Tips for Reducing Indoor Air Pollution

Just as you drink pure water, isn’t it vital to ensure the air you breath is also clean and pure? Everyone can benefit from breathing cleaner air, and many people suffer horribly because of air pollution. It’s common for people to spend 75% of their time in their home and the sources of air pollution in a home can be many. Air pollution can happen during immediate emergency situations, such as a gas leak. It can also be slow, chronic, and less apparent; as with out-gassing of paints, fabrics, and upholstery. There are also biological toxins such as dust mites, pet dander, mold, and mildew.

The variation in chemicals and pollutants can produce a range of effects. For some people, these pollutants bring on headaches, others experience sinus congestion or coughing, and allergic rhinitis is not unheard of. Arguably, most “elevated” attacks are the result of exposure to multiple pollutants all at once, as may happen when painting in a non-ventilated room. But what about the allergies and asthma and other respiratory ailments that are exacerbated by constant exposure to air pollutants?

The Argument for Ventilation

Open your windows! Creating circulation is so important. The recent emphasis on energy conservation has caused homes to be constructed in an air-tight, sealed way; this traps pollutants right in your home. Ventilation can help remove the pollution. The Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute in New Jersey studied indoor air pollution and lung function and their conclusions directly cited improved ventilation as a means to reduce harmful effects of indoor air pollution.

Tips to Improve the Air Quality in Your Home

Have your HVAC system cleaned regularly. The effectiveness of HVAC duct cleaning procedures in improving indoor air quality was examined by Florida International University in Miami; evidence suggested cleaning the system was beneficial.

Replace toxic or chemical-based cleaning products with natural, organic alternatives. There are options available and most appropriate stores carry at least a few of them. Or, make your own- vinegar and baking soda works great on drains.

house plant

Avoid the fragrant, aerosol spray cans. Instead, use essential oils with a diffuser. Lavender, lemongrass, and tea tree or orange-blossom oil work great and don’t contain any air-polluting chemicals. You can also dilute oils in distilled water and use a spray bottle for a chemical-free home or office spray.

Plants are natural air purifiers and great home decor. A study from NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America found that plants suck in toxic chemicals through their leaves, and the roots and soil bacteria remove trace levels of toxic vapors.

As your budget allows, when replacing larger items, begin switching over to chemical-free, non-toxic furniture and bedding. Buy natural wooden furniture, not particleboard.

The Quick and Easy

  • If you smoke, stop.
  • To discourage mold and mildew, keep humidity levels low.
  • Regularly check your fuel-burning appliances for leaks.
  • Invest in a quality indoor air purifier, air filtration is one of the most feasible methods to improve IAQ.

Enjoy the Cumulative Benefits of Breathing Clean Air

Breathing cleaner air isn’t just for folks with asthma, allergies, or children. As much as doing it for the kids warms the cockles of our hearts, the fact is that we ALL can benefit from breathing cleaner air, especially over the long term; research proves it. A Brazilian study evaluated situations where ventilation had been in place for greater than 20 years; researchers found that the long-term air-conditioning offered a protective effect against the building-related worsening of respiratory symptoms.

Urban Apartment Gardening: Gardening Tips For Apartment Dwellers

I remember the days of apartment dwelling with mixed feelings. The spring and summer were especially hard on this lover of green things and dirt. My interior was festooned with houseplants but growing veggies and larger specimens were something of a challenge, having minimal room on the patio or balcony. Fortunately, urban gardening ideas abound and there is a host of ways to grow tiny gardens for the space restricted gardener.

Challenges for Urban Gardening in Apartments

Finesse and commitment are required for urban apartment gardening. Space is not the only issue. Lighting and ventilation pose a concern, as well as the species and varieties which will thrive in confined and restricted spaces. Over the years, I gleaned some tips on how to grow a garden in an apartment. Follow along as we investigate gardening tips for apartment dwellers for a successful tiny landscape that is both beautiful and productive. Many apartment denizens lack an outdoor patio, lanai or balcony on which to grow and nurture green things. Some of the ways to get around this obstacle might be to purchase grow lights or use a hydroponic pod kit. The lights will provide the proper amount of energy while hydroponic kits enhance growth with nutrient solutions and self-watering simplicity. Either solution is available in a space saving model, which is useful for smaller crops or herb gardens.

