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Four ways to spring clean responsibly--and it isn't as hard to do as you think it is


spring cleaning broom photo:

Guilt. Maybe some of us are born with it. I have  lived with it all my life. And, I know my guilt will only be magnified if I get rid of my clutter at the expense of the environment and everyone else. Sometimes I have thrown things away because I haven’t known how to recycle them. Sometimes I have hung onto cleaning products I didn’t want to hang onto because I didn’t know how to safely dispose of them.

I decided I needed to recycle more thoroughly and responsibly but I wasn’t sure how to do it. Who you gonna call, if you have questions—certainly not Ghost Busters. Now it is spring, and I am finally motivated to do a little spring cleaning, but I want to do it the right way. Here are four answers to my questions for doing it more responsibly.

Number 1: Did I remember to hang onto the little recycling brochure our community sends out? If not, anyone can call their city or county to get another copy. It is full of helpful information to spring clean and recycle responsibly.

Did you know that in addition to glass, cans, newsprint, and plastic bottles, you can sometimes recycle mixed paper, corrugated cardboard auto batteries and antifreeze? It is time to make my recycling habits (the dreaded “H” word, again) more comprehensive. In my hometown, if your little blue recycling bin is broken, you can walk into City Hall and get a new one for free. Ironically, I was told to put the old one out with the trash since it wasn’t currently recyclable!

Number 2: How can I get rid of some of my household junk? What is my opportunity to turn my trash into someone else’s treasure? In my hometown, people put items they don’t want any more out at the curb at the end of their driveway on a designated day and mark them as “Free.” What isn’t picked up that day can later be brought to the City’s Spring Clean-up at the public works facility. Or, in many cases, your regular collector can pick up extra trash on any of your regular collection days, for a fee, if you call to give them advance notice.

Number 3: How can I get rid of old paint, oven cleaner, bug spray, weed killer and other chemicals I have in my home and garage? In my area, I learned I can take them to my county’s Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection site. This drop-off service is free to all residents of our county.

How can I get rid of old tires? In our community, the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District offers free tire disposal. The tires must be without rims. Old tires will be shredded and burned for fuel.

Number 4: For more earth friendly ideas you can do, check out the “More Fun Less Stuff” Starter Kit put out by the Center for a New American Dream. It is loaded with tips for purchases, work, transportation, food, energy use, and many other categories. Call 1-877-68-DREAM or check out their website at

I think most of us want to do the right thing when it comes to spring cleaning responsibly. Sometimes it is simply lack of information or the need to form better habits that hold us back. This spring, resolve to use the helpful information out there to do the best thing. Small changes, over time, add up, so you really can make a difference.


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