Green Cleaning

I wrote this a while back, but I believe it’s still relevant and since this is my first blog post, I thought I’d put it to use: “Do you remember when green was just a color? Or when the word ‘footprint’ evoked images of walking in the sand?  As we all know, those days are long gone. Now, the word footprint is more likely to have the word ‘carbon’ preceding it. The green revolution seems to have gained steam around the time that the phrase ‘global warming’ became a well-known expression, but it wasn’t long before we all discovered that making environmentally friendly choices didn’t just benefit our planet, but also had advantages for our own personal health and well-being, as well as our pocketbooks. That’s when most of us gradually began to turn some shade of green. It has been said that “green is the new black.” Evidently, there must be some truth to this statement, given the abundance of websites, blogs, books, and articles devoted to the topic. There are even many individuals making a name for themselves in this booming industry by becoming eco-experts and breaking down the seemingly endless, overwhelming information and serving it to us in smaller, more digestible servings. So, what does this new definition of ‘green’ mean anyway?  And how does one go about doing it? According to the Cambridge dictionary, the definition of ‘going green’ is “to do more to protect nature and the environment”. Actions as simple as recycling or buying an Energy Star qualified product are considered to be aspects of a green lifestyle. There are opportunities to make green, sustainable choices in every aspect of our lives. The list is really endless. Some of these areas include:

  •  Homebuilding and design, including the use of low VOC paint, CFL or LED light bulbs, antique or second-hand furnishings, and finishes created with sustainable or renewable resources, such as bamboo floors or recycled glass countertops.
  •  Eating and drinking, including buying organic, locally grown, seasonal, or whole foods, avoiding disposable products in the kitchen (resealable plastic bags and wrap, paper plates), composting kitchen waste, filtering your own water, rather than buying bottled water, and even growing your own organic in-ground or hydroponic garden.
  •  Energy conservation, including using renewable energy sources whenever possible, driving hybrid or fuel efficient vehicles, turning off lights, computers, and other home appliances when they’re not in use, using rechargeable batteries, and installing an electric water heater timer.
  •  Water conservation, including taking quick showers rather than baths, using low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, having your car cleaned at a car wash rather than doing it yourself, and planting drought tolerant landscaping.

Those are just a few of the countless areas of our lives where we can make greener choices. One of the easiest ways to go green is to change the way we clean our homes. It is not difficult to houseclean in a way that is better for the environment and the health of our families and pets. The assumption that cleaning green isn’t as sanitary or as thorough is completely false. In fact, that “fresh, clean” smell that we are accustomed to when using most cleaning products actually comes from the fumes from the volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are petrochemicals. Not only do these petrochemical components harm our bodies, but they can seriously harm the environment as well. They are flushed down our drains and eventually make their way into our water supply. Once there, they degrade slowly, build up, and create a toxic environment for aquatic life. The cheapest way to green clean is to assemble several common household products and create your own cleaning kit. The internet abounds with “recipes” for just about every type of cleaning need. Essentially, if you stock your cleaning kit with the following eight ingredients, you can clean just about anything. 1. White vinegar- An antifungal that also kills germs and bacteria. 2. Baking soda- Eliminates odors and works as a gentle scouring powder. 3. Borax- Removes dirt, is antifungal, and is a possible disinfectant. It can be found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores and hardware stores. 4. Hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration)- A nontoxic bleach and stain remover, as well as an antibacterial agent. 5. Lemon juice- A nontoxic bleach, grease cutter, and stain remover. 6. Liquid castile soap- An all-purpose cleaner, grease cutter, and disinfectant. (Castile means the soap is vegetable-based, not animal-fat-based.) It can be found at most drug stores and at health food stores. I have found Dr. Bronner’s brand in the soap and bodywash section of our local Walgreens. 7. Olive oil- A great furniture polish. Use the cheapest one you can find. 8. Essential oils- Some, such as lavender, geranium, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and tea tree oil, have antibacterial, antifungal, or insect-repelling properties. Most health-food stores and some drug stores now carry essential oils. In Brandon, you can find them at Chuck’s Natural Food Marketplace. You can also find all of these products online. One website that sells organic oils is MountainRoseHerbs.com. Unfortunately, space doesn’t permit me to elaborate on all of the recipes you can concoct to address your various cleaning needs. (For more information, please contact me or visit some of the websites listed below.) I will, however, provide a recipe for one good all-purpose cleaning spray that you can create using the products I mentioned. This spray is suitable for practically every surface, including ceramic tile, wood, granite, acrylic, appliances, walls, sinks, toilets, etc. It cuts grease, germs, and grime and smells wonderful too. You will need: 1 32 oz. plastic spray bottle 2 cups water ½ cup white vinegar 1 teaspoon pure castile soap ¾ cup hydrogen peroxide 20 drops of tea tree oil 20 drops of lavender or lemongrass oil Simply combine all of the ingredients in the spray bottle. For an added insect repellent property, you can add 10 drops of citronella essential oil. Currently, the market is exploding with cleaning products that claim to be green. In fact, this practice is so widespread that it has been dubbed “greenwashing.” If you want to be safe, be an informed consumer, read labels and ingredients carefully, and watch for potentially misleading claims. Some great websites that review or recommend products are GreenFeet.org, GreenPeople.org, Greenzer.com, and the blog GrowingAGreenFamily.com. Two trustworthy organizations that provide stringent market standards, evaluate, and certify products are EcoLogo and Green Seal. You can trust that any product that has these logos is a very earthy friendly choice. You can find more information about the organizations and products at EcoLogo.org and GreenSeal.org. Two well-known, easily accessible brand names that may not be certification worthy, but are certainly a big improvement, are Method and Seventh Generation. Certain harder-to-find brands of cleaning products that are usually highly recommended are: Bon Ami, Citrus Magic, Citra-Solv, Ecover, Green Scene, Mrs. Meyers, and Simple Green Naturals. Last, one easy change that I’d like to mention is using microfiber cloths for dusting and old rags for the majority of your cleaning. If you can’t cut out paper towels entirely, try to buy ones made of 100% recycled paper. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information about anything in this article. I would be happy to provide a listing of the sources used in writing this article, as well as additional information on cleaning recipes, websites, books, experts, blogs, organizations, or shops.

Jon Conroy is a resident of South Cove and, Jon owns Capstone Facility Services, LLC- a full service commercial cleaning company. Jon may be contacted at JonConroy@CapstoneFacilityServices.com or 813-385-3219.

Categories: Cleaning, Commercial, Green, Recycling, Repairs, Uncategorized

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