April 9, 2024

Green Mountain Energy Blog: 4 Items to Spring Clean Sustainably

Ahh, spring! The season of fresh starts and clean spaces has arrived. Whether your spring cleaning agenda includes a bit of tidying up or going full-on minimalist, you’ll likely come across some items in your home that shouldn’t just be tossed in the trash.

Here’s how to declutter 4 common things from your home without harming the planet.

1. Electronics

Although we love our tech, we can’t deny many electronics contain some pretty toxic substances, like lead, mercury and cadmium. So that means sending them to landfills or waste-to-energy incinerators — where they can pollute the air, water and soil — is a big environmental no-no.

If you can’t sell or donate your old electronics, the next best disposal method is recycling. Many companies and towns offer free e-waste recycling events periodically, so ask around to find one in your area. You can also check out Earth911, Best Buy, the Consumer Technology Association and Call2Recycle to locate e-waste drop-off locations near you.

2. Personal Medications

Unused or expired prescription and over-the-counter medications should also be carefully disposed of. Simply throwing them away with the rest of your trash can lead to accidental ingestion or illicit use. Meanwhile, flushing them down the toilet can release chemicals into waterways, contaminating drinking water and harming our aquatic friends.

Luckily, many places — like pharmacies, hospitals and police stations — have drug take-back programs to sustainably dispose of medications. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) offers several resources to find a drop-off location in your area, where the medicines will then be safely destroyed.

As a last resort, medication can be removed from its original container, mixed with coffee grounds or cat litter, placed in a sealed bag and discarded in the trash.

3. Cat Litter

Speaking of cat litter, if you own a feline, you may have wondered about the best way to get rid of all those … ahem … cat box scoopings.

Traditional clay litter can take many years to break down in a landfill and will never totally decompose. So, starting with a biodegradable cat litter is one way to become a greener pet owner. Litter made from ingredients like recycled compressed paper, wood pellets, grass seed, corn, pine and wheat will break down much more quickly in a landfill and cause less environmental harm.

When you use biodegradable kitty litter, you also have the option to compost it. However, there is one big caveat. Because cat excrement can contain the dangerous parasite Toxoplasma gondii, take care to only use that compost on lawns or non-edible plants.

If you prefer not to compost it, or if you’re using non-biodegradable cat litter, using a biodegradable bag instead of a plastic trash bag will emit less methane.

4. Cooking Fats and Oils

Let’s move on to a slightly less off-putting, but still very necessary, topic: FOG. That would be your kitchen fats, oils and grease. Once you’ve fried and feasted, what’s to be done with all the leftover FOG?

For starters, never pour cooking fats, oils or grease down the drain. Not only will it clog your own home’s pipes, but it will also contribute to fatbergs — giant mounds of FOG and debris that build up in sewers.

Lovely, right? Fatbergs are a long-standing problem in waste management, and only seem to be getting worse, so let’s not contribute more to this issue.

Instead, dispose of kitchen fats, oils and grease more responsibly. Once the FOG has cooled completely, gather it in a sealable container. When it’s full, either put the container in the trash or take it to a participating recycling center. Search Earth911 for a location near you that accepts cooking oil.

As you spring clean, keep sustainability, safety and health in mind. While it may take a little more time to mindfully dispose of certain household items, it’s our collective duty to the planet to do the best we can. Happy tidying!

There’s more to learn! Join us at the Green Mountain Energy Earth Day celebration at Discovery Green on Saturday, April 20 from noon to 5 pm. This year’s Earth Day will be about using art to engage people and urge them to action. Just as anyone can be an artist, anyone can be an activist. At Earth Day, you can be both! More info at discoverygreen.com/earthday

4 Items to Spring Clean Sustainably