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Spring Cleaning & Greening with Great Lakes Refill Co.

With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, we thought it was a good time to share some ideas for sustainable and environmentally friendly spring cleaning and greening.

Often we look at spring as the season to get a fresh start after the long winter, whether that means preparing our gardens, weeding out our closets and changing up our wardrobes, or doing a deep cleaning and decluttering of our homes. The thing is, while we love a clean slate, some of the ways we go about spring cleaning may not be all that environmentally friendly and can be problematic, or even harmful.

We talked to Lisa and Melissa, founders of Sarnia’s own zero waste grocery store, Great Lakes Refill Co, about their thoughts on zero-waste and sustainable living, and how to make your spring cleaning as green as possible! Here’s what they said:

1. What is Great Lakes Refill Co’s take on “Spring Cleaning”?

Spring cleaning is a refreshing way to bring the warm summer air into your home while also assessing your space for the repairs, maintenance, and updates you want to make over the summer months. At Great Lakes, we love the act of spring cleaning, but we don’t always love all the tools and supplies that most people think are needed to get the job done. Simple cleaning is the best, easiest, and most efficient option.

2. What are some traditional spring cleaning practices we can change in order to live more sustainably?

How can we simplify our spring cleaning? We can first take a look at the tools we already have around our homes. Whether it be scrub brushes or cleaning supplies, you don’t need to buy new things to get the job done. Most of us have odds and ends of cleaning supplies laying around that we haven’t quite finished up yet. Always use what you have first before tossing it out. Even if you’ve changed over to more ecologically friendly supplies and have remnants of your old stock, either use it up first to avoid it going into our landfills, or dispose of it on a designated hazardous waste collection day. Talk to your city to find out what day it is or download the Recycle Coach app! Remember to think of useful reuse when looking at your cleaning tools. An old toothbrush can work wonders on grout and around sinks and tubs, and an old towel can be cut up to make rags.

If you need to buy new tools for the job, first seek out tools that can break down naturally in compost systems, such as scrubs made with wood pulp or cellulose, or brushes made with wood or bamboo. When it comes to cleaning supplies, look for biodegradable and septic safe options so they can break down more effectively in our water systems. Take it a step further by thinking about using tabs or solid cleaning supplies as they can reduce the carbon footprint, since they contain little to no water, resulting in a lower weight during transport.

2. How would you define green-washing and what can people look out for to help us avoid falling for green washing, especially when it comes to things like clothing brands, cleaning products, or other household items?

Green-washing is a marketing concept created to confuse customers that their product and business practices are more environmentally-friendly than they actually are , including not providing scientific evidence to back up their environmental claims. The best way to avoid falling for green-washing is to simply question ‘why’. Why does a packaging claim it is free-from a certain chemical or by-product? Is it just following a trend? Has it swapped a tested and safe ingredient for an untested, “natural” option. Remind yourself that the term natural is not defined nor regulated by any industry, and it definitely doesn’t equate to a better product just because it sounds better to one’s ears! Many products use safe, tested, and effective preservatives to keep us safe from harmful bacteria and organisms. We highly recommend checking out for highly informative, scientific, and factual information about everyday products and ongoing fights against green-washing. When it comes to other things like clothing brands and household items, the best tool you have is research. Before buying, spend some time researching the product and company. Sometimes we even save money just because we realize we don’t “need” a product anymore from taking the time to separate ourselves from the purchase. Some companies like to tout they donate or contribute to particular environmental initiatives, but conduct research to determine how and when they donate. For more information related to the environment, research and interesting topics, check out Ecodemy Education at

3. What are your best recommendations for spring cleaning in ways that are environmentally safe and responsible? How can we apply zero-waste, sustainable practices in our approach to spring cleaning and decluttering?

For our yards and gardens? Starting a fruit and veggie garden can save you trips to the grocery store and provide nourishing food to yourself and your family. Level up by planting native plants to your region, to encourage biodiversity in your yard, decrease water usage compared to lawn grass, and that also may produce fruit, spices, and teas.

For our homes? Use simple, effective products like vinegar and water to clean many things around your house, or use biodegradable soaps and cleaners. Level up by checking out your local refill store to ditch the plastic bottles too.

For our closets? Before donating, create a swap party for you and your friends to see if anyone can make use of the outfit that may have become lackluster to you, but an amazing piece for your friend. Also, look at second hand stores, online curated used shops, and local vintage shoppers before buying new. You never know what you can find. Level up by joining a buy-nothing group on Facebook to swap with your neighbors, or make a community page of your own.

For our health? Buy less, live more. By owning less things, we can experience more through financial freedom and not needing to replace things as they lose their appeal. Our mental health is more important than ever these days so just start by taking a walk and appreciating this beautiful world around us instead of making new purchases. Level up by watching The Minimalists documentary on Netflix.

For more about Great Lakes Refill Co, their initiatives, and what they offer to the community, explore their website Great Lakes Refill Company or if you’re in the Sarnia area, go visit their storefront at 454 Christina St North.

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