17 November 2008

It's Not Always Easy Being Green

It seems that every time you try to do the right thing green-wise you find out you're accomplishing nothing, or making matters worse. Recently a British study found that disposable diapers were better for the environment. I'm sure it's just a matter of time until another study finds the opposite. Some folks go with CFLs to save energy, but they may be doing more damage if they are not disposing of them properly, since they contain mercury.

Well, luckily you can have your CFL and save the planet at the same time. Every year (I think) Hamilton County runs the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program to collect a lot of stuff you shouldn't be throwing away, like fluorescent lights. See the site for the complete list. Thanks to someone on the Prospect Hill mailing list, I was reminded the program is coming to end for this year on Saturday. So I can finally rid our house of the burned out CFLs that have been cluttering up the place. It's also a great place to get rid of all that old paint and other household chemicals.

This program is paid for by Hamilton County, so you need to bring proof of Hamilton County Residency.


Lewis said...

This is a great resource. And I'm glad you mention it.
I was able to get rid of a basement full of old paint cans. Finally!

DP said...

Re: CFLs - I was in the Home Depot the other day and noticed they have a bin near the returns area for recycling CFLs and rechargeable tool batteries.

As for the diapers - I hate to admit this, but I actually did a high school english paper on this subject about 15 years ago - titled "The Great Diaper Debate" no less. And since my extensive research included all the vast resources of my suburban library (including microfilm), that clearly makes me an expert. My 'conclusion' at the time was that classic: "it depends" (pun not intended). At the time, the big issues were water pollution vs. landfill space. So basically, if you lived in a place where water was scarce (desert SW) you should go disposable. If landfill space trumped you should go cloth.

Sadly, despite the fact that I have two degrees that include the word 'environment', convenience won hands down in our household's Great Diaper Debate.

bsherm said...

@dp Great heads-up on the CFls. I've been driving my wife nuts with the burned out CFLs. Not so much because she hates the earth, but she hates clutter... :-)

VisuaLingual said...

Thanks so much for posting this! As a side note, CFLs just seem like madness. They're expensive and don't always fit the lightbulb space like a regular bulb does, plus they're very fragile things that contain mercury, which you have to store safely for however long until you have an opportunity to safely dispose of them. I don't know that I'm convinced that this is solution makes sense.

Mark Miller said...


Our garbage man taught me a neat trick.

For 3 weeks straight he left my old paint cans at the curb. I cornered him he 4th time and he said they can't take paint because the solvents leach into ground water.

"But dried paint is fine" he said, "just leave the lids off for a couple weeks until it dries solid, then pitch the open cans and lids separately."

Works like a charm.

CityKin said...

^actually they sell "paint solidifier" at the hardware store just for this purpose. I guess in case you can't wait for a few weeks.

DP said...

OK, so Sanitation will take solid paint, but does anybody know if that changes the environmental issues? If it's solid when it goes into the landfill, does that mean it stays solid and does not leach into the groundwater?

Alternatively, what does the County do with the paint that you drop off at the hazwaste collection program? Do they just solidify it and chuck it into the landfill?

bsherm said...

@DP I found this statement:
"As a last resort, small amounts of paint can be solidified. If the paint is latex, you can solidify it following the instructions below, then place it in the trash destined for the landfill. Because of the increased health and safety risks involved in solidifying oil-based paints, contact your local city or county officials for other proper disposal methods." on a web site maintained by the University of Missouri.

Beach said...

We ended up on the reusable side of diaper debate. The environmental issue seemed to us to be a water versus waste choice too. Since we don't seem to have a water problem here, we felt ok with the choice.

A newer paper compared manufacturing pollution versus wshing pollution. The paper ignored the transportation costs. While trucks haul reusable diapers once, disposables are brought to you by truck again with each pack.

The cost issues are almost a wash too. Pun intended. $700 for diapers either way. The discounts come with ecomony of scale. If you can use the diapers for a second kid you realize the cost benefit.

CityKin said...

We used the cloth diapers for both kids, but a year or so into the second kid and they were pretty worn out and falling apart. We weren't about to buy a bunch of new cloth, and we were getting lazy by then, so we switched over to disposables the last year or so.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't think that a good "cloth vs. disposable" study actually exists which takes EVERYTHING into account. I've scouted around a bit (no HS research project, but a few hrs here and there on the internet)... and I've still not seen anything that looks comprehensive, taking into account manufacturing, fuel costs, solid waste, untreated sewage in landfills that seeps into groundwater (public health), etc etc. I'm still totally convinced that cloth is the best environmenally... if you're still not totally convinced, then do EC (elimination communication) combined with cloth diapering... now that's the true environmental solution... using hardly any diapers at all! As for the effort, I still don't see that an extra load of laundry every 3 days is such a huge deal. I'm certainly willing to do it, and I feel better about my daughter being in cotton than plastic and treated wood pulp and chemical aborsbing stuff.. Just me :)