Thursday, September 2, 2010

10 tips for a cleaner, greener home

I am not sure that any of us like the idea of exposing ourselves and our families to chemicals, but it often seems that it can be difficult and expensive to live a greener life, especially when it comes to cleaning.

1) Stick to the basics for cleaning- lemon, vinegar, and baking soda can be used, either separately or together, to clean just about anything. I keep a spray bottle full of vinegar for cleaning in the kitchen, but I also have a bottle of diluted vinegar for other rooms of the house. Baking soda is a great "green" abrasive and lemon, not only helps clean and whiten, but it also helps the house smell nice.

2) Turn the water off- When using water to clean with, be sure to get a small bowl for rinsing your cloth and a spray bottle to re-wet your cloth or area you are cleaning. If you leave the water running, you are just wasting water and money.

3) Save the water you usually waste- I also put a small basin in the shower to catch the water that comes out of the shower head while I wait for it to heat up. I then use the water through the day for cleaning tasks and/or watering the yard, plants, and garden. Also, water that has been used to steam or boil veggies is often full of nutrients that plants like so rather than toss it down the drain, use it for your plants.

4) Get rid of paper- use old clothes as rags in place of paper towels, not only do you keep the clothes out of the landfill, but you also keep the paper towels out as well. If you do not like the idea of using clothes as rags, invest in microfiber cloths which work well for cleaning with just water. You can also replace paper napkins with cloth to further reduce the paper garbage.

5) Reduce what you bring into the house- the less you bring in, the less you have to throw out. This goes for everything, from product packaging to clothes and knick knacks. As for packaging, forgo the plastic bags in the produce department when possible and use reusable shopping bags to prevent all those extra bags from cluttering up your house.

6) Reuse what is brought in- if you have to bring it in the house, use as much as possible. Those mesh bags that onions and some fruits come in, make great scrubbers in the bathroom. Glass and plastic containers can be used to send home leftovers with dinner guests or even to send lunch in for work/school (plastic only for school). I also let my kids use cardboard boxes for coloring on before recycling.

7) Set up a recycling center- Make recycling as easy as possible by having a set place for all your recyclables to go. Depending on where you live and how you recycle, set up the appropriate number of boxes or containers and label them. Make it as easy as possible to recycle and your family is more likely to remember to do it.

8) Give it away- the less you have the less you have to clean. Go through the items in your house and purge those items that you do not use. Clean out the closets and dressers and get rid of the clothes that no longer fit. If possible, get rid of a dresser altogether by hanging all your clothes and using baskets on the closet shelf for those items you cannot hang. Be sure that anything you get rid of goes to good use though. Do not just throw it away. Donate them or post them for free on a site like Craigslist or through a Freecycle-type group.

9) Let the sun shine- the sun is a natural bleaching agent and a natural source of light. This is a 2-fold tip. First, hang whites out in the sun to naturally bleach them. Second, keep your windows clean to get the maximum amount of light in the house. Keep curtains open during the day and let the light in so that you can keep the electric lights off.

10) Compost- another 2 part tip in that composting helps reduce the amount of garbage you throw out and creates a great soil for the garden. You can put fruit and veggie peels and scraps, egg shells, yard waste, and shredded paper (a great way to get rid of those sensitive documents) into the compost pile and as it breaks down, it creates a rich soil. We purchased a compost bin from Home Depot, but there are tons of ways to make your own with directions online. Throughout the day, I collect the kitchen waste in a gallon jug that I cut the top off of. At the end of the day, or as it gets full, we run it out to the bin and dump it in.

Living green results in a simpler, healthier life. It is not one of those things that is easy to just suddenly do. I hope that these tips will help you begin to implement greener changes into your cleaning and help you feel better about living greener. Implement them 1-2 at a time as you and your family can tolerate. I promise you and will family will feel better about it all in the long run.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Mrs. Meyer’s blogging program, making me eligible to get a $30 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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