Whether you make these changes one at a time or commit to changing your whole routine over to healthier options all at once, here are a few easy swaps that will cut down the amount of toxins in your home; drastically reduce your household waste; save you money on your power bill and even prolong the life of your clothes, and kitchen and bathroom fixtures.
Not sure where to start? Here’s an easy answer: have you recently run out of something around the house? As an example, say you’ve run out of paper towels. Instead of grabbing a few rolls wrapped in plastic on your next grocery trip, think of an alternative. Surely you have some rags (if you don’t, perhaps you have some soft t-shirts that are donation-bound anyway and a couple could be cut into rags). Or, pick up some microfibre or cellulose cloths for maximum absorbency. Whatever it is you have run out of, or will run out of soon — start there!
Old Way: Run the dryer for every load of laundry, with a dryer sheet in each one
The traditional way to do the laundry is to put a load in the washing machine, then move that load to the dryer and repeat with another load — and don’t forget the dryer sheet!
An article on the site Groovy Green Living entitled “Here’s Why You Should Stop Using Dryer Sheets” had this to say about dryer sheets:
“The Environmental Working Group gave Bounce dryer sheets a “D”, which suggests a high concern and a likely hazard to health or the environment.
“Did you know that there’s no requirement in the United States for companies to disclose all ingredients in dryer sheets? One of the biggest loopholes is the use of “fragrance” which is generally a cocktail of hundreds of synthetic chemicals that legally don’t need to be disclosed and are protected as a company trade secret. Some of these hidden ingredients are known to trigger allergic reactions and other health issues.
“There could be other harmful chemicals hiding in our dryer sheets that can cause a wide array of health issues ranging from skin irritations to cancer. The toxic chemicals leave a residue on our clothing which gives them a prime opportunity to enter our body through our skin.
“A University of Washington study of top-selling laundry products, including dryer sheets, found the products emitted dozens of different chemicals. Each product tested gave off at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, but none of those chemicals was listed on the product labels.”
For Lori’s full write-up on the hazards of dryer sheets, visit: http://groovygreenliving.com/dryer-sheets/
New Way: Hang to dry, and when you do use the dryer, use dryer Balls
We can mix it up a bit by hanging some or all of the laundry to dry — whether that is on a line in the backyard or on folding racks wherever we have the space for them.
And when that’s not possible, turn to dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. Really, any object with some weight to it will effectively “beat” the static out of your clothes in the dryer — as long as there is more than one of those objects to bang up against one another. This could even be a pair of running shoes! There are plastic dryer balls on the market but they do eventually crack and then must go in the garbage — and they off-gas.
A better option? Wool dryer balls! They last indefinitely, are gentle on your clothes, can be made from local, ethically-sourced wool and really do work to keep your clothes static-free!
What you’ll save by making this switch: Your clothes will wear out more slowly if you hang them to dry; you’ll save on energy; and you can humidify your house without using any power or extra water. If you still use the dryer but ditch the dryer sheets, you’ll miss out on exposure to dozens of chemicals; save money over time, and throw less in the garbage.
Old Way: “Convenient” Single Use Products
Oh, what we have sacrificed in the name of convenience. So that we don’t have to wash dishes after a party; so we can throw away cleaning implements instead of laundering them; so that we have to take the time to rinse and reuse a mop head or cloth.
And paper towels! It’s easy to understand why we love paper towels so much: they are easy to access; super absorbent; feel “clean” because they don’t sit and breed bacteria; and are relatively inexpensive. The good news is that paper towels are compostable (as long as you aren’t using them to wipe up anything caustic). The bad news?
Well, the good folks at Durafresh Cloth shared this information on their website (it employs US stats, but the problems with paper towels are well illustrated here):
“More than 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the USA, amounting to 40 pounds – the equivalent of 80 rolls – per person, per year. (That’s one roll every four and a half days for every man, woman and child.)
