6 Common Household Items That Are Making You Sick, And How To Avoid Them

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Chemicals found in your home and your food are related to many health problems, including cancer, obesity and high stress levels,  but also your hormones, including estrogen and testosterone are highly affected by chemical exposure. So how exactly is your home and diet making you sterile, and what things should you avoid having in your home.
Canned Food (Bisphenol A)
Cans and some plastic products contain Bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor that acts like estrogen. Long story short, current exposure levels can make it very to conceive a baby, because BPA is linked to a decrease in sperm production, early puberty in girls, and fertility problems for both genders.
If you are not hiking in the mountains, the best prevention against this widely spread chemical is to avoid eating canned food especially when you are trying to have a baby.
Water (Fluoride)
3.4 million people die each year from water related causes. In developed countries, the high levels of fluoride, chloride, pesticides, heavy metals and endocrine disrupting chemicals contained in our drinking water can be a major health hazard.
Fluoride is a highly toxic substance, which is why you can see a poison warning, required by the FDA, on all fluoride toothpastes sold in U.S.A. Also, millions of people throughout India and China now suffer serious crippling bone diseases that were caused by drinking water with elevated levels of fluoride.
To avoid this chemicals you can use water filters (fluoride, charcoal) and avoid swimming in water with high levels of fluoride.
Cooking pans (PFCs)
PFCs (perfluorochemicals) are pollutants used on cooking pans (Teflon). Other products that contain PFCs are stain-resistant clothing and upholstery, microwave popcorn bags or fast-food wrappers. They can affect your thyroid hormone, your liver and can reduce immune functions.
Maybe the saying that grandma’s pan is the best pan is not only true because of the delicious food your grandma makes but also because it didn’t contain any of the PFC’s widely spread today on cooking gear.
Food containers (Phthalates)
Phthalates are found in many consumer products, like shower curtains, flooring, synthetic leather, polishes, paints, food containers and even in some fragrances. The chemicals interfere with testosterone and estradiol, a hormone that affects breast development.
Always store your food in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers and avoid synthetic fragrances.
Electronics (Flame retardants)
Flame retardants are known for their impact on the thyroid and on female infertility. It is also thought to affect the IQ levels in children and unfortunately they are still being used in many appliances like TVs, cell-phones or computers. Also anything that contains polyurethane foam, like pillows or mattresses also contain flame retardants.
Air purifying plants, proper ventilation and frequent cleaning are the best defenses against these chemicals.
Furniture (Formaldehyde)
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a pungent odor that is used as a disinfectant, a preservative and a precursor for various construction products, pressed wood and furniture. It is a highly toxic known human carcinogen, and is used widely throughout the globe.
Air purifying plants, proper ventilation, temperature and humidity control can reduce the levels of formaldehyde in your home. Also using older furniture instead of new one can reduce the levels, as formaldehyde tends to decrease over time. Also when using glue or paint indoor try to opt for products labeled formaldehyde-free.
Old Paint (Lead)
Found in paint manufactured before 1980 and old plumbing, lead is a neurotoxin that can cause headaches, memory problems, high blood pressure and reproductive problems. It can also impair children’s brain and nervous system development.
Prevent chipping by sealing old paint with a clear, nontoxic sealant. If you have peeling paint hire a professional to check the plumbing and clean immediately. If possible change the plumbing in your home if your home was built before 1980. 

I Invested 100€ In My Room When I Moved In (And Here’s What Happened)

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Whenever I move in a new flat there are a couple of things I need to have in my room, not only to feel comfortable, but also to minimize the impact of my new environment on my health. Not only did this changes made me happier and healthier but these small upgrades saved me in the past 2 years around 200 Euros in heating and electricity bills (compared with the average energy consumption assumed by the landlord). Not a bad ROI.
1. Thick, Heavy, Dark Drapes
Having a great mattress is one of the keys to a good night sleep. However, if I do not have drapes to block the noise and the light coming from the street, I always wake up tired the next day, even if I sleep for more than 8 hours. That’s because light and noise are two of the most common sleep disruptors, especially if you live in a crowded city. When closed during hot summer days, they can reduce inside temperature with up to 3-5 degrees. A set of drapes can cost as little as 40 Euros, and it’s an investment that will pay out ten folds in energy savings (by keeping more of the heat inside during winter and outside during summer). If there is one thing I would not want to live without, this would be my drapes.
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2. Windows sealings
Another easy and inexpensive way to improve the energy efficiency and the comfort of your flat is to change your windows sealings. They tend to wear out after a year or two, so even if you have efficient windows, they could be letting air and noise in due to poor maintenance. If you do it yourself, it will cost you around 10-20 Euros to change the seals on one window. Again a small investment that pays for itself in short time.
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3. Plants
I like to have plants in my room, to reduce indoor air pollution and associated eye irritations and respiratory problems. You can check out more about the top air purifying plants in one of the previous articles.
For my room I choose a spider plant that filters air during the night, and a dracaena for filtering air during the day. Both plants cost me, on sale, around 15 Euros, a very cheap, automated and low maintenance air filter.
SMXLL

