Author Archive | Kristina

Making Sense of the Massachusetts Bottle Bill

MAking Sense of the MA Bottle Bill |


This November, Massachusetts voters are being asked whether or not they want to expand our current “Bottle Bill” to cover more types of bottles and cans.

You’d think that I would be all for the bottle bill.  In theory, I am.  More recycling, great!  But I had a lot of trouble with this one.   I have been thinking and talking to so many people about this.  A big issue was  separating facts from opinions and spin, on both sides of this issue.  I tried really hard to find independent data to verify various claims on both sides of the argument.  But I’ll admit, it was tough.  Below are my findings.  I tried to be objective, but some claims just didn’t make sense to me.  And I called them out.  But you decide.

Proposed Law

Let’s look at the actual wording of the original bill.  I refuse to believe any TV ad, articles or other paraphrases.

Please don’t crucify me if I oversimplified things here and there.  I’m trying to describe the law as accurately as possible without over complicating and confusing people. 

  • Expands the types of bottles/cans covered by the existing 5 cent deposit law. It will expand the current deposit system to cover other non carbonated non-alcoholic beverages in liquid form.  “excludes beverages that are primarily derived from dairy products, infant formula, united states food and drug administration-approved medicines,”.  Contains such things as water, juice, and tea.
  • The amount of this deposit (currently 5 cents) would be evaluated every 5 years and adjusted based on the consumer price index.
  • Increase the minimum handling fee that grocery stores and redemption centers are paid for returning the bottles/cans to the bottler/distributor. This is something I didn’t know about before.  Stores/redemption centers are paid by makers/distributors of the beverages for handling the returns.  Depending on who is accepting the returned bottle, the fee varies currently.  This law would make all handling fees 3.5 cents per bottle.  This is an increase from 2.25 cents for distributors.  It is an increase from 1 cent for bottlers.  So for example, Coke currently pays Stop ‘n Shop 1 cent per bottle to handle taking back a coke bottle/can.  This fee will increase to 3.5 cents.
  • The handling fee is assessed every 5 years by the secretary of the executive office of energy and environmental affairs and adjusted based on the consumer price index.
  • NEW: Establishes a Clean Environment Fund where abandoned deposits go. “Amounts deposited in said fund shall be used, subject to appropriation, for programs including but not limited to projects supporting the proper management of solid waste, water resource protection, parkland, urban forestry, air quality and climate protection.”  The way this is worded, the funds could be used for other purposes.
  • NEW: Small dealers can apply for an exemption so that they are not required to accept empty containers. 


The Claims

It really annoys me that in the official “Massachusetts Information For Voters 2014 Ballot Questions” brochure put out by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the for and against sections are written by proponents and opponents of the ballot question. Of course, each group spins it for their own gain.  You won’t hear anything negative in the FORs nor positive in the AGAINST.  I just want the truth, without the spin, and let me decide.  I don’t mind a few – hey that means this will/could happen, but let me decide with ALL the facts not just the ones that support your argument.

Here is my attempt to “fact check” the claims made by each side.  I tried to remain objective here as much as possible, but in the end I, of course, ended up with an opinion about these “facts”.  I have shared those with you, but please I urge you to make up your own mind. Maybe you don’t agree with me.  That’s fine.


Before I get into their claims, who is FOR this bill:  environmental groups like MassPIRG, Sierra Club, various local Climate action networks; League of Women Voters; health organizations like Leukemia and Lymphoma society and HealthLink; Government officials like representatives, senators and mayors. 

How much have they spent to educate voters:  $750,000

  • The Bottle bill works – 80% of beer and soda containers are redeemed/recycled. Only 23% of non-deposit containers are recycled.  I had a hard time figuring out if this was true or not.  What I looked at was a 2010 waste characterization study.  What is a waste characterication study?  MassDEP personnel literally sift through and sort trash to see what’s in there.  According to this study,  0% deposit aluminum cans were found in the trash.  0.5% of the total trash was plastic beverage bottles.  This doesn’t exactly prove that the recycling rates stated are correct, but it does tell me the aluminum cans, the ones that have a deposit currently, are NOT ending up in the trash.  And the plastic bottles, ones without the deposit, are.

My Conclusion: TRUE

  • Save municipalities up to $7 million. I looked at the study that came to this conclusion.  The most significant savings was estimated to come from reduce collection costs due to reduced items to collect.  This is the cost of the trucks driving around collecting trash/recycling.  The trucks still have to drive every street, ever week.  I just can’t believe that little bit of extra room in a truck will reduce the number of trucks thus reducing the cost.  However, if people return water bottles and the like instead of throwing them in the trash or on the ground, that will save cities and towns on “tipping fees”.  The cost of trash is 2 fold – one cost for trucks picking up the trash and a second cost, per ton, to dispose of the trash (tipping fee). It will also save a bit of labor picking up the litter.

My CONCLUSION: TRUE, but overstated

  • Less litter.   Someone will pick up those bottles and return them for the deposit. So this is probably true.


