It’s Chinese New Year, which means it’s time for the mother of all spring cleans. Here are 10 easy ways to make your home cleaner and greener. By Gayatri Bhaumik
1. Buy Wisely, Discard Sparingly
Invest in quality materials made from sustainably sourced woods and limit waste – choose a design that you won’t get bored with in a few years’ time, or see whether you can find ways of adapting the existing decor so that less stuff ends up in the landfill. Hong Kong has plenty of sustainable options, including TREE (tree.com.hk) and Verdee Bamboo (www.verdeebamboo.com). If you are looking to dispose of unwanted furniture, make sure it goes to a good home – Green Dot Home (green-dot-home.com.hk) redistributes second-hand furniture to those in need or sells it to benefit non-profits and charities.
2. Monitor Air Quality
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes indoor air quality to be one of the top five environmental health risks. “Air purifiers are an absolute must for all families due to the pollution we experience in Hong Kong”, says Nyree Chung, Director of Peek Concepts (www.peekconcepts.com), a local company specialising in air pollution monitors for the home. Check the air in your home with PeekAir’s Air Quality Monitor ($1,398, www.peekconcepts.com) so you know when you need to use it and when you can turn it off to save electricity. Also, it might seem counterintuitive, but open the windows regularly so that air can circulate.
3. Clean Green
Switching to eco-friendly cleaners is probably the easiest thing you can do to reduce your home’s chemical load. Ditch the chlorine and ammonia and instead look for words like “petroleum-free” and “biodegradable”. Australia’s environmentally-friendly Earth Choice line can be found at Park N Shop for $28.50, and Resparkle’s organic range is available at Bumps to Babes.
4. Paint Smart
VOCs are organic compounds released as gases from certain solids and liquids, housepaint being a common culprit. According to the EPA, VOCs can cause adverse health effects, and are found in higher concentrations indoors. Opt for VOC-free paints bearing third-party certifications. Try eicó paints (www.eico.hk). Made in Iceland and Sweden to strict European Union standards, they are water-based, odourless and contain few to no VOCs.
5. Power Down
Energy-guzzling appliances are not just bad for the environment, they also leave you with a hefty electricity bill. Do your research before buying white goods to make sure they meet local energy standards.
6. Grow Your Own
For a spot of urban greening, try your hand at growing your own fresh, pesticide-free greens – no garden needed. City Hydroponics’ CH64 system (from $2,750, www.cityhydroponics.org) lets you grow greens and herbs such as tomatoes, lettuce, rosemary and mint in our city’s shoebox apartments. Check out the dinky gardens that you can squeeze onto balconies and rooftops.
7. Drink Safe
We know that water can contain a range of nasty contaminants, so paying attention to your home’s water supply is only prudent. Have your home’s water supply tested by the Hong Kong Standards and Testing Centre (www.stc-group.org), and get water filters if necessary. Aquasana (www.aquasanahk.com, from $1,100) and eSpring (espring.com.hk, from $9,800), both have great options.
8. Bust Dust
It’s hard to see, but dust can trigger asthma and allergies, among other health concerns. Replace wall-to-wall carpeting with wood or tile flooring, and vacuum at least twice a week with a device that has strong suction and a HEPA filter. Try Philips’ PerformerPro Vacuum Cleaner ($2,198, www.philips.com.hk) or Miele’s Complete C3 Allergy Powerline ($3,688, www.miele.hk).
9. Call in the Experts
To meet the demand for green, healthy homes, Henning Voss set up Vivid Living (www.vividliving.com), an interior design and realty consultancy that focuses on creating healthy, eco-friendly homes. “We not only practice source control, but also install professional air purification systems to remove particles, bacteria, CO [carbon monoxide] and VOCs”, says Voss. “We also apply effective water filtration systems”. Contact them for a home renovation that keeps the health of the planet in mind.
In a subtropical climate, pests are all but inevitable. Choose organic pesticides like neem oil, or if you have a serious pest problem, Johnson Group Pest Specialists (www.johnson-group.com.hk) provides eco-friendly pest control and cleaning services.
Choosing an air purifier
There’s plenty to consider when choosing an air purifier, but one thing’s for sure – it’s prudent to have one. “Air purifiers are an absolute must for your home”, says Nyree Chung from PeekAir. “There are plenty on the market, and options to suit every budget, but make sure the filter meets HEPA standards, meaning it captures 99.97% of particles sized 0.3 microns or smaller”. Vivid Living recommends IQAir’s Swiss-made purifiers (www.iqair.com.hk), while Fortress (www.fortress.com.hk) carries a good range of affordable models by Whirlpool ($1,695), Sharp (from $3,990), Panasonic ($7,880) and LG ($3,440).
Consider Your Budget
There are purifiers for all price ranges, but if you don’t mind a second-hand model, you might be able to score a cheaper one off a Facebook swap site.
Does anyone at home have asthma, allergies or chemical sensitivities? You might need a purifier specifically designed to combat these.
Chung recommends HEPA filters, but activated carbon, electrostatic and UV filters are also available. Be sure to choose a model with a pre-filter, as this extends the life of HEPA filters.
Will the purifier stay in one place or move from room to room? It sounds simple but it’s easy to forget to choose a model with wheels!
Cost of Parts
Consider maintenance. More polluted environments means filters need to be replaced more often.