12 ideas for a cleaner, greener home
Maybe it's being stuck at home due to COVID-19 or maybe it's worry over my kids' future in this crazy world, but lately I've been obsessed with making our home cleaner and greener. I want to teach my kids about sustainability and taking care of our planet, while also taking care of themselves. Here's what we're doing now, our favorite products and tips, and our plans for tomorrow. Note: This list is meant to be a starting point and is by no means exhaustive!
I think the most important thing to remember is baby steps. You don't have to do it all today. We've been making small changes for years, which has made it feel more manageable.
Glassware in the Kitchen
This was the first and easiest change we made. We swapped our plastic tupperware for glass containers. My favorite are snap top, air tight ones like these. We got rid of most of our plastic cups and plates (we keep a few for the littlest kids) and use stainless steel and silicone when possible.
Silicone Zipper Bags
This is next on my list of things to change. No more plastic baggies or plastic wrap! I'm eyeing Stasher because of the amount of information they give about their product, but there are cheaper options available on Amazon that are likely just as good. I'm also itching to try Food Huggers, which I've read are great for topping kids cups on-the-go!
Buy in Bulk
This is an easy way to save plastic bags and tubs from the garbage or recycling bin. Most grocery stores nowadays have large bulk sections for buying staple pantry ingredients, and many will allow you to bring your own container. As a bonus, it's also cheaper than buying them in bags/boxes from the shelf!
Shop Your Local Farmer's Markets
Shopping for groceries and other goods from farmer's markets cuts down on the emissions and gas used to transport food to your grocery store. Plus, it supports small farms and your local economy. Everybody wins! When you can, buy organic to save our soil, insects, animals and runoff water from nasty chemicals.
Safer, Greener Cleaning Products
This was another easy change that we started making years ago. Brands like Seventh Generation, The Honest Company, and ECOS offer great choices for cleaning products that are free of harsh chemicals and better for the environment. Our personal favorite happens to be an Austin company too - Puracy. You can buy it at Target, Amazon, or through their website. Their products are free of all the bad stuff but still pack a hefty punch when it comes to cleaning. I absolutely swear by their stain remover (regular and baby), which I've used since S was blowing out diapers. It gets out EVERYTHING and doesn't leave the strong smell of other brands like Oxy. I also love that you can buy refill bags so that you're not filling up your recycle bin with so many plastic bottles.
THINK DIRTY. App
In addition to greener cleaning products, there's a great app called THINK DIRTY that gives tons of products from makeup to baby wash to laundry detergent a green score (the lower the number the better). You can scan barcodes or search by name and submit products they don't have in their database for review.
Truth: Julie's family does this. I'm not there yet. Luckily, the city has a composting program and picks up their bin weekly. There is so much food waste that goes into our landfills and creates harmful methane gases. This is a great way to use those scraps for the greater good! In our home, we try to reduce our waste by planning our meals down to the last asparagus stalk and sticking to our grocery list at all costs (my husband really struggles with this part!). It sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, but we're making progress.
Little Leaps for Little Kiddos
We've also been purchasing more toys made of wood and other sustainable materials and limiting plastic when possible. Except for our play dough kits (sigh). Our favorite brands of sustainable and/or wooden toys are Melissa & Doug, Plan Toys, Grimms Toys, and Bannor Toys.
Sustainable Clothing & Housewares
I put this in the section for tinies, tots and tikes, because that's where we began making the change. Organic cotton saves tons of pesticides and harsh chemicals from getting into our soil, water, and food supply upon which insects, animals, and people depend. It's also safer for your littles. Other sustainable fabrics like tencel and bamboo are better for the environment and your body too. Some of our favorite brands are Monica + Andy, Touched by Nature (not GOTS-certified), Bestaroo, and organic cotton items from major brands like Gap.
This is the most recent change I've made. It sounds crazy to suddenly switch with 17 month-old twins and a 3.5 year-old (nighttime only), but it took me that long to make the leap from disposables. According to esembly.com (whose diapering system we bought and love), cloth diapering saves around 3,600 diapers from the landfills per child each year! It's really a lot easier than you would think, and honestly, I wish I'd done it from day one. I highly recommend GroVia (all-in-ones are super easy) and esembly (a 10+ year diaper laundering service turned everything-you-need-to-cloth-diaper, woman-owned company). There are lots of other brands out there so do your research to find which is best for you.
Great, Big Changes
When it came time for my husband to get a new car, we looked at nearly every one on the market. In the end, he chose a Tesla, for many reasons, but most importantly because it doesn't use gas. We fell in love with the company and their cars and slowly switched all of our cars to their electric vehicles. There are so many options out there and more and more companies are putting electric vehicles on the market everyday. Tesla in particular is working hard to make the Model 3 (my favorite) affordable for as many people as possible.
Some of the many benefits of electric vehicles include: zero emissions, no gas stations, charging your car at home overnight, increasing number of charging stations everywhere (with prime parking positions), and quieter drives.
A Green House
If you're in the market, this is something to keep in mind. Many new builds will tout their energy efficiency (although it may come with a heftier price tag). Look for ENERGY STAR certified homes, spray foam insulation, energy efficient windows and doors, efficient air ducts for heating and cooling, and energy efficient lights and appliances. Our electricity bill was cut by more than half once we moved into our more energy efficient home, despite having 2 electric vehicles charging and 30% more square footage! Next up: solar panels.
What do you do to make your home cleaner and greener? Leave us your ideas and suggestions in the comments below!