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At Home & In the Garden

Car Maintenance

Not only do vehicles generate air pollutants that are harmful to the environment, but vehicle maintenance also creates wastes, including used oil, antifreeze, batteries, and old tires. Proper maintenance of your vehicle and proper waste disposal can help reduce the impact of vehicles on the environment.

  • Winterize your vehicle by checking your air filter and fluid levels, checking tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and checking the condition of your windshield wipers. Be sure to check your car for drips and leaks. Properly maintaining your vehicle will reduce pollution and replacement parts, and help you keep safe on the road.
  • If you change your own motor oil, collect and store the used oil in a sturdy plastic container and take it to a recycling center. Dumping oil down storm drains or on the ground can contaminate ground water. Also consider using refined oil in your vehicle.
  • Purchase extended-life antifreeze for your car. Most extended-life coolants do not contain silicates and phosphates-common in conventional antifreeze-that can be abrasive to water pump seals. Take your used antifreeze to a recycling center. Call auto stores and your local government environmental agency to find the recycling center nearest you.
  • Take used or damaged car batteries to auto stores that stock or repair lead-acid batteries for safe disposal. The batteries contain toxic amounts of lead and acid. They are banned from many solid waste collection programs and all municipal solid waste landfills.
  • Return used car tires to retailers or wholesalers that recycle or retread them. Tires are banned from most landfills, and illegally dumped tires become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests.
  • Join or form car/vanpools for traveling to work or school. Fewer cars on the road means less pollution in the environment.
  • Make sure your car has a clean air filter-a dirty air filter can increase your car's fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent.
  • Instead of disposing of a low-value car, offer it to charitable institutions in your area. The gift will be tax-deductible.

eCycling at Home

Electronics are one of the fastest growing portions of America's trash. Recycling your old electronics is not only smart, but also good for the environment. Learn how to reuse and recycle your old computers, TVs, and cell phones to reduce waste.

  • Before replacing a computer because it no longer fits your needs, investigate enhancing the computer's capacity by installing a hard disk drive, chip, or memory-expansion card. Such modifications can now be done with little know-how using the help of the manufacturer or a do-it-yourself guide.
  • Consider buying a used computer. They are cheaper, sold by major manufacturers, and often come with a warranty.
  • Donate your old computer to a school. Many schools are in need of computers and will be able to make good use of your old machine. If the computer isn't working, some schools can refurbish computers by in-house technicians.
  • Take your used printer ink cartridge to a company that remanufactures cartridges for reuse. Many companies that refurbish the cartridges will offer store credit for your used cartridge.
  • No matter how old, video games and video game equipment can be sold to many electronics collectors. Another option is to donate old video games to youth charities.
  • Old electronics (CD players, DVDs, VCRs) make great donations to charitable agencies that provide holiday gifts to low income families. Try trading old CDs or DVDs with friends or donating them to charitable organizations, nursing homes, libraries, or hospitals.
  • Buy rechargeable batteries. They can be used for longer periods and will likely be less expensive than disposable batteries in the long run. When using rechargeable batteries, be sure to follow the instructions. The instructions may suggest charging the battery fully before use, otherwise, the battery's lifetime may be diminished.
  • Consider using a digital camera. They create less waste for disposal than traditional cameras because disks can be reused and undesirable pictures can be deleted.

Tips for the Holidays

Holiday are a great time for getting together with family and friends. Holiday parties and other activities present many opportunities to reduce waste through reuse and recycling.

  • After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your community solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees. Your town might be able to use chippings from mulched trees for hiking trails or beachfront erosion barriers.
  • Buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.
  • Have a create your own decorations party! Invite family and friends to create holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, wreaths made from artificial greens and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves.
  • Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
  • If you're buying new greeting cards this holiday season, send recycled-content greeting cards. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available. Also consider sending electronic cards, and remember to recycle any paper cards you receive.
  • Think "green" while shopping holiday and birthday sales. Try to buy items with minimal packaging and/or made with recycled content. Check product labels to determine an item's recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials.
  • Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money. Look for items that embody the concept of reuse. For example: wooden toys made from scrap wood, craft kits that take advantage of used goods and discards, and drawing boards that can be erased and reused.
  • Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don't need a bag for small or oversized purchases. Use reusable cloth bags instead of disposable ones for trick-or-treating.
  • Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or funny papers. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper. Give gifts that don't require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates.
  • Donate the older toys that your children no longer use to charities. Also check with local libraries. A number of public libraries have extended their children's section to include a lending collection of toys, games, puzzles, and musical instruments.
  • Many battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.
  • When giving flowers as gifts, consider buying long-lasting silk flowers, potted plants, or live bushes, shrubs, or trees that can be planted in the spring as gifts.
  • Bake cookies or other goodies for your friends and love ones and package them in reusable and/or recyclable containers as gifts. Homemade goodies show how much you care and help you avoid packaging waste.
  • If you host a party, set the table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses, and silverware. Consider renting more formal tableware that you might not use very often. Also save and reuse party hats, decorations, and favors.
  • After holiday festivities, put leftovers in recyclable containers, and share them with family, friends, or others. Donate whole, untouched leftovers from parties to a local food bank or homeless shelter.
  • Where possible, compost leftover food scraps, leaves, and grass clippings.
  • After parties, fill your dishwasher to capacity before running it. You will run fewer cycles, which saves energy.
  • Wash and reuse empty glass and plastic jars, milk jugs, coffee cans, dairy tubs, and other similar containers that would otherwise get thrown away. These containers can be used to store leftovers as well as buttons, nails, or other loose items.
  • Make the most of your jack o' lantern. Use the removed meat to make pumpkin pie or muffins and roast the seeds as a fun holiday snack. When the holiday is over, cut up your carved pumpkin before it spoils and toss it in the compost bin.
  • Why purchase costumes that you will probably only use once and then throw away? Instead, use old clothes or buy used clothes from a consignment shop to make your costume.
  • Consider donating old costumes to local amateur theater productions, including school performances and shows put on by charitable organizations. Another option is to donate costumes to a costume rental service.

