How To Go Green In Your Garage

by heather

My garage is the bane of my house. I stay organized and green pretty much everywhere else, but when it comes to the garage I have a serious lack of inspiration. Being a fairly new homeowner means that my garage hasn’t gotten to the state of, say, my dad’s garage (which only the brave should enter), but it’s still a problem.

Most people consider their garage last when it comes time to make the house more eco-friendly. But when you think about it, your garage is probably one of the most used rooms in your home.

Here’s how it usually works: you come home from picking up the kids at school and what do you do? You pull right into the garage and enter your home through the side door. This means that you, your pets, and your kids all go through the dirtiest and, usually, most polluted room multiple times a day.

Yikes.

Fortunately there are some fairly easy ways you can green the garage and make it healthier for your family.

Tip 1: Properly Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)

I’d be willing to bet that most homes (including my own) have several cans of old paint stacked in the garage. There might be cans of paint thinner, containers of old gasoline, antifreeze, bottles of oil, and who knows what else.

These nasty things are referred to as Hazardous Household Waste, and according to the EPA, the average American has over 100 pounds of the stuff languishing and fuming in the garage. Yuck.

HHW is not something that can be tossed in the trash; it must be disposed of safely.

For instance, take any paint that’s still good to your local Habitat of Humanity. They’ll either sell it in their Re-Store, or use it one their homes.

If there are paint cans you want to keep, then follow this great piece of advice from the DIY Network: seal the opening with plastic wrap, and then put on the lid tightly with a hammer. Then, store the paint can upside down. Storing it lid-side down will tightly seal it up and prevent fumes and fluids from leaching out.

As far as the other dangerous chemicals in your garage, just tossing them in the trash is not an option. Visit Earth911 to see if there are any centers in your area that take them year-round. Otherwise, call you local city government to see when their next hazardous waste collection day will be. Most towns accept hazardous waste at least twice per year.

Tip 2: Seal Your Doorway

Making your garage more eco-friendly also means protecting your home from the fumes that might leak in.

It’s important to make sure that the doorway from the garage into your main living area is properly sealed. Add weatherstripping if there is not any already, and make sure that cracks are sealed with caulk or expanding foam.

If you have a room above the garage like an office or rec room, then be aware that fumes can very easily leach into your home through the garage ceiling. The easiest fix for this is to make sure your garage is painted, which will help seal up small cracks.

And, take this piece of advice from the University of Illinois: don’t seal doors that open to the outside, especially your main garage door. This will hinder ventilation.

Tip 3: Just Say “No” To Insecticides and Pesticides

Did you know that many insecticides originated as nerve agents for warfare?

Seriously. They’re called “organophosphates”, and they’re really, really bad for human bodies and the environment. And yet, millions of people have sacks and cans of this stuff just sitting out in the garage.

Want another reason why you should ditch pesticides? Well, of the 30 most common brands, 19 are linked with cancer, 13 are linked with birth defects, and 21 with reproductive effects according to BeyondPesticides.org. There’s a lot more badness where that comes from, but I didn’t want to run out of room.

The point here is that not only is this stuff toxic when you use it (and extremely toxic when it gets washed into your local groundwater for the fish and other wildlife to enjoy), it’s also emitting harmful fumes in your garage. They need to go.

Your best resource to safely dispose of insecticides is, again, Earth911.com. Use their searchable database to find a drop-off location.

Tip 4: Ditch Your Lawnmower

I ditched my traditional lawnmower last summer. I hated it: it was noisy, we had to buy gas for it, it took up a ton of space in our very-small garage, and it emitted fumes every time we turned it on.

So, we donated it and got an old-fashioned Scotts push mower, exactly like this one from CleanAirGardening.com.

I love love love our pushmower, and here’s why:

1. It’s good exercise. When did exercise and exertion become a bad thing? I love pushing this around the yard. And it’s not hard, it’s just more work than those gas-guzzling, fume-emitting machines that most people use.

2. It’s quiet. I could mow at midnight and no one would ever know.

3. It’s small. The thing take up no space in my garage. It’s a thing of beauty.

4. It doesn’t need gas. I never have to go the gas station, get two measly gallons, come home, mix in the oil, yadda yadda. That eliminates stress from my life, and saves money.

Please consider getting a push mower. They’re truly wonderful, and now that I’ve got one I’m never ever going back to a regular lawn mower.

The reasons why this ties in to having an eco-friendly garage is because with a pushmower, you don’t have to store cans of gasoline and oil, both of which emit nasty fumes.

Last Word…

So there you have it. Four easy ways to go green in the garage.

Here in Michigan it’s a bit cold to tackle the garage, but you can bet that come spring, making my garage more eco-friendly is one of the first things on my list.

Do you have any green tips you’ve found for your garage? If so, send ’em in!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

david December 9, 2008 at 11:00 pm

great tips! it is so important to keep the garage free of as many hazardous chemicals as you can, especially if it’s connected to your house. one other thought for those who can’t quite get rid of their power lawn mower, get one of those prefab sheds and put it in your back yard and keep the lawn mower in there with all the associated gas cans, oil cans, etc.

Lynette December 14, 2008 at 4:50 am

No kidding on the organophosphates. Last summer, we were taking our basset hound on a walk on my parents farm (this is when the midwest was flooding.) He slurped up some ditch water, and within 30 minutes, he was having a severe reaction to the organophosphates that were used on the fields as fertilizer. Luckily, he was much better after getting a shot from the vet, but it could caused permanent nerve damage if not treated. It really made my parents evaluate what could be in their well water. Oh, and we love our push mower as well!

heather December 14, 2008 at 6:25 am

David,

That’s a great idea; definitely better than keeping all that stuff stored in your garage!

Lynette,

I’m so glad your dog is ok! How awful. The same thing happened to one of my Boston Terriers years ago. We were in an apartment and they had just sprayed the grass with fertilizer. I let him out to go potty, and within 15 min. of him coming back inside he was having a major seizure.

We had to rush him to the emergency vet; he ended up being ok, but that’s when it really hit me how awful that stuff is.

Thanks to the both of you for writing in~

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