Budget-minded gardeners may not have the funds to shell out for special urban gardening ideas like these, but there are still some plants that can tolerate a low light windowsill and produce fairly well.

Try herbs like:

Parsley

Chives

Mint Lemon balm

Oregano

The plants won’t get huge, but they will still be healthy enough for you to harvest some fresh grown flavor for your recipes.

Vertical Urban Apartment Gardening

Small spaces can still grow a plethora of plants if you think “up.” Vertical gardening is one of the gardening tips for apartment dwellers that works and conserves space. Growing up allows plants to seek the light and keeps sprawlers from taking over the lanai or balcony. Use stakes, trellises, hanging pots, and layered gardens in step planters to achieve the goal. Choose plants with similar preferences and install them in one large pot. For instance, place a smaller variety tomato in the center and plant herbs like basil or cilantro around it. Use a trellis to train upward a cucumber plant or plant some sweet peas to easily dance up a wall with a string system. Vertical solutions for urban gardening in apartments can be made out of old wood, fencing, wire, and many other free or recycled items. The sky is the limit or maybe it is your imagination.

How to Grow a Garden in an Apartment

The first step is to assess whether you are a candidate for an indoor or outdoor system. Next, choose your containers and decide if vertical gardening is a choice for you. Containers can be almost anything but make sure they are well draining. Use the best soil possible because limited nutrients are a hazard in small spaces. This makes fertilizing especially important since containerized plants have minimal nutrients stored in the soil, and once they use that up they don’t have access to more. The crucial decision is the choice of plants. Take into consideration your zone, lighting, amount of time you wish to spend on the plant and space. Herb gardens are one of the best beginner projects, but over time, you might be able to suspend an indeterminate tomato vine over your curtain rods.

Practice is key and don’t be afraid to step out of the box. Using seeds is a great way to learn how to grow a garden in an apartment with minimal expense and often excellent results.

How To Create A Community Garden

There are over 10,000 community gardens in cities across the United States. This popular trend provides fresh produce, exercise, and a place to socialize with friends and neighbors. Community gardens are also attractive and inviting spaces that benefit the environment through composting and recycling. Consider doing a little gardening – whether you have some basil and oregano growing in your kitchen window, tomatoes planted in a container on your patio, or if you decide to take it a step further and organize a community garden.

The first step to organizing a community garden is finding people who are interested in getting involved. Start by asking around and see what kind of response you get. If after this informal research you feel there is significant interest, organize a meeting. Be sure to invite fellow residents, your apartment manager or superintendent, a representative from a local horticulture group, business leaders in the area, etc. At the meeting have an agenda that covers topics such as: Are there any issues or reasons we can’t create a community garden? If we are given the green light, what type of community garden do we want – a vegetable garden, a flower garden, or both? Do we want a strictly organic garden? Who will be allowed to participate? Will we need liability insurance, and should everyone participate sign a liability waiver?

It is possible, especially in a suburban apartment complex, that you’ll be able to get approval to have the garden on the apartment community grounds. If not, look for alternatives: the roof of your urban high-rise, for example, or perhaps an empty lot located nearby – check with local government agencies to find out who owns the lot and see if you can get permission to rent the lot or perhaps even buy it. You want the garden within walking distance so people will stay involved. Also, be sure the location gets plenty of sunlight – about six hours a day.

If you think you have a good shot at getting the space for the garden approved (or rented), the next step is to form a planning committee. You’ll want people who are committed and reliable and who are willing to dedicate a good chunk of time to the project, especially in the beginning stages. The committee will be responsible for getting the garden set up – this includes a weatherproof bulletin board for schedules, events, and notices; a composting area; and if you are using an off-site lot and not a space on the apartment community property, a fence with a locking gate. You may also want to consider sponsors, such as local business leaders, nearby colleges, etc. You’ll need money for rent (if you are renting a lot), donations of tools and seeds, and funds for other expenses. If you don’t want to find sponsors, consider having membership dues (or consider a combination of both).

