Posts Tagged ‘houseplants’

A Greener Way to Start School

Summer’s end is fast approaching and school is about to start.  As you and your kids get ready, think greener this year. Here’s how.

For young kids:

I loved my trips to Staples with my kids to get new pencils and pens, fresh, clean notebooks, binders and folders for the first day of school, but buying everything new can be wasteful and expensive.  Instead….

  • Reuse last year’s unfinished notebooks. Just tear out (and recycle) the used papers and they are as good as new.   For new, buy notebooks with recycled paper or paper made from natural fibers like banana or coffee.
  • If last year’s binders aren’t in good shape, buy those made from postconsumer waste and water-based glue.  Fill them with recycled binder paper.
  • Reuse last year’s pencils and pens; if you need more, opt for pencils made from reforested wood or recycled newspapers. For young elementary age kids, get nontoxic, phthalate-free crayons.
  • Pack a healthy lunch in a reusable lunch bag;  buy bulk size wholesome snacks and put them in reusable containers rather than snack-size, throwaway plastic baggies. A piece of fruit is the most beneficial snack option.
  • Walk, carpool or take a bus to school to cut down on carbon emissions.
  • For after school sports, don’t forget your BPA-free, reusable water bottle.

For older students:

Follow the above tips and…..

  • Be ahead of the curve; try a solar-powered bamboo calculator.
  • Fun, eco-chic backpacks made from 100% recycled cotton canvas or other recycled materials and messenger bags made from recycled rice sacks with printed graphics are the new look.  They are a lot more environmentally friendly than the traditional polyester or nylon ones.

For college students:

Moving in and out of dorms creates a lot of waste.  The amount of cardboard and plastic packaging for the new bedding, bath and personal care products, school supplies, etc. is overwhelming and recycling bins are often not available.

  • Instead of always buying new, reuse some things from home and try not to bring so much stuff.  Dorm rooms are small and you can get away with less.  When you do buy new things, buy them at school and avoid shipping.  Target stores are everywhere and even sell organic towels and sheets! For futons and other furniture, graduating students often donate their old furniture or look on-line at or
  • Use low energy certified microfridges, computers and tv’s.
  • Share appliances with friends – not everyone needs every appliance.
  • Use power strips instead of extension cords to save energy and keep air conditioning to a minimum.
  • Install CFL or LED light bulbs and turn off the lights when you leave the room.  Make sure to unplug your phone charger when not in use to eliminate vampire energy.
  • Skip disposable water bottles and get a reusable BPA-free water bottle instead.
  • For the late night munchies, eat organic fruits and snacks and compost the waste.
  • Choose green cleaning supplies like Seventh Generation for washing your dishes or cleaning your dorm room.
  • Decorate your dorm room with air purifying houseplants like spider plants that are easy to grow. 
  • Get involved with on campus environmental groups, or start your own.  Several colleges now have local raised bed gardens – volunteer to work in them.  Working with the soil is a great stress reducer and you’ll learn a lot.
  • Solo cups are “the” party cups, but they take hundreds of years to decompose and some recycling centers don’t take them.  Solo has a new product line of products that are made using recycled, recyclable or compostable materials called Bare® by Solo.  Set an example and go for those!  
  • Always use recycled paper and don’t forget to recycle used paper, bottles and those ubiquitous beer cans!

You are never too young or too old to start making a difference by living greener!

For more green living tips, visit



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 Without even trying, you’ll surprise yourself with the green things you are already doing.   For instance, do you have a smart phone?  Instead of buying a camera, a phone, a GPS, a tablet computer, a music player, and even a pedometer, your Smartphone is all of those things.  With a Smartphone you only have to buy one device, eliminating the manufacturing waste and e-waste disposal for several different devices.  With all the apps you can now download, your phone can do just about anything you want it to!  And, if you charge your phone with a solar charger, which are getting better all the time, you will really be going green with your phone!

If you have switched your light bulbs to energy-efficient CFLs, you are probably seeing considerable savings on your electric bill.  If you have added extra insulation to your home, you have probably noticed a drop in your heating bill.  This is a form of “green investing” – the return is immediate and probably greater than investing in a utility company.  Of course I’m also all for investing in companies that are doing the right thing for the earth and people, or socially responsible investing, but start your green investing at home first.   (Check out for investment opportunities within 50 miles where you live that aim to fix the economy from the ground up starting with food entrepreneurs.)

Do you realize the houseplants you decorate your house with not only give off oxygen and filter carbon dioxide, but some plants also actually absorb indoor toxins?  Houseplants are nature’s air purifier. Click here for a list of the plants that best absorb toxins.

