With all the dust and allergens floating around us, it’s a wonder we’re not wheezing all the time. You can’t count on cleaning up the whole world, but you can clean up at least one corner of it, and the best corner to clean is the one where you spend at least one-third of your time: your bed and bathroom. New ranges of non-allergic, non-toxic sheets and towels will let us breathe easy at least at night. Also, especially for homes in the north, another eco-friendly addition to the bed is the electric water heater blanket. These blankets will drastically cut down heating the whole house during winter nights.
Plant a tree
Go green, literally. Add plants wherever you have space—balconies, roofs, gardens. Let them do the work in repairing our damage by reducing carbon emissions. Use native plants since they’re best adapted to our natural weather conditions. It’s also better to buy mature trees, they’ll do the work for you as soon as they’re plated.
How many energy-sucking points does it take to screw in a light bulb? Well, if it’s a 32-wall compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb, none. Incandescent bulbs (what we all usually use in day-to-day light fixtures) use around 75% more energy than CFLs. CFLs also last about 10 times longer than regular bulbs. Low-priced CFLs do give out that unflattering white glow, but slightly highly priced CFLs have a soft gold or natural glow.
Water, water everywhere
Ground water in India has almost disappeared, unless we want to burrow 80ft-deep into the earth. We all know that relying on the city to provide water isn’t always the best bet. A simple solution to this is to rein in the power of the monsoons through a simple rainwater harvesting system. Adding rainwater gutters and downspouts to your roof’s eves and connecting them to tanks placed above or below the ground can store enough water for gardening and cleaning. The installation requires a bit of effort, but the pay-off is immense.
The amount of water wasted each time you flush the toilet is no laughing matter. This step will require a bit more work than the others, so we saved it for last. Most toilets in older homes are not the post-1994 low-flow models because the cost of their installation is a bit on the high side. A low-flow toilet uses only 6.1 litres per flush compared with 13.3 litres of older models. Save the environment just by going to the bathroom.
And the Bad
Beware of lacquer
The term “greenwashing” refers to a product touted as ecologically friendly, but has hidden ecological costs. The most classic example of greenwashing comes when a company uses eco-friendly materials to build their products, but uses sealants or lacquers that destroy its eco-viability. This occurs often with bamboo products. Bamboo is a fast growing plant and can be harvested with little damage to the environment, so it has become the eco-minded design set’s favourite material. Everyone loves to use it in their products and claim they’re being eco-friendly. But then they lather on a protective lacquer made from chemicals that emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide. Make sure the product uses non-toxic selants and lacquers. For the scientific set, non-toxic products usually use polypheyl-acetate based lacquers.
It’s great if a Canadian company has decided to log wood in an ecologically friendly way, ensuring that every tree removed from the forest has a new one planted in its place, and using only trees that grow quickly. However, importing that wood to India slaps on a huge amount of expenditure—not just in price, but also in terms of damage to the planet. Shipping via air or sea expends a huge amount of energy that is usually not factored into the ecological cost. If a product claims to be green, it should come from local manufacturers.
When you’re buying a new product, it’s hard to remember that eventually you’ll need to get rid of it. Make sure the products you buy can be disposed in an ecologically friendly way. CFLs, for example, contain a dangerous mercury that can cause more damage to the environment than what you save in using the light bulb in the first place. Make sure you buy brands that won’t break when you dispose them.