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Do Your Part: Choose wisely if painting, cleaning

Mon., Nov. 29, 2010

The thought of guests descending on your home for the holidays may have you in an all-out redecorating rush. Do your part this holiday season and go green while you paint, clean and even accessorize.

We all know that paint can inexpensively change the look of any space. But did you know that it’s one of the biggest sources of indoor air pollution?

That’s because conventional paints contain volatile organic compounds – or VOCs – which are known to cause everything from headaches to certain cancers.

Now it’s easier than ever to get your hands on low- or no-VOC paint from nearly any paint manufacturer. The cost is comparable to conventional paints and they last just as long.

Another source of those dangerous VOCs is household cleaners.

If you’re like me, you may take cleaning to a whole other level when company comes to town. Before you spend a lot of money on store-bought cleaners, take a look at the nontoxic options you may already have in your pantry.

Items like baking soda, vinegar and borax are effective cleaners for every room in your home. They do everything from disinfecting surfaces to killing mold. Go to to see specific uses for all these products.

Or, if you want to go the store-bought route, look for cleaners that are plant-based and biodegradable such as Method and Seventh Generation products.

Now for the fun part: If you’ll be picking out a new piece of furniture before your friends and family arrive, choose ones that don’t emit dangerous chemicals into your air.

Some affordable pieces made from medium density fiberboard – or MDF – contain a formaldehyde-based resin. Gas from the formaldehyde is known to slowly release into the air and can irritate eyes and cause breathing problems.

Formaldehyde is also used in many furniture adhesives. When shopping, find out what the furniture is made of and if any formaldehyde adhesives are used in the manufacturing process.

If you’ll be getting some new towels or sheets for your guests, opt for organic cotton items. These pieces are produced from cotton that is grown without using harmful pesticides or insecticides. Not only that, you’ll also find organic cotton items are generally softer.

Major retailers now offer organic options in every price range. You can also find decorative bed pillows made with organic cotton at many home goods stores.

There are plenty of ways to get in the green spirit this holiday season and it won’t cost you any more money or time. So do your part when guests come to visit to make sure your home is the healthiest it can be.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist, and host of where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to

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