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Spring cleaning with a green twist

By Katie Demeria

Both Earth Day and Arbor Day encourage people to think twice about their environmental impact. For members of Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, even spring cleaning should take on an environmentally friendly twist.

The group offers some suggestions on green, homemade cleaning products that can be used to avoid dumping chemicals into the environment, according to education coordinator Cindy Frenzel.

"We're finding that a lot of the chemicals that we use around the house that go down the drain end up in the environment," Frenzel said. "There's like a soup of chemicals in the rivers in our country, and it might just be a little bit of a whole lot of different chemicals, but when it's all mixed together it can do some harm."

She said everybody can make a difference if they decide to use a green alternative to the traditional products, or even to use smaller amounts of the harsh cleaners they need.

Though not everyone has time to make their own products, even opting for environmentally friendly store-bought products can help, she said.

The trick is finding the right recipe that works for each individual.

"We tried the dishwashing detergent and decided that it didn't work for us because it left a film on the dishes," she said. "If you can live with that, or if you can re-rinse your dishes, it works really well."

Using different essential oils, she added, could be useful for some people. The group suggests adding a favorite essential oil to the inside of a cardboard toilet tissue roll in the bathroom to avoid exposure to the chemicals in another scented product.

Fraznel said just basic vinegar and baking soda make an excellent soft scrub.

"If you don't like the smell of vinegar, put lemon peels and orange peels in it and let it soak -- it makes the vinegar smell really good," she said.

People may also want to try homemade products to avoid bringing those harsh chemicals into their homes, she pointed out.

Frenzel said it is important to take whatever steps they can to improve the environment.

"When I was little and my parents told me not to litter, I'd say, well, its just a gum wrapper," she said. "Yet what if a million people threw that gum wrapper into a pile?"

"You're a piece of a bigger puzzle, and you need to take care of your backyard," she continued. "We all need to work together."

To find some of the cleaning product recipes, go to the Friends of the North Fork's website at www.fnfsr.org.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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