Getting

Clean

and Being

Green

Cleaning Fish and Meat

Cleaning Fruits and Veggies

Homemade Cleaners

Indoor Surface Cleaning

Cleaning the Bathroom

Personal Hygiene

Washing Clothes

Exterior Surface Cleaning

Sick Building Syndrome

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CLEANING

Typical home maintenance and personal hygiene require a lot of cleaning products. Although cleanliness is important, we might be getting more than we bargained for when using typical cleaners. Many polishes, disinfectants, soaps, and personal hygiene products contain a mixture of chemicals that are released into the air when used. Some are corrosive or even flammable and most have not been tested to

determine the effects on humans after long-term use.

Cleaning products are notorious for releasing VOCs, which pollute indoor air and expose the family and environment to a host of toxic substances. When we wring out a sponge after cleaning a bathroom or kitchen, those chemicals go down the drain and into the municipal waste water treatment plant. This requires additional energy to make the water safe for re-entry into the environment.

While not the norm yet, water can be treated at municipal waste treatment plants to the point of being deemed “safe” for human consumption. However, not all chemicals are necessarily completely removed. This means the toxic chemicals wrung out of the sponge after cleaning could be returning in “clean” drinking water. Even if not returned directly as drinking water, all waste water is eventually recycled through the global water ecocycle. At some point, the remaining chemicals will find their way into oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds, or ground water.

Opting for natural cleaning products rather than toxic chemical versions provides several eco advantages. Indoor air quality improves, protecting the family’s health. This also protects the environment and reduces the home’s carbon footprint. In this section, we consider how to clean household items—and even ourselves— the green way.

Cleaning

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Fish and

 

Meat

 

What is it?

To rinse or not to rinse? That is the cleaning question. Rinsing fish, meat, or poultry can spread harmful bacteria to hands, utensils, or work surfaces. The practice can also contaminate other foods through spillage or sharing work surfaces. E. coli and salmonella are two bacteria commonly found in some meats, poultry, and fish. If ingested by eating uncooked meat, these bacteria can cause severe illness or even death.

However, proper food handling and cooking can reduce or eliminate potential foodborne illness. Keeping foods separate while cutting and preparing them is equally important. Using separate cutting boards and knives for different types of food will help prevent cross- contamination.

When working with raw, bloody protein products, it’s essential to wash your hands frequently using at least a mild soap, or antibacterial soap if available. It’s also a good idea to wash and scrub vegetables that will accompany meats during cooking. Finally, sanitize the work area after food preparation to help reduce the spread of harmful bacteria.

Why do it?

Pros:

Reduces or eliminates exposure to harmful bacteria

Reduces or eliminates the potential for food poisoning

There are no shortcuts, but the extra work is worth it

Cons:

Requires extra effort to maintain family health and safety

Maintenance:

Periodic and “in-the-moment” cleaning ensures disinfection and sanitation.

Timeline:

Just a few minutes during and after food preparation, plus normal cleaning.

Steps:

Cooking

1. Safe minimum internal temperatures:

160°F for ground meats or mixtures of beef, pork, veal, or lamb

145°F for fresh beef, pork, veal, or lamb

165°F for turkey, chicken, or other fowl

2.Test with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to sit for at least

3minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat at higher temperatures.

Hand-washing

1.Wet hands with clean running water (warm or cold), and apply soap.

2.Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub well; be sure to scrub the backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails.

3.Continue rubbing hands for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well under running water.

4.Dry hands using a clean towel, or air dry.

Sanitizing Surfaces

1.Pre-clean: Scrape, wipe, or sweep away food scraps and rinse with water.

2.Wash: Use hot water and detergent to remove grease and dirt, and soak if needed.

3.Rinse: Rinse off any loose dirt or detergent foam.

4.Sanitize: To kill remaining germs, use a sanitizer, such as vinegar or hydrogen peroxide (never mix). Heated vinegar or hydrogen peroxide dispensed from a spray bottle (use a funnel to fill) will sanitize if left on for a minute or more. If using non- heated, it will take 10 minutes.

5.Final rinse: Wash off sanitizer.

6.Dry: Allow to air dry.

Cost Estimator:

The items mentioned above are either readily available in most homes or in grocery stores or kitchen specialty shops.

Prices of thermometers may vary, but are generally reason- ably priced from $2.00 for an inexpensive needle format to $40.00 for some digital models.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Have a cooking thermometer available.

✓✓Plastic cutting boards are less porous and easier to clean.

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Washing

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Fruits and

 

Veggies

 

What is it?

Recent outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli around the country have been attributed to raw fruits and vegetables. Produce as wide-ranging as cantaloupes, spinach, tomatoes, papaya, and peanuts have been identified as the sources of illness and even death in the United States since 2011.