  • Curbside recycling doesn’t help these situations because people drink these away from the home.  This doesn’t really fly with me. OK, maybe you are more likely to drink a bottle of water than a soda on a soccer field, or out for the day, but why aren’t there recycling bins out and about like there are all the trash cans these bottles are ending up in?  Or why aren’t people taking them home to recycle?  This point says to me, we need more public recycling bins, not necessarily an expanded bottle bill.


  • Restores the Clean Environment fund. This was in the original bill in 1981.  In 2003, Gov. Mitt Romney dissolved this and many other ear-marked items and sent them to the general fund. This is a fact.  What isn’t made completely clear is that only a portion of the unclaimed deposits go to the fund.  Not sure what that is.  And it seems like it’s still subject to appropriation.  So we have to watch this one and make sure funds don’t get taken away like they did in 2003.

MY CONCLUSION: TRUE, but must be watched

  • Increased Responsibility.  Like so many other items that are short lived, there is a cost associated with the waste generated from these bottles.  Cities/Towns and residents are bearing most of the cost in higher trash/recycling fees.  Some believe that the producer of such items, should share in the cost a bit.  Producers will have to pay the dealer/distributor a higher handling fee for bringing the bottle back to them.  Currently, bottlers (The Coco-cola’s ) are paying distributors and dealers (Market Baskets’) 1 cent per bottle returned to them.  This would increase to 3.5 cents and cover a lot more bottles.  Is it less expensive to toss your bottles into your recycling bin at home, probably.  But cheaper for who?  Is increasing bottle deposits the best way to increase responsibility?  Maybe not.




Who is Against this bill:  Beverage Distributors and Bottlers: Beer Distributors of MA, Berkshire Brewing Co., Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England; Liquor stores, Grocery Stores: Big Y, Market Basket; Waste Disposal Companies

How much have the spent to educate voters:  $8 million

  • 90% of households have access to curbside and community recycling.   The original statement was that 90% had access to curbside recycling.  The FOR side called this out as untrue, so the AGAINST side clarified by saying they meant curbside and community access (a drop off location).  I started out combing through MassDEP data to figure out what percentage of households actually did have access to recycling.  Then I stopped.   This is the way I view it.  If your city/town does not provide any sort of trash and recycling service to you, what do you do with it?  You have to do something with your waste, right?  Some will hire a company to come pick it up at the curb. Some will bring it to a transfer station or dump.  In MA, there is a thing called a waste banNo person can toss anything that is commonly recyclable into the trash.  No person can bring said material to a landfill or incinerator.  So, even if your town/city does not provide any trash/recycling services you are still responsible for it, correct?  And since no one can toss recyclables into the trash or transport them, it is your and your trash/recycling person’s responsibility to make sure these items are are recycled.  So maybe the opponents fudged the truth on the recycling stat a bit.  But I’d argue that 100% have access to and are responsible for recycling already.  

MY CONCLUSION: TRUE, but it doesn’t matter


  • Waste taxpayer dollars on expanding an uneconomical 30 year old system. There are no details here.  I’m not sure where this figure comes from.  I can’t figure out what taxpayer dollars would be going toward.  The administration of the law perhaps?  From what I can tell, the government doesn’t get too involved in the process except that stores are responsible for reporting how much money they collected in deposits and how much they paid out to the alcoholic beverage commission monthly. ???


  • Raise your nickel deposit and additional fees every five years – without your vote. Yes the 5 cent deposit can be raised every five years based on the Consumer Price Index.  This is a percentage based on how much prices on goods and services have changed over the five years.   Also remember, that the “additional fees” mentioned here, are fees the bottlers are paying, not you.  Sure, they will threaten to raise the prices and pass this on to the consumer.  Studies have been done to show that the price of  a beverage in bottle bill vs non bottle bill states is the same.


  • The Recycling Rate will only increase less than 1%.   To evaluate this, you need to look closely and know a few recycling definitions.  When someone refers to the “recycling rate”, they are referring to the overall rate at which all material being discarded is recycled.  For example, if I discard 10 lbs worth of stuff and 7 lbs goes into my trash barrel and the other 3 lbs go into my recycle bin, I have a recycling rate of 30% (3/10 lbs).  According to my look at the waste characterization study, plastic bottles made up 0.5% of the waste.  So, as long as you are clear on what this means.  It’s probably pretty close.  Just be sure you realize that it is not disputing the 80% recycle rate claimed by proponents. 

MY CONCLUSION: TRUE, but make sure you understand what is being said

  •  More than $30 million of unclaimed nickels go to the state’s general fund not to environmental programs.  Under the current law, this is true.  The ballot question aims to change that.  As I said above, though, this will need to be watched.  However, the way this claim is worded, it makes people think that the money is still going to be going directly to the general fund, which, strictly speaking, it’s not.  A NO vote will continue to send the money to the general fund with no hopes of funding environmental issues.




