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Cleaning House Green Edition

This blog was writ­ten by OES intern Mar­gette Bourne. Thanks!

Is your home over­flow­ing with over­whelm­ing amounts of ran­dom knick­knacks, clut­ter and unused pos­ses­sions that you have accu­mu­lated over the years? For many home­own­ers across Amer­ica, this is a real­ity. No, I’m not about to sug­gest that you apply for some sort of real­ity TV show where pro­fes­sional orga­niz­ers help you redec­o­rate your home and clear out your clut­ter. Rather, if you feel this clut­ter is over­pow­er­ing and exhaust­ing, and you can find the time to sort through some of it, there is a way to do so, while main­tain­ing a sense of help­ing oth­ers and the Earth.

Over the past year, I have taken it upon myself to moti­vate my fam­ily in clear­ing out our clut­tered home. Every home has its clut­ter, but we had accu­mu­lated a lot. Between my dad’s home improve­ment mate­ri­als, my mom’s col­lec­tion of ran­dom home décor accents, sen­ti­men­tal items and trin­kets, and my sister’s and my out­grown clothes and child­hood toys, every room and drawer was brim­ming with excess pos­ses­sions. We were able to hide a lot of the clut­ter; we could stash it away in clos­ets or the base­ment and try to ignore it, but we all agreed we would be bet­ter off with­out it.

After months of work, we whit­tled away lit­tle by lit­tle at the clut­ter, and now have an essen­tially junk-free house. It was not easy sort­ing through every­thing, nor was it sim­ple to find a new home for every­thing we decided to get rid of. We knew we wanted our old stuff to be put to good use by peo­ple who needed it, and we wanted to ensure cer­tain mate­ri­als that could not be donated were dis­posed of properly.

So to start, all our old clothes, toys, fur­ni­ture, antiques, dish­ware, DVDs, CDs, and sim­i­lar items were donated to a thrift store that gives its prof­its to ben­e­fit a local hos­pi­tal. By donat­ing these items, we are able to ensure their reuse and ensure they were diverted from land­fills. Start­ing this sum­mer, the Howard County land­fill has a Good­will trailer for col­lect­ing reusable house­hold items the 2nd and 4th Sat­ur­day of each month.

The dif­fi­culty, how­ever, came when deal­ing with dam­aged items, old chem­i­cals, and con­struc­tion mate­ri­als. My dad had an arse­nal of half-used buck­ets of paints, pes­ti­cides, and clean­ing chem­i­cals. He rec­og­nized that he really did not need all these items, but we knew we could not sim­ply put them in a dump­ster and def­i­nitely not down a drain. Doing so would release these nasty chem­i­cals into the envi­ron­ment. Instead, we went to the Alpha Ridge land­fill in Mar­riottsville and brought all our House­hold Haz­ardous Waste chem­i­cals for proper dis­posal. This ser­vice is avail­able Sat­ur­days April through Novem­ber. Addi­tion­ally, we brought all our old and bro­ken com­put­ers, mon­i­tors, key­boards, and radios, along with an assort­ment of unneeded wires and cables, and deposited them in the elec­tronic recy­cling container.

Old papers (impor­tant ones shred­ded first), mag­a­zines, and card­board found a place in the recy­cling bin. Cur­rently, we now are mak­ing the switch to greener clean­ing prod­ucts. There are many chem­i­cals on the mar­ket adver­tised as “green”, but many still con­tain chem­i­cals that are bet­ter avoided. Once you use up your tra­di­tional house­hold clean­ers, which may be brim­ming with pol­lut­ing chem­i­cals, buy organic clean­ers, or even bet­ter, make your own using non­toxic ingre­di­ents such as vine­gar and bak­ing soda. There are a great vari­ety of web­sites online that give you the recipes to make some of these. (Try http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm)

Our clean new home has granted our fam­ily some seren­ity in our hec­tic lives. We found great ben­e­fits in our home clean out, and we know that we ben­e­fit­ted oth­ers and the Earth through the pre­cau­tions we took through the process. Reuse of mate­ri­als and goods is a key piece of envi­ron­men­tal sustainability.