4. Extension cord with a switch
Laptops and other appliances still use electricity even if they are shut down. An easy and inexpensive way to prevent this is to buy an extension cord with a switch so when you leave home or you go to bad you can simply flip a switch and prevent all the little light inside your room from affecting your sleep. Plus you will reduce your energy bill with 5 to 10%. I bought mine for 5 Euros so this is an investment that anyone can afford.
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5. Aluminum foil behind the radiator
Have you noticed that half of our radiators are facing the wall? That means that almost half of the heat is going into a large heat absorber, instead of your room. Modern houses have an extra layer of insulation behind the radiators, but most old buildings don’t. An easy way to reduce this loss if to place an aluminum foil insulator behind the radiator. This will force part of the heat back into your room and increase the thermal comfort of your flat. You can get one of this for less than 5 Euros and start feeling warm even with the radiators turned down.
SMXLL

 
What is the first thing you change in your room?

How to Build a Surprisingly Cheap Home

strange_house fishermanscottageBuilding a home can be one of the most rewarding experiences ever, it can make you feel safe, accomplished and it can give you a sense of stability, all key aspects of a happy life. On the other hand a house can be also your biggest nightmare. Building a new house has become insanely expensive, the maintenance and running cost, over the building’s lifetime, can exceed the cost of constructing it, causing more and more people to get into massive debt for 20-30 years just so they can have a roof over their heads and money to pay the bills. And mortgages are one of the most effective ways to keep you from being free. As long as you have a mortgage you are less likely to take chances, go for your dream or stand up for justice and instead you become more inclined to accept compromises in your life, your career and even compromise on your values, using the same old excuse:”We all have to pay the bills”.

Before reading further stop for a second and imagine a different life: a life where you still have a home and access to the comforts of modern life, but without a big mortgage on your back. Would that make you feel happy, safe, free, optimistic about the future and relieve you of stress? If you like this picture than you might want to read this article until the end. If you prefer to trade 30 years of your life for a big and expensive house you can close this page now, as from here onwards I will not mention any must have, state of the art, super expensive devices or home decoration tips.

In this article we will list the principles for building a cheap home, regardless of the method used to build them, and after that we will give you some examples of DIY homes that use eco-friendly materials and that can be built for under 10$ /sqm.

The 5 Commandments For Building A Dirt Cheap Home

  1. Location Location Location. We all know that in real estate location is key. But location has also a big impact on the cost of building your home. Not only because of the plot price, but also because the location will have an impact on the available resources in the area, the cost of connecting to utilities, the cost of heating and cooling, the cost of labor and the cost of transport. So make sure you keep in mind all of these costs when choosing where you build your home. For more informations on how to pick the best spot for your new home you can check out this article: Click Here For The Article.
  2. Start small and build as you go along. I can’t stress this enough, building small is the easiest way to reduce the cost of your home: less sqm = less cost for building maintenance and taxes, regardless of how you build your home. I know you are going to say that small is not practical, that you need a big kitchen, a dining room, a living room, 2 guest rooms, a separate room for everyone in the family, a storage room and all this things that add up. But the fact is you do not need all of this things:if you need a storage room you probably accumulated too much junk that should be recycled or donated to someone less fortunate, a guest room will be used maybe 2-3 times a year, so instead of building one, why not use some smart furniture and transform any room into a guest room when needed. Need inspiration on how to do it: watch the example of this one room New York apartment that transform into a multi purpose flat Video HERE . And if you really need a big home, consider modular buildings, so that you can start small and build a house according to your budget. Once you have more resources or need more room you can simply add an appendix to the existing construction.
  3. Use local or recycled materials. In Japan most of the homes are demolished after 20 years, so if you live there recycled materials for building homes are unlimited. But even if you live in another country chances are that many people are throwing away materials that can be used for building a new home. The list includes plastic bottles, pallets, old tires, sandbags, old roof tiles, steel and even old bricks. If you live in a country like Sweden that recycles all its waste, than the next option is to look around the area for natural materials that can be used as building blocks: straw bales, earth, stones or small diameter wood. Further down you will find details about all these materials
  4. Use passive design strategies. Solar energy is free, so proper siting of the house is crucial to benefit from the micro climate of your location. Make sure the longest axis of your home is facing south, to maximize heat gains and access to natural light during winter. Place more windows on this side and fewer on North, East and West. In the summer you should protect these south facing windows with a roof overhang sized for you location, or by using shutters and blinds. For cooling make sure that you design your home to maximize air flow on the predominant wind direction. Meaning that the fresh air entering the house should have a clear pathway to circulate in all the building from one side to the other, depending on your predominant wind direction. More information in This Article.
  5. Keep it simple and natural. A marble floor could look nice, but could be also very slippery, cold and expensive. Instead an Earthen Floors can last indefinitely and do not require any covering. Link to Video on How to Build and Earth Floor. New technologies like radiant floor heating can definitely improve the comfort and the efficiency of our homes, on the other hand having too much technology will skyrocket the price and the maintenance costs, so before investing in some fancy gadget ask if it is really needed, is there a natural alternative to it, and how much will it cost to maintain it.

