Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Everything feels new and there is something very refreshing about sitting back and seeing things literally spring to life. One thing that does need our assistance, however, is our home. Unfortunately there is NOTHING refreshing about a house that has been closed for months on end.
The problem is, while we attempt to do our spring cleaning, we can be tempted to grab the commercial cleaners and create a lot of waste too. Here are some tips on avoiding the pitfalls:
- Open windows – let the fresh air come in. It does wonders!
- Buy distilled white vinegar – and lots of it. The uses are amazing… everything from cleaning and sanitizing to disinfecting and stain removal. Check out vinegartips.com for ideas, but whatever you do, do NOT use commercial household cleaners… they are harsh, harmful and unnecessary.
- Buy hydrogen peroxide – you may not have considered this as an option before, but it’s a great alternative to bleach.
- Buy baking soda – fantastic for cleaning but also for removing odors from rugs and carpets. Sprinkle some on, let it sit for 30 minutes and vacuum it up… nice and simple.
- Make your own multi–purpose cleaner – I have a recipe and I use my own cleaner daily.
- Make your own furniture polish – I have another recipe for you!
- Make your own soft scrub – I have yet another recipe!
- Skip paper towels and sponges – gather old t-shirts and towels (not suitable for donation) and put them to work. Skoy cloths are another favorite of mine, and they can all be washed and used again for later cleaning projects.
- Recycle – magazines, mail, catalogs, any needless papers, packaging….the list goes on and on. And don’t just put them in the garbage can. Put them in the recycling can. All of these papers are recyclable!
- Food cupboards – you thought you’d need it, use it, want it, but alas you did not. Donate it to a food pantry if it hasn’t expired; otherwise make sure the packaging, cans and containers get recycled as well.
- Donation boxes – inevitably you will find lots of things that no longer have usefulness for you but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful for someone else. Clothing, shoes, household items, books, furniture, toys, anything and everything. Pack up these items and donate them to a charity, list them on Freecycle or Craig’s List. But never throw away anything that still has “life” left in it.
- Proper disposal – motor oil, paint cans, aerosols… check Earth911 to find out where these toxic products can be dropped off for proper disposal. Same goes for electronics. If they can’t be given away, check local resources (Best Buy has a fabulous program) or again Earth911.
- Consider air freshening in a less harmful way – if you MUST put the scent of spring in the air, forgo the aerosol air fresheners and instead fill a spray bottle with a combination of water and essential oils, and “spray away!”
- Buy a plant – some household plants will actually help to purify the air in your home!
- Consider some “Spring Resolutions” – no more antibacterial soaps (their harmful effects can be greater than their benefit), no more harsh cleaners and chemicals. Vow to replace them with eco- and health-friendly products. Put CFLs on your shopping list and use them for every bulb that needs replacing from here on out! And when you buy these products, make sure they get placed in reusable bags!
Start stretching, limber up and let the “green cleaning” commence!
Indoor plants are a fantastic way to bring the outdoors inside, no matter what time of year it is (and, with temperatures starting to drop, windows and doors will likely be spending more time closed!). Not only can plants breathe life into a room, but did you know they can also, literally, breathe fresh clean air into your home as well?!?
Sadly, our indoor air can become even more polluted than outdoor air(!) due in part to everything from VOCs in paint to all of the horrible things we track in on our shoes and then send airborne!
Just take a look at what some of the most common household plants can “do” for your home!:
- Areca palm – this one is the top purifier and also humidifies the air as it cleans! (Lady palm and bamboo palm also do an amazing job!)
- Peace lilies – also a great all-around air purifier, and incredibly easy to maintain.
- English ivy – fantastic for removing airborne mold (up to 60% of airborne mold in just six hours, by the way!).
- Spider plants – great at removing 100% of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide from the air in only 24 hours.
- Boston ferns – another great over-all air purifier but especially for removing formaldehyde from the air.
- Rubber plants – great for cleaning out those VOCs.
To reach maximum effectiveness, it’s recommended to have at least one 6” plant per 100 feet of living space.
Amazing, isn’t it? Actually, it’s exactly what I would expect Mother Nature to provide… something to clean-up our dirty work (and dirty air!).
To me, Thanksgiving has always felt like the holiday with the greatest “green potential”. There are no gifts, costumes, candy or extra, elaborate frills. It’s simply about family gatherings, feasting on the bounty of the season and giving thanks for everything we have. There are so many ways to avoid over-abundance… (well, with the exception of over-eating!)
Everything from the decorations, to the food, to the clean-up can be exceptionally green.
