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June 2011

E-Waste? How 'bout No Waste?

Chances are you have used an electronic device today. Oh wait, you're reading this! That means the computer or mobile phone that is allowing you to check out the Zero Waste Communities blog will one day become what is known as electronic waste (e-waste).


Sadly, there are a lot of computers, televisions and other electronic gadgets out there that will be joining other computers  and cell phones in a heap of plastic and metal debris. Every year Americans dispose of almost 400 million e-waste items alone. Of that, the EPA estimates that only 20% is being recycled. We are here to change that and we need your help.


While electronic waste only accounts for 2% of all the trash in our landfills, these devices account for a significant 70% of toxic waste. Toxic you ask? Yes, toxic. Almost all electronic devices contain potentially polluting stuff like lead, mercury and sulfur.


So what are we to do? More and more we are relying on these item to entertain us, store our data and perform work tasks. They are becoming an essential part of our lives. While the United States hasn't yet banned these products from our landfills like the European Union did back in the 1990s, recycling centers and other appropriate disposal facilities are popping up all around us.


Not yet convinced you shouldn't just dump your old electronic goods in the ol' landfill? Here are some more facts to mull over. First, dumping electronics in trash in the state of California is actually illegal.


Wait, there's more. Cathode tubes in those old televisions and computers typically contain about 4 to 7 lbs of lead alone!


It is estimated that 50 million cell phones are replaced around the world each month with only 10% ever being recycled and even less are being reused. If we recycled one million of these cell phones, it would be the equivalent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of taking 1,368 cars off the road for an entire year.


One last important item to keep in mind when thinking about e-waste's impact on our environment: electronic goods are more often than not trashed before they even stop working properly! So if you have old electronics that are working properly, why not donate them to someone who may be able to use them instead? It's something to consider before you throw it away.


We hope you will join us in keeping e-waste out of our landfills. If you live in San Bernardino, check out CalRecycle's electronic waste search engine to find the location closest to you. Also, San Bernardino's HHW program also accepts e-waste. So there is no excuse for trashing those electronic gadgets!


Going Native: How Organic Gardening Reduces Household Waste

Summer is almost here and that means a lot of us are getting our gardens and yards in tip-top shape. Did you know that planting native plants around your home can dramatically reduce the amount of waste you end up producing? It's true! Here's why.


If your household is like 78 million other homes in the United States, you likely use some pesticides and herbicides on your landscaping, in your garden or on your lawn. Herbicides alone count for the majority of these applications, a whopping 90 million pounds are applied per year! The less we use of these types of chemicals on our yards, the less risk we have of them being disposed of improperly and the less we have to dispose of overall. Unfortunately, a lot of these pesticides and herbicides end up in our trash and then our landfills. As a result, they can make their way into our drinking water supplies and even our waterways.


If you do choose to use pesticides and herbicides, please dispose of excess chemicals by taking them to your local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facilities. To learn more visit our page on HHW, or give a call to 1-800-OILY-CAT for a location near year. While you are at it, remember that HHW facilities also take items such as batteries, paint, pool supplies, hobby chemicals, motor oil and furniture polish.


So you don't have time to trek to the HHW facility? Go native!  There are dozens of plants that are native to your area and don't need pesticides or fertilizers to thrive. As a result you will not need to dispose of these types of chemicals because you won't have to buy any to begin with!


Check out the cool video below on the top . The bottom line is this: the less maintenance your lawns and yards require, the less waste is produced.





Ditch the Chemicals and Clean Green!


Our homes can stay clean without the use of chemicals, or so says author Tara Rae Miner who recently wrote the book, Your Green Abode: A Practical Guide to a Sustainable Home.


Tara writes in Your Green Abode that the average person living in American uses close to 25 gallons of hazardous chemical products in his or her home -- the majority of those make up our everyday cleaning products. In fact, she notes that more than 32 million pounds of household cleaning products are poured down the drain in a single day right here in the United States.alt


That's a lot of chemicals and a lot of waste. Water treatment plants were not actually designed to handle all these chemicals, so dumping them down the drain and sewer can actually contaminate groundwater supplies. What are some of the chemicals you ought to dispose of (properly of course!)? How about chlorine, ammonia and all acid-based cleaners, such as those used in toilets and bathrooms. Other common household cleaners contain potent and toxic stuff like ethylene-based glycol and diethylene glycol monobutyl ether - both of which can harm lungs and pollute the air.


Fortunately, there are a lot of non-toxic, eco-friendly ways to clean messes in our homes. Your Green Adobe lists quite a few alternatives to the chemical based cleaners that dominate the grocery shelves and cupboards across America:


Distilled white vinegar: Easy to find and even easier to use. Distilled white vinegar deodorizes, sanitizes and gets rid of bacteria, mold and nasty germs. It can also be used as a fabric softener that will get rid of detergent residue and wash out the stinky stuff.


Baking soda: Make your bathroom and kitchen sparkle. Suck the stink out of your fridge or those dirty clothes in the wash. The list of uses for baking soda is long; just check out Arm & Hammer's site for a (non-toxic) taste.


Liquid castile soap: Typically made with vegetable oil, castile soap is very mild and eco-safe. It dissolves well in water and it can puncture through the most stubborn body odors. Unlike most soaps, castile soap is free of petroleum, so you can feel good about that. And most are even organic!


Lemon: Want to polish that old wood furniture? Clean up that pan? Well, a lemon will do it. It's all natural, freshly scented and completely eco-friendly. It's even safe for humans to eat!


This is just the tip of a very big eco-friendly cleaning products laundry list. Your Green Adobe chronicles many more products that are safe for humans and Mother Nature. So read up and get to cleanin'!