Now let’s have a look on how people all over the world apply these principles when they are building their new homes, to give you some much needed inspiration for your future project.

Please consult a professional before undertaking any building project and make sure you follow local and national laws and regulations.

Earth Homes

Houses have been built from earth for ages, and the most famous building material: the brick is also derived from clay. Since pretty much anywhere in the world you can find earth this could be the first option for building your next affordable home. There are many techniques for building earth homes and in this article you can find 4 examples of people who used earth as the main building. Earth homes are cool in the summer and warm in the winter, because the earth acts like a thermal mass, storing heat when the sun is at its peak and slowly releasing it during the night.

Sandbags and Earthbags

Pictures here

This is a technique derived from the military, where they would use sandbags to constructed temporary shelters. Besides the bags you will need also some wood frames for the windows, doors, and the roof. Another option is to use wood for the main structure of the house and use the bags to fill in the space between the poles with earth bags. You can find more informations in the links: How to build an earthbag home Video. How to build a sandbag home Article.

 

Plastic Bottles

Another option that is gaining in popularity, especially in Africa and South America, is using plastic bottles filled with earth. Since we throw away so much plastic, this is a resource that is free and widely available, so it makes sense to turn this waste into something useful. This method requires a lot of man hours but if you are short on resources and have many friends it can be a great option for your first home. More detailed informations can be found in the Article or in the Video.

Using Old Tires

Pictures here.

Since we all have to change our tires at least every second year, using old ones to build a new home could make sense. And there are people all over the world applying the same technique for building a cheap, durable and sustainable home. The technique used is similar to the two upper mentioned, and it consists of filling old tires with earth or sand. You can find more details in the Article or the video below.

Hobbit Homes

If you watched Lord of The Rings or the Hobbit, you remember the lovely houses from the Shire. Well hobbit homes are no longer just SF and people have started building hobbit homes not just because of the low cost of construction, maintenance and energy bills but also because they look cool. The house below was built for less than 5000 dollars, without any previous experience in construction works. Another example is this House built by an english farmer for less than 250 Dollars. To lower the cost they have used also an innovative technique for building the roof: How to build a Reciprocal Frame Roof

Wood Homes

This is one of my favorite building techniques because it reminds me of my childhood days when I was helping my grandfather with this kind of constructions. Wood has also been a building material for northern and mountain areas for thousands of years, so if you would like to built a home in a remote area, this could be the best option for you. However if you choose this techniques make a commitment to plant at least 10 trees for each one you cut, and leave the world a better place than how you find it. You can find more details about how to build a wood home in this Video.

Wood Straw Bale House

Using wood for the main frame of the house and making the walls out of Straw Bale is also a sustainable and cheap way to build a home. However you have to be careful with fire in these kind of constructions, as hey is extremely flammable. Special additives and plaster can be used to reduce this risk,  nevertheless please consult a specialist before using this technique.

Using Pallets

If you don’t want to cut trees, another option is to use old pallets for building a home, and many architects have implemented this building material into their designs. Depending of the cost of the pallets and the size of the house, these homes could be built for less than 10 000 Dollars. More details about how to do it yourself in the Video

Container homes

Using old shipping containers for building homes has skyrocketed in popularity in the last years, and architects are coming up every year with great designs for these kind of homes. Since they are modular constructions, you can always start small, with 2-3 containers, and add pieces as you go along. The cost of an old container can range between 3000 and 5000 Dollars, however these homes will need a lot of insulation since they can get pretty uncomfortable during extremely hot or cold days. More details about how to do it yourself in the Video.

Tiny Mobile Homes

Many people in the United States have chosen to downsize and live in a tiny mobile home, as in most states these homes do not require a building permit, plus if you feel like moving you can easily take your home with you. There are many different ways to build a tiny home, so let your imagination run wild on these projects. For inspiration you can check the Pictures or the video below. The home was built for 23 000 Dollars and it took only 4 months to construct.

Which project inspires you the most? Have you built a house using recycled or natural materials? Share your project and your thoughts in the comments section below.

The choice is always yours.

Latest Developments in Energy Storage

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   A recent article on Harvard Business Review, suggested that in order to increase our productivity we should shift our focus from managing our time to managing our energy, emphasizing the importance of conserving energy for when you most need it.

