Just For the Health of it

Creating and maintaining a healthy home is an active choice, one that will ultimately lead to happiness and prosperity

By Marla Esser Cloos

Our homes are our shelter and refuge, and they do more than just protect us from the elements. Our homes are typically a contributor to our health, both our physical health as well as our general well-being. One needs only to conduct a quick internet search on “healthy homes” to find there are many perspectives on the topic of health and homes.

Having good health is a basic goal of humanity and impacts our general well-being or even our happiness. Yet our modern, complex lifestyles bring us into contact with many things that may impact our health, often without even knowing it.

Health and happiness—2 terms that go together like peanut butter and jelly. While health and happiness are inevitably linked, we often struggle with seeming trade-offs. For instance, a trade-off between convenience and health. We enjoy the convenience of many packaged items for cleaning our homes, eradicating pests in our homes, melting ice, and so many more things. A quick read of the label may send us looking for a dictionary to understand the long list of ingredients, many that we can’t even pronounce. Yet, many alternatives abound. There are alternative packaged products made with ingredients we can pronounce and often even identify. Or better yet, especially for the DIYer, we can make our own products.

Back in 2009, HUD, our nation’s housing agency, published “Leading Our Nation to Healthier Homes: The Healthy Homes Strategic Plan.” This plan outlines plans to continue to address multiple childhood diseases and injuries in homes. With focus on “housing-related hazards” as a group rather than one at a time, greater results can be achieved—and in the most efficient, cost-effective manner. As cited in the plan, “For example, dealing with uncontrolled moisture can alleviate conditions associated with allergies and asthma (mold and pests), unintentional injuries (structural safety), and poisoning (lead paint deterioration). The key over-arching healthy homes principles are to keep homes dry, clean, well ventilated, pest-free, free from contaminants, safe, and well-maintained.” This is even more important for households with children as they are typically more susceptible to exposures as their bodies and brains undergo the rapid development of childhood.

How a home is built, remodeled, and maintained contributes to its ability to provide a tight, sealed environment to keep moisture, dirt, toxins and pests out. Cleaning and maintenance regimens, as well as product and material choices for inside the home, contribute to keeping the home healthy and in good shape.

A variety of programs and certifications, including green home certifications, provide practices and material choices for homes, newly built or remodeled, which contribute to the health of the home’s residents.

Indoor airPLUS epa.gov/indoorairplus
WELL Building Standard wellcertified.com
National Green Building Standard ngbs.com
LEED for Homes usgbc.org/leed
Cradle to Cradle c2ccertified.org
Greenguard greenguard.org

In the Shelton Group’s blog “Because Health is Everything,” Suzanne Shelton keys in on the relationship between greener and more sustainable choices and health. “In fact, the prime motivator for most Actives, the greenest consumer segment, to buy greener products is to protect their health and the health of their loved ones.”

Many are finding that simplifying life, even just a little, provides opportunities to choose a little more carefully, to make choices that align better with what is important to each of us. Making choices that promote health through our homes is just one way we can improve the health of the people we care about. Yet, it’s not always easy to find information about the products and materials we bring into our homes and how they may contribute to or impact our health. Companies providing information and transparency about their products help us to make these choices.

For some easy ways to amp up the health in your home, check out “Healthy Homes: New Year Healthy Home Checklist in 7 Easy Steps” on Earth 911’s blog site. I’ve found some good books on the topic too. Personally, I’ve found that once I start with a few new practices, I want to do more.

To wrap it up, there’s the relationship between our own personal health and the health of the world we live in. As we take care of the health of our world, both the planet and the people living on it, our own health can thrive as well. Impacting our health through our choices in our homes, impacts the health of our world. That’s a win for all, just for the health of it!

Marla Esser Cloos, LEED AP, NAHB MCGP is the owner of Green Home Coach, and founder and co-host of the Green Gab Podcast on iTunes and GreenGabPodcast.com. She may be reached at marla@GreenHomeCoach.com.