Green Spring Cleaning

Be environmentally conscious and save money at the same time -- here's how.


Longer days. New flowers. Birds chirping. They could mean only one thing: Spring. And just as the animals begin cleaning out their dens after months of hibernation, we start our annual ritual of spring cleaning. During this time we can remember the environment and save money at the same time. Here are some tips that can help you and the environment, from Earth Share, a nonprofit organization that focuses on environmental education.

  • Planning on refinishing some furniture this spring? Use water- or vegetable-based paints, stains, and varnishes. Remember, don't wash paint thinners, household cleaners, oil or pesticides down the drain. Instead, use them up or give leftovers to friends or a charity. Also, you can call your local city hall to find out about the next hazard collection day.
  • Adding new color to your walls this spring? When painting, don't sand or burn off paint that may contain lead. Lead particles in the paint can cause lead poisoning. If your paint is peeling, use a wet sponge or mop to clean up the debris instead of sanding. Never vacuum the dust or chips from lead paint; it will only disperse more lead dust into the air.
  • Getting rid of the junk in your garage or attic? Hold a yard sale. Talk to your neighbors and organize a community yard sale. You can increase neighborhood relationships, earn some extra cash, and help the environment at the same time. If a yard sale seems like too much work, donate your giveaways to your local nonprofit thrift store.
  • Does your water bill seem high? Wasted water hurts the environment and your checkbook. Always fix leaky faucets in your house. A five-minute project can often save gallons of water. You can also place a large rock in a toilet tank to save water when flushing. Be sure to check hoses and sprinklers periodically and fix any leaks.

Americans spend millions of dollars a year on cleaning supplies. This spring, make your own cleaning agents with these recipes from EarthShare and EarthWays, two nonprofit environmental organizations. The recipes are friendly to the environment and to your bank account.

EarthShare

EarthWays

Countertops, cupboards and walls

Dip a cloth in warm water, add dish soap and baking soda, (the baking soda serves as a soft abrasive to remove tough spots and light scratches).

Air fresheners

Simmer a small amount of cinnamon, orange peel, and cloves on the stove to give off a pleasant fragrance in your home.

Glass cleaner

Mix 2 tablespoons of borax or washing soda with three cups of water for sparkling windows and mirrors.

Carpet freshener

Sprinkle dry cornstarch or baking soda on your carpet and vacuum.

Rug stains

Rub borax into dampened area, let dry, then vacuum or repeatedly blot stain with a mixture of vinegar and soapy water.

Mildew build-up

Make a paste of vinegar and salt and apply to built-up area.

Furniture polish

Combine 1/2 cup lemon juice to 1 cup vegetable oil, olive oil, or mayonnaise. Apply to rag.

Some more cleaning tips:
  • When you buy cleaning products, choose ones that are non-toxic, biodegradable, phosphate-free, and chlorine-free.
  • Use natural fiber sponges.
  • Reduce paper use. Use rags instead of paper towels and cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.

Lighting, heating, and cooling a home is costly -- to your pocketbook and the environment. By taking steps to save energy, you can help reduce pollution in your community and save money. Being earth-friendly is a win-win proposition.

Here are some energy-saving tips from Earth Share:

  • Insulate windows, doors, attics, and crawlspaces against draft. Earth Share says that if all windows in the United States were energy-efficient, we would save up to 2.5 percent of the total amount of energy we consume each year. If you're thinking of replacing a window, look into installing energy-efficient windows -- you'll save money in the long run.
  • When replacing appliances, check for an energy efficiency label. Many new appliances come with an Energy Efficiency Rating (EER). The higher the EER, the less it will cost you to operate the appliance.
  • Adjust air conditioning and heating thermostats to use less energy when you're not at home or sleeping. When you're at home during the summer, 78 degrees F is a comfortable, energy-efficient temperature. Keep your cooling system well maintained by a professional.
  • Wrap your water heater in an insulated jacket. You can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 4,000 pounds a year.
  • Turn off unneeded lights and appliances. Lighting accounts for 30 to 50 percent of a building's energy use, according to Earth Share. Simply by turning off unnecessary lights, you can reduce the amount of energy used for lighting by up to 45 percent.
  • Use cold water to wash clothes -- not hot water.
  • Install a whole-house ventilating system. This system can cool an entire house for about the same price as runing an air conditioner in one room.
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