YES! But How? :: Paint Job


Safe Painting, Spam, Vegetable Oil Soap, Aprovecho Stoves


I am planning to repaint my house this summer. Any tips on how I should go about this to safeguard my health and the environment?

There are eight things to remember when painting:

  1. Read the label and product literature. In addition to general information, look for:
    VOC, or volatile organic content. Usually listed in grams per liter, this can range from 5 to 200. Using the product with the lowest VOC content will yield the lowest overall health risk.
    Solid Content. Solids—or pigments—can range in concentration from 25 to 45 percent by volume. The higher the percent solids, the fewer volatiles in the paint.
  2. Buy the right amount of paint for the job. Before you begin a painting project, measure the area first and calculate the area to be painted (height multiplied by width equals total square feet).
    One gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet. Take into account that you may need to paint more than one coat.
  3. Reuse turpentine and paint thinners. Simply allow used thinner or turpentine to stand in a closed, labeled container until paint or dirt particles settle to the bottom. Pour off the clear liquid and reuse.
  4. Avoid cleaning brushes and rollers. Paint brushes and rollers used for an on-going project can be saved up to a week, without cleaning at all. Simply wrap the brush or roller snugly in a plastic bag, such as a bread or produce bag. Squeeze out air pockets and store away from light. The paint won't dry because air can't get to it. Unwrap the brush or roller and continue with the job.
    This works for water- and oil-based paints and stains. It does not work for varnishes or lacquer.
  5. Use natural brush cleaners. Turpentine, made from the resin of coniferous trees, is an environmentally friendly solvent. It is excellent for cleaning brushes used with oil-based paints and for cleaning up small drips. Use a short glass jar, filled no higher than the bristles. Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid. After cleaning the brush, rinse with water.
  6. Circulate air. To reduce the impact of indoor air pollutants, circulate fresh air through your house as often as possible. Avoid the use of spray paints altogether. When painting ceilings, be sure to provide cross-ventilation to remove paint fumes. Fumes rise as paint dries, and so the fumes dissipate more slowly from ceilings, because there's no air above the paint. You can reduce fresh paint odors by
    placing a small dish of white vinegar in the room.
  7. Beware of old lead paint. Paint manufactured before the 1970s often contains lead, which has harmful effects on health and children's development. If the paint is still in good shape, you can paint over it, or leave it be—lead is poisonous only if ingested or inhaled. If paint must be removed in small areas, wet the surface and scrape carefully. Clean up with trisodium phosphate (TSP). For large areas, call in a professional certified in lead abatement.
  8. Remember the BUD rule. Buy no more product than you need. Use up all the product you buy. Dispose of leftovers in a safe, responsible manner.
    Greg Seaman,


I am overwhelmed with e-mail spam. Does it help to take advantage of the “remove me from your list” links at the bottom of some spam, or does that just confirm that I am receiving the messages? Is there anything else I can do to avoid getting spam?

Never click any link that invites you to unsubscribe when you receive spam. Doing so tells spammers that the e-mail account is active, resulting in more spam messages for you.
To avoid spam, Microsoft cautions against sharing e-mail or instant message addresses. Instead:

  • Share your primary e-mail address only with people you know. Avoid listing your e-mail address in large Internet directories and job-posting websites. Don't even post it on your own website.
  • Set up an e-mail address dedicated solely to Web transactions. Consider using a free e-mail service to help keep your primary e-mail address private. When you get too much spam there, drop that address for a new one.
  • Create an e-mail name that's tough to crack. Try a combination of letters, numbers, and other characters. Microsoft gives the example [email protected] or [email protected] (substituting zero for the letter “O”). Research shows that people with complicated names get less spam.
  • Disguise your e-mail address when you post it to a newsgroup, chat room, bulletin board, or other public Web page. Example: janesmith AT example DOT com. This way, a person can interpret your address, but the automated programs that spammers use often cannot.

—Michael Leonen


In the Fall 2003 “Yes, But How?,” I noticed a question from a reader about recycling cooking oil. In addition to the excellent ideas listed, I would like to add another way of recycling oil.

Vegetable oil, even used or rancid, can be recycled into soap. After reading about a Japanese group making recycled oil soap in the book Living Lightly, by Walter and Dorothy Schwarz, I decided to try it myself. Although it was necessary to heavily scent the soap with essential oils to cover up the odor of fried food, the soap lathers nicely, and is gentle on the skin. The lye alters the oil enough that even somewhat rancid oil does not affect the final product significantly.

After a few attempts, I found that I still needed to add some coconut and palm oil as the original recipe for “virgin” soap requires. However, my soap is now composed of more than 50 percent recycled oils, and the cost of making the soap has dropped significantly.

—Sigrid Reymond


Smoke-free, fuel-efficient stoves designed by Aprovecho researchers are meant to be built—not bought—by anyone, anywhere from the materials available at home, a recycling center, or the local dump.

Aprovecho has developed designs and instructions for stoves to be used as griddles, to boil water, and to bake bread. They developed instructions on how to build grills, cob ovens, solar cookers, solar water heaters, and wood-fired food dehydrators.

They also designed an insulated box (called a “hay box”) inside which heated water or rice can be placed to finish cooking itself with its own heat, rather than continuing to use outside energy to simmer the substance. Originally insulated with hay, the design now suggests using a variety of materials.

These designs are all free from Aprovecho.

For more information write to: Aprovecho Research Center, 80574 Hazelton Road, Cottage Grove, Oregon 97424-8521. You can also call 541/942-8198, e-mail [email protected], or visit their website at .

—Lisa Kundrat

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