Ellen Sandbeck, author of “Green Barbarians,” believes that our hypersanitized, product-driven culture encourages wasteful habits, as well as exposes us to chemicals found in many cleaning supplies. She shows us how to green our cleaning with tips that are easy on our wallets, and at the same time, more gentle on our souls and the world.
Appetite for reduction
Sandbeck says the less you buy, the less that you’ll need to clean. Declutter by separating items into labeled bags like “Trash,” “Recycling” and “Donation.” “Think about what you actually like and what you actually use,” says Sandbeck. “Consider getting rid of anything that doesn’t fit in these categories.” Create more space in the kitchen (and be healthier) by using vinegar, baking soda and lemon instead of buying cleansers. In recent years, the health and environmental impacts of petroleum-based cleaning products has sparked much attention for their harmful ingredients. But “don’t put these products in the trash,” warns Sandbeck. “Dispose them at a hazardous waste facility, or give the products to someone who buys them.” Nonprofits like AllForHaiti.org accept powdered cleansers and clothes.
Reuse it; don’t lose it
Discover a multitude of uses for everyday items before throwing them away. Wipe down the coffee table or bathroom sink with an old cotton T-shirt instead of a paper towel. And since cotton is a natural fiber that biodegrades, “just compost it,” suggests Sandbeck. “Also those plastic mesh bags for oranges are great for scrubbing pots, pans, sinks and tubs, and they’re completely nonabrasive,” she adds. “When the netting gets too greasy or gooey to be easily cleaned, throw it away.” In addition, empty jam or pasta sauce jars are great for wet/dry food storage, limiting the need to buy extra containers.