Ever wonder what happens to the bottles/cans you return?  They are sold by the bottlers to scrap metal/plastic/glass dealers to be recycled.  Yes, SOLD, as in the bottlers are making money from the materials just like your curbside recycler does.  Actually they are making more than many of the curbside recyclers.  Since these bottles/cans are separated when they are returned, they are of a higher quality than single-stream recycables.  They command a higher price.  How much?  I don’t know.  But they are recouping some of the money they are spending on handling fees, maybe more.  

Why are the bottlers, distributors, and grocery stores lobbying so hard to get you to vote no?  In addition to the $8 million they’ve spent on this, they have spent who knows how much more money over the years to keep this bill from getting on the ballot or being passed by the legislature. Ask yourself why?  

Curbside recyclers are against this bill because it will take revenue out of their stream – less plastic bottles for them to sell.  So apparently there are enough of these bottles ending up in recycling bins to affect the recyclers.  I’m not sure what to make of this.  I see so many plastic bottles in the trash that I can’t imagine that the 20% or so that are recycled make that big of an impact.  But maybe 20% of a HUGE number is still a huge number and recyclers would rather see money being spent on encouraging people to recycle the 80% into their revenue stream.

The opposition urges us “Let’s stop throwing money at an inefficient system and invest in modern recycling technology”.  Sounds great!  Sign me up! Are they offering up the money to do this?  I agree that maybe the bottle bill system is redundant, but it works. Normal recycling without incentives (or penalties perhaps) just doesn’t get the job done as well. 

Yes it is a pain in the neck to lug these bottles back to the store/redemption center rather than throw them in your recycling bin.  But think about this, most of these items are not good for your health or are a waste of money.  Stop buying them and avoid the returns and cost all together.  If you feel you must buy bottled water, buy the larger sizes and fill your own bottle.  They are less expensive, no deposits and can still be recycled.

 Yes recycling is available to most residents now where it wasn’t when the bill was first introduced.  However, in all those 25+ years, people still aren’t taking advantage of this recycling- for one reason or another.  Unfortunately, it seems as though unless you hit people in their wallets, they don’t pay attention.  I don’t like that, but I see it more and more as reality.  Ask your friends who live in communities where they pay for bags/barrels of trash (Pay as You Throw, PAYT, systems).  Have they taken the time and  figured out how to reduce their trash to save some money?


Ultimately, I just wish everyone would be more reasonable and realistic.  Instead of fighting about this, can’t we all agree that 1) bottles create litter 2) they aren’t being recycled at a high rate  and 3) let’s ALL do something about it.  Heck, take an ever broader view and look at all waste.  Design the ideal system – easy, efficient, cost effective – and EVERYONE do their part.  Producers, consumers, stores, recyclers, government, EVERYONE!


But for now, I still need to decide how I will vote on Question 2…….




All The Cool Kids Pack Waste-Free Lunches: Wild Mint Shop {Review and Giveaway}


To Go Ware Bamboo Utensils {}

This post is sponsored by Green Sisterhood  but, as always, the opinions are my own.


I have been packing waste-free lunches since my children started school.  When they were young, they took whatever reusable items I used without question.  At around age 10, however, that started to change.  I’m starting to run into the “cool factor”.  Some of these items somehow aren’t cool anymore.  So far, water bottles and the lunch bag itself are fine.  Reusable snack bags and eating utensils, not so much.  When my 12 year old grabbed the bamboo reusable utensils I received for review from Wild Mint Shop and asked if she could use it, I knew I had a winner.  We passed the “cool” test!

Now, I’m not usually one for being trendy or giving in to such things.  Why can’t she just grab a metal spoon or fork from the drawer?  Sure, she could, but will she?  Probably not.  She’s 12.  Is this really a battle I want to fight?  Heck no.  In the end, as long as she’s not using a plastic disposable utensil and understands why she shouldn’t, I’m happy.  So if it means getting utensils made from sustainable bamboo in an awesome little case, why not!


Why Pack Waste-Free Lunches

There are so many reasons to pack a waste free lunch.  Wild Mint’s Lunch Savers tips and tricks guide sums it up fantastically – “Saving Your Money, Your Health and the Environment”.  If I were to write my own waste-free lunch guide, this would be it.  If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I am an engineer and I need facts and solutions.  This guide totally fits the bill!

Here are just a few facts from the guide:

  • By Wild Mint’s calculations and extensive chart, you could save over $400 per year per child by choosing reusable vs. disposable lunch packaging.
  • Many disposable packaging contains harmful chemicals which can leach into your food.  These chemicals can cause harm over time.
  • Packaged items often contain other undesirable ingredients like preservatives, and extra fat, sodium and sugar.
  • A school age child’s disposable lunch accounts for an estimated 67 pounds of trash per school year.
  • Plastic and Styrofoam do not break down over time and can stay in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years.


The guide goes on to point out what to look for in reusables and provides options on the site.  “At Wild Mint, we are passionate about helping families live healthier, safer, and more environmentally friendly lives.  On our website,, we offer a one-stop shopping destination where people can find only the best and safest products, information on toxic chemicals, healthy living tips, recipes, and more.”


