• To deodorize carpet naturally, sprinkle liberally with baking soda. (It should look as though it’s snowed.) Wait 15 minutes or longer, then vacuum.
• Use baking soda to clean your tub and bathroom tiles. A cut lemon will remove stains.
• To keep clothesline-dried clothes soft and fluffy, mix 1 cup of glycerin (available at your local natural products store) with 1 gallon of water. Add ½ cup of this mixture to the wash or rinse cycle.
• One-half cup of borax dissolved in 1 gallon of hot water makes an effective, germ-killing disinfectant.
• Plant leafy trees or shrubs to shade air-conditioning units; shade can mean a 10 percent reduction in the amount of electricity an AC unit uses.
• Place a bucket in the shower to collect warm-up water and shower water. Use it to water your plants and compost pile.
• Removable mattress toppers let consumers on smaller budgets achieve some of the benefits of a natural bed. Wool-stuffed, naturally covered mattress toppers range from $200 to $500, compared to about $1,300 for a full-size natural mattress.
• Ceiling fans can save up to 40 percent on summer energy bills and up to 10 percent in winter. Set fans at reverse on low speed in winter—this pushes trapped heat near the ceiling down to where you can feel it.
• Whether you have air conditioning or not, grow native plants on the east and west sides of your house to block the sun and keep it cooler.
• To fluff up organic cotton towels (which don’t have the harsh chemicals that add bounce to traditional cotton), fill your washing machine with hot water, then add a detergent that contains washing soda (sodium carbonate) and 1 cup of cider or white vinegar. Soak for one hour, then wash in the same water.
• To clean stainless steel, dip a cloth in vinegar and sprinkle it with baking soda. Rub gently, then rinse. Polish dry with a soft cloth.
• When you can’t avoid bringing plastic into your home, you can force it to outgas before it comes in contact with food and other items. Soak the container in baking soda and water, rinse, then set in the sun for a day or two. Store in a cool area; the colder it is, the less it will outgas.
• Keep pot lids on tightly while cooking; trapping the heat lets you lower burner temperature and reduce cooking time, using less energy.
• To clean carpets without harsh chemicals, rent a carpet shampoo machine but don’t buy the shampoo. Flush the machine with clean water to get rid of shampoo residue. Add a cup or two of borax to the hot water.
• To clean your oven without toxic chemicals, cover the bottom with a ¼-inch-thick layer of baking soda. Spritz water on the baking soda until it’s thoroughly damp but not flooded. Dampen again every few hours throughout the day and leave overnight. In the morning, wipe out the baking soda with a sponge—all the grime will come off, too.
• Rub celery on cutting boards to absorb odors.
• Even when they’re not running, most appliances today are on some form of “standby” mode. Unplug them when they’re not in use. Connect several to a power strip to easily shut down many at a time.
• Costume jewelry bracelets, which are plentiful at thrift shops, make great shower curtain rings.
• Salt scours cast-iron pans without removing the seasoned finish.
• To get a slow sink moving, pour ¼ cup baking soda down the drain followed by ½ cup vinegar. Cover the drain tightly until bubbling stops and flush with a gallon of boiling water.
• Put a milk jug full of water or pebbles in your toilet tank to save water with each flush.
• If your house is drafty, caulk cracks around windows and doors. If you have stagnant air, the simplest solution is to open a window. Mechanical air exchangers also can bring in fresh air, especially in tightly insulated homes.
• Increase your home’s energy efficiency by installing insulated shades to keep in heat on winter nights and keep sun out in summer.
• Most herbs grow happily under a compact fluorescent bulb placed about a foot above the plants.
• Take your shoes off when you enter your home. Shoes track traces of dirt, dust and other toxins into the house, which leads to poorer air quality and more vacuuming and cleaning.
• Simply removing a little-used table or clearing away clutter can completely change a room. Evaluate each piece of furniture in the room. Is it functional? Does it serve the room’s purpose? If not, donate it or repurpose it elsewhere.
• Keeping your fridge and freezer well-stocked (even with ice packs) means the compressor cycles less often. It’s easier to chill food than the air surrounding it.
• A galvanized metal roof painted white can reflect enough of the sun’s rays to save about 20 percent annually on cooling costs.
• Place something you love—a painting, a photograph or a window with a great view—across from your bed so that you see it when you first open your eyes in the morning.
• Get an energy audit, which highlights specific areas of your house that are negatively affecting efficiency and costing you money. Some utilities will assess your home for free or a small charge. Typically, energy inspectors offer onsite visits for $200 to $400.
• Place a blanket under your bed’s bottom sheet, for added warmth in winter.
• Putting lights on a dimmer switch saves energy and helps bulbs last longer. Dimming the voltage by just 10 percent can double a bulb’s life.
• Grass is a heavy consumer of labor, money and chemicals. Start trimming down grassy spaces by growing native plants, evergreens or shrubs and adding rock features or other water-free landscaping.