Green Room: Zero Waste Spring Cleaning

Goleta is a community that cares deeply about reducing waste and its impact on the environment. To help our community achieve this goal, we can all contribute by learning more about Zero Waste and making changes in our day to day lives. Please read on to learn more about this month’s topic, Zero Waste Spring Cleaning, and stay tuned for future articles that will highlight Zero Waste lifestyle choices and tips in alignment with  The Five R’s of Zero Waste.

What is Zero Waste Spring Cleaning?

Zero Waste is a philosophy that can guide us while we do our normal annual spring cleaning routines. Making targeted changes to how you spring clean can help reduce impacts on the environment in terms of waste and packaging. The ultimate goal being the reduction of the overall amount of waste sent to the landfill for disposal.

So what can we all do to help achieve Zero Waste while Spring Cleaning? The City of Goleta consults the  The Five R’s of Zero Waste when trying to think about small lifestyle changes that add up to a large impact over time. We’ve collected a few suggestions we hope will help community members work towards Zero Waste Spring Cleaning. These suggestions are organized below within The Five R’s of Zero Waste:

REFUSE “what you don’t need – even if it’s free”

Many people use Spring Cleaning as an opportunity to go through all the piles of stuff we don’t normally have time to deal with. Some people refer to this as “purging”. A purge can be an empowering experience, catching up on organizing and cleaning your home. As empowering as this moment can be, it’s also a stark reminder as to all the things we consume in our day to day lives.

While “purging” this year, consider the items you no longer need. Could these have been avoided or refused? Did you already have something that could have done the job instead? By refusing more in our daily lives, the need to purge gets reduced and therefore less work! You can save the environment and your time, two birds with one stone.

REDUCE “what you do need”

To Spring Clean, we usually purchase even more stuff like cleaning solutions, boxes and bins, and other tools. Sometimes you already have items around the house that can help you without buying more.

Cleaning Solutions can be easy to make at home. Here are a couple quick recipes to get you started!

  • Citrus De-Greasing Solution: Remove grease from hard surfaces with this citrus-based product. This solution is made with 2 cups of warm water, 2 teaspoons of Castile soap, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and approximately 20 drops of lemon essential oil. After mixing in a spray bottle, spray on hard surfaces as you would with other general cleaning products.
  • Baking Soda Deodorizer: Combine a quart of warm water with a few tablespoons of baking soda, you can create a deodorizing, cleansing paste. Always use a clean cloth to rub the paste in the direction of the metal’s grain. Then rinse the paste off. Use a clean cloth to dry and shine the surface.
  • Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide: Combine a few tablespoons of baking soda with the hydrogen peroxide in a bowl. Dip a clean cloth in the solution, and start wiping down your counters, sinks and other hard surfaces in the bathrooms and kitchen. You will need to rinse the surfaces with clean water and dry them after you have finished cleaning them.
  • Homemade Air Freshener: Combine 2 tablespoons of emulsifier (a food additive used to stabilize the solution like mustard, baking soda, or xanthan gum) with 6 tablespoons of tap water and 20 drops of essential oil. You can also combine oils for a unique, pleasing scent. After shaking the mixture, use a spray bottle to aerate it throughout your home. You can also spray it lightly on your bed and upholstery for an extra aromatic boost.
  • Vinegar and Salt Brass Cleaner: Combine regular table salt with white vinegar. Use a clean sponge to wipe down your brass surfaces with this mixture. After you rinse the brass with clean water, use a dry, soft cloth to finish the job. This should only be used on non-lacquered brass.
REUSE “and repair what you already have”

Instead of buying boxes and bins to help organize your cleaning, reusable grocery bags can be very useful, and many people have collected extras over the years. Also, your neighborhood grocery store may be able to give you some free boxes.

If you have old clothes that aren’t suitable for donation, these can be easily turned into cleaning rags, so you don’t need to buy paper towels or dusting clothes.

Also, remember to consider repairing items before buying new ones. There are many great resources to help you learn how to repair common items. Check out some Repair Guides online to get started!

RECYCLE “what you can’t reuse”

Whatever you do “purge” during Spring Cleaning this year, do your best to keep your purged items organized into piles for trash, recycle, repair, and donation. Please refer to our guidance so you can Recycle Right!

ROT “the rest (compost)”

For those who have a compost pile at home, you may be able to compost items that you are trying to purge. Items like old newspapers and some types of junk mail can be perfect for your compost pile at home. Please refer to our guidance on backyard composting so you can Compost Correctly!

Stay tuned for future articles about how you can help Goleta achieve Zero Waste. If you have any tips for us to share, please email Environmental Services at

The Five R’s (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot) are listed in order from the most favored option (refuse) to the last resort (composting). This idea was made popular by Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home and is similar to a classic American saying from WWII: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!”