What you can do


Do less cleaning! Seriously, how clean do things need to be? There are concerns that overuse of anti-bacterial and anti-microbial agents may be counter-productive, leading to the evolution of resistant bacteria and microbes. There is also some evidence suggesting that contact with dirt helps to strengthen the human immune system and that too clean an environment may contribute to increases in childhood allergies and asthma.

Avoid chlorine bleaches and detergents containing phosphates as these are known to harm the environment.

Make the most of dishwashers and washing machines – run them at full load. Many also have half load or economy settings – check the instructions. Experiment with washing clothes at lower temperatures – you may find the results are just as good. When replacing old appliances look for energy efficient models on sust-it.net.

Recycle what packaging you can. Cardboard can be composted if you cannot find anywhere to recycle it. See recycling.

When shopping

How many cleaning products do you need? Do you really need all those specialist products? Try managing with fewer cleaning products. Water, perhaps with a bit of soap or detergent, is often surprisingly effective.

Give one of the “green” washing-up liquids a try. A cleaner environment – and with today’s products, no compromise in your kitchen! See the list of environmentally-friendlier brands.

Household cleaning chemicals can be vicious – and there are plenty of effective green alternatives, which use fewer chemicals, are more biodegradable and use vegetable-based rather than petroleum-based cleaning agents. Look at the labels. Check that the product lives up to its green credentials; an impression of environmental-friendliness may not be entirely real.

Avoid aerosol cans and over-packaged products. Large cartons contain proportionately more content than small ones and glass and cardboard are easier to recycle than plastic. You may be able to buy refill packs containing less packaging, and buying concentrated products also reduces the amount of packaging.

Need a new washing machine or dishwasher? The best place to start to look for up-to-date efficiency for long-term savings in both water and energy is to visit the website Sust-it. The site shows how much energy and water each appliance uses, how much they cost to run, and the CO2 emissions. Brands vary considerably, and some have energy-saving features, such as settings for half-loads, or lower temperatures, or timers enabling you to use off-peak electricity (which at least saves you money).

Need a new vacuum cleaner, iron or other electrical device? Are you sure the old one cannot be repaired? Consider asking around as someone you know may have one they don’t need. When buying, check the energy consumption as brands can vary.

Changing how you do things

Experiment with ‘old-fashioned’ tips for cleaning, for example, using vinegar to clean windows and mirrors. Bicarbonate of soda is a good general purpose cleaner and also absorbs odours, while The Green Shop provides suggestions for using borax. Many of the websites listed in this section and in the online shops section have suggestions for cleaning without toxic chemicals and there are lots of books with advice.

Try some of the new products such as e-clothes or washballs.

It is possible to wash small amounts of clothes by hand or, instead of buying your own washing machine, use a launderette or a friend’s machine.

Dry clothes outside when the weather permits, or on a rack, instead of using the tumble dryer.

Will a broom, dustpan and brush do the job just as well as the vacuum cleaner?

Buy reusable dustbags for your vacuum cleaner if you can or consider investing in a bagless vacuum cleaner.


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