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Eco-Friendly Disposal: Tips for Green Decluttering and Cleaning
by Alice Robertson
As North-Americans, we’ve been raised to believe that more is better and to be proud of our belongings and the financial and social status they reflect. However, in recent years, developments in the environment, and the economy have taught us, that we would be well-served to temper those expectations a bit and think sustainably and conservationally. An increasingly large number of us have done just that. The “green” movement has raised the consciousness of many who once had no thought of how their belongings might impact the environment and turn the “bigger is better” ethos on its head.
Consequently, we are more concerned with downsizing, , living responsibly and taking care of the environment. When it comes to decluttering one’s home, doing it the eco-friendly way today makes a great deal of sense from both a personal and an environmental standpoint. If you’re looking to minimize your environmental footprint, consider these suggestions:
Electronic appliances represent one of the largest sources of household clutter, certainly from a square footage standpoint. Figuring out what to do with things such as old microwaves and washers and dryers can be difficult, inconvenient and time-consuming, which discourages some homeowners from taking steps to get rid of them. If your old electronics are still functional, or can be repaired, think of donating as a form of recycling. Shelters for the homeless and abused children can usually use this kind of aid, as can charitable organizations including Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Or, locate your local electronics recycling center and have your items hauled away. Some appliances retailers offer services to help homeowners dispose of electronics responsibly.
Clothing represents a significant amount of landfill waste on an annual basis. Unless your leftover clothing is damaged or unusable, bear in mind that hospitals and shelters are always in need of clothing for people of all ages. Or, you could take your excess clothing to a consignment store, or hold a yard sale and try to sell it. Either way, you’ll be doing the environmentally responsible thing by reducing a major source of pollution.
Bedding and mattresses also add substantially to America’s landfill overflow problem and should be taken to a textile recycling facility. It can take decades for a mattress to break down naturally. In the meantime, the flame-retardant chemicals in mattresses gradually leach into the local groundwater supply. Don’t let your old mattress become one of the 20 million mattresses that end up in landfills each year. Look for ways to recycle or refurbish your old mattress the next time you upgrade to a new one.
Toiletries and medications
Many of the chemicals found in beauty products are pollutants and simply throwing them away is definitely not an eco-friendly act. Switching to makeup products made of natural ingredients is one effective way to avoid adding known chemical pollutants to the ecosystem. For the same reason, old prescription medications should never be thrown out or flushed down the toilet.
Into the cloud
Photos, documents and loose papers can cause a significant clutter problem if left to simply pile up. Utilize digital technology by scanning photos and documents and store them in the cloud, where they can be organized and maintained safely with no fear of being lost.
Once you’ve decluttered each room, it’ll be easier to keep them clean, but avoid using traditional commercial cleaning products, which contain an array of harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds, which have been found in plug-in room fresheners, a popular item among many homeowners. Instead, substitute essential oils in diffusers throughout the home. Baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice are excellent natural cleaning substances.
Most people are anxious to get through the decluttering process as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that can make it tempting to take the easy route and just send our environmentally damaging refuse to the landfill. Getting rid of all that pesky material can be done in an eco-friendly manner. It just takes a little knowledge and a determination to protect nature.
Photo: courtesy of Pixabay.com.