Feb 21, 2009

The Green House Effect

What’s good for the Earth is good for your health. Here’s how to get an eco-friendly abode – fast Happily for us, we are nowhere near leading the world’s list of conspicuous consumers. Most of us recycle regularly - faded towels as dusters, old saris as hand-stitched quilts and throwaway containers as storage jars. There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t sell old newspapers and bottles to the kabariwala. Yet, there is more you can do to turn your home into a healthier, safer, and greener haven. Do you know how to boost the earth-friendly quotient of your fridge? Or how you can make a room eco-friendly? Take our eco-home quiz to find out. If you don't score in the green zone, consider some of these easy and smart switches that will make a big impact on the planet and your health.
1- STAYING INDOORS PROTECTS YOU FROM POLLUTION (T/F)Answer: False. Shockingly, pollutant levels in your house can be much higher.Paint, carpet, flooring and furniture emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause a variety of ills. Formaldehyde, the most common VOC, can trigger headaches, coughing, nausea, and breathing problems. Plus, there is not enough ventilation indoors to remove cigarette smoke, pet allergen and other pollutants. Human exposure to pollutants within the home exceeds the recommended limits, set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later.A study points out that indoor air pollution is a major health and environmental concern. Most of us know that the air outside, specially on our roads, is polluted. So, we believe that the safest thing to do would be to keep the air outside just where it is: outside. We shut our windows and turn to air conditioned comfort. In developing countries, the problem of indoor air pollution far outweighs the ambient air pollution.Green fix: A homemaker who is allergic to the smell of paint says, "We use good old choona (lime) on our walls. It keeps the walls sparkling, kills off mites and is economical." If the synthetic smell of a new carpet upsets you, air it for a few days on the balcony and then place it in an unused room for a week before bringing it into your room. Better still, go for a cotton durrie. Keep houseplants indoors. A NASA Study found that common plants like ficus, chrysanthemum, and money plant can remove indoor air pollution. Health bonus: Reducing your exposure to VOCs will cut your risk of asthma and headaches.
2- AIR CONDITIONED ROOMS KEEP YOU SAFE FROM AIR POLLUTION. (T/F)Answer: False. Take a look at your air-conditioner filter. If you hold it up against the sky, you can see how large the spaces between the fibres are. Most filters cannot filter out particles smaller than 100 microns. These tiny particles enter the respiratory system and can leave you with a cough, allergy or even an asthma attack. Air conditioned, air-tight buildings can lead to the Sick Building Syndrome.Green fix: Open out windows whenever you can to let the air circulate. Remember, modern buildings are built air-tight since it is cheaper to circulate the same stale air than to cool fresh air from outside. Make sure the exhaust fans in the washrooms and kitchen work properly.Health bonus: Fresh air leads to overall better health.
3- THE BEST WAY TO SAVE ENERGY AND LOWER ELECTRIC BILLS IS TO TURN OFF HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES. (T/F)Answer: False. Many appliances -including televisions, DVD players and cell phone chargers, or anything with an LED (light-emitting display) or remote control - suck electricity through the outlet even when they are turned off. In fact, a greater part of home electric power is consumed while the products aren't even in use. It is recommended to use a solar water heater instead of an electric geyser. With near-zero maintenance, it could save you a lot of electricity. All appliances, such as battery chargers, laptops, mobile phones and TVs consume power in stand-by mode also.Green fix: Instead of fiddling with the remote, pull the plug off when you don't use the television or the air conditioner. Switch off every appliance when not in use, even the radio.Health bonus: A lower electricity bill is always good for health! You lower your chances of overloading a circuit, which reduces your risk of fire.
4- WHICH TYPE OF REFRIGERATOR IS MORE ENERGY-EFFICIENT?A. Freezer on the top.B. Freezer at the bottom.ANSWER: B. Your fridge accounts for about 9% of your home's energy usage -more than any other appliance. Freezer-below versions require less energy than freezer-on-top models since cold air is heavy and descends. Green fix: Can't invest in a new model? Keep your fridge full, since it takes more energy to cool an empty space. But don't overstuff; cold air can't circulate when food is crammed against the top and sides of the fridge.Health bonus: If your fridge keeps food at 40oF or below, you're less likely to be among the millions of people each year who get food poisoning.
5- WHICH SPEWS MORE POLLUTION?A. Your car.B. Your air conditioner.C. Your diesel generator.ANSWER: C. The generator spews diesel fumes. If it's not serviced properly, incomplete combustion adds to the burden of harmful gases it spews. Green fix: A diesel generator is required only if your power consumption is high. Opt for an inverter. When the lights go off; try to share a room so that you require less electricity. But be sure the inverter is not kept in a room that is frequently used, since the acid used in it is not good for health.Health bonus: You’ll cut down on noise pollution. Prolonged exposure to noise, above 85 decibels, damages the hair cells in the inner ear; chronic exposure is linked to increased anxiety levels, elevated blood pressure, and disrupted sleep.
6- WHAT SMELLS GOOD IS GOOD FOR HEALTH. AGARBATTI ISN'T JUST AN AGE-OLD RITUAL, IT COULD PURIFY THE AIR AROUND YOU. (T/F)ANSWER: False. Incense sticks can be made of chemicals. Beware of chemical agarbatties. Go for herbal varieties. These are mostly branded and more expensive. Want a healthy and cheaper alternative? Replace the mosquito repellant mat with camphor. When you plug the machine in, the camphor vaporises, leaving the room smelling fragrant. Camphor is antiseptic and an anti-irritant substance.Green fix: Go for the more expensive but safer, naturally-made, branded incense sticks.Health bonus: Natural incense is made from flowers, herbs and leaves. There are enough options available. Studies show that aroma therapy is good for your health.
7- WASHING LAUNDRY IN HOT WATER IS WORTH THE EXTRA ENERGY BECAUSE IT GETS CLOTHES CLEANER. (T/F) ANSWER: False. Cold water is almost always good enough.Green fix: When using a machine set the temp gauge to cold, except for super-soiled loads, to slash your household's energy use. But wash bed sheets on hot to kill dust mites and reduce allergies. A study found that washing bedding in hot water killed 100% of mites, compared with only 6.5% in warm water.Health bonus: If each of us switched to solar power for most of our heating purposes, it would save millions of tons of CO2 emissions every year. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps the heat, so less CO2 means a cooler world. It also means fewer droughts, fewer cases of heatstroke and asthma.

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