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Environmental Energy Assistant

Handling Hazardous Waste

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Handling Hazardous Waste

Hazardous substances have dangerous effects on humans or the environment. Many forms of waste are hazardous, whether they are chemicals from a production factory or chemicals in your own home (for example, some kinds of paint). Hazardous waste can be solid, liquid, or gas. For some substances, there are EPA laws you must follow for proper disposal. Hazardous waste in homes include chemicals and materials that are flammable, highly toxic, or potentially explosive. Let’s examine some examples of household waste and how they should be handled. Hazardous Waste in Homes  Hazardous materials found in homes include weed killers, toilet bowl cleaners, spray paint, rust remover, paint thinner, oven clear, oil-based paints, nail polish, nail polish remover, motor oil, mothballs, hair color dye, furniture polish, fluorescent lights, fertilizer, drain cleaner, charcoal, household batteries, automotive fluids,and ammonia. To properly dispose of a hazardous waste in your home, always check with EPA law and local city or county disposal laws. These may vary. For many of these substances, the proper procedure is to take them to your local hazardous waste drop-ff site. It’s easy to look up these places by calling your city or county or searching the web.  Breakdown of Hazardous Waste You may wonder what happens to hazardous waste after it is dropped off at the facility. Depending on the substance, it may be dealt with in a number of ways. A few examples are household batteries, pharmacy medications, fluorescent lamps, and pesticides. Household batteries are shipped to other facilities that break them down into the different metals and plastics, which are then reclaimed for reuse. In this way, they are recycled. Prescription medications are broken down out of pill or bottle form and sent to landfills. Fluorescent lamps go through a factory breakdown system that crushes the glass, contains the mercury, and separates the materials to be recycled. In highly controlled environments, pesticides are destroyed by extremely high heat. Toxins are removed though various cleaning mechanisms and anything leftover is sent to the landfill.  Things to Consider  Hazardous wastes are a big deal, and not disposing of them properly can lead to terrible toxins being released into the environment. What can you do? Find out what hazardous materials are in your home and follow disposal instructions on the containers or online from the EPA or your city or county website. Here are a few common mistakes you can avoid. First, never throw away household batteries. They will end up poisoning the landfill instead of being reused. Second, never dump extra chemicals like glass cleaner, paints, or pesticides down a drain, into a sewer, or into the ground. If you do, the toxic chemicals may wind up in the natural water table or the septic system. We can all have a cleaner environment if we all pitch in.  To learn more about this process, contact local hazardous waste management...

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What Should You Know About Recycling E-Waste In The Nation’s Capital?

Posted by on Apr 20, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on What Should You Know About Recycling E-Waste In The Nation’s Capital?

If you’re like many other Americans and have continued to upgrade your telephones, laptops, and other personal electronic devices as they become smaller and higher-tech, you likely have an entire kitchen or office drawer filled with old cell phones, MP3 players, and random charging cables. Disposing of this electronic waste, or e-waste, can be a tricky prospect in many areas — and in certain jurisdictions, like Washington, D.C., the disposal of e-waste is governed by various regulations that could have you facing stiff fines or penalties for attempting to throw so much as a lithium battery in the trash. Read on to learn more about the harm improperly recycled e-waste can pose to your surroundings, as well as your best bets to declutter this e-waste from your life once and for all. Why must e-waste be recycled? Although there exists no nationwide law mandating that certain types of electronics or lithium batteries be recycled rather than junked in a landfill, at least 27 states (plus the District of Columbia) have regulations prohibiting the improper disposal of e-waste. These laws have come into effect due to the significant harm improperly disposed of e-waste can have on the environment and the frequency with which many are upgrading their electronics. Many modern electronics are composed of a variety of heavy metals — lithium in cell phone and hearing aid batteries, cadmium and mercury in computing components, and even lead within cathode ray tubes. Because most of these heavy metals are encased inside the electronic devices, they don’t generally pose any health risk to electronics users. However, when placed into a landfill with primarily biodegradeable waste, this e-waste can begin to break down and leach toxic metals into the surrounding soil. Following a heavy rain, this metal discharge can be carried deeper into the soil to the groundwater supply, where it may travel a significant distance. Lead and other toxic metals that make their way to a public water supply can cause a variety of ill health effects for those with high levels of exposure, from mental retardation in children to kidney and liver failure in adults. Pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of a heavy metal may also suffer miscarriage or significant birth complications.  E-waste that is incinerated is no better for the environment than e-waste dumped into a landfill. When exposed to high heat and flame, these toxic metals and compounds become airborne, where they can settle on the roofs of surrounding buildings (polluting the groundwater supply after a hard rain). Those unlucky enough to be downwind from an incineration facility disposing of e-waste could breathe in these dangerous metals and suffer lifelong complications. Recycling e-waste in such a way that those who process it aren’t placed in danger is vital to keeping the air and waterways safe.  How should you recycle your e-waste in Washington, D.C.? Because of its stringent e-waste recycling requirements, Washington, D.C. has a relatively simple and straightforward e-waste recycling program. You’ll be able to drop off any unwanted electronics free of charge at the Fort Totten Transfer Station each Saturday between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for further recycling and processing. This transfer station will accept everything from old televisions and computer monitors to defunct hearing aids and fax machines. If you have an especially...

