How to Host a Green Cookout This Summer

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Summer is here and it’s time to start taking advantage of that beautiful sunny weather. Inviting friends and family over for a day of grilling and outdoor fun is just the ticket! Unfortunately, all of that summer fun comes with a hefty price tag for the environment.

The United States Department of Energy estimates that Fourth of July barbecues alone pump about 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And that’s not even counting all of the cookouts from the rest of the summer. Plus there is all the physical waste produced at summer get-togethers—the Styrofoam plates, plastic forks, party decorations, latex water balloons…

No one’s saying you should give up grilling, but how can you ensure that your summer cookout doesn’t destroy your carbon footprint for the whole year? We’ve assembled a few tips to help keep this year’s cookout or BBQ as eco-friendly as possible.

 

  1. Mind your carbon emissions. Charcoal grills are the worst offenders when it comes to carbon emissions, so you might want to consider a more energy-efficient and cleaner burning gas grill instead. But if you can’t bear to give up the smoky flavor imparted by charcoal, there is an alternative. Instead of charcoal briquettes, look for lump charcoal. Made from tree limbs and blackened in a kiln, this type of charcoal not only burns cleaner but also is responsible for less deforestation than briquettes. And it still gives your food a delicious, smoky taste. Lump charcoal is available online and at many home improvement stores.

  2. Choose reusable plates, napkins, and cutlery. Do your part to keep paper and plastic waste to a minimum this summer by using your regular tableware for parties. If you’re afraid of glass and ceramic plates getting chipped or broken, opt for a set of sturdy, reusable plastic dishes that you can use at your barbecues for years to come. The extra clean-up won’t take too long if you enlist the help of your guests. You can even set up a backyard dish washing station, utilizing the bucket system like when you go camping. If you do opt for disposable tableware due to the size of your party, look for eco-friendly options and set up a recycling station.

  3. Handheld foods reduce the need for plates and utensils. Many summer foods don’t even require plates. Set out platters of kebobs, watermelon slices, and hot dog fixings to cut down on the amount of plates and forks needed.

  4. Be conscious of energy consumption. You’ll be spending the day outside, so the air conditioning probably doesn’t need to be running indoors. If you’re using a gas or electric grill, turn it off when not in use.

  5. Compost your vegetable and fruit waste. Why send all that valuable, enriching plant matter to the landfill when you can add it to your flower beds or vegetable garden next year? If you’re using unbleached disposable paper plates and napkins, you can add them to the compost pile, as well.

  6. Opt for local and organic ingredients. The more locally your food is produced, the less carbon pollution it takes to get it to your cookout. Take a trip to the tailgate market before your cookout and try to source as many of your ingredients from the seasonal bounty available close to home.

  7. Set up eco-friendly activities for the kids. Lots of summer barbecues include organized games and activities for children—many of them involving water! If you’re planning to let the kids get in some water fun, go for well-made water guns rather than sprinklers or water balloons. A continuously running sprinkler can use up a LOT of water over the course of an afternoon, and latex balloons create toxic pollution both in manufacture and disposal. A water gun, on the other hand, can be used for years and years, and will provide plenty of squirts, splashes, and fun in the sun.

 

 

 

2019 Best of WNC Voting Has Begun!

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The Mountain Xpress Best of WNC poll has officially opened! It's time to cast our votes to support our favorite local businesses in Western North Carolina.

You have voted Green Home Cleaning the best local home cleaning service for four years in a row. Thank you! That kind of community support really speaks to the quality of our service. And it helps get the word out so that more people can experience the earth-friendly clean that only we can deliver. We could never have experienced so much growth and success over the years without you!

But we have an extra special reason to be excited about this year's poll. If we can defend our title for a fifth year, we'll be inducted into the Best of WNC Hall of Fame! What a tremendous honor! We know we can do it, with your support.

So here's your chance to show a little local love for Green Home Cleaning and all the other WNC businesses you couldn't live without! Visit the Mountain Xpress website to cast your ballot, and remember to vote for Green Home Cleaning in the "Home Cleaning Services" category. Voting ends April 30th!


Spring Cleaning: 14 Things to Purge Immediately!