Before planting anything, the soil should be evaluated. Take a sample and have it tested for possible pollutants. Next, develop the garden. You’ll want to organize the garden into sections and put a sign with the gardener’s name in each section. Use the perimeter of the garden for rose bushes, blackberry bushes, shrubs, and trees that will act as both a deterrent for thieves or vandals and to make the garden attractive to those passing by. Be sure to have spaces for tool storage. Also, leave space for walkways between each garden plot.

You’ll need to keep track of who is planting where, so if they allow their garden to become a bed of dirt and weeds, you know who to contact. Set up some garden rules and post them to the community garden bulletin board. Be sure to include annual clean-up in the rules – everyone with a plot should participate. Also, everyone should have a time when they are responsible for weeding and maintaining the common areas and the perimeter of the garden.

Don’t forget to create common spaces within the garden for people to gather, even if it is just a couple of benches. One of the purposes of a community garden is to help bring people together, so consider holding fun events for garden participants, as well.

In addition to being good for the environment and providing fresh produce for healthier eating, gardening is great exercise and lowers stress.

10 Steps to Starting a Community Garden

The following steps are adapted from the American Community Garden Association’s guidelines for launching a successful community garden in your neighborhood.

1. Organize a Meeting Of Interested People

Determine whether a garden is really needed and wanted, what kind it should be (vegetable, flower, both, organic?), whom it will involve and who benefits. Invite neighbors, tenants, community organizations, gardening and horticultural societies, building superintendents (if it is at an apartment building)—in other words, anyone who is likely to be interested.

2. Form a Planning Committee

This group can be comprised of people who feel committed to the creation of the garden and have the time to devote to it, at least at this initial stage. Choose well-organized persons as garden coordinators Form committees to tackle specific tasks: funding and partnerships, youth activities, construction, and communication.

3. Identify All Your Resources

Do a community asset assessment. What skills and resources already exist in the community that can aid in the garden’s creation? Contact local municipal planners about possible sites, as well as horticultural societies and other local sources of information and assistance. Look within your community for people with experience in landscaping and gardening. In Toronto contact the Toronto Community Garden Network.

4. Approach A Sponsor

Some gardens “self-support” through membership dues, but for many, a sponsor is essential for donations of tools, seeds or money. Churches, schools, private businesses or parks and recreation departments are all possible supporters. One garden raised money by selling “square inches” at $5 each to hundreds of sponsors.

5. Choose A Site

Consider the amount of daily sunshine (vegetables need at least six hours a day), availability of water, and soil testing for possible pollutants. Find out who owns the land. Can the gardeners get a lease agreement for at least three years? Will public liability insurance be necessary?

6. Prepare And Develop The Site

In most cases, the land will need considerable preparation for planting. Organize volunteer work crews to clean it, gather materials and decide on the design and plot arrangement.

7. Organize the Garden

Members must decide how many plots are available and how they will be assigned. Allow space for storing tools, making compost and don’t forget the pathways between plots! Plant flowers or shrubs around the garden’s edges to promote good will with non-gardening neighbors, passersby, and municipal authorities.

8. Plan for Children

Consider creating a special garden just for kids–including them is essential. Children are not as interested in the size of the harvest but rather in the process of gardening. A separate area set aside for them allows them to explore the garden at their own speed.

9. Determine Rules and Put Them In Writing

The gardeners themselves devise the best ground rules. We are more willing to comply with rules that we have had a hand in creating. Ground rules help gardeners to know what is expected of them. Think of it as a code of behavior. Some examples of issues that are best dealt with by agreed upon rules are dues, how will the money be used? How are plots assigned? Will gardeners share tools, meet regularly, handle basic maintenance?

10. Help Members Keep In Touch with Each Other

Good communication ensures a strong community garden with active participation by all. Some ways to do this are: form a telephone tree, create an email list; install a rainproof bulletin board in the garden; have regular celebrations. Community gardens are all about creating and strengthening communities.