Many factors contribute to the spread of food-borne illnesses. Fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by being placed on an un-cleaned or previously contaminated surface. Illness can be spread from the hands of a contaminated worker or cook. Animals that carry E. coli in their intestines might defecate in a vegetable field or track waste from another area. Rains can carry contamination from one area to another. Improperly or insufficiently cleaned food-processing equipment, contaminated while processing one type of food, can contaminate fruits or vegetables processed later.

However, infection by food-borne pathogens can be limited or eliminated with simple, routine practices. Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables can remove most bacteria from the surface. An additional benefit of washing is the removal of pesticides and other contaminants. Storing below 41°F slows or stops the reproduction of bacteria like E. coli. Also, purchasing certified organic produce can help minimize exposure to dangerous pathogens.

Why do it?

It’s very challenging to completely prevent toxins from reaching consumers. Some fruits and vegetables might be so contaminated that no amount of washing will remove the toxins. See the next page for a list of “The Dirty Dozen,” or fruits and vegetables to be avoided unless certified organic.

Pros:

Minimizes exposure to food-borne bacteria and contaminants

Food tastes better and lasts longer

Helps avoid additional food contaminants

Cons:

Increases food preparation time

Maintenance:

Get into a routine of washing fruits and vegetables before they are stored with other foods. Research local farmers’ markets for organic growers and their practices.

Timeline:

5-10 minutes of food preparation and sanitation.

Steps:

1.Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before preparing fresh produce.

2.Wash produce BEFORE peeling, cutting, or breaking, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable. Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce-wash. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.

3.Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria.

4.Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.

5.Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap after preparing fresh produce.

Cost Estimator:

Washing, cleaning, and refrigerating fruits and vegetables can be done at very little cost. Organic fruit and vegetables tend to be more expensive, but the health benefits are priceless.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Buy “The Dirty Dozen” (listed below) only when certified organic.

✓✓Take a frozen ice pack to the farmers’ market or farm stand. This helps keep fruits and vegetables cool.

✓✓Go straight home if possible after shopping to refrigerate leafy greens.

✓✓Before washing fruits and vegetables, wash hands and working surfaces.

✓✓Avoid cross-contamination from meat, fish, or poultry.

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Homemade Cleaners

What is it?

You can rid your home of harmful chemicals and toxins simply by changing the way you clean. Instead of buying popular cleaning products, which may release VOCs and other substances into the air, you can make your own cleaning solutions using more natural substances such as vinegar, borax, oils, and juices.

Why do it?

Pros:

Eliminates indoor air pollutants

Eliminates toxic and skin-irritating cleaning formulas

Eliminates poisoning hazards for family members

Cons:

Some homemade cleaners are weaker than traditional cleaners

Periodic upkeep is best, but can be time-consuming

Homeowner will have to prepare the cleaning solution

Maintenance:

Regular cleaning cycle, with perhaps more emphasis on preventive measures.

Timeline:

Because these solutions are weaker and take longer to soak in than traditional cleaners, it might take longer to clean surfaces.

Steps:

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mirror, and scrub with newspaper. Vinegar can be replaced with undiluted lemon juice or club soda.

Countertops and Surfaces

Add ½ cup of borax to 1 gallon of hot water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray generously on surface and wipe down with a cloth. After cleaning stainless steel, wipe down with olive or vegetable oil.

Wood Furniture

Polish wood by using a mixture of 2 cups olive or vegetable oil with the juice of one lemon. Use a soft cloth to polish the surface. For light-colored wood, rub with a solution of equal parts olive or vegetable oil and lemon juice to remove scratches.

Clogged Drains

Pour ½ cup baking soda into the drain, and then pour 2 cups boiling water. For a problematic drain, use ½ cup vinegar instead of water and cover the drain. Make sure the drain is tightly covered so the chemical reaction breaks up the clog. Wait 15-20 minutes and follow with 1 gallon of boiling water. Perform these actions periodically as a preventive action.

Cost Estimator:

Windows and Mirrors

Use a mix of 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with 1 gallon of water. Pour into a spray bottle to store. Spray the glass or

The cost of all these ingredients is minimal when compared to that of traditional cleaners. Plus, many of them may already be in your home.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Collect old newspapers for wiping glass down.

✓✓Reuse old spray bottles to store the home- made cleaners. Label each spray bottle properly.

✓✓Worn out clothes or linen can be repurposed as cleaning rags.

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Cleaning

Indoor

Surfaces

What is it?