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  1. Clothes and Shoes. Go through your closets and get rid of anything that is damaged or that you don’t use. Shoes that are pinched, uncomfortable, scuffed, or out of fashion—donate them! If they are soiled beyond cleaning, or if they are missing a mate, toss them! Same goes for clothes. If you haven’t worn it in the past twelve months, chances are you’re not going to wear it any time in the next twelve months, either. This includes formal wear, Halloween costumes, and sentimental apparel from high school! If you harbor nostalgic feelings for the item, but it doesn’t fit and/or you know you’ll never wear it, why not take a photo to post to social media? That way you’ll have a memento that doesn’t take up any space, and all of your friends will be excited to see and comment on the photo. 

  2. Hoarded Paper. This can take many different forms, but nearly everyone has it. Maybe you have a collection of all your paper bills from the past decade, hogging up the filing cabinet or just moldering in cardboard boxes. Maybe it’s old receipts from previous tax years that you no longer need. Maybe it’s expired coupons, or paperwork on every appliance you’ve purchased in your adult life. Or maybe it’s your kids’ schoolwork. Whatever it is, chances are you’re never going to need it, and it’s just taking up space that could be filled with something cool, or replaced with wonderful, easy-to-clean NOTHING!  Recycle it now!

  3. Wire Hangers. For one thing, wire hangers look kind of junky. And for another, they can actually damage your clothes. The only things wire clothes hangers are good for are a) bending out of shape to clear clogged bathtub drains, and b) jimmying the lock on a pre-1995 car. If you think you might run into either one of those problems in the coming year, maybe keep one or two in your garage with the rest of the tools. If not, toss all of your wire hangers and replace them with plastic or wooden ones.

  4. Mate-less socks. If you’ve gone through three laundry cycles since the mate went missing, you’re probably not going to find it. Put the lonely sock to rest. In the trash can.

  5. Old Towels and Linens. The general rule of thumb is that you should have two sets of towels for each member of the family, plus one set for a guest. (Two sets per person so that one can be used while the other is being laundered.) If you have any more than that, it’s most likely wasting space. If your old towels aren’t worn out enough to throw away, you might consider donating them to Goodwill or to your local animal shelter. Or if you’re short on cloths for cleaning, cut the old bath towels up into smaller squares and transfer them to the rag bag.

  6. Anything Expired. Go through your kitchen, your bathrooms, and wherever you store your cleaning products. Check the expiration dates on EVERYTHING. Hair products. Cans of food. Makeup. Condiments—ESPECIALLY condiments. Vitamins and medications. Packages of frozen peas and anything freezer-burned. These things may seem small and insignificant, but once you clear them all out, you’ll realize how much space they took up altogether.

  7. Lidless Food Storage Containers. It happens. Tupperware lids get lost. Or, sometimes, the lid is right there in the lid drawer and it’s the container itself you can’t find. Either way, no reason to hang onto these items.

  8. Instruction Manuals. It is the age of information and we no longer need to hang onto the user guides for every appliance, device, and gadget that crosses our threshold. Most likely, you are still hanging onto manuals for items you’ve long since gotten rid of, but even if all of your manuals are current, you probably don’t need to keep them. Instructions for almost any product you can think of can be found on the manufacturer’s website these days, and more general troubleshooting and repair advice abounds on YouTube.

  9. Empty Jars and Bottles. We do it with good intentions. We hang on to spaghetti sauce jars because you never know when you might need a jar! Or we keep old wine bottles because they’re pretty to look at. The problem with this is, those jars and bottles add up quickly and end up taking up SO MUCH SPACE. And they collect dust like nothing else. And while it is true that a jar is occasionally a handy thing to have around, the truth is there’s almost always an almost empty jar of something in the fridge when we find ourselves in need. Just eat the last pickle, wash out the pickle jar, and use that. No need to store all empty jars under your sink for eternity.

  10. Dead Electronics. There are two reasons why people don’t throw out their old electronics. Either they lie to themselves and say that they are going to fix it one day (or use the parts for something else), or they don’t know where to properly dispose of the item. Let’s clear up both of these reasons right now. No, you’re never going to use the old parts from your first laptop. And in order to find out how to properly dispose of electronics in your area, simply check online (or call) your local waste management authority.

  11. Pots and Pans. If you hate cooking with it, it’s time to toss it. Same goes for spatulas, ladles, and other cooking utensils.

