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5 Small green changes to make this month

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Easy ways to do your part

You turn off the water while brushing your teeth and turn off the lights when you leave the room. You can do many more super-simple things to make the world around you a little bit greener -- and such changes add up to make a big difference. Start small with these five simple green changes.

Woman doing laundry the green way

1 Wipe your feet.

Just think for a moment about the stuff that gathers on the bottoms of your shoes: pesticides, pathogens, car exhaust, chemicals, pet germs and more.

Starting today, institute a simple family policy: Leave your shoes at the door. It doesn't get much easier than that, and the benefits are two-fold:

  1. You will have a cleaner home, so you'll need fewer chemicals for cleaning. Speaking of household cleaners... Switching to plant-based green cleaners reduces air pollution (both indoors and out) and minimizes exposure to allergy and asthma triggers.
  2. You will improve the indoor air quality of your home. Dirt embedded in carpet can become airborne when people step on it or a vacuum cleaner agitates it.
Equip your exterior doors with both outdoor mats (wipe your feet before entering) and indoor mats (on which to place your shoes).

What's living inside your vacuum cleaner?

2 Switch to essential oils.

Essential oils are distilled from the leaves, flowers, stems, roots or bark of a plant. They're highly concentrated, and a little bit goes a long way. (One drop of peppermint oil, for example, is as potent as 30 cups of peppermint tea!) Essential oils have many therapeutic benefits -- and can be used for cleaning, too.

Some essential oils can kill mold and bacteria. Use them to clean your combs and hairbrushes, shower doors, toilets, windows, countertops, dishes, garbage disposal and more. Your home will smell amazing – without the use of smoky fragranced candles or chemically enhanced fragranced cleaners.

Check out some great essential oils cleaning tips at HousekeepingMatters.com >>

3 Green up your laundry routine.

Washing machines use a lot of water and a good bit of energy to heat that water -- and with each load, you're likely adding a chemical detergent. Newer washing machine models are far more energy efficient than older styles, but you can do more than just invest in a new washer:

  • Wash full loads only. If you must run a small load, be sure to adjust your water level accordingly (and use less detergent).
  • Always opt for a cold-water rinse no matter what temperature you use to wash your clothes. Cold water rinses out the soap as well as warm or hot water does.
  • Do several loads of laundry back to back. When you put wet clothes in a dryer that just ran for the previous load, you can take advantage of the leftover heat.
Make sure your kids change out of their school clothes right after school. Things such as jeans and hoodies don't have to be washed after every wear. -- Heather

Laundry confessions from real moms >>

4 Dress up your windows.

Insulated drapes and shades are prettier than ever and can have a big impact on your energy bill. They keep heat out during summer and keep it in throughout the winter months.

"Until you can afford to repair or replace drafty windows, hang insulated curtains," says home improvement contractor William Zander. Zander likes insulated blinds for summer and floor-length drapes for winter. "A lot of heat escapes through the walls directly beneath your windows."

DIY green home makeover >>

5 Don't buy -- bORROW & BARTER, instead.

We use many of the things we buy – books and magazines, for example – only once. Borrow from libraries instead of buying books, or set up a book exchange with your book-loving friends.

Don't just throw away magazines when you're done. "Veterans enjoy a variety of current magazines," says Dolores S., who volunteers at veterans' homes and hospitals. "When they're done with them, we pass them along to nearby skills centers for the mentally retarded to use in classes and for craft projects."

2011 book guide >>

Tell us

What's your best tip for going green at home?

Share with us in the comments section below!

More ways to live green

Slowly going green: Learning to live green, week-by-week
6 Simple eco-friendly product swaps for your home
Eco-friendly fashion

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