x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Five small steps to a greener, and healthier, home

Green Queen: Committing to a green lifestyle can be overwhelming. Why not start with these subtle but important changes.

It can be overwhelming to commit to a healthy lifestyle that is not only good for the planet, but you, too. Countless marketers are trying to take advantage of your good intentions, and even if you can make some serious changes, it is hard to feel as though you are making a difference.

Lately I am subscribing to a method of change that the spiritual author Deepak Chopra calls "subtle action". Rather than sweeping pledges or sudden movements, which can be difficult to implement or maintain, subtle action involves picking a few important things and just getting on with them. The following are what I believe are the five most important subtle actions you can take this week to reduce your carbon footprint and increase environmental health.

Swap regular cleaning products and laundry detergents with an eco-friendly variety.

Cleaners can be toxic - ever scrubbed a bathroom clean and felt light-headed? - and may contain phosphates that can starve plants and fish of oxygen.

Buy less food and get creative with leftovers.

The level of food waste in the UAE is shocking. Buffets are just the start of it. Try cutting your weekly shop by a third, and just see how it goes. You can always buy more food if you need it. If you throw away less, it might be a sign you were overbuying. Some estimates put leftover food in Abu Dhabi at 35 per cent of all waste. Unless you are composting, that is going straight to landfill.

Say goodbye to plastic water bottles.

Not only is plastic clogging up landfills, but it is also choking the desert and creating entire islands in our oceans. It is energy and resource intensive to produce and takes forever to break down. A home filtering system saves money and helps you stop being part of the problem.

Heat food in glass or crockery.

Some plastics, even those deemed "microwave safe" contain chemicals such as phthalates and Bisphenol A, or BPA, that are suspected hormone disruptors and carcinogens. A growing body of research says heating can further prompt those chemicals to leach into food and drink. Plus, eating from glass or proper dishes is nicer anyway.

Use products until they wear out, then replace them with healthier, more sustainably made versions.

My old plastic shower curtain had to have contained questionable chemicals, but I didn't worry about it until now. I am getting ready to move and it is clearly worn out, so now is the time to invest in a cloth curtain that won't off-gas anything nasty. Ditto towels, toys, plastic furniture and kitchen items, even candles - when they burn down, seek out a fragrance-free version made of beeswax or soy and skip paraffin varieties made from petroleum.

amcqueen@thenational.ae

To mark Earth Week, The National directs its focus on the environment with Green Issues, highlighting the need for education and attention to the needs of our planet.