Greening Your Home, Frugally

Many people associate going green with expensive purchases scattered throughout their living space, but living a greener lifestyle is more often about what you don’t buy and don’t have in your home.

A quick, and frugal way to improve the health of your home is to remove the toxic items. You may be thinking, “Who lives with toxic items? What, do people have piles of radioactive waste in their living rooms? If so, I’m a better housekeeper than I thought!” With toys and books currently littering way too many surfaces in our home, I’m clearly not qualified to judge anyone’s housekeeping abilities, but I can tell you the odds are high that items you have in your home today are toxic.

The truth is that many items we now think of as everyday purchases from the grocery or hardware store are toxic. Here are a few examples:

Conventional cleaning supplies – In 2007, cleaning products were responsible for 225,410 reports of toxic exposure to U.S. Poison Control Centers. With ingredients ranging from ammonia to formaldehyde to volatile organic compounds (the VOCs that have had so much media play), many store-bought cleaning supplies contain items that can be harmful to humans and pets.
Air fresheners – Common contents include tongue twisters like trichloromonofluoromethane, dichlorodifluoromethanol, and phthalates. As many say, the harder something is to pronounce, the less likely it is good for you. For a detailed report, see the National Resources Defense Council’s report Clearing the Air: Hidden Hazards of Air Fresheners. (This link will allow you to select either the overview or the full report.)
Drain openers – While most people know not to let drain openers touch their skin, many do not realize that these products also release harmful gases. With Central Texas homes already shut up to hold in cooled air, these gases will stay inside your home.

If you have concerns about a product in your home, check online to see if a material safety data sheet is accessible as many of these items are not required to list their ingredients on their packaging.

Taking these items out of your home will improve your indoor air quality and make your home healthier and greener immediately. It also saves you from searching for places to store the products away from your children and pets, awful fumes, and reading warning statements a mile long. That plus lower totals at the checkout makes for a green and thrifty switch.

Rest assured that we don’t want you to live in a dirty, smelly home! Our next post will cover inexpensive and safe replacements to all these items.

Be sure to protect others by disposing of these items safely. If you live in the City of Austin or Travis County, the Household Hazardous Waste Facility will collect and dispose of these materials safely.

For those living in Williamson County, the Williamson County Recycle Center at 495 County Road 156 accepts hazardous household waste year-round. Vouchers are available for City of Georgetown residents and a small fee is charged to others.

In Hays County, tri-county household hazardous waste collection events are held with Kyle and San Marcos Counties. The next event is being held on July 25, 2009 so if you live in one of these counties you have plenty of time to scour your shelves and cupboards for toxic materials.

Cedar Park offers an annual household hazardous waste collection event called Keen on Clean. In Round Rock, household hazardous waste collection events occur on the first Wednesday of each month, special collections occur in the spring and fall, and, for a $10 fee, by appointment. To learn more about all these services visit Round Rock’s Household Hazardous Waste Disposal

If you live outside these areas, check with your local city government for hazardous waste collection procedures or visit for an online tool to find hazardous waste collection sites near you.

Greening Families is the online resource for families searching for eco-friendly information. Whether health, financial, or environmental concerns prompted your family’s interest in becoming more green, Greening Families can help you make a smooth transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. Created by two parents, who happen to be husband and wife, Greening Families knows what it is like to want the best for your child but face limited time, budgets, and energy levels to make changes. We find the most recent information and present it in easy-to-digest articles so you can concentrate on prioritizing your family’s needs.

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