Going Green in Spring!
By Jathynia Garcia
Its almost Spring, and most of us start thinking of all that accumulated clutter – like toys, shoes, knick knacks and other items. This is sometimes a challenge, but its a good time to start programming your Spring Cleaning for 2012.
So thanks to earth911.com, we have some simple, easy changes and ideas that you can incorporate in your home and even your business.
1- Declutter your life.
We mean get rid of all of that stuff that is everything you dont want or use on a regular basis. While spring clean may not be a new turn of phrase, the task is no doubt daunting. What do you toss? What should you donate? What can be reused? And, finally, what can you recycle?
Keep It: A good rule of thumb to remember is if you have used it in the past year, chances are youll use it again. Were always advocates for hanging on to the essentials, i.e. your flavorful wrought-iron skillet, the wicker basket in the corner thats great for storage or your fave book thats perfect on a rainy afternoon.
But while spring may mean a fresh start, it doesnt have to mean new stuff. If its not broken, why replace it?
Donate It: Taking an inventory of your belongings shows you that tastes change and upgrades happen. But we all have those what-was-I-thinking? items as well. Even though these things are disposable to you, they may have many useful miles left. Keep items out of overcrowded landfills by asking family and friends if they have use for any of your unwanted items. Or consider Goodwill or Faith Farm or another good organization for donations.
Recycle It: Commercial mail, old magazines, unread books all of these common clutter items can be recycled. Consider this: A family of four uses 1.25 tons of paper per year on average, and the U.S. EPA reports that recycling 1 ton of paper saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, as well as enough energy to power the average American home for six months.
Trash It: Landfills should be used for items that truly have no other useful purpose. Be cautious when disposing of hazardous materials, as inappropriate distribution can cause toxic components to leach into the soil and groundwater. But even if something isnt recyclable, chances are it may be reused in some creative capacity.
2. Spring clean the natural way.
Now that youve cleared the clutter and can actually see those countertops and hardwood floors, you still have to scrub off the grit and grime from the winter (ick!).
But harsh fumes from some traditional cleaners may do more harm than good: They can be responsible for around 10 percent of toxic exposures reported to poison control centers and are difficult to dispose of properly.
You can most likely find green or natural cleaning products at your grocery store. But you can save some money and make your own cleaning product from supplies you already have.
For spray cleaner: Combine and store in a spray bottle 2 cups water; 1/4 cup white vinegar; 1/4 tsp. tea tree oil; 1/4 tsp. lavender oil.
For deodorizing cleaning: Mix one part vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle to clean countertops, floors, stovetops and other appliances. Scrub dishes, surfaces and stains with a lemon that has been cut in half and sprinkled with baking soda on the flat side
Keep in mind that homemade cleaners may not completely eliminate all bacteria, such as the H1N1 virus. Be sure you read your products label and follow the instructions as directed.
3. Go for an energy upgrade.
For most of us, going off the grid may not be in the budget (unless you got a huge tax refund that is). But if youre looking for mucho savings on your electric bill, here are three super-easy changes you can make…
Install a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts your homes temp.
If the initial cost of a programmable thermostat (about $115) deters you, keep in mind that it can reduce your energy usage by more than 15 percent in the summer and up to 25 percent in the winter.
For those of you that need hard numbers, thats up to $250 in heating and cooling costs every year you use it and $2,500 over the course of 10 years.
Shade your windows.
It sounds simple enough, but when you consider the huge difference it makes, youll wonder why you still have naked windows. While the sunlight is refreshing in the summer, using light colored blinds and drapes which reflect light instead of absorbing it can save you up to $210 per year on heating and cooling costs.
4. Wash your dirty car.
While you may think youre doing your car (and your wallet) a favor by hand-washing it at home, its actually the opposite.
According to the International Car Wash Association, automatic car washes use less than half the water used when washing your car at home. The average home wash uses 80-140 gallons of water while the commercial average is 45 gallons.
Commercial car washes often reuse water and send the runoff to treatment centers instead of nearby lakes and streams. They also use high-pressure nozzles that require less water usage.
But if youre dead-set on washing your car at home with the kids, heres how to keep the impact at a minimum:
· Park on gravel or grass so soapy water soaks into the ground, becomes filtered and recharges groundwater.
· Avoid soaps with labels that say harmful, danger or poison.
· Turn off the hose when youre not using the water. During a 15-minute car wash, you could use 150 gallons of water if there isnt an automatic shut-off nozzle.
5. No more excuses, start your compost!
We promise its easier than you think. For households, composting is a way to recycle certain materials and kitchen scraps and turn them into a beneficial soil amendment for home gardens and reduce waste output.
In fact, the U.S. EPA estimates that each American throws away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily. The combination of this food waste, along with yard trimmings, makes up 24 percent of our nations municipal solid waste stream.
What can go into the compost: Food scraps, grass clippings, plant cuttings, dry leaves, hay and straw, simple paper products (newspaper, cardboard, etc.), crushed egg shells, coffee grounds, sawdust and wood clippings. (Whew! Thats a lot.)
In short, its a no-brainer that composting will drastically reduce your waste.
Besides the process itself, knowing what ingredients should go into a backyard composting operation is essential for a successful outcome.
6. Plant the garden youve always wanted.
Want the freshest, most affordable, organic vegetables possible with absolutely no food miles? Make like the Obamas and grow your own.
It may seem like a lot of work, but the outcome will yield more than just fresh produce. You can reduce environmental damaged caused by traditional farming methods using large tractors and toxic pesticides. Having a backyard garden also reduces fuel usage associated with transport.
But now well get to the best part: You can save up to $800 per year! The key to starting your own garden is picking the right spot, the best crops for your area and learning to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
And we didnt forget about you fellow urbanites. If your space is limited, consider jumping on the urban gardening bandwagon. Options include renting shared spaces, utilizing rooftop access and even growing items in your own kitchen.
7. Get your fitness on.
So, hows that New Years resolution going anyway? As the four-month mark draws near, many of us have admittedly slacked off on the fitness adventures we embarked upon in January. Throw some spice back into your routine and get healthy for the environments sake. Thats right, we said it.
Studies show that physically active individuals pay, on average, about $1,500 a year in medical costs less than the costs of those who dont exercise. Those prescriptions, medical exams and doctors visits all come with significant eco costs.
American hospitals generate approximately 6,600 tons of waste daily. As much as 85 percent of that is non-hazardous solid waste, such as paper, cardboard, food waste, metal, glass and plastics, according to Practice Green Health.
But instead of paying those hefty gym fees, find a jogging buddy, download yoga classes online or get out that bike again and commute to work.
8. Have a cookout.
Yep, were telling you to throw a party. Spring is all about getting outside and dusting off the grill and having a good ol fashioned cookout.
Before diving into this one, we want to point out that we are not trying to step on any grillmasters toes. The debate between charcoal and propane is a tough one: Which one produces more flavor? Which is cheaper, faster? And most importantly, which is more eco-friendly?
We consulted a recent study by Environment Impact Assessment Review to answer this one. Drum roll, please
According to the study, The overwhelming factors are that as a fuel, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is dramatically more efficient than charcoal in its production and considerably more efficient in cooking. The two grilling methods were defined by their overall footprint, with charcoal using 998 kg of CO2, almost three times more than propane, which weighed in at 349 kg.
ScienceDaily reports that as fuel, LPG is dramatically more efficient than charcoal in its production. When purchasing a propane tank, make sure there is a trade-in option. Most retailers will let you bring in an empty tank in exchange for a decent discount on your next tank.
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