Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008 - Making It Easier Being Green

Earth Day 2008 gives us a chance to reflect on the whole notion of "green."

Right now, green is the new "it" color. Actually, it's not so much a color as it is a way of life, an attitude about consumption and sustainability that currently sits heavily on many minds, and was considerably intensified last year by Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth.

A 1970s association with green comes from Kermit the Frog and his song 'It's Not Easy Being Green' where Kermit bemoans his greenness and lack of individuality. By the end of the song, he discovers green's many positive attributes and celebrates them.

Interesting to be contemplating the many nuances and shades of green as Earth Day 2008 takes place.

In a meeting last week, someone asked me if the whole green thing was just a fad: Would it go away, like the perms of the 1980s or the Macarana? My answer to that was no, green will not go away. Perhaps the hype will fade and the intensity will settle, but the environmental mindset is here to stay - too much depends on it. Someone else pointed out that, in addition, laws have been enacted in the past few years that regulate corporate accountability and sustainability in certain industries. Because of this, we can't exactly just forget about going green.

With so much to consider, though, environmentally friendly living gets a bit overwhelming.

As with the BBC - Two Show, "It's Not Easy Being Green", many of us want to do the right thing, but also realize how ineffective we would be without many of our modern day amenities. So how might we start? How might we take a first step or series of steps into making it easier to be green?

That's where we step in: The Carpetology Blog would like to suggest starting small in that quest for a greener lifestyle. Because small steps can add up. They get you into the habit; they change patterns.

Some of these ideas came up during Blog Action Day For The Environment, which took place October 15, 2007 around the world...

For example, have you tried replacing a few incandescent light bulbs with CFL bulbs? You can even join Energy Star's Change a Light, Change the World campaign, like Ultron carpet fiber did at GreenBuild this year.

We've also come across tips on caring for your house - and carpet - in a 'greener' way.

For starters, take Care2's suggestion in a recent article and make your home a "shoe-free sanctuary." Adapted from Japanese Style, the article lists eight benefits of leaving your shoes at the door. "A healthier home is ensured because shoes track in lead, pesticides and other pollutants, contaminating carpets and floors, turning a home into a toxic place for pets and young children, especially, who spend more time on the floor," the article states.

A recent
Fort-Worth Star-Telegram article offers ways to "stay green while you clean," and suggests using natural products like baking soda, Borax, lemon juice and white vinegar - all inexpensive and accessible - to clean your home. Plus, each of these products has multiple uses: borax, for example, can serve as both a water softener and a laundry freshener.

LighterFootstep, a website dedicated to helping people live a more sustainable lifestyle, specifically focuses on carpet cleaning. In order to avoid the chemicals many professional cleaners use, ask for a plant-based alternative. Or... "Postpone a general cleaning with spot maintenance. Here you have some natural options: salt for mud, dirt, and red wine; club soda for coffee stains; and cornstarch or cornmeal for grease. To control odors, liberally sprinkle carpeting with baking soda and allow to sit overnight before vacuuming. Direct sunlight is also a great deodorant. A couple of hours in the sun does wonders to freshen bathroom mats and area rugs."

Heloise offers wonderful baking soda suggestions. As it relates to deodorizing carpet, she says: "Put baking soda in a clean spice container, or clean plastic Parmesan cheese container with a shaker top, and lightly sprinkle it all over the carpet. Leave on for at least 30 minutes and then vacuum. If you want a spicy carpet deodorizer, add a little cinnamon spice to a shaker filled full with baking soda. Sprinkle on the carpet, let sit for a bit and then vacuum. CAUTION: The dark-colored spices could stain, so don’t use on white or light colored carpeting."

When asked about options for environmentally friendly professional carpet cleaning services, National Geographic's The Green Guide discusses the chemicals found in many carpet cleaning solutions, talks about why they're harmful, then suggests hiring companies like Bi-O-Kleen that use plant-derived cleaners instead of detergents. The guide offers a variety of tips for carpet cleaning, as well as some home remedies to remove common household stains. "For a heavy duty carpet cleanser," the guide suggests, "take 1/4 cup each of salt, borax and vinegar and mix to form a paste, then rub onto carpet. Follow by vacuuming the spot thoroughly. It even offers a shopping list of good green products."

Note: our expert strongly suggests that you test a small area first before applying the salt/borax/vinegar paste onto your carpet. Her research indicated that although excellent at killing fleas, salt and borax in particular can be particularly abrasive and might damage your carpet.

Also, don't underestimate the benefit of vacuuming your carpet regularly [i.e., at least once a week], and more frequently if you desire. For high traffic areas, go over the same area multiple times in different directions with the vacuum. And, do make sure that the vacuum bag doesn't need to be replaced before you do your cleaning!

So, as Kermit discovered, don't be intimidated about what it takes to be green. Just take it step by step, start with what's comfortable, and realize that in reality, it's a lot easier being green than you might have thought!

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