  Although we have gotten better and better over the years at coming up with more efficient ways to produce energy, we haven’t gotten any better at storing that energy. Yes we might have more efficient engines, solar panels and wind turbines, but during peak hours most of the energy is wasted due to a lack of efficient energy storage solutions.

  The same is true on a personal level, we have access to power bars, energy drinks, coffee at every corner and more sugar than our bodies can handle, but all this easily available energy has hindered our bodies abilities to recover the energy it stores as fat. In this post I will not go into details about how to recover energy from your body by burning fat (there are other people better qualified to give you advice on that) Instead I will present the basics of electrical, mechanical and thermal energy storage and the most revolutionary devices available on the market today.

  Energy can be stored in many forms: thermal energy, compressed air, using a flywheel, in pumped hydro-power plants, in solid batteries or in flow batteries. In this article I will go into details about the pro’s and con’s of each option. And if you stay with me until the end of the article you will discover also the latest technological developments in energy storage solutions, including some surprising tech like liquid metal batteries or batteries made from food waste.

Continue reading “Latest Developments in Energy Storage”

43 questions you should ask before buying a new property

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Similar to plane pilots before take off, most of us go through checklists before taking big decisions, however when it comes to one of the most important decision of our life, buying a property, we often go unprepared. We list pro’s and con’s before changing a job, we make business plans before starting a company, some even have checklists for finding a life partner. When it comes to buying a property we might have a few ideas of the ideal neighborhood, the size of the plot, or the price we want to offer, but we often fail to get answers about the things that can have a big impact on our health, our budget and our happiness in the long run.

This doesn’t need to happen anymore because now you can print this list of questions and take it with you next time you visit a property. The purpose is to give you some guidance and help you take an informed decision. Some of the points might not be of importance to you, while others, which I have left out, could be. So I encourage you to add your own questions, and delete the ones that are of no relevance to you. At the end of the day the decision is only yours.

In terms of property, in my opinion there is a big difference between buying a property inside a city or outside of it so below you can find checklists for both scenarios.

Buying a property in a town/city

If you are planning to purchase a property in a crowded city you should keep an eye on the following:

Location location location

We all know that location is important. Every good real estate agent knows that this is one of the most important selling point. But what exactly do you have to look for when choosing a location?

1. Does it take 30 min or less to reach your work and you’re hanging out areas?

Note:In my opinion, paying a premium for a location inside the town, is only worth it if you gain time, so choosing a location that is not only close to work, but also to your favorite hang outs is paramount. If there isn’t an app to show you the estimated time needed to reach your main focus points you can take public transport towards the property when you are visiting for the first time.

2. Is the neighborhood clean and the houses well maintained?

Note: This can have an impact on the criminality rate, and the price of the property.

3. Is the area well connected to the public transport?

Note: 3 or more options would be best  : buses, trams, ideally metro.

4. Is there a bicycle lane on your street, or near it?

5. How far from the property is the nearest busiest street (4 lanes or more).

Note: Ideally should be more than 300-500m, so you don’t have to suffer from noise pollution.
6. How far is the nearest train station/airport?

Note: the closer to a busy street, train station, airport, the more soundproofing you will need.

7. How many parking places are there in the area?

Note: Try to check this during the week, after work hours.

8. Are there any obstacles around the property that can block, the sun or the wind from reaching your property? EX. large trees, tall building, etc..

Resources

To live the good life we need access to resources. The closer to the property, the more time we save and the happier we are, so always check the resources available in the neighborhood before buying a property.
1. How many grocery shops and pharmacies exist in a walking distance from the property.
2. How many kindergartens and schools, with good rating, are in your neighborhood.

4. How many children playgrounds are there in walking distance from the property?

3. How many infrastructure investments have been made in the past 3 years or are planned to be made in 1-2 years?

Note: This can have an impact on the price of the property.

5. Are there any big polluters: oil refinery, power plants, large chemical producers, in a 3-5 km radius, from the property?

Note: this will impact pollution levels, and you will need to include some air filters in your planning if you buy the property.
6. How many factories, offices, etc are there in the neighborhood?

Note: This will increase pollution and rush during the day, but it can also most likely increase the price of the property.

Health and safety

We know that our surroundings have a big impact on our health and safety, but how often do we take this in consideration when buying a property?

1.How many hospitals/emergency rooms exist in the neighborhood, and how far are they from the property?

2. How far is the nearest police station?

3. What is the criminal record in that neighborhood in the past 3 years?

4. How far is the nearest fire station?

5. How many gyms, sport halls, pools are there in the area?

6. Is there a large public gathering place around the area, like a stadium or concert hall?

Note: This can increase the rate of vandalism near your home.
7. How many parks are in the area, preferably walking distance?
8. How many trees, plants, etc are in the area?

