• Leave a Green Footprint •
Make a difference by changing just one small aspect of your “environmental footprint” for the better.
Here are just a few suggestions to help you get started:
- Buy and use a simple faucet water filter. (Pur® is the brand I use.) In addition to providing great-tasting water (no plastic taste), this one item alone can prevent hundreds of plastic water bottles from clogging our landfills.
- Don’t just toss worn-out batteries into the trash where they could end up as hazardous waste in a landfill. Radio Shack® offers free recycling of any rechargeable Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Li-ion, or small sealed lead acid battery from cellular or cordless phones, laptop computers, camcorders, digital cameras, and cordless tools.
- Use only paper products containing some recycled content whenever possible.
• Cleaning Down Pillows at Home without Toxic Chemicals •
I’ve cleaned my own feather and down pillows as well as a 100% down sleeping bag using the following method:
First, wash the pillows (no more than two at a time) in the washing machine using cold or lukewarm water, gentle cycle, with a mild liquid cleaning soap (not detergent) such as Woolite® EXTRA Delicates Care. It's OK to substitute a "green" liquid laundry soap (not detergent), but the Woolite® works great. The idea is to avoid removing the natural oils from the down.
Fill the machine two-thirds full with water before adding the liquid soap, so that it's completely diluted, and then add the pillows. If the machine has an extra rinse cycle, select it. Then, to ensure that all soap residue is completely removed, run a second complete wash/rinse cycle with no soap. Spin dry. If the machine has a fast spin cycle, select it.
Set dryer to the lowest heat setting. Place two pillows in the dryer along with three brand new clean tennis balls. (The tennis balls will break up any clumps and fluff the down during drying.) Many supermarkets sell packs of 3-4 rubber dryer balls (in the laundry aisle) with little nubs all over them that serve the same purpose. Run the pillows in the dryer for as much time and as many drying cycles as necessary until bone dry, and the down and feathers have absolutely no detectable odor from dampness.
That's it . . . the pillows come out of the dryer so plump and fluffy that's it's a struggle to get them back into the pillow cases!
Although this method is non-toxic, it is not exactly energy-efficient due to increased use of water in the extra rinse cycles and gas/electricity in the extra dryer cycles. Still, it’s a much more appealing solution than sending pillows to the dry cleaner where toxic chemical residues could be left behind.
• Green Menu Item - Boiled Sponge •
Instead of tossing out your kitchen sponge at the first sign of a sour odor, just submerge it for a minimum of 12-15 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. This process sanitizes the sponge and kills 100% of the odor-causing bacteria. Using a pair of tongs, agitate and flip the sponge every few minutes to ensure that the hot water reaches all surfaces. Although it’s okay to put your sponge in the pot when the water is still cold, just be certain to bring the water to a full boil before starting your timer. When the time is up, your sponge will emerge completely odor-free and ready-to-go again. If necessary, use some Bon-Ami® powdered cleanser to remove any scum that accumulates on the inside of your pot.
(A Bucket Flush Beats a Straight Flush Every Time)
When cleaning your toilet bowl, it's best to remove as much water from the bowl as possible, so that liquid bowl cleaning products or powdered cleansers are not diluted or dispersed by the standing water in the bowl. You could use a small container to bail out the water, but here's an easier way:
Using a bucket , dump at least a gallon of water from the sink or tub into the toilet bowl. By not using the flush lever, no water flows into the bowl from the storage tank. This results in most of the water going down the drain with practically no water left at the bottom of the bowl.
Now, you have unrestricted access to the bowl interior and can scrub away to your heart's content!
Here we are in 2015, and the dilemma of how to answer the dreaded “Paper or Plastic?” question at the supermarket checkout still has not been resolved satisfactorily. Whole Foods, which in 2008 phased out the use of plastic grocery bags in all of its stores, believes that the correct answer is, “Paper”. [see #1 at end of tip for link to article]
Even so, Skaidra Smith-Heisters, of the Reason Foundation makes an intelligent argument against paper because of it’s increased weight and bulk, greater consumption of water during manufacture and of fuel during transport, and increased space taken up in landfills. [see #2 at end of tip for link to article] Please note that the Reason Foundation is a conservative think tank with libertarian leanings. As such, it opposes much pro-environmental legislation in favor of free-market solutions. Among its supporters are Steve Forbes, John Stossel, Milton Friedman, and Rush Limbaugh.
