As Americans we spend 90% of our lives indoors! A staggering fact and quite sad when I think about it. As a kid my parents could barely keep me in the house, I was always running around in the woods, chasing dragonflies or playing in the nearby lake. As I sit here typing this, half inside half out, it makes me sad that like most people I can't spend my whole day outside anymore, counting clovers or looking at the clouds. I used to be really good about walking outside every morning, my ritual before I allowed myself a cup of coffee, but as my life gets busier this becomes more and more difficult.
Nature and the outdoors need to be part of everyone's life. Americans are sheltered from birth from the outside, and in some countries like Hong Kong you may not ever have your feet on actual earth for weeks. Hong Kong has miles and miles of underground and overhead footpaths, subways, and moving escalators that connect hotels, malls, restaurants and streets. Read More about Hong Kong Here. At least we haven't moved that far here. As American's we are born indoors then ushered in vehicles to our new indoor areas where we spend most of our lives. We are afraid of the sun and the outdoor air. Outside it can be too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry but inside is always better. We would rather be staring at a screen then looking at real objects blowing in the breeze.
Air pollution is the thing that always worries me, especially living in smoggy LA and traveling to places that often have much worse air pollution. But, I'm sure you didn't know that our indoor air quality can actually be on average 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor air quality and sometimes as high as 100 times worse!! And just why is this? Our indoor environments are full of harmful chemicals. Most buildings do not have proper air filtration systems and often even if they do, filters are not changed or maintained as often as they need to be. Our homes and office buildings are also full of things like VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) sounds good for you huh? PCB's, asbestos, formaldehyde and even radon. Our carpets are sometimes the worst polluter, filled with VOC's carpets also release particles when we walk on them and catch pollen, dirt and bacteria. You should never stay in the room after vacuuming, always give it a good 30 minutes and open your windows. And when you go to the store to buy cleaning products look for products that have a GreenSeal on it and make sure you follow the directions on the bottle if you aren't. If it says wear rubber gloves and open the windows then I would certainly recommend you do that. If you are buying wood floors make sure they are free of Urea- Formaldehyde, Lumber Liquidators just got in a lot of trouble for selling wood from China that was full of this.
Winter time in the cold parts of the country are significant sources of Indoor pollutants as well as most of us burn some sort of coal, oil, gas or wood to keep our houses warm. There is a good reason you always feel tired and groggy after sitting in front of a fire; its called carbon monoxide.
My grandmother lived in Aspen in the mid 1900's and when my mother was a child they burned coal in the furnace. My mother used to suffer from COPD I'm sure this was a likely culprit.
Now that you are terrified of spending another minute inside your home or office building just remember that there are other options on the market to reduce your indoor pollutants.
Paint companies now sell low VOC or no VOC paints, The Carpet & Rug Institute also certifies Eco friendly carpets for our homes and offices (Click Here for companies) and there are a plethora of environmentally friendly companies that make home cleaning products, as well as human and animal health products.
If you are lucky enough to work or live in a building certified by LEED then you are probably happier and more productive. Studies have found that people working in front of windows and those that spend just 30 minutes outdoors are more productive in their work and daily life. So get outside and spend some time with that thing that keeps the Earth spinning.....sunshine. Even if it means you are working like this...