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Memo: Informative Report of Household Waste Management

To: The Honorable Winona I. Z., Mayor of Emerald City

From: Ray W., Household Waste Management Consultant, Capitol Hill Office Natural Habitat

Date: Nov 9, 2011

Subject: Informative Report of Household Waste Management for Mr. Colin S.

On October 23, 2011, a letter from Mr. S. was received. In his letter, he asked about the potential benefits of having us do a consultation for him. He stated that he had recently bought an old house, which was built in 1909, and that he was interested in the restoration of it. Mr. S’s letter was processed and a reply to his request was sent on October 25, 2011. Having reviewed the information that Mr. S. included in his initial request, he was informed of three of the most salient advantages of having a consultation. He was invited to schedule a first-time complimentary consultation. This appointment was scheduled for October 29. The following day, October 30, I visited Mr. S’s house and established that the house was in poor shape. The house’s pipes and electrical wirings were old and clearly damaged. Also, the walls, windows, floors, and ceilings were damaged as well. The insulation was another issue, which went against the consolidation of a safe, comfortable environment.

Having visited Mr. S’s house it becomes clear that the renovation of the house’s condition is not only necessary for increasing its value, but also to make it safer and healthier. Upon considering the needed reconstructions it is also important to imply the aspects of waste disposal. Waste is one of mankind’s most pressing realities. In fact, “waste is directly linked to human development, both technological and social. The compositions of different wastes have varied over time and location, with industrial development and innovation being directly linked to waste materials” (Ghiban, Negoita, and Negoita 73). Due to this inescapable reality, it will be necessary to carefully consider the way through which the waste will be disposed of off, once the update has been made. Furthermore, “the huge amounts of waste produced in developed countries are a serious environmental concern” (Cai and Sun 239). Finally, it will be essential to come up with a plan that reconciles economy, environmental friendliness, and the property’s overall structural and architectural integrity. Based on all of this it becomes clear that updating Mr. S’s 1909 Craftsman house is necessary not only to guarantee the safety and health of its tenants but also to move forward with Emerald City’s “greener place to live” initiative. In addressing this need, the following problem comes up: how best to go about updating Mr. S’s 1909 Craftsman foursquare home in order to ascertain environmental friendless and efficient waste disposal.

Wall Covering:

When considering the wall covering, it is important to consider that they are probably covered with paint high in lead. It is probable that some paintwork was done on the house since it was built. Yet, considering that the house is in a shabby condition and that lead paint was widely used at the time the house was built, it is likely that the house’s walls are impregnated with high levels of lead. This is something that must be addressed immediately given “lead paint is primarily a concern when it flakes or forms dust (such as that caused by scraping or dry sanding)” (King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks 9). Based on this, it will be necessary to scrape the walls in a careful manner. All workers will have to be equipped with appropriate gear to protect them from potential health hazards. Having removed the lead from the walls it will be necessary to consider alternatives to renovate the walls. Mr. S. will have the option of once again using paint, or he may choose to go with wallpapers. Whatever option Mr. S. decides to go with it is important to consider that there are alternatives (for both paint and wallpapers) that allow for reconciling environmental friendliness with structural/architectural integrity. However, it is unlikely that it will be possible to reconcile both of the aforementioned aspects of the update with the economy. The thing about environmentally friendly products, such as water-based wallpapers and paints that emit low levels of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC) is that they are much more environmentally friendly (as well as safe/healthy for humans), but they are more expensive. Considering that Mr. S. is interested in economizing given that his resources at present are scarce it would be recommended to go with low-VOC paints. This paint will enable the minimization of VOC emissions amount within the house, and it is a more affordable option (relative to milk paint or water-based wallpapers). The ideal option would be to use (water-based) milk paint or water-based wallpapers, but these options are more expensive and it is important to note that Mr. S.must worry about other aspects of the update.

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The house’s floors, as mentioned by Mr. S., are made of oak wood (with walnut inlay); the bedrooms and the attic have fir floors. In both instances, the floors are the ones that were originally put in place when the house was built. Given that wooden floors are environmentally friendly it becomes clear that Mr. S. simply needs to refine the wood floors so that they are renovated. The floors are made with old-growth wood, which is not as environmentally friendly as sustainable wood, but the risk of any health hazard can be minimized by simply pursuing the floors’ refinishing using non-toxic finishes. This option is more expensive than standard finishing, but it is certainly more economical than replacing the entire floors altogether (either with sustainable wood or with carpets). Again, this would be a process that could be developed seamlessly without Mr. S. having to incur in overly elevated costs.