Every time you take the stairs instead of an elevator or an escalator, every time you air dry your clothes or turn off the lights when you leave a room, you conserve energy.  When you turn the water off brushing your teeth or run the dishwasher only when full, you save water.

These simple acts all make a difference.  Keep going – add new “green” things daily to your life.

Some information compiled from Green Living, editors of The Environmental Magazine and



A typical modern office

As you move towards a greener lifestyle, don’t forget to green your office whether you work from home or away!

  • When possible, use energy star equipment – computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, coffee makers, etc. – for maximum energy efficiency.
  • Recycle print cartridges at office supply stores and use soy ink cartridges, which require less oil to manufacture and emit fewer air pollutants.
  • Keep your screen saver blank instead of the energy hogging, hypnotic graphics ones.  They aren’t good for our eyes anyway!
  • Paper copies are less important these days, but if you do have to print something, print on both sides of the paper – most printers have a 2-sided property – and use recycled paper.  Also, set your printer to economy mode or eco-tone.  Most new printers have this setting, which uses less ink.
  • If your office is not already recycling used paper, set up a recycling center (for cans, bottles and plastic too) and organize a weekly or monthly pick up from a local recycling company. Or reuse unwanted paper for scrap paper.
  • For interoffice memos, use email rather than paper.  Most offices already do that and even email is becoming antiquated with facebook messaging, google chatting and texting!
  • In your office kitchen, install a water filter system instead of using individual water bottles or big plastic water containers.
  • The average American goes through 500 disposable cups every year, so use ceramic mugs, not polystyrene (Styrofoam®) or plastic cups for coffee or water. Use real spoons instead of plastic stirrers. Set up a recycling center in the kitchen too.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with longer lasting, energy efficient CFLs (compact fluorescents) or LED bulbs.
  • Clean your office with green cleaning supplies.
  • Reuse old packaging materials for shipping.
  • Houseplants are effective air cleaners, removing indoor air pollutants.  Place several plants near your printers, fax and photocopiers. They add beauty and tranquility as well.
  • When remodeling your office, use natural materials for furniture and carpet and low VOC paints instead of man-made laminates,  synthetic materials and conventional paints that outgas toxins.
  • When possible ride public transportation, walk or carpool to work.

We spend most of our time at work, so setting up a green office is an important step to using less energy and leading a healthier lifestyle.  Remember, every little step helps!


The air in our homes, schools and offices can be 2 to 5 times more polluted, and in some cases 100 times more polluted, than outdoor air.  For obvious reasons, winter is the worst time of year for indoor air pollution problems.  There are several simple steps you can take to minimize indoor air pollution in your home.

Try and keep things out of your home that cause pollution like cigarette smoke, toxic cleaning products, paints, commercial room fresheners, even dry cleaning.  Synthetic carpets, scotch-guarded fabrics, foam bedding and vinyl shower curtains outgas certain chemicals. (You can now buy non-toxic shower curtain liners – see blog post “Is Your Shower Curtain Toxic?“) When you can,  make the switch to 100% cotton, wool or other natural fabric for rugs and upholstery.  Make sure you have proper ventilation and a good exhaust system for your stove and appliances.  Control moisture in your home using a dehumidifier when necessary.  Many people remove their shoes before entering the home to avoid tracking in dust, dirt and outdoor chemicals.  Using a HEPA air filter traps pollutants as well.  And one of the most obvious ways to get rid of indoor air pollution, which we don’t usually think about on cold winter days, is airing out our houses. A few minutes a day make a big difference.

Image by henna lion

Houseplants are also very effective (and beautiful) air cleaners.  All plants give off oxygen and filter carbon dioxide, but some plants actually absorb toxins as well, according to the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) the nation’s largest lawn, landscape, and interiorscape association.  Listed below are several common houseplants, which are good pollution fighters and are fairly easy to care for.

  • Ivy
  • Spider plants (absorb carbon monoxide)
  • Peace Lilies (remove acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde),
  • Ferns
  • Ficus trees
  • Aloe Vera (sucks formaldehyde from the air)
  • Corn Plants (purify benzene and cigarette smoke)
  • Dwarf Date Palms (negate harmful effects from xylene found in paints)
  • Herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, mint, geranium)

Don’t forget your office needs a toxic trapper too!  Plants not only create a healthier indoor environment, but also add beauty and peace to your day.

Information compiled from PLANET, GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, and Natural Health Magazine, July/August 2010.