Five Green Rites of Spring

by Owner on March 20, 2009

The vernal equinox has arrived–one of two magical moments in time each year observed by the ancients, a time when both night and day are of the same exact length. It’s spring!

It’s a time of birth and renewal. A time for throwing off the heavy scarves and coats to frolic among the budding trees and blooming flowers. It’s a time for the rites of spring, a celebration of the bountiful year ahead. And as with most things, there are greener, environmentally friendly ways of celebrating the occasion. Here are five rites of spring you can enjoy.

1) Open the windows! From your mattress to your shower curtain, from under the sink to over the stove, there are chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) that emanate from all over your house thanks to the wonders of modern technology. There’s also mold, radon, dust, and who knows what else. Bleah!

During winter the windows are shut, preventing all that indoor air pollution from escaping out of your house. To make things worse, we also spend most of our time inside and out of the cold. This all creates the perfect situation for these chemicals and irritants to build up inside our homes and inside our bodies.

Open the windows! As the days and nights get warmer, don’t just turn on the air conditioner. Not only does it waste unnecessary energy, but you also don’t get the benefit of airing out your home and letting air circulate before anything has a chance to build up.

So go on–set the curtain aside, raise the blinds, unlock the latch, throw that window wide open, and breathe in the crisp air of spring. That is, unless you live up in a skyscraper high over some city with lots of traffic….in which case you should just open the window. (But if that’s you, console yourself knowing you’re being REALLY environmentally friendly by living in an efficient city instead of a far-flung suburb!)

2) Get rid of toxic cleaners. While we’re on the subject of indoor air pollution, what is that toxic bichlorinated phenol ether cleaner doing in your house in the first place? Do you value the fact it kills your immune system right along with your countertop bacteria? Get rid of it! (But PLEASE dispose of it safely.) The fewer of these nasty chemicals you have around the house, the better. Get something that’s certifiably green like Simple Green, or a cleaner that is at least more biodegradable such as Seventh Generation.

3) Reduce, reuse, recycle! Yes yes, you keep hearing this mantra–but you have to do the three R’s if you want to be green, and there’s no better time than spring to get started.

Reduce. How about getting rid of all the extra clutter that accumulated in your closet over the winter and giving it to charity? Better yet, promise not to re-clutter your closet with useless and not-green stuff in the future. Not only is it better for your wallet, it’s great feng shui. Simpler is better.

Reuse. Maybe it’s re-using your kitchen scraps to form compost, or setting up a rainbarrel to collect extra water for your garden. Maybe it’s pulling out that old bike from your garage, dusting it off, oiling it up, and using it instead of just throwing it out and getting a new one. Whatever it is, spring offers many opportunities to make whatever is old and unused, new and re-used again.

Recycle. If you’ve been less than meticulous about collecting and hauling your recyclable stuff to the curb in the cold weather, now’s the time to do penance and re-commit to meticulously keeping things out of the landfill that shouldn’t be there. Brush up on your local government’s rules for what can be recycled and what can’t, you might be surprised at what you can recycle. Stick a copy of the rules on your refrigerator door to remind you.

4) Tend that garden. It’s looking kind of pathetic, isn’t it. The weeds, the hard unturned earth, the wilted annuals from last summer or the wild-looking pansies from last fall. Your garden is crying for attention. Now’s the time to get out there, stick your hands in nature’s green earth, and do your part to renew the cycle of life. Don’t forget to use organic stuff like fertilizers when you can, your essential garden critters will thank you.

5) Walk! If you’re feeling sluggish after all this time indoors, if you’re still carrying some of the extra baggage left over from holiday fixings, now’s the time to get out and do something about it. Walking is great for your health and heart….and if you walk to the store instead of driving for a quarter of a mile you’ll do the Earth good as well as your heart. Or walk around your local neighborhood and see the cool things your neighbors are doing with their gardens. Or head over to the local farmer’s market and pick some good local fruits and vegetables. How about going to a community outdoor market (such as Washington DC’s Eastern Market) to peruse the crafts of local artists? It’s good to get out and feel the sun on your skin and the spring air on your face.

Happy Spring, everyone!

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