A guide to zero-waste spring cleaning

on March 30, 2022

It’s that time of year again — spring cleaning! Time to declutter, organize, and sanitize our homes for the new year. Here are some spring cleaning tips that combine advice from the zero-waste movement to help you reduce your carbon footprint while organizing your home.

Recycle clothing and other items that you’re not using

Do you really need 30 different t-shirts? You probably don’t even wear half of them. Shrink your wardrobe to items you’ll actually wear. Plus, if you shrink your wardrobe down to only the bare necessities, you’ll spend less time doing laundry! If you haven’t worn an item of clothing in a year, donate it to charity or send it to a consignment store where you may be able to get some money for it.

Many online stores, like ThredUp, sell your gently used items online. Items that aren’t accepted will be donated for textile recycling, instead of ending up in a landfill where they would contribute to our waste problem and greenhouse gas emissions. You can even recycle unusual items; like batteries, cork, paint, and old shoes.

Find ways to repurpose items that you can’t recycle

For example, you can use those old t-shirts as reusable cleaning cloths or repurpose them into reusable shopping bags.

Make your own cleaners

Many cleaners purchased at the store are made using petroleum and rely on carbon-intensive shipping to transport them halfway around the world before they even make it to your home. All this adds up to thousands of pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Save money and time by making many cleaners at home with everyday, non-toxic kitchen items that are just as effective as the store-bought alternatives. Here are some recipes to try at home:

  1. Natural drain cleaner
  2. All-purpose cleaner
  3. Natural refrigerator cleaner
  4. Chopping board cleaner
  5. Interior and exterior window cleaner

Clean up your energy with community solar.

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Keep new clutter out of your home

Before you make a purchase, ask yourself, “How can I dispose of this item when I’m done using it and is there a reusable alternative?”

Replace paper towels with dish cloths

Bonus points if you create dish towels from those old shirts! Yes, you may have to wash them, but you’ll use less energy cleaning reusable dish towels than the energy used to cut down forests, turn those old trees into paper products, create the plastic packaging that usually surrounds those paper towels, and ship them around the world to the grocery store near you.

Replace your dryer sheets with wool dryer balls

Dryer balls can be used for up to a year and can even lower the amount of time it takes to dry your clothes, saving you energy and money! Once the dryer balls have reached the end of their life, they can be composted.

Use glass containers instead of aluminum foil or plastic wrap

From extraction to production to transportation, aluminum has a huge environmental footprint. Yes, aluminum is the third-most abundant element on earth, but it takes a lot of energy to mine (yep, it’s mined just like coal), and it’s usually imported from other countries, increasing its carbon footprint.

Buy secondhand

Remember those consignment stores we talked about above? Thrift stores and consignment stores are great places to find slightly used, and often new, clothes and household items. Not to mention, secondhand clothes have a much smaller carbon footprint, and purchasing items secondhand can save you a lot of money. But first, make sure what you’re buying is something you really need. This will save you a lot of time and energy (physical and carbon-intensive energy from driving your unwanted clothes to the thrift store) next spring when you’re cleaning out your closet.

Finally, you can lower your carbon footprint by simply refusing the things you don’t need. Even if that item is recyclable, it still requires energy to recycle. Until all our nation’s energy comes from renewables, let’s think twice before accepting an unnecessary item that will just be sent to a fossil fuel-powered recycling center after a single use (looking at you, plastic water bottles).