Hello there, and welcome to another pledge in MNN's Nest, an interactive program that helps you create and accomplish easy and Earth-friendly personal goals. With each goal that you tackle, you earn points that are then turned into donations to your favorite nonprofit eco-charity.
Whether it's spring cleaning or winter wrap-up, it's the season with that big "C" verb attached: cleaning. Aside from the typical spring cleaning activities — combating rogue dust bunnies, shedding your closet of sartorial castaways and hauling them to a local charity, finally storing away the holiday decorations in the attic — it's also a great time to keep tabs on the chemicals and toxins that may or may not be residing in your home. Given that indoor air quality is often worse than the air outdoors and that you may be unknowingly harboring unwanted houseguests like mold, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (those pesky VOCs that you probably keep hearing about) there's no better time to perform a home chemical/toxin audit. Some things to keep in mind:
The air in there: Unless you suspect some serious toxin-letting at play in your home and need a professional to come in and evaluate (this is often the case with mold remediation), residential chemical/toxin audits are generally DIY affairs that simply require you to pinpoint potential sources of health- and planet-compromising toxins and consider methods of getting them out, whether it's adding a couple of air-cleaning houseplants to a room, investing in a HEPA air purifier or chucking out and replacing the offending source. Tackle this challenge room by room paying special attention to the garage, kitchen and bathrooms and anywhere where there's poor air circulation, a lot of plastics (a kids' playroom, for example) or where you might store household or gardening chemicals. The most sacred of all rooms, the bedroom, might even be ripe with toxins, particularly if you burn paraffin wax candles during romantic interludes or sleep on a flame-retardant mattress that off-gasses chemicals.
Go au natural: Given that this challenge comes hand-in-hand with spring cleaning, let's talk cleaning supplies for a minute since they often harbor eco-unfriendly household chemicals. Perform some rigorous label checking and be on the lookout for things like bleach, triclosan, phosphates, formaldehyde (ack!) and anything petroleum-based with "artificial" colors or fragrances. Pay special attention to drain de-cloggers and oven and toilet bowl cleaners. If you do have cleaning products that set off your "green light," replace them with nontoxic, natural commercial cleaners (check out cleaning-obsessed Home blogger Matt frequently features various green cleaning products) or concoct your own inexpensive cleaning solutions out of things like baking soda, borax, white vinegar and lemon juice. They do the trick, are nontoxic and save you a few bucks, to boot.
How green does your garden grow? While you might spend a good amount of time ridding the inside of your home of chemical cleaners and focusing on indoor air quality, don't forget to mind your lawn and garden, frequently considered to be the most toxic zone of a home, bar none. Common agricultural products like chemical herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers are responsible for polluting the soil, water and air and can easily make their way into your home where they can compromise health of you and your family. Like natural cleaning products, there are various natural nontoxic gardening supplies on the market that perform targeted tasks without endangering Mother Nature or you and your family. For old-school greenthumbs, this may take a bit of getting used to, but make it happen in 2010.
Ready to clean house (and the garden), nontoxic style? Then repeat after me: I will perform a toxin/chemical audit of my home.
More personal pledges to consider:
- Once a week, I will walk one place instead of driving.
- I will make my home more energy-efficient.
- I will actually use my reusable bags.
- I will get my kids (and myself!) outside more this year.
- I will support my town's local and green businesses this year.
- I will eat more meals at home.
- I will read three environmentally themed books this year.
- Instead of throwing them away, I will recycle my old electronics before buying new ones.