Monday, January 21, 2008

Swiffers, the Environment and Economies of Time

One of the components of us working on our 10 year plan, and very small homestead is to also be considerate of the environment.  

This means that we bring coffee and lunches in reusable mugs and containers - every day.  
It means that we buy used when it makes sense and meets our needs.  
It means that we will practice organic gardening, and buy our food and whatever else we can locally whenever possible.
It means that we use cloth napkins, and are slowly switching to using 100% rags instead of paper towels for cleaning.
It means we drive our cars for at least 10 years, and buy fuel-efficient sedans rather than big SUVs.
It means that we use environmentally responsible cleaning products (I'm still trying to wean my husband off Tilex though, this is a long-haul process).
It means that we make an effort to just stay home one day a week to reduce our driving and carbon footprint.
It means a lot more things, too many to list.

But then one day as I was lugging around the mop and bucket for our 2300 SF, hardwood floor filled house (I'll get to why we bought so much space in a later post), during one weekend where I'd spent about 4 of the previous hours cleaning, plus a morning of running errands, cooking/prepping meals for the week, etc, I hit a wall.

I was tired.  Exhausted.  We'd been renovating our old, much in need of love 1933 home, unpacking, clearing space for the garden, working in the yard,  and so on for months on end.  On top of that, we were trying to cook in, pack lunches, etc etc....and I commute 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.  And my husband commutes 1.5-2 hours a day. 

Clearly, it was too much.  

I went out and bought a Swiffer Wet Jet.  It was that or a cleaning lady, and the Swiffer was $23.00 plus refills, versus $200 a month.  To this day, I'm not sure it was the right thing.  I have a love/hate relationship with it.  Environmentally, it's not something I'm proud of.   I'm irked at myself every time I pull it out of the closet.  

Timewise though, I love that little cleaning tool.  I mean I love it.  Adore it.  

It's little, it weighs nothing.  I no longer lug a bucket of water from room to room, except for those few times a year when we use Murphy's Oil Soap to brighten the floors.   
Some of you may rinse out your mops in your showers or sinks to avoid the lugging factor.  All I can say to that is yuck, good for you, but yuck.  Not for me, thanks.

I've compromised with my conscience by periodically refilling the cleaning solution with a more environmentally friendly solution, and going a use or two before throwing out the pads. 

I struggle often with convenience vs. the environment.   Not a week goes by where I don't encounter a personal ethical dilemma about it.  But I am trying to balance creative thinking about how to avoid environmental impact with respect for the little time we do have. Sometimes the answer is an imperfect one, like with my Swiffer.  Other times I come across the perfect solution.  

Now excuse me, I need to go mop the floors.  


Anna said...

Why not replace the pads with some washable microfibre replacements? They carry them at the Dollar Store here, and then you get all the convenience of no bucket / new cleaning surface and none of the guilt/expense.

Mandy said...

I was just going to suggest what anna suggested. Omop (sells at Target, made by the Method folks) is a good system for me - very similar to the Swiffer WetJet. Our house is a lot smaller, but it's all hardwood and I LOVE using this (works well on tile, too). Then you just take off the microfiber cleaning pad, chuck it in the washing machine, hang it up to dry - and it's good as new! The wood floor cleaner smells really nice, too.

Just something to check out or see if you can use with the Swiffer. (Found your blog from MM, by the way...)


Marissa said...

I have a love/hate relationship with those Clorex wipes. I LOVE THEM, but I know they are awful for the environment. To compromise, I got the Method wipes. They suck, and its still a waste. *sigh*

I don't have a swiffer, though. I think I need to stay far, far away from that. I get on my hands and knees to wash the floor- with a rag. I feel like Cinderella when I do it. But its the only way I feel the floor is clean..

this is rissainthesky, by the way.

Anonymous said...

so you and your husband are on the road about 25 hours a week and you are worried about disposing of one piece of cloth/paper attached to your swiffer once or so a week?

that completely embodies the problem with the suburban environmental movement :-P not trying to be mean, but just to give you some perspective.