By Donna Kemp Spangler
Spring is in the air, and for me it means a chance to declutter, refresh, and let the sunshine brighten my surroundings. For many of us that involves spring cleaning – dusting the blinds, washing the floors, organizing our pantry, closets or garage, and perhaps putting a fresh coat of paint on the house, inside and out. The to-do list can sound daunting, but it can also be rewarding if you consider the eco-friendly way. The results typically mean the air around you will be fresher, the grounds around your house will be toxin-free and fertile for planting, and you can enjoy many low-maintenance, renewable options like xeriscaping and composting.
Here are a few tips to consider for a better environment inside and outside your home:
- Buy water-based instead of oil-based paints. It is now easier to buy paints and solvents that are low-emitting VOCs thanks to a consumer rule passed by the Air Quality Board that requires retailers to provide these less-polluting consumer products. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions and are emitted as gases. Lower VOCs in consumer products provide a reduction of about 4,000 tons per year of smog-forming pollution.
- Keep solvents and paints in airtight containers, especially gasoline, to avoid spills and evaporation. One ounce of spilled gas emits as much VOCs as driving 56 miles.
- Properly dispose of household hazardous waste. Certain counties have collection events where residents can drop off household hazardous waste. See the recycling information for Utah to find out the nearest collections center. Visit the DEQ website for more information on electronic waste recycling.
- Consider electronic or battery-powered yard equipment. Using a gas-powered mower for just one hour produces the same amount of air pollution that a car emits from driving 100 miles! Don’t miss a chance to register for DEQ’s discounted lawn mower/weed eater exchange event this month. See DEQ’s Facebook page for more information as we get closer to the event.
- Think xeriscaping as a way to garden, using a minimum of water and energy. Other tips include: group plants by their water needs, planting high-need plants in naturally wetter areas on your property and planting native species
- Consider composting. You can either purchase a compost bin or create one. It’s easy and catching on. In fact, in 2009 San Francisco passed legislation that makes composting mandatory for residents. Now, the city diverts 80 percent of its waste from the landfill, closing in on its zero-waste goal by 2020.
- De-clutter by donating old clothes, furniture or other items to a favorite charity.
- Use washable rags when cleaning; choose eco-friendly products, or make your own cleaners. To find out more, visit the Earthshare website.
- Lower your room temperature to conserve energy in the winter and lower your air conditioner in the summer. Enjoy some fresh air inside.
- Dust off your bike and make it your go-to transportation for the upcoming summer.
For more tips on what you can do to make a difference, visit Utah Clean Air Partnership, or UCAIR, or the DEQ website. I welcome your comments to help improve Utah’s environment.
I am the Communications Director for DEQ and a former reporter for the Deseret News. I write a monthly blog post. You can read my previous blog posts here. You can follow me on Twitter @deqdonna