How many of you have started your spring cleaning?  How many are avoiding it like the plague?  I admit that it can be hard to get started, but I actually love this annual ritual of cleaning, purging, donating and re-organizing.  It’s good for my home and it’s great for my peace of mind.  This year, as you prepare for your spring cleaning spate, I’d like to suggest that we all add a little green to our plans.  Making eco-friendly changes to our homes and lives will pay huge dividends… in the short run, you’ll see lower utility bills and in the long run, you’ll increase your home’s value and help preserve our ultimate home: Earth!  It’s a win, win, win!

I’ll expand on the following ideas in coming weeks, but for now, let’s come up with a quick list of “to-do’s” that will not only help us get our home spic and span and sparkling clean, but also make strides toward reducing our “carbon footprint.”  You’ve probably heard this term bandied about, but do you know what it really means?  Our carbon footprint is simply the amount of carbon dioxide that each individual person emits due to the use of fossil fuels.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several decades, you know that CO2 is not good for our environment.  Did you also know that Americans and Canadians create more CO2 emissions than any other country?  Yep… if the entire world lived as we do in the good old US of A, we’d need seven new planets to sustain our way of living.  Yikes!  Now obviously, we can’t, individually, solve this problem in one day.  Hence the idea of a carbon footprint… a concept that lets each individual, each home or each business make small changes to the way they are living that can add up to huge and positive changes to our planet.  Let’s get started!

1. Let there be (eco-friendly) light!  Take a trip to your local home improvement store and stock up on compact fluorescent bulbs.  You’ve probably seen these coiled bulbs before and wondered about them.  Unlike traditional light bulbs, CFL’s convert most of their energy into light instead of heat.  They are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but they will more than pay for themselves because they consume about 25% less electricity and last up to 10 times longer!  More details on CFLs in a future post…

2. As you’re planning your purge (through donating and recycling, I hope!), don’t overlook your electronic devices.  I have a friend who has a wall of desktop computers, monitors, televisions, old stereo components and more cluttering her garage.  They are old, outdated and broken, but she just doesn’t know what to do with them.  It is true that you cannot simply toss these items into your trash bin for weekly pick up, but you absolutely can dispose of them responsibly.  Stay tuned for Earth-friendly ways to dispose of these items in a future post.
3. As you’re scrubbing your bathrooms and cleaning out vanities, make sure that you are on the lookout for drippy faucets, pipes and toilets.  Especially after a long winter of fluctuating temperatures, slow leaks might have developed.  They need immediate attention and repair as they can cause big problems if left unattended and pack a punch to your wallet in the form of an extra 73,000 gallon of wasted water per year!
4. If you’re considering new appliance purchases this year, budget a few extra bucks for Energy Star appliances.  Again, they cost a bit more up front, but they pay you back after only a few months of use.  Energy Star appliances (everything from refrigerators to battery chargers to light bulbs!) are endorsed by the EPA and Department of Energy.  They are guaranteed to be energy efficient by using 35% less energy per year.  You might also be eligible for a tax credit when you purchase an Energy Star appliance.
5. Want to truly go green, both literally and figuratively?  Let you grass grow!  Most homeowners actually over-mow their lawns and aren’t seeing the best results, even with lots of assistance from expensive landscapers.  Most grass species fare best when they’re kept at a height of about 2 ½ inches.  Taller grass actually requires LESS watering and creates healthier turf with longer, thicker roots.  More on a green lawn and a green life in a future post…
I hope I’ve planted a few seeds (pun fully intended!) with this blog and hope to share even more tips and strategies as the series unfolds.  I assure you that making small changes to your homes, lawns and car routines will pay off in huge ways.  Your home will thank you, your wallet will thank you and you’ll feel great about becoming a responsible world citizen.  So, this year, instead of spring cleaning, let’s launch a new campaign: SPRING GREENING!