books, furniture, toys, anything and everything. Pack up these items and donate them to a charity, list them on Freecycle or Craig’s List.  But never throw away anything that still has “life” left in it.sprng cln rag
  • Proper disposalmotor oil, paint cans, aerosols… check Earth911 to find out where these toxic products can be dropped off for proper disposal.  Same goes for electronics.  If they can’t be given away, check local resources (Best Buy has a fabulous program) or again Earth911.
  • Consider air freshening in a less harmful way – if you MUST put the scent of spring in the air, forgo the aerosol air fresheners and instead fill a spray bottle with a combination of water and essential oils, and “spray away!”
  • Buy a plant – some household plants will actually help to purify the air in your home!
  • Consider some “Spring Resolutions”no more antibacterial soaps (their harmful effects can be greater than their benefit), no more harsh cleaners and chemicals.  Vow to replace them with eco- and health-friendly products.  Put CFLs on your shopping list and use them for every bulb that needs replacing from here on out!  And when you buy these products, make sure they get placed in reusable bags!

Start stretching, limber up and let the “green cleaning” commence!