Though household chores are rarely anyone’s favorite way to pass the time, they have to be done — whether we like it or not. What’s more, when you’re focused on being as eco-friendly as possible, cleaning and other chores take a little extra thought and planning. You can’t just go to town with a bottle of Clorox; you have to slow down and consider each step in the process.
Fortunately, there are a number of easy ways to tackle your household tasks in an environmentally conscious way. Consider the following for eco-friendly chores:
Green Cleaning Solutions
Americans are a clean bunch, and, as such, we flush a lot of cleaning solutions through our sewer systems. Most of the pollutants in these products are removed from the water by waste treatment facilities before being returned to our waterways. However, ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus are not. This can seriously affect the growth and diversity of plants, fish and other aquatic fauna.
In order to avoid water contamination, consider using DIY cleaning solutions. For instance, a fantastic surface cleaner can be made using one part vinegar and one part water. Vinegar is acidic enough to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and 90 percent of any mold spores, but safe enough to use in the home. You can even dress up the scent by adding rosemary, lavender or citrus rinds to your spray bottle. Recipes for more great DIY cleaning solutions can be found here.
Vacuuming is a pain (it’s my least favorite chore), but it helps cut down on allergens in the home and increases the lifespan of carpeting. However, it’s also an energy suck, so efficiency when vacuuming is key.
Start by using a carpet sweeper instead of your vacuum whenever possible. Manual carpet sweepers don’t use electricity, so they’re a fantastic energy-efficient option. Carpet sweepers are great for cleaning small messes, such as surface dirt, crumbs and pet hair from bare floors and low-pile carpeting. Unfortunately, carpet sweepers don’t work on high-pile carpeting and aren’t capable of sucking up dirt, dust, dander and other allergens that get trapped in carpet.
When you do vacuum, be sure to regularly empty the dust collector to ensure it’s running efficiently. If the dust collector is full, the vacuum has to work harder to pick up dirt, causing it to use more energy.
Speaking of energy, consider upgrading your vacuum to an energy-saving model. While you may be tempted to go with the model that boasts having the most power, remember that efficiency is better than pure strength. A more powerful motor requires more energy to run. To reduce the amount of allergens being thrown around while vacuuming, ensure you buy a model with a true HEPA filter. Finally, choose a durable model so you’re not spending money (and consuming more resources) every few years. Once you buy a new vacuum cleaner, be sure to donate or recycle your old model.
One of the easiest ways to green your chores is to make changes to your laundry routine.
Start by ensuring each load of laundry is a full one — this will help save water. Next, wash clothing in cold water to save energy. Not only is cold water energy-efficient, it also keeps stains from setting and prevents colors from bleeding.
Once your clothes are clean, skip the dryer entirely and line dry instead. Outside, you can use a clothesline or Breezecatcher to soak up the antimicrobial effects of the sun. Inside, you can use drying racks or retractable indoor clothes lines to hang and dry clothes. Just make sure your indoor environment is either cool and dry, or warm and dry. Otherwise, your clothing will take far longer to dry and might encourage mold growth. You can place drying racks over a heat source or use a low-wattage electric fan to speed the drying process.
If you do have to use your dryer, make sure you’re keeping it well maintained. Small cloth fibers can pass through the lint trap mesh and make it into the dryer hose. Thanks to the humid environment of the ducts, the lint builds into a pile. This restricts air flow, prevents clothing from drying, and forces the dryer to run longer. That’s why regularly cleaning the lint out of your dryer’s ductwork is so important. It not only improves energy efficiency, it also reduces the risk of fire.
Much like your vacuum cleaner, it’s worth looking into buying a high-efficiency washer and dryer. They save energy, water and money, and they’re gentler on your clothes (making them last longer).
Cleaning often involves decluttering, and all that stuff has to go somewhere. Fortunately, there are many charities that accept donations of household items, giving them to both people and animals in need. Here’s a list of the type of items you can donate, and where they’ll be most appreciated:
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore: New or gently used furniture, appliances and building materials
- Your local animal shelter or Pets of the Homeless: New or gently used toys, collars, leashes, bedding and new or opened pet food
- Homeless Shelters, Libraries, Books for Africa: Books
- Homeless Shelters, Women’s and Children’s Shelters, Children’s Homes, Second Chance Toys: Diapers, baby food, children’s clothing and gently used toys
- Local Refugee Programs, Homeless Shelters, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, GreenDrop: Clothing, household items, kitchenware, toys, small appliances, electronics and furniture
Though charities are always incredibly thankful to receive your used items, please comply with their guidelines for donation to make it as easy for them to accept your items as possible. Most of these charities either rely on volunteer labor to help sort through donations or have to pay employees to do the task.
Household chores are rarely fun, but if you put forth a little extra effort, you can make them far more eco-friendly than you may have imagined. And when you’re working toward saving the planet, any step you take is a step in the right direction.