It’s Spring… and time to “green clean”!

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 windowslet 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 cleanerI 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 disposalmotor 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!

 

EVERYONE can “save green” while they “drive green”!

My dad is a fairly typical guy. And our conversations are fairly typical too … he loves to talk about the weather, complain about politics and, lately, gripe… (incessantly!)… about gas prices.

While he doesn’t “buy” all of my environmental beliefs and commitments, it gave me quite a bit of pleasure to let him know (following that on-going “gas price rant”) that I could provide him with some great tips to save green and BE green. (*insert “annoyed-Dad-grumble” here!*)

Here are the steps I shared with him.  Even for the biggest naysayer, there are little things we can all do to impact the environment less, AND save some cash on fuel. (Imagine, I got to tell my DAD how to drive, for a change!):

  1. Use the cruise – hitting that little button burns less fuel and can increase your mileage by 15%, simple as that.
  2. Maintain it – a well-maintained vehicle actually saves gas and creates less pollution because it runs more efficiently.
  3. Keep your tires properly inflated – this also affects fuel efficiency and emissions.
  4. Clean out your trunk – all that extra stuff you’re carting around in the back adds more weight and reduces your fuel efficiency.
  5. Avoid idling – did you know this consumes more fuel than when you’re actually driving, so don’t warm your car for 15 minutes and shut it off when you can.
  6. Skip drive-thrus – they’re also an “idle nightmare”, and (contrary to belief) restarting it does NOT use more gas.
  7. Keep your speed steady and stop flooring it – this is the reason cruise control is more efficient, and flooring it for just one second actually causes a burst of CO2 emissions equal to 30 minutes of normal driving.
  8. Stay the speed limit – for every 5 mph over 60 it’s like paying 20 cents more per gallon of gas because it burns faster (emissions!).
  9. Consider telecommuting for your job once a week – if it’s possible and you never asked your employer, consider it… they may say yes!  Other option, carpool with a local work pal.
  10. Park it – imagine that!  Use a little bit of foot power and walk, or get out your bike and pedal away! It’s free and there are absolutely zero emissions!

If you’re looking for a new car, the EPA offers a guide to the best car choices to meet your needs.

Now, I’m not suggesting you miff-off your dad and tell him how to drive, but he might just be impressed with your brilliance when you share some little tips to save some (green) gas money!

Are you putting lead on your luscious lips?

I am, without a doubt, a “Lipstick Girl”.  I loves me some lipstick! Truly. Ask me what one item I would want with me on a deserted island and my answer… lipstick!  (Yes, even before matches and a hatchet!)

I’ve always been this way, so when I heard the recent news about the lead content in some lipstick formulations, my ears certainly perked up.

It seems the Food and Drug Administration is reporting that some lipsticks have a high concentration of lead in them.  The culprits are all-over-the-board too.  It’s not just the cheap drugstore brands either.  Some of the expensive, department store brands are mighty guilty too.  But I did find it ironic that the cheapest brand, Wet & Wild, (that many of us remember being our brand-of-choice in those high school years – because it was affordable!) didn’t turn up a trace of lead.

Here is the complete list of 400 brands and their lead content.  (I’m thrilled that none of my choice brands and shades appeared on the list!) But, while the content in some of them may be low, if you find yours on the list, it might be time to rethink what you’re putting on those luscious lips!

Paint your Valentine’s Day red, pink and GREEN!

Ahh… the holiday of romance!

Valentine’s Day is the day to share your feelings and express your love to the special ones in your life, but if you want to share some love with the environment and add a little bit of “green” to the occasion too, consider these wisest of choices:

  • Cards – did you know that the purchase of Valentine’s Day cards ranks #2 just behind Christmas?!?  One BILLION cards per year, in fact!  So consider buying only cards printed on recycled paper or paper alternatives (hint: the backs of cards reveal their content).
  • Chocolates – always a favorite, make sure those you purchase are organic and fair-trade so you’re assured that there hasn’t been destruction and risky/unfair practices used in order to give your beloved a sweet treat.
  • Flowers – buy locally-grown flowers and those you know haven’t been doused with harsh pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to the environment and growers, or have been flown in from some other region of the globe. When the recipient takes a whiff, you want to be sure the scent is pure sweetness and it isn’t covered in chemicals and preservatives from its long, long trip to your florist.  Also consider live, locally-grown plants as another option.
  • Body products – pick products that are made with organic & natural ingredients and minerals (like Kiss My Face), instead of those containing harsh additives, colorings and chemicals.
  • Jewelry – forget the mass-produced jewelry found in commercial jewelry stores and instead opt for something that is locally-made or a choice that helps others through your purchase (see Hands Up Not Hand Outs to see exactly what I mean!)
  • Soy and beeswax candles – avoid pollutants and toxins expelled by many candle products and choose only soy or beeswax options.
  • Create something – no one ever said you needed to buy a thing to express your love, so make a card, write a poem, create something special and it will often mean more than anything you could buy, and you often need look no further than your own home!
  • Wine – choose organic and/or locally-produced wines.  They do exist, and all you need to do it ask!
  • Organic dinner – dine in and make a completely organic dinner.  When you select the ingredients, you know that there is only “goodness” contained in your meal.

Ahh, yes… Valentine’s Day. The holiday of love… just make sure your expression of “red-hot love” has a little bit of “green” intertwined too… what you do after that, well… you’re all on your own!

 

Palm oil in Girl Scout cookies???

I have been quite outspoken about my dislike for palm oil and the destruction that is created when land is cleared to make way for new plantations.  I also happen to have a Girl Scout in my house (my sweet daughter, of course!) so the controversy over palm oil being used in Girl Scout cookies was undoubtedly a BIG concern for me (especially when she came home with the order form and geared up to start selling!).

Thanks to two ambitious Girl Scouts from Michigan, Madison and Rhiannon, the 2012 menu of Girl Scout cookies will taste a whole lot sweeter AND eco-friendly!  Their petition and hard work brought about these changes (as seen in the Girl Scout USA statement I received below) and I think it’s AMAZING!

  • Our licensed bakers are members of the RSPO and exclusively source palm oil from members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization of growers, buyers, manufacturers, conservationists and interested parties who are striving to develop and follow best practices to ensure sustainability. In 2012, GSUSA also became a member of the RSPO.
  • Our licensed bakers will purchase GreenPalm certificates covering 100% of the palm oil used in Girl Scout cookies. Additionally, GSUSA will purchase GreenPalm certificates to support programmatic objectives. The certificates offer a premium price to palm oil producers who are operating within the guidelines for social, environmental and economic responsibility set by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil.
  • GSUSA and our licensed bakers will join other industry leaders in making a pledge to move to only segregated, certified sustainable palm oil sources.
  • GSUSA and our licensed bakers are committed to using as little palm oil as possible in Girl Scout cookies and have committed to continued research into viable alternatives.

So, if you have or will consider ordering and consuming some Girl Scout cookies this year, you can worry a little less about the guilt.  This year’s cookies are a whole lot greener than ever before and the next steps are definitely in the right direction.

…and, don’t you feel just a little bit inspired seeing the difference that two teens can make just by refusing to be silent about a wrong they want righted! Bravo girls!