“Producing all that paper consumes a lot of resources, including 110 million trees per year, and 130 billion gallons of water. Comparably huge amounts of energy are required to manufacture and deliver it from the factory to the store, causing plenty of carbon dioxide to be emitted into the atmosphere. After a single use, it all goes into the landfill – some 3,000 tons annually – where it generates methane as it decomposes. Like carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas that’s strongly implicated as a cause of climate change. The convenience of paper towels comes with a heavy price far above what you pay in the store.” (Full article: http://durafreshcloth.com/881-2/)
New Way: Microfibre or Cellulose Cloths
Sure, disposable is convenient, but once you’ve changed over to reusable, you realize there isn’t really much of a difference. Washing mop pads, rags and dishes doesn’t take that long; saves you money; and of course saves a ton of raw materials over time.
The great news is that you can get all the qualities that keep you coming back to paper towels in a more eco-friendly package — and save money while you’re at it!
Microfibre cloths are a good option and can save you from using cleaning products, but they also release their microfibres (which are plastic) into the water stream when you launder them. When appropriate, consider cellulose cloths.
Cellulose cloths are made from wood-based cellulose pulp, so they’re compostable just like paper towels. But their lifetime is much longer, because they are washable, meaning they can be reused many times before being composted. In fact, according to our friends at Skoy, one Skoy cloth equals the equivalent of about 15 rolls of paper towels in the average household!
We love cellulose cloths because they are super absorbent like a sponge but leave the surface dry, like paper towels. Reuse a few times, rinsing in between, and if you feel like it’s starting to feel “unclean,” chuck it in the laundry and grab a new one. Otherwise, switch them out daily.
What you’ll save by making this switch: If each cellulose cloth equals 15 rolls of paper towels, you do the math!
Old Way: Questionable chemicals for cutting through bathroom grime and kitchen grease; removing hard water stains; cleaning glass and scenting your laundry
Take a stroll down the cleaning aisle at the supermarket and you’ll find no shortage of strongly-scented promises. But what is lurking in those products? And do they even work? If you’re fed up with the smell of these cleaners and the fact that they don’t always work like they promise; and/or worried about what’s going into our waterways thanks to their use — don’t worry — there’s a better way!
New Way: Simple, natural ingredients for DIY cleaners; and refillable goods where needed
By stocking up on borax, baking soda, vinegar, castile soap and, if you’d like, a few soap-grade essential oils for scent, you can create natural alternatives to almost any cleaner on the market. And in most cases, they work far better than the ones you buy in the store!
Some examples: castile soap works amazingly well for cutting through stubborn grease; vinegar works just as well as chemical products on hard water stains without corroding metals; vinegar and newsprint make the best streak-free glass cleaner; and all it takes to cut through that bathtub ring is borax and water. There are so many great DIY cleaning recipes to be found online, and we are also happy to help you with ideas when you come into the store. Or, check out The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning.
For pre-made products like laundry detergent and dish soap, consider going refillable. Powdered laundry detergent has a bit of an environmental advantage over liquid (even concentrated) because there isn’t the added carbon footprint of shipping the water portion. But whether you go with liquid or powder, going bulk cuts out the packaging and might save you a bit of money, too, if you are buying the same brand or quality.
What you’ll save by making this switch: One of the best tertiary benefits of making this switch is that you don’t have to worry about children or pets in your home touching, licking or being harmed by the array of chemicals present in different cleaning products. Be sure to still store all your supplies safely — you don’t want a toddler drinking a bottle of soap-grade essential oil! — but the smells in the air and the residues left on surfaces won’t pose a threat to smaller bodies in your home.
Get a jump on greening your cleaning by grabbing our Home Green Home crowdfunding incentive by June 15. You'll get a 650g refill of Nellie's Laundry Soap; one cellulose cleaning cloth; a set of 3 Splat and Co. dryer balls; a medium Abeego beeswax wrap; three Mason jars in varying sizes; and $20 towards any refill (like baking soda, vinegar, castile soap, soap-grade essential oils or dish soap) here in the store. That's an $89 value for $75!