Home Improvement

When choosing materials to improve or remodel your home, try to buy recycled products. Using recycled products helps reduce the amount of material going to landfills. Flooring, insulation, plastic lumber, woodwork, shingles, and many garden/lawn products are made from recycled materials.

  • If your house or apartment was built before 1978, it is likely to still have lead-based paint on walls and other surfaces. Lead in the environment is especially harmful to children and pregnant women. Before you begin any paint removal or remodeling projects, be sure to test for lead. You can hire a professional to remove it or do it yourself. If you do it yourself, spread tarps under the work area, don't work on windy days, and collect and dispose of your paint waste in a licensed sanitary landfill.
  • Install properly insulated skylights or larger windows to allow more natural light into your home. You will help reduce the amount of energy and electricity used to light your home.
  • Donate reusable old cabinets, doors, plumbing fixtures, and hardware to a local charity or building materials reuse center.
  • Reuse or recycle leftover cement, gravel, and sand whenever possible. Try not to mix up more fresh concrete or cement than you can use in a day.
  • When your home is undergoing major landscape renovation, try to conduct grading and excavating projects when chances of rain are minimal to prevent erosion and contamination of run-off water. Cover excavated materials, dumpsters, and stockpiles of asphalt, sand, and yard clippings to prevent contaminants from getting into storm drains.
  • Properly maintain home appliances and keep them clean to help ensure that they will run at peak efficiency. This also saves electricity, which conserves resources and reduces global warming. Remove lint and dust from your refrigerator coil and freezer. Clean up lint around your dryer, furnace, and any vents leading to or from them. Also, change or clean the filter in your air purifier or furnace.
  • For cleaning chores, try to use durable items such as mops and reusable rags or sponges. When using household cleaning products, be sure that you only use the amount you need, and that you read and follow the manufacturer's directions for use and disposal.
  • Properly store any unused paint for future use, donate unused paint to neighbors or charities, or turn in your used paint to a waste collection facility for recycling.
  • If you have a tile roof, check it thoroughly for cracks or missing tiles, and use roofing made from recycled rubber or plastic to make repairs.
  • Replace old insulation with insulation made from recycled paper, glass, and other recovered materials.
  • Check your heat pump or furnace and change the filter or make repairs if needed. Properly maintaining your furnace will conserve fuel by keeping it running efficiently and preventing leaks.
  • Remove screens from windows and doors and put up storm windows. Strong winds, heavy rains, and extreme cold can all damage your screens and ordinary windows, and send them to landfills before their time.
  • Check caulking around windows and do touch ups to conserve energy and natural resources.
  • When you're stuck inside on a rainy day, clean out your closet and collect the old clothes and toys for donation to a charity or your next garage sale.

Lawn & Garden

While working in your garden or caring for your landscape, there are many things you can do to reduce waste and conserve resources. From caring for you lawn and garden equipment, to "greenscaping," learn what you can do to make a difference in the world around you.

  • Use food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic waste to create a compost pile. Compost is a rich soil amendment that can help increase water retention, decrease erosion, and replace chemical fertilizers.
  • Greenscape Your Landscape - In spring and summer, many of us start some kind of landscaping around our property. You can reduce the environmental impacts of landscaping your lawn and property by grasscycling, mulching, and composting. Properly managing your yard waste enhances your environment and saves you money.
  • Shred untreated wood and leaf wastes into chips and use them as mulch on garden beds to prevent weed growth, retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and add nutrients back to the soil.
  • Build a backyard fort or tree house from recycled materials, such as wood scraps, cardboard, and other found items.
  • Buy recycled-content gardening equipment and tools, such as garden hoses made from old tires, stepping stones made from old glass bottles, or hand tools made with recycled plastic. You can also use plastic lumber made from recycled plastic bottles and bags to make flower beds, trellises, decks, and birdhouses.
  • Recycle used oil and tires from lawn and garden equipment. If you have a need for large lawn and garden equipment, such as tillers or chainsaws, you can reduce waste (and save money!) by renting or borrowing the equipment.
  • Keep your lawn mower and other equipment in efficient operating condition by performing regular maintenance according to the owner's manual. Purchase a nozzle that prevents fuel spills when refilling your lawn mower. Use manual tools when appropriate to save fuel and protect air quality. Remember not to use your gas mower on Code Red days.
  • Raise the cutting height of your lawn mower during the hot summer months to keep grass roots shaded and cooler, reducing weed growth, browning, and the need for watering. When you mow, "grasscycle" by leaving grass clippings on your lawn instead of bagging them or use a mulching mower. The clippings will return nutrients to the soil instead of taking up space in landfills.
  • Cut the bottoms off plastic milk jugs or use small paper bags to protect young seedlings from frost, wind, heavy rain, and roving animals. Remember to recycle the bags and jugs when the seedlings have grown.
  • If you have healthy plants that you want to replace, donate them to community gardens or schools, or offer them to neighbors.
  • Many plants and insects can serve as non-toxic, natural deterrents to weeds and garden pests. Introduce ladybugs to eat aphids, plant marigolds to ward off beetles, and look for quick-sprouting plants to block weed growth.
  • Conserve water. Use barrels to collect rain water and use it to water plants. Check hoses for leaks before watering plants, and position sprinklers so they water only plants, not the sidewalk, street, or house. Also remember to water during the cooler parts of the day (early morning is best) to avoid evaporation.

Photo of young boy at home cleaning with a girl and dog playing in the background

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