How to Green Your Kitchen

Strategies for making your kitchen more environmentally-friendly on a budget.

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Did you know that the air inside your home is two to five times more polluted than the air outside your home? This comes as a surprise to many people. But according to the EPA, off-gassing from common household products deteriorates indoor air quality and safety year after year. Because the kitchen is a major source of indoor air pollution, you can do a lot to protect and improve your family's health by greening up this space.

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Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Switch to Green/Eco-Friendly Cleaners

Some of the biggest home polluters are the cleaners you have stored underneath the kitchen sink. Even when the lids are closed, chemicals still escape and harm the health of everyone in your home. For instance, many window cleaners, air fresheners, and oven cleaners contain butyl cellosolve. This harmful chemical is suspected to depress the nervous system, cause liver and kidney damage, and cause reproductive problems, including testicular damage, reduced fertility, and the death of embryos. This is not a chemical you want you or your children inhaling!

But chances are you have at least one and possibly many cleaners containing this chemical in your kitchen right now. The best way to green your kitchen is to take all your non-green cleaners to a site for hazardous waste disposal. Call your city for the closest location or visit Earth911.com, which contains a useful database you can search by zip code. Next, start using natural, green cleaners instead. For example, you can clean your entire home using only baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and borax. These products are safe, natural, and cheap to use. To take it a step further, you can even make your own homemade natural laundry detergent.

2. Use Low-VOC Paint

Regular paints contain benzene, which is a very dangerous chemical known to be a human carcinogen. It also is known to cause leukemia, bone marrow failure and abnormalities, as well as other serious health effects. Whenever you paint a room or use paint remover, you release benzene into the atmosphere.

To green your kitchen, use paint that says "Low VOC" or "Zero VOC" on the can. Always paint with the windows open and never store paint or painting supplies in your home or attached garage. These items should be used and then disposed of safely as soon as possible. If you're worried about your home's benzene levels, purchase a few English Ivy plants or Peace Lilies as both have been proven to remove benzene from the atmosphere. This is a great way to free your home of dangerous chemicals.

3. Choose Healthy Cabinets

Most cabinets are a major source of air contamination. This is because pressed wood cabinets contain formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen that has also been linked to learning disorders in children. The chemicals in pressed wood cabinets will off-gas for months or years, and thereby further lower your indoor air quality and expose your family to dangerous fumes. It's best to purchase used cabinets for your kitchen whenever possible, since used cabinets have already gone through and completed the off-gassing process. A

fter a year or two they are relatively safe for your home. If you want to buy new, however, look for cabinets made with no or low-VOC ingredients. This information should be easy to find as most manufacturers will usually state this on their website or product brochure. If you can get your cabinets made with sustainably harvested wood, that's even better.

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Final Thoughts

It can be a bit scary to think about your home's indoor air quality and the plethora of items that make it unhealthy. However, even a few small changes can make a huge difference! To keep your home's air healthy and clean, switch to green cleaners, use low-VOC paints, and install healthy cabinets when you remodel your kitchen.

But even if you have newer cabinets or paint that you suspect are off-gassing, utilize houseplants. Many houseplants, such as spider plants, English Ivy, and peace lilies, act as air filters and effectively scrub the air of dangerous chemicals. Plus, they are a more attractive and affordable alternative to traditional air filters.

What are you doing to green your kitchen and your home?

Heather Levin lives in Michigan with her husband, and has been "greening" her home and her lifestyle for several years now. You can see more of  Heather's work and writing on Money Crashers, one of the best ranked finance sites covering topics like green living and frugal tips.