Think your home is pretty green? Maybe it is. But take a look at the darker
corners of your basement, garage, and backyard shed. You'll likely find a
miniature toxic waste dump, getting larger by the year.
Americans generate more than 1.5 million tons of hazardous household waste
every year. Anything that has a label with the word poison, danger, warning, or
caution is considered hazardous household waste and all of them pose potential
risks to your health and the environment. If your home is like most, you could
easily have 100 pounds of toxic junk lurking in the basement, garage, and
When it's time for the next cleaning (spring or otherwise), do it in a way
that makes your home and the environment safer, says Kathy Shay, water quality
education manager for Austin, Texas and its Grow Green program. "Your home
has its own environmental protection agency, and it's you," says Shay.
"There are dozens of ways you can go a little greener at home that are
simple, but also powerful."
Go Green: Plan, Don't Just Pitch It
In a garage overpopulated by cans of crusty paint, sludged oil, half-full
pesticide sprayers, and cemented caulk tubes, the solution can seem easy. Put
them down the storm drain or into the trash bin -- anything to be rid of the
Experts warn against ever pouring suspect chemicals down the drain,
into storm sewers, or backyard dirt. "A single can of oil can travel
through acres of soil," says Paul McRandle, deputy editor for National
Geographic's Green Guide. "And water treatment plants aren't set up to
process petrochemicals. They end up in the water, in the fish -- and eventually
back on your plate."
What you can do:
Call your local sanitation department and ask about hazardous household
waste disposal. Some communities have a pick-up day. You may need to bring the
products in to a central location.
Get rid of your toxic leftovers by giving them to someone else. Post
"free paint" (or cleaning products, wood stain, or glue) to
neighborhood bulletin boards, or online at Craigslist or Freecycle.
Return used motor oil to your local garage.
Getting rid of your old appliances and electronics requires a little
planning, too. Many refrigerators and freezers need to have their
ozone-depleting cooling units disconnected before safe disposal. Computers and
cell phones contain components that are hazardous, but often recyclable.
What you can do:
Ask your sanitation department about any appliance you're throwing
Talk to your local electronics retailer about taking back your item for
reuse or recycling. Look for a retailer who participates in EPA's Plug-In to
Cut Emissions, Not Just the Grass
Conventional lawn care has huge environmental costs: in gas and oil,
pesticides, water consumption, and fertilizer runoff. You can have a beautiful
lawn without giving the environment a black eye. Here are a few simple