Here are the things to keep in mind:
- Invitations – forgo the paper invitations and send Evites instead. You’ve probably already handled this task, but this rule goes for any gathering! And if you do need to mail invitations, look for those made of recycled paper.
- Decorations – in many cases, you need only walk into your own backyard: leaves, acorns and twigs can be turned into amazing arrangements. Combine them with colorful gourds, Indian corn, squash and apples and you’ve just captured the season! Afterward, compost or add them back to nature.
- Food – visit your local farmer’s market for all of the most amazing produce. Go organic. Think acorn squash, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, apple and pumpkin pie! And seek out an organic, hormone-free, steroid-free turkey (if it will be a part of your feast).
- Drinks – serve organic drinks or consider a local brew… or, if you’re lucky (like me!) and surrounded by local wineries, a local wine!
- Tableware and serveware – stop saving “the good dishes” and silverware! Use them! Glasses, cups and stemware? Get them out! Forget the disposable “anything”. You can even score inexpensive cloth napkins and table coverings at any dollar store.
- Consider the temperature – ovens heat a house quite quickly… and so do lots of people… so turn down the thermostat or, in warmer climates, keep ceiling fans circulating or windows open to keep the indoors comfortable.
- Recycle – that should go without saying, but just remember to make it happen. Cans, jars, containers, bottles, anything and everything possible.
- Don’t waste leftovers – keep only what you know your family will eat. Send the rest home with your guests. Start thinking about containers now (no styrofoam plates or plastic-wrap, please!). You can even ask guests to bring their own glass or ceramic dishware… why not?! And if you compost, toss in those food scraps.
- Clean-up – use your dishwasher, but make sure you fill it first. For the big jobs, you’ll need to use some elbow-grease, but be sure not to leave the tap running endlessly. And get out your green cleaners. You can get back to “shiny & clean” without harsh chemicals.
- Although it has nothing to do with being green… give thanks. Ask everyone at your table to share a thought. It will certainly put happiness in the air, and that’s absolutely free!
Now, if you need some of those ‘leaf, acorn and twig’ decorations I mentioned, email me… and then back up a truck… I have enough in my own backyard to supply your whole neighborhood!
Sometimes it’s easy to get so consumed with planning and preparing for a vacation that we forget about the home we’re leaving behind.
Before you leave, your house needs some special attention so it doesn’t continue to over-consume in your absence. When you think about everything that’s drawing energy on a daily basis (and the things that an empty house doesn’t need), it’s time for a checklist.
Here are a few simple (and possibly overlooked) ideas to keep your home green while you vacation:
- Turn off your air conditioning or, in the winter months, turn the heat to 55 degrees.
- Make sure ceiling fans are turned off.
- Unplug nearly everything… computers, TVs, appliances, microwaves, lamps, coffee makers, all of it! Look at every outlet in your house and most things can be unplugged in your absence. They WILL still consume “phantom power” even when not in use!
- Install timers on a few lights so your home still appears lived-in but they won’t glow 24-hours-a-day.
- Dial down the temperature or switch off the breaker on your water heater.
- If you clear out an overload of perishables in your refrigerator make sure it’s not too empty… you actually need some content to make it efficient. If it’s looking a bit empty, just fill and cover a few large pitchers of water.
That’s all it takes. A checklist and a little extra time and you can keep it green while you play away!
Who doesn’t love a fabulous recipe?!?! This one isn’t even in jeopardy of getting rudely rejected by your family, because it’s not meant to please an appetite… it’s all about chemical-free cleaning.
I’ve shared recipes for a multi-purpose cleaner and a furniture polish so, now… how about when you need a little extra scrubbing action? Would you be surprised to learn that the main ingredient is amazing baking soda? Of course you aren’t… so let’s just get to the recipe:
- 2 cups baking soda
- ½ cup liquid castile soap
- 5-10 drops essential oil
- ¼ cup water
Just like with the other cleaners, the essential oil is… well… ESSENTIAL! My recommendations are always lemongrass or tea tree oil. Lemongrass is a natural anti-bacterial (yes, natural… not harsh like commercial anti-bacterials) and the tea tree oil has properties that are both anti-viral and anti-fungal.
DIRECTIONS? Well, those are easy. Just mix them all together and use it anywhere you’d use a soft scrub cleaner. Leftovers can be stored in a glass jar you’ve salvaged. (I’ve also heard that you can add a few tablespoons of vegetable glycerin to act as a preservative.)
As always, you have a new recipe to try for chemical-free cleaning but… you know what that means… yep, it’s time to clean! (BLEH!)