Sunday, April 22, 2012

4 Things That Should Never Go Down The Drain

Keep your drain toxic free
Keep your drain toxic free

A household drain can seem like a convenient way to get rid of unwanted liquid waste – we’ve all been tempted to flush away dirty mop water or to just dump cooking oil down the sink and be done with it. But have you ever stopped to think about where all that water goes once it leaves your sight? While it may seems safe – that water has to be treated eventually, right? – in fact a lot of what goes down your drains will eventually end up back in natural waterways and maybe even back at your own faucet someday. So to help keep your water clean (and your water treatment facilities running smoothly), here are four things you should never put down the drain.

1. Toxic chemicals like paint, cleaning products, oil, and solvents
Water treatment facilities can remove a lot of contaminants, but plenty of dangerous chemicals that go down your drain will still end up being dumped into our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Phosphates from detergents, chlorine from bleach, and the toxins in pesticides will all wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems once they leave your local sewage treatment plant. You wouldn’t throw paint, solvents, pesticides or other chemicals out in your yard, so why would you put them down the drain?

What to do instead: City waste centers will have drop-off areas for toxic chemicals. Some substances like paint and motor oil can be recycled, while non-recyclable liquids will be disposed of properly. You can also replace nasty, toxic cleaning supplies with eco-friendly cleaners made with enzymes, citrus, or oxygen.

2. Medications
We’ve all been stuck with expired or leftover medicine at some point. In fact, about a third of the medications sold in the U.S. never get taken. But you’ll want to avoid flushing those unused pills or liquids: much like other chemicals, medications you dump down the toilet will find their way into natural waterways. Studies have found everything from antibiotics to ibuprofen to antidepressants in drinking water supplies throughout the U.S.

What to do instead: Instead of flushing used pills look in your area for a medicine take-back program. While there is no national plan to collect unused medications, there are lots of local organizations that join together pharmacies, law enforcement, and hospitals to collect and responsibly dispose of everything from painkillers to blood pressure pills. If no programs are available in your area, mix pills with something unpalatable like kitty litter or coffee grounds to keep them from being accidentally ingested and include them with your regular trash.

3. Grease, fats, and oils
It can be tempting to just wash all that oil from the frying pan down the drain with the dishwater, but greases, oils, and fats from cooking will quickly cause all sorts of problems: when they solidify they can clog pipes and wreck not just your plumbing but also sewage treatment plants. Even worse, if it makes it out to the environment it can disrupt the natural balance of waterways (think of how oil floats on top of water in your sink) and interfere with plants, fish, and other wildlife.

What to do instead: It’s possible to compost fats and oils, but you’ll want to be very careful if you’re dumping them into a home compost bin. The smell can attract animals and too much grease can block access to oxygen, resulting in smelly, poor-quality compost. The best option is actually to recycle it: dirty kitchen grease can easily be turned into eco-friendly biofuel. Look in your area for companies or city programs that accept kitchen waste for recycling, then just stick a jar by your stove to collect cooking oil and drop it off when it’s full.

4. Paper towels, cotton balls, pre-moistened wipes, scrub pads, etc.
While toilet paper is made to break down in a sewer or septic tank, other paper products are designed to stand up to that sort of abuse. The same sturdiness that makes a paper towel perfect for cleaning up spills means that it’s likely to clog up pipes and increase the chance of sewer backups and overflows. So even though products like paper towels, baby wipes, and cotton swabs are biodegradable you’ll want to keep them out of your sewage system, even if they claim to be “flushable.”

What to do instead: Why not put all that paper to work? Paper products make a great source of carbon for home compost piles which means you’ll be keeping that waste out of landfills, too. Better yet, switch to cloth towels and other reusable products to cut out that trash altogether.

8 Green Items Every Home Should Have

Greening your home can be a daunting process. With all the options out there for reducing waste, boosting efficiency, and getting rid of toxins, it can be hard to know where to start. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the eight accessories we here at Greenhome think every eco-friendly home should have.

Non-Toxic Cleaning and Housekeeping
Non-Toxic Cleaning and Housekeeping
1. Green cleaning products
Those colorful bottles of soaps, detergents, and bleaches under your kitchen sink are hiding all sorts of toxic chemicals: solvents and degreasers release dangerous volatile organic compounds into the air while phosphates in detergents can wreak havoc on waterways once they go down the drain. To keep your home safe while you clean, look for natural cleaners that use citrus, enzymes, or oxygen instead of harsh chemicals.