How To Start

Just do it!  Pick one item or go all out.  Wild Mint’s How to Pack a Healthy, Non Toxic and “Green” Lunch for Children guide is a great place to start.  Most children in my area use reusable water bottles and reusable lunch bags so that’s always an easy place to start.  For me, I think the reusable bottle is a “no-brainer”.  If you are still buying prepackaged drinks, STOP!  Get a bottle and fill it.  You will save the cost of the bottle in no time.  We use ours daily for school, sports, and outings of all kinds. 

If your children are older, get their input. As I mentioned, I have already seen a small revolt against our reusable snack bags.  My kids tell me that the ones we have are too “little kiddish” looking.  So this year I will be letting them pick out their own designs.  My girls have each found patterns they love on Wild Mint Shop.


Add More Reusables


If you have the basics covered, think about adding a few other items to complete your waste-free lunch.  Adding reusable napkins, utensils and even straws can save your children time as well.  If lunch at school is anything like it is here, children have about 20 minutes.  Lunch rooms are crowded and it can take a few minutes to navigate your way to the plastic utensils and napkins.





We have been using the to go ware bamboo flatware everywhere we go and even at home.  They have easily become a useful addition to our reusables.  The knife easily cut through the tomato and mozzarella salad.  I really appreciate the fact that the utensils are made of a sustainable material like bamboo and the case is made from recycled PET plastic.


Which reusables are your favorite?




The Greening Of Westford readers will receive 10% off any orders from Wild Mint Shop until September 4, 2014 using the code “WildMint”.



Wild Mint Shop is also giving you a chance to win an e-gift certificate worth $120.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Summer Break




Hi.  It’s been quite a while since I have posted.   I have been busy but also not terrifically inspired to blog about anything in particular.  I have decided to take a bit of a break for the summer – spend time with my family and relax on this awesome beach in town.  

So, I’m still around.  Check out my facebook page, pinterest, etc.  I’ll still post from time to time when something interesting strikes me.  If you have ideas on what you’d like to see posts on, please let me know!  


Have a great summer!




MY Perfect Sunscreen: Goddess Garden Organics Sunscreen {Review}

This post is sponsored by Green Sisterhood  but, as always, the opinions are my own.

MY Perfect Sunscreen: Goddess Garden Organics Sunscreen {Review and Giveaway} #ggorganics {}


As a child I loved summer! We had a pool in the backyard and I literally lived in my bathing suit.  In the 1970’s and even in the early 80’s, we didn’t quite understand the dangers of the sun.  Sunscreen?  Yuck, that’s the white stuff you put on that looks and feels horrible!  Unfortunately, years later I am paying the price.  Wish we had Goddess Garden Sunscreens back then – great ingredients, great smell, great feel.


Why Am I Wishing For Better Sunscreen? 

It all started with a mole on my ankle that seemed to just appear one day.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have one there before.  Did I?  I had 3 children under the age of 5 at the time so I was too busy to notice. I was lucky if I showered regularly. I made an appointment with a dermatologist.  He said it looked completely normal, but since I was sure there wasn’t one there before we should biopsy it.  When the diagnosis came back as melanoma, I was shocked.  I am not your stereotypical skin cancer patient.  My skin is not pale and I have brown eyes.  I remember having a few sunburns as a child, only one particularly bad burn at age 10, but other than that, I tanned easily.

The next couple of months were a series of doctor’s appointments aimed at finding out the severity.  Luckily, we had caught it early and I would only need surgery.  Throughout these appointments, several doctors told me to stay out of the sun, wear protective clothing and hats and wear sunscreen year round regardless of the weather.  My children were also at higher risk and they should follow this advice as well.

Protecting ourselves from the sun is even more serious now.  However, the choices in sunscreens, thus far, have not been great in my opinion because of the ingredients and the hard-to-rub-on white mess most of the heavy duty sunscreens are made of.  I have been able to find better shampoo alternatives without questionable ingredients relatively easily but sunscreens are a completely different story for me.  Alternatives were not readily available when I was first diagnosed 7 years ago. So I used popular commercial sunscreens I found in local stores, figuring my family’s risk for skin cancer was greater than the side effects from the chemicals in them.  Or so I hoped.

This is why I was so excited when given this opportunity to try Goddess Garden Organics that are made with non-toxic, mineral and natural ingredients.  Its ingredient list looked extremely promising to me.  Had I found MY perfect sunscreen?

Now please remember, I am NOT a doctor, nor do I play one on my blog.  This is my story and my conclusions alone.  You should absolutely do your own research and choose the option that is best for you.

Let’s back up a bit and talk about how the sun damages our skin.


How the Sun Damages Our Skin

MY Perfect Sunscreen: Goddess Garden Organics Sunscren {Review and Giveaway} #ggorganics {}

The sun contains two major types of ultraviolet (UV) rays. UVB rays are also known as the burning rays.  UVA rays, the aging rays, penetrate much deeper and can cause more serious damage to cells.  UVA rays are able to penetrate clouds and are around even in winter months.  

