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[1THING] Blog: Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

[ Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality with Emily Walsh ]

Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality During Healthy Lung Month

Emily Walsh, Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, recently contacted us here at [1THING] and was kind enough to guest write a great feature article for Healthy Lung Month. She has some interesting information about indoor air pollution and offers ways to improve the air quality in your home and office, which can also improve your health. Check out what she recommends:

Though it’s what most are aware of, outdoor land and air pollution like that from exhaust and industrial waste are not the only factors impacting the health of the environment, which in turn affects the health of our bodies. Indoor air quality is composed of the number, or lack-thereof, of pollutants, both natural and man-made, that contaminate the air of homes, workplaces, and other enclosed buildings. Americans spend on average 20 hours per day indoors where they are inhaling oftentimes stale, unfiltered air, so it is essential that those spaces are just as clean and pure as we hope and expect our outside air to be.
Indoor air pollution can lead to multiple health issues from simple eye, nose, and throat irritation, to pneumonia, cancer, and even death, dependent on what one is exposed to. Mold growth, for instance, can cause respiratory issues and enhance the effects of asthma or COPD for those who already suffer through those afflictions. Meanwhile something seemingly minor like cooking and heating the home with solid fuels (wood, charcoal, peat, pellets, etc.) is attributed to 4.3 millions premature deaths each year. Identifying recurring symptoms like dizziness or headaches while in your home or place of work is the first step to combating and preventing a serious health hazard. However, some illnesses like mesothelioma, caused by asbestos exposure, don’t develop noticeable symptoms for years, so taking steps to improve air quality is recommended no matter the current state of your health.

Often produced from what is brought into the home, pollutants come in the form of particulate matter, toxins and chemicals. Ultimately, improving indoor air quality comes down to source control, and improving or installing a ventilation system. Sources like dust collecting in a long pile carpet, pollen from flowering indoor plants, second-hand smoke, or an unnatural ingredient in an air freshener have simple fixes of cleaning more often or removing certain products from the building. Other sources, however, are more complicated and may require renovation. Mold is usually caused by water damage or a leak; asbestos is found in old homes where products containing the mineral are deteriorating; and radon is most often a result of a leak in the basement and requires a pipe to reroute the gas away from the home. If symptoms persist even after finding what you believe is the source, natural ventilation like opening windows, or a more costly approach like an HVAC system may be necessary.

We only have one body and one life, so take notice of any changes to your health when you move into a new home or office, or start frequenting a new building. Indoor environment is equally as important as outdoor when it comes to health.


[ PaintCare Colorado proudly sponsors Denver 1Thing… ]


Paint Recycling Easier than Ever in Colorado

Colorado’s paint stewardship program is making paint recycling convenient for households and businesses statewide.

The Colorado PaintCare program began last summer as a result of a bill signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper in 2014. The bill was supported by many stakeholders, including paint manufacturers, who established the nonprofit PaintCare to run similar programs in seven other states and the District of Columbia. The key goal of the program is to establish locations all over the state where households and businesses can take back unwanted, leftover paint all year round.

PaintCare Colorado started in July 2015 with just over 100 paint drop-off sites, but the program now has 142 convenient locations and will continue to add more sites. Most of these locations are at paint retailers or hardware stores that have volunteered to take back paint. These drop-off sites are open year-round during each retail location’s regular business hours and accept all brands of paint, stain and varnish for no charge. Additionally, PaintCare offers a free large volume pick-up service for households and businesses that have accumulated at least 300 gallons of paint.

The program also helps relieve local governments of some of the costs of handling paint and paying for those costs through either taxes or waste management fees. PaintCare helps household hazardous waste facilities interested in working with PaintCare by covering the costs for paint transportation and recycling the paint they accept.

PaintCare transports the collected paint from the drop-off sites to processing facilities where it will be remixed into recycled-content paint, used for energy recovery, made into other products, or in the case of some unrecyclable paint, it will be dried out and properly disposed.

Paint manufacturers created PaintCare, a nonprofit organization to run recycling programs in states as they pass paint stewardship laws. Through PaintCare, the paint industry sets up drop-off locations for unused paint, arranges for recycling and proper disposal of the paint, and conducts outreach about proper paint management. Learn more at: www.paintcare.org/colorado.


