5 Tips for Creating a Sustainable Home for Your Kids

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Despite your best efforts to create a safe environment, your home could be filled with potential hazards. You might clean with products that can cause immediate or chronic health problems for you and your children. So what’s a parent to do?

Choose wisely.

Almost 50 percent of calls made to the National Poison Data System are for children under 6 — and a quarter of those calls involves improper or hazardous use of household cleaning or personal care products.

But you can reduce your kids’ chances of ingesting poisons, suffering from skin irritations, or experiencing respiratory distress by reducing toxins in your home and making smarter, sustainable choices.

Creating sustainable spaces

Beyond recycling and turning off lights, living green should happen daily. Put your resources toward other sustainable choices in your home. For instance, instead of buying new clothes and toys, haunt consignment stores and swaps. Above all else, begin with these five easy steps:

1. Switch to plant-based cleaners.

Before you buy a laundry detergent or household cleaner, check the label. Only buy products that fully disclose ingredients on packaging, and avoid ingredients like ammonia, formaldehyde, and phosphates. Look for independent third-party green credentials like the Safer Choice certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Otherwise, you could be cleaning your home and clothes with chemicals linked to asthma, allergies, hormone disruption, reproductive disorderscancer, and other serious health effects.

2. Open windows and doors.

The EPA ranked indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health. In other words, your indoor air quality could be up to five times worse than the air outside. Reduce toxin levels in your home by welcoming fresh air and saying “goodbye” to stale air.

3. Be cautious of off-gassing.

Ever opened a new product and immediately smelled chemicals? That’s off-gassing. Paints, carpets, mattresses, and floorings release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Over time, these VOCs build and may contribute to health problems, from headaches to central nervous system disorders. Choose decorative and renovation products with low or no VOCs, such as 100-percent wool carpet with a natural latex backing.

4. Ditch those shoes.

Footwear brings germs and toxins from the outside indoors; common toxins include pesticides, E.coli (think restroom floors), and lead. Kids end up crawling in all that dirt and chemical residue. Why expose your loved ones — including pets — to harmful substances? Ask everyone to leave shoes at the door in a mudroom or entryway to solve this issue.

5. Fill rooms with plants.

Plants aren’t just attractive; they’re excellent air filters shown to reduce air pollutants by up to 87 percent. They also remove carbon dioxide from the air, boosting feel-good oxygen levels. Why invest in more expensive air filtering systems when you can enjoy the results and natural aesthetics of a spider plant or broadleaf lady palm, which both help reduce toxins?

Home safety isn’t just about locking doors or baby-proofing stairs; what you bring into your house is just as important as what you do to protect it.

Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks is the president and CEO of Earth Friendly Products®, maker of ECOS green cleaning products, including its well-known ECOS™ laundry detergent made with plant-powered ingredients. A U.S.-based company, Earth Friendly Products has twice received the U.S. EPA’s coveted Safer Choice Partner of the Year award. Follow Kelly on Facebook and Twitter.

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