Since we survived winter -- if you can call it that -- and have already begun the transition to spring, I wanted to share some of my favorite green, spring cleaning tips. And of course, with Saint Patrick's Day just behind us... what better time to be green?
1. Give your home a check-up
After the relatively warm winter we just experienced, I'm bracing my home for a sticky summer. To keep the hot air out, consider a home energy assessment to make sure that your air conditioning doesn't seep through the cracks in your home. Follow the examples of folks from Energize New York, Connecticut's Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge, or TC Saves in Traverse City, Michigan, and seal up those windows and doors! It'll keep you cool and save you money.
2. Turn off the TV and go outside
The flat-screen TV continues to be the biggest energy drain in the American home -- and that's just when you think it's off! So put the TV on a power strip and really turn it off. And at the same time, turn off that DVD player you haven't used since November and plug the Wii into that power strip too. Now, head outside and feel the flow of the sun, not the TV.
3. Reuse clothes as rags
Wash those windows, but rather than throwing out old t-shirts, use them as rags to avoid creating unnecessary waste from paper towels.
4. Plant a garden
The First Family inspired millions when they created The White House Kitchen Garden three years ago. And this week, the First Lady gave a tree to my alma mater, The American University here in Washington, D.C. So in that vein, go on and plant a tree or start a garden!
5. Open the windows
There's nothing better than waking up to a cool morning breeze. Turn off the heat and keep the AC off -- and let your house get air conditioned by Mother Nature. It will be a breath of fresh air for you and your wallet.
6. Take a walk
If you live near a grocery store, consider a family walk if you're just going for a few items. If you have school age kids, pick a day a week to walk them to school. If you have a dog, give him an extra block or two on your evening stroll. Or instead of heading to the recliner after dinner, head outside and walk. The stroll will help clear your head and the air.
7. Line-dry your clothes
Avoid the dryer when you can use the combined power of the sun and wind to dry your clothes. You'll save energy by using the most abundant energy resources we have!
8. Update those appliances
Small changes like upgrading to programmable thermostats will go a long way to save you money as temperatures soar this summer. Consider top-notch Energy-Star appliances if you're ready to replace old ones.
9. Recycle the old
Whether it's appliances, furniture or clothes that you need to ditch, be sure to recycle when possible. Consider joining an online community called Freecycle, which has localized chapters of members who let each other know what stuff they have hanging around that they would like to give away -- anything from kitchen appliances to bicycles, furniture to magazines, and clothing to diapers (unused, of course).
10. Help a neighbor
Share your best green practices with your community. With all of the outdoor options I've offered up, it's clear that springtime presents the perfect opportunity to get outside, talk to your neighbors and demonstrate how to be a good steward to your shared environment. In fact, get on Facebook or Twitter and tell your friends what you're doing to have a "Green" Spring Cleaning!
If I've missed one of your favorite green springtime tips, please share them with me on Facebook or on Twitter using the hashtag #SPGreen.
Brian Keane is the President of SmartPower, a non-profit marketing organization funded by private foundations to help build the clean energy marketplace by helping the American public become smarter about their energy use.
Follow Brian Keane on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SmartPower_org