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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Do Your Part: Use electricity wisely, lessen unsafe waste

Terri Bennett McClatchy Newspapers

Spring is almost in the air – but that’s not all, unfortunately. Mercury and a whole host of other hazardous pollutants are present, too.

One of the best ways to lower the amount of air, land and water pollution you create is to use electricity wisely. This means using only what you need and only when you need it.

Most of the electricity generated in this country comes from burning coal. That process alone releases more than 50 hazardous chemicals into the environment including mercury, arsenic and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to ground level ozone.

This doesn’t even include the environmental cost of mining the coal or disposing of the hazardous waste it leaves behind.

Make sure your clothes dryer vent is clean and running efficiently, set your hot water heater to 120 degrees or lower, and unplug all those chargers when they aren’t charging anything. Small electronics such as chargers account for up to 10 percent of energy wasted in American homes because they sip power whenever they’re left plugged in.

You can find more electricity-conserving tips at DoYourPart.com/Columns.

Another big problem is storm water pollution. Simply put, this is the stuff that gets washed by rain into storm drains and dumped directly into lakes and rivers.

Soaps and chemicals from car washing, motor oil leaked in driveways and parking lots, excessive fertilizers and pesticides on the lawn, animal poop that is not scooped, and sediment from construction sites are just a few of the sources of storm water pollution. Remember, only rain should go down the storm drain.

Finally, become an educated shopper about the chemicals you bring into your home that pollute your indoor environment.

Household cleaners are a big contributor to indoor air pollution. Instead, try natural cleaners like vinegar, baking soda, and borax. You can also buy plant-based cleaners that are safer for your family and our environment.

However, your cleaners aren’t the only things that are polluting your home. Carpets, paints and furniture can all emit harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

You can now find carpets, carpet glues and household paints in no- or low-VOC formulas. As for the furniture, always find how it was made before you buy. Some pressed wood pieces can actually emit formaldehyde, also a VOC, right into your home.

Each one of us can help lower the amount of pollution we create. So Do Your Part to conserve electricity, clean without toxic chemicals and select items for your home with care.

Send questions to terri@doyourpart.com.
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