Spring Cleaning is a Green Thing to Do

Spring cleaning is a green thing to do. A thorough house cleaning and eliminating unnecessary stuff contribute to a healthy living environment.

In our household, it doesn’t necessarily take place annually or in the spring. That doesn’t mean we don’t clean, we do, but not always in the traditional spring cleaning sense. My announcement “I’m starting spring cleaning,” is often met with fear and dismay by my family. Will they be asked to do more chores or to give away a cherished computer game or tool that hasn’t been used in 3 years?

The Process

Review and Negotiation

Last year, I started spring cleaning in July. My oldest son was moving, my youngest was going away to college, and two of my dear friends from out of state were visiting in the fall. My sons were uninterested in going through their stuff but they did. I knew my friends wouldn’t care if I cleaned house or not, but I didn’t think they would object to a clean house either. My spouse bore the brunt of it and was constantly being asked if we really needed that serving bowl or 5 shovels.

The kitchen seems to be the room with the most stuff, so that is where I started. Eventually, I ended in the garage. I would open a drawer or cupboard, take everything out, clean it, and then evaluate the items to see if there was anything we didn’t need. I would consult the appropriate family member(s) as to whether it was needed or not, always being careful to say they could keep whatever they wanted. But then I would ask if they/we really really needed it. If it was released I would put it in a pile in the kitchen.


The pile started getting big so we needed to start making decisions about what to do with specific items.

  • Trash: Broken, worn out, un-repairable, un-recyclable, or items that it seemed unlikely anyone would want or use went in the trash. If they were toxic (paint) or electronic waste (ancient computer monitor) we set them aside.
  • Recycle Bin: Broken, worn out, un-repairable but recyclable items went in the recycle bin.
  • Donation: unwanted and unneeded items in gently used good condition were sorted for donation. Minor repairs were made, like sewing a missing button on a pair of shorts that had been outgrown.

Donation BoxThe donation items were packed up in various boxes and I made a list for tax return purposes (I’m not opposed to a deduction). I searched on the Internet and found an organization that accepted the wide variety of items we had amassed including Christmas decorations (I found that to be rare in our area).

We had so many boxes we had to rent a trailer to transport our donations to the collection center. They seemed happy to see us and accepted everything except…an older model TV in perfect working condition. They said too many people tried to slough off broken TV’s on them so they had stopped taking them. Luckily we found our farmer’s market offered a monthly electronic recycle program (unfortunately we haven’t gotten around to taking our TV to it yet).

The Aftermath

The whole process took several months. At the end, our house had been cleaned top to bottom, and we had relieved ourselves of a lot of unnecessary items some of which hopefully found happy homes with people who did need/want them.

This process started me thinking more about stuff and one thing led to the next…but that is another story.

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Laundry — Laziness is Good

Laundry is one of those tasks that must be done, but does it really need to be done every week or is that just a habit? Doing laundry uses resources and generates waste. Perhaps this is a good time to re-evaluate our personal laundry habits. Are there things we can do/not do to reduce the environmental impact of enjoying clean clothes?

Pile of LaundryWhen I was a kid we did multiple loads of laundry every week for our 5-person family. Although we had a dryer, some items like sheets and towels were hung outside on a clothes line using old-fashioned devices called clothes pins. As an adult, I carried the weekly laundry habit forward with my own family. It was not until my kids were adults themselves that I thought about my weekly laundry habit.

It did not come as a huge surprise to learn that my kids did not do laundry every week while away at college and indeed sometimes waited until there really weren’t any clean clothes left. When asked why they didn’t do their laundry every week, the response was generally something like, “I’ve got better things to do or I’m lazy.” One day it struck me that they actually had the right idea and maybe laundry laziness was a good thing.

Laundry Resource Use

Resources including water, petroleum, raw and recycled materials are consumed throughout the laundry life cycle during manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal. This includes:

  • Manufacturing washers and dryers, transporting them to the store and then one’s home or a Laundromat.
  • Making laundry detergents and additives (including their plastic and cardboard containers), transportation to and from the store.
  • Water, electricity, and natural gas for washing and drying.
  • Treating waste water to remove laundry chemicals.
  • Recycling plastic and cardboard containers, washers and dryers, or transporting to a landfill.

Laundry Habits – Think About It

  • Does laundry need to be done every week? There is no law that I am aware of.
  • Does laundry equipment convenience play a factor? Do people with a washer and dryer in their house or apartment do laundry more often than people who go to a Laundromat?
  • Is it better to stick with older and possibly less efficient equipment or purchase a high-efficiency washer and dryer? What happens to your old washer and dryer after the delivery guys take it away?
  • How about forgoing equipment like a dryer? Does anyone still use a clothes line? (If you do, give yourself extra points for using renewable energy.)
  • Is sorting into white, light, dark, delicates, etc. necessary? Are today’s fabrics more color-fast? When was the last time you washed a red t-shirt and white socks and ended up with pink socks?
  • How about doing full loads? Do you do a small load of socks and underwear or wait until you have a full load?
  • Are all the products people use to keep clothes blindingly white, smelling like lavender, or snuggly soft actually necessary?
  • Liquid or powder? Concentrated or not? (Weight plays a big factor in transportation resource use.)
  • Green cleaning products or not?
  • Hot or cold water (heating water takes extra energy)?

Laundry is often a task we learn at a young age and we carry those habits through to adulthood. In recent years, there have been a lot of advancements in equipment to reduce energy and water use. A wide variety of products are available that are more efficient, greener, and use less packaging.

Think about your own laundry habits. Would laundry laziness work for you?

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