Archive for January, 2010

Green Cleaning- Good For the Health of You and the Planet

Posted on January 18, 2010. Filed under: air quality, carbon footprint, green home, living green | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

While there are many green practices worth adopting, switching to green cleaning products is one of those actions I advocate for both as a way of helping the environment but also of protecting our own health.

Why Switch to Green Cleaning Products?

A Safer Home

Each day, families are put to risk by household cleaning products found throughout their homes, most of which are unregulated and untested, and many whose toxic ingredients are not disclosed on labels. According to National Geographic, only about 30% of the roughly 17,000 chemicals found in household products, including those used for cleaning, have been sufficiently tested for their effects on human health. Healthier and safer cleaning products offer natural, non-toxic, and biodegradable alternatives that are just as effective as synthetic chemical cleaners.

A Safer Environment

The use of synthetic cleaners has adverse effects on air and water quality, as well as land-based environmental concerns. Many of the chemicals in household cleaners are harmful not only in their use, but also in their manufacturing process. For example, the first step in bleach production produces dioxin as a byproduct—a chemical that has been identified as a carcinogen and has been linked to birth defects and genetic changes. Natural cleaners are manufactured in a way to leave the smallest impact possible on the environment and the healthiest atmosphere in our homes.

How to be Green and Clean

Don’t Be Green-Washed

The search for truly green products may not be as easy as reading “organic” on a label.  Many companies engage in greenwashing practices, including words such as “organic,” “eco-friendly,” “biodegradable,” and “non-toxic” on their labels to make products more appealing to consumers. Unfortunately, these claims are often unverifiable and meaningless.  Look for products with full ingredient disclosure or third party certifications to ensure that product claims are substantiated.  Independent groups such as Green Seal, Cradle To Cradle, the Leaping Bunny and the EPA’s Design for the Environment program analyze product ingredients and certify that those chemicals don’t pose harm to your health or to the environment. My rule of thumb is to buy products with less than 5 ingredients and with names that I can pronounce and recognize. I also look for products packaged in post-consumer recycled materials or that offer refills to  further reduce environmental impact.

The Bleach Debate

It has been argued that because bleach breaks down into salt and water, it can be considered biodegradable and does not necessarily pose an environmental hazard. Bleach is a popular cleaning product because it is effective on a wide range of bacteria and viruses and has the added benefit of being cheap. However, despite the fact that bleach breaks down when released into the environment, it is an eye and lung irritant and mixing bleach with other acids (such as vinegar) can produce dangerous and potentially lethal fumes. Furthermore, the manufacturing process of bleach creates the known carcinogen dioxin as a toxic byproduct. It is best to find alternatives to bleach to ensure both a healthier planet and home.

Some Good Green Cleaners

  • Better Life. This company was started by two dads, one a chemist, the other a greenie. This is the most effective green cleaning line I have used to-date and one that I use in my home for every surface.  Buy in DC: ACE Hardware locations, Green Living Consulting. Online: Walgreens.com, Drugstore.com. Delight.com.
  • BioKleen. Family-owned, with all products receiving a third party review. Order through Greenshops.com
  • Ecover. Belgian company that started making eco-friendly products in 1980. In DC: Whole Foods, Yes Organic Market, Nora, Java Green, Brookville Supermarket. Online: HerbTrader.com
  • Mrs. Meyers. Biodegradbale, phosphate free and made with essential oils. In DC: Ace Hardware, Bed Bath & Beyond, Container Store, Dean and Deluca, Greater Goods, Whole Foods, Frager’s Hardware.

National Geographic’s Green Guide also reviews and sells products that meet their environmental criteria.

Green Cleaning Recipes and Tips

Vinegar

Vinegar naturally cleans like an all-purpose cleaner. Mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a new spray bottle and you have a solution that will clean most areas of your home. Vinegar is a great natural cleaning product as well as a disinfectant and deodorizer. Always test on an inconspicuous area. It is safe to use on most surfaces and has the added bonus of being incredibly cheap. Improperly diluted vinegar is acidic and can eat away at tile grout. Never use vinegar on marble surfaces. Don’t worry about your home smelling like vinegar. The smell disappears when it dries.

Here are some uses for vinegar in the rooms of your house:

Bathroom – Clean the bathtub, toilet, sink, and countertops. Use pure vinegar in the toilet bowl to get rid of rings. Flush the toilet to allow the water level to go down. Pour the undiluted vinegar around the inside of the rim. Scrub down the bowl. Mop the floor in the bathroom with a vinegar/water solution. The substance will also eat away the soap scum and hard water stains on your fixtures and tile. Make sure it is safe to use with your tile.

Kitchen- Clean the stovetop, appliances, countertops, and floor.

Laundry Room- Use vinegar as a natural fabric softener. This can be especially helpful for families who have sensitive skin. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener. Vinegar has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively. (A plus when you have a family member whose skin detects every trace of detergent.)

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is another natural substance that can be used to clean your home. Lemon juice can be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. Lemon is a great substance to clean and shine brass and copper. Lemon juice can be mixed with vinegar and or baking soda to make cleaning pastes. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut section. Use the lemon to scrub dishes, surfaces, and stains. You can also put a whole lemon peel through the garbage disposal. It freshens the drain and the kitchen. Orange peels can be used with the same results.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can be used to scrub surfaces in much the same way as commercial abrasive cleansers. Baking soda is great as a deodorizer. Place a box in the refrigerator and freezer to absorb odors. Put it anywhere you need deodorizing action.

Olive Oil/Lemon Juice

Mix together 1 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup lemon juice to create a homemade furniture polish. Mix together in a clean new spray bottle. To use, remember to shake before each application. Apply a small portion to your cleaning cloth. Spread the polish over the furniture, trying to polish evenly. Use another clean cloth to polish the surface dry.

be well. live green.

