In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.
Q: I'm sick of being cooped up inside during this stretch of frigid weather. I'd like to encourage warmer weather's arrival by getting a jump start on my spring cleaning. Do you have any tips for greening my cleaning?
A: As always, we're glad you asked!
There are several approaches to household cleaning that will allow you to make your home sparkle while limiting your impact on the environment and saving some money.
• Take stock of your cleaning materials. Look at what you have on hand and what you use it for. This will help you find eco-friendly substitutes for any harsh chemicals you may have.
• Use up your current stock or, if you wish to discontinue use, dispose of them properly. It's important to pay careful attention to the labeling, as many household cleaners are considered hazardous wastes. If you have questions about disposal, visit recyclingworksma.com or call the RecyclingWorks hotline, 888-254-5525, for assistance.
If you've used up the cleaning products themselves, you can often recycle the bottles and cans they come in. Contact your local municipal recycling facility for guidance.
• Buy eco-friendly cleaning products as replacements. There are several manufacturers that make full lines of household cleaners without using toxic chemicals, and you can find them in most stores that sell cleaning products.
• If you'd like to save some money, pursue the DIY option. It is amazing how many cleaning solutions you can create at home using basic (and sometimes surprising) ingredients.
White vinegar is great for killing mold or odor-causing bacteria. Baking soda is also good for reducing odors. Both are inexpensive and, combined with some boiling water, they make a great solution to a clogged sink or bathtub drain.
One cup of vinegar and a gallon of warm water (applied sparingly, especially to wood floors) make a great bare floor cleaner. Throw in a few drops of an essential oil and your room will smell great after the vinegar smell dissipates.
Using two tablespoons of olive oil, ¼ cup distilled white vinegar, and ¼ tsp. lemon oil or lemon juice, you can make an all-natural wood polish.
Four tablespoons of lemon juice and a half-gallon of water make an effective (and fragrant!) glass cleaner.
• If clutter is your nemesis, try donation. Your local thrift and reuse stores, freecycle.org and Craigslist are options for getting things out of your house and into the hands of people who can use them. If you have building materials, consider donating these to EcoBuilding Bargains.
Best of luck with your not-quite-spring cleaning!