In addition, the damage to your skin caused by exposure to the sun (both UVA and UVB rays) is cumulative.  Even tanning is evidence of sun damage.  Tanning is actually your skins attempt to protect itself from the sun.  Sun exposure can cause wrinkles, sun spots, sunburns, and cancer.

The best option is to avoid the sun during peak times and to use clothing and hats to shade your skin.  This is great advice, but you can’t avoid the sun ALL the time.  Sunscreens must be part of this equation.


Trouble Finding The Perfect Sunscreen

For years, I bought the sunscreen I was told to buy.  This was one area where I was not comfortable straying from my doctor’s advice.  I heard the word CANCER and freaked!   At the time, there weren’t many other alternatives that did the jobs I needed them to do – products that would protect my skin but not cause potential damage because of the ingredients.   I felt like I was choosing between tanning a bit or preventing skin cancer for my children!  Talk about Mom guilt!

As I did more research on personal care products, I really became conflicted.  I wasn’t entirely comfortable putting some of the chemicals on my skin and on my children.  But “family history of melanoma” loomed in my head.  

And in comes Goddess Garden  sunscreens, I was very excited!    


What I Like About Goddess Garden Sunscreens

MY Perfect Sunscreen: Goddess Garden Organics Sunscreen {Review and Giveaway} #ggorganics {}

  • According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), their toxicity rating is very low.

  • The sunscreens are very stable.  Sunscreens that are not stable can break down over time and with exposure to heat making them less effective.  Sunscreen stability was something my doctor’s stressed.

  • Goddess Garden uses a mineral sunscreen.  Mineral or physical sunscreens block and deflect the sun’s rays.  The alternative, chemical sunscreens, absorb the UV radiation and convert it to a small amount of heat.  Personally, I like the idea of reflecting as opposed to absorbing into my skin.  So does this doctor.

  • The mineral sunscreens they use, zinc and titanium dioxide, in all of their products are NON-NANO sized.  According to Goddess Garden, ” The average particle size is 120nm. The range in particle sizes is 100nm to 130nm. Most definitions of “nano-particles” are under 100nm.”  The issue here is that nano -particles, very small particles, could be absorbed into the skin and then the bloodstream and cause problems.
  • They are broad spectrum, meaning they protect against UVA and UVB rays.

  • Goddess Garden does not leave a whitish glow!

  • They smell and feel great!  They feel light and not greasy at all.  Can’t say that about many sunscreens!  This makes them very easy to wear all year long.

  • The other ingredients used are fabulous for your skin!  Among them are aloe vera, sunflower oil, shea butter and, in the facial sunscreens, Helichrysum essential oil!  This essential oil is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant which is great for anti-aging.


I have been using the Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen with SPF 30 daily.  It feels wonderful!  It is light, non-greasy, non-whitening, and feels very hydrating.  And oh did I mention the lavender scent!  I have replaced my morning moisturizer with this one.  By the way, I still have the occasional issues with breakouts and this has not caused me any troubles.

My children have been trying the Sunny Kids Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 and the Kids Natural Sunscreen Continuous Sports Spray SPF 30.  Great success!  They are easy to rub in and don’t feel heavy and greasy.  My children thank you, Goddess Garden!  I do not let them out of the house without sunscreen and they don’t fight me so much with these.

Personally, I feel like I have found a great product.  No questionable ingredients and it will do the job of protecting our skin from the sun.  I of course urge you to do your own research, talk to your dermatologist, and come to a decision that is best for you.


What do you look for in a sunscreen?



The Greening Of Westford readers will save $2 off purchases of Goddess Garden Organics  from May 1 through July 30.  Just use the discount code #GGOrganics.  


Goddess Garden Organics is also giving you a chance to win several cools prizes:

One GRAND prize (valued at $183) includes:

4 continuous sprays

1 facial sunscreen

1 kids’ pump spray

1 kids’ 3.4 ounce tube

1 adult 6 ounce tube

1 kids’ 6 ounce tube

Twenty people will receive a second prize of a 3.4 ounce tube of Natural Body 30 SPF sunscreen.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Did You See Me On The Queen Latifah Show for Earth Day?!?!?!

Did you see me on The Queem Latifah Show?!?!} #qlshow #dannyjseo


This was one of the most amazing experiences ever!  It is still sinking in.  But let me back up, the road  getting here wasn’t always clear – at least to me.

It started on a Monday night with an email.  A woman named Emily who claimed she worked at The Queen Latifah Show wanted to “chat about my story”.  They were filming their Earth Day show and wanted to “highlight women who are making a difference in their community”. 

Sounds cool!  But me!?  Really?  They are probably emailing TONS of women, I bet they didn’t even read my blog, just saw a few keys words and shot off an email to see who’d respond first.  I let the email sit for a day.  I asked some of my Green Sisters if they’d gotten similar requests.  No one had.  Hmm.  OK I’ll bite.  So I emailed her back. 

