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June 12, 2009–Today’s way: Hey, it’s warm outside.  Drop your socks and grab your sandals!  Or flip flops.  Or Earth Shoes.  Or Uggs.  It may seem trivial, but just as most of the little things we do add up to make an impact over time, going socks-less more often can really make a dent in your energy consumption when you add it all up.  Think about it: a few less loads of laundry, requiring a few gallons less water, which won’t need to be heated first (thereby most likely requiring the burning of fossil fuels to generate the energy to heat the water), and less detergent produced to wash the socks, and fewer fossil fuels burned in order to ship the detergent to your local store…you get the idea.  So remember the little things, and do what you can, when you can.  And show us those naked toes.

May 10, 2009–Today’s Way: One of my favorite house cleaning ingredients is hydrogen peroxide.  Primarily oxygen and water (H2O2), hydrogen peroxide is a mild germicidal and disinfectant, yet non-toxic at the 3% dilution sold in your average drug store.  I keep a spray bottle of it handy on every floor of the house, and use it for everything from stains and spills to grout and tile work.  It’ll remove fresh blood and red wine (the sooner after the spill, the better) and even sweat stains from fabrics, foaming the stains away right before your very eyes.  It’s also great for removing many other food and protein stains.  Add a cup of hydrogen peroxide to your load of whites in the wash.  Spray some on your grout and let it do its magic, naturally bleaching out the tile and disinfecting from germs and killing mold at the same time.   It also works nicely to help remove stains from tubs, sinks and toilets.  You can use it as a disinfectant on bathroom or kitchen counters.  Spray it on your cutting boards after washing them, you can also use it as an antiseptic mouth wash (be careful not to swallow it and rinse your mouth with water after) and tooth whitener.  Hydrogen peroxide is a wonderful alternative to using chemical disinfectant soaks in manicures and pedicures, and for disinfecting tools and your station afterward.  You can use hydrogen peroxide as a cleanser for your office kitchen or work areas.

Hydrogen peroxide does all of these cleaning chores very well, but I love that it doesn’t accost me with noxious fumes or indiscriminately kill everything that comes into its path, whether good or bad.  Chlorine bleach is bad for septic systems—which we have—because it kills the beneficial microbes which are necessary for the proper function of the system, and in city sewage systems, bleach co-mingles with all the other chemicals that are going down everyone’s drains and can create a toxic chemical soup that is dangerous to wildlife.  Hydrogen peroxide, on the other hand, breaks down quickly in light and air, so it is much safer for the environment.  This is also why it is typically sold in a brown opaque bottle, to protect the solution from light.  I just switch out a sprayer on the bottle to keep the hydrogen peroxide fresh, making it easier to dispense.

April 25, 2009–Today’s Way: The weather here in Michigan has turned unseasonably balmy this weekend, with a warm Chinook wind blowing in from the South.  Not only has it inspired the songbirds, coaxed the tight little lilac buds into unfurling and awakened the frogs and toads in our creek and gardens, but it’s also ushered in the hanging of our clothes line.  Through the frozen winter, we are forced to use our electric clothes dryer (for a great heat and humidity saving tip, see my post from April 7) for most of our laundry, but as soon as the rising springtime sun starts beaming its warmth down upon us, we switch to the clothes line full time.  It makes so much good sense, and saves us a great deal of electricity, not to mention reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into our atmosphere.  A clothes line costs absolutely nothing to operate once it’s installed, and it takes only a little more time than an indoor dryer.  Besides, hanging out our linens usually gets me outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine, and there’s absolutely no perfumed laundry product made that smells sweeter than that of clothes hung out on a line.

Whether you have a big yard like ours or just an apartment balcony, there are options for just about every living situation.  You can find compact indoor line dryers which collapse away if you’ve got a tight space, clever rotary-style dyers that turn while you stay stationary, and handy retractable lines so you don’t have to install a permanent pair of poles in your lawn.  We simply installed a single line in the span between our house and garage using heavy-duty eyelet screws and a nautical knot for easy removal.  Whatever your living space, there’s a solution for you, and you’ll be enjoying the energy savings as well as that just-off-the-line fresh laundry smell.

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