With the focus on global warming and air pollution, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of indoor air quality. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that on average, Americans spend as much as 5.2 hours a day just relaxing at home. That is not even counting the 2.6 hours they spend doing chores or the roughly 23 percent of people who bring work home with them from the office.
During this time, you breathe in microorganisms, gases such as carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds. Instead of adding to the already escalating environmental issues, consider green ways you can improve the air quality of your home.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Horticulturist Deborah Brown from the University of Minnesota suggests that adding houseplants to your decor is a natural ways to absorb airborne chemicals. Plants are living air purifiers. They breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out clean oxygen. The foliage and roots also absorb chemical toxins introduced into the room by synthetic material to act as a natural scrubber. Healthy plants to keep around include:
The Mother Nature Network offers a complete list of houseplants proven to improve air quality.
Controlling the Source
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that source control is the most effective means of keeping the air clean. For example, lower the gas input on stoves to reduce emissions. Many of the pollutants come into your home from the outside, so proper weatherizing is essential, as well.
Take a survey of your home looking for leaks. Check around windows and doors for loose stripping, and examine the wall joints, especially in basements and attics. Walk around and see where you feel a draft — this signifies an area that is allowing outdoor air into the house. To plug up problems, replace missing insulation, seal openings in wall joints and reapply weather-stripping.
Most local utility companies will come out and do an inspection looking to help you lower energy costs. This is a free, or low-cost, approach to finding breaks in the envelope around the home in order to control air quality, too.
Commercial cleaning products add to the problem by introducing chemicals into the home environment. Switching to only natural cleaners reduces those air pollutants. You can buy cleaners that are environmentally friendly or save some money and make your own.
Mix white vinegar with equal parts water for an effective all-purpose cleaner that works on just about any surface including:
Adding a few drops of lemon juice will enhance the cleaning power while improving the smell. You can use full strength vinegar to clean the toilet, but if you use it in showers and baths be sure to dilute it to protect your grout.
If you need something with scrubbing ability, try mixing lemon juice with baking soda instead. The Daily Green provides even more recipes for home cleaning solutions.
Monitor Air Quality
Automation is the key. You can integrate sensors to check for carbon monoxide and radon gas with your home security system. Compare home security companies to find one that offers full automation to detect air problems you can’t see. The environmental impact of such a system is minimal, and it’s worth the cost to keep your family safe.