Category Archives: House and Home

Safely dispose of your prescription drugs

Many people make New Year’s resolutions to get their home more organized and clutter-free. Regularly cleaning out the medicine cabinet and getting rid of old, expired or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements is important. In the past, we were encouraged to flush these down the toilet or put them in the garbage. Well, it turns out that neither of those options is generally good.

Our municipal sewage treatment plants were not designed to remove many of these chemicals and antibiotics, steroids and all kinds of other drugs are turning up in low levels in our lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater. The number of different kinds of drugs, hormones and chemicals that we use and discharge into our watersheds is growing— not just from medications, but also from personal care products. Even the drugs that we use that aren’t completely used by our bodies are excreted and passed into the wastewater stream. All of this is starting to increase risks to our ecological systems and aquatic life in unforeseen ways. Although there don’t appear to be any adverse human health effects yet, the long-term effects are not clear and this is the subject of all kinds of research.

When drugs are tossed directly into the garbage, there’s a risk that kids and animals can get them— that can be a really bad thing, depending on what’s in there! These drugs can leach from landfills into our ground water and come back to haunt us.

For the best option to dispose of your prescription medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist or call your city’s waste management service to find out if there’s a community drug collection, take-back and disposal program. If there isn’t one in your community, follow these steps from the
Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so. For information on drugs that should be flushed visit the FDA’s website.

To dispose of prescription drugs not labeled to be flushed, you may be able to take advantage of community drug take-back programs or other programs, such as household hazardous waste collection events, that collect drugs at a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service and ask if a drug take-back program is available in your community.

If a drug take-back or collection program is not available follow these steps from the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s guidelines :

1. Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.

2. Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.

3. Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.

4. Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.

5. Place the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers, in the trash.

Renewable Wind Power For Homes

With the rising costs, pollution and greenhouse gases associated with generating and using electricity, environmentally conscious homeowners are looking for renewable forms of energy that are easy to use and set up. Using wind power for homes is becoming an extremely attractive option for those who want to save money on their power bill and do good for the environment at the same time.

Although purchasing a wind power system can be expensive, it can be made much cheaper if you do it yourself. By building your own wind power system using instructions found at, you can build a wind power generator in your very own back yard. You can avoid the cost of paying for power, and the cost of purchasing a wind system.

Building a wind power for homes generator can be a great family project and you will all learn a lot about how wind power works in the process. So go ahead, create a a wind power generator in your home.

Save Water with Rain Barrels for Garden Watering

If you’re a gardener that has access to an unlimited supply of water, consider yourself lucky. There are many of us who live in drought zones where the garden and lawn watering rules are very constrictive to the healthy growth of gardens and plants.

Many people just give up when they find out how few gallons of water they are permitted to use, but some of us have just found ways to cope with less water. There are many ways to optimize your garden to conserve water while still keeping it lush.

Some of the ways include drip irrigation (the use of a pipe or hose with small holes to allow water to gradually seep into the root zones of plants), the placement of plants in groups with equal watering needs (to prevent wasting water on plants that don’t need as much), and using compost or mulch to minimize evaporation and runoff of the water.

Occasionally a period of drought will be forecasted far in advanced, or those already experiencing a drought will be given a rare reprieve, with heavy rains.  To take advantage of this, you should set up one or more rain barrels. Many people think this would be a time consuming, silly thing to do. But it can save you many gallons of water, and hardly requires any work.

Finding the barrels will probably be the hardest part. You can use your own garbage cans, or head to your home improvement store to get 55 gallon plastic drums. These can be expensive and difficult to transport, so keep that in mind before you go to the store. You will want to cover the top of the barrel with a screen of some sort to filter out any unwanted leaves or debris that might fall off the roof of your house and to prevent mosquitos breeding in any standing water.

Once you have your barrels ready, you’re faced with the decision of where to place them. Usually during rainfall, there is one corner or segment of the house that most of the rain tends to pour off of. If you are taking the simple approach to barrel placement, just place the barrel under all the downspouts where you see large amounts of water drainage. However, while this might be the easiest way to place them, you won’t see very high volumes of rain in the barrels.

If you’re open to taking a more complicated approach, you should consider tweaking your roof gutter system a bit. If you remove each individual segment and place it at a very slight slant so that all the water is diverted to the nearest corner of the house, you can place a rain barrel at each corner. So essentially your entire house acts as a catcher for the rain, instead of just a portion of the roof. This will help to maximize the amount of water your rain barrel will catch.

After a heavy rainfall, each individual barrel probably won’t see very much rain. If it looks like it won’t be raining more any time soon, it’s a good idea to empty each barrel into one main central barrel. Seal it and save it out of the way, for whenever you may need it. Then the next time it starts to rain, you’ll be able to quickly put all your catching barrels into place without having to lug around all the water you’ve accumulated so far.

The use of water barrels might sound like an antiquated idea. However, when you’re in the midst of a drought and you’re able to spare that extra couple of gallons for your garden in addition the city allotment, you’ll be grateful for every bit of time and money you spent on collecting all that rain. All it takes is a few trips out in the backyard every time it starts to sprinkle, and you’ll be a very happy gardener when water isn’t so abundant.

If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, you can always buy and install the many rain barrel or rainwater harvesting systems designed for residential use.  It’s a simple, easy way to be good to a planet where the looming water crisis is sure to overshadow even the climate change crisis.