Note: This will have a direct impact on the air quality, and the background noise in your area.

9.  How is the tap water quality in the area?

10. How many of your future neighbors have dogs in their yard?

Note: Owning a dog can be a fun and rewarding experience. However a dog kept outside can also be very noisy during the night. If the number is high your home will require some extra soundproofing.

This are some of the things I look at when searching for properties inside a city. Feel free to edit them and add your own questions to the list. Bellow you can find some suggestions if you are looking to get away from the congestion found in big cities, and live a life closer to nature.
If you want to buy a property outside the city some things you should keep an eye on are:

Location, location, location
1 .How many options for public transport do you have?

Note: If the answer is close to zero, you should pay close attention to point 2.
2. Do you have a car with good fuel economy?
Note: The difference between a car that burn 8l/100km and a car that only uses 6l/100km can cost you over 3500 euro’s in the next 10 years, for a commute of only 50 km back and forward every day. 2l more used for every 100km , considering a commute of 50 km a day, leads to 5-7 euro’s extra cost a week just for fuel.  That might not seem much, but it rounds up to more than 350 euro’s a year in extra cost just for fuel, and if you plan to stay at least 10 years in that place, it is over 3500 euro’s. So if you live outside the town, you should buy the greenest car you can afford.

Resources
1.Is there at least one grocery store, one pharmacy near by, less than 15 min by car?

2. How is the condition of the roads?

3. Are there any investments being planned in the area?

4. Are there any farms 500m or less from the property?

5. Are there any factories 500m or less from the property?

Note: the smell and pollution from nearby farms and factories it’s not always sensed, so you might not be aware of it when you visit the property, but you will fill it after you buy it, so make sure to ask.

6. Are there any big refineries, power plants, other big pollutants on a radius of 5-10 km?

7. Do you have access to utilities like water, electricity, heating etc.?

If not can the surrounding area give you access to these resources?

8. Is there water in the underground, so you can build a well?

9. Are you allowed to harvest rainwater?

10. Is the area around the property free of obstacles so you can use solar and wind energy?

11. Do you have a river in the back of the property, so you can use hydro power?

12 Can a large truck reach the property, for draining the sewer pit?

13. Is there at least one kindergarten and a school nearby, and how many teachers and children do they have?

Health and safety

1.How far is the nearest hospital?

Note: If the nearest hospital is far it might be a good idea to take a first aid course.

2. How far is the nearest fire station?

Note: If far make sure your home is equipped with the best fire protection system you can afford.

3. How far are the nearest police station?

4. How many of your future neighbors have dogs in their yard?

Hope the list will help you take the best decision when you choose the make the big step of buying a property.

If you have some additional suggestions for the list please share them in the comments sections below.

Like always: the decision is always yours!

F.M.B.

How competition is slowly killing us

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Healthy competition is at the heart of economic development. Ever since the idea was put forward by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations, it led to innovations, great technological improvements and lower prices for the consumers.

On the other side, too much competition can have damaging effects on the economy and on individuals, in the long term. In a highly competitive market, companies and people are pushed to constantly lower their prices while delivering more and more value. This is good for the consumer but for the companies it quickly becomes unsustainable because it leads to lower margins, and budget cuts especially in research and employees salaries.

Take for example the car industry, a highly competitive market, where some of the top companies resorted to unethical practices, or lower quality materials in an effort to keep up with the increasing expectations of the markets and governments, in terms of profit, innovation and prices. Or the construction industry which saw a massive drop in 2008, due to high competition and the ridiculously low prices that had to be accepted by the companies wanting to remain in business at all cost. And, probably, for one of the best examples on how extreme competition is bad for business, we can have a look at one of the most competitive markets in the world: the bar’s and restaurants sector. More than 80% of the business in this sector fail in the first 3 years, competition is fierce and a lot of the newcomers drive the price down while serving bigger portions. That means somewhere expenses have to be cut: either on personnel, food quality or health & safety regulations. I’m not saying all restaurants are like this, in fact some owners manage to maintain a good quality of service and a high morale among employees, even when pushed by competition, and they are usually the 20% that remain in business. However, most of the times, extreme competition in the long term can lead to profit loss, reducing cost on R&D and personnel, less innovation, lower quality and at the end businesses closing down and people losing their jobs.

On a personal side, we are always competing with our rivals, our peers, our neighbors or the status quo, and usually this competition makes us achieve more, be more and have more. But when we take competition too serious, it leads also to unethical behavior like lying, cheating, bullying, bribing and all the other nasty things people due in the effort to get in front of others. Another effect of the pressure competition puts on us is overworking, which leads to stress and exhaustion and in a more severe case even to death.

