Well, you’ve made it through another winter — and this one certainly seemed longer than most! You’re seeing a little more sunshine, the trees are greener, the wildlife is emerging. Spring is well and truly in the air. To prepare for this fresh new season and the positivity it brings, you’re probably starting to think about taking care of your annual spring clean.
However, it’s becoming clearer that the methods and tools you used in the past to clean are not necessarily the most environmentally friendly. Indeed, even the small alterations you make can have a significant impact on climate change. Therefore, whether you’ve been making a green home commitment for years, or just starting to make changes, sustainable choices should be at the forefront of your mind.
That said, it’s not always easy to know what changes can make a positive difference. Let’s take a look at some of the key areas you should take into consideration.
Spring cleaning is often associated with being extra thorough, eliminating the dirt of the previous season. Indeed, particularly over the last year, we’ve become hyper-aware of maintaining not just cleanliness, but also a high standard of sanitation. As a result, it is not uncommon to use harsh chemicals. Yet these are also known to be harmful to the environment, causing additional toxic pollution to the water system and introducing fumes and emissions to the atmosphere.
It’s important to note that forgoing the use of abrasive chemicals doesn’t have to mean a reduced standard of sanitation in your home. There are manufacturers who are dedicated to product efficacy while maintaining eco-friendly procedures both in the chemical makeup and often in the packaging. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also started a program — Safer Choice — that helps consumers identify which companies and their cleaning products use ingredients that are safer for consumer and environmental health. When planning your spring cleaning, it can be wise to browse the list of certified products on the EPA website or look for the Safer Choice label affixed to items in the store.
That said, if you really want to maintain full control over what goes into your cleaning products, there’s little to stop you from making them yourself. Many natural ingredients can make for effective and environmentally considerate cleansers for various types of household surfaces. Both wood and tiles can be safely cleaned using mixtures of vinegar and water, and even silverware can be removed of tarnish using lemon juice, salt, and water. However, it’s important to research what elements are safe to mix together and how to effectively apply them — chemical reactions occur in natural products just as they do in store-bought cleansers.
Chemicals don’t present the only environmental risk when you’re performing your spring clean. There are sundry items — cloths, sponges, paper, brushes — that are made from various types of material. Part of your responsibility if you are committed to a green clean is to make certain that you are using items that can be disposed of without causing harm to the environment.
Be cognizant of any accouterments you use that are either made from plastics, such as brush or duster handles, or are packaged in them. These take longer to biodegrade and when disposed of in landfills can be hazardous to wildlife. Seek green alternatives when at the store, such as sponges and cleaning cloths that have been produced using more sustainable raw materials like bamboo, compostable cellulose, and cotton. While it’s still important to use these sparingly to reduce pressure on local landfills, they are more sustainable alternatives to traditional products.
Be wary of how you dispose of these items, too. When taking care of your bathrooms during a spring clean it can be tempting to flush items such as kitchen towels, cloths, even baby wipes down the toilet. However, this can produce clogs in your pipes as these items don’t tend to easily break down — often resulting in excessive usage of water to shift the blockage, and it introduces potentially harmful items into the water system. Alongside disposing of such items correctly, you should review how much toilet tissue you are using. While you can get products made from recyclable and biodegradable paper, manufacturing can still negatively impact the environment. As such, it can be wise to consider installing a bidet or bidet attachment in your home to reduce your paper consumption in the long term.
Being green while spring cleaning is about more than your choices of products throughout the process. It is also about remaining mindful of how your activities in themselves might cause harm to the planet, or put undue pressure on finite resources.
One of the most important actions here is being cognizant of your energy consumption. In order to take care of spring cleaning as quickly and easily as possible, you might be tempted to use a vacuum cleaner on all floors and to remove dust and cobwebs in the ceiling corners of rooms. You might even use a power washer on your driveways and external walls. While these can seem relatively minor, remember that multiple people all having similar ideas results in a cumulative unnecessary consumption of electricity. Use manual approaches where practical, and do your part to save energy.
If, like many people, your spring cleaning also includes sprucing up your yard, it’s also important to bear in mind that animals may have made your outdoor areas their homes. Hedges, bushes, and trees are all prime habitats for wildlife, particularly in the spring. Take a careful approach to any landscaping, and investigate your yard to ensure there are no nests or animals lingering in them before proceeding. It’s also important to remember that when you remove pollen-rich plants from your yard, this provides fewer food sources for the bees and other pollinators that are vital to the health of our ecosystem. Be mindful of what plants and flowers you get rid of, and do some research if you’re unsure.
Spring cleaning is part of welcoming in a fresh new year. However, with some focus on locating alternatives to chemicals, sourcing biodegradable cleaning materials, and being mindful of your activities you can ensure that your approach includes a commitment to green practices.