Do just one thing
Allowing our feathered friends to have nests near your house can be a great experience. For one thing, it’s fascinating to see young birds mature and take flight, but they also help keep the insect population at bay, since the birds will eat hundreds of insects like mosquitoes every day. But when the last bird has finally left their home, be sure to remove the nest. Leaving the old nest in its spot will only attract parasites, so remove it and bury it in the soil to let it naturally decompose.
When heating up the backyard grill this summer, be wary of the type of charcoal you use. Traditional charcoal is more than just wood; it can contain additives like coal, nitrates, lighter fluid and other chemical ingredients. When shopping for charcoal, look for lump, wood-only, American-made charcoal. Buying all-wood charcoal imported from other countries could mean it was made without any sustainable forestry practices. Or better yet, look for wood-free alternatives like charcoal made entirely from coconut shells, which burns slowly, hot and very clean.
SMELL OF CINNAMON
One of the most powerful spices that can be used for purposes other than cooking is cinnamon. To remove odors from the air in your home, boil a few sticks of cinnamon in water and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. The active ingredient in cinnamon -- cinnamaldehyde, which gives the spice its flavor and scent — attaches to odor molecules in the air and naturally neutralizes them. Instead of masking the smell of last night’s fish or a burnt casserole, cinnamon actually helps to give your home the scent of pure clean: absolutely nothing.
While many personal care products like shampoo, conditioner and body lotion come packaged in plastic containers that are easily recyclable (usually marked with a No. 1 or No. 2 on the bottom), the pumps that come with them are not. The plastic pump may look and feel like the same type of plastic as the bottle, but it’s actually made from a variety of materials. Different components made from different types of plastic and metal go into engineering the pumps, so they should always be removed and discarded before recycling the bottle in your curbside bins.
COMPOSTING VACUUM DIRT
Can you compost the dirt and debris your vacuum picks up? It depends on what you’ve been vacuuming. If your home is covered in wall-to-wall synthetic nylon carpet, then the answer is no; loose fibers get picked up during vacuuming, and the synthetic material does not break down easily in a compost bin. But if your home has mostly solid-surface flooring and natural fiber rugs, then go ahead. The combination of dust, food particles, pet fur, hair and other organic matter will work just fine in your compost bin. And if you sweep up with a broom and pan, go ahead and sprinkle what you collect onto your lawn. It will break down naturally.
PREVENTING WATER RUNOFF
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the biggest culprits of water pollution is water runoff from homes. The source? Impervious surfaces like cement, which directs water onto roads and into rivers, along the way picking up toxic chemicals, dirt, trash and disease. Choose wood decking over concrete and interlocking bricks and paver stones for walkways. These allow water to drain naturally into the soil, grass and gravel areas. And if you can redirect downspouts away from driveways and onto grassy areas, that also helps prevent unnecessary water runoff.
CORN GLUTEN FOR LAWN
It’s not hard to maintain a lush, green lawn, and to do it without the aid of chemical herbicides or fertilizers. One of the easiest ways to remove and prevent invasive weeds like dandelions is to use a chemical-free alternative called corn gluten. Not only does it kill weed seeds, but it’s also so safe that after application, pets and people can play on the lawn. Corn gluten is a byproduct of cornstarch and corn syrup production and is nonpolluting, so homeowners near waterways like lakes and streams won’t risk polluting water by using it.