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Colleges Going Green

With the new school year upon us, and new football season (GO IRISH!), I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how colleges are doing their part to keep the environment clean. Considering that colleges were some of the first places to widely adopt recycling, and even today many institutions take back used paper, electronics, and batteries, it should come as no surprise that the sustainability movement is front and center on many campuses.

On some college campuses they even have “free stores”, where students can swap gently used items, which promote reuse. Green building is also proving quite popular on many major campuses nationwide. Green building is allowing new or modified structures to lower energy and water bills. There are many colleges which are using local organic foods in their cafeterias, while promoting biking and walkability, while using non-toxic materials, reducing waste and much much more.

Taking care of the environment has become such an important issue, that most colleges provide information on their environmental initiatives page on their websites. With the nations colleges and universities taking initiatives to better the environment now, we can only hope that it will continue and improve for a healthier, better tomorrow.


Recycled Water, Would You Drink It?

With nearly 60% of the U.S. going through drought conditions, and half of all the countries in the world declared as disaster areas, there is a need to find a solution for another source of water. But where would we look? How about in your toilet? The wastewater (what we usually flush down our toilets) can be recycled and is a fairly cheap and effective way to obtain more water. In fact, according to the National Academy of Sciences, if the wastewater which is flushed were recycled, the U.S. could increase it’s water supply by 27%, or nearly 12 billion gallons!

While the process for recycling wastewater is more rigorous than the process for regular tap water, it is up to 2/3 cheaper than Desalination (turning seawater into drinking water). This is due in large part because of the filtration that needs to be done. While wastewater is only 1,000 parts per million salt, seawater is 35,000 and therefore needs a more rigorous filtration. The other problem with Desalination is, it is limited to states near an ocean.

I’m sure that even the thought of drinking what was once flushed makes the majority of people cringe a bit, but according to the NAS, “Recent advances in technology and treatment design, potable reuse can reduce the concentration of chemical and microbial contaminants to levels comparable to or lower than those present in many drinking water supplies.”

It is estimated that only 7% of municipalities across the U.S. use recycled wastewater, and of that 7% only a handful of communities actually drink it. The wastewater is usually used for agriculture and golf courses.

With the world’s fresh water supply dwindling, and countries continuing to deal with drought conditions, recycled wastewater may end up being the answer we need. And hey, my dog drank directly from the toilet all the time and he seemed to like it!


What’s In Green Cleaning Products?

We all know that conventional cleaning products use a lot of harsh chemicals to get the job done. But what’s in green cleaning products that allows them to do the same job, without harsh chemicals? Here is a little list of a few of the ingredients used in different green cleaners.

“Alkyl Polyglucoside”- This plant-based ingredient is great at removing and dissolving dirt, oil, and grease, and can be found in a number of green cleaners. It’s used in everything from all-purpose cleaners to dishwashing liquid, glass & surface, and even laundry detergent.

“Citric Acid”- This corn-based ingredient is used to reduce minerals to soften hard water in order to help green cleaning ingredients work harder. It can be found in bathroom cleaner, dishwashing liquid and cleaning wipes.

“Boric Acid”- This mineral compound helps to stabilize the cleaning enzymes which break down protein-based stains. It is used in laundry detergent.

“Hydrogen Peroxide”- This is an oxygen-based bleaching agent which is great at removing stains. It is used in chlorine free bleach.

“Essential Oils”- These oils which are extracted from plants, are used in making synthetic fragrances so the cleaning products leave behind a fresh smell. These are used in just about every cleaning product.


Homemade Bug Spray

With so many things to love about the summertime, there are also a few things I do not look forward to. Ants seem to find their way into the house no matter how clean I try to keep it, and I get eaten alive by mosquitos as soon as i leave the house. To take care of these problems I’ve always had to use harsh chemical sprays and sticky repellants which contain poison (like deet) and smell awful. Luckily there are some natural alternatives for these problems.

If, like me, you get ants during the warm months, here are a few homemade solutions for keeping them out without having to spray your counter tops or kitchen floors with harsh chemicals.