We spoke on Thursday afternoon.  She asked me how I got started, what prompted me to start Upcycle It!, that kind of thing.  She told me again, that they were highlighting women making a difference, that she was speaking to a few other people and she’d let me know later that day.  OK, whatever, we’ll see.  I’m a little more convinced she’s for real, but still feel like I won’t get picked.  At one point she asked what other “green” things we do around the house.  We recycle, compost, use cloth napkins.  Then she asked if we had an electric car.  Oh no, she’s not going to think I’m “green” enough.  You don’t need an electric car to be green, there are tons of other things you can do.    I had to convince her I was committed even though I drive a minivan that gets a pathetic 20 MPG, if I’m lucky!   I talked about why my husband and I didn’t have an electric car –we have 3 kids and a dog and I’m constantly driving them and a friend or two places, so we really need a larger vehicle and the electric vehicles out there at the time just didn’t work for us.  But I’d love to have one.  Did I convince her? I hoped so.

 Two hours later the phone rang again.  It was her asking if I could come out there Sunday to tape the show Monday.  I screamed when I got off the phone!  I couldn’t believe it!  My kids were so excited!  My 12 year old is very into fashion, makeup and being on TV or movies.  She kept calling me a movie star.  Yea, I’m a cool mom!

As I started telling people, I started to wonder if this was a scam.  I know, how paranoid am I?  But I had recently read an article about a female reporter who was almost lured to Russia under the guise of reporting the Olympics only to discover last minute that it was a human trafficking scam!  OK, I need to do some checking on this.  I double checked the email domain name. Yup looks like the same one they use on the QL website.  But scammers can fake that.  OK, what to do….  I couldn’t find a phone number, so I emailed the generic “contact us” address of the show and asked if this was legitimate.  I figured I might not get a response since I’m sure they get 100’s of emails daily but it was worth a shot.  Well, within about a ½ hour, I had a response.  This was for real!  OMG!

The next few days were a whirlwind of getting ready to be gone for a few days, my amazing Mother-in-law came up and help with the kids, and the most important thing – figuring out what to wear!  So I’m doing all this and I still am not really sure what’s going to go on.  I emailed my contact and asked if I’d be interviewed so I could prepare.  She told me that they were honoring a few people, that I’d be in the audience, Queen Latifah  would point me out and might ask me a quick question.  Oh, OK.  Honestly, I was a little disappointed.  All this traveling across the country for 2 days and like 10 seconds on camera.  But she said that they’d be able to mention my blog name and hopefully get me a bunch of traffic.  Woo Hoo!  What every blogger wants!  Plus how cool to be flown out to LA for all the work I’ve been doing for the last 4 years. 


 Sunday morning.  Oh did I mention that the night before my flight I slept on the floor of a mall?  Yes, I was at a girl scout Pajama Palooza with my 12 year old.  It was a lot of fun, but needless to say I did not get much sleep.  I came home, showered, changed and  headed to the airport.








When I got to the studio the next morning, they brought me to where the audience waits. Watching the taping of the show was fun.  I’d never seen a show filmed before. Someone was supposed to come get me after the first segment or 2, but there I was 3 – 4 segments later.  Did they forget about me?  They changed their minds.  Ugh, they are running out of time and I’m not even going to be on TV at all.  I’m starting to get a bit down.  Finally, someone came to get me and took me to hair and makeup.  VERY COOL!  What they can do with makeup and hair is amazing! 

I spoke with the associate producer who told me that Queen Latifah would be saying a few words about Upcycle It! and might ask me why I started it. So I was fitted for a microphone.  OMG, I’ll get to talk.  Please don’t sound foolish.  She then told me that sometimes Queen Latifah likes to give her guests something.  If that happens make sure I really react.  That on TV it may not look like people are reacting so go big.  Got it.   So back to the audience we go.  

Then Queen Latifah starts to talk about me, “We have someone in the audience…” then I sort of blanked out.  I have no idea what she actually said.  My brain completely slowed down and I could only process one thing at a time.  Am I smiling? Smile. Where is the camera? Is it on me? Should I wave? Don’t forget to breath.  Oh God, what is she saying about me? You need to listen and smile at the same time!  All I heard were a few words – “Kristina…”   “started a program in her school district…”  “Let’s bring her on stage”.   OK, I have to get up and walk.  So I hear, “bring her down” and I get up.  Please don’t fall please don’t fall…. 

