Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keeping Warm and Saving the Planet

Winter is still here, and it's evident by all the snow falling and storms still raging across the west and northeast. And we'll still be experiencing chilly weather well into spring, which is really only a little over two weeks away. When it's cold outside, how do you keep warm inside? Do you turn up your thermostat and pay a high-ticket price for heating costs, or instead do you bundle up to keep your bills down?

Bundling up is certainly one way to save electricity, gas, and money. The best time to turn down your thermostat is when you are going to bed. According to Green Guide for Living, for every degree you turn down the thermostat, you keep up to 320 pounds of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere over the course of the season.You can add layers onto your bed at night to keep warm and keep heating costs down. Here are some ways to do it green:

Eco-fibers Purchase blankets, sheets, pillows, and comforters that are safe for health and the environment -eco-fibers are the way to go. Natural fibers such as wool and cotton are breathable and safer than petrol-based fibers like acrylic and polyester. Best bets are organically-produced fibers grown without chemical pesticides and genetically engineered methods.

Wool or Polyester? When choosing blankets and comforter batting, go for wool instead of polyester. Keep an eye out for organic or "Pure-Grow" wool. These fibers come from ranches that don't dip their sheep in pesticide baths. There are other chemicals to avoid such as moth-proofing insecticides, which many manufacturers use. Inquire at the place of business or with the manufacturer or retailer about whether those types of practices are used in the making of their products.

Chemical-Free Dyes Those who want colored sheets in their bedrooms now have a choice of heavy-metal-free or vegetable-based dyes. Look for products that are "SKAL-certified" and are made with dyes free of heavy metals. Another good choice is FoxFiber™ "color-grown" cotton, which is bred (but is not genetically-modified) to grow in different colors - but is usually only available in earth-tones such as browns, beiges and greens. Color-grown cottons will also fade less quickly in your machine than dyed cotton.

Chlorine-Free Bleaching: When selecting bedding or other household products, look for unbleached or chlorine-free bleached varieties. After harvesting, conventional and some organic cotton is bleached with chlorine in a way that releases cancer-causing dioxin into the atmosphere.

Tips for the savvy consumer:
  • Avoid products labeled with the following: crease-resistant, no-iron, permanent press, stretch-proof, shrink-proof, water repellent or water-proofed. Some finishes on fabrics release formaldehyde into the air.
  • Choose products that can be machine-washed, as dust mites and allergens can be eliminated from these fibers each time you wash.
  • Those with allergies should avoid down comforters and pillows as these types of bedding can be the culprit for exacerbating reactions due to their inherent ability to attract and harbor dust (and mites)

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