This week we're thinking about creating a healthy home environment. We're always looking for better ways to bring greener methods and improved health to readers. One of the most important areas that can affect health is environment, particularly the home environment where we spend the majority of our time. Below we discuss decisions we each made to "green" our homes and the resulting benefits of doing so.

Tela’s home greening: One of the first Babyminding posts, "Unhealthy Paint VOC's in Baby’s Nursery," was about my decision to use zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paint for my baby's nursery in order to make my home healthier. VOCs are the additives in paints and many other household products that cause unhealthy fumes which have been linked to eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; loss of coordination; nausea; damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system; and possibly even cancer. Additionally, the level of VOCs in homes is two to five times higher that outside, so our exposure to these chemicals is daily and somewhat concentrated. The EPA provides more information on the levels and impact of VOCs on indoor air quality on its website and is a great resource for other information on air quality in the home.

When I painted the nursery a few years ago, it was a hunt to find zero-VOC paint. I started with Home Depot and Lowe's and got blank stares when I asked if they carried such a thing. I ended up over at a local paint store and paid a small fortune for 3 gallons of low-VOC, low-odor paint (in a hidden, dark dusty corner). It was a big improvement over traditional paint, but still had a slight odor.

Fast forward to this past February when I decided to paint a powder room using zero VOC paint. Low and behold, the stores had caught on and almost every paint brand now has a line of zero or low VOC paint. I can’t help but wonder why they wouldn’t just transition their complete line over to the healthier version … baby steps, I suppose. At any rate, I was so excited (it doesn’t take much) that all major paint brands had gone green and it was affordable! See what happens when green goes mainstream? The end result for my newly painted powder room: zero odor in a small enclosed space and affordable. I’m sold.

My current green improvement is to implement a whole-house water filter for my home. The decision came after repeatedly bathing my children in greenish-blue water due to the high levels of chlorine. The chlorine is so concentrated that you can smell it every time I run a bath for my daughters. It’s so bad that I’ve spaced their bathing schedule out to every other day. I tried letting the water sit for a bit so that the chlorine could possibly evaporate but by that point the water would be cold.

As a result, I've been searching for the perfect whole house water filtration system without breaking the bank, and decided on the Pelican PC1000 Premium Whole House Water Filter 4-6 Bathrooms, based upon the recommendation of a friend. The system addresses the following contaminants:

  • Chlorine and chloramine
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Synthetic Organic Compounds (SOCs)
  • THM (a chlorine byproduct)
  • PAH (a chlorine byproduct)
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Industrial solvents
It's not yet installed, but I'll keep you posted on how it works (and I promise not to wait three years this time around). My other long-term plans for greening my home include replacing our upstairs carpet with Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood and zero-VOCs stain and installing a whole-house air-purification system. If you have any product suggestions, feel free to leave them as a comment!

Jennifer’s Home Greening: With a 3-year-old boy in the house, my powder room desperately needs to be repainted soon and eventually the majority of our house will need to be repainted. Like Tela, I plan to use low- or no-VOC paint.

My son has a condition that affects his upper airway and I have asthma, so everything from our laundry detergent to cleaning supplies need to be as smell-free as possible, so of course something like low or no VOC paint is a must for us. We use Hepa filters in our kids' bedrooms to eliminate odors and chemicals in the air and keep their sleeping environment as healthy as possible.

Next year, we plan to finish our third floor attic space and turn it into an adult retreat. We've chosen IKEA cabinetry for the transformation. Not only are their products affordable and attractive, IKEA is committed to sustainability and safety. From their commitment to using Forest Stewardship Council-endorsed wood to using packaging made from recycled materials and their conscious avoidance of harsh chemicals, we feel good about our decision to use their products in our project. Learn about all of IKEA's sustainability efforts here. We’ll use low- or no-VOC paint for our attic project and look for low-toxicity flooring options as well.

What changes have you made in your home to keep it safe and healthy for your family?

This story was written by Tela Kayne and originally appeared on babyminding.com. It is reprinted here with permission.