“Oatmeal”- Ants are attracted to starchy foods so they’ll eat this right up. Once inside the insect’s stomach, the oatmeal will expand and essentially kill the ant. Try to sprinkle the oatmeal as close to or even on top of the anthills.

“Catnip”- Catnip comes from a type of mint called “catmint”, it contains the plant’s natural defense against bugs. If you brew a tea using catnip leaves and pour it into a spray bottle, you can spray down counter tops and other areas the ants get in to keep them out. Of course if you have a cat and use this method, be prepared for kitty to go a little nuts.

“Walnuts”- Walnuts are an ant repellant, they do not kill the ants. However, if you have a dog DO NOT use walnuts because they are poisonous to dogs. If you sprinkle walnuts around an ants nest they will be unable to leave it.

Now that we’ve covered the ants, lets move on to those annoying blood-suckers, mosquitos. The best natural bug repellants use a combination of essential oils, which is safe for humans and pets alike. The next time your BBQ is being taken over by squits, try mixing alcohol free witchhazel with a little bit of citronella, lemongrass, and tea tree oils, in a spray bottle. Spray a little bit on your legs and arms and keep the bugs away.

Green and Clean Back to School Lunch Tips

Buy a reusable lunch container.

A reusable lunch container saves resources. Over a couple years of use, imagine the one container vs. hundreds of throwaway pieces of paper and plastic. In addition to environmental reasons a reusable lunch container will save money in the long run. If you use a few plastic bags a day it adds up to a lot over time.

So how do you keep it clean and germ free?

It depends on the type of container. If there is an external carrying component it needs to be treated differently. Some of the carrying containers can go in the washing machine while others will get destroyed that way and need to be hand washed with dish soap and warm water. For the food containers themselves, it makes sense to get one that is dishwasher safe.

How to take care of odors:

Over time any container holding food will develop odors. This is especially true if your child didn’t eat the lunch and there is a virtual science experiment growing in the container after a few days. Don’t throw it away! There are some simple solutions for these cases. After a normal cleaning and drying, try spraying the container with a light bleach solution and allow it to dry. Another method is to use baking soda. This can be sprinkled inside and outside the container and then let to sit. Baking soda is a great way to remove odors.

Different types of reusable lunch containers:

The Lunch Bots product above is stainless steel so it does not leach chemicals unlike some made of plastic. This one is dishwasher safe in the top rack but is not watertight, and so it cannot hold liquids.

This bento box style container from Laptop Lunches is versatile and microwave safe.

Clean Conscience wishes everyone a safe and productive new school year!

Cleaning Tile And Grout The Green Way

While brushing my teeth the other morning, I noticed the tile in my bathroom was beginning to look like it could use a good cleaning. After noticing this I immediately became bummed out, because cleaning tile, and especially grout, is a real pain. But I guess sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

When cleaning I didn’t want to use bleach or or any other sprays which would make me queasy from the fumes. So I turned to good old reliable vinegar, which seems to be the best bet when naturally cleaning just about anything. Unfortunately, I was all out. So then I thought, “ahh, I can use lemons.”, because like vinegar, the high acid content would eat away at any mildew or mold on the grout. Once again I was disappointed to find no lemons in the fridge. The one thing I did have plenty of was Hydrogen Peroxide. I mixed the peroxide with water in a spray bottle (1 part peroxide, 2 parts water) and started cleaning. It actually worked well, and with a little elbow grease, the tiles were getting clean.

Another option you can use for cleaning your tile and grout, is baking soda. If you combine baking soda with hot water you’ll form a paste. This paste can be effective when combined with the scrubbing action of a toothbrush to clean the grout. Not only will your grout look nice and bright, but the baking soda will also deodorize the area as well. If you really want an effective cleaning, try sprinkling baking soda on the grout then pour vinegar on top. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then scrub. Afterwards, just rinse with water and wipe clean.

So whether you’re using vinegar, lemons, baking soda or Hydrogen Peroxide, there are plenty of “green” options for cleaning tile just lying around the house.


How Important Is It That Your House Cleaners Are Bonded?