Regardless of who is “right”, we’re now faced with a new dilemma — what do we do with all of those paper grocery bags we’re bound to accumulate? Here are just a few suggestions:
Many grocery store chains will reduce the amount of your register receipt by 5 to 15 cents per grocery bag that you bring back to the store for re-use on your next shopping expedition.
Cut the bottom from the bag, slit it completely down the long side, open it up and lay flat on top of the table, plain side up. Great for absorbing greasy spills from take-out food containers.
Plant Potting Mat
Keeps potting soil off table or countertops when re-potting small plants. Just open and flatten as in the previous example. When finished, fold edges in to contain spilled soil and debris, then dispose. (Or better yet, dump dirt and re-use the bag(s) as a fire starter.)
Use in fireplace or wood-burning stove. First, remove the paper handles from the bag by gently pulling them in a downward direction. They should peel away easily. Roll the bag into a tube. Tightly twist the paper handles until they are more round than flat, then wrap around the paper tube and tie the ends to hold things together. Voila! You’ve created a paper fire starter log. (Interleave, then roll two or more bags together to make thicker logs.)
Opened flat, the inside plain surface makes a great drawing and/or painting canvas for children’s art projects. Can also be used as a covering to protect surfaces from damage by paints, markers, crayons, and clay media. Tape several bags together for larger work surface.
Child’s Play Mask
Turn bag inside-out, then cut semi-circles in narrower side panels starting at open end to allow bag to rest securely over shoulders. Once bag is positioned over child's shoulders, mark location of eyes and mouth. Remove bag, then cut holes for eyes and mouth. Decorate by drawing details or pasting cutout materials onto surface. Make hair from yarn or string. Be creative!
Food Storage “Bin”
Turn bag inside out, then roll top edges down to create a rustic container for storing potatoes, onions, or unshelled nuts. Can be decorated with paint, markers, crayons, or appliqued cut-paper shapes.
Proceed as in example above, but use as wastebasket for dry items and paper
Newspaper Storage / Recycling “Bin”
Turn bag inside out, decorate if desired. Folded newspapers fit perfectly
Cut and open flat, then use as plain brown wrapping paper to cover small parcels. Seal seams and ends with packing tape.
Leave an open bag (or two) on the floor for your cat to play “hide-and-seek”. Can provide anywhere from ten seconds to several hours of fun, depending upon the attention span of your cat! Remove the paper handles and tie ends to form one large or two small play-loops. (My cats enjoy these as much or more than most store-bought toys.)
Whether you re-use paper bags or not, at least recycle them. Want to avoid the issue altogether? Buy inexpensive re-usable tote bags (available at many of your favorite stores in a variety of colors and materials) and remember to bring them with you to the store. They’re of no use if you leave them at home in the closet or in the trunk of your car!
1. Article (January 23, 2008) on The New York Times website, by Andrew Martin, discusses decision by Whole Foods to eliminate plastic grocery bags: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/business/23bags.html
2. Commentary (April 17, 2008) on Reason Foundation website, by Skaidra Smith-Heisters, explores the Paper vs. Plastic debate: Paper Grocery Bags Require More Energy Than Plastic Bags - http://www.reason.org/commentaries/smithheisters_20080417.shtml
During an initial consultation, a potential client asked me, “How do I know if items stored with mothballs in sealed bags have aired out enough to be safely placed in drawers in my home?”
After gently advising her that mothballs are extremely toxic and that it’s preferable to use a non-toxic alternative such as cedar sachets or blocks, I then told her that it’s safe only if you can no longer smell the odor of mothballs when your nose is pressed to the surface of the object in question. Anytime you can smell an odor, it's an indication that molecules of the substance emitting the odor are present. The same holds true for food and beverages. If our bottled water or packaged food tastes like plastic, then we can assume that there are molecules of plastic present in the water or food.
Learn to be aware of these simple warning signs. Trust your nose and your tastebuds and pay heed to them.
• Coping With Separation Anxiety •
Although the round metal ring on your set of measuring spoons is perfect for keeping the spoons together when you’re working with them, it can be a nuisance when you want to separate the spoons to ensure a more thorough cleaning in your dishwasher.