To find out what items are accepted for proper dis­posal and recy­cling of HHW and elec­tron­ics in Howard County visit, www.howardcountymd.gov/HHW.htm . To see what can be recy­cled in Howard County, check www.howardcountymd.gov/recyclingcollectiondetails.htm . It explains what can be recy­cled curb­side, at the land­fill, and offers other resources for things like light bulbs and batteries.

Also, there are a vari­ety of oppor­tu­ni­ties to ben­e­fit your com­mu­nity through dona­tion of your old items. Some that I have found help­ful include:

–Donat­ing books to orga­ni­za­tions that sup­port global lit­er­acy such as Bet­ter World Books

–Donat­ing old DVDs and CDs to sol­diers over­seas through AMVETS

–Donat­ing used bikes and bike parts to Bikes for the World

Mar­gette Bourne
Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sus­tain­abil­ity Intern
July 2011

Every Day is “America Recycles Day” in Howard County

This blog was writ­ten by the Howard County Recy­cling Divi­sion – Thank you!

Amer­ica Recy­cles Day is being cel­e­brated this year on Mon­day, Novem­ber 15th. Since 1997, com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try have come together to cel­e­brate Amer­ica Recy­cles Day. More than a cel­e­bra­tion, Amer­ica Recy­cles Day is the only nation­ally rec­og­nized day ded­i­cated to the pro­mo­tion of recy­cling pro­grams in the United States. One day to inform and edu­cate. One day to get our neigh­bors, friends and com­mu­nity lead­ers excited about what can be accom­plished when we all work together. While we are all look­ing for­ward to Amer­ica Recy­cles Day, in many ways, res­i­dents of Howard County cel­e­brate Amer­ica Recy­cles Day every day. Not only do thou­sands of Howard County res­i­dents recy­cle at the curb, but many res­i­dents also recy­cle addi­tional items at the Alpha Ridge Land­fill Res­i­dents’ Con­ve­nience Area and through retail take-back programs.

Want to know more about recy­cling? Howard County has a detailed and very infor­ma­tive web­site, www.howardcountyrecycles.org which pro­vides infor­ma­tion about recy­cling items that you might not have known were recy­clable. The Spe­cialty Recy­cling page high­lights reuse and recy­cling pro­grams includ­ing what to do with baby items, can­dles, CDs, elec­tron­ics, med­ical equip­ment, yoga mats and much more. There are links to web­sites for recy­cling items such as bat­ter­ies, elec­tron­ics and CFLs. Res­i­dents can also stay up to date with recy­cling News and Upcom­ing Events and the Hol­i­day Slide Schedule.

Want to do even more? How about com­post­ing your leaves, grass clip­pings and food scraps at home? The County pro­vides free com­post­ing bins to res­i­dents; visit the Bureau of Envi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices at 6751 Colum­bia Gate­way Drive, Suite 514 or the Alpha Ridge Land­fill in Mar­riottsville to pick one up.

Do you want to sched­ule a recy­cling pre­sen­ta­tion? Recy­cling Coor­di­na­tors are avail­able to attend com­mu­nity meet­ings, reli­gious groups, busi­nesses, schools, etc. to spread the word about Howard County recy­cling. Maybe you want some help start­ing a recy­cling pro­gram or improv­ing an exist­ing pro­gram? The Recy­cling Divi­sion is here to help. Don’t hes­i­tate to call (410−313−6444), send an email at help@howardcountyrecycles.org or visit our web­site if you come across an item you aren’t sure about, think of a ques­tion, or have some­thing you want to share.

If you would like to know more about Amer­ica Recy­cles Day (ARD), please visit www.americarecyclesday.org. Take the pledge to recy­cle and learn about local ARD events.

We’re proud of Howard County res­i­dents’ com­mit­ment to the envi­ron­ment, but know that we all can do even bet­ter! We have a deci­sion to make on every item we pur­chase, use and discard.

Green Tip

Hi, I’m Howard and I’m here to provide you with green tips. Look for me throughout the site and check out my cool interactive games at the Kids Zone.