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Let’s get ready for zero-waste spring cleaning!

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Posted on: March 12, 2020

By Juliette Fradin

The acid in lemons is antibacterial and antiseptic and acts as a natural bleach
Juliette Fradin Photography

Cleaning isn’t always fun, but it certainly doesn’t have to be wasteful nor expensive. Like anything, spring cleaning is as eco-friendly as you make it. 


Being inside all winter makes my home feel stuffy, but come spring? As the weather gets warmer, I want to open the windows, throw on a sundress and reinvent myself, organize and detox everything negative from my life. Maybe that’s just me? But if you’re of a like mind, read on for a few tips for creating a zero-waste, minimal space that will bring joy and clarity to your environment.


Start with a ruthless decluttering. It is amazing the amount of stuff we hold onto over time. I have become better at letting go of things like clothes that don’t fit, were expensive, were gifted by a loved one, books I don’t read and toys my kids don’t play with anymore. Tackling the hardest spots in your home first  — your bedroom? kitchen? the kids’ play space? — makes the rest feel much easier. 


I always make sure everything gets a second chance at life, though. We are lucky to have many options around us for recycling and repurposing like the HY-Swap for anything kid related (coming on May 30), the University Park Children Clothing Coop (April 4 in Hyattsville), Community Forklift for household items and Value Village for the rest. Online, you will find lots of Facebook groups, like the local Hyattsville Barter and Trade, and Buy Nothing groups. You can also sell directly through the Facebook marketplace and Craigslist for a wider reach, or you can wait for the next city yard sale.  


While you clean, use a bag or a bin where you will place anything you want to donate, sell or re-gift (yes, it’s OK to do that).  


What about your cleaning tools? Paper towels are the most wasteful way of cleaning (and you know it). Instead, go after that dirt with reusable cloths/wipes. Be sure to use natural fiber fabric (cotton, hemp, bamboo, etc.). Microfiber and fleece are not biodegradable, and they contribute to micro-plastic waste, which enters our water sources when you wash them. You will eventually have to toss your old microfiber cloths, and they will  end up in the landfill where they’ll hang out for decades. Same with sponges, since so many are made of plastic. Switch to compostable sponges or use a lightly dampened rag, which will also get the job done. 


Ditch those store-bought products that are harmful to the environment, and use nontoxic products instead Recycle a spray bottle and use it for your homemade all-purpose cleaner. A simple inexpensive recipe is to combine equal parts of warm water with vinegar. If you want to be fancy, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (tea tree is antibacterial and great unless you have indoor pets). If you want to be even fancier, soak citrus peels in a jar of vinegar for at least two weeks, remove the peels, and use the vinegar to make your spray.

Remember that dryer lint from natural fibers, vacuumed-up dirt and floor sweepings can all be composted. Don’t send them to a landfill; just add them to your compost pail.


If you want to go a step further (and outside), you can also clean the air by planting a tree. Even a single tree absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide a year, while also releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. And you’ll be right in sync with the city, which has been recognized as a Tree City by the National Arbor Day Foundation for more than 25 years. (To plant a tree, you must obtain permission from the city arborist. Find the request form online on the city website. You can also donate to organizations like One Tree Planted or the National Forest Foundation, who will plant trees on your behalf (such a donation makes a great gift too).

Let’s celebrate the first day of spring, on March 20, and International Earth Day, on April 22, by throwing open the windows. Wishing you a clean home, sweet spring, and happy zero wasting! Contact Juliette for questions and comments.



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