Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Downsizing the "green" way

It's surprising the amount of things that we accumulate over the years that really should NOT just get chucked in a landfill when we're downsizing. During our preparations for this move, I made a concerted effort not to put anything that was reusable, recyclable or hazardous into the trash. Finding the proper places to get rid of things was sometimes a bit difficult. For many items, it cost more to get rid of them than I paid for them... so I'll be thinking of disposability the next time I purchase anything!

Here's a list of a few things (in addition to curbside recycle, the yard sale & charity donation) that we disposed of a gentler way:
  1. Old VHS cassettes & floppy disks: we had quite a few, and most were still in usable condition. I separated the usable ones from the questionable ones, and then boxed them up to ship (via USPS Media Mail) separately to Alternative Community Training (ACT) recycling program. I specifically chose this program because they provide work and training for people with disabilities. They clean up and resell usable media, and break down & recycle non-working media... all proceeds go back to more training.
  2. Empty CD Jewel Cases & DVD Jackets (PVC - notoriously hard to recycle): while ACT does accept usable cases, I had several that were broken. So, I ended up sending all my jewel cases/jackets and a bunch of used CDs & DVDs to Plastic Recycling, Inc. I just removed all the paper inserts from the cases, or removed the plastic wheel-jobbers from any cardboard cases, and separated the broken ones from the resellable ones. We had A LOT of empty jewel cases and DVD jackets since we have a huge collection of audio, video, software, and video games... I stripped all these down and put them in binders with their cover art, then put all the remaining paper packaging into the recycle bin. Amazingly, 8 bookshelves of disks now fit into one (16 - 3" binders) and our living room won't look like a Tower Records anymore :D
  3. Cell phones: there are several places that you can recycle and/or donate your old/used cell phones. Because all ours were working and we still had all the accessories, once I deleted the memory, I donated ours to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. If they hadn't been working, I would have recycled them with my other eWaste.
  4. eWaste (telecomm & electronics): I took our dead laptop, spare montiors, dead VCR & DVD player, random circuit boards and accessories, and a huge box of miscellaneous cables and adapters to our local computer recycling place. They also offered data destruction for $5 a hard drive... so I gleefully chucked in 4 of ours and watched the monster chew them up (yes, I am such a child!)
  5. Eyeglasses: Since we both had laser corrective eye surgery, neither of us require our glasses anymore (until we need bi-focals in a few years at least). However, we did still have a few pairs hidden in drawers around the house. I took these into my optometrist, where they recycle them to be reground into eyeglasses for those in need.
  6. Scrap metal: lots of bizarre stuff went into these boxes -- unsharpenable kitchen knives, a thoroughly rusted lawnmower blade, old curtain rods, some rebar I found hiding in the shed, broken shelf brackets, a bag of rusty nails & screws, some random springs that I have no idea what they used to belong to, and all our old nonstick pans (evil evil evil - never buying those again!). A friend of ours is going to take them to our local salvage yard, which pays by the pound... so he should make a tidy bit of change for helping us get rid of stuff :)
  7. Pet supplies: I'm sure every pet-parent out there has a closet full of things that Fluffy and Fido didn't like, grew out off, or just plain weren't interested in. We had some extra carriers (the hardisded flight ones that our cats HATED), extra litter pans, extra food bowls, some toys, etc etc. I found a local rescue and foster shelter, and donated almost a full car load of our used pet supplies along with a couple bags of litter & food my precious little princesses turned their noses up at. They were especially happy to get toys in good condition because many of the animals need environmental enrichment while they are waiting to be adopted. Hard toys (plastic & rubber) generally clean up wonderfully after running them through the dishwasher. Soft or fabric toys should either go through the laundry, or be hand-washed and well-rinsed. Litter pans, carriers and crates should be thoroughly washed and then wiped down with a disinfectant before donation (but not one that turns white in water!).
  8. Building materials: we did sell quite a bit of our left-over new building materials at the yard sale, but we found some more during the garage clean out. We donated these, along with some unopened paint, to our local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. We took some reclaimed fixtures (still in decent condition, but not new) down to a re-seller who specializes in refurbishing old cabinets and fixtures to be reinstalled in new homes. They normally also take opened cans of paint & stains, but were overstocked for the season (so I checked with the sanitation department to find out what to do with this HazMat).
  9. Cars: Alas, my poor Cavalier that I've been driving since I was 19 wouldn't make it another winter in Alaska. At 200,000 miles, I don't think she'd even make it back up to Alaska. She still runs great, but is no longer beautiful by any stretch of the imagination. With heavy heart, I decided to donate her to Purple Hearts to benefit Veterans and their families. The salvage yard will part her out, re-selling the engine and good parts (hard to find '91 Chevy parts nowadays!) and then salvage all the metal, etc.
  10. HazMat: more things than you would think are actually Household Hazardous Material. Some things can be dropped off at the county transfer station, sometimes free but normally at a charge, things like batteries and TVs; but other stuff needs to have special precautions. We called the county sanitation department, and found out the Waste Mobile (which picks up everything) was coming NEXT weekend (grrrr). So that same friend who's taking care of our metal salvage agreed to take our stuff to the Mobile along with his. I boxed up all the oil paint, all the automotive fluids, the household poisons (left by previous owner), the garden fertilizer/pesticide/herbicide (left by previous owner), asphalt roof sealant, flourescent bulbs, and a few other things that once contained mercury (securely wrap and label the mercury stuff!!) in clearly marked containers for him to drop off. Latex and acrylic paints & stains I just dried out thoroughly (stir stir stir) and put in with regular trash per the SaniDept's instructions.
  11. Toner cartridges: I had a few empty toner cartridges, and a few unused cartridges from a printer that died (4 years ago, don't know where that stuff was hiding!)... and of course, my printer decided to go out of toner two days ago as well! So I boxed all these up and took them to my local office supply store since they offer store credit for returned cartridges (check online because a lot of charities also accept them as donation!).

So there you have it, probably my greenist move ever -- and I'm leaving the house 100% empty and clean of any toxic crap or random garbage so the new tenants don't have a bunch of stuff to haul to the dump when they move in (like I did!). I'll be able to claim several donations on my taxes next year, and I get the peace of mind knowing that as much stuff as possible will be reused, recycled and (at the very least) disposed of properly. Which is a great thing in my book :D


Unknown said...

I'm enjoying your posts. You guys were wide eyed with wonder. And clueless in an endearing innocent way. I hope all is still well with you now 3 years later.

Unknown said...

Hope all is well after 3 years