Eco-friendly Landscaping with Concrete

When you think about concrete, you usually think about the sidewalk, your driveway and maybe your porch— but what about your landscape? Concrete landscaping is extremely versatile, low maintenance, and is all the rage these days. On top of that, it is an eco-friendly product because it is easily recycled.

Most people use concrete designs for the walkways and paths that wind through their gardens. This is more for those with larger yards.  Even if your yard is small you could put down a lively patio for you and your friends to hang out and have drinks or tea or a barbecue. There’s nothing more fun than a little party out on the patio on a nice day.

Stone walls are another form of concrete landscaping that has really caught on like wildfire. They make great retaining walls for raised planting beds, and can double as extra seating. These days you can buy stamps to give the concrete a more natural look and you can also stain it to appear like stone.  If you want a textured look, concrete walls take well to stucco finishes or even tile to complement the overall theme of your landscape and garden.

Finally, even small concrete stepping stones can add punch to a landscape and function as way to keep you from stomping down your plants as you walk through the beds. The best thing about concrete landscaping is that while it can be functional you can make it look as if it’s just there for looks.
There is so much that you can do with concrete landscaping because it is so easy to form and work with. You can use concrete landscaping bricks or you can use whole solid slabs. You can even get custom made concrete landscaping stones that are in unique and creative shapes and patterns. The best part is that concrete projects are do-it-yourself friendly.  Take some time and see all the options out there for concrete landscaping— you might just be surprised.

Go Green and SAVE at

Fireplace increasing your heating bills?

There’s nothing quite like cozying up to a warm open hearth fireplace in the dead of winter, watching the hypnotic dance of the flames while the cold winds rage outside. What you may not realize is that using a fireplace is not conducive to energy conservation and may actually increase your heating bills.

The heat from a fireplace is confined to the area nearby and it doesn’t radiate to the rest of the room or the rest of the house. Heated air from other parts of the house is drawn into the fireplace and updrafts right up the chimney, while cold air from the outdoors is sucked in to replace the heated air in the house. This cold air now must be heated by the furnace system, making it work harder. That’s why you’ll notice that generally, when you use your fireplace, other parts of the house seem unusually cold. Nothing beats the fireplace for the warm ambiance, but you should consider using an energy-efficient insert or stove, if you want to conserve energy and control heating costs. Here are a few tips to increase your fireplace efficiency:
Increasing fireplace efficiency is an environmentally friendly choice not only for reducing energy consumption but also because less pollutants are released into the indoor air.

  1. Fireplace glass doors create a barrier between the living space and the chimney, and increase safety by protecting children from the fire.
  2. Top sealing dampers can be installed at the top of the chimney to keep heated or cooled air inside the house and keep the outside air out all year-round. 
  3. A cast iron plate called a fireback can be placed at the back of your fireplace. It protects the back wall from fire damage and absorbs heat from the fire and radiates it back into the room.
  4. A fireplace heater pulls fresh air from the room, circulates it through a chamber heated by the fire and then blows it back into the room.

Most of these products can be purchased online and are easy to install yourself.

Going Green, this Halloween

Goblins beware! Halloween isn’t only scary for the kids—it’s a scary time for the environment too. Between plastic bags, plenty of candy wrappers, and a huge onslaught of garbage, we have a lot to get scared about.
With a few, simple shifts in our Halloween activities, we can help Mother Nature enjoy the spooktacular events, without worrying about our footprint. Here are some tips:

  • Make Your Own Costumes: Rather than buy a costume and throw away after just one use, make your own using old clothing, mom’s 80’s make-up (BOO!), and plenty of hair spray. Not only will your children enjoy masquerading in ancient heels, you’ll have a chance to critically ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”
  • Use Reusable Bags: North Americans use over 420 million bags a year, littering our waste sites, killing marine life, and leaching into our soil for generations to come. Not to mention the millions of gallons of dirty fossil fuels needed to create the plastic bags in the first place. Reach instead for a durable, re-usable bag, or better yet, an old pillowcase or cloth.
  • Walk, walk, walk: Kids don’t need 40 pounds of candy. Really. Instead of taking them all over town in a car, keep the car parked at home, and walk your kids around your neighbourhood, collecting candy and saving yourself the gas and emissions. Who knows, you may even lose an inch around the waist.
  • Hand Out Eco-Friendly Treats: Notice I said treats, not just candy. If you are going for candy, buy locally (Wal-Mart doesn’t count), keeping in mind the smaller shops that help keep your local economy strong, and stick to organic candies as much as possible. If you’re thinking of being avant-garde, you can opt to throw in neat little gizmos, such as stickers, keychains, erasers, or a scientific calculator. Ok, maybe not the calculator.
  • Keep a Trash Can by the Door: Not only can you pretend there’s a ghoul inside it, but many children will have eaten a handful of candy from door to door.  Encourage them to throw their garbage in there, versus your driveway or front lawn. If you’re a parent walking with the kids, bring a bag with you and pick up candy litter along the way.
  • Use Your Pumpkins: There are a variety of pies, muffins, and desserts you can make with your leftover pumpkins. Don’t just throw them out when Halloween is over—use whatever you can, including the seeds, and toss the rest into your composter. Don’t have a composter? Now’s the perfect time to get one before the cold sets in. Contrary to popular belief, food does continue to break down in the cold.
  • Lead by Example: The best way to keep the green movement growing is through leading by example. Gather some friends and neighbours, and have them join you on your Green Halloween. Tell everyone what you’re doing, and if not this year, perhaps next year they’ll decide to partake in your ghoulishly green mission.

Happy Halloween!