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Cooking Tips For Your Family’s New Solar Oven

Posted by on Aug 5, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Cooking Tips For Your Family’s New Solar Oven

Getting your family’s first solar oven is always an exciting time. Solar ovens are a great way to cook a wide variety of foods while saving on energy costs. Solar cookers are good for the environment, and they do not heat up your house to cook meals for your family.  Here are some tips to help ensure that you get the most from your family’s new solar oven: Tip: Use Black Colored Pots and Pans Black colored pots and pans absorb the most heat and are the best thing that you can use to cook food in your new solar oven. If you do not have any pots or pans that are black, then you can use barbecue grill spray paint to coat the outside of the containers you want to use to cook with. You should never use reflective pans or aluminum foil to cover foods being cooked in a solar oven. The shiny material will reflect the sun’s rays and the interior of your container will not get hot enough to cook the food. Tip: Don’t Tighten Jar Lids While Cooking While black painted canning jars make wonderful cooking containers for a solar oven, you should never tighten their lids while you are cooking foods within them. If you attach a lid to a canning jar and then heat it, the pressure will build in the jar until it explodes or cracks. This is dangerous and can cause permanent damage to your new solar cooker. Tip: Turn the Solar Oven Regularly to Cook Higher-Temperature Foods When you cook foods such as beans, crunchy vegetables, or meat, you will need your solar oven to collect the most solar energy as possible to meet the higher-temperature cooking needs of these foods. To this end, you will have to move your solar oven’s reflector at least every hour so that it has the best solar alignment possible. Tip: Aim the Solar Oven for Maximum Sun in Absences Finally, if you are not going to be at home to turn your solar oven’s reflector towards the sun each hour, then you should face it at a midpoint between where the sun is when you start cooking and where it will be when you anticipate your returning from your errands. This simple technique allows your solar oven to absorb the most solar energy possible from the sun during the time it isn’t being rotated. Follow the solar oven cooking tips above to get the most out of your solar...

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Sewer Gas: Where Does It Come From And How You Can Stop It From Taking Over Your Home

