Winter is almost over. Spring is so close we can almost imagine shedding  our multiple layers of sweaters, long johns and winter boots  to let that first  blessed ray of sunlight meet our vitamin D-deprived, pasty flesh.

See you next year ,Winter time blues! See you on  the flip side, dry, flaky skin! Smell you later, huge heating bills!

Hello, birds chirping, bees buzzing, sun shining and…Spring Cleaning?

I guess some aspects of Spring are more inspirational than others. Who are we to complain, though? After months of  hibernation and malaise, our homes have likely become musty pits wherein dust bunnies roam free without consequence. Well, listen here, dust bunnies of Earth! Spring has sprung and your days are numbered. Gone are the chilly nights wherein we as a people collectively shrug and think to ourselves, “Eh, why bother sweeping? It will just get dirty again sooner or later.”

You are history, my dusty friends! And that is not a threat, it is a promise!

Before you run off, inspired by my anti-dust bunny propaganda and ready to kick some dust’s unlucky buns, sit down for a moment or  two and read these handy tips on how to keep your Spring cleaning green. After all, the  Earth in all its Spring time splendor is to thank for all this burst  of cleaning energy, so you may as well fight the war of the clean with its happiness in mind.

Vinegar is Your New Best Friend:

Seriously, purchase as much white vinegar as you can get your hot little hands on. Vinegar is going to be your Junior Sheriff in this epic showdown with dirt you are about to face.

Use Vinegar’s awesome cleaning power on floors, cabinets and windows. All of these can be cleaned with a simple mixture of vinegar and water. For more difficult jobs, you may want to employ Vinegar’s on and off again partner, baking  soda. (Why these crazy kids just can’t work things out for good is beyond me.)

Microwaves, toilets, sinks, tubs and the refrigerator all call for a mix of vinegar,  baking powder and scrub a dub, dub, dub-ing (the extra dub really is where the oomph of the cleaning will come through).

Paper Towels, Your New Worst Enemy:

If dust bunnies are the apparent  face of evil in this war on dirt,  paper towels are a close second. Worse yet, these paper towels are not an obvious enemy; they infiltrate your side of the fight. They appear innocent enough, “Oh hey, let me help you wipe that down. No worries, when you are done, just toss me in the rubbish! It is so easy!!!” Paper towels are the devil on your shoulder tempting you to do things the easy way, when the right thing means putting forth a little more effort.

Luckily for you, using cleaning materials that aren’t just one use is not much of a hassle at all. Use reusable towels and rags, sometimes this means looking no further than an aging frayed towel and tearing it into smaller pieces.  Also, instead of using spray mops with replaceable pads, stick to the tried and true mops that require just a tad more elbow grease. Classics are classics for a reason.

Increase Energy Efficiency:

Spring cleaning is a great time to periodically check your smoke detectors. After doing this battery check, take the time to check other items around your home for ways in which you can make them function more efficiently.

Replace your old-fashioned incandescent  light bulbs with the more energy efficient CFL style bulb. Vacuum or dust your refrigerator’s coils to increase the efficiency of this kitchen titan. Check the filters of your hot water heater and your heating system and replace as necessary.

Hasta la vista, Heaters

The longer spans of daylight and the increasing temperatures should make the burgeoning Spring as good as a time as any to turn off your heat until next Winter. Open your shades (which you surely have already cleaned with a mixture of water and vinegar) and let the sun work its mojo on your home’s temperature. Being from New England, I know that Winter has a terrible habit of butting its ugly head in well into Spring, so I am not suggesting letting your pipes freeze if this becomes the case, just merely suggesting reevaluating your heating needs in the face of  warmer temperatures.

Junk in Your Trunk:

A thorough Spring cleaning will often involve an evaluation of certain belongings and questioning whether or not they have outlived their usefulness in your life.  Sure, that magic kit charmed the heck out of your older relatives a decade ago, but do you really need to keep in the bedroom closet of your adult home? The answer is a resounding no. The good news is that you do not have to unceremoniously throw this item in the garbage. You can donate this item to a local charity or thrift store. Some young tyke out there may be longing to pull a long strand of scarves out of their sleeve, help this child live that dream.

