Eco-Friendly Tips for Weathering the Winter

January 19, 2010, 11:49 am

As the cold settles in, use these green tips from the EPA to help you get through the winter:

    * Consider using non-toxic de-icing substances such as clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace/stove ash to prevent hazardous waste from chemicals. Chemical de-icers can be hazardous to your pets, your trees and shrubs, and the environment. They can also pollute surface waters and groundwater through the soil. For a list of de-icers that are less harmful than salt, consult this list of EPA-approved substances.

    * Winterize your vehicle by checking your air filter and fluid levels, checking tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and replacing your windshield wipers if necessary. Ensuring your vehicle is ready for weather changes will reduce damage, which prevents waste from broken parts, and, more importantly, will keep you safe on the road.

    * If you have a wood-burning fireplace, save your ashes in a tin instead of throwing them away. Cold wood ashes can be mixed in your compost heap to create a valuable soil amendment that provides nutrients to your garden.

    * Use electric snow removal products rather than gasoline-powered ones. While electric products consume energy, they do not directly emit greenhouse gases. As alternatives, use snow shovels, ice crackers, and brooms to clear snow from your sidewalk, porch, or driveway. Follow these proper shoveling techniques to protect your back.

    * Install an ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat. Using the four pre-programmed temperature settings for weekends and weekdays can save you about $100 each year. Before leaving for vacation, turn down your thermostat (or use a programmable one) so that you don't waste natural resources by generating unneeded heat.

    * Close the recycling loop. Choose articles of clothing, such as jackets, scarves, gloves, and boots that are made from recycled materials. Most fleece products are made from recycled plastic soda bottles, and certain clothing and shoe manufacturers use recycled cotton scraps and rubber tires to make their products.

    * Prepare for winter storms and reduce waste by keeping rechargeable batteries (rather than disposable ones) stored throughout your house with your flashlights. If you do use disposable batteries, prevent hazardous waste by buying batteries with low mercury content. You can find guidelines for recycling batteries at

    * Recycle old newspapers by making rolled paper logs for your fireplace. Roll newspaper sheets around a broomstick until it is the desired size then soak it thoroughly in water. Dry the paper log overnight and use like ordinary wood. Always follow proper safety precautions when burning anything around your home.

    * Have an expert conduct routine check-ups on your heating system (boiler, furnace or heat pump) to make sure it is operating at its most efficient. Have any maintenance done before freezing weather drives up your energy bill.

    * If your heating equipment more than ten years old, it may be time for a replacement to a more energy-efficient unit. While initially an expensive investment, replacing old equipment with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment saves more energy and money in the long run.

More helpful winter tips are available at