Tuesday, March 24, 2015

5 Tips for Painting Projects

Springtime has a way of motivating many of us to tackle those home improvement projects. Like the fresh new flowers of spring, a fresh coat of paint can liven us up. If you have a painting project on your plate, here are some tips that can help you.

1. Choose low VOC paint, ideally less than 50 grams per liter (gpl). VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. VOCs give paint its consistency and evaporate as it dries. Short-term health effects of VOC exposure can include eye irritation, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. Long-term exposure can lead to damage of the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys. Pregnant women, children, and people with respiratory problems have higher health risks. Ask your local paint vendor for low VOC paint options before you make your purchasing decision. Be aware that adding color to paint can add VOCs.

2. Buy the right amount of paint for the job. To estimate how much paint you need by calculating one gallon of paint for every 400 square feet. Purchasing the right amount of paint will reduce the amount of paint you have leftover to store or dispose of.

3. Ventilate properly. Ventilating the area well helps lower exposure to VOCs. Keep windows open and use an exhaust fan to draw fumes from the home. Regular air conditioners do not filter indoor air. Read the paint label carefully and follow the recommended safety precautions, such as wearing gloves, goggles, and a respirator. Dust masks do not protect against VOCs. If you are using oil-based paint, the health risks are greater and there is an added risk of fire. Take extra care to keep oil-based paints and materials stained with oil-based paints away from sources of flames or sparks.

4. Store leftover paint safely. Hopefully you don’t have a lot of paint leftover to store. Store it in the original container and check to see if you can still read the label. If paint has dripped down the sides, make a new label that includes the contents and the date. Cover the opening with plastic wrap and then tightly secure the lid over it. Be sure to keep all paint and paint products completely out of reach of children.

5. Dispose of paint properly. Latex paints are not considered hazardous. They can be solidified and put in the regular trash with the lid off. To solidify latex paint, mix in shredded paper, kitty litter, dried grass clippings, or a commercially available paint drying gel. When the paint is an oatmeal-like consistency and will not spill out, it can be placed in the regular trash with the lid off. When the lid is off, a garbage collector can see that there is no longer liquid paint in the container and process the garbage as needed. When liquids are placed in the trash, they can cause damage throughout the garbage collection process.

Oil-based paints are hazardous materials. Take oil-based paints to HazoHouse for free and safe disposal. You can also donate leftover paint to local theatre groups, schools, or other groups in need. You can also list unwanted items at www.2good2toss.com.

Have fun with your spring projects!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Compost – Gardener’s Gold

Heading out to your garden this weekend?  Whether you grow flowers, vegetables, shrubs, or even a lawn, compost is the key to great soil.  And great soil is the key to healthy, resilient plants!  Compost is the dark, crumbly result of decomposed plants & animals.   It helps build soil texture, holds moisture, and supports the millions of soil critters that are important to soil fertility. 

You can make your own compost in a pile, in a compost bin, or even a worm bin.  The WSU Extension Master Composters offer classes to help you learn how, or check out this great guide: Composting Yard and Food Waste at Home by Seattle Public Utilities. There are guidelines on different methods of composting, trouble-shooting guides, and compost recipes.  It even includes some really cool drawings of compost food web critters, where worms are the big guys! 

You can also buy compost - a good option if you want to start planting your garden now, and don’t have a compost pile ready to harvest, yet.  We are lucky to have several locations to buy bulk compost or soil blends that include compost.  Bagged compost is also widely available.  We recommend looking for organic compost or compost that has been certified by the Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) testing program of the US Composting Council.  A compost provider should be able to provide their latest test results. A User’s Guide to Compost has additional tips on choosing compost and helpful charts to figure out how much compost you need for the task you want to accomplish.  In other words, if you have a 5x10 garden bed and want to dig in 2 inches of compost, how much compost do you need?  And for you ambitious types – how much do you need for an acre or two?   

Improve soil fertility to grow happier plants and use less water by adding compost to your garden, yard, or lawn this spring. Happy gardening!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

HazoHouse is now open daily

HazoHouse is now open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. The hazardous waste collection site, located at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center in Lacey, collects unused and unwanted household and business-generated hazardous waste. This service is free to Thurston County residents, and businesses pay a small fee to safely dispose of hazardous chemicals, cleaners, and other waste that can harm the environment if not handled properly. 

"I'm really pleased to see this expansion of the HazoHouse service to seven days a week," said Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero, who also chairs the county's Board of Health. "Daily collection not only helps protect the health of our environment, it also helps protect the health of our waste collection workers. This is just one more step Thurston County is taking to keep our drinking water and our environment safe and clean." 

Chemical products like household cleaners, bug and weed killers, auto care products, fluorescent bulbs, and oil-based paints and stains can be harmful to human health, wildlife, and our environment when not handled and disposed of properly. The goal of offering HazoHouse services seven days a week is to make it even more convenient for county residents and businesses to dispose of their household hazardous waste the right way, and avoid pollution from illegal dumping. 

"We've seen an increase in the number of residential customers at HazoHouse each year since 2012," said Scott Schimelfenig, Manager of Thurston County Solid Waste, "It's great to see that more people are bringing their household hazardous waste to HazoHouse and disposing of it the right way. We're happy to offer expanded hours to meet the growing need for safe and convenient disposal of hazardous waste." 

HazoHouse is located at Thurston County's Waste and Recovery Center at 2420 Hogum Bay Road NE in Lacey. To get to HazoHouse, use the entrance to the right of the main entrance. When you bring your items to HazoHouse, please stay in your car and wait for attendants to assist you. HazoHouse is an easy and free option for county residents to safely dispose of hazardous household products. 

Go to www.ThurstonSolidWaste.org/Hazo for a complete list of items accepted at HazoHouse.