I am directed to the stage and I step in between Danny Seo and Queen Latifah.  She then asks why I started this program.  I start to say that I have 3 children, say their names, then I have no idea how I answered the question.  Again, hoping I made some sense but I’m really thinking I said the Beauty Pageant equivalent of “End World Hunger”.  She then asks how it feels knowing that I’m making a difference.  It feels great.  At some point in there I tell her that it’s easier than you might think.  And she looks at me and says “Really?” I say “Yes it is.”  When did I say that, did it make sense?  I have no idea now.  So then she says that someone else noticed what I was doing, again I’m totally paraphrasing here since I was totally in a fog at this point just trying to remember to smile, breath and not fall over!  She tells me that Ford wants to give me a home electric charging stations.  Great?  What am I going to do with this. This is weird. What’s going on?  But I’m on TV, big reaction.  Great!   She asks,  “Do you own an electric car?”  “No”, I say, “but it’s still cool.”  Then I’m thinking, wait a minute… 

The next thing I hear is  “You do now!” and out rolls a gorgeous red Ford CMAX Energi    I about died.  So surreal I can’t even explain it.     Like an out of body experience. We walk over to my ….. MY car!!!    And I’m gushing about the color –  it’s my favorite gorgeous deep red.  Now tears are forming.  I get in and I’m saying how comfy it is.  Danny is saying something about how great the mpg’s are.  The audience is going nuts.  I just comment on how comfortable and nice it was and how I loved the color.  I just could not express how incredible this was.

My new Ford CMAX Energi!  #qlshow  #dannyjseo

 I am still speechless.  To be noticed and recognized in such an amazing way for what I have been trying to accomplish for years, there are no words.  There are times when I think to myself, “What the heck am I doing sorting trash in my garage!”  Volunteering hours of my time.  Am I making a difference?  Does anyone notice and care?  I guess they do!  When I told people I was going to be on the show, they were truly happy for me and said how hard I work and how much I deserved it.  I’m tearing up again.  I don’t do this for the recognition, but I do hope that people notice and that I am making a difference.

And can we just talk about an electric car!!!!!!  YEAH!  So happy to be able to use this new technology. I can’t wait to test it out and see how long I can go without going to a gas station!

Thank you Queen Latifah!!!  Thank you Danny Seo!!!  Thank you Ford!!


Just in case you missed the show, you can watch clips of it here.

Top and Bottom photos courtesy of The Queen Latifah Show


Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat Review and Giveaway


Disclosure: I received a free Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Want to reduce your home energy consumption and save money?  Who doesn’t!

The biggest way I have found to do this is to closely monitor your heating and cooling system.  This is the single biggest draw on our electric and gas usage.  Even though we heat with natural gas, the HVAC system still needs electricity to run the fans and so on.

Using a programmable thermostat is the simplest and most efficient way to do this.  The temperature is set automatically based on a schedule you set.  So at night or during the day when no one is home, the temperature is lowered (in the cold months), so as not to waste the energy.  I love things that are done automatically!  Less for me to remember.

I was recently sent a Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat to install and test out.  OK, I’ll admit that I, personally, did not install this.  My very handy husband did.  


Before you buy one of these thermostats you need to determine whether or not your system and household wiring is compatible.  Honeywell provides a step by step set of questions to determine whether or not your current system is compatible with the thermostat.   Go through ALL of the steps.  We found that the final step, connecting power to the unit, proved to be a little tricky because of our furnace not the wiring at the thermostat.  My husband was able to figure it out, but I’m guessing it was a little more complicated due to our particular furnace.


The installation was fairly easy.  My husband did have some issues with supplying the unit power as I mentioned above.  He was able to figure it out with the help of the videos.  It’s nice to know that there is also a help line should you need more assistance.

After that it was my turn again. I was quickly able to set the temperature schedule throughout the week!  Much quicker than our old thermostat.  I also chose a cool red color scheme.

Online Access

I, then,  created an account at My Total Connect Comfort so that I could access the thermostat from my smart phone app.  Apps are available for iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android devices.

So far so good!  Not sure I’ll use the app much, but I had fun changing the temperature with my phone and seeing the thermostat change.    The thermostat is working well, was easy to install, and set up.  I also like that I can see what the temperature is outside!


Honeywell is giving one lucky person a free Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat.  Enter below.  Good luck!

The giveaway will run from Saturday April 18 through Friday April 25 midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Clean Your House With Only 5 Ingredients


 Clean Your Entire House with 5 Ingredients {}

5 simple natural cleaners! That is all you will need to clean 93.3492% of the surfaces in your home.  OK, so clearly I made up that statistic, but seriously  most of your home can be cleaned with 5 simple, cheap, safe, readily available ingredients.  It’s probably what your grandma used.  And grandma is always right!

I could go on and on about how toxic the air inside your home can be, or how commercial cleaners are potentially dangerous.  Instead, I’m going to appeal to your cheap, eh I mean, frugal  side.  If you could get away with spending like $5 a year on cleaning solutions, wouldn’t you! ?  Again, pulling that $5 out of the air, but it’s not far off.

Ingredient – Natural Cleaners

1) White Distilled Vinegar – disinfects and deodorizes

2) Baking Soda – mild, scrubs without scratching

3) Hydrogen Peroxide – disinfects (recognized by EPA as a disinfectant)

4) Rubbing Alcohol – disinfects

5) Castile soap (or other liquid soap of your choosing, NOT anti-bacterial) – you need some sort of soap

I bet you already have these in your house.  