2. An air filter
Did you know that the air inside your home can be 2 to 5 times as polluted as the air outdoors? Fumes from cleaning products and appliances along with allergens like pet dander and mold can become concentrated inside, especially when you’ve got the windows closed. To help clean the air in your home, invest in an air purifier with a HEPA filter and activated charcoal that will remove not only allergens but dangerous vapors and odors as well.

3. A water filter
While most of us are lucky enough to have easy access to treated water, there are still contaminants that make their way through water treatment systems and into our homes. Fortunately, dangerous elements like lead and chlorine as well as bacterial contaminants and other organic compounds can easily be filtered out at the tap. Look for a water filter system that uses both reverse osmosis and activated carbon for the safest possible water.
Compost Bins
Compost Bins
4. A compost bin
Reducing waste is one of the most important goals of going green, and composting is an easy way cut down on your trash haul. All you need is a compost bin and some kitchen scraps to get started. If you don’t have access to outdoor space, look for smaller bins designed for indoors or find an industrial compost site in your area that accepts household waste.

5. Reusable containers
Another great way to decrease the amount of trash you produce is to invest in reusable containers. We’re all used to the convenience of being able to chuck out water bottles, plastic containers, shopping bags, and coffee cups, but with a little planning it’s easy to replace all that garbage with eco-friendly, reusable options.

Energy Efficient Lighting
Energy Efficient Lighting
6. Green lighting
Efficient light bulbs aren’t just a good investment for the environment – they can also help reduce your home electric bill. Because it uses 75% less energy than a standard bulb, a single compact fluorescent bulb can save you up to $40 over its lifetime. The initial cost for LED lights, CFLs, and other high-efficiency light bulbs will be offset by the energy you save.

7. A programmable thermostat
Home heating and cooling account for about half of the average electric bill, which makes your air conditioner or furnace the best place to start when you want to reduce your home energy use. One of the easiest ways to make your home more energy efficient is to install a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust the temperature when you’re home, away, or asleep.

Eco-Friendly Water Filters
Eco-Friendly Water Filters
8. Low flow plumbing fixtures
Conserving water is easy when you have low flow fixtures. While most showerheads will have a rate of 2.5 gallons a minute or more, low flow options can go as low as 1.5 without sacrificing water pressure. A family of four can save hundreds of gallons a month!

Conserving Resources

The Earth gets more and more crowded every day. In 2011, the world’s population reached 7 billion, and there’s no sign we’ll be letting up any time soon. Such a huge number of people is bound to put a strain on the environment since, at the end of the day, all of our resources – from the water we drink to the food we eat to the gas we put in our cars – has to be taken from the natural systems around us. So Green Home wants to help you focus on using less, not just to conserve the things we need, but also to minimize the damage we do the environment we all share.

Did you know?
Gard'n Gro Filter
Gard'n Gro Filter
    • The U.S. is the world’s second largest energy consumer; only China uses more.
    • Recycling a ton of mixed paper saves the energy equivalent of 165 gallons of gasoline.
    • 37% of U.S. energy comes from petroleum, 25% from natural gas, 21% from coal, and 9% from nuclear plants. Only 8% comes from renewable sources like hydroelectric dams, solar, and wind farms.
    • Transportation accounts for 28% of all energy used in the U.S.
    • The average American uses 176 gallons of water a day.
Bagasse Tree Free Dinner Napkins
Bagasse Tree Free Dinner Napkins
  • 30% of water used in homes goes onto lawns and gardens.
  • The amount of energy in the sunlight that hits the earth in a hour could power the whole planet for a year.
  • One ton of paper requires 250 cubic feet of wood, 55,000 gallons of water, and 112 kWh of energy to produce.
  • A compact fluorescent light bulb produces five times as much light per watt as an incandescent bulb.
  • It takes 30% less energy to make a product from recycled glass than from new materials.
5 Easy Ways to Conserve Resources Every Day
1. Dial back the thermostat – every 1° change will reduce your home energy use by 1%.

