Sustainable Living: The Greener Clean - 27 East

Sustainable Living: The Greener Clean

Number of images 6 Photos
A shrunken sweater can be turned into the perfect winter mittens. With a little creativity, there are so many ways to repurpose old fabric instead of dumping it in a landfill. JENNY NOBLE

A shrunken sweater can be turned into the perfect winter mittens. With a little creativity, there are so many ways to repurpose old fabric instead of dumping it in a landfill. JENNY NOBLE

Now just about everything “e-waste” can be recycled at Staples, even used ball point pens, markers, and mechanical pens. Plus, they reward you with a $10 coupon to take your trash. JENNY NOBLE

Now just about everything “e-waste” can be recycled at Staples, even used ball point pens, markers, and mechanical pens. Plus, they reward you with a $10 coupon to take your trash. JENNY NOBLE

Rather than using chemical air fresheners, which ironically are bad for your health and for the planet, employ the ultimate natural air freshener. Local flowers like hyacinths, tulips and daffodils are in bloom now locally. JENNY NOBLE

Rather than using chemical air fresheners, which ironically are bad for your health and for the planet, employ the ultimate natural air freshener. Local flowers like hyacinths, tulips and daffodils are in bloom now locally. JENNY NOBLE

An all-purpose citrus scented cleaner is really easy to make. Combine vinegar, orange peels and a few drops of clove oil. I added thyme which has antibacterial qualities. Mix and match your favorite essential oil scents. JENNY NOBLE

An all-purpose citrus scented cleaner is really easy to make. Combine vinegar, orange peels and a few drops of clove oil. I added thyme which has antibacterial qualities. Mix and match your favorite essential oil scents. JENNY NOBLE

As the weather warms, skip the energy intensive dryer and let that spring wind air-dry your clothes. picking up the fresh, clean smell of springtime. It also prolongs the life of your clothes and saves money. JENNY NOBLE

As the weather warms, skip the energy intensive dryer and let that spring wind air-dry your clothes. picking up the fresh, clean smell of springtime. It also prolongs the life of your clothes and saves money. JENNY NOBLE

Keep plastic cleaning bottles out of the trash by refilling naturally scented cleaners at The Eastport General Store. They’re chemical free and come in a variety of scents — everything from rosemary and peppermint laundry detergent to bergamot and grapefruit dish soap. JENNY NOBLE

Keep plastic cleaning bottles out of the trash by refilling naturally scented cleaners at The Eastport General Store. They’re chemical free and come in a variety of scents — everything from rosemary and peppermint laundry detergent to bergamot and grapefruit dish soap. JENNY NOBLE

Autor

Sustainable Living

  • Publication: Arts & Living
  • Published on: Mar 27, 2024
  • Columnist: Jenny Noble

The first step to doing a sustainable spring clean, is to look in the mirror and say, “My name is (X) and I’m kind of a hoarder.” But no judgment. Compared to our ancestors, we’re all basically hoarders.

Twenty-three percent of adults in the United States pay late fees on bills because they lose them. (Harris Interactive). The average American spends 17 minutes per day looking for items they’ve lost or misplaced (thecleanchicks.com). Garages are so cluttered that 75 percent of American households can’t park even one car in their two-car garage (U.S. Department of Energy). And, to make matters worse, the single biggest growing sector of real estate in the United States is storage units, meaning we have more stuff than we can fit in our spacious 2,300-square-foot homes.

If your house is beginning to look like the yard sale that never was, it’s time to declutter.

Considering all the time, energy, water and fossil fuels that went into producing one’s Very Important Juenvrink, it’s obviously more environmental not to acquire it in the first place. But if you’ve got it and want to get rid of it, there are so many ways to do it sustainably. Instead of donating to the landfill, look at each item and think, “What could I use this for?” … “Who should I give it to?” … “Can I sell it?” Almost everything can be given a second life or a new home.

For clothing donations, The Retreat Boutique in Bridgehampton gives 100 percent of the earnings to survivors of domestic violence. Despite the swanky duds, they up-cycle as much as they can to avoid waste. If they can sew it, bleach it or clean it, they will.

A good online alternative is ThredUP. Like a consignment shop, you can use store credit from your sales to shop online or cash it in. Only send in clean clothes that are in good condition. Less than 50 percent of items received are accepted, so if it’s a little worn or dated, chances are it won’t sell online.

Remember to donate responsibly. One man’s junk is another man’s junk, so don’t “donate” your garbage. Most of our sartorial trash ends up being sent to countries in East Africa that can’t handle it, and don’t want it.

For furniture donations (and some clothing) ARF Thrift & Treasure Shop gives 100 percent of the profit to the Animal Rescue Fund. Big bonus: They’ll pick up. They take as much as they can if it’s in good shape, but no armoires or pull out sofas.

For recycling electronics, Staples takes all things “e-waste” and then some. Now they also take everything from rotary phones to all types of writing utensils. They even give you a $10 coupon for taking your trash. And unlike recycling that’s processed in a far-away land, their plants are all in the United States. GeekHampton also takes a wide range of electronic waste.

Donate books to Book Bay in Bridgehampton. They take most books as long as they’re not tattered, water damaged, or as one volunteer put it, “If you wouldn’t bring it to bed, don’t donate it.” All proceeds go to an impressive list of local charities.

Repurpose or repair what you can. Always ask yourself, “How can I fix this?” Sew on buttons, repair broken toys and get appliances fixed that still have more life in them. Tired-looking furniture can be stripped down and refinished.

Make a little money with your spring cleaning by hosting a yard sale. Memorial Day in the Hamptons is when yard sale-ing officially begins. Facebook Marketplace and Bonac Yard Sale are good alternatives for finding almost anything for your home in your neighborhood.

