At the beginning of spring and towards the end of summer just before Labor Day one of the things I put on the to-do-list is cleaning up the garage. The changing of seasons just seems like the perfect time to sweep it out and get it ready for the coming six months. Unfortunately it’s usually during this overhaul process that I’m reminded just how unfriendly a place the garage can actually be for both people and the environment.
This isn’t always the case but many garages end up being collection centers for substances not fit for the home yet which need a secure place that isn’t completely outdoors. How can this situation be rectified? One way is to be a little more green-minded, which helps inspire what can and cannot come through the garage. It’s something I’ve been working on and have had success with, especially in the following three areas.
Nobody wants poisonous products in the home so the next best place to put them is on a shelf or ledge in the garage. What poison am I referring too? Mainly pesticides for killing bugs and herbicides against unwanted vegetation. Years ago I used to use them both until I discovered some serious issues:
- Pesticides don’t discriminate between beneficial bugs and pests so the former will be just as vulnerable.
- Herbicides often act similarly killing desirable plants too.
- Applying either poison usually results in part of the chemicals dripping down and being absorbed into the earth. They pollute top soil and get washed away with rain water into fresh water resources.
For these reasons I’ve given them up for more eco-friendly methods.
- For pests I companion plant which basically means planting two species that tolerate each other next to one another like marigolds and tomatoes. The hope is that one (the marigolds) will ward off pests on the other (the tomatoes). Otherwise household products can be used to make special solutions. For example to kill aphids mix water and ordinary but eco-friendly dish soap in a spray bottle and spray the mist on infested plants.
- For herbicides there are many similar solutions that can be mixed together with household staples like vinegar and salt. Pouring boiling water on weeds also does the trick.
Things that kill are one thing; things that clean are another. Household cleaners of all kinds are often kept in the home garage yet like poisons they contain harsh chemicals with adverse affects.
- As with pesticides and herbicides their residues can taint ground water.
- Indoors they produce fumes which can cause sickness without good ventilation.
Solutions: Regular household items such as baking soda and vinegar make good alternative cleansers but it takes a little testing to see what works best for you.
Even for really tough stains like grease on the garage floor there are options. For instance ask any concrete contractor and they will tell you spreading cat litter on an oil blotch and rubbing it in can aide with its removal.Still, I keep one or two heavy duty products available for that occasion when the green cleaner I’m using isn’t doing the trick.
Trash is something we all end up with everyday but it’s what we do with it that counts. That’s because whereas some of it biodegrades over a short period of time much of it will take years, decades, and even millennia before it breaks down which means problems for the environment.
That being the case one of the most important ways to make the garage a more eco-friendly place is setting up several bins as a recycling station for paper, plastic, glass, and tin.
When I started recycling I definitely made a lot mistakes but at the end of the day organizing all my trash in the garage gave me a chance to evaluate what I was buying and all the waste that came with it. Also, having it there made the house cleaner and the garage a greener pasture.
Jakob Barry is a home improvement journalist for Networx.com. He blogs about green topics for pros across the U.S. like Tempe, AZ, concrete contractors.