The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says indoor pollution is two to five times worse than outside air. Because we spend 90 percent of our day indoors, that's an alarming statistic. But unlike most other alarming statistics floating around these days, this is one you can do something about.
Not only will going green improve indoor pollution, it can fatten your wallet. We've outlined 10 simple things you can do to become a little greener. Combined, these ideas could save you more than $1,000 this year.
1. Ditch the Dry Cleaning
Dry cleaning uses harsh chemicals, and it's expensive. And don't kid yourself — you bring those harsh chemicals home with you on your dry-cleaned clothes. Try to steam your clothes as much as possible while you're in the shower and buy fabrics that are washable. Use the dry cleaner for professional pressing only — or find a cleaner who uses organic cleaning products.
2. Buy Green and Concentrated
What you spray on surfaces in your home interacts with your body in some way. Many household cleaning products have toxins and are dangerous, causing serious skin reactions and even asthma. Look for products that are organic, toxin-free, and do not say "hazardous." Products like Clorox Green Works are at least comparable in price to other toxic products on the market. To save money, check out concentrated cleaners to which you simply add the water yourself. They use less packaging, saving on resources and lasting longer than nonconcentrated products.
3. Use a Water Filter
Americans use 3.3 million plastic bottles every hour but recycle only 1 in 5. Skip the $2 bottles of water and purchase a water-filter system and a metal water bottle (to take your filtered tap water to go). You'll not only prevent plastic from entering landfills, you will save a few bucks a day by refilling your own bottle. Or go one step cheaper and just drink from the tap.
4. Break Your Paper-Towel Habit
Paper towels are so easy to use and downright addictive if you have messy kids to clean up after. But they are far from a necessity. Rather than sacrificing more trees and adding to our landfills, use sponges and rags made from old cotton T-shirts or towels. Keep rags and sponges right near the sink to prevent temptation. Zapping a sopping wet sponge or rag in the microwave for 30 seconds once a week will keep them germ-free.
5. Visit Your Local Library
You don't need to buy so many books when you've got public libraries in every town in Southern Oregon. It's free, and it's green. Most libraries also carry new releases of movies on DVD and books on tape.
6. Reduce the Paper Trail
Sign up for electronic bills for your credit card, bank statements, electric bills, etc., and pay them online. Then print only the confirmation of payment page. Still need the individual transaction documentation? Print it off on recycled paper yourself instead of the credit-card company sending you a 20-page bill on regular paper with envelopes. You also save money on postage and envelopes. Sometimes you get a credit by having the money automatically deducted from your account every month, and student loans may lower your interest rate if you use the automatic-payment option online.
7. Make Your Own Cup of Joe
If everyone in your office drinks a grande latte every morning from the local coffee shop, think of how many paper cups are tossed in the trash and how much money you're spending. Buy coffee in bulk, make it at home and use a travel mug. Coffee at $3 per day, five days a week adds up to $780 per year.
8. Turn On the Energy-Saving Lights
Energy Star-rated light bulbs and fixtures use at least two-thirds less energy than regular lighting, so they truly do save you money. Another option is to use motion sensors that automatically shut off lights when no one is in a room, saving energy for the planet and money for you.
9. Inflate Your Tires
Proper tire inflation can improve your gas mileage up to 3 percent. That's no small figure when you consider the average American drives 15,000 miles a year. On your way home to work one morning this week, stop by a gas station to see if your tires are optimally filled. It's fast and free if you have a tire gauge.
10. Get Power Strips for Your Rooms
Even when turned off, things like hair dryers, cell-phone chargers and televisions use energy. The energy used to keep display clocks lit and memory chips working accounts for 5 percent of total domestic energy consumption. Cut down on your own electric bill and do something good for the environment by getting an energy strip. Plug all your phones, chargers and small appliance into the strip and unplug the strip when you are not using them.
The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up (getbuttonedup.com), a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized.