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Milk Paint: Be Green Indoors!

Posted on July 31, 2014 by | Comments (1)

It’s easy to forget about our indoor environment when we are trying to be green, but did you know that the indoor air in an average home is 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air?  Given the amount of time we all spend indoors, I am always looking for ways to reduce the amount of chemicals in my house; however, there is nothing like preparing for a new baby to make you detoxify your home.  My desire to buy eco-friendly products goes into overdrive with the thought of a new little human in the house.  Not only do I want to support ethically and environmentally responsible companies, but I want to make sure the products I buy will pose as little risk to human health as possible.  And with a new baby comes lots of new product purchases!

When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, I decided to make the nursery as non-toxic as it could be.  Sounds easy, right?  Wrong!  It actually required a ton of online research to figure out exactly what I should avoid.  Did I mention I was also on a tight budget?  Sometimes buying a better product means spending more money, so I had to prioritize and figure out what changes I could afford to make.  One of the things I decided to reduce in the nursery were VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).  VOCs are chemicals that slowly evaporate, or off-gas, compromising the indoor air quality of your home.  According to the EPA, health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system, and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in animals, including humans. Unfortunately, we live in a chemical world and lots of household products contain VOCs.  I wanted to paint both a crib and dresser for the new baby and avoiding VOCs in my painting projects was an easy change to make.  Plus, pregnant women are advised to limit exposure to latex paint fumes anyways, so I wasn’t about to do any painting unless I could find an alternative. 

I could have opted for a low-VOC or zero-VOC latex paint, which would avoid most (but not all) of the harmful vapors – but there is something even better.  Enter milk paint!  Milk paint has been around a very long time, you can even make it yourself because the ingredients are so basic.  It’s typically made with (you guessed it) milk protein, limestone, clay, chalk, iron oxides for color, and absolutely no VOCs.  It’s often used when going for a vintage or distressed look on furniture, but you can use it for just about any job you can think of.  I wasn’t going for a distressed look, but I did want something environmentally friendly, so I decided to give it a try. 

I wanted a light aqua color for the crib and a happy yellow color for the dresser, and I found the perfect palette with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint from a local retailer in Virginia Beach, Miss Flibbertigibbet.  The crib was unfinished beech wood so it was ready to paint, but the dresser was a used purchase that was already painted white.  Another reason milk paint is so great – you don’t need to strip old paint or sand it before putting on new paint!  You can add a bonding agent to your milk paint and slap it right on there.  It makes updating or upcycling projects even easier.  Milk paint comes in powder form and you mix it with water when you are ready to use it, so there is a little bit of a learning curve.  For example, you need to make sure it is mixed well or you will end up with chunks at the bottom of your cup that will put streaks in your finished project (lesson learned), but once mixed correctly it’s just like using regular paint.   You also need to use a top coat with milk paint  – I opted for hemp seed oil on the crib, and a combination of hemp seed oil and furniture wax on the dresser.  These top coats are much more environmentally friendly than a laquer (again, think off-gassing), but still protect the paint and give it a nice sheen. Check out the photos of my finished products!

The finished dresser painted in "Mustard Seed Yellow" mixed with a little "Ironstone" to lighten it up a bit.

The finished dresser painted in “Mustard Seed Yellow” mixed with a little “Ironstone” to lighten it up a bit.


The finished crib painted in "Eulalie's Sky".

The finished crib painted in “Eulalie’s Sky”.


My other "finished product", Cora with big sister Madelyn.

My other “finished product”, Cora with big sister Madelyn.

Another reason I love milk paint is storage and disposal.  Paints are normally classified as Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), and should be disposed of at HHW disposal facility, due to all of the chemicals present.  You can’t pour it down the drain or put it out with your trash.  Pouring it down a household drain will send it to a HRSD wastewater treatment plant, which is not designed to remove many of the chemicals in paint and other household products.  Milk paint, on the other hand, has an infinite shelf life when left in its powder form, so whatever you don’t use can be sealed back up for the next project and you don’t need to worry about it creating a hazardous storage area in your garage.  Once you have mixed the paint with water, any leftovers can go out with your trash.

I hope this encourages you to green your own indoor space.  Don’t be afraid to give milk paint a try, and remember to always dispose of household chemicals properly.

Posted in: Going Green, Household tips, Reduce reuse and recycle

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You Asked – We Answered!

Posted on July 28, 2014 by | Comments Off

RMTL-logo-colorThe other day a visitor to our website posed the question, “How can government place more importance on recycling?” It’s such an important topic that we thought we’d share our thoughts on the subject here on the blog.

While recycling is an issue of importance all across the U.S., most recycling initiatives are run by state and local governments – not the federal government. For example, here in Virginia, most curbside recycling programs are the result of a 1989 Virginia Department of Environmental Quality mandate that each city, county, town or regional authority establish recycling programs. At the time, the goal was to recover at least 25 percent of the trash typically sent to the landfill but the benchmark was later amended so smaller cities/counties were only charged with meeting 15 percent of trash collected, while larger cities/counties were required to meet the 25 percent mark.

To help people see the importance of recycling, most state and local governments engage in widespread outreach on the issues of waste reduction and recycling. These outreach initiatives educate people about the important role recycling plays in the management of natural resources, the economy, and environmental health. That’s exactly what we do here at!

And while it is very important for people to use their local recycling program to keep trash out of the landfill, it is equally important that people recycle well.


Look at all that contamination!

To recycle well you must place only clean, accepted items into the recycling bin. Sorting out unaccepted items is a huge headache for your MRF (materials recovery facility). Not to mention the expensive damage caused to machinery when unaccepted items (like plastic bags) are processed! Recycling well improves efficiency, decreases expensive repairs and provides a better end product.

It’s also important for people to support businesses that use recycled content in their products. We call this ‘closing the loop.’  The only way a recycling system can be successful in the U.S. is if there are businesses and manufactures looking to buy the materials produced by the recycling cycle – namely metals, glass and plastics. And as new technology emerges, more and more materials are able to be accepted for recycling. The markets for these materials are constantly changing but at the end of the day it’s really all about supply and demand!

To learn more, check out these innovative recycling initiatives that are happening right here in the good old US of A!

  • Recycling Perks – A rewards system to get citizens to participate in recycling programs. Points are earned each time a residents puts their recycling out for pickup.
  • Pay-as-You-Throw – Residents purchase special imprinted trash bags for trash disposal. This is a powerful economic incentive for residents to reduce waste by making them pay for what they throw away.
  • Zero Landfill – A growing trend among small and large businesses alike. Organizations find creative solutions for dealing with waste instead of sending it to the landfill – like composting food waste and recycling wooden pallets. Here’s a great article from 2012 on the movement from USA Today.



Do you have a local environmental question? If so, the experts at are always happy to help!

Posted in: plastic bags, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Serve Food on a Plate – A Plate Made of Food!

Posted on July 22, 2014 by | Comments Off

mini-burger-729162-mThat paper, plastic or Styrofoam plate you eat your burger off of at the neighbor’s barbeque is only used for a good 5 minutes before you scarf down the grub and chuck the plate in the garbage!  What a sad, short, insignificant life – except when you consider it will go on to live dozens, even hundreds of years in the landfill!

Instead of relying on seemingly immortal tableware at your next barbeque, consider using pieces with a shorter life expectancy like those made of bioplastics!

Biodegradable disposables, aka “bioplastics”, are growing in popularity.  Bioplastics can be made out of a variety of things including your favorite BBQ sides: corn, potatoes and sugar!  These renewable plant resources can be converted into a substance that can be used to create items such as plates, cups, containers even bags!

I know what you’re thinking.  Does that mean a bioplastic plate is edible?  Yes and no. It depends which kind you get and I highly recommend reading all labels and, well, just refraining from eating plates of any kind.  A plate made out of bagasse sugarcane, for example, will not taste like sugarcane.  And a plate made of corn will not carry corn allergens so it’s safe for use by anyone.   

The best part about these bioplastics?  They decompose in less than 50-150 DAYS.  Not years.  Days.  Big difference.

Immortal tableware, you’ve met your match!

Posted in: Going Green, Household tips, Reduce reuse and recycle

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The Early Bird Gets The…Deal

Posted on July 17, 2014 by | Comments Off

GolfTourneyLogo_webAttention all Hampton Roads golfers: we’ve got an early bird special you don’t want to miss! Register yourself or a group of four to play in the inaugural Keep Hampton Roads Beautiful Golf Tournament now through August 15th and get the “Go Green package” for FREE. That’s a $25 value per person and it includes a mulligan, raffle ticket, and contest entry! Chesapeake’s Greenbrier Country Club will host the tournament on October 13th and activities will kick off at 10 am. We’ve got so many exciting things planned for the day including contests, raffles, prizes and a delicious awards dinner from Outback Steakhouse. Sound like fun? It will be! And it will also be a great opportunity to network with other people and organizations dedicated to keeping Hampton Roads a clean, green place to live, work and play.

askHRgreen is partnering with Keep Virginia Beautiful (KVB) for this inaugural event to raise money for recycling education, litter prevention and community beautification projects right here in Hampton Roads. KVB is a 501 (c)3 non-profit charitable organization with the mission of engaging and uniting Virginians to improve our natural and scenic environment. As the state affiliate for the national organization, Keep America Beautiful, KVB focuses on litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling, beautification and environmental education with the goal of creating vibrant, sustainable communities across Virginia.

askHRgreen previously partnered with KVB to bring one of 10 national kickoffs to Hampton Roads during Keep America Beautiful’s 2012 Great American CleanupTM National Action Days. The Great American CleanupTM is the largest grassroots community involvement program in the United States. Based upon the great successes of our previous partnerships – we know this inaugural golf tournament will grow to be one of the premier tournaments in the region.

Hurry, the early bird discount ends on August 15th…so sign up today! For more information on tournament registration or sponsorship opportunities, visit

Posted in: Beautification, Community events, Reduce reuse and recycle

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High School Students Go Green With Floating Wetlands

Posted on July 16, 2014 by | Comments Off

The students planted native plants in the islands.

Students planted native plants in the islands.

Ocean Lakes High School, HRSD, and just teamed up to reduce stormwater pollution!  You may be thinking, “but HRSD cleans the wastewater that leaves our homes, not the stormwater runoff from the streets”, and you’re right.  When it rains, stormwater enters the storm drain system and flows directly into local waterways without being cleaned at a treatment plant.  That’s why it is so important that we ALL do our part to reduce stormwater pollution!  Like our neighborhoods, schools, and businesses, HRSD’s Atlantic Treatment Plant in Virginia Beach includes parking lots and other hard nonabsorbent surfaces.  Rain can pick up all kinds of pollutants as it travels over these hard surfaces.  At the plant, runoff washes into stormwater retention ponds, which ultimately flow into nearby Lake Tecumseh. 

After they were planted the islands were launched in the stormwater pond.

After they were planted, the islands were launched in the stormwater pond.

In order to reduce pollution entering the lake, Laura Wood’s Advanced Placement Environmental Science students from Ocean Lakes High School helped install two floating wetlands in one of HRSD’s stormwater retention ponds.  Floating wetlands are man-made but mimic natural wetlands and are exactly what they sound like – islands of plants floating around in a pond.  The plant roots grow through the “islands” and down to the water where they improve water quality by intercepting excess nutrients and trapping sediment and other pollutants.  I know – so cool.

What’s even cooler?  All of the plants for the islands were purchased with a mini-grant from  If you haven’t heard of the mini grant program, make sure to check out this great funding opportunity for teachers and other youth leaders.  In May, the students planted the islands and launched them in the pond close to the site of stormwater influent.  They worked hard and had a lot of fun doing it!   HRSD scientists also showed the students how to collect water samples from the pond.  Samples will continue to be collected and analyzed to monitor the impact of the floating wetlands on water quality.

Students collected water samples so that water quality can be monitored in the pond.

Students collected water samples so that water quality can be monitored in the pond.

But we are not the only ones who appreciate their effort…the students received a Green in Action Award from the Green Education Foundation for this project!  Learn more about how your actions impact our waterways and join us in reducing stormwater pollution today.

Posted in: For educators, Going Green, Keeping storm drains free, Lawn and landscape, Uncategorized, Waterways

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