It's Easy Being GreenPosted: March 18, 2011 at 1:52 PM by Brian Beezley
Yesterday everyone was decked out in green for Saint Patrick’s day, but we don’t have to only be green one day a year. Many people are turning to ‘green’ solutions to help our environment.
It’s amazing to me how much waste can come from owning a home. In my house, if we kept all the cardboard and plastic that we go through in a year, we could probably fill up one of our bedrooms and all the chemicals we use for washing dishes, clothes and the floors would certainly fill up a small pool.
But what can we do about it?
Homeowners who want to do a bit for the environment are finding some new (and many old) ways to be a bit more ‘green:’
First and foremost, let’s remember the 3 ‘R’s of being good to our planet.
Reduce – Always a great thing, but I noticed that as I moved from a small apartment to a three-bedroom house and as my family moved from me to a good old-fashioned North American family of 3.14 persons I started needing more – not less. More food, more clothes, more stuff and in the end more waste. We try to do our part to Reduce and while I don’t yet get to buy my milk in a bag, we have been able to buy a bit less of everything. Every little bit counts, right?
Reuse – So my son refuses to wear his sister’s hand-me-downs, which is good because he doesn’t look good in pink, but we do take our clothes that are still in good shape and donate them to the Canadian Diabetes Association. Plus we always reuse our plastic grocery sacks when we’ve forgotten our canvas grocery bags (score one for Reducing and Reusing).
Recycling – I’m originally from Texas and when I left we were just starting to build up recycling programs in the community I lived in, and I hadn’t gotten 10 cents of a bottle since I was 8 years-old. Most Canadians do a fantastic job recycling, and while I might not be real pleased by paying the extra few bucks when I buy a case of pop, I certainly try to get every penny back by taking them to be recycled. The problem with recycling is plastic. Glass, metal and cardboard/paper seem to do great when it comes to recycling, but plastic can cause some serious problems because of all the different types of plastic or dyes that are used. While recycling plastic is always a better bet than tossing it into a landfill, in the end, reducing and reusing are much better ways to go.
What else can you do around the house? If you are already taking care of the three ‘R’s then how about using fewer harsh chemicals when cleaning or washing around the house? You might even save yourself a bit of money while you’re at it.
There are plenty of different brands of laundry soap to choose from, and while the amount of waste is being reduced because most brands are switching to stronger soaps in smaller bottles, even the small bottles aren’t going to biodegrade in a landfill and recycling, like I said before, can still be pretty hard on the environment. How about trying homemade soap instead?
Here are two recipes for homemade laundry soap:
Liquid Laundry soap:
1 quart Water (boiling)
2 cups Bar soap (grated)
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
-Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted.
-Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
-Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
-Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Stir the soap each time you use it.
Powdered Laundry Detergent:
12 cups Borax
8 cups Baking Soda
8 cups Washing Soda
8 cups Bar soap (grated)
-Mix all ingredients well and store in a sealed tub.
-Use 1/8 cup of powder per full load.
Your mileage may vary on these, but there are literally hundreds of resources for finding homemade detergent recipes, including the one where I found these.
Cleaning around the House:
When I was a broke college student, I tried to find ways to save money. My favourite find was vinegar. Vinegar is amazing around the house. It works as a degreaser and as a deodorizer. That last part might sound odd, considering how pungent vinegar is, but the smell will quickly dissipate leaving no odour.
Get an empty spray bottle from the store and fill it with one part Vinegar and one part water. I use it to clean my stove top and counters. It works great on floors. It’s also fantastic for cleaning your bathroom and will eat through hard water deposits. I run it through my coffee maker once in a while to make sure that it continues to work well. Be careful with tiled surfaces, however, as it can eat through your grout.
Toss half a cup of vinegar in your washing machine or your dishwasher to boost cleaning and help keep both free of hard water deposits.
Baking soda is a fantastic abrasive powder that can be used on any really tough problem areas. Scrub it with a warm wet cloth just like a commercial scouring powder to clean your toughest jobs. It also works great for deodorizing just about anything. You can always place a box in your refrigerator to absorb smells, but I like putting some in the bottom of my garbage can or a little sprinkled in your sneakers. For the cat owners out there, you can add it directly into your litter boxes.
For the really tough jobs or to polish silver, create a paste with 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. This makes a great pre-treater for your laundry as well.
This is probably my all-time favourite ‘around the house’ item. Olive oil was used in the middle ages for everything from cleaning and polishing wood, steal and leather to offerings to the gods in Greece and even in religious ceremonies.
Olive oil works as a great wood polisher. Pour some olive oil onto a cloth and rub the wood, working the oil into the pores of wooden knife handles or cutting boards to keep them from cracking or drying out. Add a little lemon juice (2 parts oil to 1 part juice) to use it as a floor or wood polish. Olive oil can also be used on leather to keep the leather supple and keep it from cracking. Use it to polish and treat steel to keep it shiny and rust-free.
A little added to your pets food will help prevent hairballs, keep their coats shiny and beautiful and cause less shedding.
Olive oil can also be used in your hair and skin. It works great to soften cuticles or to detangle your hair. It’s also a natural moisturizer and full of antioxidants. Use on dry skin or mix with an equal amount of melted natural beeswax to make lip balm. It can also be used instead of shaving cream or as an aftershave.
It also can be used to unstick zippers by rubbing the zipper with a Q-tip soaked in the oil or to keep hinges from sticking or squeaking.
Of course, you can use it for cooking as well, if you have any left over.
These are only a couple products and a couple uses. All of these can be used in many other uses around your home as well. They are all non-toxic and, with the exception of the olive oil, extremely cheap. Witch-hazel, lemon juice, oranges, toothpaste and canola oil all have great uses around the house that allows you to use a non-toxic, environmentally friendly solution.
What about the house itself? There are some fantastic ways that we can make our homes ‘green,’ and I’m not just talking about a coat of paint. Bamboo flooring is durable, looks fantastic and is a completely renewable resource. Hardwood trees can take 60 or more years to grow before being used, but bamboo can take as little as 60 days to grow and be used. There are many products using bamboo, besides flooring. Kitchen utensils, such as wooden spoons are fantastic and beautiful and even textiles, such as towels and clothing are now being made with bamboo.
Changing out your windows can keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Any time we can reduce energy costs, we help not only our pocketbooks, but our environment as well.
Finally, solar cells are cheaper than ever and can be used to either directly provide power to your home or give you a rebate from the power company. Not only are they better for the environment, but you may qualify for government subsidies when you install them.
Being green doesn’t mean that you’ll have products that don’t work as well or that you’ll spend more for them. Between new technology and old-time home remedies, being green can save you money and the planet at the same time.
Want more green products and uses for the ones in this post? The internet is a great way to find them.
Thinking about making your house green as well? Before you start spending money on any new renovations, talk to a REALTOR®. They can help make sure that your investment is the best investment you can make. Give us a call and we’ll be happy to meet with you for a no-obligation free consultation.