Many conventional cleaning practices add to environmental damage by using energy, wasting resources, and polluting the Earth. Does this risk mean that it's better to skip the cleaning altogether? (Wouldn't that be a great excuse to do away with housework?) By recognizing the relationship between your cleaning practices and the environment, you can identify ways to "green" your housekeeping for a healthier planet and a healthier home.
Waking Up to a New Awareness
No doubt about it: What happens in Peoria affects Patagonia. And Paris. And Punxsutawney. The water wasted in Scranton hurts villages in the Sahara. The traffic congestion in Atlanta warms the ice caps in the Arctic. If only it were true that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But people there and throughout the world are waking up to the fact that their actions can affect the climate, damage the planet, and use up stuff you may really want to keep.
How you clean has an impact on the environment, too. Greening the way you mop your floors may seem like a drop in the bucket, but each small change accumulates into a larger stream. Maybe you can't save the Antarctic penguins this morning, but you can hold off running the dishwasher until you have a full load. Action by action, you can make positive changes.
Ramping Up to a Greener Clean
Your housekeeping practices intersect with big-picture ecological issues at many junctures. Look for these connections:
Plugging petroleum consumption: Plug in, turn on, flip the switch, and press the button. Your home's appliances, temperature control, operating systems, and even water delivery run on energy generated by fossil fuel. Petroleum is also a critical component of most plastic containers that hold everything from ketchup to tile cleaner.
Modifying your cleaning routine - decreasing the number of laundry loads, updating old, inefficient appliances, and even turning down the temperature on your water heater - can play a big role in reducing your household energy consumption.
Clearing the air: Not only do many home furnishings and materials include petroleum, some forms can cause harm to the environment and to anyone who lives in your home, contaminating water systems and emitting unhealthy chemicals. Blame it on paint, particleboard in cabinets, vinyl flooring, and carpeting and upholstery, but air quality in the typical American home can be worse than the outdoor air. Commercial household cleaning products are also culpable.
Blocking the drain on water: You thought oil was in short supply. Water is being depleted at an alarming rate, through drought, pollution, and commoditization by big business interests. Changing your cleaning habits helps reduce your contribution to water shortage: Using energy-efficient washing machines, taking shorter showers, and using your disposal less all help.
Taking out the trash: Landfills climb ever higher as the world population continues to consume. Cleaning practices can contribute to the problem. Choosing reusable dust cloths over paper towels or throwaways; being mindful of the packaging that accompanies new cleaning products; and even purchasing cleaning appliances designed to last help reduce your contribution to the waste stream.