[ Clean Green Home…. ]

Did you know that indoor pollution can be as bad as, or even worse than outdoor pollution? When our houses are sealed up for the winter, the lack of ventilation keeps the air inside, along with all the pollutants. You are probably familiar with how colds and flu spread in the winter from being in enclosed environments, but take a moment now and think of all the different things in your house that might pollute your air too. Things like your gas stove, your wood stove/fireplace, household cleaners like scented detergents or bleach, your carpet, mattress or sofa, building products and paint, and even old places of water damage, can all be affecting your air quality in your house. When the house is sealed up and fresh air doesn’t have a chance to circulate, the particles from these items build up and can affect your health. Just because you can’t see it like a dusty shelf, the air you are breathing can still be dirty and unhealthy.
So how can you remedy this? Open windows on those warmer days and let the air circulate through the house. Use the range hood vent when you are cooking at the stove. Have your fireplace or furnace regularly serviced so you know it is working properly. Try air purifiers. Use low VOC paint. Use dehumidifiers in damp basements. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Smoke outside. Houseplants help clean the air, so make sure they are well cared for.
More info:
Healthy Air at Home
Indoor Air Quality Stats
Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
10 Tips for Indoor Air Quality with a great graphic

There are other simple changes you can be made to green up your indoors and cut energy costs (January 10 is National Cut Your Energy Costs Day) and other household costs. Small changes can make a big impact!
-Replace drafty or unsealed windows.
– Ask your utility company about getting a home audit to see where energy might be leaking.
– Program a thermostat to your schedule to minimize heating your home when you aren’t home.
– Use power strips to make it easy to turn power off to numerous items at once.
– Use a hot water heater blanket to insulate your water heater.
– Run dishwasher and washing machine only when full.
– Turn the faucet off when you are brushing your teeth, shaving, etc. You can save gallons of water!
– Turn lights off when you leave a room.
– Set your computers to hibernate mode when not in use, or get in the habit of shutting them down nightly.
– LED bulbs save energy, so next time you need to replace a bulb, switch to LED. They last longer too.
– Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. It’ll help contain the plastic bag clutter in your house and it helps save the planet from pollution and saves birds and other wildlife too!
– Buy reusable plastic, glass or stainless steel containers and bring water from home. Stop buying bottled water (it’s usually tap water anyway!). If you do buy bottled water make sure to recycle the bottle!
– Use nontoxic cleaners for cleaning, laundry, body care etc. If it has a strong smell, or a warning label, it’s toxic! It is easy to find earth safe, nontoxic cleaners in your local supermarket, or just use plain old baking soda and vinegar.

More info:
Green Cleaners
Paper or Plastic?
Water Bottle Pollution
LED Bulbs


[ Green the Holidays! ]

So you live a green lifestyle all year long. You recycle, you minimize your impact by bringing your own bags and using a reusable cup for your morning coffee, you drive a low emission car, and program your thermostat….you are set, right? Did you consider ways to green the holidays???? It doesn’t have to be difficult to make a difference!

* An obvious way would be to buy recycled wrapping paper, but you could take it a step further and use your old newspaper, or wrap it in another gift, such as a tablecloth, a scarf or a reusable shopping bag.

* As for the tree, real or fake? Cutting down trees and branches for decorations kills or injures trees, but a lot of the fake pine stuff is made from PVC which is toxic and energy intensive to make the plastic which releases gasses. There are fake pine decorations made from polyethylene which doesn’t carry the same health risks. Or use a potted real tree that can be planted in the spring.

*If you do use a real tree, be sure to give it new life at the end of the season! Mulch it or chip it. For more ideas check out our 1Thing for December and learn how to recycle it.

*LED lights are easy to find and will use a fraction of the energy that lights used to use. Use a timer for outdoor lights so they don’t stay on all night!