You didn’t hear it from me, but if you put a few nice items on the ledge of the Sag Harbor Recycling Center on a busy Saturday morning, they’ll usually find a home quickly.

For the extra-large items that nobody will take, call Junkluggers to do the heavy lifting. They donate, recycle or “rehouse” as much as they can. Donation receipt provided.

Recycling could more aptly be called, “Wish cycling,” because we wish that more than 9 percent of what we drop off was actually recycled, and we wish it wasn’t being dumped off of a barge in the middle of the ocean. The recycling center should be the destination of last resort.

Once you’ve purged the clutter, spring-cleaning itself can get a lot cleaner. From toxic chemicals in our cleaning products to single-use wipes, or the energy we consume powering up a vacuum cleaner, cleaning the house can be a dirty business. According to the Environmental Working Group, the toxic chemicals that many cleaners contain can cause everything from asthma and respiratory issues to birth defects and cancer.

How we clean our houses doesn’t have to dirty the planet or our health. Almost anything made synthetically can be made naturally at home.

“The three most basic ingredients you need to clean your house are vinegar, baking soda, and water,” says Lisa McCoy of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Start by investing in a few spray bottles or repurposing a used cleaning bottle. Combine ingredients like baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice, then add a natural essential oil scent for fragrance for an easy-to-make DIY cleaning spray.

Chemical fragrances can be the worst health hazard. The sweet smell of lavender scented air freshener is actually a toxic chemical. The fresh “clean” smell of lemon is made with limonene, a chemical compound that when inhaled can cause dizziness, tachycardia, bronchial irritation, unconsciousness and convulsions. Yikes.

Luckily for every chemical scented air freshener there’s a natural DIY alternative.

A few drops of your favorite essentials oil in an oil diffuser makes a natural deodorizer.

The easiest way to improve air quality in your home now that it’s warmer is to open the windows and doors to create a cross breeze. Fresh spring air helps us to breathe better, prevents respiratory issues and supports a healthy immune system.

When I worked as a maid one summer, my employer suggested using newspaper, and tap water in a repurposed Windex bottle, to clean mirrors and windows. I thought she was just being stingy, but it turned out to be an effective cleaner and I wasn’t breathing in chemical fumes.

As for cleaning equipment, save money and waste by repurposing items you probably already have lying around in your house. An old toothbrush can be used to clean corners. An old sock for dusting.

Instead of using paper towels, which can have bleach or harmful softening chemicals, cut up old T-shirts and turn them into cleaning rags. Research suggests 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels that are discarded every day.

For those of us too time starved for DIY, Provisions in Sag Harbor has a variety of eco-friendly cleaners. Along with the usual suspects: 7th Generation, Dr. Bronner’s and Mrs. Meyer’s, they carry a big variety of cleaning supplies that are natural, nontoxic and biodegradable. Even bleach. Even silver polish.

Almost all liquid cleaners can be made by dissolvable cleaning tablets that are less expensive than premixed cleaners and reduce plastic waste.

Laundry can be done a lot more environmentally. Start with laundry detergent that’s biodegradable and free of harsh chemicals. Laundry strips are better for your skin and save on plastic waste. Only wash a full load and at cold temperature. Cold water is also gentler on fabrics.

As the weather warms, skip the energy intensive dryer and let the fresh spring wind air-dry your clothes on a clothesline or drying rack outside. It also prolongs the life of your clothes, saves money and make them smell great.

If you have to use a dryer, substitute the chemical-laden, single-use dryer sheets for wool dryer balls that reduce drying time by 15 to 20 percent and keep your clothes soft. According to Real Simple magazine, one wool dryer ball lasts a 1,000 loads of laundry.

Rein in one of the largest energy hogs: the dishwasher. Only run your dishwasher when it’s full, with plastic-free dishwasher pods sold in cardboard boxes. Use the air-dry option to dry dishes or simply crack open the door when the wash cycle is finished, instead of using the energy intensive heat cycle.

The Fun Factor:

No spring clean should be attempted without a great playlist to help you get going.

Stock up on eco products before you start. It kills the mojo if five minutes into it, you suddenly realize you don’t have a sponge. Reward yourself for the big clean with my favorite air freshener — flowers (locally grown, of course).

Spring cleaning also has a psychological benefit. It’s the catharsis that improves mood, reduces stress, increases creativity and helps with focus. Or as the queen of clean Martha Stewart puts it, “A clean home just makes people happier.”

AutorMore Posts from Jenny Noble

The Beauty of Net Zero

“What is the use of a house if you don’t have a decent planet to ... 15 Feb 2024 by Jenny Noble

Solution Deniers

“I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. They kill the birds.” ... 11 Jan 2024 by Jenny Noble

Life On Earth: A Worthy Cause

This year, even Santa Claus has been feeling the effects of climate change. As Santa’s ... 28 Nov 2023 by Jenny Noble

Doggy Bag Redux

“Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.” ... 3 Nov 2023 by Staff Writer

For Sustainable Fish, Go Local

Once at a Chinese restaurant, I asked the waiter what the clear, rubbery substance was ... 5 Oct 2023 by Jenny Noble

Help the Planet. Shrink the Recycling.

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global ... 14 Jun 2023 by Jenny Noble

Sustainable Living: Is Your Dog an Environmentalist?

I am not a dog person. I am, however, a person with a dog. Or ... 10 May 2023 by Jenny Noble

Climate Change Solutions: The Big Five

“We’re walking when we should be sprinting” — Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairman Hoesung ... 12 Apr 2023 by Jenny Noble

Climate Change: The Optimist’s Reading List

“Knowledge Is Power” — Francis Bacon The John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor has a ... 9 Mar 2023 by Jenny Noble

Flying: Take a Greener Route

“The space between home and the rest of the world is the hole into which ... 8 Feb 2023 by Jenny Noble