- Non-Stick Cookware. In the 40 years since non-stick pans were introduced, we've learned that non-stick coating (polytetrafluoroethylene) releases toxic gasses linked to cancer, organ failure and reproductive damage. Alternative: Anodized aluminum, stainless steel or cast iron pans.
- Plastic Bottles. BPA in plastic water bottles mimics hormones that harm your endocrine system; single-use plastic bottles are even worse for leaching chemicals, are spawning grounds for bacteria and a source of needless waste. Alternative: A reusable, stainless steel or glass bottle.
- Conventional Cleaning Supplies. All-purpose cleaners often contain ammonia, a strong irritant that can cause liver and kidney damage, and bleach, a powerful oxidizer that can burn the skin and eyes. And oven cleaners can cause chemical burns and emit toxic fumes that harm the respiratory system. Alternative: Non-toxic or natural cleaners like Method and Seventh Generation or homemade cleaners from staples like vinegar and baking soda.
- Chemical Insecticides and Herbicides. Since the purpose of these products is to kill pests, many of them are also harmful to humans. The active ingredient in Round-Up is known to cause kidney damage and reproductive harm in mice. And cypermethrin, one of the active ingredients in Raid, is a known eye, skin and respiratory irritant and has negative effects on the central nervous system. Alternative: Natural and organic weed- and pest-control products. Turn to Buhach for a natural insecticide made from ground chrysanthemum flowers. Boric acid is an effective, natural solution for cockroaches.
- Antibacterial Products. The widespread use of antibacterials has been shown to contribute to new strains of antibiotic-resistant "super-bugs," may interfere with immune system development in children, according to the Center for Disease Control, and can lead to triclosan build-up in the body . Alternative: Old-fashioned soap and water. Make it your goal to be to be clean, not germ-free. People who are exposed to household germs typically develop strong immune systems and are healthier overall.
- Chemical Fertilizers. Whenever it rains or a lawn is watered, the chemical runoff enters storm-drains. Untreated water is then dumped into rivers, streams and the ocean, killing fish and degrading water quality. Alternative: Organic fertilizers or compost from food scraps and yard trimmings, which can create nutrient-rich soil for your flower beds and vegetable gardens.
- Regular Light Bulbs. These are so 20th century. Alternative: CFL bulbs, which use a fraction of the electricity. However, take precautions when disposing of CFL bulbs because they contain mercury; take them to a hazardous waste collection or other special facility.
- Air fresheners. These are incredibly toxic and can aggravate respiratory problems like asthma. Even those labeled "pure" and "natural" have been found to contain phthalates, chemicals that cause hormonal abnormalities, reproductive problems and birth defects. Alternative: Burning soy candles or boiling a pot of water on the stove with drops of your favorite essential oil.
- Flame Retardants. The flame retardant used in mattresses-polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)-is known to accumulate in blood, breast milk and fatty tissues and is linked to liver, thyroid, and neuro-developmental toxicity. Household furniture often contains flame retardants and stain repellants that use PBDE's as well as formaldehyde and PFOA (the same chemical used in non-stick cookware). Alternative: Products that aren't treated with PBDEs. If you're looking to keep your existing mattress, but make it safer, use a cover made of organic wool to reduce PDBE exposure.
- Plastic Shopping Bags. Like diamonds, plastics are forever. In the United States, only two percent of plastic bags are recycled, which means that the remaining 98 percent is dumped into landfills or blown out to sea. Alternative: Reusable cloth bags.
About Jordana Gustafson, Content Manager, SustainLane.com
As content manager for leading green living guide SustainLane.com, Jordana Gustafson actively shapes the consumer green experience-providing useful, relevant material that cuts through the clutter and gets to the heart of green matters. She writes and edits SustainLane editorial and reviews all user- and partner-generated content posted to the site. Jordana also serves as a SustainLane.com consumer content spokesperson, bringing her unique candor and perspective to outlets in San Francisco and beyond.
Previously, Jordana reported for NPR and Marketplace as a foreign correspondent based in Mexico. At WUNC-Chapel Hill, she was part of the duPont-Columbia award-winning team that produced the series North Carolina Voices: Understanding Poverty. She has reported for and contributed to numerous outlets, including the Boston Globe, the BBC, and This American Life. She also apprenticed in radio at WBUR-Boston.
Jordana is fluent in Spanish, has traveled on four continents, and has lived in Sweden, Vietnam, and Mexico. Currently residing in San Francisco, where SustainLane Media is headquartered, Jordana is a California native who received a B.A. at WUNC-Chapel Hill.
Since moving to San Francisco, where there is curbside, single-stream recycling and food scrap composting, Jordana estimates that her personal solid waste diversion rate is about 95 percent.