Monthly Archives: October 2013

9 Ways to Reduce Waste Around the House

9 Ways to Reduce Waste Around the House

Inside your home is the place where you usually have the most control over the waste you and your family generates. After all, you and your family do the shopping for most of what goes in there throughout the years. If you want to cut down on the waste you’re generating, home is the place to do it. Here are 9 tips to help you reduce waste around your home.

1. Buy less.

So obvious, yet so difficult at times. The less stuff you buy, the less waste you’ll generate.

2.Buy used.

Not everything has to be bought new. There are so many things you can quite reasonably buy used, and that means less waste. Not only does it mean that fewer resources are consumed to make new products, used products often have far less packaging, depending on the source. Certainly items from thrift stores have very little packaging on the whole, however refurbished items may be packaged more or less like new ones. Still, refurbished items are less wasteful than new.

And of course, don’t forget handmedowns. This has saved me a ton of money in children’s clothes, as my sisters and I pass clothing down from child to child to child.

3. Go reusable.

There are so many things you can buy in reusable forms rather than disposable. Grocery bags. Water bottles. Batteries. Any time you need to buy something disposable, think about whether the reusable version might do as well or better.

4. Buy bulk.

When reasonable, buy things in bulk rather than in smaller packages. Some grocery stores have bulk bins, which can make it very easy to buy certain types of food in larger quantities.

Other items can be bought in bulk too. If your family tends to go through something regularly, take a look at how you can buy and store larger quantities. That way you won’t have to go out to buy them as often.

5. Cut down on food waste.

Pay attention to the foods you have on hand, and use up as much as possible before it spoils. In many families, leftovers are a major source of food waste, but there are ways to limit it. You can freeze leftovers into quick meals, for example, so that they last longer and may even be portable for those who work outside the home to bring to work for lunch.

6. Get off mailing lists.

Odds are good that you get a lot of mail you simply are not interested in. You can cut back on this by opting out of many mailing lists. The Direct Marketing Association provides this service for a fee. You can contact companies about catalogs you receive but do not want and get off their lists. You can also contact the credit reporting bureaus and request through each of them that you want off their mailing lists.

It takes some time for your name to get off all the lists. They aren’t updated every month, but over the course of a few months, the junk mail should decrease.

7. Compost.

Composting not only helps you decrease your waste, but gives you something beneficial for your garden. Outdoor compost bins or piles are the traditional ways to go, but there are ways you can compost indoors too.

8. Donate or sell old items.

Many things that you’re done using are still perfectly good for someone else. We recently replaced our old couch, for example, and after getting no interest in anyone buying it, we donated it to charity. Charities can be pretty picky about what they’ll accept, as they mostly want to be able to sell what they pick up from you.

Garage sales are another great way to go. You can sell off old clothes, toys or whatever else you have around the house you want to get rid of, and make a little money while doing so.

9. Recycle.

There may be a lot of things you can recycle, paper, plastic, glass bottles, aluminum cans, etc., depending on the programs available in your area. The recycling company in our area, for example, accepts all numbered plastics, but in other areas only plastics numbered 1 or 2 will be accepted. Plastic shopping bags can be recycled at many grocery stores, for those times you didn’t have a reusable bag on hand.

Old appliances can often be recycled too. Check for programs in your area.

How Can You Control Indoor Air Pollution In Your Home?

How Can You Control Indoor Air Pollution In Your Home?

Indoor air pollution has long been considered a problem by some people; completely disregarded by others. Many try to control the smells in their home with various air fresheners, but the chemicals used in these can cause reactions in some people, and may not necessarily actually clean the air. It’s better to look at other ways to control indoor air pollution in your home.

What Causes Home Indoor Air Pollution?

Air pollution inside your home comes from many sources. There can be VOCs from a wide variety of sources, allergens from pets, plants or insects, and much more. You can learn more about indoor air pollutants from Indoor Air Pollution: A Public Health Perspective (pdf). It’s a bit of an old report (1983), but I would still consider it relevant. It’s not like the sources of pollutants has changed that much.

What Can You Do About Indoor Air Pollution?

The first thing to do about indoor air pollution is to minimize it in the first place. Use the least toxic options when possible in your home, especially when cleaning. That’s why I love cleaning with baking soda and vinegar; I trust those to be safe. Many common cleaners used in the home are fairly toxic on their own, and may have added scents to make their use more pleasant, even though those scents may themselves be unhealthy.

You can have less carpeting in your home too. Carpets hold a lot of dirt, dust, pollen, mold spores and so forth. There can also be issues with the materials the carpet is made of as well as how it is installed and the padding used.

Avoiding products with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is important as well. There are now paints available with low or no VOCs, but other times they may be more difficult to avoid. Water based products are generally lower in VOCs than oil based products.

Any gas powered appliances, such as your stove/oven, furnace, hot water heater or clothes dryer can contribute to indoor air pollution. They may emit carbon monoxide, for example. You should have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home; in fact California now requires them (pdf) in any home with an attached garage or any fossil fuel source.

Your next step is to deal with the air pollution already in your home. Opening your windows can help to blow pollutants out, although you may get some more dust, pollen and such coming from outdoors, depending on the conditions outside. Still, your air will smell much better and the air outside is often cleaner than what’s inside.

Houseplants can also improve your indoor air quality. Some types, such as aloe vera (which is useful other ways too), spider plant and peace lilies are particularly suited to removing air pollutants. You can see more good choices at 15 houseplants for improving indoor air quality. Certain orchids can clean air as well, and they’re a favorite of mine.

However, it should be noted that houseplants may not remove a lot of pollution, and may encourage the growth of microorganisms if they’re overwatered. I still consider them worth it. They’re pretty!

You can also buy electric air purifiers. Make sure you pick the most effective one for your budget and situation – they can be bought for individual rooms or the entire home. carries all kinds of room air purifiers.

The Lesson of the Dishwasher

The Lesson of the Dishwasher

The past two and a half weeks have been full of hand washing dishes around here. You see, the dishwasher died. Now, we rent, so it was the landlord’s problem to handle, but that didn’t make things all that much easier; it just meant it wasn’t my money going into the problem. Anyhow, it came up too expensive to fix, so a new dishwasher has been installed… to my children’s great relief. They learned quite a lesson from not having a dishwasher for a time.

I’ll admit that the mean mommy part of me enjoyed their discomfort. The kids swear they’ll never complain about having to load and unload the dishwasher again. I don’t believe that for a minute, but I do wonder if I can get them to behave about doing the dishes better if I take away their dishwasher privilege. I really don’t think they will want to go back to handwashing so many dishes in the future.

I wasn’t even been nice enough to let them switch to disposable dishes. Actually, I don’t think the thought even occurred to them, or if it did, they never suggested it to me. I use disposable dishes very rarely, usually only when there’s more company than my supply of dishes can handle. I’m very much against that kind of waste when I have a choice.

I hope the kids have also picked up on the notion that the fewer dishes they use, the fewer there are to clean up later. We’ve tried to get this lesson across before, but it has never taken, especially in regards to cups that only held water when they want more water. After hand washing so many cups… maybe? We’ll see.

I’m really glad to have a dishwasher again. This was a long time to go without, and hand washing uses more water, especially when it’s kids doing the dishes. Bit by bit they’ve learned to be more efficient, especially when rinsing, but they still aren’t all that efficient about it.

Of course, now I’m waiting for the garbage disposal to be replaced. It just had to start leaking rusty water the day before the dishwasher was installed. At least that meant it was easy to have the guy take a look and confirm that it can’t be repaired – now I just need to see how long it takes to get this job done!