What does it mean if your house cleaners are bonded? It basically means that if in the rare occasion something is stolen from your home during a cleaning service, and the employee steals, is arrested, or tried and convicted, the bonding company will cover the loss up to the amount of the bond carried by the company.

Although the hiring process is easier nowadays, with all the information you can receive about someone via online information and criminal background checks, having a company that is bonded gives some customers a sense of security. The problem is that it can be a false sense of security. Asking if a company is bonded is fine, a more important question may be, “who will be cleaning my home? How do you select, hire, and train the people who work for you?” Another important question could be about whether or not the company is properly insured, including liability and workers comp. insurance.

So, while having your cleaners bonded can be helpful in a concrete case of theft (which is very rare), it is not the most important thing you should concern yourself with when hiring a cleaning company.

Easy Tips For Turning Your Home Into A “Green” Home

Many people would like to have a more environmentally friendly or “green” home but feel they would have to make drastic changes in their lives to do it. Luckily, this isn’t the case. There are little changes you can make around your home or in your lifestyle which won’t have a huge impact on your everyday life but will have an impact on the environment.

Let’s start with changing from harsh chemical cleaners, to plant-based cleaners. Not only will this be better for the environment but it will also help with the quality of the air inside your home. Making sure your home is properly insulated is also very important. If properly insulated, it can improve your home’s energy draw by up to 30%. Thermal shades can also help with insulation, by blocking the sun during hot summer days, and keeping in heat during the winter.

You can also help others while helping the environment by donating your old clothes instead of throwing them out. This cuts down on carbon emissions by not having to produce another item while one is being tossed in a landfill. Even just keeping your kitchen clean will help. By keeping your kitchen crumb-free, it will keep it bug-free and therefore you won’t have to use harsh bug sprays or pesticides.

And of course there are just the basics which we’ve all heard for years; recycle, turn off the lights when you leave a room, don’t just stand there with the refrigerator door open, etc… These are just a few simple ways to help improve the environment, and if we all make these little changes, the positive impact can be huge.


Cleaning A Self Cleaning Oven

First of all, what is a self cleaning oven? A self cleaning oven is an oven which essentially cleans itself (to a certain degree), by using a pyrolytic interior coating and extreme heat to burn off any leftover food that may have spilled or sprayed in the oven, without having to use any chemical cleaners.

Although the self cleaning oven does the majority of the cleaning during the 3-5 hour process, you still need to do a little cleaning before and after you start the self cleaning mode yourself. You should start by removing the racks from the oven first and wash them in a sink using a scraper or brush to remove stuck-on food. Then, wipe down the inside of your oven with a hot damp cloth to try to remove any large spills. DO NOT use any rough scouring pads or oven cleaners on the inside of the oven because they may damage the  special pyrolytic coating.

There are a few things you should always remember when you are putting your oven on “self-clean mode”. You should always open a window do to the smell of the fumes that may come when burning off old food. If you happen to have a pet bird, you should remove it from the area because the fumes, which are not harmful to people, may be harmful to birds. And never try to open the oven door during the cleaning process or you risk the possibility of being burned (during the cleaning process the temperature can be as high as 900 Fahrenheit).

U.S. Ranks Last In Sustainable Behavior

The United States ranks last in sustainable behavior compared to the rest of the world; as we have every year, and we don’t seem to feel too guilty about it. This according to a survey done by National Geographic.

In the annual Greendex report, which is conducted by the National Geographic Society and research consultancy GlobeScan, found that 47% of U.S. citizens believe in an individual’s ability to protect the environment, and only 21% feel any “green guilt” about their impact on the environment.

Now, on the the other hand, the countries who rank the highest on the Greendex report, such as, India, China, and Brazil, say that they suffer from the most “green guilt” about their impact on the environment. They also seem to have the least amount of faith that their own actions can help to improve it.

This report was done by researchers who asked 17,000 consumers in 17 countries a series of questions, via an online survey. The questions were about transportation, housing, food and consumer goods.

Here is a graph which shows the countries surveyed and where they rank for sustainability from 2008-2012: