Other than the obvious switching to CFL light bulbs, and turning down your thermostat, what else can the common person do to live greener and healthier?
By simply unplugging unused chargers and small appliances, like your toaster, hair dryer, and coffeemaker you cut down on unauthorized energy use. Those seemingly 'unused' cords, continue to draw energy like a vampire, even when they are not in use!
Wash clothes in cold water, not hot. 85 % of the energy used to machine wash clothes goes to heating the water.
A traditional toilet can be transformed into a low-flow one by filling a plastic soda bottle with sand or water and placing it in the tank away from the valves. The bottle will displace up to a quart of water with each use. You'll lower your water bill, as well!
Start bringing your own reusable bags to the supermarket. They're cheap, stylish, and they pay for themselves within a few uses, as most stores give you a 5 cent credit per bag, on your order. Europeans have been doing this for years.
Part of living greener means using products that contain fewer or no chemicals that can harm your health or the environment. The chemicals we use to clean our homes and kill pests use an average of 200 industrial compounds and pollutants. According to the EPA, children are especially sensitive to chemicals as they play and crawl on the floor, and put foreign objects in their mouths. Pesticides have been implicated in Parkinson's disease, infertility, brain damage, and cancer. So switch to natural cleaning products that are just as effective as toxic cleaners.
Take off your shoes when you enter your home. Shoes track in all kinds of pesticides, fertilizers and germs that you don't want in your home. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. This type of air filter can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, and bacteria.
When building or remodeling your home, allow new building materials to ventilate so that the chemicals used to make them, have a chance to 'off-gas'. 'Off-gassing' means they release fumes into the air which contain formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia, and other nasty poisons. Keep your windows open after installing new carpets, and finishing floors.
Use paints with no VOC's, which have been linked to cause cancer and developmental problems in children. According to the EPA, conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause indoor air quality problems with negative health effects. These ingredients are released into the air while you're painting, while the paint dries and even after the paints have dried. I used a no VOC paint in my son's bedroom, and I was amazed at how there was no awful paint odor! That convinced me!
And finally, get a house plant! I just discovered that houseplants process the chemical vapors like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene in our homes (common substances in household furniture/building material off- gassing) and out put clean oxygen. The best plants for the job are: Areca Palm, Lady Palm, Bamboo Palm, Rubber plant, English ivy, Ficus, and Boston Fern.