Making your Home a Green Home
    Making your Home a Green HomeMaking your Home a Green Home

    More and more people are becoming aware of the environmental dangers surrounding us as part of daily life. As we become more conscious of the threats we wonder what avenues exist for us to reduce our risk. This article aims to assist you in making your home a safer, greener place and a haven in the midst of modern madness.

    Firstly, what is a ‘green’ home? Since there is a certain degree of latitude regarding this term it is probably useful to provide a definition.

    ‘Green’ (as far as this article is concerned) means clean, unpolluted, free of toxins and dangerous residues, substances and materials that may be harmful to anybody or anything living in close proximity to them.

    From this we can take it that a green home is ideally one that is chemical-free and pollution-free, and that uses no noxious materials for clothing, bedding or furniture. All cleaning materials should be free of toxic chemicals. No heavy metals should be present. A green home is an ideal that we all wish for but that is difficult to attain, no matter how dedicated, informed or conscious we may be.

    Making your Home a Green Home


    Wandering down a leafy neighbourhood lane recently, I came upon a local resident determinedly spraying a can of deadly chemicals on her kerbside roses. I enquired whether she was trying to kill the roses.

    The response was that there was an outbreak of whitefly/greenfly/ aphids or some other nasty bug that required a chemical warfare solution. It was also suggested that I should perhaps mind my own business.

    I gently replied that it might indeed be our collective business if people apply inappropriate amounts of chemicals to our communal environment. Some may consider that I overreacted. However the point remains that if we don’t make a stand, then there is little chance of changing destructive human habits. This little example shows just how out of touch many people remain in this age.

    ProNature 15 Feb 2023


    We are surrounded by chemicals. Just how do we limit our exposure? First, be aware and beware. Read the labels on all cleaners, chemicals, paints, outdoor furniture oils, soaps and household products. Try to use naturally based products whenever possible – there is an increasingly wide range of these products available, some ‘greenwash’, some really green. So read and understand those labels!

    Avoid perfumed or anti-bacterial chemicals in your home. These may contain hormone-disrupting chemicals which can affect children and adults in unpredictable ways. They can for instance increase cancer risk and endocrine system disruption, not only in people but in all living things. The smaller the creature, the greater the effect – the same goes for humans. Children are far more susceptible than adults.

    There is also a family of chemicals derived from fossil fuels, known as petrochemicals. Included among these are many soaps and detergents, but more worrying are the volatile organic chemicals or VOCs. These include toxic chemicals like benzene, thinners and toluene. Some of these are used in paint and dry cleaning. It is best to avoid dry cleaning whenever possible – rather buy clothes made from washable materials.

    Making your Home a Green Home

    Other chemicals are used to manufacture synthetic materials such as curtains, floors and materials like vinyl. Many of these are known carcinogens such as VCM (Vinyl chloride monomer) and should be avoided. Many cheap carpets and glues contain these. Other ingredients of PVC flooring may have carcinogenic potential. Curtains and upholstery fabrics are often treated with toxic fire-retardant chemicals. Again, use natural, untreated alternatives, which usually last far longer anyway.

    It is especially inadvisable to start redecorating one’s home when pregnant or breastfeeding. It is also wise to avoid repainting during this time, unless you use chemical-free paint. In South Africa lead is still allowed in paints. Many paints such as acrylic emulsions and gloss paints have toxic petrochemical components that are both released immediately and gradually emitted over time. Again there are many natural replacements for these. Some manufacturers are claiming ‘natural' status when they produce lead-free paint. This is not necessarily so as the paint may still contain all the other toxins mentioned earlier.

    It is notable that many particle boards such as chipboard and laminated woods use phenolic glues that emit toxins for years, especially when hot. Avoid these and rather use natural non-chemically treated wood.


    Many natural substitutes for potent chemical cleaners do the job just as well and often better. And often at a lower cost!

    • Do you know that tomato sauce makes a great copper cleaner?
    • Did you know that good old-fashioned vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (baking powder) are wonderful cleaners?
    • Vinegar cleans toilets very well and also removes scale from kettles and plumbing.
    • Bicarb removes smells from fridges and carpets – just scatter it on smelly carpets, brush in, and vacuum off after a few hours.
    • Lemon juice is another good cleaner and has a far nicer smell than vinegar – grow your cleaner on a tree in your garden!
    • Essential oils such as tea tree and rosemary are potent anti-bacterials, as is vinegar.


    How do we avoid using poisons in our homes to get rid of bugs? Many of us simply reach for the poison aerosol when the ants invade or the flies arrive with the summer heat. It is far wiser to use baited traps for bugs. Many of these can be made from readily available and relatively benign substances. For instance cockroaches can be readily eliminated by using a mixture of borax (sodium borate decahydrate) and condensed milk, mixed into a paste and rolled into balls. These balls, placed at the back of cupboards, wipe out cockroaches rapidly.

    Red top fly traps are also chemical free, they are just a bit smelly, so use them away from your house, and keep the flies away more naturally!

    There is an increasing availability of organic pesticides. However just because something is labelled organic does not mean it is completely harmless. Many organic pesticides are toxic but they break down more readily and are not as damaging to the environment as the persistent chemicals they replace.


    We all wonder what we did before the non-stick frying pan. I can tell you – we used butter or oil on cast-iron skillets. I still do because there is a significant body of proof that the perfluorinated chemicals like Teflon – also used in stain-resistant and waterproof fabrics – are persistent and toxic compounds. I would suggest that all non-stick cookware be ditched, given the increasing indications of danger.

    Nanotechnology is another field of concern. We are seeing more use of nano-particles, particles so small they are able to readily cross the skin or the blood-brain barrier. For this reason I would suggest care with the application of sunblocks and other cosmetics that include these substances. Don’t try to be first with nanotech stuff – let someone else test it first!

    Cosmetics is a field of study all on its own. Many products are so packed with questionable chemicals that they are best left alone. Even if they are not toxic some of the ingredients like solidified animal fats in lipsticks are distasteful … and hardly seem kissable! (Editor's note: See our article Beware of Toxic Skin Care Products.


    It is not an easy journey to live a clean green life, even in the haven of one’s home. It takes concentration and application to avoid the nasties that our industrial chemical society has surrounded us with.

    As always, I suggest staying simple. Use natural substitutes for chemical cleaners whenever possible. If the chemical product is essential, then use as little as possible. Avoid the particularly nasty families of chemicals such as petrochemicals and pesticides altogether. Avoid cling wraps and silicone baking sheets. Avoid using plastics in microwaves – and avoid microwaves for that matter!

    In short, keep it simple, organic, natural and as close to nature as possible. You will save money, your family will thank you and the world will too! Green is forever!

    Editor's note: I recently met with the founder of ProNature, Bernhard Lembeck. I was delighted to learn that not only do they use natural ingredients in their wood coatings, wall paints & cleaning agents, but they are the only company in Africa that manufactures and sells lead- and cobalt-free products. Prices are affordable as it is locally made.

    For more on this topic, see our articles: Uncovering the Dirt on Cleaning Products and Beware of Toxic Skin Care Products

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