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Got questions? Ask the Green Geek.

Wondering if vinegar is still a good cleaning agent? Or how and where you can recycle hard drives and computers?

Ask the Green Geek.
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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 fyinewsletter@pima.gov. And look for the column the second Friday of each month.

Hi, Green Geek,

I’ve been using so much disinfectant lately and I’m wanting to cut down. I remember my childhood home smelling of vinegar when my mother used to clean. Is vinegar still a cleaning substitute people use?

Thanks,

Alejandra


Hi, Alejandra,

You weren’t the only one that had vinegar wafting through the halls of your home on Saturday mornings! Vinegar, white distilled vinegar in particular, has many wonderful uses and should be a staple in all households. It can take the place of many toxic household products, which is why it is rightfully deemed a miracle product. 

Here is a brief science lesson for you! White distilled vinegar, also known as sour wine, is comprised of water (93-96 percent), acetic acid (4-7 percent), and traces of minerals and vitamins. Vinegar is a result of two closely controlled fermentation processes: alcoholic and acidic. In alcoholic fermentation, yeast converts natural sugars from fruits, vegetables, and grains (most common) into alcohol. Water is then blended with the alcohol where bacteria (Acetobacter) converts the alcohol into acid. If you’re interested in pH levels, the typical pH of white vinegar is 2-3. 

Because vinegar is an acid, you must be cautious with the surfaces being cleaned. Be sure to avoid marble, stone, hardwood flooring, electronic screens, rubber, and low grade stainless steel (commonly found on appliances). Taking heed to this, here are a few familiar uses of distilled white vinegar:
  • Cleaning the house - When diluted (1:1 ratio), you can use it to clean windows, title and grout (let it soak for an hour), carpet stains, upholstery, and showerheads, faucets, toilet bowls, and sinks to remove mineral deposits. *Do not use on marble or stone
  • Cleaning the kitchen - At full strength, vinegar can be used to disinfect cutting boards, sterling silver, glassware (combine it with a little olive oil), unclog drains (¼ baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, be sure to cover the drain tightly), and high grade stainless steel. 
  • Laundry - At full strength, you can spray vinegar on stained white clothing before washing them (before the stain dries). To restore dingy whites and eliminate tough mildew, soak your load in non-bleach detergent with one cup of vinegar before putting the load into the washer. *Do not combine with chlorine bleach
  • Appliance maintenance - Microwave a small bowl with a little vinegar for a few minutes to make cleaning the inside easier. Pour diluted vinegar into your coffee maker (once a month) and run fresh water before the next use.  
Cleaning the house - When diluted (1:1 ratio), you can use it to clean windows, title and grout (let it soak for an hour), carpet stains, upholstery, and showerheads, faucets, toilet bowls, and sinks to remove mineral deposits. *Do not use on marble or stone

Cleaning the kitchen - At full strength, vinegar can be used to disinfect cutting boards, sterling silver, glassware (combine it with a little olive oil), unclog drains (¼ baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, be sure to cover the drain tightly), and high grade stainless steel. 

Laundry - At full strength, you can spray vinegar on stained white clothing before washing them (before the stain dries). To restore dingy whites and eliminate tough mildew, soak your load in non-bleach detergent with one cup of vinegar before putting the load into the washer. *Do not combine with chlorine bleach

Appliance maintenance - Microwave a small bowl with a little vinegar for a few minutes to make cleaning the inside easier. Pour diluted vinegar into your coffee maker (once a month) and run fresh water before the next use. 

Enjoy this miracle product as an environmentally-friendly substitute in your household cleaning and be sure to share its many uses with your friends! 
Avoid idling near schoolchildren. Turn off your engine while waiting to pick up your child after school. Many anti-idling programs focus on schools so many may have resources available, such as a comfortable waiting location for caregivers.

Instead of using drive-thru windows, park your vehicle and walk into coffee shops, restaurants, banks and pharmacies.

 If you’re waiting for someone in a parking lot in warm weather, park in the shade if available and open the windows to catch a cross breeze.

Reduce windshield defrost time in the winter months by securing a sunshade or towels on the outside of the windshield overnight.

Old habits can be hard to break. Place a decal or sticker on the edge of your windshield to remind yourself to not idle when you don’t need to.

 If you’re looking to purchase a vehicle, opt for one that is hybrid or has stop-start technology. Both automatically turn off the engine when they are not moving. Fully electric vehicles are another great option, since they produce no tailpipe emissions. 

If idling is necessary, try to keep it to no more than 5 minutes at a time.


Green Geek

Electronics reycling

Hi, Green Geek,

Where can one recycle hard drives or whole computers?

Sharon


Hi, Sharon, 


The most convenient way to stretch that e-recycling muscle is to take your devices to Staples. They have a free electronics recycling program that allows you to bring up to seven devices per day for recycling. Did I mention that it is free? 

It is so important that we practice e-recycling, especially as electronic waste grows to become the fastest-growing waste stream in the United States and in the world. Toxic substances such as lead, cadmium, and mercury are commonly found in our electronics, in addition to toxic chemical flame retardants. These chemicals end up in our landfill with detrimental long-term impacts to local water supplies (including oceans and rivers) and our air. 

Believe it or not, the precious metals found in electronic waste are also 40 to 50 times richer than mined ores, yet as a nation, we only recycle 25 percent of our electronic waste (e-waste). Admittedly, it can be difficult to find a reputable e-waste facility you can trust that won’t ship the waste off-shore, which is why I suggest the Staples e-recycling program.  

Staples partners with ERI, which has eight facilities here in the United States that house proprietary shredding and separating technologies. They are able to fulfill an annual capacity of shredding up to a billion pounds of electronics a year without any dependence on off-shore shipping. 

You can read more about ERI here as well as additional information on the Staples e-recycling program for businesses and retail. Thank you for your stewardship in the tech sector - it is much needed! 

Green Geek
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