Not Your Mother’s Environmentalist New Tips on How to Clean "Green"

Health + Fitness

Debbie Levin, President, Environmental Media Association

By Debbie Levin

“Turn off the lights when you leave the room!”  That was my father and he had not a concern in the world for energy efficiency.  For him, it was all about saving on the electric bill.  So, when I was a kid, I was forever rolling my eyes and going back to turn off the switch. Habits stick. That’s what we give our children -- a comforting, familiar sense of the world. 

But the world changes and evolves.  We’re living in a time that is both an information rollercoaster and a throwback to our grandparents’ era. Outside of a small percentage of “nature lovers,” “hippies,” then “treehuggers,” the general population once assumed that the earth we live in would just be there…and would keep giving.  Disposables could be tossed in a landfill and tomatoes were plumped up with “super duper” chemical fertilizer to make them bigger and better. 

When my kids were growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I had no idea that the diapers I was pouring through were sitting “somewhere” -- FOREVER.  But now I know.  We know.  And I promise you that I don’t look or live like your old school vision of an environmentalist.  But I am.  And you can be too.

If taking the first step to adopting a “greener” lifestyle feels intimidating, you can start small. You quickly will discover that you’re not just helping conserve our natural resources, you’re also providing a healthier home environment for you and your family, creating new behaviors for your kids to pass on to their kids and saving money. Yes - it’s economically advantageous to be green!  The greatest thing about living “green,” “sustainable,” “conscious,” whatever you want to label it, is that you can start anytime you want.  And you can start easily.

Let’s begin with where you live.  Did you know that the average home contains over 60 products considered hazardous to human health?  (So that means pet health too!)  Typical cleaning products contain chemicals linked to health issues and have even been found in the bloodstreams of newborn babies.  But the truth is, none of your cleaning products have to be toxic to work. In fact, you can even make safe household cleaners from items commonly found in your home, including baking soda, white vinegar and lemon. This is a great way to jumpstart a greener lifestyle while saving money and really helping your family.

Here are a few of my favorite examples:

Baking Soda: Provides grit for scrubbing and reacts with water, vinegar or lemon by fizzing, which speeds up cleaning time.

Borax: Disinfects, bleaches and deodorizes; handy laundry mixture.

Distilled White Vinegar: Disinfects and breaks up dirt; choose white vinegar over apple cider or red vinegars as they may stain surfaces.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Disinfects and bleaches.

Lemons: Cut grease; bottled lemon juice also works well, although you might need to use a bit more to get the same results.

Olive Oil: Picks up dirt and polishes wood; cheaper grades work well.

Vegetable Based (liquid castile) Soap: Non-petroleum based soap should be handled with gloves due to caustic nature. Washing soda is usually found in the laundry aisle of grocery and drug stores.


All-Purpose Cleaner
1/2 cup borax
 and 1 gallon hot water
: Mix in pail (or use smaller amounts in a spray bottle: 1/8 cup borax to 1 quart of hot water) dissolving the borax completely; wipe clean with rag.

Toilet Bowl
Baking Soda
 and White Vinegar
: To clean and deodorize, sprinkle toilet bowl with baking soda, add white vinegar and scrub with a toilet brush.

Tub and Tile
1/2 lemon
 and Borax
: Dip the face of the lemon half in borax to create a hand-held scrubber for dirty areas. Rinse and dry the surface afterwards.

Marble: Mix one Tbsp castile soap with a quart of warm water, rinse well, dry with a warm cloth.
Other surfaces: Half a lemon and dip the face in baking soda to scrub off residues. Follow up by spraying with glass cleaner mix (below.)

1/4 cup vinegar or 1 Tbsp lemon juice
 and 2-plus cups water: Fill a clean spray bottle with water and either white vinegar or lemon juice; wipe with a rag or old newspaper.

Stovetop and Oven Grease Remover
1/2 tsp washing soda, 
1/4 tsp liquid soap and 
2 cups hot water
: Add washing soda and soap to hot water in spray bottle. Since washing soda is caustic, wear gloves.

I bet you have most of these ingredients in your home already!  Take on one project at a time, like these cleaning hints, and you’ll have a greener home, save money and be a fantastic role model for your family and friends.

You can discover more “greening tips” about everything from home decorating and recycling to food and birthday parties in our EMA Green Lifestyle Resource Guide. In my next piece, we’ll take a look at how to “green” one of our favorite activities – shopping.

Debbie Levin is president of the Environmental Media Association (EMA) and is regarded as a true thought-leader, merging environmental awareness with entertainment platforms and people. EMA works to garner attention for pressing environmental issues by leveraging the power and visibility of television/film and celebrities through various initiatives including greening productions and award shows, supporting organic gardens in public schools, and working with the corporate sector to promote and encourage sustainable lifestyle choices.

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  • WOW !!! This is great. I was standing here with a list of cleaning materials my wonderful cleaning lady had left for me to retrieve. Of course I had left it til the last minute and was about to run out late tonight so it will be here for her tomorrow morning. But alas you saved the day(or night)! You are right I have all these materials in my house !Thanks for the great tips and please "keep em coming"

    Posted by Leanne Meyers, 20 August 2009.