Friendships are defined not by what you buy for the other person, but by how you act towards them. Therefore, it stands to reason that being environmentally friendly has more to do with our attitudes and habits of environmental stewardship than it has to do with the Seventh Generation or Method products we choose to purchase. Here are 10 simple green cleaning habits that have made a difference in my home life:
Shoes Off – Take your shoes off at the door. Your shoes track in dust, dirt, puddle drops and a host of potential carpet stains. If you and your family get in the habit of taking your shoes off at the door, you will reduce the amount of dirtiness that you track into the house, so you will need to clean your floors less often. In our apartment, we don’t ask our guests to remove their shoes, but we have a basket of fuzzy socks and slippers at the front door, and most guests slip into something more comfortable without even asking.
Use a Broom – Looking for the cheapest way to pick that dust and dirt off the floor? Sell that Swiffer at the next garage sale, and stick to your handy broom, the original picker-upper. A dust pan has one-time packaging (if any) and creates no ongoing trash or bills. Those convenient one-time-use Swiffer cloths can’t claim the same.
Get Essential – Freshen the air each time you go to the bathroom, with this handy trick. When you get out a new roll of toilet paper, place a few drops of your favorite essential oil in the cardboard tube of the toilet paper. This will release the scent of the oil each time the paper is used. You can purchase essential oils online and from many grocery stores or specialty markets. We purchase our oils from blossomfarm.com. *
Hang it Out to Dry – Overusing your dryer can be one of the biggest culprits of a high energy bill. Get into the habit of using a clothes drying rack, and in the summer consider hanging all your clean clothes and towels outside to dry. Here is one of my favorite how-tos from Instructables.com on how to streamline your line-drying experience.
Re-use Bath Towels – Let your bath towels dry between showers and use them several times, instead of washing them after each use. You’re clean when you get out of the shower, so your towels never get all that dirty; they just need a chance to dry. If you have limited towel rods, install hooks on the back of your bathroom door.
Use Cloth Napkins – Not only to cloth napkins last longer than paper ones, they look and feel much nicer. When dinner guests come over for the first time, I sometimes catch them picking up their napkin with a smile that says, “Wow! I thought only fancy people used these.” Not so, my friend! Cloth napkins are cheap and easy to find, and there are all kinds of styles available to suit any table arrangement. We freshen the napkins when guests are over, but when it’s just the two of us, we re-use the same napkins for several days, something I would never do with paper napkins. Mr. Wetzel and I prefer color plaids that we picked up from World Market, but I have also found many great options on Etsy. Shop around and see what you can find.
Rags Are Riches – Do you have old T-shirts and socks? Do you wonder what you’ll do with those tattered sheets and towels? Turn them into rags, and leave your paper towels in the dust. I find that cloth absorbs spills better than paper, anyways; and not only does this give you a use for otherwise useless items, you’ll save a bountiful bundle on cleaning supplies.
Scrape Those Plates – Most of the water and energy I have wasted on dish cleaning happens when food has been allowed to crust on the plate or bowl in question. After dinner, if you don’t have time to run the dishwasher or fill a sink with suds, at least scrape the plates into the trash and wipe the food off your pots and pans. This will save you a lot of elbow grease in the long run. In the event that you forget, soak that crummy dish instead of throwing your shoulder out trying to get it spotless.
Grocery Trash Bags – We all have the best of intentions when it comes to remembering our reusable grocery bags, and we all fall short. Save your paper or plastic bags, and use them at home as trash bags in the bathrooms and bedrooms. We stock our recycling in a paper bag under the sink, and we use the largest plastic bags for dumping the kitty litter.
Reuse Ziploc Bags – Buy a sharpie. Keep it in the kitchen. When you pull out a ziploc bag or other storage bag, write “Cheese” or “Muffins” or whatever you are using it for on the bag. When you’re done, run some soapy water through it and rinse it, then keep the old bags in a drawer. Next time you need a bag, reuse the old ones first. There’s no need to toss most of these handy containers.
What green cleaning habits do you have to share?
* I found this tip in The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier. Here is a link to Karyn’s blog.