Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Week Twelve--Green in the Laundry Room

A lot of the national brands with laundry detergents have begun greening their products, from offering concentrated version of the liquid detergent (smaller packaging, less water used) to using recycled plastic in the packaging. Of course, you can always go with the green standby of powder detergent in a cardboard box, especially if your trash hauler will recycle cardboard for you. Then you're using a product with no water and which will, for sure, be recycled.

There are many other ways that you can go green in the laundry room--with products that are marketed as green and others that are green by nature. Here are some to consider as you consider adopting greener habits when cleaning your clothes:

* Borax
For nearly any stain my kids can create these days, all I need to do to get out that stain is wet the article of clothing, sprinkle some borax on it, rub a little and toss in the laundry. There's no having to let it sit overnight or soak in a bucket. Just sprinkle, rub, wash and voila, stain is gone. (The borax people are not paying me to say this.) Blood, dirt and chocolate don't stand a chance now that I'm armed with borax. And what's best is it's a green laundry cleaner and cheap, too--I can get a 76-ounce box of 20 Mule Team Borax at my local ShopRite for only $2.99.

* Baking Soda and/or Vinegar
Together, baking soda and vinegar make an amazing cleaner and drain un-clogger. In the laundry room, you could use one or the other to get musty smells out of laundry that's sat in the washing machine for too long. Just sprinkle or pour some on your damp clothing, add a bit more laundry detergent, and run the clothes through on a short cycle. They should come out smelling fresh and clean. Like borax, baking soda and vinegar are both incredibly affordable--and green. You can get a one-pound (16 ounce) box of Arm & Hammer baking soda for about a buck, and 128 fluid ounce gigantic jug of generic white vinegar for just a little more than $1.50.

* Earth-friendly Laundry Detergent
There are plenty of companies making earth-friendly laundry detergent's these days. Just check out this Green Guide reader-generated rating system for the best green laundry detergents. At my house I've had first-hand experience with Shaklee's Get Clean Fresh Laundry, which is fragrance free and concentrated. Shaklee does not test its products on animals, and claims that its laundry detergent is biodegradable. I found that this laundry detergent was fine for average loads of laundry, but unless I pretreated items when they were heavily soiled, the natural ingredients couldn't quite get my clothes as clean as I would liked them to be. So now I keep this Get Clean Fresh Laundry bottle on hand when I have a delicates-only wash--I find it works as well, if not better, than Woolite.

* Biodegradable Dryer Sheets
While I try my darnedest not to use the dryer, there are times when I just have to. Such as with towels, sheets, underwear and socks. I just don't have enough room in my little laundry space to hang everything up and, besides, the dryer does make things come out softer than if they had air dried. So to avoid static and to help get the dog hair off of our clothes, I like to use dryer sheets, and thank goodness I came across the biodegradable ones from Sun & Earth. These fabric softener sheets, when used, can go right into my compost pile with the dryer lint I grab every time I clean out the trap. That makes me happy in lots of ways--no static, softer items and less garbage to throw out.

Let me know if these ideas seem doable to you as you spend 2008 greening your existence.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Experiencing Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By

Due to the near-death of my beloved iBook G4 this week (sniff sniff), I am having trouble accessing the Internet so I may not be able to post for the next few days. Trust me, I am stockpiling ideas that you'll sure to want to read about once I'm online and fully functioning again. Please stay tuned. Thank you.

Leah Ingram
March 14, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Week Eleven--Rag Time

When I was growing up with my frugal and green mother, we didn't own any fancy cleaning accouterments like sponges and mops. No, our go-to cleaning and dusting tools were always rags. I know my mom used them because:

* They were free. These were old t-shirts and towels we otherwise would have thrown out.

* They were reusable. You could just toss in the washing machine when done, and use again the next time you needed to clean.

* They were recyclable. My mom would shred the fabric and toss it in the compost pile when it was too threadbare to use anymore.

I've adopted my mother's rag-favoring habits and have a huge rag bin in my basement, where, like my mom before me did, I toss old towels and t-shirts that are too stained to donate to charity but perfectly acceptable to become cleaning tools. Truth is, I still have some long-ago, leftover cloth diapers in my rag bin. They are the best dusting tool ever!

As you get ready to plan for spring cleaning, I'd like you to spend this week thinking about how you, too, might begin to use rags.

Each time you do a load of laundry this week, take a real critical look at your husband's undershirts, your kids old field day t-shirts, and any hand towels or bath towels that are simply beyond their prime. Start putting them aside so that the next time you need to clean something, you can forgo the paper towels and use your sustainable cleaning rags instead.

I keep my rags under the basement stairs in an old milk crate that, I swear, went to college with me to hold my old record albums (yes, I'm that old). You could keep yours in a similar container or even an old laundry bag. Just make sure that you keep them convenient so using them doesn't become a big old hassle.

One more thing: Spring cleaning time or not, it's probably a good idea to go through your kids' dressers, your own dressers and your linen closets on a regular basis so you can clear out clothes you no longer like, wear or which your children have grown out of. Same thing with towels, especially the ones that look like a few I have--they once were a lovely shade of red but then someone accidentally poured bleach in the wash, and now they look like something out of the electric Kool-Aid acid test.

With perfectly good clothes that have fallen out of favor or become too small for your kids to wear, and linens that might not look perfect, divide them up into items that could become rags and items that you could donate.

Clothing charities are happy to have gently used clothing (especially if they're not stained). At the same time animal rescue organizations and shelters can always used clean (but used) towels and sheets to line cages and pens, or to use after surgery.

If you think about it, either way your using rags is good for the planet. Cleaning with rags allows you to avoid paper towels and other disposable items, and use something sustainable instead. And by donating old clothes and linens to worthy causes, you keep those items out of the waste stream and help others (poor people, homeless animals) in the process.

Weeks Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen and Fourteen--Green Spring Cleaning

Now that March has come in like a lion, I can't help but think of spring. And when I think of spring, I can't help but think of spring cleaning, that annual ritual of seemingly turning over a new leaf in your house by attempting to clean from attic to basement. Your house gets spring clean when you clear out your clutter, clean the cobwebs from ceiling corners and light fixtures, and cleanse the places that you usually glance over in your regular straightening up. (I'm thinking specifically of scrubbing down baseboards.)

For the next four weeks, we are going to be focusing on green spring cleaning--from the tools you use to clean to products that don't contain any chemicals at all. Hopefully, this will help you to look forward to April with a cleaner home and one that got that way in a greener way.