We may live in one of the most polluted cities in the world but it’s easier and more essential than ever to find eco-friendly home alternatives.
Going green can be overwhelming, seem impossible and appear to require a massive investment of both time and money to get started. Not so! With the help of Green Queen, the Hong Kong-based advocate of social and environmental change, and holistic health practitioner Sarah Sanesi, we’ve lined up 10 easy steps for you to become an eco-friendly home goddess.
1. Get A House Plant
Any green plant will do. Plants absorb a great deal of toxic air particles in your home. They’re nature’s air filters and don’t cost much. This is especially useful in a city home where air-conditioning is used frequently (air-conditioners tend to recycle polluted city air). You can even turn the upkeep of your houseplants into a fun activity to share with your little ones!
2. Give Stuff Away
This is an easy one and it’s free. Clean out your home, reclaim your living space and give old books, clothes, shoes, toys and any other knickknacks to people who need them more than you do. Get your children involved by having them pick out some things they no longer use and make them feel good about donating! Wherever you live there are charities, churches and NGOs that will happily accept donations. And the next time you go to buy something, think twice and ask yourself if you really need it.
3. Buy Baking Soda And White Vinegar
These can easily be picked up at your local grocery store. Instead of polluting your home with harsh, chemical-laden household cleaning products, try the easy homemade recipe below for an all-purpose cleaner. When mixed in varying concoctions, these two super cleaners can remove dirt and grime from just about anything.
All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix ½ cup of white distilled vinegar with ¼ cup baking soda and 2 litres of (filtered) water. Store in an airtight spray bottle container or glass bottle. Even better, it keeps indefinitely.
4. Put A Timer In Your Shower
We all underestimate how much water we use in the shower and we all take water for granted. Note to everyone: water is a scarce resource and we are running out! We understand that a long, hot shower is a luxurious treat and a part of life. So indulge once a week. The rest of the time, use a run-of-the-mill timer and limit yourself to 3 to 5 minutes, max!
5. Ditch Your Rugs & Carpets
They accumulate so many toxins, as well as dirt, dust, bugs and many more ear-nose-and-throat-polluting contaminants: they are a leading cause of allergies and indoor air pollution. Remember, don’t add to the landfill: take them to recycling facilities or give them to charity.
6. Change Your Light Bulbs
Replace your regular light bulbs with energy-saving ones. Regular light bulbs = energy consumption = rising fuel costs and electric bills = greenhouse gas emissions = global warming. Not convinced? Change a few and notice the difference in your electricity bill and treat yourself to a nice dinner with what you saved!
7. Open Your Windows
Yes, even in polluted Hong Kong! It’s very likely that your indoor air quality is worse than the outdoor air quality, so increase ventilation by opening a few windows every day for 5 to 10 minutes, preferably on opposite sides of the house.
8. Take Your Shoes Off
That’s right, taking your shoes off as soon as you enter the house and leaving them by the door prevents a host of dirt, dust, bacteria, germs and other toxic microbes from infesting your home and the floors on which your children crawl and play!
9. Clean Your Air-Con Filters
Regular upkeep of your air-conditioning filters (use a suction vacuum to remove dust/dirt particles and then wash filters with soapy warm water and let dry before re-inserting) will not only mean cleaner air at home, it will also help lower your electricity bills and cut down on maintenance costs.
10. Go Fragrance-Free
Ditch the air fresheners, disinfectant sprays and wax/paraffin-based candles! If you need lovely scents, choose high-grade aromatherapy-based products instead.
A Few More Green Tips
Here are some small changes that can make a big difference overall:
Staying with the last point mentioned above…while you may love dotting those luxury scented candles available from the best stores in Hong Kong around your home, many of them contain petroleum-based chemicals which are released as the candle burns. Instead, we love the Neom brand of soy-based candles available at Lane Crawford, but if you are staying local, look at HK Honey, whose beeswax and honey-scented candles come from Mr Yip at the Wing Wo Bee Farm in Shatin and are then handmade in Tai Po. With no petroleum-based chemicals, they release a clean-burning white smoke.
This will be among the easiest green switch to make as Hong Kong supermarkets have a good selection of green washing detergents including Ecover, ecostore and Sonett. All have excellent cleaning capabilities and all are non-irritating for young children’s delicate skin.
Cookware and food storage
Teflon-coated pans contain ammonium perfluorooctanoate or C-8, so the safest cookware to use is All-Clad stainless steel pans or those gorgeous copper pans available at Pan Handler in the Princes Building. And when it comes to storing your food, it’s glass all the way.
Plastics and papers
Instead of plastic wrap use unbleached wax paper as plasticisers used in plastic wrap release chemicals that disrupt hormones and are linked to some cancers. Seventh Generation makes excellent recycled paper products that can be found in ThreeSixty, The Landmark or Park n Shop.
Choose paints that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as these chemicals cause indoor pollution 24/7 by emitting low levels of toxic vapours into the air from the walls, floors or furniture for years after their application. You can get Ecozmo Natural Paint from Natural Living.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in November 2011 by Green Queen and Sarah Sanesi, and updated in March 2020 by Sassy Mama.