Living environmentally friendly at home is easier than you may think. The first step to conserving resources and saving energy would be to only buy what you need. There are also a lot of little things we can do in our homes to help reduce landfill waste, clean the air and preserve the natural landscape.
Fish lovers can be eco-friendly by using a few simple tips. When you clean your aquarium, use the water to feed your garden and plants rather than sending it down the drain. Draining the aquarium means taking out fish waste and decayed food particles. That water also contains helpful bacteria and all the trace nutrients plants need to survive, including phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and iron. This “fertilizer” water can do wonders for your plants.
If your fish should die, bury them in your garden rather than flushing them down the drain. Adding fish to soil for added fertilization increases your garden yields and food production.
Not only do compost bins reduce waste by letting you re-use food waste you would normally throw away, but they also help your plants grow better! Compost is a natural fertilizer that can be used to feed your flowers and vegetable garden, improve the soil around trees and shrubs and, when screened, create a better seed-starting mix or lawn top-dressing. For more information about how to compost at home, review Homeowners’ Composting Guide - PUB0183.
If it is a beautiful day, take it outside and get some fresh air! If hiking, biking or walking is how you prefer to exercise, more than 50 Missouri State Parks offer walking or hiking trails and 21 offer some type of biking path, including the Katy Trail. You can also check with your community for walking and biking trails. Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather and take all safety precautions.
If it is just too cold or hot to exercise outside, create your own home gym. Swap workout DVDs with friends, or borrow them from the library, to get a workout in your living room. This saves the plastic waste in buying new videos, and can keep your routine from getting boring. If you want to purchase home gym equipment, look for used treadmills and other cardio equipment. Look for energy efficient equipment or those that don’t use any electricity.
No matter where you choose to exercise, you can also make exercising environmentally friendly by what you choose to wear.
- Use a reusable water bottle instead of plastic water bottles that end up in landfills. Several companies make hard plastic water bottles from recycled plastic, or aluminum varieties, that last a long time.
- Workout gear can be recycled by some companies and made into new clothing. Try to buy clothing made of natural fibers that are easier to recycle, or find clothing and fleece made from recycled plastic.
- You can’t get anywhere without the shoes on your feet, so look for a good quality, well fitting pair of athletic shoes. When they are worn out, consider recycling your athletic shoes through the Nike Grind project, which accepts athletic shoes from any company, and grinds them into rubber chips. This rubber, much like shredded tires, can then be used in tracks, playgrounds and tennis courts.
Growing your own vegetables helps reduce the amount of fossil fuel used to transport food to your local grocers and then to your home. You are also able to control the amount pesticides, if any, used to grow that food. It is also a great opportunity to be creative and reuse and recycle items that might otherwise be thrown away.
- Use scrap tires as raised garden beds. After very carefully cutting off one side wall on a large tire, place the tire in your garden area and fill it with soil, manure or compost. Raised gardens can increase spring soil temperatures by 8 to 13° F over nearby soil temperatures at ground level. By using a tire, there is also the added benefit of the black, heat-absorbing rubber. When used as a raised bed, the tire warms faster and retains a bit more heat to help the plants grow.
- Plastic buckets, soda bottles and other plastic containers make excellent potting sources for small plants. Old dresser drawers or wooden boxes, metal buckets and washtubs, hollowed out gourds or an old boot or galoshes also make unique planters. As long as the containers have proper drainage and adequate amounts of sunlight and water, they make wonderful substitutes for a larger garden.
- Make plant containers mobile by using a roller skate as a base for the plant container, or using a child’s wagon or wheelbarrow.
- Metal and vinyl mini-blinds can be cut to make plant markers.
- Clean nylon hose are useful for tying plants to trellises or fences.
- To protect small plants from a late frost, cut the bottom off a milk jug and use the top to cover them.
Almost all Missourians use household items such as cleaning products, paint, pesticides, antifreeze and motor oil, which can be dangerous if handled improperly. When used or leftover products are no longer wanted by the consumers and need to be disposed, they become what is referred to as "household hazardous waste". Most hazardous waste generated by a single-family home can be legally disposed in the trash. However, the environmentally friendly option would be to donate unused products to someone who needs them or dispose your waste at a pesticide collection event or permanent household hazardous waste collection facility. For more information about what to do with your household items, visit What To Do With Specific Waste.
Nothing beats the smell of a barbecue grill on a hot summer day. You can make grilling eco-friendly by making a few changes to the way you grill. After dinner, compost as much of the food scraps as possible and enjoy the outdoor weather, no air-conditioning required.
- Propane gas grills burn cleaner, but if you prefer a charcoal grill, look for lump brands made from sustainable forest timber. For the more extreme "eco-friendly griller," solar powered grills are gaining popularity and amplify the sun's rays just enough to grill those brats and dogs. They take a little longer to heat up but leave almost no environmental impact except the smell of sizzling barbecue.
- If the fire needs a little help getting started, use a chimney starter rather than lighter fluid to get it going. This cuts down on chemicals released into the air.
- When it comes to choosing what to place on your grill, visit your garden or local farmer’s markets for fresh produce. If possible, also look for locally raised and processed meat. By shopping locally, you help reduce the amount of fossil fuel used to transport food long distances to your local grocers.
- When you set the table, use reusable flatware, silverware and cloth napkins. For a unique look, use bandanas for napkins and old quilts for tablecloths. If using reusable products isn’t possible, use paper plates and napkins with recycled content and biodegradable plastic cups that can be composted.
- For the kid’s table, a Frisbee covered in wax paper makes a great plate, which can be turned over and used for fun after the meal is finished.
Approximately 6 million used tires are generated in Missouri each year, which is about one tire per person. Used tires, also referred to as scrap tires, are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, snakes, rats and other vermin. West Nile virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, is a serious health threat. So, what should you with your scrap tires? In Missouri, scrap tires can only be disposed in a landfill if they are cut, chipped or shredded. The better option would be to reuse or recycle your tires. Every year millions of tires are reused in playground materials (crumb rubber and whole tire scrap) or burned as an alternate fuel in coal power plants and cement kilns. If you have some scrap tires you can no longer use, you can take them to one of the following businesses.
- Leave used tires with the dealer when buying replacement tires. Dealers are required to accept them on a one-to-one basis for a small fee.
- Take your tires to a tire processor, scrap tire site or tire hauler. They usually charge a fee per tire and can accept whole tires. For lists of companies or individuals who have obtained a permit to transport or process scrap tires, visit Scrap Tire Haulers and Scrap Tire Processors.
Nothing in this document may be used to implement any enforcement action or levy any penalty unless promulgated by rule under chapter 536 or authorized by statute.