Here’s a really simple way of separating the spoons to keep them from “nesting” in the dishwasher:
Place a dinner fork, handle down, in any section of your flatware basket. The fork has three spaces in between the four tines. Slide the flat handles of each of the three largest measuring spoons between the tines of the fork, allowing the “spoon” ends to rest closest to the tines. Let the fourth (and smallest) measuring spoon dangle loosely from the ring, as ballast. Voila! The spoons will now remain separated for the entire wash cycle.
• Cleaning Stainless Steel •
(It's Easy When You Know the Secret)
I briefly mentioned micro-fiber cleaning cloths in my tips for January -- here's how to use them for cleaning brushed stainless steel surfaces.
To remove water spots and drips, oily smudges, and greasy fingerprints, first wet a micro-fiber cloth with warm water and then wring it out until it's damp dry. (If it's still dripping, keep wringing until it begs for mercy!)
Fold the cloth over several times to form a thick pad. Before cleaning stainless steel, it's important to use your fingertips to check your cloth for any grit that could scratch. Wiping only in the direction of the brushed texture helps to minimize visible scratching, just in case you missed any grit on your cloth.
Next, apply a couple of light spritzes of your favorite non-toxic all-purpose spray cleaner to one side of the cloth (we use EnviroNaturals® Natural Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner), and then wipe the surface using moderate pressure.
Finally, flip the cloth over to a side containing no all-purpose cleaner and wipe the surface again to remove any remaining traces of cleaner. You'll notice a thin film of moisture that will completely evaporate within 5-10 seconds, leaving the surface incredibly clean and streak-free. If you have a lot of cleaning to do, just rinse your cloth under warm water to remove accumulated dirt and soil, wring it out thoroughly, then re-apply some all-purpose cleaner before continuing.
This technique also does a super job at removing finger marks and grime on walls and around doorknobs, light switches, and cabinet pulls.
• Go Ahead - Knock Yourself Out ! •
(The Toxic Underwear Incident)
One of our young male clients, desperate because he had no clean underwear for the next day, came up with what he thought was a brilliant solution. (Pun intended.) Why not kill two birds with one stone by washing his underwear in the kitchen sink with the still sudsy water leftover from that night's dinner dishes? Oblivious to any possible danger, he added some chlorine bleach to the mix, and was nearly asphyxiated by the resulting mini cloud of poisonous fumes! Fortunately, his girlfriend was in the next room and was able to physically help him get to a window and fresh air!
"So ... what on earth happened?!", you ask. Well, almost all brands of supermarket dishwashing liquids contain compounds of ammonia. If you read the fine print on their labels, you'll see warnings about not combining them with products containing chlorine. Our hero didn't realize it, but by mixing chlorine bleach with his dishwashing liquid containing ammonia, he caused a chemical reaction that released extremely toxic chloramine gas. This gas is so toxic that even small quantities can cause coughing and choking. Prolonged exposure to more concentrated amounts can result in severe lung damage. Young children and asthma sufferers are particularly vulnerable to chloramine fumes.
Incidents like the one experienced by our client are actually quite common and can happen to anyone. Most occur as the result of mixing a cleaning solution of household ammonia and bleach in the same bucket, using the faulty logic that, "If one cleans great, the two together should clean even better!" Always read product labels carefully to avoid the possibility of harmful chemical interactions.
Better still, by using natural, non-toxic, non-reactive products whenever possible, there's almost never a need to worry about the possibility of such incidents.
EnviroNaturals® Natural Citrus Hand Dishwashing Liquid, with the pleasant natural aroma of freshly-squeezed oranges and tangerines, is a safe, ammonia-free alternative to commercial dishwashing liquids. It creates super long-lasting suds that easily cut grease, oily films, and baked-on food residue from dishes, pots & pans, glassware, and utensils, yet it's kind to your skin. It's extremely concentrated, so use it sparingly - a little goes a long way! You may order EnviroNaturals® non-toxic cleaning products by sending Malcolm an email or by calling him at our toll-free number.
