HABITS FOR HOMES
You can significantly cut your energy consumption and costs by taking a few simple conservation steps around your home.
- Turn off the lights, television, stereo and radio when you leave the room.
- A twin-tube 48-inch, 40-watt fluorescent fixture produces up to four times more light than one 100-watt incandescent bulb and lasts 10 times longer.
- Instead of a regular oven, use a pressure cooker or microwave where possible. They cook food faster and use much less energy.
- In winter, turn down the heat at night and when you will be away for the day.
- It takes 2 to 4 hours to preheat your car's engine with a block heater. A car plugged in all night can waste up to $8 a month. A timer can save money by sending power to the block heater only when it needs it.
- Well-fitting storm windows and doors can reduce heat loss by up to 15% and prevent cooling loss in summer.
Throughout the HouseUse curtains, carpets, furniture and household items and products that contain minimal or no hazardous chemicals or materials. (You will be safer while they are in your home, and they will be safer for our environment when you get rid of them.)
HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTES
- Without thinking, many people do what they accuse industry of doing -- polluting the environment, only on a much smaller scale. If you do not want hazardous products to harm the environment then don't buy them. Look for non-hazardous alternatives. If you do buy hazardous products, dispose of them properly.
- Your probably have more hazardous products in your home than you think. They may be corrosive items, such as bleach and oven cleaners; flammable, such as solvents and some furniture polishes; toxic, such as wood-stain and herbicides; or reactive, such as all aerosol cans.
- Ask about hazardous waste depots and special household hazardous waste collection days in your community, and be sure to take full advantage of them.
- If there is no depot but you know that household hazardous waste collection days will be held in your area, store your products safely in the meanwhile, and be sure to watch for instructions on how to transport them safely to the collection site.
- If your community does not have a hazardous waste depot or household hazardous waste collection days, contact your municipal public works department, and ask for them.
Storage of Household Hazardous Wastes
- Always store hazardous products in their original containers so that the handling and disposal instructions on labels can be followed, so that the number of hazardous containers is not unnecessarily increased, and so that others are not misled about the contents.
- Store products in properly closed containers, in well-ventilated places where children and pets cannot get at them.
- Also be careful not to store bleaches too close to ammonias, or acids too close to bleaches and ammonia. (A chlorine bleach and ammonia mixture creases a highly poisonous gas.)
Recycling Household Hazardous Wastes
If you have unwanted, leftover or hazardous household products, other than medicine and certain pesticides, ask if a friend, relative or neighbour could make use of them. Or perhaps you can donate paint and other products to community groups, etc. However, be sure to pass them on only in their original labels and with any safety notices or instructional leaflets that came with them.
Disposal of Household Hazardous Wastes
Always read the labels on containers and follow their disposal instructions carefully. Manufacturers often place safe-disposal directions on the labels of hazardous products
... oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, sink drain cleaners, bleaches, rust removers and most other acid and alkali products.
- Always try to use completely, or to pass on to other people, all of the contents of these household products.
- Seal unwanted or leftover waste portions in their original containers and store in a cool, dry area safely out of reach of children and pets, until they can be taken to a household hazardous waste depot for treatment by a licensed operator.
- Sealed empty containers should be disposed of with your ordinary garbage. They should never by re-used to store other materials.
... paint and solvents, spot removers, carpet and furniture cleaners, floor and furniture polishes, and glues.
- Always try to use completely, or to pass on to other people, all of the contents of these household products.
- Unwanted leftover portions should be tightly sealed, placed in plastic (recycled) bags, and disposed of at a proper waste disposal depot or safely stored until your community has a hazardous waste collection day.
- Allow used thinners and solvents to sit in a well-sealed jar until particles settle. Pour off the clear liquid and re-use. Remaining contaminants should be taken to a hazardous waste depot.
- Sealed, empty containers should be disposed of with your ordinary garbage. They should never be reused to store other materials.
... barbecue starter fluid, lighter fluid, gasoline, furnace and motor oil.
- Always try to use up all of the contents of these products.
- If you have unwanted leftovers, dispose of them at a proper waste disposal depot or at a service station displaying the recycling symbol.
