Have a clean, green spring



Now that spring is underway and the weather is warmer, thoughts turn to freshening up your surroundings. Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition, and can result in simplifying and organizing your home and/or office without impacting the environment by following some simple strategies.

“Spring cleaning is a great time to think about your environmental impact and strategies,” said Kendra Abkowitz of the Vanderbilt University Sustainability and Environmental Management Office. “Start a recycling program, switch to a greener cleaner or donate gently used items to a charitable organization.”

• Use old T-shirts, sheets and other clothing items as dusting and cleaning rags or sponges and cloth towels made of natural fibers instead of paper towels. You can even wash and reuse them several times. If you must use paper towels, try using those that are processed chlorine-free (PCF) and contain high levels of post-consumer recycled content. Check out the National Resources Defense Council’s Shoppers Guide to Home Tissue Products for more information on specific products meeting these criteria.

• Consider using less-toxic and more environmentally friendly cleaning products, such as those that have received Green Seal Certification and those available from Seventh Generation , Mrs. Meyer’s, Method or Clorox Green Works, many of which can be purchased at common retailers including Target, Walmart and Kroger.

You can even make your own cleaners using household items such as baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, and club soda. Visit Care2’s How to Make Your Own Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit for more information. In most cases, environmentally-friendly cleaners work just as well as their commercial counterparts.

• Reduce some of the clutter in your life through re-using and recycling. List usable items that you no longer want for sale in your local classifieds or on Craigslist. Or give away usable, unwanted items instead of disposing of them in landfills through FreeCycle or to charitable organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

To find recycling information about your community, visit Earth911.

Don’t forget to dispose of hazardous materials properly. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has information about hazardous waste disposal. http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/hhw.htm.

Other quick tips:

  • Go paperless and enroll in online banking and billing, subscribe to newsletters and magazines electronically, utilize e-books and print out fewer items. Visit SustainVU’s Paper Reduction Page for a more extensive list of ideas for reducing the amount of paper you generate and consume at home and in the office.
  • Only buy what you need, opt for items that are reusable rather than single-use or disposable, or consider renting or sharing infrequently used products, such as checking out books and other resources through libraries.
  • Naturally clean indoor air by obtaining houseplants, such as Boston ferns, English ivy, rubber plants and peace lilies, which help to clean the air.
  • Use natural alternative to mothballs by wrapping cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, or whole cloves in cheesecloth.