Medical Column

Medical Column
Dr. Randall Neustaedter Dr. Randall Neustaedter, OMD, has practiced and taught holistic medicine for more than thirty years in the San Francisco Bay area, specializing in child health care. He has a busy private practice and writes on health and wellness issues, including five published books on holistic pediatric health. His website and free online newsletter can be found at

Greening your Office

Here are several reasons to make your office ecologically and chemically healthy. The first is to contribute your small effort to create a healthy world environment. Every home and office that adopts a sound policy of environmentally safe products and practices makes a difference. The second reason is to serve as a role model for patients. When patients see products that promote health they are more likely to adopt those practices in their own home. And you need to practice what you preach when you tell patients to avoid toxic products. The third reason is to promote your own health and the health of your staff.


The simple rule is to use natural chemical products around the office. This includes hand soaps, cleaning products, and air fresheners. Petrochemical products are easily absorbed through the skin and through inhalation. Avoid any product that contains the word “fragrance,” which some ecologists have referred to as the next second-hand smoke. Natural portable soap dispensers and air fresheners can be purchased at any health food store or online. Refills for wall-mounted soap dispensers can be purchased through Amazon (Vermont Foaming Hand Soap). Do not use antibacterial soaps that usually contain triclosan, which has been implicated as a hormone disruptor and a contributor to antibiotic resistance. Avoid scented products or use only natural plant scents. Many patients have chemical sensitivities and it is important to promote their heath by respecting their susceptibilities.

Natural spray cleaners or vinegar and water spray solutions can be used on mirrors, toilets, windows, and surfaces. Avoid any products with chlorine bleach.

Clean carpets with natural products such as Biokleen carpet shampoo and enzyme-based stain and spot removers. Or have carpets cleaned by a professional carpet cleaner that uses nontoxic products. For hardwood floors you can also use a dilute vinegar solution sprayed on a damp cloth.

Keep living plants in the office to increase ambient oxygen and absorb the chemicals inevitably released from carpeting, furniture, office machines, and paper products.


Most new carpeting has been treated with flame retardants, formaldehyde, and pesticides. Install carpets certified with the Green Label Plus, which signifies the lowest-emitting carpet. See if the carpeting can be unrolled for 72 hours in a warehouse and allowed to air out before installation.

Green Label Plus products also apply to new furniture that has less chemical emissions from upholstery and cushions.

Office products

Whenever possible use recycled paper products, including printer supplies and paper towels. Recycle everything possible. Recycle all paper and plastic cups, cardboard boxes, junk mail, and plastic bottles. Avoid Styrofoam products. You may need to find a specific recycling facility for plastic bags. You can take packaging popcorn that comes in supply boxes to a UPS store for reuse.

Use biodegradable trash bags instead of plastic bags in the office.


Once you have developed a plan for greening your office and instituted your policies, you can advertise your accomplishment in helping to promote health and protect the planet. Become a certified green business. Go to the website and join the network of businesses that promote sustainability and green business practices. You can then proudly display your Green Business membership on your website and in your office.

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