- Containers that are completely empty should be tightly sealed and then disposed of with your ordinary garbage.
... prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs.
- Never pass on prescription medicines or over-the-counter drugs to anyone else. Ask the local pharmacy if it will accept unwanted leftovers.
- Otherwise, leftovers should by flushed down the toilet. This is the only exception to the rule of never flushing dangerous chemicals down the toilet. It is recommended so that children can never come upon, and misuse, the drugs. However, if you have a septic tank system, do not flush antibiotics down the toilet as they can destroy the bacteria required in the tank.
- If you are connected to a septic tank system, antibiotics should be crushed (pills) or broken (capsules) and mixed with other garbage.
... house and garden pesticides.
- Always try to use up pesticide according to label directions.
- To dispose of unwanted leftovers, phone your provincial environment department for instructions, because disposal methods vary depending on the type and amount of the pesticide.
- Never dump unwanted pesticide onto the ground or into streams, rivers or lakes.
- Empty containers should not be re-used for other purposes.
- Completely empty containers should be tightly sealed and then disposed of with your ordinary garbage.
... countless other products
- Never pour any hazardous household products down the toilet, except medicines and over-the-counter drugs (if these cannot be returned to a pharmacy for disposal).
- Do not burn any hazardous household products in fireplaces or backyard fires.
- Never burn, crush or puncture any aerosol containers. They can explode! Dispose of them at a hazardous waste depot.
- Batteries used in flashlights, radios, clocks, watches, calculators and toys contain many hazardous materials, including cadmium and mercury. Do not discard them in your ordinary garbage; save them in a sealed container for disposal at a hazardous waste depot.
SAFE HOME-MADE ALTERNATIVES
Anyone can easily substitute "old-fashioned," effective cleaning substances that will not harm our environment or ourselves.
- Wash your windows with a mixture of 10 ml (2 tsp) vinegar and 1 litre (5 cups) of water.
- Clean your sink drains with boiling water containing 60 ml (1/4 cup or 4 tbsp) of vinegar.
- Clean your oven with a mixture of water and baking soda, or pour salt onto fresh grease spots and wipe them clean minutes later.
- Clean your toilet with baking soda and mild detergent, using a toilet brush.
- Polish varnished furniture with a mixture of 1 part lemon juice and 2 parts olive or vegetable oil. For unvarnished furniture, use a mixture of 15 ml (1 tbsp) of lemon oil and 1 litre (5 cups) of mineral oil.
- Clean the sinks and counters in your bathroom and kitchen with a mixture of baking soda and water.
- For further suggestions, see the Alternatives to Household Chemicals fact sheet, part of the Save-It Kit listed in the section "Read and Learn More."
WOOD STOVES AND FURNACES
Burn only well-seasoned wood that has been dried for at least 6 months.
- Always pile the wood loosely when loading your unit.
- Use small loads of wood and fuel your unit frequently, rather than stuffing it with large logs.
- When adding more wood to a fire, first open the draft control for a few seconds, and then put the wood in quickly.
- Never damper your unit so much that fires will smoulder because of lack of air. Smouldering fires are bad polluters.
- Never burn home garbage of any type, or anything other than wood in your unit.
- When there is little or no wind, try not to burn wood, or at least cut back. Wind disperses the smoke and reduces its environmental impact.
- Empty the ashes frequently to avoid clogging -air-intake valves.
INDOOR AIR POLLUTION
Our well-sealed homes can trap potentially noxious air that could include carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and radon, not to mention dust, smoke, pollen, fungi, molds, bacteria and viruses.
- Regularly use outside-vented kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans to counteract over-weather-sealed homes.
- Opening windows periodically is important for fresh air ventilation, but leaving them open too long wastes energy used to heat and cool interior space.
- Be sure to properly ventilate rooms used for hobbies that require the use of materials containing hazardous chemicals.
- Use natural-fibre, chemical-free carpets and upholstery; and non-hazardous cleaners, solvents, waxes, paints, varnishes, etc.
