Spring is finally here! At last, we all get to enjoy the time of year when nature comes out of hiding, and gets to put on its best show after the dark and cold winter months. This is as true for us as it is for the birds and the bees, and for many, spring marks the perfect opportunity to air out the spaces in which we live and work as we prepare to enjoy the light and vibrancy of the coming seasons.
However, as we dust off the cobwebs and freshen up our homes and offices, we run the risk of leaving an unexpected mess behind us. It’s become normalized in our cleaning practices to use chemicals which come in plastic bottles, to flush harsh chemicals into our local waterways and to throw old clutter straight into the trash. This means that, if we’re not careful, our spring cleaning can have an unintentionally negative effect on the environment.
But not to worry! With the right knowledge, it’s easy to leave your house and the planet cleaner than you found them. That’s why we’ve put together this list of zero waste cleaning tips to help you put a green glimmer on your spring cleaning regime!
Though it stands at odds with their name, cleaning products can leave a real mess from an environmental point of view. Cleaning products are often powered by harsh chemicals; the kind that you certainly don’t want to consume. Yet when we flush them down the sink or toilet after use, we are, in fact, placing them in a prime position to contaminate our bodies and the broader environment. This is because, unfortunately, our municipal water facilities are often not equipped with the technology designed to filter out the kinds of chemicals which are found in these products.
As such, the flushed chemicals are either directed back into our drinking water, or into natural water bodies, which subsequently enter the soil, plants and animals. In fact, as long ago as 2002, a study by the United States Geological Survey found that 69% of streams in the US contained traces of detergent, and 66% contained traces of disinfectant. This demonstrates how conventional cleaning products, and our usage of them, are clearly in breach of the ZWIA’s definition of zero waste, which requires that products create “no discharges to land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health”.
Fortunately, a great way to implement zero waste home cleaning is to make your own non-toxic cleaning products in your own kitchen! The internet is full of cheap, easy, and environmentally friendly suggestions, but for your convenience, we’ve included a few of our favorites below.
Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle
- ¼ Cup of rubbing alcohol
- ¼ Cup of white vinegar
- 2 Cups of warm water
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
Mix in a spray bottle, and swirl before use
- ¼ Cup of baking soda
- ¼ Cup of white vinegar
These can be poured, the soda before the vinegar, down a blocked drain, and washed through an hour later with boiling water.
Not only are these recipes cheap and effective, but they can be optimized into the perfect zero waste cleaning recipes if you can buy their component ingredients in reusable containers, or from bulk-stores.
It goes without saying that sometimes DIY zero waste cleaning products may be impractical. You may not have the time to prepare them, or if you’re giving your office a spring clean, it might be difficult to produce enough by yourself. In these cases, it’s best to buy zero waste house cleaning products, such as an all-purpose cleaner.
Needless to say, some cleaning tools are more wasteful than others. Those massive tubs of alcohol wipes may clean most surfaces in a heartbeat, but they also produce plenty of trash after a very short working life. Choosing the right tool, and applying a little bit of elbow grease can allow us to clean our homes and offices with significantly less waste.
Make your own reusable wet-wipes
If you are a big fan of scented wet-wipes, but want to work towards zero waste, then we’ve got the perfect trick for you. With a simple combination of scraps of fabric, scented oils, water and vinegar, you can make your own reusable cleaning wipes. This not only offers you all of the cleaning benefits of a branded wet-wipe, but can offer new life to your old clothes and gives you full freedom to experiment with the scent of your newly cleaned home; all without worrying about adding to landfill!
Swap out your sponges!
Sponges and scourers may be a great way to remove the grime in your kitchen and bathroom, but their long-lasting presence in landfill brings their value into question. Natural sponges, or our natural loofahs are made from plant fiber (or grow naturally) and can be put straight into the compost when you’re done with them. This makes them ideal for zero waste kitchen cleaning – though they’re just as good for cleaning your body!
Replace chemicals with physical tools
A little hard work never hurts anyone, and if it allows you to stop using harsh chemicals, then that hard work can actually have quite a positive impact. For example, rather than buying a chemical product in a plastic bottle to unclog your drain, why not replace it for a long-lasting plunger. This type of change is not only better for the environment, but can quickly save you money!
Get ready to recycle
As you move through your home or office in a cleaning frenzy, it can be tempting to launch any and all clutter into a trash bag as you go. Whilst this might help you get back to a calmer living environment, it is a surefire way to send unnecessary waste to landfill.
A great way around this problem is to set up several large containers in a central location, such as your living room or the foyer. You should have a large container for each type of waste (paper, glass, plastic, trash, etc), and find a smaller container, such as a bucket or mixing bowl corresponding to each type. With the smaller containers in tow, this zero waste cleaning method can help you separate your trash as you move from room to room, and subsequently to reduce your unnecessary waste! It can also be easily implemented into your regular zero waste cleaning routine.
If you’re feeling ambitious, doing so also provides a great opportunity to keep a tally of what kinds of unnecessary trash you’re producing, and to work out how to produce less waste over the next year. This process is easier at home than it is in the office, but if you like the idea of using your spring clean to streamline your trash in your workplace, then you can sign up for a free waste assessment with RTS.
Hopefully our zero waste tips will help you to get your home or office clean and green, leaving you with a spring in your step and feeling revitalized to continue working towards a zero waste future. Yet if we’ve left you hungry for more, there’s plenty more info on how to further your zero waste journey on the Zero Waste Blog. And don’t forget to check out the Zero Waste website for guidance and products to help your home or business to go zero waste.