Plumbing and Ductwork:

It became clear upon inspecting Mr. S’s house that work must be done in the house’s plumbing and ductwork. The plumbing and ductwork have not been renovated, since 1909 when the house was built. This constitutes a significant health hazard given “old plumbing fixtures (faucets) often contain lead solder and leaded brass, as well, which can leach into drinking water” (King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks 9). Based on this it becomes clear that both the plumbing and ductwork should be replaced. However, considering that this might be too expensive for the customer, it would be worthwhile considering treatment options in order to minimize lead emissions. Another option so as to protect the people living in the house from water poisoning would be to install filters/purifiers so as to guarantee that no harm is being inflicted on the tenants. Moving on to considering the house’s toilets, it is important that they are removed (not reused) given that the waste massive amounts of water. It is known that “compared to a new 1.6 gallon-per-flush (GPF) toilet, a typical 5 GPF toilet—commonly manufactured before 1980—will waste over 12,400 gallons and $141 in water and sewer costs per year” (King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks 9). Replacing the toilets presently installed with more efficient ones would not be expensive. Furthermore, it would be a good investment. Mr. S. would be saving hundreds of dollars every year in utilities.

Electric Fixtures and Appliances:

First of all, it is important to consider the following: “Old appliances, water heaters, furnaces, and boilers should only be reused if they meet current energy conservation and safety standards” (King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks 9). Considering that the house’s water radiator heating system and the accompanying gas-powered boiler are four years old it seems in principle that they need not be replaced (they can be reused). The water tank, however, is a different matter. Mr. S. reports that the 82-gallon electric hot water tank is 24 years old, which sentences that it is not up-to-date with today’s energy conservation and safety standards. At this point, it is recommended that the water tank is replaced with a newer, safer, and a more efficient one. Also, the lighting fixtures should be disposed of, since they possess mercury, PCBs, and arsenic. Also, “pre-1978 fluorescent light fixture ballasts may have carcinogenic PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls)” (Ittiravivongs 77). Modern fixtures are economic, environmentally safe, and they are also energy saving, which means that it is a worthwhile investment for Mr. S. as it will save him money in the mid-to-long term.

Windows and Doors:

Ideally, it would be advisable for Mr. S. to replace windows and the window panes and doors given that they fail to deliver in terms of both energy efficiency and insulation. However, considering that this could potentially represent a significant investment (one that Mr. S. cannot indulge in at present) an offered alternative consists of treating the panes with specialized, environmentally friendly products so that their toxic waste emissions are reduced to the minimum. Furthermore, in terms of making the home more pleasing, it would be advisable for Mr. S. to install curtains, draperies, or fabric blinds. It would be best to use the fabric blinds given that they are greener (relative to other kinds of economic blinds), and they are easier to tend to and clean up (relative to curtains and draperies).

Today significant efforts are being put into making the environment cleaner and safer. In this context, recycling has become very important, as has been adequate disposable waste material. Throughout the updating process, there will be certain objects that will not be reused. This will require their disposal, but here again, it becomes very important to handle the waste in a responsible way. One way of efficiently disposing of the waste is to use for compost. Once the house’s renovation is completed, there will be waste material that can be transformed into compost. This option will be recommended to Mr. S.; “composting is considered the best option for recycling these types of waste because of the particular characteristics of the waste and also because the composting process is technologically and economically viable” (Lopez-Mosquera, et al. 856). It is not only important to make Mr. S.’s house environmentally friendly, but also to try and dispose of its unfriendly materials in an environmentally friendly manner.

Finally, it is important to mention that the aforementioned options will be discussed in greater detail with Mr. S. on November 15, once he returns from the business trip. I will give a presentation to him on this date and guide him through the process of selection and installation of whatever updates he ultimately approves. The idea is for the entire process to be handled in an as healthy and gentle manner as possible. This is what Mr. S. wants, and this is certainly what we want, too. Thanks for your interest in the consultation process and in the greener society initiative that we are trying to launch. I look forward to continuing to help in achieving the goal of making Emerald City a better place to live.

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