Green It, Baby

Practicing sustainable habits, or going "green," is something everyone can do to keep our planet a healthy place to live. Here are five ways to "green" your home. Remember, if we each do a little, the cumulative effects will be tremendous.

1. Buy used furniture: Opting to furnish your living space with secondhand furniture saves the energy and resources needed to make something new. Check out websites like http://www.craigslist.com or http://www.furniturefindex.com; local stores like N.U.T.S/, the Salvation Army, the Old House Depot, Repeat Street or the Orange Peel; or keep your eyes peeled for yard sales to find the perfect secondhand furniture.

2. Prevent phantom power: Phantom power refers to the electricity used by any electronic device that's plugged into an outlet, even if it's on or not. Phantom power not only wastes energy, but also raises the cost of your electricity bill. Unplugging devices you aren't using, especially chargers, is one way to stop phantom power. An easy way to do this is to plug your devices into power strips and turn off the strip when devices aren't in use.

3. Rethink your washing and drying habits: If you're on the market for a new washing machine, consider getting a front-loading washer instead of a top-loading one to save water. Top-loading washers fill the washtub to the top, using 30-60 gallons of water per load. The washtub of front-loading washers is only partially filled, using 16-25 gallons of water per load. You can also save energy by washing your clothes in cold water instead of hot water and by only using your dryer when necessary. Drying racks and clotheslines can be found at most home-ware stores.

4. Use eco-friendly cleaning products: Chemicals in traditional cleaning products can pollute water, soil and surrounding ecosystems. There are a wide variety of natural cleaning products on the market, like Seventh Generation, Biokleen and Mrs. Meyer's (try Rainbow Whole Foods), but you can also make your own from common household items.

Fill a bottle with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water for an all-purpose cleaner. The acetic acid found in vinegar can kill 99 percent of bacteria. Avoid the use of vinegar on marble and granite, as it can scratch and damage the surface.

To create a furniture polish, fill a bottle with a 50/50 solution of olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. If you want to store your furniture polish for future use, use jojoba oil instead of vinegar or lemon juice so the solution won't spoil.

5. Grow your own vegetables: Growing some of your own food reduces the amount of energy and fuel needed to transport your food from where it's grown to your dinner table. Your plot should be in the sun and have good drainage. Good starter crops for Mississippi include tomatoes, cabbage, lima beans, eggplant and lettuce. You can find seeds and plants at most yard and garden or feed and supply stores.

Using a natural pesticide reduces the amount of chemicals that pollute the ecosystem. To make your own, mix one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, two tablespoons of hot red pepper sauce and one liter of water. Reapply after it rains and avoid using it while plants are flowering.

N.U.T.S., 114 Millsaps Ave., 601-355-7458;
The Salvation Army, 110 Presto Lane, 601-982-4881;
Old House Depot, 639 Monroe St., 601-592-6200;
Repeat Street, 626 Ridgewood Road, Ridgeland, 601-605-9393;
Orange Peel, 3026 N. State St., 601-364-9977;
Rainbow Whole Foods, 2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1602.


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