  12. Chargers and Cables for Devices You No Longer Own. Don’t feel bad about getting rid of chargers and cords you never use. You don’t even have to throw them in the garbage. You actually CAN donate these to most Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, and believe it or not, people actually buy used cords and cables for all kinds of projects.

  13. Kitchen Gadgets. From your apple corer to your salad chopper to that weird wire cheese slicer, spring cleaning is the perfect time to get rid of all those random gadgets taking up space in your kitchen cabinets. Don’t feel bad! If they are still in good condition, you can probably sell them on eBay for a little extra scratch.

  14. Old Textbooks. Many people lug around their old textbooks from college (or even high school) through moves and marriages and job changes, all through their adult life. These heavy tomes that take up a whole bookcase on their own feel like something you ought to hang onto—after all, they represent four or more years of your life, and all that learning that went into making you the smart professional you are today. But do you ever re-read them? Have you ever, even once, cracked the cover on any of those books? If not, do yourself a favor and pass them on. If they aren’t too out-of-date, you might be able to sell them to incoming college students on eBay. If they’re old, though, donating them to your local thrift store is a great way to give them a new life.

Clean Your Car the Green Way!

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We talk a lot about green house cleaning on this blog. It makes sense, since we are Asheville’s top source for environmentally friendly home cleaning services! We’ve written about green ways to keep your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, and even your home electronics clean and organized. But there’s one topic we’ve never covered: green ways to clean your car.

It’s not technically part of your house, but your car is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of your home. You rely on it to get you, your family, and your stuff where you need to go, and you probably occupy it every day for at least an hour or two. You pack your groceries into it, you put your gym bag on the floor, and if you have kids, they probably eat French fries in the back seat. Sometimes.

With all that activity taking place in your vehicle, it can get pretty messy. It might even get dirty and smelly. And so of course, you clean it periodically. But are you treating your car with the same care as you do your living spaces when it comes to cleaning? There aren’t many green cleaning products on the market that are specifically made for use in or on automobiles, but it’s just as important to clean your car with non-toxic, environmentally friendly substances as it is your house. Maybe even more important, since everyone in the family spends time there in close quarters.

So here is a brief guide to cleaning your car the green way. You can get your car sparkling clean on the outside and spotlessly fresh on the inside without resorting to toxic chemicals that can harm your health and the environment!

Glass

Use a mixture of white vinegar and water to clean your windshield and windows on the inside of the car.  Mix equal parts in a spray bottle, and if you want, add a little cornstarch, which will scrub off grime without leaving a residue. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to mask the vinegar smell. (If you don’t add essential oils, the vinegar smell will still go away in a couple of hours if you leave the car doors open to allow air circulation.) Spray the solution on the glass surfaces and wait thirty seconds or so before wiping them with a lint-free cloth in a circular motion. This should give you a streak-free clean.

Upholstery and Floors

First, vacuum the floors and upholstery thoroughly. If you have any stains on your fabric upholstery or floor mats, you can tackle them with the same vinegar-and-water solution that you used on the glass surfaces. On leather or vinyl surfaces, toothpaste is a good stain remover.

Vinyl and Plastic Surfaces

Again with the vinegar-and-water mixture? I know, it’s kind of redundant, but vinegar is such a great, green cleaning solution, and it works on so many different types of surfaces. For your dashboard, console, cup holders, etc., use the vinegar spray, but this time instead of spraying it directly on the surface, spray it onto a cloth and then wipe down the surface. This will prevent moisture from seeping into nooks and crannies.

Odors

You have a couple of options when it comes to green solutions for odor control in your car. One is to make your own scented air freshener, using just water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. You can spray it on the floors and upholstery while you’re cleaning the car, or you can just keep a bottle in the car for regular use. Another method is to sprinkle baking soda on the seats and floor, leave it overnight, and vacuum it up in the morning. The baking soda will absorb any unpleasant odors.

Body

Here’s the fun part. Fill up a few buckets (four ought to do it for a sedan) with warm, soapy water. Use a plant-based soap with no bleach, no harsh additives, and no added enzymes. Apply the soapy water with a sponge made for washing cars, or you can use an old t-shirt. Just make sure that whatever you use is non-abrasive. Get all soapy and wet (don’t forget to get the car soapy and wet, too), and then empty your buckets, fill them again with clear water, and rinse!

