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AD | How To Improve The Air Quality In Your Home

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When we think of air pollution, we tend to think of outdoor air, without giving the air inside our homes a second thought.  Yet according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality inside our homes can often be two to five times worse than outdoors.   The same study reports that adults in developed countries can spend around 90% of their time indoors.  With indoor air quality contributing to many serious health issues, it really is an issue deserving more attention.

As today is Clean Air Day, a project that aims to clean up the air on the longest day of the year, I’ve teamed up with ENGIE Home Energy, partners of Clean Air Day, to share six tips on how to improve the air quality in your home:

how to improve air quality indoors

1.  Consider Your Cleaning Products

There are many reports of the negative impacts of conventional cleaning products on your health.

Instead of using harsh cleaning products, consider switching to more environmentally friendly brands.  Ethical Consumer has a great guide to cleaning product brands that’s incredibly useful.

Alternatively, try making your own natural cleaning products.  As someone who has written a whole book on the subject, I promise it’s not as tricky or as time-consuming as it sounds.  If you have 5 seconds to add one ingredient to another and then give it a shake then you can definitely make your own cleaning products!  The great thing is that many of the products use ingredients from your food cupboard – from herbs, citrus fruits, salt, bicarbonate of soda and other food-based ingredients that will do wonders for your indoor air quality.

If making your own cleaning products, or using more environmentally friendly brands isn’t your thing then there are a few things you can do to improve the air quality in your home.  Avoid using aerosol based products and making sure you open a window when using cleaning products can help.

2.  Consider Your Candle Habit

Candles, and in particular, scented candles are a surprising cause of indoor air pollution.

Standard candles are made from paraffin wax – a petroleum by-product that is made when crude oil is refined into petrol, which affects your indoor air quality when you burn them.  And that’s before we’ve even covered the artificial fragrances contained in candles, which can hide a cocktail of particularly undesirable chemicals.

Instead of conventional candles, try beeswax candles (here’s a handy guide on how to make your own) or soy candles fragranced with pure essential oils (here are four of the best).

3.  Service Your Boiler

Getting your boiler serviced by a professional at least once per year is a wise move in improving the air quality in your home.  Without regular servicing, highly poisonous carbon monoxide gas can leak from faulty boilers, which can be fatal.

As carbon monoxide is odourless, tasteless and colourless it’s best to also install a carbon monoxide alarm too.  The most effective position for your carbon monoxide alarm is around head height on the wall or bookcase – never on the ceiling, where it’s too high to be effective in the event of a leak.

4.  Consider Switching Your Energy Tariff

Admittedly, this is an action that you can take inside the home to improve air quality outside, but it is still an important one.  Choosing an energy supplier, such as ENGIE, who offers renewable energy tariffs for your home can significantly reduce the pollution caused by fossil fuel based power stations.

ENGIE source 100% of the electricity they supply from wind power generated from their network of UK wind farms.  Whilst this sounds like it might come at a cost to you, ENGIE says that customers can save up to £200 compared to their old suppliers.

Whilst the name might be new to you, ENGIE have been around for quite some time, particularly in Europe.  Since 2014, ENGIE has sought to reduce future exploration in fossil fuels and has instead invested heavily in renewable energies and energy efficiency services.  ENGIE sustainably heat the 3,000 homes and buildings in London’s Olympic Park and power big businesses across five continents.

5.  Consider Your Decorating Materials

Moving back indoors, paint is one of those surprising elements that is a considerable contributor to indoor air quality.

Paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – chemical gases that are emitted from certain solids and liquids and can cause short and long-term health problems.

Whilst the highest concentrations of VOCs from painting a room occur during and immediately after painting, a freshly painted room can continue to emit VOCs long after the paint has dried on your walls.  In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency say that a mere 50 percent of VOCs contained within paint are released within the first year of application.

Thankfully, it’s an easy one to avoid – just switch to low VOC paint.

Other sources of VOCs include furniture and synthetic carpets and rugs, etc, so choosing natural products, such as pure wool and pure wood products are healthier alternatives that will help improve indoor air quality.

6.  Get Growing

Plants are an easy and cost-effective way to improve indoor air quality.  Don’t believe me?  A famous NASA study found that several common houseplants may remove carcinogenic air-borne chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde from the air.  Later research indicated that micro-organisms in the soil of houseplants can also help purify the air.

Although subsequent research has been inconclusive, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few houseplants in your home.  Check out here for some air purifying recommendations.

If you have any more indoor air quality tips then do share below, and on this Clean Air Day be sure to follow along on Twitter with ENGIE and Clean Air Day for more clean air tips!

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AD | Can You Use Your Money For Positive Change?

This is a sponsored post, in association with Triodos Bank

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A recent report from MoveYourMoney found that the “big five” banks – Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, RBS/NatWest and Santander – have collectively lent more than £66bn to companies around the world engaged in oil and gas extraction. In fact, British banks are one of the biggest lenders to the fossil fuel industry.

As well as the traditional oil and gas industries, these banks also invest in fracking, arms dealing and a whole host of other undesirables. The thing is, when your bank invests in arms companies, or in climate change accelerating industries such as oil, gas, coal or fracking, then it’s not their money that they are investing, it’s your money.

What if you wanted to use your money for good? What if you wanted to use your money for positive change, and wanted to ensure it was invested well, rather than funding climate change? What if you wanted more transparency on where your money is invested?

The thing is, you’re not alone. According to a study from Triodos Bank, 62% of investors said they would like their money to support companies which are profitable and make a positive contribution to society and the environment. Yet 51% have never been offered the option of investing in Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds.

It sounds difficult to use your money for good, and it’s easy to feel powerless against the might of the big banks, but actually, as customers, we do indeed have the power to vote with our money and our feet, and take our investment accounts to a more ethical bank.

The good news is that there are a few ethical banks around, striving to make banking more ethical.

One such bank is Triodos Bank, who invest solely in projects that are good for people and the planet, in order to create social, environmental and cultural value in a transparent and sustainable way. From savings and investment through ISAs, to investment in bonds and the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Sustainable Pioneers Fund, Triodos Bank will only invest its customers’ money in companies that provide positive social and environmental impact.

From organic farms, to getting ex-prisoners back into work, to funding new healthcare, technology, energy efficiency and renewables, Triodos has supported well known ethical brands and organisations (such as Neal’s Yard, River Cottage, Riverford Organic and Ecotricity). And uniquely amongst the banking sector, Triodos Bank provides total transparency around where their customers’ money goes.

The SRI Sustainable Pioneers Fund, for example, is one of the funds available to invest in with Triodos. It is a global equities fund investing in leading innovative and pioneering listed companies. Triodos specially select small and medium-sized listed companies – for example, leading wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas, medical equipment manufacturer, Smith and Nephew and bicycle manufacturer Shimano.

Of course, it’s important to remember that with SRI funds, capital is at risk and the value of an investment can fall as well as rise – meaning income is variable and individuals may get back less than invested. They do, however, offer an opportunity to invest in something you believe in; all companies selected by Triodos Bank are focused on the sustainable themes of climate protection, healthy living, clean planet or are pioneers in corporate social responsibility.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if all banks chose to invest responsibly, as in this manner? Can you imagine the impact if even a small percentage of the £5.7 trillion invested in funds every year goes into Socially Responsible Investment funds? Let’s hope we can bring this change about.

For more information on Socially Responsible Investment funds do visit the Triodos website for more information or pay them a visit on Twitter or Facebook.

This blog post aims to provide individuals with information to help them make an informed investment decision and is not personal financial advice.