Powerful Plant

Danny Seo's favorite Earth-happy, money-saving ideas

Every day, I pen a syndicated column called “Do Just One Thing” that appears in newspapers across the country. Over the past several years, I’ve accumulated thousands of tips that not only help people live a little bit greener each day, but are smart ways to cut waste and save money as well. In each issue of this magazine, I’ll round up my all-time favorite tips. They’re clever, fun, and simple enough that I think you’ll Naturally love to try them. –Danny Seo


If your home away from home is an office, you can take steps to make sure your time spent there is as healthy as possible. One of the easiest things to do is to add a houseplant to your desk environment. The Golden Pothos plant is beautiful, easy to maintain—and a real superstar when it comes to cleaner air. One plant provides air purification for about 100 square feet of space. That means you’re cleaning the air in your cubicle along with the oxygen used by your nearby colleagues. That’s called being a team player.


A dish washer appliance can do more than just get your pots, pans and dishes sparkling clean. These energy-and water-efficiency machines will also sanitize your cookware naturally by using just hot water and deter- gent. But they can also spruce up much more. Use the top rack for cleaning things like baseball caps, kid’s toys, flip-flops and light fixture covers. Even switch-plate covers, fan grills and vent covers (the items that can become covered in dust, dirt, grease and debris) can go right in. Use the “rinse-only” cycle for delicate items, or to test how an item will hold up inside a dishwasher.


One of the biggest sources of air toxicity in your home actually comes from
a room of your house—your garage. Homes with attached garages can allow air pollution to leak into your rooms. A Canadian health study found that homes with attached garages had high levels of benzene (a chemical from gasoline) while homes without the spaces had little to none. To prevent toxins from seeping into your interiors, never start up a car in a closed garage (obviously), but don’t rev up lawnmowers, motorcycles and chainsaws, either. Also, keep the door between the garage and your home closed, and make sure the seal is as tight as possible.


One of the easiest things you can do to create a healthy kitchen is to make use of the range hood vent. Ventilation can help remove air pollution from gas burners, fat particles from frying food and, of course, strong cooking odors. To make the best use of your kitchen exhaust system, try to cook on the back burners of your cooktop. This is where your vents operate at their maximum performance. And don’t turn off the exhaust fan too early; keep it on until the pans you’re cooking with are cool to the touch.


An old wives’ tale suggests pouring a capful of ammonia into your trash bag before putting it on the curb. The theory is that if an animal like a raccoon or dog rips open the bag, they’ll get a strong whiff of the gas and run away. But here’s the problem—ammonia is a strong irritant that can cause you light headedness and burning of the throat, nose, and respiratory tract. If you want to prevent animals from getting into your garbage, use wildlife-resistant trash cans that have tight fitting lids. And if you put your bagged trash out on the curb, do it the morning of trash pickup, not the night before.