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One Can Challenge: light utility items

Enviromomchallenge We're getting near the end of the One Can A Month Challenge. How's it going? We've thrown a lot of info at you. If you're overwhelmed, take a step back and revisit some of the tips in a few weeks. We'll keep them up forever and ever under the category link One Can A Month. And hey -- next week we'll draw names for the winners of all that green swag! Today we're going to take a look at light utility waste: paints and varnishes, light bulbs, scrap wood and motor oil and such. Not really exciting stuff, but it's waste the typical household generates nevertheless. It's gotta go somewhere.

Light bulbs: Incandescent, fluorescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are all recyclable if facilities exist in your area. I'm not sure about halogen bulbs...but I don't think they are recyclable (tell me I'm wrong, please). As most of us know, CFLs are the best bulb to use because they last like 5000 lifetimes beyond an incandescent, so you don't use as many, and they aren't as energy-intensive. They do contain a small amount of mercury, so they need to stay out of the garbage can. Lots and lots of places will recycle them, like IKEA and Home Depot. Check Earth911 for locations. In Portland, Total Reclaim and Earth Protection Services will recycle incandescent bulbs for a small fee.

Paint, varnish, etc.: I don't know about you, but I can't stand having a bunch of half-used paint cans or sticky varnish tins cluttering up my life. We cut back on paint cans dramatically by always buying small test cans of paint (Benjamin Moore and many other brands carry them) and painting patches on the walls before buying several gallons and then discovering that we hate the color! Paint, varnish, strippers (not the dancing kind) and thinners can all be disposed of at hazardous waste facilities. Don't throw it in the garbage or down the drain. Poor three-eyed fishies. Portland has a great paint recycling program that actually makes new paint from old paint (in fact I think it's the only one in the country).

Motor oil: If you change your own motor oil (you stud) then you can recycle it at just about any auto care business, like Firestone or Jiffy Lube. Some will even take old oil filters. Put the oil in a sealable container, like a plastic milk carton, and bring it in. I hate to keep using Portland as an example (but really, Portland rocks...I can't imagine why anyone would move away from here...you know who you are.) but we can recycle motor oil curbside in plastic milk jugs. (Can you do that in Minneapolis? I don't think so.) 

Scrap wood, nails, etc. There are more and more facilities accepting building materials for reuse or recycling. I've got a few rotted boards that will be heading to one this weekend, in fact. Old nails and screws and nuts and bolts are considered scrap metal, and can easily be recycled.

Pesticides, fertilizers, other icky yard stuff: I cleaned out our garden shed last year, and in a fit of EnviroMom righteousness got rid of all the Round-up and fertilizer and slug killer and basically anything poisonous and hauled it off the the hazardous waste depot. We kill weeds the old-fashioned way now: by pulling them out with our hands. (Leftover hot pasta water also works...just pour it on!) Coffee grounds work well on the slugs. We just don't buy anything that kills anything anymore. Mr. Yuk has left the building. Buh-bye.

Furnace air filters: This one is a stumper. We use a few huge filters in our ancient though excellently-functioning oil burning furnace (I know -- gasp!) each year, and there's not much you can do except toss them. OK -- we could invest in a new fandangled furnace or rip out our floors and install radiant heat, but it's just not in the budget right now (if ever). Trash. Sniff.

This is not the most exciting stuff in the world. To be honest, I'm a little bored right now. Anything else in this category you're stymied by? Next week we'll talk about sexier subjects like pet waste and hobby-related detritus! I'm getting all worked up just thinking about it.   

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