Green Living

A Guide to Zero Waste Spring Cleaning

spring cleaning

It’s that time of year again. Time for spring cleaning! Time to declutter, organize, and sanitize our homes for the new year. Here are some spring cleaning tips that combine advice from the zero waste movement to help you reduce your carbon footprint while organize your home.

Don’t toss it, if you can recycle it

Do you really need 30 different t-shirts? I bet you don’t even wear half of them. Shrink your wardrobe to items you’ll actually wear. Plus, if you shrink your wardrobe down to only the bare necessities you’ll spend less time doing laundry! If you haven’t worn it in a year, donate it to charity or send it to a consignment store where you may be able to get some money for it. Many online stores, like ThredUp, sell your gently used items online. Items that aren’t accepted will be donated for textile recycling, instead of ending up in a landfill where they would contribute to our waste problem and greenhouse gas emissions. You can even recycle unusual items; like batteries, cork, paint, and old shoes.

If you can’t donate your old t-shirts or other cloth items, re-purpose them

For example, you can use those old t-shirts as reusable cleaning cloths or re-purpose them into reusable shopping bags.

Make your own cleaners

Many cleaners purchased at the store, are made using petroleum and rely on carbon-intensive shipping to transport them halfway around the world before they even make it to your home. All this adds up to thousands of pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Save money and time by making many cleaners at home with everyday, non-toxic kitchen items that are just as effective as the store bought alternatives. Here are some recipes to try at home:

  1. Natural drain cleaner
  2. All purpose cleaner
  3. Natural Refrigerator cleaner
  4. Chopping board cleaner
  5. Interior and exterior window cleaner

Don’t bring more clutter into the home

Before you make a purchase, ask yourself, “How can I dispose of this item when I’m done using it and is there a reusable alternative?”

Here are some other ways to lower your home’s waste and carbon footprint, by replacing everyday disposable items with reusable ones:

Replace paper towels with dish cloths

Bonus points if you create dish towels from those old shirts! Yes, you may have to wash them, but you’ll use less energy cleaning reusable dish towels then the energy used to cut down forests, turn those old trees into paper products, create the plastic packaging that usually surrounds those paper towels, and ship them around the world to the grocery store near you (where you probably drove your gas car to buy them).

Replace your dryer sheets with wool dryer balls

Dryer balls can be used for up to a year and can even lower the amount of time it takes to dry your clothes, saving you energy and money! Once the dryer balls have reached the end of their life, they can be composted.

Use glass containers, instead of aluminum foil or plastic wrap

From extraction, to production, to transportation aluminum has a huge environmental footprint. Yes, aluminum is the 3rd most abundant element on earth, but it takes a lot of energy to mine (yep, it’s mined just like coal) and it’s usually imported from other countries; increasing its carbon footprint.

Buy second hand

Remember those consignment stores we talked about above? Thrift stores and consignment stores are great places to find slightly used, and often new, clothes and household items. Not to mention, second hand clothes have a much smaller carbon footprint and purchasing items second hand can save you a lot of money. But first, make sure it’s something you really need. This will save you a lot of time and energy (physical and carbon-intensive energy from driving your unwanted clothes to the thrift store) next year when you’re cleaning out your closet for spring cleaning.

Finally, you can lower your carbon footprint by simply refusing the things you don’t need. Even if that item is recyclable, it still requires energy to recycle. Until all our nation’s energy comes from renewables, let’s think twice before accepting an unnecessary item that will just be sent to a fossil fuel powered recycling center after a single use (I’m looking at you plastic water bottles).

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