Got questions? Ask the Green Geek.

Green Geek LogoWondering how to dispose of old perfume or makeup? Or the difference between running your fan and A/C versus just the A/C?

Ask the Green Geek.

Pima County FYI has a monthly column featuring questions and answers on all things green. Our own Green Geek gets assistance on answering your questions from the sustainability experts in Pima County's Office of Sustainability and Conservation.

Send your questions to And look for the column the second Friday of each month on the left sidebar of the newsletter.

Dear Green Geek,

Do you know how to dispose of old perfume or makeup? It doesn’t seem like hazardous waste, but I’m reluctant to throw it away.



Hi, Kathleen,

While it is not legally required to dispose of your products in special ways, cosmetics and personal care items can be considered household hazardous waste. Here are some ways to green your personal care routine:
  • CosmeticsCheck if your local disposal center includes personal care items as household hazardous waste and offers safe and appropriate disposal methods for them. If your disposal center does not accept them as hazardous waste but you are still concerned, empty unused contents into a sealed container before placing them in the trash.
  • Recycle or repurpose product containers if you can. Many containers and boxes that hold our makeup, perfume, lotions, etc. are recyclable. Make sure your area takes that particular recycling number and ensure containers are wiped clean and boxes are not soiled. You can also upcycle or reuse the containers for other purposes.
  • Donate, gift, or sell your products. Depending on the product, unused or gently used cosmetics may be accepted by local charities or women’s shelters. You may also be able to sell your items on sites like eBay and Poshmark.
  • Purchase personal care items responsibly. Perhaps the best way be green (and save green) is to be mindful about the cosmetics and personal care items you use from the get-go. Many of these products contain parabens, phthalates, sulfates, triclosan, petroleum byproducts, and other harsh chemicals and dyes that are not only hazardous to the environment but also harmful to your body. 
Your skin absorbs up to 60% of whatever you put on it, entering directly into your bloodstream. Unfortunately, regulations on the personal care industry are lax in the United States, so do your research on ingredients and buy clean and green whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is a great resource for this. The cleaner the product, the less of an environmental toxin or hassle it’ll be upon disposal. In terms of waste reduction, buy products that have minimal and/or recyclable packaging, buy in bulk if possible, and minimize frivolous spending.  

Stay green, stay glam,

Green Geek

Dear Green Geek,

Recently you answered the question about turning off the AC.  What about running the fan and AC versus just the AC?  My husband thinks it is more efficient to just run the AC without having the AC fan on as well.



Hi, Betty, 

That’s a great question and one that commonly creates confusion. The AC fan circulates the air in your home. Most AC systems have two settings related to the fan, “on” and “auto”, I assume these are the setting you are referring to.

When your fan is set to the “auto” setting, it shuts off with the rest of the cooling system as soon as your desired temperature is reached. In contrast, switching the fan to “on” will make the fan run continuously, all day long, using more energy than it would if the fan were cycling off periodically.  In short, it’s more energy efficient to set the fan to “auto” than “on”.

I hope that answers your question, 

Green Geek
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