Easy Ways to Green Your Cleaning

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Earth Day is the perfect time to discuss green cleaning, the growing trend of using environmentally-friendly ingredients and/or packaging for your household cleaning.

Green cleaning

Why does green cleaning matter? Consider this:
• Some cleaning products contain ingredients that pose health hazards and/or harm to the environment.
• Cleaning products are frequently involved in home poisoning, many involving children under the age of five.
• According to the US EPA, levels of pollutants indoors can be two to more than 100 times higher than outdoors, and the number one culprit for indoor pollution is our use of cleaning products.

Contrary to popular belief, green cleaning doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming. Here are some quick and easy tips that you can start implementing today.

1. Look for products in containers that are:
• Minimally packaged
• Recyclable in your curbside or drop-off recycling program
• Recycled content, preferably post-consumer
• Large (a gallon instead of four quarts)
• Refillable
• Pump sprays (not aerosols)

2. Purchase products that you reuse instead of throwing away:
• Buy rags or cloths instead of paper towels and wipes.
• Use a mop, not one-use wet floor wipes
• Select a feather or static duster instead of disposable dusters
• Use a traditional toilet brush, not clean once and flush scrubbers

3. Look for eco-friendly ingredients like grain alcohol (instead of toxic butyl cellosolve), plant oils (rather than petroleum) and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus (not triclosan).

4. Avoid toxic ingredients such as nonylphenol ethoxylates, antibacterials, ammonia, butyl cellosolve, butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, monobutyl, chlorine bleach, d-limonene, diethanolamine and triethanolamine.

5. Be on the lookout for “greenwashing,” misleading claims regarding product eco-standards. There are no standards for words like nontoxic, eco-safe, environmentally friendly, natural and green. Read the labels and research products before purchasing them, and look for third-party certification. Also note that unless you compost them, biodegradable containers end up in the landfill, where very few things ever degrade.

6. Make your own cleaners with ingredients you already have in your cabinets. These cleaners are less expensive, safer and more environmentally friendly. One of the best sources I’ve found is Apartment Therapy’s 25 Green Cleaning Recipes for the Entire House.

Let me know what you think about green cleaning! Are you already using some of these tips around your home? If so, how do they work for you? If not, which one(s) are you willing to try? Do you have a tried and true recipe for green cleaning? Please share it!

“Going Green” is More Than a Slogan

By:  Elizabeth Webber Akre

I was in the 10th grade.  Yes, that would be approximately 1984.  I was giving an oral report in Mrs. Sutton’s science class about recycling.  I had done a lot of research.  I knew what I was talking about.  As I gave my report, I looked out over a sea of blank stares and open mouths.  No one knew what on Earth I was talking about.

Oh sure, we knew about taking your glass bottles back to the store so they could be reused. Remember the deposits you used to have to pay on them?  We were starting to hear about being able to recycle aluminum cans.  But at that time, the only place my sister and I could locate in Columbia to recycle was way over on Fontaine Road.  It was a pretty heavy-duty, industrial type recycling company, but they would take our measly trash bags of cans along with the truckloads of metals that were delivered there.  Curbside recycling wasn’t even a suggestion at this point.  And, the only thing I knew then about plastics was to avoid them. This was my closing line in my report to my dumbfounded classmates:  use cloth diapers so our grandchildren aren’t wading around in a sea of dirty Pampers that won’t break down.  Crickets and tumbleweeds.  But, I got an A.  Even being an amateur, thanks to my research, I did know what I was talking about.

Here we are almost 30 years later and thankfully, the concept of recycling and reusing is not only well-known, but has become main stream.  My kindergartener was chosen to make the announcement over the loudspeaker for the school’s “No Trash Lunch Week.”  The City of Columbia has added cardboard recycling to our curbside program.  Now, we need bigger bins.  Once upon a time, “plain paper” recycling was hard to come by; now even my church has a blue recycling bin in the vestibule for all the church bulletins after the service.

I want to share a website with you.  I discovered this site a year or so ago.  It’s called Recyclebank.  You earn points by watching (very short) videos about ways to recycle, reduce, reuse and generally “green up” your everyday world.  Just today, I learned that 90% of the imported cut flowers come from Latin America.  That means, rather than employing our own people to grow flowers and ferns in greenhouses, we are buying them from other countries who then have to load them up on planes and fly them around the world.  That’s just crazy.  I had no idea.  I also learned today that Dasani water bottles contain 30% plant-based material.  I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I think it’s cool.  As you learn these lessons, you accumulate points.  What’s that for, you ask?  You can then use them to get really good coupons (like $2 off Kashi!) or free offers, or make donations.  For instance, for 250 points, you can donate a tree through American Forests.  It’s a cool thing, indeed.  Click here to check it out.

Wasn’t it Kermit the Frog who sang “It isn’t easy being green?”  Well, it’s getting a lot easier these days, but we still have a long way to go.  Check out Recyclebank and see what you can do in your own home to help “Go Green.”