Posted by on Feb 11, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A common, but frustrating, problem for homeowners is the presence of sewer gas in their homes. The odor is offensive, and it can even be dangerous if exposure is sustained for a period of time. Locating the source of the smell can be difficult, and many homeowners are left feeling helpless and embarrassed by it. If you have a problem with sewer gas, then the information below can help you understand three common causes and how you can properly address the situation. Keep reading to learn more: What is sewer gas? Sewer gas is actually a combination of gases that are formed as a byproduct of decaying sewage. Much of sewer gas consists of methane which is odorless, though flammable in high concentrations. However, the distinctive rotten egg smell is due almost exclusively to the presence of hydrogen sulfide, a toxic, heavier-than-air gas. Hydrogen sulfide exposure is fatal to humans in high amounts, though the amount in sewer gas is rarely enough to kill. However, a small amount of hydrogen sulfide can cause a variety of health problems including headaches, nausea, respiratory tract irritation and mild neurological symptoms. How does sewer gas enter the home? Sewer gas enters houses primarily through the plumbing system, though it can rarely intrude through other means. In the case of plumbing-related entry into the home, there are a few likely culprits. Below are three sources of possible trouble you should explore: Drain traps A drain trap consists of a curved piece of pipe that holds water within itself. After waste water exits the sink, toilet, shower, or tub, it drains through a trap on the way to the sewer line. Within the curved pipe, some water is trapped so that it becomes a liquid barrier against odor incursion. Without it, sewer gas would freely rise through the pipe and into your home. Drain traps work well as long as they continue to maintain their water level. If the water leaks or evaporates from the trap, the barrier will immediately cease to exist, and gases will be able to pass through. In addition, toilets contain an internal trap, and infrequent flushing can also allow for water to withdraw or evaporate. Plumbing vents Another source of sewer gas odor in your home is via a plumbing vent malfunction. Plumbing vents are stacks that run from your fixtures through the roof. These vents are designed to maintain the proper internal pressure within the sewer line; however, blocked vents can prove damaging by pulling water out of traps. Vents can be blocked by a variety of causes, some of which include ice or even debris from a bird or animal nest. Unsealed toilet flange A third sewer gas source is from a leak around the bottom edge of the toilet. Toilets don’t have a natural waterproof fit with the sewer pipe, but instead rely on a sealing material to bridge the gap between the porcelain flange and the drain pipe. If this seal is missing, deformed or worn, then sewer gas can leak around the edges and drift into your bathroom. How can the problem be fixed? Though it can be difficult to pinpoint specific causes of sewer gas penetration into your home, the good news is the three problems above are easily addressed by you or...

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Recycle More Than Cans To Decrease Your Home’s Environmental Impact

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Just about everything that you do every day produces waste. There are two ways to reduce your impact. The first is to throw less away, which can be difficult in modern society. The second option is to recycle as much as possible. Most people know that they can recycle aluminum cans, but there are plenty of other things that you can send to the recycling center to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the local landfill. Electronics Electronics have a growing impact on daily life. Since the industry is moving so fast, they are often designed so that they only last a few years before they are discarded and replaced.This means that electronics waste is an increasingly concerning issue. Combine the increasing number of discarded electronics with the fact that most of these devices contain dangerous materials that can cause harm when left in a landfill. In many cases, your municipal recycling center will take in electronics as well as the basic aluminum and plastic, but not always. You might have to do some research to find a center that specializes in electronics refurbishing and recycling. If there isn’t one in your area, than try talking to electronics retailers. Many will either take in the items themselves, or provide you with of resources you can use. Shredded Paper Cardboard and newspaper are not the only kinds of paper that you can recycle. Almost any kind of paper that was not used to store food can be recycled. Talk to your local recycling center to discover their rules on recycling paper. Some are not equipped to handle hard-to-recycle items like glossy magazines. Commonly recyclable paper includes junk mail, bills, and old documents that contain sensitive financial information. If you only have a few sheets at a time, a household shredder could do the job. If you have a bit more than that, create a space that you can safely store all this excess paper. Once you have collected a good amount, take them to a company that offers document shredding. For a few dollars, you can be absolutely certain that you will not be at risk of identity theft. The company will then take care of taking the shredded paper to the recycler. Food and Yard Waste Organic waste found in your home will primarily consist of unused food and yard waste. How yard waste is handled depends on you city’s program. Since yard waste can decompose naturally, many municipalities will be okay with including yard waste in your normal trash. Others will request that you set it aside for special processing. If you are planning on putting it out, just check to see how the city wants it handled. In addition to municipal resources, there is another way that you can recycle organic waste. All this waste food and leaf litter is the perfect material for enriching your garden. A home composting system can be as simple or as complex as you want, and there are systems that mitigate any issues you may have with the smell. With some time, and when mixed with additional fertilizers, this materials will assist you in planting a garden that is the envy of the block. To reduce your waste even further, you can use the compost to fertilize your...

