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Art of Everyday Living

From the Editors of Traditional Home
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If you would like to participate in online discussions at, please email us at We’d love to hear your suggestions.

Liz Milligan, facilitator
Welcome everyone!  This is the online chat with home and lifestyle consultants Laura Forbes Carlin and Alison Forbes Houlihan.  Thank you
all for joining us.

To help move things along, I’ve compiled all the questions we have received and I will post them in the chat, one by one, so that Alison and Laura can respond.  If we have time at the end, we might be able to open it up for further questions.

Ok, let’s get started! Our first question is from Sangita... Sangita would like to know how she can make her home safe and green for her children.

Laura Forbes Carlin
Hi Everyone. Thank you for joining us! There are many ways to make your home safe and green for your children including some very simple practices such as opening windows to allow in fresh air each day—having people take their shoes off before they come into your home to avoid tracking in dirt and pesticides...

One of the best things you can do is to use natural cleaning products—conventional cleaning products are one of the leading causes of indoor air pollution and indoor air pollution is often 2-5 times higher then outside even in large cities!

You can also check out our book, “The Peaceful Nursery, Preparing a Home for Your Baby” — which has lots of healthy, green suggestions.

Sangita G.
I'm worried about chemicals in household cleaning products.

Angela C.
What basic chemicals are 'more' safe to use in the home?  Bleach, vinegar?

Laura Forbes Carlin
Almost all grocery stores now carry natural cleaning can also make your own! It is very easy and less expensive - in my house I mostly use combinations of vinegar, water and baking soda...

Avoid bleach.  Vinegar is a natural disinfectant. You can also use hydrogen peroxide. To whiten whites I fill a bowl with water, add Borax (see box for amounts) and place it in the sun.

Sangita G.
That's a wonderful thing coz I never thought of making my own and using it.

Angela C.
Does the vinegar and baking soda kill the germs as well?  Esp. in the bathroom?

Laura Forbes Carlin
Yes! Well, the vinegar does. Vinegar is a natural antiseptic—as is lavender essential oil—you can fill a spray bottle with water—add 8 drops lavender essential oil  and spay on your bathroom counters etc. Athena Thompson in her book, “Homes that Heal,” says it is as effective as phenol.

Laura Forbes Carlin
Chemicals will bind to house dust so investing in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will help too...

Also— to keep the environment healthy and green for your children— try to avoid plastics...

Helga S.
I like the HEPA filter angle

Sangita G.
There is a lot of hype about certain companies being green. Is it true or they are just making advantage of people's awareness

Laura Forbes Carlin
You're right to be wary of labels, but some great companies are Seventh Generation, Method, Caldrea, Ecover...

Alison Forbes Houlihan
Also, here are some "recipes" for making your own cleaning products... Windows: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 2 cups water in a spray bottle. Shake before use. Wood surfaces and floors: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar to a gallon of water with a few drops of lemon essential oil.

Amanda S.
I use a paste of baking soda and water to scour my tub, sink, tile floor and great!  I use vinegar for wiping surfaces in the kitchen and bath.  Just water for the dining room table and add a table cloth on occasion.

Alison Forbes Houlihan
One more homemade recipe for cleaning... Scouring powder: Sprinkle baking soda on surface and scrub with a damp sponge.

Angela C.
Laura— Can you explain further why to avoid plastics and offer some alternatives?

Laura Forbes Carlin
Whenever you bring something new into your home make sure it is non toxic. There are so many great options now— for example with toys opt for wood with non toxic finishes...

regarding plastics— some plastics contain chemicals that off-gas, compromising your air quality... especially if you have very young children who put toys in their mouth and chew on toys— some plastics do leach chemicals...

if there is a non-plastic option go for it—such as stainless steel water bottles...

if you want to use plastic— choose the safer plastic polypropylene (recycle number 5 ). in general the safer plastics are recycle numbers 1,2,4 and 5- Avoid #3,6,7.

Sangita G.
But what do we use in microwave if not plastic?

Laura Forbes Carlin
Best to stick with microwave safe glass and ceramic as plastic when heated in a microwave could potentially leach chemicals into your food…