So why do we value competition at all costs? Why, in a time when we talk about moving towards a society of abundance, are we still competing heavily with everyone else, until the point of collapse? I am not suggesting that we should not have any competition, I am simply implying that we would be maybe better off if we follow Aristotle’s advice and strive to achieve the Golden mean, especially in the most important competition of all: our life. If you go to bed 1% better every day, in the long term you will become a great person; If you are always in a rush and want 200% improvements every day, like many of the investors wish for, it might work for a short while but there is a high chance that you will collapse with exhaustion, and lose everything you gained, just like the stock market crashes every 5 to 10 years.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject: What are the areas in your life where you are or have been maybe over competitive, and what was the impact of this competition on your health, happiness, family and friends? Where was your tipping point, between healthy and unhealthy competition? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Recommended reading:

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations

Peter Thiel – Zero to One

 

3 New Exciting Gadgets For Your Eco Home

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Innovation in the construction business has always been slower than in other technological fields. But since global warming started knocking on our door, people began to develop some clever ways to produce energy, reduce waste, and save water helping us in designing and creating an eco home.

In one of the previous articles we have presented some exciting innovations in building materials (click here). Today I am going to share with you 3 of the most awesome and simple inventions launched this year that can revolutionize the way we will live in the future.

1. The energetic workout!

Imagine if during your normal workout session you could produce enough energy for your home to last 24 hours? A charity organization called Billions in change made a prototype that does just this. It uses a static bike to produce in one hour of pedalling enough energy for 24 hours. You can check out more details in the video below.

2. The clever sink!

Another innovation that uses a very simple idea, is the Eco-Bath sink, which uses the water drained from your sink to fill up the toilet reservoir, a system that can be made also by you with the help of a skilled plumber. Since it is estimated that our toilets consume around 30% of the water in our homes, you could be benefiting from some big savings in your energy and water bills, by using this system.

eco_bath3 eco_bath5

http://conceptrends.com/

3.  Greenair filtration system

Air inside our homes is up to 5 to 10 times more polluted than outside air. That is why it’s crucial to have proper ventilation and filtration systems installed in our homes, especially homes that are super insulated (like many of the refurbished apartments in our country).

Greenair is a system that uses special selected plants combined with the power of a fan to purify the air in your home. For more details you can check their website.

greenair2

GreenAir : Ecological Air Purifier Concept

What other clever home technologies have you discovered this year? Please let us know in the comments section below!

 

How to make your own paint in 5 easy steps

paint

Traditional paints usually contain high level of benzene, leading to increased levels of this toxic gas in indoor air. Continuous exposure to benzene can have devastating effects on our body (detailed at the end of this article) that is why we should do all we can to limit our exposure to it.

In the previous article click here we discussed some ways to reduce high levels of benzene by using specific plants that can absorb it from the air. Today we will talk about how to reduce benzene levels from the start by creating a home made paint from non-toxic ingredients that you can find in your cupboards. However, this paint will only work for bare wood, plaster, terracotta and clay, and it will not cover emulsion or other paints, so don’t make too much of it in the beginning.

You will need:

2 tbsps artist powder pigment

1 tbsp of bicarbonate soda

6 tbsps hot water

4 tbsp quark (can bee found in the cheese section in the supermarkets)

Beeswax polish to seal the surface

First you will have to prepare your pigment one day before you make the paint. Place the pigment in a bowl and mix it with just enough water to obtain a runny paste with the consistency of a single cream. Leave this overnight to stand.

The second day, dissolve the bicarbonate in the 6 tbsps of hot water.

Place the quark into a large jam jar, then stir in the cooled mixture of bicarbonate and water.

Finally add the pigment and stir until it is well combined with the quark binder.

Leave for an hour and then stir again before using.

When you paint, leave each coat to dry for a few hours before adding another layer on top. It will require several days before it is fully dry, and after this time you can sill it of with a beeswax polish. (How to prepare this in the next post)

Benzene affects humans by causing cells not to work correctly. For example, it can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Also, it can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells. The seriousness of poisoning caused by benzene depends on the amount, route, and length of time of exposure, as well as the age and preexisting medical condition of the exposed person.

http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/benzene/basics/facts.asp

Top 9 Air Purifying Plants

flori

Plants purify air, making them part of what NASA calls “nature’s life support system.” Adding potted plants to a room has been shown to reduce the amount of air particulates (although plants in bloom may be contributing their own compounds to the air).

Beyond air quality, plants just make people feel better. For example, hospital patients with plants in their rooms were more positive and had lower blood pressure and stress levels. Similarly, indoor plants may make people smarter by allowing them to stay alert and reducing mental fatigue.

A 15 year study at a New Delhi office building, with 300 occupants and over 1200 plants inside, has discovered that eye irritation, respiratory problems, headaches and asthma were significantly reduced after air purifying plants have been placed indoors. The study showed also that productivity has increased with over 20% and energy consumption was reduced with 15%. Of course 1200 plants seem like a lot but that is only 4 plants per person meaning even with just a few plants in our home we can have amazing health benefits.

