Q: I’m doing my annual spring cleaning and I was hoping you might have some ideas for how to get rid of all the excess stuff in an environmentally responsible way. I’ve got loads of clothes, old makeup containers, old cleaning supplies, expired medications, a bag full of CFL light bulbs that I know I’m supposed to drop off somewhere, and some toys. I don’t just want to throw it all in the trash. Got any ideas?

A: Ahhh, spring cleaning. My favorite time of year. So what if it’s still snowing outside here in beautiful New Jersey? Technically, spring is here (check your calendars, folks, I know it’s hard to believe). A girl can dream, right? Let’s tackle each of your items separately, shall we? Then you can load it up in the back of your car, labeled by location and in order of your stops, and you’re ready to go.

Clothes: While places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army prefer "new or gently used items," they usually have contracts with textile manufacturers and will give your ratty old clothes to them. And here some crafty ideas on what to do with really old clothes.

Makeup containers: Thanks to a few makeup companies stepping up their recycling game, makeup containers can now be recycled instead of being thrown out. Some makeup companies, such as MAC and Kiehl’s, have recycling programs for their used containers in their retail locations. Origins goes a step further, offering a recycling program for any used makeup container, regardless of brand.

Household cleaning products: Old cleaning supplies are a bit tricky, because many cleaning products contain toxic chemicals. You should never pour these down the drain or just throw them out. The really dangerous stuff, that contains bleach or ammonia, should be tossed at your town’s household hazardous waste facility so it can be disposed of properly.

Expired medication: Contrary to popular belief, you should not flush these down the toilet, as traces of medication have been found in our water supply. Again, try contacting your local hazardous waste facility to find out if it takes expired meds, or call your local pharmacy, as some of them have recycling programs for medication (which doesn’t mean they’re just putting it back on the shelf ... we hope).

CFL bulbs: CFL bulbs, though touted by the EPA as being better for the environment, contain toxic mercury and therefore do need to be disposed of properly. Kudos to you for keeping that bag and not just trashing them. You can drop them off at Home Depot, which recently started a CFL bulb recycling program or check out earth911.org, where you can find even more safe and local disposal options.

Toys: There are lots of ways to get rid of old toys. If they’re in very good condition, try selling them. Or, the more surefire way to get rid of them quickly is to donate them, whether it be to Goodwill, a local church or synagogue running a toy drive, or a social service agency. What if your toys are too damaged or broken to donate? Unfortunately, you might just have to throw these away, though there are some places that will let you recycle them. For example, if you happen to live in the greater Cincinnati area, Toy Lab will pick up your old toys and make them into new ones.

Ahhh, all done. Spring cleaning is sure to make you feel good, so why not make yourself feel even better by doing it in an eco-friendly way?

— Chanie

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