While your junk may not be stacked in a trunk- it is more likely in my experience to end up in a garbage bag while I decide each items fate- it needs to be dealt with in a calm and mature manner. Donate and reuse what you can. Heck, you could even get a group of friends together for a clothing or knick knack swap. Add cocktails and you could be in for a fun evening, because one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all men (and ladies) love a reason to get together for a drink.

Bugging Out:

Spring sees many forms of life flourishing. Unfortunately for us,  many of these life forms are pests that would love nothing more than to come in our homes and snack upon the crumbs on our counters.  The best way to deal with this influx of insect nuisances in the warmer months is good dose of  old-fashioned prevention.

Pat yourself on the back, by performing a thorough Spring cleaning your job is going to be that much easier. If these little bugs still insist that your home is their home, there are green ways to fight back fairly.

Ants:
To deter ants from making your kitchen party central, wipe down surfaces of entry ways and other points of their interests with some vinegar – I swear to you I am not paid by some greedy Vinegar company, sure they send me a watch every now and then…but that is just for my customer loyalty.

If you want to steer clear of vinegar just this once based on an unfounded conspiracy theory about me being in the pocket of big business, try growing spearmint around your property. Ants are known to loathe the smell of fresh breath more than any other smell on the planet.

Flies:

Unlike vampires, flies do not need a verbal invitation to enter your abode.  To avoid the annoyance of hearing one of these pesky pests get trapped between a shade and a window, try scratching into the peel of and orange or hanging a cluster of cloves, both are said to act as deterrent to flies.

As you finish ridding your house of dust and clutter, be sure to sit down and celebrate Spring, making sure to pause to pour one out for your dearly departed friend, the dust bunny. You guys made it through a long and cold winter together, you may have even  grown a fondness for him -going so far as to name him Captain Ted- but you are better off without him. If you are fighting an urge to play Boyz II Men, “End of the Road”  as you empty the dust buster into the garbage can, you may want to think about taking a Vitamin D supplement next winter and head promptly outside where you can befriend a real bunny.

Happy Spring Cleaning, everyone!

-Meghan Hurley

The act of having an especially good  or clever idea is often  represented  in visual media by a  glowing light bulb appearing above the thinker’s noggin. The “Aha” look on the person’s face coupled with their index finger pointing skyward serve as optional accents to the universally understood symbol for a stupendous notion in action.  Whatever the opposite of a light bulb spontaneously appearing above one’s head would be- perhaps a rotting egg or a pet rock would materialize out of thin air, – is how I felt when I recently read about the phase-out of  incandescent light bulbs occurring not only in the U.S, but in numerous other countries on multiple continents.

Apparently my ignorance of this incandescent lighting phase-out, which in the United States was put into motion  with the passing of the Energy Independence and Security Act in  December of 2007, is not uncommon. The second annual “Socket Survey” conducted by Osram Sylvania revealed that while 74% of people surveyed said they have switched to energy-saving light bulbs in the past year, that only 26% were aware of this mandated phase-out which will begin with the phasing out of 100 watt bulbs in January 2012. Subsequent years will have higher watt bulbs meeting a similar end in the United States, with 75 watt bulbs going bye-bye in 2013 and 60 and 40 bulbs meeting  same dim fate in 2014.

The bright idea (light bulb puns, they are addictive) behind this phase-out is to cut Green House emissions and save on energy costs, which seem to be sound enough reasons to eradicate the production of an item. This phase-out though, like most governmental legislation, is not without its critics. The most likely immediate replacement for incandescent bulbs during this phase-out for consumers will be Compact Fluorescent Light, or CFL’s for brevity’s sake . These types of bulbs have been the recipient of harsh scrutiny as regions across the globe enact their own phase-outs of incandescent bulbs. Issues  ranging from the type of light they give off (unflattering or headache inducing) to concerns about the dangers of the mercury contained within these bulbs have caused some people in areas such as the UK to hoard the more familiar incandescent bulbs before there are no longer any left to buy.