INDOOR PLANTS AND INSECTS
Use insecticidal soaps in place of dangerous chemical sprays when dealing with insects on plants in your home. For crawling insects such as earwigs, ants and silverfish, try diatomaceous earth, a non-chemical products.
HOME REPAIRS AND RENOVATIONS
Repairs and renovations to homes are popular today. But almost everything you tear down or fix can be harmful to the environment and to you.
- In homes more than 10 years old, and especially in those more than 50 years old, wear a respirator when removing old paint because it may contain hazardous levels of lead.
- Small quantities of scraped paint that is more than 10 years old, and especially paint that is more than 50 years old, should be taken to a hazardous waste depot for disposal.
- If you have large quantities of scraped paint more than 50 years old, or of pieces of wood with such paint, contact your provincial environment department to find out the location of the closest landfill site with a leachate process. Then place the waste in double plastic bags, and be sure that it goes to a site with that process.
- Use non-toxic varieties of paints, paint removers, stains and varnishes, waxes, glues and adhesives, cleaners, etc.
- Asbestos can be a health hazard for renovators of older homes. Asbestos was used for purposes such as insulation and fireproofing, and as a strengthening agent. It is extremely toxic if inhaled. Contact your provincial health department for advice on identifying and handling asbestos.
- If you must use products containing hazardous chemicals, wear rubber gloves, eye goggles and a respirator while using the products; and then dispose of any unwanted leftover portions in an environmentally responsible way.
- When working with new wood that has been pressure-treated with chemical preservatives; wear rubber gloves, a dust mask, and goggles; do all sawing and machining outdoors if possible. Wash your clothes separately afterwards; and dispose of the sawdust and leftover wood at a hazardous waste depot, not by burning.
HEATING-OILS STORAGE TANKS
One litre of oil can contaminate up to 2 million litres of water.
- Regularly inspect your heating-oil tank for visible signs of leaks. Also, monitor the oil levels and your use patterns to detect any unusual losses of contents, which would reveal hidden leaks. Have any leaks repaired promptly.
- Place a plastic sheet under the tank, so that any leaks can be seen and contained.
PRACTICE THE 3Rs
The basic 3 Rs are reduce, re-use and recycle. Various other Rs are added by some organizations, but these three are commonly accepted as the most important. The average Canadian generates almost two kilograms of garbage everyday -- more than any other citizen in the world.
The best way to lessen that amount is to reduce our consumption of products. Next, we should re-use products as much as possible, before discarding them. And when we recycle items, we are conserving our forestry and metal resources and reducing the pollution caused by manufacturing and by ordinary garbage disposal methods. For example, one family's yearly supply of newspapers can be recycled into almost enough insulation for one house.
- Don't buy more than you really need. It costs you more and just ends up as garbage we can all live without.
- Avoid disposable products. They may be more convenient, buy they cost more and produce unnecessary garbage.
- Think twice before throwing away items that no longer work properly or are worn. Will repairing or refinishing them make more sense than replacing them?
- Buy products that are well made and durable; that way you'll reduce waste while saving yourself time, money and aggravation.
- Completely use up the products you have before you buy more -- don't throw unused portions away.
- Be practical and be creative in finding further uses for things instead of just discarding them.
- Empty glass jars can be used to store bulk food, workshop articles and odds and ends.
- Plastic shopping bags can be taken back to supermarkets for re-use, used as garbage bags instead of buying special bags, or used to store articles you wish to protect from dust and moisture.
- Cardboard boxes and paper bags can be used to store things, or saved for packing things for your next move.
- Cans can be used to sort and store small household and workshop items, as indoor plant pots, and to protect garden plants from insects.
- Wrapping paper, string, rubber bands and bag ties will soon be needed again.
- If you can't find another way to re-reuse items yourself, pass them on to others who would welcome them.
- Clothing, toys, furniture and almost all other household items can be donated to religious or social service groups for use or for sale; or you can sell them yourself at a garage sale.
- Books and magazines can be donated to hospitals, senior citizens' residences, religious and social service organizations and schools.
- Many items can be donated to schools and day-care centres for use in handicrafts lessons. Call to find out what they need.
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