Although houseplants may be intimidating, especially if you are often away from home like myself, it turns out that there are many plants easy to care for, so easy, in fact, you’d have to try pretty hard to kill them.

Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum

In the NASA research, this flower was the highest ranked air-purifying plant. I use these plants in my bedroom, as you can see in the picture above, not only for the air quality but also because they are lovely to look at when I wake up.

Removes
ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene

Requires
Temperature
Chrysanthemums can tolerate a large range of temperature, but they are happiest with a constant temperature in the range of 18-22° Celsius (65-70° degrees F).
Location
Avoid placing your chrysanthemum in direct sunlight or deep shadows. A location in a nice bright room is ideal. A minimum of 12 hours of light daily will greatly increase the longevity of your potted mum.
Watering
Chrysanthemums require a good amount of water to maintain optimum health. When the ground around the plant is dry, or you see leaves begin to drop slightly it is a good sign that you should water them.

General watering advice:
Make sure to never allow your pot to sit in a container of water. Unfortunately I did not follow this advice the first time I planted them and I found out the hard way that this is one of the quickest ways to destroy your roots. Once the roots are gone, the top of the plant will soon follow.
Use room temperature water and try to use rainwater. If you use tap water allow it to stand for at least 48 hours to dissipate chlorine and fluorides.

Dracaena
Dracaena

There are more than 40 different kinds of Dracena, making it easy to find one that’s a perfect fit for your home. Pet owners might want to select a different plant, however, as these are toxic to cats and dogs.

Removes
benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene

Requires
Temperature
Normal house temperatures between 18-22° Celsius (60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit) are ideal, with nighttime temperatures about 10 degrees cooler.
Location
Dracaena tolerates low light and some varieties are more tolerant than others. However, dracaena grows faster and develops thicker, healthier foliage in bright, indirect light. Avoid direct, unfiltered sunlight which may cause brown, scorched spots on the leaves.
Watering
Dracaena is a relatively drought-tolerant plant, that means lower maintenance for you. You should water only when the soil feels slightly dry.

Snake Plant / Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
snake plant

This is one of the hardest houseplants to kill.

Removes
benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene

Requires
Temperature
Can tolerate temperatures between 5 to 30° Celsius (40 and 85° degrees Fahrenheit).
Location
Snake plant loves to be in the sun so the best place for them is close to the window. However if you have a south facing window place the snake plant one meter away from the window. Turn the pot every quarter so that all the leaves get enough sun.
Watering
Snake plant is also a relatively drought-tolerant plant. You should water only when the soil feels
dry. Water very little in cold or air conditioned rooms.

Spider Plant
spider plant

Spider plants, like snake plants, are among the easiest houseplants to grow, making them a great choice for beginners or forgetful owners, like myself.

Removes
formaldehyde and xylene

Requires
Temperature
Can tolerate temperatures between 5 to 30° Celsius (40 and 85° degrees Fahrenheit).
Location
Spider plants grow best in direct sun light. Place them in a East West or North facing window any time of year. Place them in a south facing window Only during winter. Turn the pot every quarter so that all the leaves get enough sun.
Watering
Spider plant is also a relatively drought-tolerant plant. You should water only when the soil feels dry.

Ficus / Weeping Fig
Ficus

Removes
benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene

Requires
Temperature
Normal house temperatures between 18-22° Celsius (60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit) are ideal, with nighttime temperatures about 10 degrees cooler.
Location
Ficus grow best in a location with full light, ideally 12-13 hours of sun every day. If you can’t get enough light consider purchasing a plant light.
Watering
Water thoroughly and then wait for the top 5 cm (2 inches) to dry before next watering. Check the humidity in the soil with your fingers.

Peace Lily
lily

Easy to grow, these plants will flower for much of the summer. Just be aware that those flowers (like all flowers) do contribute some pollen and floral scents to the air, so you may want to avoid having a room full of them.

Removes
ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

Requires
Temperature
Ideally placed in a warm room. Try to avoid exposure to cold air (air conditioning unit)
Location
The peace lily should be placed in indirect light, close but not directly under a window.
Watering
Aim to water when the potted soil is dry. Too much water can cause root rot so aim to water about once a week.

Boston Fern
boston fern

I remember that my grandmother’s well was full of ferns, because these plants prefer a cool location with very high humidity levels.

Removes
formaldehyde and xylene

Requires
Temperature
Ideally placed in a cool place, as it doesn’t like warm temperatures.
Location
The Boston Fern prefers a place with indirect sunlight and high humidity. (Bathroom or kitchen)
Watering
They need plenty of water so anytime the soil feels even remotely dry, water them.

Bamboo Palm
Bamboo

One of the best plants at filtering formaldehyde. Part of the reason they can filter so much air is that they can grow to be pretty big.

