1. Open your windows (even in the winter, even if you live in Michigan).
Due to more energy-efficient construction, newer homes allow little air in or out except through the windows and doors. The EPA warns that indoor air pollution is now often a bigger problem than outdoor air pollution. Opening your window, even for just a few minutes, can drastically improves indoor air quality. You might want to focus on opening windows after cleaning and in rooms where your kids spend lots of time (for example, children's bedrooms before bedtime).
2. Take off your shoes at the door.
Does your child spend a lot of time on the floor, maybe even licking the floor? Mine does. Taking off your shoes keeps a lot of man-made toxins out of your house, off your floor, off of little kids' hands and out of kids' mouths.
3. Avoid flame retardants in sleepwear.
Choose snug-fitting 100% cotton pajamas for children (and you) instead of pajamas made of synthetic fabrics (such as polyester), which are treated with flame retardants.
4. Use iodized salt.
I like kosher salt and sea salt too, but I make sure I sometimes cook with iodized salt. Iodine buffers against chemicals such as perchlorate that can disrupt your thyroid system.
5. Keep strong fumes out of your house.
When you bring home an item with strong fumes (dry cleaning, new car seat, new particle board furniture, new mattress), let it air out outside or in your garage before you bring it inside. Those fumes are chemicals, and they are not good for you.
6. Wash hands often, but don't use soaps with triclosan.
Most antibacterial soaps contain triclosan, which is potentially toxic and probably contributes to the creation of super-bacteria. Regular soap and water are just as effective at killing bacteria and microbes anyway. If you really want antibacterial (in the kitchen after handling raw meat, for example), try a natural alternative, such as Cleanwell soaps.
7. Use plastic wisely.
Consider plastic alternatives, especially for food storage and preparation and for teethers and other infant toys. Basically, you are trying to eat less plastic. When you use plastic, use #1, 2, 4, 5 if you can. Don't microwave plastic and replace plastic food containers that look worn.
8. Switch to greener cleaners.
When I started thinking about greener cleaning products, I noticed that the instructions on my household cleaner spray stated that I should rinse with water any surface that would come in contact with food after use. I used this cleaner all the time in the kitchen and had never rinsed the counter after. In addition, my teething baby often sucked/licked our wood floor and I was pretty sure my floor cleaner wasn't safe to be ingested. Most cleaners don't even list their ingredients. I decided to switch to greener cleaners. Method and Seventh Generation are two popular and easy-to-find brands for green cleaning products. Other benefits of greener cleaners:
-- no toxic residue
-- no toxic fumes
-- your kids can clean with you
-- no gloves necessary
9. Dust and vacuum (with a HEPA filter) often where your kids hang out.
Because dust contains chemicals in it that you don't want them to ingest or inhale. (Regular household products "shed" chemicals over time and it ends up in your household dust.) This one actually isn't that easy for me, but I do try to focus on my kids' play area and bedrooms. If you are a better house cleaner than I am, you probably already do this one.
10. Use fewer personal products.
Maybe you love your shampoo and don't want to change it, no matter what's in it. One easy and cheap way to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemical ingredients in personal products is simply to use less of them. Use less lotion, wear less make-up, wear less perfume. This is especially true for children, who are more sensitive to hormone disruptors and other chemicals. To reduce their exposure, just bathe your kids less often, use less shampoo and soap, slather them in less lotion, use less diaper cream, and cover up with clothes instead of using sunscreen.
Here are some other lists of ways to green your homes. Warning: Some of these lists are very long and not very easy.
EWG Action Fund's Healthy Home Checklist
EWG Healthy Home Tip Series
EWG's Healthy Home Tips for Parents
Healthy Child Healthy World: 5 Easy Steps
WebMD Health eHome: How Healthy is Your Home?
What are your easy tips for a healthy home?