Avoid environmental consequences by keeping a living space this spring

By Lauren Lemons

Photo: After spring cleaning, boost your air quality by adding some plants to well-ventilated areas of your living space

Spring is just around the corner and many people are on a mission to purge their homes of unnecessary items that piled up during winter. You can create a tidy, healthy living space and reduce your impact on the environment with just a little extra spring cleaning effort.

Before you start pitching unwanted items, remember there are many things in your household that could harm the environment if not disposed of properly. Additionally, many household items can be recycled, which helps cut down on landfill waste.

“Waste directed to a landfill takes an extremely long time to decompose, and even compostable waste does not break down quickly in a low oxygen, high-pressure environment,” says Tim Pritchard, Five Rivers MetroParks sustainability coordinator. “Methane, a greenhouse gas with an unpleasant odor, is released during anaerobic decomposition.”

Home hazards

Before you start spring cleaning, it’s important to understand which items in your household are considered hazardous. Not only does the average home generate 20 pounds of hazardous household waste each year, as much as 100 pounds can accumulate in the home during an extended period of time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Items such as batteries, paint, propane tanks, fire extinguishers, and vehicle fluids can all be considered hazardous and need to be discarded appropriately.

“Chemicals and other hazardous household waste has the potential to injure waste-handlers or alter the chemistry of the natural environment if not disposed of properly,” Pritchard says. “This can have a direct impact on wildlife and human health.”

Hazardous waste materials should be taken to the Montgomery County Solid Waste District’s (MCSWD) Household Hazardous Waste Disposal program at the South Transfer Station, every Tuesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. This program is free for Montgomery County residents, and ensures that materials that are potentially harmful to the local environment are disposed of responsibly.

Say no to the sink

Pouring old household cleaners, paint, and expired medicine down the sink may be easy, but it can have serious consequences for water ecosystems, Mother Nature Network reports. Additionally, medications, such as illicit drugs and over-the-counter medicine, are not addressed during water treatment. Dilute traces of these compounds may potentially end up in drinking water.

Liquid-waste materials, such as paint and household chemicals, can also be dropped off at the MCSWD’s Household Hazardous Waste Disposal program, while expired medications can be dropped off at local police stations. Visit to find a drop-off location near you.

Pantry purge

U.S. News reports that the average American throws away about 25 percent of food and beverages purchased, equating to a potential monetary loss of up to $2,275 for a family of four, annually. If you have expired food in your pantry, consider recycling its packaging before you throw out old food items. Glass, metal, and paper food and beverage containers can be recycled. Plastic containers that have a neck, such as bottles, jugs, and jars, can also be recycled.

Be sure to bring old plastic shopping bags and polypropylene products with you on your next trip to the store, as these items can be recycled at many department, home improvement, and grocery store locations.

Repurpose and recycle

If you plan on using your tax return to upgrade the furniture or appliances in your home this spring, consider donating or selling your old items that are in working condition. Non-functioning appliances can be taken to a scrap recycling facility or dropped off at the Montgomery County Appliance Recycling program at no charge, twice a year. Fully functioning appliances and furniture can be sold or donated to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Goodwill, or McMRF.

For smaller household items, consider a post-spring cleaning garage sale or donate unwanted housewares to your local Goodwill. Crayons to Classrooms, a Dayton-based nonprofit that provides materials to students and teachers, also accepts slightly used school and office supplies.

Go green—literally 

Once unwanted items are removed from your home, opt to scrub down your space with cleaning products that are biodegradable and non-toxic. Beware of products that are labeled “green” that aren’t ECOLogo or Green-Seal certified.

“Cleaning products impact the natural environment, indoor air quality, and personal health of those using them,” Pritchard says. “Green-certified cleaning products get the job done and are better for your house and the environment.”

You may also be able to give your air quality a boost by adding some greenery to your abode. Houseplants help to filter air and create a healthier living environment. Plants should be placed in a well-ventilated area to prevent growing leaf mold, and larger plants should be dusted once a month. For low-maintenance indoor greenery, consider philodendron, spider, and snake plants.

Compost kitchen

For those who wish to step up their sustainability game, consider attending Five Rivers MetroParks’ Compost Kitchen program this spring.

This three-part program covers everything you need to know to compost effectively and is offered free of charge thanks to a partnership with Montgomery County Environmental Services.

Five Rivers MetroParks’ Compost Kitchen program takes place 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, Sunday, April 23, and Tuesday, May 9 at the Possum Creek MetroPark Education Building, 4790 Frytown Rd. in Dayton. Registration is required and available at or by calling 937.275.PARK. For more information or more sustainable-home programs, please visit


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Reach DCP freelance writer Lauren Lemons at

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