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How to Get a "Green" Home on the Cheap

"Early Show" contributor Katie Lee can do more than just cook! She appeared on the broadcast Thursday with some easy and inexpensive ways to improve the overall health of your home with some "green" alternatives:

1. Soy and beeswax candles
Many candles are made from paraffin, a waxy material which is derived from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource. Many candle makers are now using natural and renewable ingredients such as soy or beeswax in place of paraffin. Organic soy is another good option because it's made from non-genetically engineered plants grown without synthetic fertilizers or harmful pesticides. Many local farmers markets sell those natural candles.

Most candles contain both natural and synthetic fragrances, according to the National Candle Association, a trade group. Synthetic fragrances are a concern because they might emit potentially hormone-disrupting phthalates. The same is true of air fresheners. They can also release volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals that might irritate the respiratory system.

Toxic lead-core wicks, which were once common, were banned in 2003. So if you have old candles around, they might have those wicks. The NCA says manufacturers now use primarily cotton, cotton paper, zinc-core or tin-core wicks, which it claims are safe, according to ConsumerReports.org.

Candles available at Whole Foods Whole Body locations - $9-$22

2. White vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner
From Vinegartips.com: White distilled vinegar is a popular household cleanser, effective for killing most mold, bacteria, and germs, due to its level of acidity. Cleaning with white distilled vinegar is a smart way to avoid using harsh chemicals. You'll also be glad to know that it is environmentally friendly and very economical.

White vinegar is the magic elixir. Buy a spray bottle and combine one tablespoon of white vinegar to every quart of water. Use for countertops and windows. If you buy commercial cleaners, even those labeled "organic" or "eco-friendly," be sure to look for "solvent-free" and "phosphate-free" on the labels.

3. Reusable dry cleaning bags
Traditional dry cleaners use harsh chemicals, such as perchloroethylene (perc) on your clothes, which can cause irritation or rashes. Look around for an eco-friendly dry cleaner in your area. If there isn't one, be sure to remove the plastic bag and let clothes "air out" outside or in an area like the garage, before hanging them in the closet.

One growing trend being adopted, mostly by eco-friendly dry cleaners, are re-usable dry cleaning bags. They not only drastically cut down on waste, but double as a laundry bag. We are featuring the Green Garmento, an eco-friendly three-in-one reusable garment bag that can help you green your dry-cleaning routine. At home, it serves as a hanging hamper, on your trip to the dry cleaner it functions as a duffel bag and at pick-up, your dry-cleaned clothes will be hanging and protected inside.

According to the TheGreenGarmento.com, the simple step of switching to The Green Garmento will help reduce the estimated 300 million pounds of single-use dry cleaning bags that continue to clog our landfills and kill our marine and wildlife, annually. The Green Garmento is made from breathable, water-resistant material, making it an eco-friendly, stylish, practical, and affordable alternative to single-use plastic garment bags.

4. All-natural soap and shampoo

According to ConsumerReports.org, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not required to review cosmetics for safety before they appear on store shelves. Aside from certain color additives and a handful of prohibited ingredients manufacturers can use any ingredient they deem safe, and safety testing is voluntary.

Other ingredients you'll see are still being evaluated for health implications. One example is a group of chemicals called parabens. Frequently used as preservatives, parabens are found in shampoos, lotions, makeup, and other products. Some limited evidence suggests certain types are linked to reproductive disorders.

ConsumerReports.org reports there are other questionable chemicals you might not see on the label. One example is the family of chemicals known as phthalates, which may be linked to developmental and reproductive health risks. They're used to help fragrances linger in perfumes, lotions, and other products.

Luckily there are easy to find and inexpensive products out there that are 100 percent paraben and phthalate free. But it's still important to read the bottle carefully and be diligent, some ingredients, including phthalates, might not be listed on the label, since fragrance ingredients are considered "trade secrets."

Available at Whole Foods Whole Body locations - $3-$12

5. Glass food storage containers
Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is found in just about everything plastic, including some plastic food storage containers. One simple and inexpensive way to avoid any potential health risks is to simply switch to reusable glass storage containers. We got ours from The Container Store. They come in a variety of sizes and range from $3 to $15.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that has been present in many hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans since the 1960s.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports studies employing standardized toxicity tests have thus far supported the safety of current low levels of human exposure to BPA. However, on the basis of results from recent studies using novel approaches to test for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children. In cooperation with the National Toxicology Program, FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research is carrying out in-depth studies to answer key questions and clarify uncertainties about the risks of BPA.

Available at The Container Store - $3-$15

6. Herbal tea and dark chocolate
The most important tip for a healthy home is to enjoy it. Set aside 10 minutes each day to drink a cup of soothing herbal tea and have a piece of organic dark chocolate. Tea contains antioxidants, bolsters your immunity and can even boost your metabolism. Dark chocolate is also full of antioxidants and is good for your heart.

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