2. Switch out your lights – compact fluorescent light bulbs use less energy and last longer than other bulbs.

3. Be smart with printer paper – get the most out of your office supplies by only printing when you need to and by using both sides of the paper

4. Turn off the water – never leave water running when you’re brushing your teeth, soaping your hands, or scrubbing the dishes.

5. Use those leftovers – find creative ways to turn leftovers into tasty meals so you never have to throw away food.

A How-to For Recycling


Recycling is an important part of any green home or business, but the sheer number of products and materials that pass through our hands every day can make it seem like a daunting task. Programs differ from state to state, from city to city, and sometime even from block to block, so how can you know where to start in your neck of the woods? To help you out, we’ve put together all the things you need to know to start recycling: from paper plates to aluminum cans to soda bottles, this is your guide to recycling right.

What can I recycle?
Recycling centers will be set up to handle different kinds of waste, so the most important thing you can do to make sure you’re handling your household or business trash efficiently is to learn what’s recyclable in your area. It’ll be easiest to start with the most commonly recycled materials: most curbside pickup programs and drop-off centers will accept the big five – paper, glass, plastic, aluminum, and steel – although there is a lot of variation within these categories.

Paper: Almost all recycling programs accept basic paper products like newspapers, junk mail, cardboard, magazines, and computer paper. A couple of things to keep in mind about paper recycling: whole paper is easier to recycle, so avoid shredding or tearing paper when you can. Also be careful with juice boxes and milk cartons, which are not accepted in most local programs, and try to avoid putting in products like pizza boxes or sandwich wrappers that are contaminated with food: the oil can ruin a whole batch of recycled paper (you can compost this waste instead).

Glass: Glass is one of the most easily recycled materials, but not all glass is made the same. Curbside and drop-off programs will most likely accept clear, brown, and green container glass, but you shouldn’t put in glass from windows, glassware, or cooking dishes – these products usually include additives that will disrupt the recycling process later on.

Plastic: Because there are so many different types of plastic it can be one of the most difficult materials to recycle. Check with your local program to see what types of plastics they accept and learn to spot the resin identification number on plastic products (the #1-7 surrounded by three arrows). Almost all facilities will accept plastics marked #1 – 3 while larger programs will sometimes accept all seven. If you buy compostable plastics like PLA make sure they stay out of the recycling stream.

Aluminum: Like glass, aluminum can easily be recycled again and again. Almost all programs will accept cans, but you should check with your local centers to see if they take other items like foil.

Steel: Steel cans – used for everything from coffee to pet food – are accepted at most local programs.

Where should I take my recycling?
Again, this will depend on where you live. Check in your area to see if home pickup if offered. If so, all you’ll have to do is make sure you have an approved bin to set out on the curb (and if not, you should lobby your city to start one – cities with curbside programs have higher recycling rates than those without). If your city uses drop-off locations you’ll need to collect your recyclables at home, then bring them to a community facility.

How do I to sort my recycling?
Whether or not you sort your recycling will depend on the type of program in your area. Many curbside pickup programs are what is known as single-stream recycling, which means you can put all your materials in one bin and they’ll be sorted back at a processing facility. As you can imagine, this method generally leads to high recycling rates since it’s easier for consumers, but mixing everything together can create its own set of problems. In particular, paper can be made unrecyclable by food contaminants, which is why some programs will use a duel-stream collection system which includes a separate bin for paper. Many drop-off centers, though, will require you to sort your recyclables, usually into easy categories like paper, plastic, clear and brown glass, aluminum, and cardboard. If you’re sorting your own recycling it’s very important to make sure you follow the directions at your local drop-off site: mixing materials or putting in non-recyclable items can damage equipment or destroy an entire batch of recycling.

Should I rinse my recyclables?
Giving your glass, metal, and plastics a quick rinse before they go in the bin will help make the recycling process efficient and easier down the line and will also help keep your bin from getting sticky and stinky. If you mix all your recyclables together, you should rinse food containers carefully to prevent waste from getting on paper products.

What about the rest of my garbage?
Once you start recycling you’ll no doubt notice all kinds of other waste you’ll be reluctant to toss in the garbage. You can take your recycling to the next level by looking in your area for ways to dispose of hard-to-recycle stuff like batteries, appliances, plastic bags, and packing foams. And always keep in mind that every item you keep out of the trash is helping to reduce pollution, conserve resources, and save energy.