While I can surely agree with a move towards a more energy- efficient type of lighting, I also can relate to an uneasiness to give up  what is  familiar for a newer technology- especially when that technology is the light bulb; an invention that truly revolutionized the world  (perhaps even more so than the  George Foreman Grill- come on, you know you have one, and  you LOVE it!) .  I can especially relate to this apprehension after looking over the seemingly intensive  rules for safely cleaning up and disposing of one of the mercury-containing CFL light bulbs if it becomes broken. This apprehension could also be born of  ignorance and a laziness when it comes to chores that have more than three steps, such as the Foreman Grill’s simple formula of chop, grill and eat.

Either way, as the GI Joe public service announcements used to say,  “knowing is the half the battle”,  your guess is as good as mine as to what the other half of the battle may be, but perhaps now that you are aware of this ban you can begin to adjust for your future without incandescent lighting.

-Meghan Hurley

One of the United States’ most exciting alternative-energy events, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, is about to kick off in Washington DC!  Starting October 9th (and ending the 18th), 20 teams of college and university students, hailing from such diverse corners as Kentucky and Germany, will be competing to design, build and operate their very own solar-powered houses.  The goal is to make them as energy-efficient as possible while still being aesthetically pleasing and practical to live in. In fact, one of our very own at Autonomie Project is down in DC competing himself. Kevin will be representing Boston Architectural College and Tufts University through designing and constructing the Curio House.

The Decathlon is split into three phases: first, the teams put their collective brains together to design their homes using high-tech solutions in unique ways, and then raise the funds and coordinate with contractors to build them.  Next, each team must disassemble their house, transport it to the national Mall in DC and reassemble it.  Finally, the competition begins as each team and home is evalutaed in ten different areas: architecture, market viability, engineering, lighting design, communications, comfort zone, hot water, appliances, home entertainment and net metering (reading how much energy the home consumes over the course of the competition). The juries assessing each area are compromised of scholars and working professionals at the head of their particular field.

This is the fourth Decathlon, the others having occurred previously at intervals of two years.  The contest is always growing, involving more students and universities, and the event brings more than 100,000 people out each time to walk among and interact with the teams and their homes. This is a very special chance to venture into a world that may very well reflect the needs and hopes of a future in crisis. If you have the chance, we highly recommend you take it and go get lost in the solar village!  All of the above information and much more can be found on the event website. We want to send our special thanks to the members of the Curio House and we wish Kevin and the rest the best of luck!

CO: Obama signs economic recovery bill in Denver Photo By aflcio2008Just days after the huge economic recovery stimulus bill was passed and Obama signed it into law, critics on both sides put it their two cents. Economists and regular Joes can’t seem to agree whether the stimulus is a great move or a bad decision. However, there is one group of people who are celebrating the passage. The Green Movement seems to be one of the winners of the bill. The bill sets aside millions of funding for green development. From mass transit to solar energy, the bill definitely is a win for a growing industry.

Wind Power Photo By Luis AlvesImmediately following the passage several green groups celebrated in the news, including Green America.  They have released a great list of the “5 best stimulus provisions for a greener America.” And their list is full of hopeful parts of the stimulus plan including: 9.5 billion for energy efficient revitalization of federal buildings, 6 billion towards in loans for solar and wind projects, 11 million to modernize the electricity grid, and 17.5 billion for public transportation including high speed rail. Green America also celebrated that 50 million in funding of new nuclear and coal plants was cut out of the bill.

Green Jobs Now Sarasota - Sarasota, FL Photo By greenforall.orgThese are major victories in the green economy and we can only hope that this really will stimulate the economy as well convince the majority of America to switch to a greener lifestyle. This bill has potential to create millions of new jobs as well as jumpstart a move to a greener America! So we say congratulations to all of us who have been working to bring the green movement into the forefront! Even though a huge victory has happened, it doesn’t mean we can stop pushing. Stay involved with organizations like Green America and Green Jobs Now. And most of all try to to stay green in your daily life.

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