Here are a 10 of the small (olive) green tips I live by. (NB: I hate the careworn word “tip” but there is no synonym!) No buying of greenwashed tomfoolery necessary.
1. If you must use plastic sponges, microwave them wet for 45 seconds once a week. Amazing how a thorough nuke-boil will extend their lives; even when falling apart, they’ll be falling apart fresh. For extra kill, throw them in cold water while still scalding. Sudden changes in temperature are the death of everything. As they disintegrate, downgrade them by cutting off one corner (for wiping counters), then two (for wiping floors or yucky spots.) You’ll forget the last time you bought sponges.
2. If you have a yard, rinse your vegetables outside over your plants instead of in the sink throughout the warm seasons. That’s a lot of water, and you’re even reusing pesticides!
3. Use paper towels more than once, especially if only used to dry clean hands. They dry easily in your pocket and no, they don’t bleed through my clothes (at least). Don’t forget them in your clothes and put them in the dryer though…dryer fires are not carbon neutral.
4. In the office, use hot water from the coffee machines and a sponge or hand-rubbing to clean your mug/glass whatever. Most dishes clean up great with 170 degree water. Detergents are principally surfactants, to float dirt off dishes; they don’t sterilize, unless they’re antibacterial. If you don’t use a mug/glass/water bottle when you go to the cooler or coffee station, why not? Even the designs printed on paper water cups are from the 70s or 80s…that says something.
5. Don’t use antibacterials like Triclosan. Everything persists in the environment, and an arms race with nature is longitudinally unwise. Besides, vinegar kills even antibiotic resistant bacteria.
6. So, you don’t like cleaning with white vinegar. Next time you juice a lemon, dice the peel, throw it in the vinegar and let sit for a few days, then bottle for cleaning. Besides making the vinegar less acrid, citrus peel contains d-limonene, the active ingredient in Citra-Solv and similar cleaners. D-limonene also kills bugs. Chop and throw in some other fragrant antibacterials from your yard, like rosemary.
7. Don’t leave your car idling more than 10 seconds, if you must drive at all. You foul the air and feed Big Oil, and for what? Hardly a day goes by I don’t see someone idling more than 10 seconds (usually the time it takes to walk by).
8. Clean your fruit with scalding water. This is especially easy if your workplace has a coffee machine: a quick dash of boiling water, a good rubdown, and a cold rinse to normalize temperature.
9. Someone on Seattle’s AM 1090 said she drank her coffee out of jars, and used her socks for cozies. I’ve done that, but only drink espresso or Turkish coffee (better fluid/stimulus ratio): orphaned socks around a Goya olive jar hold just the right amount of that black gold. Warning: takes some self-confidence.
10. Don’t throw your apple core, banana peel, orange rind etc. in the garbage if you’re in public. It’ll just go to a dump and get flattened under other waste, where the Great Disintegrators water and oxygen can’t get to it. Be a future primitive and throw it in the landscaping where it will compost. Oi!