You hear it everywhere, but it's an easy and cost-effective change: compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. When Leah Ingram wanted to trim her family's budget, which she wrote about in her blog, www.suddenlyfrugal.com, light bulbs were the first thing to change. “While they are significantly more expensive than the incandescent ones, we've seen our electric bill drop,” she says.
Got shutters? Use them. If you don't, install them. They're the easiest way to keep hot air inside in the winter and cold air inside in the summer. “We open up the window treatments so on warm sunny days we help to heat the house,” says Ingram.
Ceiling fans. They might not cool you like air conditioning will, but they help your system circulate the air, and the breeze keeps your skin temperatures cool.
“If your linens are made of synthetic materials, you could be sleeping with toluene an inhalant drug, formaldehyde, PDBEs polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or flame-retardants and petroleum derivatives,” says Anca Novacovici, founder and president of Eco-Coach, an environmental sustainability consulting company based in Washington, DC. Choose bedding and pillows made of organic cotton or bamboo instead. Avoid polyester sheets, which are made with petroleum-based fibers.
“Bamboo doesn't have as much of an impact on the environment when it's harvested,” says Linda Chipperfield, vice president of Green Seal, a nonprofit organization that writes environmental standards and gives their seals to the best of the best.
If you're in the market for a new bed, think green, too. “Standard mattresses are made with petroleum-based foams and soaked in about one and a half pounds of toxic chemicals,” says Novacovici. Plus, if you or anyone in your family has allergies or asthma, the encasing on green mattresses help keeps dust mites from coming into contact with your skin.
Clean the air inside your room by installing high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters. Not only will it improve indoor air quality - the EPA estimates that indoor air is two to five times as polluted as outdoor air - but it could help your heart since a recent study found that HEPA filters can improve cardiovascular health. To ensure you're getting a top-quality filter, look for those that trap 99.97 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter.
Your Cleaning Routine
Get rid of anything that says “danger” or “poison.” Instead, check out care2.com for easy-to-make recipes for household cleaners, most of which can be made with baking soda, white distilled vinegar and liquid soap. The site even has instructions on how to make a non-toxic cleaning kit. You can also check out eco-friendly cleaning lines, such as Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and Green Works from Clorox, whose products are non-toxic and biodegradable. Clean on a regular schedule. “The more consistent you are with cleaning, the less deep cleaning you'll have to do in the long run,” says Chipperfield.
… AND IF YOU'RE REDECORATING
You don't need to change your paint to go green. But if you're considering repainting your room, look for paint cans with low or no volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs . You can also look for paints with the Green Seal stamp of approval. “You want to buy paints that have minimum toxins and minimum violates so when you're painting, the fumes aren't toxic,” says Chipperfield. Benjamin Moore, Dutch Boy, MAB Paints, and Cloverdale are just a few name brands with the Green Seal. You can find a full list at the paints section of the Green Seal website.
Look for carpet that comes from recycled content. Not only are you recycling, but if you or the next owner decides to replace that carpet, it's recyclable, too. If you're thinking of hardwood, look for products approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, which certifies companies and products that practice responsible forest management.
Remember the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? The same goes for furniture, so consider going consignment if you're in the market for a new bedroom set. “At the end of the day, you've saved about 10 trees,” says Terri Bowersock, of Terri's Consign and Design in Phoenix, AZ, plus you can save 50 percent on cost. To make sure you're buying good wood, look at the back and underside of dressers to make sure you're buying solid wood instead of pressed wood covered in a veneer. Also, pull out the drawers to see how they're slotted into the dresser. Wood on wood is best. Plastic wheels on thin metal slides? Pass.
Small changes can turn your bedroom into eco-friendly green. Just remember to recycle what you're not using anymore - whether you go green now or later.