Spring Clean, Green Clean

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Blessed Earth Executive Director, Matthew Sleeth, MD, delivered the National Cathedral’s Earth Day message yesterday: Are Christians Blessing or Cursing the Earth – a Call to Action.

 

“I love a clean house. I just don’t like cleaning.”

That’s a direct quote from our 21-year-old daughter, Emma, who recently graduated from Asbury University and is now living in her first apartment. Emma is honest enough to express what most of us feel—we want our homes to be uncluttered, fresh, and inviting, but getting there can seem daunting.

People of faith who care about God’s creation face another confounding factor: how do we clean our homes without hurting the planet? Fortunately, it is getting easier than ever to care for our homes while caring for the planet. There’s a bonus of homemade and green cleaning products — you’ll save money while exposing yourself to fewer harmful chemicals.

Here are my top ten spring cleaning tips for saving time, money, and God’s green earth:

  1. Clean the house every Saturday in preparation for the Sabbath. The anticipation will make this day of God-ordained rest all the more precious.
  2. Institute a “no shoes inside” policy: keeping the dirt outside will significantly reduce the amount of cleaning you need to do.
  3. Purchase green cleaning products. The price has dropped in the last couple of years, and they now can be found in most grocery, “dollar,” and home improvement stores.
  4. My universal (and cheapest) cleaning solution: Fill a spray bottle with 1 quart warm water mixed with ¼ cup vinegar. I use it in the kitchen, bathroom—just about everywhere!
  5. Baking soda is my other “must have” cheap and green cleaning product. Use it to scour toilets and bathtubs, scrub nonaluminum pots and pans, deodorize the refrigerator, and clean the kitchen sink.
  6. Clean from the top down. Save floors and carpets for last, so dust has time to settle.
  7. Go through one do-able space (one shelf of a closet, one drawer of your desk) per week and give away anything you haven’t used in the last year.
  8. Get to know the folks at your local refugee ministry; many people come to our country with nothing, which is a big motivation for me to clean out the garage, attic, and basement.
  9. If you don’t have a compost pile, start one. We used two inexpensive ($20) flexible containers made from recycled tires. We filled one pile and let the other sit. Every few months, we had a new crop of “black gold.”
  10. Invite some friends over for a laundry-detergent-making party.

Green cleaning may seem like a small thing, but lots of little acts by millions of people add up.  The average American has 63 synthetic chemical cleaning products in their home, which amounts to a whopping 10 gallons per household. Picture 10 milk jugs filling your refrigerator—would you to drink 10 gallons of toxic chemicals? But in a very real sense, that is what we are doing: every single ounce will some day end up in the water someone drinks or the food we eat. When it comes to toxic cleaning products, there is no magical “away.”

The twenty-fourth psalm tells us that the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.  If I borrowed a car from God, I wouldn’t want to return it with the gas tank empty and the ashtray full of cigarette butts.  The same principle applies to green cleaning. The earth is not mine to do with as I please; as a sojourner, I’m called to pass it along to future generations in as good or better shape than I received it.  Green cleaning is a simple way I can live out my faith, 365 days a year.

P.S.—I’m happy to report that Emma’s apartment is impeccably clean—and green! She even saves money (and five pounds of greenhouse gases per load) by hanging her laundry on the line.

Seedbed is giving away 2 free copies of the Blessed Earth Film series! Leave a comment and we will randomly select two winners from those who comment below.

Adapted with permission from Go Green, Save Green:  A Simple Guide for Saving Time, Money, and God’s Green Earth. Nancy Sleeth is the co-founder of Blessed Earth and author of a new book, Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life (Tyndale, April 2012).  For more practical tips, visit www.blessedearth.org

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Nancy Sleeth is the co-founder of Blessed Earth and author of Go Green, Save Green and Almost Amish. She lives in Lexington, KY, with her husband of more than 30 years, Matthew Sleeth, M.D. (Asbury Seminary adjunct faculty member) and children (all Asbury University graduates, where Nancy also taught).

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