Messy habits require eco-friendly spring cleaning

Columnist Marisa Steinberg analyzes her untidy habits, and offers insights to safe dumping facilities.

While I did not have a very restrictive upbringing, I did relish in several newly granted freedoms that came with my transition to college a few years ago.

The ability to wander around at all hours of the night and sleep until 3 p.m. uninterrupted by the tsk-tsking from my parents was of great value to me. But no liberty delighted me so much as having the state of room free from my mother’s critical eye. Without her here to monitor my living quarters, I could revert to my natural sloppy, hoarding ways.

Tidiness was never in the cards for me. My love of fashion is constantly threatened by my tendency to douse myself in coffee. The layer of crumbs on my kitchen table is materializing into the semblance of a placemat at an unsettling speed. The sound of a vacuum literally puts me to sleep – my mother would actually do a lap with it around the living room to sedate me in my infancy.

So, I have very little room to push an end-of-semester dorm or apartment cleanout on you.

Accordingly, I won’t ask you to partake in unreasonable tasks like clearing out the junk mail accumulating in your TUmail inbox – my own virtual stockpile of unread messages is just 20 shy of 4,000 – or breaking out the Swiffer.

Let’s just focus on those household tasks that could end up helping the planet in some way. It’s time to get rid of those unwanted items that so sneakily accumulate and then assimilate themselves into our daily lives, blinding us to the fact that they’d be better off on their way to the recycling center. Bedside pile of magazines that has inadvertently become a coffee table, I’m looking at you.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans use their cell phones for an average of 18 months before purchasing a new one. If you chronically engage in drunk dialing and consequently drunk dropping, this time span may be even shorter. Even worse than realizing that all your contacts won’t automatically sync to your new phone is the distress at abandoning your old one. No one wants to toss their broken $300 iPhone in the trash next to last night’s empty case of beer. Plus, if relegated to a landfill, potentially hazardous substances from the phone could seep into the ground. Properly recycle yours at Radio Shack at 1501 N. Broad St.

Along with the year’s cell phone casualties, the end of the semester brings with it heaps of unwanted apartment goods. If you found out that your roomie for next year already has the comfiest couch in the world and you don’t know what to do with the one your aunt passed on to you, don’t send it to a landfill. Give it the chance to be someone else’s veg-out zone by bringing it to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore shop at 2930 Jasper St., or try your luck with a strategically worded Craigslist post.

What better way to show your hatred of Calculus II than by properly disposing of the batteries that fueled all those endless nights with your TI-83? If deposited at landfills, batteries, like cell phones, can leak hazardous chemicals into soil and even groundwater. Prevent this by taking your old rechargeable batteries to the Office of Sustainability in the lower level of Mitten Hall. For single use batteries, make a trip to Save Some Green at 2005 Chestnut St., which also takes inkjet cartridges.

For all the other miscellaneous unwanted items you stumble across while discarding the remains of Spring 2012, always check to see if it can be recycled nearby. is a great resource for finding a sustainable means of disposing random objects.

Did you know you can recycle all the corks from that wine phase you went through this semester at the Whole Foods at 2001 Pennsylvania Ave.? If you’re not quick enough to tell the Fresh Grocer cashier that you have your reusable bag with you, you can quickly right the wrong by bringing the resulting plastic bag to numerous places on campus including the recycling bins in the main lobby of Anderson and Alter halls. When months of pounding the broken glass-covered pavement of Philly have rendered your sneakers sole-less, bring them to Rittenhouse Sports Specialties at 1729 Chestnut St. The athletic outfitter partners with Nike to send battered kicks to be recycled into reusable material.

To recycle from home, fill up your blue bin with any plastics labeled No. 1 through No. 7, aluminum cans, computer paper, corrugated cardboard, milk and juice cartons, brown, clear and green glass containers, among other items. Don’t have a blue bin decorating your little patch of North Philly paradise? Head to a Recycling Drop-Off Center – the closest is 3033 S. 63rd St. – to pick one up for free or really get in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” spirit and label any sturdy container you have with the word “Recycling.” The city will pick up recyclables from both.

Now that you’re an adult who has finished another year of college and don’t have anyone to tell you to pick up your socks or clean up the Chinese food you spill on the floor, it’s important to have a little bit of a cleaning routine.

Rounding up items you no longer use and responsibly disposing of them is just enough of an effort to keep your place tidy while maintaining a sense of independence from those restrictive years under your parents’ roof. If even that feels like a compromise of your freedoms, you could just call your clean out an early Mother’s Day present, right?

Marisa Steinberg can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. There are also places to recycle computers, but some of them charge you. A better option I feel for recycling old computers, is to sell them on ebay, or give them to a geek you know (remove the harddrive). This way you can make some money, and someone will get good use out of it. I personally love old computers, so many parts in it I can easily use in one of my inventions. I did notice a stock pile of old brooms and mops in my basement, and I’m not sure how to dispose of them properly. They have metal so should be able to get recycled but I don’t think they can. Also, if you use a Swiffer mop, don’t use the one time use pads, but buy a micro-fiber cloth for it. I got some good hints on I hope I helped someone, and someone can answer my question about disposing mops and brooms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.