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3 Earth-Friendly Ways To Move Out Of Your Dorm Room

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Moving out of your dorm room is a fact of college life. Whether you are moving out temporarily for winter break, moving to a new dorm over the summer, or moving out of campus housing permanently when you graduate, you will move several times during your college career. As anyone who has ever moved knows, it can be a process that generates a lot of trash and other environmentally unfriendly things. The good news if you’re an environmentalist is that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can successfully move out of your dorm while minimizing the impact on the earth. Here are three earth-friendly ways to move out of your dorm room. 1. Host a Sale Instead of Throwing Things Away What can make moving a lot less of a drag? Making some money while you’re doing it. Most students who move out of campus housing just throw away anything they won’t need going forward. Many of these items can be re-used or recycled. Items like electronics and appliances definitely shouldn’t end up in landfills, where they can really damage the environment. There are lots of ways you can sell your unwanted items. Put up flyers announcing what you have for sale and get people to come to you. See if you can use some public space on campus to have a mini-yard sale. Even better, turn it into a community-wide event by inviting the other students in your building and neighboring buildings to participate. With a community yard sale, you can make sure that most everyone in student housing is being environmentally friendly. Attract buyers and make some extra money while you’re at it by selling snacks and drinks at the event. Go the extra mile and call a dumpster rental company, like Tri-State Disposal, to arrange for your shoppers to easily discard their paper plates, cups, and napkins without trashing the campus with litter. You’ll be surprised what a success something like this can be on almost any college campus if you plan it well and are a good supervisor. 2. Recycle What You Don’t Sell Some dumpster rental companies will also rent recycling bins to you, and will even come pick them up to take them to a recycling center when they’re filled. If you’re having a big community yard sale at the end of the semester, this is a perfect way to get rid of your remaining items. Most electronics, appliances, paper goods, plastics, and cardboard can be recycled. Once your sale is over, go around to everyone’s tables and have them gather up all of their remaining recyclables. Point them to your rented recycling bin and instruct them to put their unsold items there. Everything no one wanted anymore is now either re-homed or recycled, and the earth is protected. 3. Clean Up With Green Products Your dorm agreement probably requires you to leave the actual room clean when you vacate it. After your sale (and after you’ve packed up all the things you’re bringing with you when you move) it’s time to make the room sparkle for the next resident. According to, you should be using green cleaning products to do this. Look for brands that are made with earth-friendly materials. Most grocery stores carry green cleaning products now, so they...

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House Fly Infestations: Causes And Prevention

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

An infestation of any kind of house pest is stressful and unwelcome. An infestation of house flies, particularly so. Unlike other pests who may remain hidden and make their infestation hardly known, a house fly infestation is overt. House flies make no effort to hide, and if you don’t manage an outbreak quickly soon your house will be overrun with buzzing flies. There are a few common causes of house fly infestations, as well as a number of ways to properly handle a house fly outbreak.  Causes of House Fly Infestations Flies will gather and propagate in locations where they have easy access to food and water. Flies feed on a variety of different things, including human food, human waste, and decaying matter. It only takes one pregnant female fly laying her larvae in your home to cause a fly infestation. Female flies can lay up to 150 larvae at a time. The larvae hatch quickly, within 8-10 hours, which means an infestation can quickly occur.  The most common cause of a house fly infestation is by having a pregnant female fly sneak into your home, and then find a suitable ecological environment within your house where she can lay her eggs and the larvae can feed. Even if you think you keep your house spotless, if you have a fly infestation, there is probably something the flies can feed off of that you are overlooking. For example, a small rodent may have gotten into your house and then died in an obscure location, like the attic. The decaying corpse of the rodent would be an attractive breeding and feeding ground for the flies. You might also have small bits of food that have fallen out of sight that the flies are feeding on. To put it bluntly, if there were nothing for the flies to feed on, there wouldn’t be an infestation.  Preventing a House Fly Infestation The first and most crucial step to preventing a house fly infestation is to ensure that flies can’t enter your home. If they don’t have any way of entering, they can never lay their eggs. When you enter and exit your home, take care that there are no flies hanging around the doors as you open them. Check for small cracks in screen doors and window screens, as well as cracks on the sides and underneath doors. Ensure that you shut doors that open to the outside of your home rather than leaving them open.  There may be small cracks in your house where flies are entering that you cannot detect. If you are careful about shutting your doors and know your screens are fortified and you still have flies entering, you should call in a pest prevention specialist. These specialists have trained eyes that can detect entry points for flies that might not be obvious to you. They can then seal them off effectively.  If a fly does happen to enter your home, you need to make sure it has a less-than-optimal environment in which to live. Make sure that you dispose of any old food in your external garbage can, or in the garbage disposal. Don’t let fruit waste away on countertops, as flies particularly like to lay their larvae in rotting fruit. Check your attic, crawlspaces, and other...

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