Going green–the quick and easy way

I’ve been slowly going greener at home over the last year or so and I’ve found that some things are easier to do than others. I hereby present some of my favorite tips and tricks, things that will make you feel better, save you money, and generally make the world a tiny bit greener.

Juice boxes

If you’ve got kids and they’ve conned you (as mine had) into buying juice boxes for their school lunch, you know exactly how much money and cardboard you’re wasting every day!

I finally put my foot down and banned juice boxes from the house for everything except field trips. We went to the store and the kids picked out reusable water bottles that they liked and we bought three. There’s always at least one in the fridge and the kids have gotten in the habit of grabbing one of their water bottles rather than whining for a cup of juice.

And I no longer have a garbage can full of juice boxes! Win/win, i tell you.

Cleaning products

No no, you’re going to tell me, you can’t possibly keep your house clean without your Windex or your Comet. Things won’t be *clean*, it’ll be too difficult, too much work, etc.

Wrong! I’m telling you that you can clean 95% of the things in your house with just a few ingredients and you won’t have to worry about the kids getting into the cleaning supplies.

(As I said the other day, most of the cleaning products I use now are so safe, my kids could accidentally eat them and I would just laugh.)

The exceptions I’ve found are the dishwasher and getting rid of mold and mildew. I’ve found no good dishwasher detergent substitute and hydrogen peroxide just doesn’t beat bleach for killing mold.

You can stop buying all those expensive smelly cleaning supplies and clean everything with combinations of vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, Ivory soap, washing soda, and borax. (The last two can usually be found in the laundry aisle in a supermarket or in the cleaning aisle of a locally owned hardware store.)

With combinations of those things I’ve scrubbed the stovetop, mopped the wood floors, cleaned soap scum from the bathtub, cleaned countertops…

Citrus vinegar

This is so simple, I won’t even bother to link to someone’s recipe. Just take a jar, peel some lemons or limes or oranges and put them in the jar. Fill the rest of the jar with vinegar and put the top on the jar. Set it aside for a couple of weeks, shaking it every now and then.

After a few weeks, pour the vinegar into another container and run the peels through your disposal to clean it. Or you can leave them in there and put the jar on a shelf to look gorgeous until you’re ready to use it.

Voila! You have a multipurpose cleaner! I keep a spray bottle with a mixture of water and vinegar (3 parts water to 1 part vinegar) for cleaning just about anything that gets dirty. The best part is that it evaporates and it’s food safe, so it doesn’t require rinsing. (Unless you’re using it on granite, in which case it can etch the stone if you leave it sitting too long.)

Tub scrubber

This scouring powder is the best! The writer says to use it with vinegar and that does work. Personally, I like it better when I wet the tub with 1:3 castile soap:water mixture and then spray more of that on to make a paste. But both of options work wonderfully. And you don’t have to worry that OMG you left some in the tub and then the kids will get in and it will damage their skin 🙂

I keep a container of this in the pantry so that I can do a quick scrub whenever the tub looks especially gross or starts to feel slippery.

Laundry detergent

This is so easy, I swear. I make a double batch of this homemade laundry detergent and it takes me maybe 10 or 15 minutes. I put my Kindle down on the table next to me and read while I’m grating the soap, so it’s like a nice relaxing break in my day.

I keep my detergent in an old Cascade dishwashing detergent container, which I find handy because it has a huge opening that I can grate the soap directly into, but any large container, box, or jar will do. Then you just stick a plastic spoon in there and pour a couple of spoonsful into the washing machine.

One caution about this recipe is that the soap doesn’t always dissolve perfectly, so it helps to dissolve it in some hot water first. Even with that, it will now and then leave a smear of soap on your clothing. If that bothers you, you can always make this super-fun liquid detergent recipe.

I adore this liquid recipe and it works beautifully, but it does require a few minutes of boiling water and soap together and it makes a huge quantity at the end, so be sure to have a bunch of empty milk jugs and a ladle ready. However, if you’ve got kids, the liquid one is much more fun, because you get to make a big pot of slime, and there’s no downside to that 😉

Body and beauty products

There are millions of recipes out there to make healthy versions of makeup and makeup remover and who knows what. I don’t use any makeup, really, so I have no experience  with that, but what I do use is a ton of lotion. And I mean a ton, because I have icky dry skin usually.

Usually, I say, because since I started using a variation on this body wash and this lotion bar, I’ve had no problems with dry skin, even during the coldest of the winter. For the body wash, I use lemon-scented castile soap and lemon and sweet orange essential oil, but you could make the body wash with no essential oil. I just like how it smells 🙂

And if you think making lotion bars is too difficult, think again. Melt beeswax. Add butters. Stir until melted. Pour into molds. Add essential oil of your choice. Stare at it until it solidifies or toss it in the freezer for a few minutes if you’re really impatient. Then rub it on your skin and enjoy!

Cloths instead of paper towels

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a bag of old t-shirts or undershirts or towels sitting in a closet somewhere. They’re too crappy to be donated to Goodwill but too good to be thrown out, so you stuck them in a closet where they take up space.

Liberate that cloth! Pull it out of its hiding place and slice it up into squares. Then put a pile of them anywhere you might have used a paper towel to clean things. I keep a big stack in the kitchen, a small stack downstairs, and the rest in the hall closet at the other end of the house.

When you’re reaching for a paper towel, stop and think for a moment if you really need to throw out whatever you’re wiping up or if you can rinse the cloth in the sink and/or throw it in the washing machine. I haven’t completely eliminated paper towel use in the house, but as I get everyone around me trained, I’ve reduced it significantly. (I’d like to tackle paper napkins next, but I haven’t gotten up the courage yet.)


So there ya go…the fastest and easiest steps in my arsenal to make the world a bit greener. And remember: You don’t have to do these all at once. I certainly didn’t! I’ve been working my way through this for over a year now, I think.

I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed and think that you personally using fewer paper towels just won’t make a difference, but remember that little changes spread over large groups of people can make a big difference.

So if you find any of these tips or recipes helpful…pass them on. Make your mother a bottle of body wash. Give your sister a big jar of citrus vinegar. Teach your kids how to use cloths instead of paper towels. Maybe we can add up to something big someday.


About mamamara

I'm a 40-something, work-at-home mother of two. I'm pro-vaccine, pro-medicine, pro-science, and an avid reader of information about all of the above, and I want to combine my love for my children with my love for science. So here we are!
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