While the first day of spring officially “sprung” nearly a month ago, those of us in arctic climates such as Boston have only recently started to awaken from our winter hibernation. My many months spent primarily inside led to several distinct physical and social behaviors: new year’s elation, post-holiday weight gain, and… hoarding. I’m not writing about hoarding in the sense of floor to ceiling stacks of stuff that create a habit-trail environment. No; thankfully, in winter I simply tend to save more. Whether it’s stacks of paper near my computer or bulk food items stashed in the pantry, winter makes me want to keep things around. Reciprocally, spring makes me want to clear things out and clean things up - and to do so as quickly as possible.
As a start, I tend to remove as much as I can while not creating a huge deposit for our landfill. Re-use is a first step. If no one in my personal circles of friends and family can use the items I want to clear out, I work with local services. Nonprofit organization The Freecycle Network helps people to give and receive stuff for free in our local communities. GreenUsesForWaste is a resource to help you get the most out of every item and product that you use, preventing waste from going to the landfill and making sure energy is only used on recycling when something really can’t be used any more.
Similarly, Somerville nonprofit Second Chances provides opportunities to donate items to others in my local community. Accepting clothing, linens and other household items, Second Chances re-distributes contributions to homelessness, emergency assistance and anti-poverty organizations that serve clients in the greater Boston area. By providing donations that match the specific wish lists of partner organizations, Second Chances is very effective at getting the most-needed items to those who need it.
When items can’t be re-used, recycling is the next alternative. Massachusetts' Department of Environmental Protection has the latest information about recycling for specific materials, including those that are hazardous. The Department also provides an easily accessible database that lists recycling services in our local communities.
After clearing out comes cleaning up. Many resources are available to help consumers to choose environmentally-preferable cleaning products. Non-toxic cleaning solutions can often be created at home. The Ecology Center offers a thorough list of alternative cleaning recipes for solutions that can be used to clean upholstery and even remove crayon marks.
Products friendlier to the environment can also be purchased from numerous suppliers. Based in Burlington, Vermont, Seventh Generation offers home cleaning products to serve all needs. In addition to providing an easy-to-read list of ingredients, the company also goes one step further in providing Material Safety Data Sheets for many of its products, plus information about biodegradability and animal testing.
At the end of the day (or really more like a week or two) of cleaning and clearing, I can see the progress and truly enjoy it because these types of green cleaning strategies not only make my personal space more usable, they respect our environment and consequently the beauty of our spring season.