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E-Waste Recycling Jan 9 at Whole Foods

Posted on January 8, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

As much as I try to stay up on local green events, especially when it comes to getting rid of waste responsibly, I don’t catch it all early. So here is a last minute bit of info I just read on our friend’s at GoingGreenDC’s blog:

On Saturday, January 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., drop off your old electronics before you shop for your organic groceries. Accepted items include laptops, modems, phones, faxes, printers, wires/cables, CD ROMs, floppy drives, keyboards, mice, circuit boards, CRT monitors, mainframe computer systems and much more. Televisions are not accepted. Esquire Environmental will scrub and destroy memory on all hard drives.

Participating Whole Foods include Bethesda, MD; (Kentlands) Gaithersburg, MD; (Tenleytown) DC; (Georgetown) DC; Reston, VA; Falls Church, VA; and Fair Lakes, VA.

Additional Resources:

eCycling (EPA)

Washington Post article by Rob Pegoraro

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Eco Brokers that Truly Care About the Environment: Arbour Realty

Posted on January 4, 2010. Filed under: green business, green operations, green services, living green |

Happy 2010! It’s a new year, a new decade and we’ve got more green stories to share with you, including those from our clients about what they are doing to be green.

In our first client feature of 2010, we talk to Arbour Realty about their green efforts and how working with an environmental consultant can help even when you’ve already taken steps to green your operation. While we are proud of all of our clients’ green efforts, we are particularly excited about Arbour Realty’s commitment to green at every level. Not only do they help people buy and sell homes with green features, they take time to educate them about green renovations and green living practices that are good for the planet and their often their pocketbook. Arbour Realty has also shown their environmental commitment through every level of their business operation, from designing their Virginia office with green materials to eliminating huge amounts of paper waste typical of most real estate agencies, to even offering energy audits and eco-home assessments to their home buyers.

Learn more about their green efforts in Sonia’s interview with Adam Gallegos, green visionary and principal of Arbour Realty.

interview by Sonia Heiles

Green Living Consulting: What does “green” mean to you?

Arbour Realty: Green means living healthier, conserving our natural resources and leaving a lighter footprint on our planet.

GLC: What was your biggest motivation in wanting to get your business green?

AR: We wanted to do more than run a business.  We wanted to set an example that would inspire positive change. 

GLC: Why did you choose GLC to assist in your green endeavors?

AR: We want to align ourselves with companies that truly believe in the benefits of green.  From day one, GLC has shown their commitment to us and to the green movement. 

GLC: What have you done to date since your initial GLC assessment?

AR: We have already implemented over a dozen suggestions from GLC.  A few of my favorites:

1) placards around the office explaining the green features and benefits.

2) an overview of our green commitment that we now include on our website and in our brochure.

3) the addition of live plants around the office.

4) an XLerator hand dryer that has eliminated the use of paper towels in our office.

GLC: What was the biggest challenge in greening your business?

AR: We knew from the beginning we did not want to be a green shell trying to prosper from people wanting to live more green.  It was important that we find ways to “walk the talk” in ways that truly make a difference to the planet, our community and our clients. 

GLC: What role did GLC play in greening your operations?

AR: We hit a ceiling with what we were able to come up with on our own.  GLC brought new energy and new ideas.  They really helped us take our green business initiatives to the next level.  We have also implemented a program to offer Green Living Consultations to our home buyers.  We have found this to be a great way to spread the excitement of green living.

GLC: What level GLC rating do you currently have? Do you hope to receive a higher rating in the near future?

AR: Gold. We would love to step it up and reach the next level.  Our next project is lighting.  We would like to transition our office to all LED lighting.  This along with some smaller projects should get us to the next level. 

GLC: Have you been successful in creating a culture of green with your staff?

AR: We have been lucky in attracting people to Arbour Realty that really embrace the benefits of green living.  It’s great to have our staff contributing ideas and volunteering time.  

GLC: How have you tracked your eco-practices progress since their initiation?

AR: I can’t say that we have done a great job of this.  GLC really helped us take an inventory of what we are doing green.  That was a big help for our own piece of mind and what we are communicating to the public. 

GLC: What have been the most effective eco-practices?

AR: The process of writing contracts for home sales can be extremely wasteful.  Lots of printing and faxing going back and forth.  There is typically a lot of driving involved as well.  We implemented a new technology that allows us to use electronic signatures, virtually eliminating the need to ever print a contract or addenda.  It also eliminates the driving around needed to get signatures.  We save more than a ream of paper a week with e-signatures. 

GLC: How have you communicated your green efforts to the public?

AR: We have added our green efforts to most of our communication materials so that the public understand what we are doing differently that the other real estate companies out there.  So far we have gotten a great reaction.  Just this year we have won two prominent awards for best green business. 

GLC: What have the most visible benefits of going green been for your business? Lowered operating costs? Increased sales as a result of your green efforts? Something else?  

AR: There are over 10,000 real estate agents in the DC area.  We are happy to not be just another one out there telling everyone that we are the best.  Operating as a green real estate company really helps people understand at least one aspect of what makes us different and opens the door for them to learn all the other reasons we are a great choice for their real estate needs. 

GLC: If money wasn’t an issue, what other green actions would you consider implementing?

AR: LEED certification of our office.  We would love to go for a LEED rating.  The only thing that has held us back is cost. 

Thank you Arbour Realty for your continued green efforts. We look forward to working with you achieve a Platinum green business rating, educating homeowners, and making the DC area a greener, healthier place to live!

Stayed tuned for our next client feature: Brooksfield School

be well. live green.

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