Pollution Prevention Starts at Home

One of the best ways to protect the environment is to stop creating pollution in the first place, a concept many industries have been using for years. You can apply the same principle at home to make your living environment much healthier.

The Department of Environmental Protection is marking National Pollution Prevention Week, which begins today, by asking residents to try a few simple ideas to reduce pollution in their homes.

"The quality of your home environment is one thing you can directly control," said Commissioner Bob Martin. "Just as industries are identifying less toxic substances to use in their processes, you can make your home environments much healthier by finding safer alternatives to chemical cleaners, pesticides and other products. All it takes is little effort and ingenuity."

Preventing pollution offers important economic benefits to businesses by helping them avoid expensive investments in waste management and cleanup. In the same vein, you can save money by making your own cleaners and pesticides with much less expensive and safer products.

Start your own pollution prevention efforts at home by looking on product labels for the words toxic, flammable, corrosive, caution, danger, warning or poison. Then begin identifying alternatives to these products.

The DEP's Office of Pollution Prevention and Right to Know offers these tips:

  • Instead of using bleach to wash clothes, kitchens and bathrooms, use a solution of white vinegar and water or baking soda and water,
  • For a drain cleaner, use vinegar and baking soda followed by flushing with boiling water.
  • In place of glass cleaners, use a solution of one tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice mixed with a quart of water. Spray on and use old newspapers to wipe.
  • Mix a teaspoon of lemon juice with a pint of mineral oil or vegetable oil as a substitute for chemical-based furniture polishes.
  • Select water-based latex paints over oil-based paints whenever possible.
  • Choose inks and art supplies that are labeled as nontoxic.
  • Use compost instead of chemical fertilizers.
  • Put up houses around the yard to attract birds and bats that help control insects.
  • Use boric acid instead of commercial ant and roach killers.
  • Wash countertops, cabinets and floors with a solution made of equal parts vinegar and water to deter ants.
  • Keep your house clean and free from food crumbs and block pest hiding places to combat bugs.
  • Select plants such as scented geraniums that attract ladybugs, praying mantises and spiders that prey on garden pests, or select plants that repel insects such as mint, marigolds and garlic.
  • Try natural or low-toxicity pesticides such as insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and diatomaceous earth, which is a natural pest control that can be sprinkled around the garden or home. You can also mix four tablespoons of liquid dish soap to each gallon of water to make a spray to control insects.

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