I had a great earth day post in my head for yesterday, but I was in a crazy horrible funk that I just couldn’t shake, and I couldn’t motivate myself to sit down and type. Does this ever happen to you? I don’t know what my deal was, but the whole day was pretty much a waste. I spent a little time doing some low-impact crafting, spent a lot of time playing with the pups (who, by the way, don’t get nearly enough face time here…that has to change), and a little time reading sad blog stories (yeah, I know that only feeds a funk, but by that time I had given up on trying to reverse the situation and had resolved to hurry along the cycle as much as possible…and I did feel a little better after a good blog-story-induced cry). So I’ve decided to go with the “every day is earth day” mentality and do a truncated version of yesterday’s planned post today. Here goes…

It seems like everywhere I turn there’s another “10 Ways to Be Green” list: on television commercials, websites, even junk mail. If you’re looking for the how of being green, you don’t have to look far to find an overwhelming number of suggestions. The key is to start small; don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by everything that you’re doing “wrong,” and focus on one or two things at a time that you know you can do “right.” The first green move we made (after recycling) was to stop buying/using chemical cleaners and throw-away paper products (like paper plates and paper towels). A little later on we started buying organic food and local produce and began composting. Gradually we kept adding things to our personal “ways to be green” list, and although there are still plenty of things we could be doing or doing better, I’m happy with how far we’ve come. So, rather than add to the list of things we should all be doing, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite green finds – things that have made my life easier, healthier, and more enjoyable.

1. Vinegar and Baking Soda

When I first made the decision to stop using cleaners that are harmful to us and our environment, there weren’t a lot (if any) environmentally friendly alternatives available at the local supermarket. Instead, I turned to the things I already had in my kitchen, and vinegar and baking soda are definitely the powerhouses of kitchen cleaners. Got a clogged drain? Use baking soda and vinegar to make it flow like new. Dirty windows and mirror? Nothing leaves a streak-free shine like diluted vinegar. Cooked-on, baked-on greasy mess? Baking soda and vinegar make the perfect no-scratch scrub for stoves, ovens, pots, and pans. I could go on and on, but the best part is the price – you can’t find a cleaner cheaper than these two kitchen staples. Which is why vinegar and baking soda top my list of green faves.

2. Murphy’s Oil Soap

Remember the commercials that showed the ladies cleaning church pews with this stuff? Well they obviously knew the incredible cleaning power of this vegetable oil soap long before I did. I use it for all the wood surfaces in my home, and it cleans them better than anything else I’ve tried (including Method‘s Wood for Good – sorry Method). I even used it on the laminate floors at our last house after realizing that other cleaners left a streaky, filmy mess – but not Murphy’s. It’s replaced the need for a Pledge-type dusting product too. I just dilute some Murphy’s, put it in a spray bottle, and watch out dust. (You can even buy an orange-scented version of Murphy’s in a spray bottle for this purpose, I believe, but it’s more expensive than the regular Murphy’s bottle.)

3. Method Flushable Bathroom Wipes

J and I have an agreement: he takes out the trash and I clean the toilets. Since finding these wipes, I have to admit that I have the easier end of the bargain. I use to feel like I was only spreading the nasty germs from one part of the toilet to the other with a rag, and I hated the idea of having a toilet-tainted rag lying around the house until laundry day, but as much as I was tempted, I couldn’t bring myself to use the wipes that were on the market (like Clorox brand). Then I found the Method version, and not only is the cleaner biodegradable and non-toxic, the wipes are as well; you just flush them down the toilet (septic friendly too). Yay for a cleaner toity!

4. Bi-O-Kleen Soy Toilet Scrub

Let’s not forget the inside of the toilet. Biokleen’s toilet scrub was one of the first green cleaning products I purchased, and I’ve used it ever since. I works amazingly well, and leaves the whole bathroom smelling minty-fresh.

5. Bi-O-Kleen Bac-Out

Another Biokleen product I couldn’t live without is their Bac-Out stain remover. Many a rug at our house has been saved from pet-stained doom by this product. Not to mention the stains I’ve removed from upholstery and laundry with this stuff. If you have a pet or a kid, this product is a must. And even if you don’t, the uses are so varied that I’m sure you could find a reason to keep it on hand.

6. Earth Friendly Products Dander-Out

Speaking of pets, another product we always have on hand is Dander-Out. It seems like no matter how often we bathe the dogs they manage to get into something stinky between baths. That’s where this stuff becomes a necessity. It works as the perfect between-bath stink remover and leaves the pups smelling as though they were just professionally laundered. It’s even helped with Foster’s flaky skin. Now, don’t get me wrong, the dogs don’t like to get sprayed with this stuff any more than they like to get baths (the first sign of either one will send Abi under the bed to hide), but at least a good spray down takes way less time than a thorough bath.

7. Kirks Castile Soap

We’ve tried several other natural bar soaps, but none of them compare to Kirk’s. There’s no “crazy” smell (you know, like vanilla or patchouli) which makes J happy, and it doesn’t dry out my sensitive skin. It rinses well, and gets us squeaky clean. What more could you ask for?

8. Neuton Electric Mower

I have to admit that after moving to our current home, we felt it necessary to get a lawn tractor, not only because of the huge amount of lawn that needs mowed, but also for towing and lugging heavy landscaping things around the yard. And if there was an electric version of a riding mower, we would have gladly purchased one, but there isn’t (at least not that we could find). However, at the other house (which had a much more manageable lawn) we used a Neuton, and I loved it. We still use the Neuton for part of our current lawn, and I’m still amazed at how quiet the thing is. It does an excellent job, and is fully capable of mowing the average sized lawn in one charge of the battery. And if your lawn is a little bigger than one battery can handle, you can get an additional battery as part of an accessories kit. It’s worth the price, every bit of it.

9. Frigidaire Front Load Washer and Dryer set

We purchased these when we bought our first house, and I still couldn’t be happier with the pair. We use a fraction of the detergent we used to in the old rental-house supplied washers, and it uses way less water too. And they’re pretty cheap for Energy Star appliances. We’ve had ours for four years and haven’t had a problem yet; they should last us a long time to come.

10. Mother Earth News Coffee

Hello, my name is Krystal, and I’m a coffee addict. I don’t have a problem admitting it. And although I wouldn’t consider myself a coffee snob (my mom would disagree), I will say that I’m somewhat particular about the coffee I drink. I like it dark. I like it fresh. And I like it organic. Until we moved to the “big city,” the only organic coffee that was available at our local store was Newman’s Own Organic (actually Green Mountain coffee), and though I adore many other Newman’s Own products (have you tried their Champion Chip Cookies? talk about addictive), I’m not crazy about their coffee. So I had to get my fix some other way. I’ve subscribed to Mother Earth News Magazine for some time, and about the time I was looking for coffee, they introduced their own line. It’s fair trade, organic, shade grown, and delicious! Since we’ve moved closer to other organic coffee sources, I’ve tried several in an effort to save on shipping (both the cost and the environmental ramifications), but none are as good as MEN Coffee. My favorite is the Sumatra Gayoland.

Just in case all that’s not enough for you, here’s the short-list version of some other products we use:

laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, all-purpose cleaner, and dish soap = Seventh Generation

shower cleaner, hand soap, and all-purpose wipes = Method

Febreze-like product = Pure Ayre Odor Eliminator

shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products = Aveda

facial cleanser, shave cream, moisturizer, and makeup = Origins

If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned (or forgot to mention) feel free to ask – I’d be happy to share any information I have on making the wisest green purchases possible.

*Just so everyone’s clear, I have not received any kind of compensation from any of these companies and my endorsement of these products is based solely on my personal experience with them.