Thrifty Solutions for Greener Cleaning

 

Before having a baby, cleaning was easier than I ever realized.  I didn’t have to deal with the daily challenge of fingerprint smudges on windows or toys scattered across the carpet.  I don’t remember ever getting occasional dollops of mashed yams stuck to my socks when I traversed the kitchen floor.  Then again, life wasn’t nearly as interesting.

 

Nowadays, I spend much more time cleaning, but luckily I don’t spend much more money.  According to US Department of Labor Statistics, the average family shells out over $600 per year on household cleaning products.  Beyond the economic costs, many mainstream cleaners contain toxins that can harm the environment and negatively impact your family’s health. Our family spends less than fifty dollars a year by using our own cleaning solutions along with a few natural products.  It saves money, saves the planet, and keeps our house spick and span. 

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The Homemade Nursery: Eco-friendly Decorations for Baby’s Room

According to Denise and Alan Field’s Baby Bargains, the average American spends $1800 outfitting a nursery—that includes a crib, mattress, dresser, rocker, bedding, and décor.  I managed to spend just $245.  How did I do it?  Well, I did get a lot of stuff for free, thanks to the generosity of friends and family.  I also simply avoided buying all of the nursery “must-haves” on the market, such as a rocker.  My daughter’s room may not look like something you’d find in the pages of Architectural Digest, but it has a certain cozy appeal to it.

Homemade Nursery

Much of the eclectic charm comes from homemade creations.  My daughter received beautiful quilts and blankets from her grandmothers and great-grandmother.  They make great nursery decorations—I hung the quilt my cousin Lindsay made on the wall for all to admire.  My daughter will treasure all of these hand-sewn blankets as she grows up.  After all these years, I still have the baby blanket my grandma made for me when I was born.  Homemade items become keepsakes, making them greener than store-bought goods.
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Washable vs. Disposable—Environmental Debates to Ponder

Both Joy and I are committed to cloth diapering our offspring. First of all, we’re cheap, and our cloth diapers are much cheaper than standard disposables. We were also under the impression that cloth diapers were better for the environment than disposables. Well, we looked into it. It turns out that a major diaper study completed by the British Government in 2005 determined that the environmental impact of both diaper systems is more or less equal. How could this be? In a nutshell, disposable diapers harm the planet during their production and disposal while cloth diapers take a toll on the environment by sapping up water and energy.
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A Green Resolution: Switching to Eco-friendly Toilet Paper

This year, I solemnly resolve to switch from planet-killing conventional toilet paper to eco-friendly recycled toilet paper.  Most of my green practices end up saving me money: buying secondhand, eating lower on the food chain, and conserving electricity.  However, every once in a while my frugality and eco-consciousness conflict.  I just couldn’t fathom spending extra money on something like toilet paper. 

I already avoided buying almost all other paper products, so I figured I was doing enough.  I had this nagging feeling, though, that my T.P. preferences needed to change.  But why?  Would buying recycled toilet paper make much of a difference?  I learned that we wipe out virgin forests by supporting conventional brands.  Read more about it here.
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Baby Rules I Violate in order to Save the Planet

There are some mothers who are up-to-date on all the latest recommendations in pregnancy and child development. These women avoid caffeine and soft cheeses during pregnancy and compliment their child in five different languages when he reaches a new milestone (five months ahead of his peers, no doubt). On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find the parents who, through lack of education and resources, remain ignorant of all the expert opinions in child-minding.

And then there are the parents like me. Parents who know all about the baby rules and regulations touted by medical and safety authorities and blatantly disregard them! Why do I do it? I guess I’m just a renegade, a rebel, a rule-breaker in general. Or . . . maybe I am just lazy. Or . . . I am doing it to save the world! Here are just some of the rules I break out of eco-consciousness:
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Greener Gifts

 

Ever since I was brainwashed by Woodsy Owl and the “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” campaign of the ‘70s, I’ve always been a bit of an environmentalist.  Most of the time my green values have dovetailed rather nicely with my tightwad spirit. But for some reason gift shopping has remained beyond my environmental considerations.

 

Although I get a weird adrenaline rush mining for thrift store treasures, we don’t always have the time to shop secondhand. Plus, I sometimes worry that the gift recipient won’t share my zeal for used goods. In the past, I’ve waited for sales, bought off-season, and just generally bided my time until the right deal came up.

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The Gift Wrap that Keeps on Wrapping

What would Christmas morning be without festive wrapping paper and fancy bows? (“It’s about peace and love and the birth of our Savior!” you answer.) Okay, but stick with me here. I’m talking about every kid’s much-awaited vision of Christmas morning. Will my daughter grow up deprived if I deny her the tearing-up-the-gift-wrap experience that is every American child’s birthright? Oh, she’ll have Christmas gifts aplenty—but this year, I’ve devised some eco-friendly alternatives to disposable gift wrap. If I start this practice before she’s speaking in full sentences, it should be easy, and she’ll never know what she’s missing.
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