Every home has surfaces that need regular cleaning, including carpeting, tile, furniture, countertops, walls, and many more. The objective is to remove grime, dust, dirt, allergens, bacteria, and mold, leaving surfaces more visually appealing and safe to touch. When choosing cleaning products, it’s important to select those that can get the job done without creating new health or environmental problems.

The safest cleaning products are “green” products, which produce few VOCs, are non-toxic to humans and animals, and do not damage the environment upon reaching soil or water. Your family and the environment benefit when you buy and use green products because these contain no dangerous chemicals, have a low VOC content, are made with bio-based solvents, are biodegradable, can be used with cold water, and have a low toxicity to aquatic life. Additionally, green products are generally packaged with environmentally friendly materials that can be recycled or refilled.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities:

Reduces damage to ozone layer

Reduces of chemicals reaching land or water systems

Many products are made from renewable resources

Minimizes waste going to landfills

Reduces air pollution

Pros:

Improves indoor air quality

Not harmful to health

Reduces flammability

Safer to use around children and animals

Cons:

Green products often cost more than conventional products

Might not be as effective at removing heavy grime or grease

Maintenance:

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frequent cleaning might be needed to prevent the heavy buildup of dirt, grime, or dust.

Timeline:

Each cleaning job requires a different amount of time.

Steps:

1.Use disinfectants only on surfaces that people might touch with their hands, like countertops.

2.Mix only enough of concentrated cleaners to handle the current task.

3.Research products through Green Seal, Ecologo, the National Resources Defense Council, or the EPA.

4.Buy products that are certified as environmentally friendly by reliable agencies such as Ecologo, Green Seal, and the EPA. Look for the EPA “Design for the Environment” label.

5.Recycle packaging.

6.Mix your own cleaning products using non-toxic household products such as lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, etc.

Since green cleaning products are often not as strong as standard petroleum-, or chemical-based products, more

Cost Estimator:

Non-toxic products can cost 5% more than conventional prod- ucts.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Do not pour toxic chemicals down the drain or in the trash when converting to green cleaning agents.

✓✓There are many easy, eco-friendly, DIY cleaning- agent recipes, like baking soda and water to clean tile.

✓✓Choose concentrated products because they require less packaging and are frequently less expensive per use.

✓✓Take time to research products to determine if they meet claims for being green (biodegradable, environmentally preferable, and have a low toxicity).

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Cleaning the Bathroom

What is it?

Cleaning the bathroom can be a dirty, nasty job, requiring heavy-duty cleaning products to kill bacteria, germs, and mold. Many homeowners trust certain products to keep their spaces clean and safe for family members. Unfortunately, today’s commercially available home cleaning products consist largely of toxic chemicals.

Exchanging our favorite, familiar cleaning products for unfamiliar, homemade ones can be difficult. Fortunately, some homemade cleaners have stood the test of time and can easily replace commercial cleaners while still effectively cleaning and sanitizing the bathroom. When applied directly and left to sit for anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes, distilled white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide (separately or mixed) have been shown to kill bacteria and germs, such as listeria monocytogenes, E. coli, and salmonella.

Why do it?

Pros:

Eliminates toxic indoor air pollutants

Eliminates toxic, skin-irritating chemical cleaning formulas

Eliminates poisoning hazards to children

Cons:

Lengthy soaking (up to 10 minutes)

Heavy scrubbing in some cases

Might require time and effort to manufacture

Maintenance:

Routine cleaning prevents stains and calcium from building up and ensures disinfection.

Timeline:

Some cleaning procedures require soaking overnight, but manual cleaning time should remain the same.

Steps:

Bathroom Tile:

1.Apply baking soda to the surface; then scrub with water. For thick plaque, apply some kosher salt and scrub away. This

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application cleans but has not been shown to disinfect.

2.Lemon juice or vinegar works well on stains or mildew. Spray or pour as much as needed. Wait a few minutes; then scrub the stain out.

3.Make a disinfectant by mixing 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap, and 20-30 drops of tea tree oil. Store in a spray bottle and use on surfaces when needed. Apply vinegar or hydrogen peroxide directly to the surface for tougher cleaning jobs (10 minutes).

Showerhead:

1.To dissolve calcium or mineral build-up on a showerhead, pour vinegar into a plastic grocery bag (make sure it doesn’t have any holes first). Then knot the handles over the pipe leading to the showerhead so the latter is immersed in vinegar. Use rubber bands to secure the bag in place. (The showerhead can also be removed from the pipe using a wrench, and then totally submerged in the bag or a bucket. When reinstalling, be sure to use plumber’s pipe dope or Teflon tape to prevent leaks).

2.Allow the showerhead to soak in the mixture overnight; remove and rinse with water in the morning.

Toilet Bowl:

4.Simply pour borax into the bowl and let it sit overnight.

