As you gear up for the Christmas parties and family comings and goings, here are a few ways you can prepare, decorate, and host hospitably and in an eco-friendlier manner:
-1. First, brush excess hair off of pets and toss it either outside for birds to add to their nests or in a garbage can (see the major culprit below).
-2. Tidy up with a soft-bristled broom and dustpan on your hardwood floors, reserving the vacuum for the carpets. Shake out doormats outside to lessen what gets tracked inside.
-3. Clean windows with a vinegar & water mixture in a recycled spray bottle and old newspaper to give the windows a crisp shine. Your houseplants will thank you.
-4. Give showers and baths a good scrub with baking soda and a stiff scrub brush. Rinse the baking soda down the drain and pour a little vinegar down the drain to freshen up the drain pipes.
-5. Line dry your guest's bedsheets and towels outside on nice days for super fresh sheets. Make the beds, set folded towels at the foot of the beds, and place a little mint or chocolate on the pillow for their arrival. Pile a few extra blankets either on the foot of the bed or in a visible space in their room in case they get chilly.
-6. Make sure there is spare toilet paper, soaps, toothbrushes, and toothpaste in their bathroom. (Check out http://greenheartshop.org/ for supplies. They're based in Chicago, so consolidate everything you want into one order to save a little on transportation - read into that carbon production.) Pick up toilet paper and toothbrushes from Trader Joe's. Whole Foods even has some beautiful store-brand shampoos and conditioners that are sulfate and paraben free, and that are wonderfully affordable. Set out a fresh bathmat.
-7. Snip fresh holly or pine (or some other seasonal green) from your yard and put it in a vase set out on the guestroom nightstand.
-8. Stock up on fair trade or locally roasted coffee for breakfast. (Trader Joe's again has quite good, fair trade, cheap coffee. Or pick up some local roast from a farmer's market, or at Whole Foods.)
-9. Make sure all of your cloth napkins are freshly laundered and ready to go. If you don't have any, puchase linen from Ikea for $7.99/yard, cut into 18" squares, fold over edges, stitch down, and - Voila!