• Smruti Kaplish

Loving the planet while loving your space

As spring approaches, you may be thinking about cleaning your house and freshening up your space. Everyone has a different method of going about spring cleaning; whether it entails a deep cleaning of every nook, cranny, and surface in your home or is as simple as packing away the heavy coats and breaking out the lighter jackets. In my opinion, decluttering is another form of spring cleaning and I’d like to share some thoughts about how to recycle or dispose of common household items that can no longer be used by anyone in an environmentally responsible manner.

It’s always best to donate items that you don’t need or want if someone else can still use them. The first place that comes to mind for most people is Goodwill or Salvation Army. I really like these organizations for a couple of reasons: first, you can drop off any and all items in one place, and second, it offers individuals who cannot afford to buy things brand new to have the shopping experience, and this is really valuable to them. Other convenient ways to donate/sell items include Craigslist, Buy Nothing (my personal favorite!), Nextdoor, and Let Go. However, you should also consider other organizations that may be in need of household goods and clothing, for example women & children’s shelters, homeless shelters, animal clinics, and local schools.

Decluttering can get stressful and difficult when you want to get rid of something but you don’t know how to do it responsibly. The decision making slows down the purging process and due to frustration, things end up your trash can or recycling. Many people don’t realize that there are so many items that you should not and cannot simply throw away in the trash or recycling. This includes old batteries and light bulbs, medicine (in any form), textiles, appliances and electronics.

As you start your spring cleaning and come across items that you would like to remove from your home, think about how to responsibly discard them. Below I have listed ways to dispose of unwanted household items that do not belong in our landfills!

Next time you have to replace the batteries in your TV remote control or your kid’s toy, stop yourself before tossing the old batteries in the trash can. Many home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have a drop off location where they are collected. Even Ikea and Best Buy accept old batteries! Another item that home improvement stores accept is the burned out light bulb. Save time by collecting them with the batteries and dropping off all at once.

Most people tend to donate clothing to Goodwill or other local organizations that accept these items. But what do you do with clothes that cannot be worn again due to tears, rips, stains, or your ratty underwear??? There are several organizations that collect textiles that can no longer be worn and turn them into things like rags and car seat stuffing. Old shoes can also be recycled and turned into courts, fields, tracks, or playgrounds.

The North Face program, Clothes the Loop, accepts old clothes and shoes of any brand to recycle. You can drop off unwanted clothing or shoes to any The North Face store and receive a $10 reward that can be used towards your next purchase of $100 or more.

H&M also accepts unwanted clothing and gives you a 15% off coupon for your next purchase!

Whether you’re considering renovating your kitchen or need to replace a toaster oven that’s no longer working, consider doing some research on the best way to recycle large appliances in your area. There are several reasons for recycling appliances. Items composed mostly of metal, like washers and dryers, can almost completely be recycled. And if you’re getting rid of an old fridge or air conditioning unit, you will need to remove the Freon. This process requires a permit and must be done properly in order to prevent chemicals from entering the environment. Steel, which is the most recycled metal in the U.S., makes up about 75% of home appliances but most of it ends up in landfills. As of 2017, 22 states, including California, have banned the disposal of large home appliances in landfills.

If your appliance is in working order, you can donate it to charities including Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army which will allow you to deduct an estimated amount from taxes for your donation. They also offer free pick up which saves you the headache of transporting large items.

Many utility companies are members of the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program and will often pick up your appliance and offer you a rebate for your new appliance or credit towards your next bill. The simplest way to recycle your old large appliance is to have the retailer of your new appliance do it for you. Search for a retailer who is also participating in the RAD program to ensure that your appliance is disposed of responsibly.

Humans love having the latest tech gadgets and when they become outdated, we purchase new ones. The old devices take up space in our homes, collect dust, and create clutter. Think about donating electronics that are in working order to schools, shelters, or the Salvation Army. There are also organizations that collect in working order electronic devices to pass on to those who cannot afford it like the World Computer Exchange and Goodwill who has partnered with Dell to responsibly recycle e-waste.

There are many options for disposing of e-waste responsibly rather than the dump. Many of the materials used in making these products can be recovered and reused, including plastics, glass, and metal. Unfortunately, electronics products can also contain toxic substances, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, which all must be disposed of carefully. Walmart has a trade in program for electronics that are in working or non-working condition. Check out Cal 2 Recycle for a California e-waste recycling center near you.

Without realizing the potential dangers, a large percentage of the population flushes medication down the drain or throws leftover antibiotics in the trash. Putting unused medications down the drain or flushing them down the toilet may expose drinking water to the chemicals. Many of them cause ecological harm, and our current sewage treatment systems are not completely effective in removing all drugs from waterways. Though flushing medications may have been recommended in the past, it is now considered an improper disposal method. There are several locations that accept expired or unwanted medication; however, they may have restrictions as to what can be disposed of at various facilities.

Select Walgreens pharmacies allow you to drop off certain medications in their Safe Medication Disposal bins. To find out whether your local Walgreens location has a bin, check out their website.

The main pharmacies at Kaiser Permanente hospitals also have a Safe Medication Disposal bin and they accept almost any type of medication. If you’re looking for a location near you to dispose of medication, check out this link to help you find a convenient place.

As you’re trying to bring some freshness into your space, try and be mindful of the environment by researching the most environmentally responsible way of parting with your belongings. A very informative website to refer to is Earth911 which tells you how to recycle most common household items. When purchasing new items, whether it be the latest iPhone or a new pair of jeans, give some thought to ethical consumption as this also helps our planet in the long run. And remember, making these life changes takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. The best thing you can do is to educate yourself and others around you!

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