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Banish Toxins and Reduce Carbon Emissions in Your Living Room


This is our second article on improving the health and eco friendliness of your home. Today we’re traipsing into the living room where you’ll find the couch and tv which makes this one of the most occupied rooms in the house.

The awareness of indoor air quality is fast becoming important as we are learning about volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) given off by products that contain glue and plastics. These VOCs are toxic and include chemicals such as toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, styrene and acetone. Things in your lounge room that can give off these gases include:

  • New carpet, which is usually made from petroleum derived, synthetic fibres such as nylon, and have been treated with different chemicals for fire retardation and anti-staining. Carpet also has rubber backing, which contains p-dichlorobenzene, a known carcinogen. Carpet harbours dust mites, which is unhealthy if you have asthma. If you still want carpet, go for the non-toxic or less toxic types, which are usually made of wool and can be biodegradable at the end of their twenty to thirty year life span.
  • Laminate wood flooring including bamboo and particleboard. The glues used in the laminating process can continue to give off VOCs for many years.
  • Paint – paints also give off toxic gases for years after they are applied, so choose ones that are labeled as non toxic which are most likely going to be water based such as Ecolour or others listed in our Green Guide.
  • Airfresheners give off any number of toxic chemicals, including ones we don’t know about as there are no ingredients on the container. I would avoid this one altogether. Read our article on airfresheners.

A good way to improve the air quality in the home, since studies have shown it can be up to ten times more toxic than the air outside, is to open the window.

Energy consumption is another factor to consider when creating a more eco-friendly lounge room space. Hologen downlights use a lot of electricity, so keep their use to a minimum and install a dimmer switch. A great alternative is to use lamps, but beware of the compact fluorescent energy saving bulbs - even though they use much less energy, they have been proven to leach toxic chemicals and the mercury inside is dangerous if the bulb breaks. LED lights are the other alternative as they are super efficient, however they are expensive but are slowly getting cheaper over time. The average LED lamp should last for around 50,000 hours, which almost justifies the cost. 

An oldie but a goodie, turn off your tv and dvd player at the wall, as idle appliances suck energy when they’re quietly on standby - don’t let their silence fool you, they are costing you money. When choosing a tv, keep in mind that energy efficiency labels are relevant for that size tv - so a large television will always use more energy than its smaller counterpart even if they both have four star ratings. LED televisions use up to three times less electricity than plasmas.

When heating your living room choose the right system for the size of the room and ensure any draughts from windows or doors are minimized. It also helps to have insulation, although this is fraught with decisions, as you want to choose insulation that is as eco friendly as possible. There are many guides for choosing what heating system is right for you. Personally, when we changed from electric bar heaters to a ducted reverse cycle system, we reduced our electricity usage by around 20-25%.

I hope that has given you something to ponder. While you think about it I’m off to check out some LEDs.

What do you think?