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Spic-And-Spanning The Globe

Sometime back in 1960, a full decade before Earth Day I, a Texas-bred hausfrau rolled out of her bed in Hawaii, donned one of her trademark muumuus (which she fashioned from old shower curtains or cast-off bedspreads), parked herself in front of her typewriter and forever changed the way America looked at its garbage.

Blessed with a keen ingenuity that would put Rube Goldberg to shame, she advocated turning old Clorox bottles into pooper-scoopers, suggested covering outdated phone books with decorative contact paper for use as foot stools and revealed the heretofore unknown hair-setting properties of flat beer.

A firm believer in the waste-not, want-not school of thrift--this was, after all, the woman who, having nothing new to wear to a party, dyed an old dress in a vat of beet juice--the penny-pinching scribe banged out a series of household tips that would eventually become the internationally syndicated column known as Hints from Heloise.

A recyclist to the end, the resourceful Heloise even turned over her name, persona and newspaper column to her daughter Ponce upon her death in 1977.

In the world of Heloise, dual-purpose domesticity continues to rule the roost.

Why waste money on expensive hair conditioner and furniture polish when plain old mayonnaise works just as well?

Lose an earring? Not to fret. Simply dangle its mate from the bridge of your sunglasses to avoid a sunburned nose.

And don't even think of pitching that tattered nylon-net petticoat. The elder Heloise swore by the miracle mesh, claiming it was just the ticket for everything from scrubbing dentures and making hats to "removing loathsome snail slime from my hands."

But this week, on the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day, snail slime is the least of our worries. Ecological horror stories abound, and rarely a day goes by that we aren't floored with flabbergasting factoids about pollution and waste--like the fact that a leaky toilet uses 90,000 gallons of water a year.

Happily, however, Heloise has a grip on that problem. "Newspapers will absorb water when you have a plumbing flood emergency," she perkily reports in the just-published Heloise: Hints for a Healthy Planet (Perigee Books, $7.95). Evidently inspired by 50 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet (the eco-best seller from Earthworks Press), Heloise's newest hoard of hints puts a different spin on Earth awareness: She doles out hundreds of helpful tips designed to keep the world turning like a well-oiled oven rotisserie.

Aping the shock-statistics that pepper the margins of more traditional save-the-planet primers, Heloise drops a few domestic bombshells of her own.

"It has been estimated that more than 10,000 cockroaches can live and reproduce beneath your refrigerator during a twelve-month period, even if the rest of the house is immaculate!" she announces in a preface to a bacon, onion and boric acid concoction called Heloise's Famous Roach Recipe. "Yuck!" Practicing what she preaches, the ever resourceful Heloise has produced the ultimate in recycled books. Not only is the paper it's printed on from recycled material, virtually all the tips are from her past columns.

Now that's recycling.

10 TIPS FROM HELOISE (Selected from Heloise: Hints for a Healthy Planet)

1) "Get free distilled water: Strain rainwater through several thicknesses of old, clean pantyhose and you can use it in your steam iron or humidifier."

2) "If you are trying to remember to use less hot water (or training a family to do so), invert a margarine tub over the hot- water faucet as a reminder. Put a smiley face on it so you don't feel scolded."

3) "Hair spray will stop a flying insect in flight."

4) "Tie [pantyhose] legs together at the crotch and cut off the remainder of the legs and you have a `hat' to cover your head when doing messy things like working under a car or in a dusty attic . . . One of these `hats' can also be a nightcap for balding men or a cover for hair rollers." 5) "Play zoo. Invert plastic strawberry baskets over small plastic animals for cages."

6) "Use the plastic tabs from bread bags as free guitar picks."

7) "Make `track-lighting' by buying the electrical parts and using medium-sized cans painted black as light-bulb covers or `shades.'"

8) "Cover a useless, warped, scratched record with foil or a doily and use it as a cake plate when you are donating to a bake sale or taking a cake to a friend."

9) "Make funny goggles by cutting a pair of `holes' from plastic beverage rings. You can hold the goggles on with the elastic from a discarded pair of pantyhose or a large rubber band."

10) "Don't throw out that fluffy dryer lint! Save it for the spring and put it out in the yard or on a windowsill convenient for nest-building birds."