Our homes are where we let down our hair, rest our heads, refresh our souls, and feed our bodies. It’s also the place where we’re the most vulnerable. A home should be a sanctuary from the toxins of the outside world, both literally and figuratively. Here are six tips from environmental health advisor, Gay Browne’s new book Living with a Green Heart that will help to ensure your home is a safe and healthy environment:
01. Remove your shoes when you walk in the door.
This tradition has been observed in many cultures for myriad reasons from religion to practical cleanliness, but the most important environmental health reason is to keep toxins from following you into your home. Whether you live in an urban or a rural environment, there are pesticides and chemicals that settle on the surfaces of streets, sidewalks, floors, and the grass and settle into the surfaces. To keep these unwanted toxins (I do not believe dirt is a bad germ) out of your home, it just makes sense to leave your shoes by the door when you first walk into your home. From a spiritual perspective, leaving your shoes at your door is a metaphor for “leaving your work life or your troubles” outside.
02. Use only eco-friendly cleaning products.
The toxicity level of everyday cleaning products ranges from mild to, well, really bad. A study by Environmenal Working Group found that 53 percent of conventional cleaning products can harm the lungs and 22 percent contain chemicals linked to asthma. According to the American Lung Association, chemicals released when using cleaning supplies contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and headaches. Other cleaning products that contain formaldehyde, chlorine bleach, ammonia, fragrances and “active ingredients” have the potential to “off-gas” not only their own chemical bi-product but can also become potentially more hazardous when mixed with other cleaning chemicals.
03. Sleep soundly… and sustainably.
Considering our skin is the largest absorbing organ and we spend nearly a third of our lives in bed, it’s very important to mind the composition of your bedding. Opt for third-party certified organic cotton sheets, like Under the Canopy’s GOTS Certified Organic Percale Sheet Set and EcoPure Organic Comforter. They’re soft and cozy, and with each wash, organic cotton “blooms,” making them even more comfortable over time.
04. Detox your furniture and furnishings.
Beware of furniture with flame retardants tags. In 1975 when California enacted the law known as “Technical Bulletin 114”, which required furniture manufacturers to treat their products with brominated flame retardants chemicals to meet flammability standards. At the time, no one was aware that these retardants, which used a chemical called trisphosphate, would be linked to endocrine and thyroid disruption, cancer and neurological dysfunction, and could adversely affect fetal and child development. When looking to furnish your home, choose pieces made with sustainable wood, or my personal favorite, find second-hand or antique furniture. I love that Under the Canopy offers rugs made of repurposed, recycled plastic bottles. They’re stunning and sustainable.
05. Eat and cook healthy foods.
Gay Browne’s is an environmental health advisor, writer, and founder of Greenopia, a comprehensive city guide of sustainable businesses to help consumers eat, shop, and live green. Her book Living with a Green Heart: How to Keep Your Body, Your Home, and the Planet Healthy in a Toxic World is out in April 2019 and offers advice on leading a toxic-free life