Removes
benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

Requires
Temperature
Normal house temperatures between 18-22° Celsius (60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit) are ideal.
Location
Most types of bamboo will thrive in bright indirect light. The bamboo palm however will grow also in low light conditions, making it perfect for northern areas were sun light is scarce during winter.
Watering
Water the plant when the soil surface feels dry. Make sure to not over water them.

It will be necessary to repot the bamboo once it becomes too large

Aloe Vera
aloe

The plant’s leaves contain a clear liquid full of vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and other compounds that have wound-healing, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
The roots of this plant tend to grow quite large, so make sure to plant them in a large pot, even if they are quite tiny in the beginning.

Removes
Formaldehyde

Requires
Temperature
Normal house temperatures between 18-22° Celsius (60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit) are ideal. Avoid freezing temperatures as they are made from 95% water.
Location
Place aloe vera in a sunny place like a kitchen or living room window. The plant can survive also in indirect light but it will not thrive in shade.
Watering
Aloe vera does not require too much water and it is pretty low maintenance. Water only when the top soil is dry and then wait for the top 5 cm (2 inches) to dry before next watering. Check the humidity in the soil with your fingers.

About toxic gasses

Formaldehyde

Is a common chemical that has a strong pickle-like odor, classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC), meaning a chemical that becomes gas at room temperature.
It is currently used in thousands of products as an adhesive, bonding agent and solvent. Among others it is found in products such as particle board, plywood, paneling, pressed-wood products and urea formaldehyde foam insulation, and it is most commonly found in new homes. Some synthetic fabrics, especially permanent press, shampoos and cosmetics may also contain small amounts. Formaldehyde is also a product of combustion. When you burn materials such as natural gas, wood, gasoline or tobacco, formaldehyde gas is released.
The health effects of formaldehyde exposure vary from one person to another. The most common symptoms are eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Human eyes are especially sensitive to formaldehyde. Many people describe the eye irritation as a burning sensation much like when cutting an onion or when you get soap in your eyes.
http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/voc/formaldehyde.htm

Benzene

Benzene is a chemical that is a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odor and is highly flammable. It is widely used in the United States, ranking in the top 20 chemicals for production volume. Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals that are used to make plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers. Benzene is also used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.

Indoor air generally contains levels of benzene higher than those in outdoor air. The benzene in indoor air comes from products that contain benzene such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents. The air around hazardous waste sites or gas stations can contain higher levels of benzene than in other areas. A major source of benzene exposure is tobacco smoke.

Benzene affects humans by causing cells not to work correctly. For example, it can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Also, it can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells. The seriousness of poisoning caused by benzene depends on the amount, route, and length of time of exposure, as well as the age and preexisting medical condition of the exposed person.
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/benzene/basics/facts.asp

Trichloroethylene

The main use of trichloroethylene is in the vapor degreasing of metal parts. It is also used as an extraction solvent for greases, oils, fats, waxes, a chemical intermediate in the production of other chemicals, and as a refrigerant.

Trichloroethylene is used in consumer products such as typewriter correction fluids, paint removers/strippers, adhesives, spot removers, and rug-cleaning fluids.

Trichloroethylene inhalation, acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term), can affect the human central nervous system (CNS), with symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, confusion, euphoria, facial numbness, and weakness. Liver, kidney, immunological, endocrine, and developmental effects have also been reported in humans.

http://www3.epa.gov/airtoxics/hlthef/tri-ethy.html

Xylene

Is a powerful chemical compound that is found in many household and industrial items. This chemical is colorless but has a very distinctive odor. Products that contain xylene include paints, varnishes, fingernail polish, adhesives, rubber cement and gasoline.

Effects on humans very depending on the length and the intensity of the exposure. The effects can include blurred vision, abdominal pain, nausea, low blood pressure, chest pain, dizziness, headache, nervousness.

http://www.home-air-purifier-expert.com/xylene.html

Ammonia

People may be exposed to ammonia gas outdoors in the air from leaks and spills at production plants or storage facilities. Higher levels of ammonia in the air may occur when fertilizer with ammonia compounds is applied to farm fields. Farmers, cattle ranchers, and people who raise other types of livestock or poultry can be exposed to ammonia from decaying manure.

People may be exposed to ammonia indoors while using household products that contain ammonia such as cleaning solutions, window cleaners, floor waxes, and smelling salts. Remember to ventilate rooms when you clean with ammonia and dilute it as recommended on the label. Never mix ammonia with bleach. Keep chemical cleaners out of reach of children to prevent exposure and poisoning. Ammonia can also be released into the household air when pets urinate on rugs and when litter boxes are not changed often enough.

https://tn.gov/health/article/ammonia#sthash.4B43Ec7D.dpuf

 

More details in the book> Rethink Home

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