5.Use a toilet brush to scrub away mildew or stains.

6.Sanitize using a vinegar and hydrogen peroxide mixture. Let the bowl soak for 10 minutes or overnight.

Cost Estimator:

The cost of all these ingredients is minimal when compared to that of traditional cleaners. A gallon of vinegar, sever- al bottles of hydrogen peroxide, and a large box of borax might run $25, but would last longer than a similar amount spent on tradition- al cleaners. Tea tree oil is likely the most expensive item, but has excellent cleaning properties and smells great besides.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Use old clothes for scrubbing.

✓✓Find firm non-abrasive brushes and pads to remove mil- dew and plaque and to help scrub out stains.

✓✓Routine cleaning helps deter build-up.

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Personal

Hygiene

What is it?

Awareness of and concern for environmental issues also extends to personal health and safety. Personal hygiene products include shampoo, cream, sunscreen, soap, shaving cream, deodorant, toothpaste, makeup, feminine hygiene products, and more. Green personal hygiene products will not contain toxic or harmful ingredients that can irritate the skin, cause health conditions after prolonged exposure, harm the eyes, or act like a poison. They will not contain heavy metals, phthalates, known carcinogens, preservatives, or toxins. They also should not contain antibacterial ingredients since these can promote the development of bacterial resistance and regular soap is just as effective at killing germs. In addition, green personal hygiene products should contain no petroleum or chemical derivatives. The safest products are certified as organic and safe for the environment and humans.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities:

Reduces toxic materials reaching the environment

  Lowers greenhouse gas emissions through reduced production of chemicals

Reduces air pollution

Products use renewable resources

Pros:

Reduces health risks due to chemical, metal, and plastics exposure

You’re not likely to develop bacterial resistance

Safe for all family members

Cons:

More expensive than conventional products

You might not always recognize ingredient names

More difficult to find appropriate products meeting personal needs

Maintenance:

Since products do not contain harsh chemicals, they can be used as frequently as desired.

Timeline:

Steps:

1.Read labels and research ingredients to determine which products are eco-friendly and safe for your health.

2.Use companies that have signed up with Campaign for Safe Cosmetics or are certified as organic with a USDA Organic seal or the Eco-Cert label.

3.Use petroleum-free products by learning to recognize products made from petroleum derivatives.

4.Choose products that are plant-based as opposed to animal-, chemical-, or petroleum-based.

5.Look for labels that indicate the products are non-toxic and biodegradable.

Cost Estimator:

The cost for organic, chemical-free, or natural certified prod- ucts will be at least 5%-10% higher than standard products.

Personal hygiene is a daily routine that requires 1 -2 hours of attention per day.

Quick Tips:

Triclosan, an antibacterial agent, can harm

✓✓human health and form toxic byproducts in the environment.

✓✓Make many of your own personal hygiene products using safe household ingredients.

✓✓Use aluminum-free deodorant because aluminum can cause skin irritations and block pores.

✓✓Products that claim to be “all natural” are not necessarily green products. Be an informed consumer because many personal hygiene products are not regulated.

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Washing

Clothes

What is it?

If, like many people, you wash clothes on a weekly basis, you know firsthand that this activity uses a significant amount of resources, such as electricity, water, and soap. Developing different habits regarding laundry, as well as purchasing more eco-friendly equipment, can help minimize energy and water usage.

Why do it?

Pros:

Reduces energy consumption

Promotes physical exercise

Saves money

Cons:

Extra space needed to wash and dry

Line-drying can fade clothes

Some clothes should not be wrung out or scrubbed

Maintenance:

Run a “clean” cycle at least once a month using eco-friendly cleaners such as a baking soda, vinegar, and warm water. Clean the clothes line before hanging clothes on it. Dry the washboard so it will not rust.

Timeline:

Washing and hanging out clothes will require 1-2 hours of work, but that time should become shorter with experience.

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Steps:

1.Hand-wash small loads or delicate clothes with a washboard.

2.Hang clothes to dry.

3.Wash in cold water (reducing the energy used to heat up water).

4.Use natural detergents.

5.When washing by machine, wash full loads. This will help maximize machine and resource efficiency.

6.Upgrade to energy-efficient washers and dryers. For example, older-model washers can use as many as 54 gallons of water per load, while newer washers might use as few as 18 gallons.

7.Another environmentally friendly laundry alternative is to use soap nuts instead of manufactured soap. Soap nuts are actual nuts, found in Nepal and India, which contain saponin, a natural detergent. They are hypoallergenic and work as effectively as manufactured soaps.

Cost Estimator:

A washboard costs about $20-$30. A small outdoor clothes- line can cost as much as $50.