July 23, 2008

Grandma Was Green Before It Was Cool What My Green Grandma Taught Me


By Kristen Browning-Blas

The Denver Post

'There is no away."

The title (or maybe it was a subtitle) of a book from a class my mom took on "ecology" in the '70s has stayed with me all these years.

I'm already green - with nausea - at the endless stream of "ecofriendly" labels on everything from champagne to sponges. In the past five years, new products claiming to be environmentally friendly soared from five to 328. So much of this "green-washing" wave is just another attempt to get us to buy more stuff.

On the flip side, I feel guilty: Am I doing enough? How can I be greener?

Which makes me think of all the moms, grandmas and mothers-in- law who were green back when it was just an appliance color. What can we learn from the generations that went before us, so that we can leave a cleaner world for those that follow?

Let's ask Grandma:

eat locally

Grandma probably ate food that was in season and grown nearby. Use www.localharvest.org to find sources near you. recycle

Wash and re-use plastic bags. Your mother-in-law's "thrifty" habits are today's eco-consciousness.


Reuse paper towels. If all they get is wet, let them dry under the sink and use them again.


Cut down on chemical cleaners. Use baking soda to scour the fridge and sink. Use distilled white vinegar to clean the coffeemaker. Polish wood with cheap olive oil. use cast-iron

Reconsider the nonstick pan. Cast-iron, stainless steel or enamel- coated iron might not release an omelet as well, but they won't release any toxic fumes when over-heated either.

safer cleaning

Line the bottom of the oven with foil. You can pull out the foil after spills and toss it in the recycling bin, eliminating the need for caustic cleaners. clean your plate

Eat leftovers. You'll use less food, save money and keep the stuff out of the landfill.


My mother-in-law didn't have a compost pile exactly, but she would cut up kitchen scraps and bury them around her lush garden.

go back to basics

Fight bacteria with plain old soap. Studies have found that triclosan, the common anti-bacterial ingredient, does not clean any better than soap, and might contribute to the rise of drug- resistant bacteria. do-it-yourself cleaning

Check out biggreenpurse.com and theworldwomenwant.com.

While Grandma didn't go online to find her community, these Web sites offer a green meeting place. National Geographic's Web site, thegreenguide.com, posts recipes for Grandma-style homemade cleaners from Annie Berthold-Bond's "Better Basics for the Home."

At right are two examples:

Alkaline All-Purpose Cleaner

1/2 teaspoon washing soda (see note)

2 teaspoons borax

1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent

2 cups hot water

Combine washing soda, borax and soap in a spray bottle. Pour in hot water, screw on lid, and shake well before each use.

Note An all-purpose cleaner is all you need for most walls, countertops, baseboards, fixtures, appliances and bathrooms. Find washing soda and borax in the detergent aisle of the grocery store.

Source: thegreenguide.com

Heavy duty Floor Cleaner

1/4 cup liquid soap

Up to 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar or lemon juice

2 gallons warm water

Mix ingredients in bucket and use with a mop or sponge. Rinse with 1/2 cup vinegar and 2 gallons warm water to remove soap residue.

Note Damp-mop floors before cleaning to pick up dust. To clean slightly dirty floors, use a spray of equal parts of white vinegar and water (add some lemon or mint oil for a pleasant scent). Use this recipe for heavy duty jobs.

Source: thegreenguide.com

Originally published by BY KRISTEN BROWNING-BLAS.

(c) 2008 Virginian - Pilot. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.