*Try upcycling! Get a little creative and turn something discarded into something usable. Recycle glass jars into fancy storage or to give with homemade candy, make a book stand out of books, or turn dominoes into a clock. Pinterest.com is full of great ideas, just search UPCYCLE. There are thousands of ideas, surely one appeals to you and your skill level.
Glass Jars

*Give green. Instead of giving someone another dust collector, donate to a charity that you or your recipient believe in. It’s a win-win! Some ideas to get you started:
Gifts that Give More
70 Years of Family Farming
Sierra Club
Nature Conservancy

*If you do shop, shop local. Support the businesses in your local community, spend less gas driving all over. Art and craft shows are prevalent this time of year and you can support a local artist and give a gift of something thoughtful and artful. Pottery bowls can be esthetically pleasing and functional, or a hand knitted hat is stylish and warm.
Colorado Pottery

*Eco friendly gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Try gift cards for a group of friends to take a cooking class together. Make some jelly or jam, or bread that can be frozen for later. Be really green and give a worm composter so less food waste goes into the landfill. Try cloth dish towels and napkins as a gift to replace the paper ones. Give a fancy reusable water bottle or coffee/tea travel mug. Be super practical, and give LED bulbs or a blanket for the hot water heater. Reusable shopping bags are handy too! Programmable thermostat. Bus/train passes. Glass storage containers. A basket of nontoxic cleaners. Beeswax candles.

Eco Friendly Decor
Green Christmas
Unique and Cheap Eco Friendly Gifts
Pinned Green Gift Ideas
9 Green Gift Ideas


[ It’s Denver’s 1Thing for September….Clean Green Home ]


Have you ever stopped to consider just what goes into your household cleaners, what your carpets are made of, or what your pets are ingesting with their flea collars?
Many people don’t think about any of this, but it can all be very detrimental to our health and to the health of our pets. It doesn’t need to be a ‘sick house syndrome’ to be harmful either. Many people are sensitive to the furniture they sit down to breakfast every morning at, and may not even realize it.
If it stinks, burns your nose or throat or hurts your hands, it’s not good for you on some level. So what’s a person to do? There are TONS of options that can make a big difference in a small way in your house’s health that can trickle down to you!

Non-toxic cleaners
Ditch the pricey smelly cleaners in favor of plain old white vinegar and baking soda. If you can smell a product and it burns your nose and throat, and hurts your hands to use it…it’s toxic!
Tub/sink cleaner: Inexpensive baking soda can act like an abrasive and vinegar delivers the disinfecting punch when scrubbing your tub or sink. If you can’t give up the idea of using soap, try castile soap.
Drain cleaner: Sprinkle ½ cup or more of baking soda into the drain, add ½ cup white vinegar and let it foam and fizzle for a few minutes. Follow with some super hot or boiling water and your drain should run clear.
Window cleaner: 4 tablespoons lemon juice in half a gallon of water, or 1 cup white vinegar in half a gallon of water….spritz onto windows and wipe clean with old newspapers or an old tshirt.
Stain remover: lemon juice squeezed onto a cloth and rubbed into tile flooring can remove stains.
Wood polish: 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice, use an old tshirt to rub into the wood.
Air freshener: Use 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil in 8 oz of water and spray the room. Lemon, orange, lavender and mint are all nice choices. (try eucalyptus to clear your sinuses from fall allergies/colds). Alternatively put a few drops on a cotton ball and hide behind the toilet or on a windowsill. (Essential oils are the pure essence of a plant and are not the same as perfumes, which are chemical/synthetic. Essential oils may cause a reaction if applied straight to skin so always dilute!)
Make Your Own Cleaners

With winter approaching, now is actually a good time to clean up the garden. But don’t clean it up too much! Leave some branches and dried plants! Birds and butterflies may migrate but many beneficial insects and bees hunker down for the winter. We may be well intentioned but we often destroy their shelter. Leave dead logs, dead trees, clumps of dried grasses and other plants around as shelter. Even leaf litter can provide shelter for certain insects. Leaf litter also acts as a mulch so resist the urge and just leave it be until spring! As it breaks down over the winter the leaves provide nutrients for the soil too.
Fall tilling will open up your soil…the deeper the till the better. It’ll relieve compacted soil and let nutrients from your amendments work their way thru the soil. Come spring it’ll be easier to dig up for spring planting. Try adding humus or manure, or take from your compost pile, and work it into the soil. It’ll break down over the winter and nutrients will be available to the plants come spring.
Be willing to change the way you see your yard! Forget perfectly manicured (which usually means tons of pesticides and synthetic chemicals), look at naturalizing the yard and viewing nature is it is as perfect. It’s less work too!
Pollinators in the Winter Garden
More Info/Garden Notes