• Don't Kill the Good Germs! •
(Food for Thought for Parents)
Although many parents are obsessed with cleanliness and the eradication of germs in their children's environment, it's not necessary to clean using "killer" disinfectants -- their use only serves to create more resistant strains of bacteria. The mist from Lysol® spray disinfectant, when inhaled, has the same killing effect on beneficial bacterial flora on your mucous membranes and inside your lungs that it has on the pathogens on your toilet seat. Why use a horrendous product such as Lysol® spray, when you're sharing straws, glasses, and kisses anyway!
Although Green Clean must use a very powerful EPA-approved disinfectant when we clean medical clinics where HIV, TB, etc. may be present, we believe that's overkill within the home. Instead, Green Clean uses an all natural bathroom cleaning formula containing Australian tea tree oil, which is an extremely effective germicide/fungicide that is safe when used around children and pets.
• Stuff Malcolm Likes! •
||Miele® H.E.P.A. Vacuum Cleaners
||The BMW of vacuums. Beautifully designed, incredible suction power, and all tools are stowed onboard. Maneuvers easily, so you won't feel like you're dragging a Buick around behind you!
||Micro-fiber Cleaning Cloths
||The micro fibers "reach into" tiny surface nooks & crannies to effectively remove tough soil using just H2O. Very eco-friendly due to reduction/elimination of cleaning solutions.
||Distilled White Vinegar
||Great for cleaning glass when diluted with H2O. Good grease cutter. Completely non-toxic. You may not like the smell, though!
||Australian Tea Tree Oil
||A highly effective natural germicide and fungicide. One half dropper in a half bucket of cleaning solution safely disinfects without using extremely toxic liquid and spray disinfectants.
||Ecover® Natural Cream Scrub
||Great for cleaning kitchen sinks, basins, and stainless steel without petroleum-based ingredients. Will not scratch and leaves no toxic residue. Stainless steel glows like sterling silver!
||EnviroNaturals® Natural Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner
||A super cleaner and degreaser, it can be used in a spray bottle or bucket. Because it's pH neutral, it won't harm marble, limestone, aluminum, or similar materials.
||Micro-pore Sponge Cloths
||For general cleaning, use damp-dry, not wet, with a non-toxic all-purpose cleaner. Fine pores leave no droplets to streak and spot. Great time saver. Great for spills too!
||The ex-photographer in me just loves the way they look in a bowl or on a plate. They smell great and practically scream "fresh & clean".
||It's almost impossible to have too many lemons around!
||Simple Green® Spray Cleaner -- NOT!!
||Bet you can't cough just once! The only thing "green" is the color. Synthetic ingredients - not natural. Packaged as a spray, but contents of bottle should be diluted with 30 parts H2O for general cleaning. If used as is, that's 30x too much! Contains butyl cellosolve, toxic to kidneys and liver. High alkalinity can corrode aluminum items.
• Malcolm's Tile Cleaning Aversion Therapy •
(How to Avoid Cleaning Tiles in Your Bathroom)
Call me lazy, call me crazy, but I hate cleaning my own home just as much as the next person. And I especially hate cleaning the tiles in my tub and shower area. In fact, I hate cleaning and scrubbing tiles so much, that I haven't cleaned them for over a full year at this point. And no, they're not filthy and covered with mold, mildew, and soap scum. Here's my secret . . . sh-s-s-h-sh . . . don't tell anyone . . . you'll put us out of business!
Although it takes a bit of discipline, after each shower or bath, once I've dried myself off, I take my bath towel and do a quick wipe-down of all the tiles, plus the metal fixtures and drain area. It takes me less than two minutes, but it saves hours of work! It also prevents mold & mildew, because m&m need moisture to survive and grow.
For those of you who just can't get it together or just don't have the time to do the wipe-down — don't fret. Green Clean is standing by, ready to tackle those nasty tile cleaning chores for you!
• Green Clean Glass Cleaner •
Here's a simple formula for an effective glass cleaner that I used during the early days of Green Clean:
3 to 4 oz. distilled white vinegar
Gently mix all ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray on surface to be cleaned and wipe rapidly with clean terry rag, newspaper, or recycled paper towels until surface is completely dry. You'll end up with streakless, squeaky-clean glass!
1/4 tsp non-toxic dishwashing liquid (We like EnviroNaturals® Natural Citrus Dishwashing Liquid)
Add water to make 16 oz. total.