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Welcoming Spring 2009

Whew!  As this (finally!) wet and soggy February winds to a close we are almost at Springs doorstep.  I dont know about you but its got me looking around my house thinking Wow, I need to do some spring cleaning!  Spring is synonymous with renewal & regeneration, it is the time to clean out the old funk and start fresh.  How about doing your spring cleaning the green way this year?  There are so many environmentally friendly products on the market now, they seem to be everywhere.  But not all products that say green actually are so be sure to check those labels.  Look for cleaners that dont contain chlorine bleach or ammonia, for starters and try to avoid the other hazardous ingredients whenever you can.  Many of the labels we find on cleaning products are vague and arent regulated by our government.  Non-toxic implies that a product causes no harm either to you or to the environment, but this can be difficult to prove.  Natural is another label that we see a lot of.  A label denoting that a product is biodegradable is somewhat easier to substantiate, it implies that either the product or its packaging (or both) will break down naturally over time.  Thats obviously a good thing but again the definition is still a little loose.

The great thing is that many green cleaning products dont even have to be purchased but can be made from items you already have in your home.  Vinegar can be purchased in abundance very inexpensively and used to clean dozens of things.  An effective cleaning spray can be easily made by mixing a couple of tablespoons of vinegar into a gallon of water.  Pour it into a spray bottle and voilayou can clean everything from your countertops to your windows to your bathroom mirror with it.  You can even spray it on your sofa to get out the many yucky leftover smells our kiddos seem to leave behind!  Dont like that vinegar-y smell?  Substitute the vinegar for lemon juice.  Then grind the left over lemons up in the garbage disposal to make that smell fresh and clean too! When washing those windows, shun the paper towels.  Those old t-shirts taking up space at the bottom of your drawer will make excellent cleaning rags.  Do you prefer a more soft-scrubby kind of cleaner for use in the bathroom?  Combine one cup of baking soda or borax with a cup of castile soap and you have a perfect cleanser that can be used to safely scour your sinks, showers and toilets.  Another awesome green cleaning product is those nifty microfiber cleaner cloths that you see in many stores.  They can be used to dust or clean windows with no need for any spray at all.  Just get a little warm water on it, wring it out and wipe.  Then youre off to another task, leaving it to dry streak-free on its own.  Green and easy!

The Environmental Protection Agency tells us that the air inside our homes can actually be more polluted than the air outside!  This can be more of a problem in the winter months when typically our windows are closed for weeks on end and the heater is blasting away.  Make sure one of your first Spring cleaning steps is to let that stale and stagnant air out by opening up those windows a bit and literally getting a breath of fresh air!  Bringing in a few new lush and green houseplants also helps to combat that indoor air pollution and imbues a sense of Springs beauty inside your home.

Once the Spring cleaning is out of the way its on to the fun partfreshening up your home!  The farmers markets are filled right now with rows and rows of vibrant yellow daffodils and their dizzying fragrance, just begging to be brought home and placed on your table. Try to buy locally and/or sustainably harvested blooms whenever you can.  How about a few new throw pillows for the sofa in a shade inspired by some sweet-smelling hyacinth blooms?  A single vividly green frond in a simple vase or a handful of parsley in a tumbler can bring a fresh new vitality into a room. 

The winter color palette doesnt give us much to choose from does it?  What with its generous offerings of_white.  And winter white.  Oh and then theres taupe, beige, gray and light gray!  Painting just one wall in a room can completely change its feel.  Open your doors to a new Spring palette, consider colors youve perhaps not used before.  Whether you choose from the warm reds, oranges and yellows of the tulips on offer at the market or opt for cooler hydrangea blues and purples, look to Springs colors to inspire you.  Choosing a paint that is low or no VOC makes it an eco-friendly choice for your home and for the environment.  Changing paint in a room or a few rooms is quick and easy way to invite Spring in. 

Julie Arcino is the Resource Coordinator at MB Jessee Inc.

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