Like your children, your pets can be extremely sensitive to the environment and the things you put on them. We often feed them food we would never consider eating, or douse them in chemicals that we don’t give a second thought to. Your pet care routine is easy to green….
Kitty litter pan: Dump litter and rinse. Add some white vinegar to the pan and let stand for 10 minutes or so. Pour it out and air dry. Add a layer of baking soda to the bottom before adding the cat litter to control odors naturally.
Flea shampoo: Ditch the toxic stuff! Plain soap and water will kill fleas just fine, if you can get your pet to soak for 5 minutes before rinsing. Try a lavender castile soap, fleas don’t like lavender and the soap is nontoxic. Use vinegar in the rinse water to get any soap residue off. Spritz the pets bedding with 10 drops lavender essential oil mixed in 1 cup of water. It’ll smell good and fleas don’t like it!
Cages: Bird, rabbit and hamster cages etc can be cleaned with a sponge or rag dipped in vinegar. Birds especially are super sensitive to chemicals (did you know nonstick Teflon surfaces can be lethal to them?), so be green around your birds! For tough spots use baking soda to scrub and it’ll help control odors too.
Pet beds: Sprinkle baking soda on the bed, let stand 15 minutes and vacuum thoroughly to remove odors (this works for carpets too). Alternatively if the bed is small enough, put in dryer with a towel with a few drops of lavender essential oi on it and let it fluff on the air cycle for 10 minutes.
Dry bath: Pet hate water? Try rubbing them down with a bit of baking soda. Give it a massage into their fur then brush it out.

Dogs and Toxic Chemicals
Homemade Flea Powder

Indoor air quality
When have you last thought about your indoor air? So many things can make it toxic. Smoking, candles, not opening windows, carpets, particleboard furniture, your shower and even that so called air freshener can all be toxic to your health.
Shower: Install a filter on your shower. A low flow filter will save water and help take the chlorine out. We purify our drinking water yet inhaling the steam from a shower, or what is absorbed by your skin, can be even more harmful. Take shorter showers, keep a window open for ventilation and turn the fan on, and use a filter to help reduce your risks.
Particleboard: Ever wonder why your new bookcase stinks? Formaldehyde! It’s a big component of particleboard which can be used for book cases, desks, kitchen cabinets, flooring, walls and more. Look for real wood products, plain and simple. There are all kinds of nontoxic ways to finish a wood product too that are beautiful and non-health threatening. .
Air Fresheners: Ditch that plug in, it’s full of Have you ever stopped to consider just what goes into your household cleaners, what your carpets are made of, or what your pets are ingesting with their flea collars?
Many people don’t think about any of this, but it can all be very detrimental to our health and to the health of our pets. It doesn’t need to be a ‘sick house syndrome’ to be harmful either. Many people are sensitive to the furniture they sit down to breakfast every morning at, and may not even realize it.
If it stinks, burns your nose or throat or hurts your hands, it’s not good for you on some level. So what’s a person to do? There are TONS of options that can make a big difference in a small way in your house’s health that can trickle down to you!

Hidden Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Plywood & Particleboard
Air Fresheners

So what 1Thing will you try today?


[ April is Lawn and Garden Month… ]

A recent survey showed that 81% of people say the look of their lawn/garden is important to the look of their homes. Whether you have pride in the look of your home, or you need an area outside to relax and enjoy. How you upkeep your lawn and garden is very important to Mama Earth too!
PLANET, the national trade association for landscape professionals, offers homeowners tips for getting a great start on caring for yards this spring. Click here!
5 Quick (Green) Tips for Lawn Care:
Fertilization: Spring is a crucial time to fertilize because it replenishes the food reserves your yard draws from while dormant in the winter and fuels grass’ rapid growth phase. Hopefully, you’ve been composting your kitchen waste all year long, and you have the means to make compost tea to fertilize your lawn and garden. This will produce a thick, healthy lawn that also helps prevent weeds. (And don’t worry: if you haven’t been composting, there are lots of packaged organic fertilizers on the market, but just like when shopping for organic foods, be careful and read the label).
Weed control: Apply a pre-emergent weed killer on lawns to prevent grassy weeds from germinating. Spring broadleaf weeds like dandelions, clovers and plantains, are best prevented by maintaining a proper mowing height and fertilization. After a mild winter, annual weeds that germinate in the fall, like henbit and chickweed, will be more visible and require higher levels of broadleaf weed control through herbicides. Never use chemical weed killers! Check out natural and effective options like Burn Out, (made from clove oil, vinegar and lemon juice) instead.
Pest control/Disease repair: Severe winters may increase the incidence of winter diseases such as snow mold and Bermuda dead spot. Proper cultural care is important in helping your lawn recover from stress related winter diseases. Properly timed fertilizer application and mowing at the recommended height for your grass type are two items that will aid in the recovery of your lawn.
Mowing: Contrary to popular belief, setting your mower at a very low height can actually increase weeds by exposing the soil surface to sunlight and removing stored nutrients in leaf blades. Cool weather grasses, such as bluegrass, ryegrass and fescues, should maintain a height of 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Warm season grasses, like bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine and centipede, should be kept at 1.5 to 2.5 inches tall. Also, think about skipping the loud, carbon-intensive, gas-powered mower for an electric or human-powered alternative. (TLC)

