Even taking small steps to be green comes with two big advantages. One is the advantage to human health, because we can reduce the toxins we’re exposed to; the other is to environmental health by limiting how we damage the earth.
But there’s even more: A greener lifestyle means conservation, and if you’re using less, you’re spending less. A lot of green initiatives can be money savers.
So if you’re about to start your annual spring-cleaning routine, try taking a fresh, eco-friendly approach. Here are top three ways to green your cleaning routine.
1. Be mindful when decluttering
When it’s time to let things go, fight the urge to simply toss things into the garbage. “The green approach is to not throw anything away that will end up in a landfill. Fortunately, there are lots of options for what you can do with items that have some life left in them.
- Have a garage or yard sale. Your trash could be someone else’s treasure. Not only can you get rid of stuff you don’t want or need, you can also make some cash. Just note that some areas have strict rules about lawn and garage sales so check before getting the till ready.
Expert tip: You could also try using websites like eBay, Craigslist or Kijiji to sell your stuff online.
- Donate to a cause. So many agencies do great work in your community. Support them by donating items they need, like clothing, furniture, appliances, or books.
- Give it away. Ask family, friends and neighbors if they need what you don’t. You can also put items in front of your house with a ‘please take’ sign. “Things can disappear quite quickly.
- Check with your area. For things that are broken or beyond repair, check for a local program before you throw it out. This is especially important for electronic waste (‘e-waste’) since many have toxic elements like heavy metals in them. These elements can leech from the landfill site into the ground water. Many counties have drop-off depots or may offer pick-up services for some of these items.
2. Clean green
For both big and small spring-cleaning jobs that require products and supplies:
- Think before you buy. Many store-bought cleaners contain toxic and potentially carcinogenic ingredients. Or, they may have harsh ingredients that can irritate your skin, eyes or respiratory system. If you must purchase cleaning solutions, go for products that are labeled green.
Expert tip: Rather than buying products that have been transported to your local store from far-away places, go even greener and purchase locally produced cleaners, usually made by local businesses.
- Make your own to save money and the environment. It’s easy to make your own cleaners from ingredients you can purchase at your local store. One part white vinegar to six parts water will do a good job of cleaning all types of things. Add a touch of lemon to make it smell nice. And you can use baking soda or borax to make a great abrasive cleaner.
- Minimize paper waste. Use old clothes, rags or reusable cloths rather than paper towels. Washing windows or items made of glass? Your morning newspaper will give them a streak-free shine — and can be recycled when you’re done.
3. Make minor repairs
With a few easy fixes, your home and garden can be primed for conservation.
- Reduce water waste. If the downspout from your eaves is directing water to flow into your county sewage system, consider buying an attachment that funnels the water to your garden. Rain barrels are another good way to collect water for gardening.
- Go native. If you have a lawn, you probably know that maintaining it can be quite a chore. But if you invest in native plants and shrubs, you’ll have an easier time and save time and money in the long run. Native plants are accustomed to your local climate and can better withstand what Mother Nature brings.
Expert tip: The latest trend in gardening is xeriscaping — gardening with little or no water. Do an online search for local information and resources.
- Keep your air conditioning system running right. Changing your system’s filters helps keep it efficient and helps with indoor air quality. But it may be time for a professional to check it over and make any repairs. Check your owner’s manual for more information.
- Reduce your need for air conditioning. What has made a big difference for my own family in Florida is the use of ceiling fans. They’re not very expensive and easy to install. Install blinds to block out the sun when it’s really hot and baring, and open doors and windows to create a cross-breeze in your home to help keep your home cool and your AC costs down.
Expert tip: It’s spring — get outside! Go for a walk. Ride your bike. Spend time in your backyard or front porch. You’ll meet neighbours and keep in tune with what’s going on around your community.
So what’s the running theme for going green this spring? Rather than follow your usual spring-cleaning routine, take the steps — even small ones — to do things greener. “Think about things with your grandmother’s mindset.