Headlights

Toothpaste works great for cleaning dirty, cloudy headlight surfaces. And if you have an old toothbrush lying around, that will make a great abrasive tool to get dirt and gunk and dead insects off the headlights. (Just don’t use the toothbrush on any painted surfaces!)

And that’s it! We hope you found this guide helpful for cleaning your car the green way. We don’t clean cars, but we do clean houses! If you’re looking for a highly efficient, green house cleaning service in the Asheville NC area, drop us a line or give us a call at 828.505.7320.

 

How to Refresh Your Home (and Restore Your Sanity) After the Holidays

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The holidays are a time for family, friends, and merry-making, but with all the rush and bustle, the errands and get-togethers, merriment isn’t the only mind state the season produces. It can also be just a little bit maddening. The weather outside is frightful, and maybe the kids are starting to get stir-crazy. Clutter abounds from all the new Christmas presents. Your refrigerator is stuffed as full as a turkey with leftovers, and there is an honest-to-god tree in your living room.

As December draws to a close with just one last shindig to ring in the New Year, you’re probably ready to restore some order to your home, your life, and your sanity. All of which may seem a bit overwhelming, if you don’t even know where to begin. But fear not! We have compiled a post-holiday checklist to help you re-establish normalcy in your home, so you can get back to enjoying time with your family through the cozy winter months ahead.

  • Pack away (and sort) ornaments. Tackle the decorations on the Christmas tree first. Check the ornaments individually to make sure they are not broken (if they are, toss them!) and if you still want to keep them around for future years of holiday enjoyment (if not, donate them!) Make sure that you wrap or coil your tree lights and bead strings neatly, so you won’t have to deal with an impossible tangled mess next year. Once the tree is denuded, remove and pack away any other holiday ornaments from around the house like Christmas villages, outside lights, and lawn ornaments. Label the boxes clearly and store them where you will be able to find them easily next holiday season.

  • Get the tree out of your house. Christmas trees are lovely to look at, if a bit of an odd tradition. (Seriously, whose idea was it to bring a tree inside the house in the middle of winter, cover it with fire, and stare at it?) But now is the time to restore your home to its normal tree-free state. Pack away your artificial tree carefully and store the box upright. If you have a genuine tree, call your local waste management department to find out the details of their tree disposal program. Or if you have the space outside, you can always put it out in a corner of the yard as a refuge for ground nesting birds.

  • Wrapping paper, bows, and ribbons. If the floor around your Christmas tree is still cluttered with wrapping, clear it away. But save the ribbons and bows for next year!  Once that’s done, your living room floor should be clear enough to vacuum up the pine needles and cookie crumbs.

  • Find homes for gifts. The easiest way to keep a well-organized home is to have a place for everything. Since every member of the family receives a new influx of things at Christmas, it only makes sense to spend some time figuring out where those things are going to live. If you have limited space or a minimalist spirit, you might want to adhere to the “one in, one out” rule: each time you (or a family member) receive a new item, donate one of your older possessions to make space for it.

  • Clean and Pack Away Holiday Attire. Many of us have clothing that only gets used during the holiday seasion. Whether it’s a beautiful party dress or a Santa suit, you’ll want to get these items washed (or dry cleaned) and packed away securely for next year.

  • Finish up the leftovers. Designate one day within the week after festivities as “Leftover Day”. On that day, commit to not cooking anything. If anyone wants to eat, they must heat up Christmas leftovers (and wash the dishes as they go.) This will clear up refrigerator space and ensure that those delicious holiday foods don’t go forgotten and spoil.

  • Deep clean kitchen and bathrooms. These are the rooms that receive the most abuse during the holiday season, especially with guests popping in all month. Devote some time in the first week of the New Year to really making your kitchen and bathrooms sparkle. In the kitchen, clean the inside of the oven, polish the appliance fronts, fixtures, and backsplash, sweep out underneath the toaster oven, and scrub the floor. In addition to your regular bathroom cleaning routine, wash the rugs, dust the toiletry and hair product bottles, and clean the mirror and light switch plates. Dust the baseboards and light fixtures in both rooms, and then sit back and relax. Sanity restored!

P.S. We totally understand if you don’t want to fool around with that deep cleaning part. If you live in the Asheville, NC area and want someone else to take care of that part, our expert post-holiday cleaning elves would be delighted to help. Drop us a line or give us a call at 828.505.7320