11 Time Saving Organic Gardening Tips:
1. Start with a plan. A well-thought-out plan saves you time spent trying to decide where you want each plant to go during the few hours you have to work outside.
2. Make quick beds. Create a new perennial garden simply by slicing under turf with a spade, flipping it upside down, and then covering the area with 3 to 4 inches of wood chips. Wait a few weeks and then cut into it and plant your perennials.
3. Stash your tools. Minimize trips to the shed by keeping tools close.
4. Cut off weeds. When low-growing weeds like chickweed or lamium grow into a mat, don’t bother trying to get rid of them one at a time. Instead, use the “shovel method” Debbie recommends. “With a sharp spade, slice beneath weeds, and then turn them over to completely bury the leaves,” she explains. Bonus: “As the leaves rot, the weeds nourish the soil like a green manure.”
5. Pile on mulch. Use a bow or flat-head rake to spread mulch efficiently, Lisa suggests. “With the rake’s tined edge, you pull and spread the mulch, and with the flat side of the rake, you even out the mulch on the bed,” she explains, adding, “Use a light push-pull action.”
6. Water wisely. Soaker hoses save you the time of standing with a hose or refilling a watering can, Debbie reminds us. “With pressure on low, the water can be left on for several hours while a section of the garden is slowly irrigated, freeing you to work on something else. Just keep in mind that tender seedlings still need to be hand-watered.”
7. Wind up hoses. Don’t waste time dragging and storing unwieldy hoses—for neat, easy storage, Lisa depends on both stationary and portable hose reels to put hoses away faster.
Build soil in place. No need to tote wheel-barrows full of compost to your garden. “I make compost right in the walkways of my beds,” Lisa says. “I layer newspaper with straw on top to prevent muddy shoes, and toward the end of the growing season, the straw and newspaper become a dark, crumbly compost. I add it right to the beds on each side of the walkway.”
9. Wash the harvest. Collect your produce in an old laundry basket. The basket acts as a strainer, allowing you to quickly rinse off dirt and debris from veggies and fruits.
10. Keep your shoes on. Stash plastic grocery bags by the door to cover your muddy shoes in case you have to go inside before you are through gardening for the day.

11. Take baby steps. Every minute is valuable when you’re pressed for time. Take a few moments when you have them so chores don’t pile up for the weekend. For instance, pluck a few weeds while waiting for the dog to finish his business outside or deadhead flowers while you’re waiting for the school bus to drop off the kids.
*Organic Gardening has some great tips too!
*Here are some great pre-spring tips for your garden, which still may help out now!
Have a Happy Spring!


[ Trees, for a change……….. ]

Christmas is upon us and what better gift to give than one that is sustainable; will help the environment and will last for generations.

Trees for a Change gives you this opportunity. For Christmas, you can order a tree that will be planted in a National Forest replacing trees that have been destroyed by wildfire, disease or insects. The person you are honoring with this gift will receive a beautiful card on recycled paper, or an e-card, indicating that you have honored them with this gift. They can also go on line and see information and photos of the tree that was planted in their honor.
What a wonderful way to give a gift and support our environment. In one year a tree is able to absorb ten pounds of pollutants from the air and convert 330 pound of carbon dioxide into oxygen. These trees will also restore the habitat and food supply for wildlife, prevent soil erosion and add beauty to our National Forest for many generations to come.
For additional information or to order you gift tree, go to: