Environmentally Caring Practices for the Home

Environmentally Caring Practices for the Home

The way we live our lives has an impact on the world around us. Our health, and the health of wildlife and the environment are affected by the chemicals we use in our home. Pesticides used in farming, gardening, and in the home can pollute the land, water and air. Many household chemicals used for cleaning contain phosphates, chlorine and other chemicals which harm humans and wildlife. The following are some recommendations for living in a healthy and low-impact way:

 [Recycling logo] REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE – at home, office, and school. By using fewer natural resources, and creating less waste, we take up less space on the planet and leave more room for other creatures.

  • Avoid disposables: disposable diapers, shavers, cameras, kitchen plastic and paper goods (towels, napkins, cups, plates) etc.
  • Use recycled paper products. Many stationery, grocery stores and health food stores now carry a selection of recycled paper, napkins, towels, plates, and toilet paper.
  • Recycle: glass jars, plastic containers and trays in frozen dinners, metal cans, aluminum foil, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, telephone books, and corrugated cardboard (flattened boxes) can be recycled in many cities. White paper is usually recyclable in offices and in some neighborhoods. Contact your city's department of sanitation to learn more about the recycling program in your area. If none exists, contact your City Council to urge that one be started.
  • Make a commitment as a family to make the week of Passover a "Week of Simple Living." Choose one thing to do without during that week that will enable you to use less resources and "take up less space" in the world, leaving more space for other creatures.
  • Cut up plastics holder rings from your 6-pack drinks. Birds get strangled by them when they are disposed of in landfill piles or in water.


You can eliminate the use of fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides and still have healthy and attractive lawns and gardens.

  • Leave it on the lawn! When you mow your grass, leave clippings on the lawn instead of raking and bagging them. The clippings decompose and provide nitrogen to the soil, so you can reduce, or even eliminate, fertilizing.
  • Compost yard and food waste. Grass clippings, yard trimmings, autumn leaves, and kitchen scraps can all be composted. Using rich, soil-conditioning compost lawns and gardens keeps plants healthy, naturally, eliminating the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Use alternative products. Many garden centers and catalogs now sell fertilizers, pesticides, and weed controls that are organic or made with safer ingredients.
  • Native plants. Create habitat for wildlife. (See below for information.)


  • Walk, bike, take the bus, ride the train.
  • When purchasing your next vehicle, select the most fuel-efficient model possible. Click here for an automobile fuel efficiency comparison tool.
  • Look for the "Energy-Star" label on appliances, indicating certification as a highly energy efficient product. Energy Star, a U.S. EPA program, certifies all major appliances, furnaces, boilers, computers and monitors, and even entire new homes.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use much less energy than conventional bulbs while providing high quality light. Contact your utility company about possible discounts.
  • Insulate your home, tune up your furnace, install a programmable thermostat, and keep the thermostat low.
  • Plant trees to provide shade while absorbing carbon dioxide. Check with a local nursery about appropriate native tree species for your area.
  • Advocate for strong governmental action to reduce carbon emissions, including mass transit, stricter vehicle emissions standards, and energy-smart community planning. Sign up for COEJL Action Alerts!.
  • Invest in companies which provide clean energy and divest from environmentally destructive companies. Contact the Social Investment Forum.


Substitute non-toxic cleansers and pesticides. Check health food stores, food co-ops, mail-order catalogs, and even supermarkets for non-toxic cleaning products and pesticides. Citrus-based cleaning products are generally effective and may be even safer than other alternative cleansers. Try to avoid products that contain phosphates, chemical bleaches, petroleum detergents, and synthetic perfumes. (See the list under Supplies for more information.)

You can also make your own safe substitutes. These common solutions, plus some elbow grease, are reliable and effective ways to get the job done:

  • Ceramic tile cleaner: Mix one-quarter cup white vinegar with one gallon of water.
  • Furniture polish: Mix three parts olive oil with one part vinegar. Wipe with a clean, soft cloth.
  • Oven cleaner: Sprinkle vinegar, then a layer of baking soda on oven surfaces. Rub gently with very fine steel wool for tough spots; wipe with a sponge.
  • Toilet cleaner: Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, drizzle with vinegar, and scour with a toilet brush.
  • Roach control: Kill roaches with a mixture of equal parts flour, oatmeal, and plaster of Paris. Keep out of reach of children and pets.
  • Ant control: Wash countertops, cabinets, and floors with equal parts vinegar and water.
  • Moth control: Use cedar blocks or chips instead of moth balls.
  • Flea control: Try giving your cat or dog Brewer's Yeast pills and use natural powders and sprays which use ingredients made from flowers, plants and vegetable oils.
  • Insect repellent: Use citronella oils and candles to repel mosquitoes, flies and ticks.
  • Buy mercury-free batteries. Check packages of alkaline batteries (i.e., those used in radio and flashlights) to be sure they are mercury-free. Also, if you use a hearing aid, consider using zinc-air batteries instead of mercuric-oxide batteries, when feasible.
  • Try rechargeable alkaline batteries. Using rechargeable batteries that can be used many times before disposal helps reduce the amounts of cadmium, mercury, and lead (contained in household batteries) entering the waste stream. Be sure to choose rechargeable alkaline batteries instead of rechargeable nick-cadmium batteries. Cadmium is a heavier metal that can pose environmental and health hazards when mines, processed or discarded.
  • Return button batteries. Ask jewelry stores, watch repair shops, camera stores, and other retailers to recycle your button batteries.
  • Use latex (water based) paint, instead of oil (solvent-based) paint. Oil paint is flammable and contains volatile organic compounds that can cause air pollution and contribute to smog.
  • Recycle motor oil. Motor oil has trace toxins which increase after use. Contact you local auto shop about recycling the oil.
  • Use safer anti-freeze for your automobile. Many children and animals have died due to accidental poisoning from the usual anti-freeze which resembles punch in color and taste. When people carelessly dump their anti-freeze on the road, children and wildlife are in danger of drinking it and being poisoned. Dispose of anti-freeze responsibly. When replacing anti-freeze, put it in sealed, marked containers and return it to your local auto shop so that it will be disposed of properly, or call your local hazardous waste department for instructions in your area. Choose less hazardous anti-freeze with a propylene glycol base, such as SIERRA Anti-Freeze/Coolant: 800.289.7234. Contact your local representatives and demand that companies be required to put a bittering agent in the toxic products on the market.

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