You will also need some empty spray bottle and labels!  You can find bottles at dollar stores, Home Depot, hardware stores, Walmart,Target among other places.   Do yourself a favor and label the bottles with the recipe and directions if needed so when they run out, they can easily be refilled. 


All-purpose cleaner (Cost $0.75, without essential oils $0.15)

This can be used on any hard non porous surface.  NOT FOR GRANITE OR MARBLE.

2 cups water
½ cup distilled white vinegar
Optional (10 drops lavender, 10 drops lemongrass, 10 drops lemon)

Combine all ingredients into a spray bottle.

If you don’t like the smell of the white vinegar, try infusing it with citrus peels first.


Granite Cleaner (Cost: $0.10)

¼ cup rubbing alcohol
3 drops liquid soap
2 cups water

Combine all ingredients into a spray bottle


Disinfectant (Cost: $1)

Put a spray top on that bottle of hydrogen peroxide.  Make sure to keep the hydrogen peroxide in the brown bottle.  Light will break it down.

Spray the surface – counter, doorknobs, faucet, lunch box, water bottle, .. .– with hydrogen peroxide and let it sit.  For lunch boxes and water bottles, I rinse after at least 10 minutes, then let dry. 


For extra disinfecting

Spray some  pure vinegar on the surface, then spray the hydrogen peroxide.

The mixture of the 2 creates a super disinfectant. Some sources claim this combination will kill Salmonella and E. Coli. Never combine the 2 into one bottle and store. This can create a bad combination to leave around your house. I use this on my counters on occasion, cutting boards, kids’ reusable bottles, anything I feel needs a little extra attention.


Inside Refrigerator

Baking soda mixed with a  bit of water to form a paste.



Sprinkle with baking soda
Spray with water to moisten
Let sit over night, might need to re-moisten
Scrub off in the morning



Into the bowl – 1 TBSP of castile soap, 1/3 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup vinegar
Let it fizz for a few minutes
Scrub toilet


Windows (Cost: $0.30)

¼ cup rubbing alcohol
¼ cup white vinegar
1 TBSP cornstarch
2 cups  hot water

OK, so cornstarch wasn’t on the original list.  You caught me!  (good for you for making it this far!)  It can be left out, but I’m guessing you have some.

Combine everything into a spray bottle and shake well, each time before using.

May need to clean a few times to remove the ammonia residue from old cleaners. 



For Hardwood or other sealed wood floors – mostly just pick up the dust with a soft dry mop or vacuum with a gentle vacuum – ie. No beater brush as you would use on a carpet. 

When you mop – use some white vinegar with warm water.  


Ceramic tile 

Same vinegar and water solution as above.



Mix baking soda and soap into a paste. 
Scrub with an old toothbrush.  


Foaming Hand Soap (Cost: $0.50)

¼ cup (2oz) castile soap
2 cups Water

Place this mixture into any foaming hand pump.  You can do this with any liquid soap.  Some people melt a bar of soap in water.  You can also get fancy and add essential oils for scent or glycerin for moisture.

With one more ingredient, you can make the BEST stain remover for clothing EVER!

What other cleaners do you use?


This post is part of Green Sisterhood’s Earth Month Blog Party.   For more great ideas from my sisters, check out the following blogs:

Almost All The Truth
Green 4 U
Green Talk
The Greening Of Westford
Jen and Joey goes Green
The Soft Landing
Eco-Novice: Going Green Gradually

 Earth Month Blog Party #earthdaygs



The 5 R’s – Refuse Reduce Reuse Repurpose Recycle

The 5 R's - Refuse Reduce Reuse Repurpose Recycle #earthdaygs  {}

Have you been following me and my green sisters along on instagram this week?  There have been some fabulous refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and (tomorrow) recycle ideas out there.  So what are some simple ways to start living the 5 R’s?  What do the 5 R’s mean?

What!?  There are 5 R’s now!  Yes a couple have been added in recent years.  There are subtle but noticeable differences in the 2 additions – Refuse and Repurpose – but the basic jist is the same.   Use less!  Use what you have!  

Again, have to point out that the R’s are in this order for a reason.  The closer the the beginning of this option list, the better.  So start at the top and see which one you can do.



At first I had a difficult time understanding the difference between refuse and reduce, honestly.  But then I got it!  Refuse is to say no to things people offer you that you don’t need, that you never even asked for.   Refuse to buy products that can harm you, your family and the environment.  Use the power of your dollar to tell companies what you want and don’t want.

  • Think freebies that companies give away.  Now if you are going to use that pen or reusable grocery bag, by all means take it.  But if it will end up in the trash eventually, just say no thanks!
  • Say no to plastic grocery bags, especially if you only have a couple of items that you could easily carry.
  • Refuse to buy harmful products, like cleaners.  Buy more eco-friendly options or make your own.  
  • Refuse to buy GMOs
  • Say no to single use plastic



Reduce, to use less.  Think about what you use and buy.  Could you use less?

  • Reduce your junk mail
  • Do you really need the latest smart phone?  Could you make due with the one you have for a bit longer?
  • Reduce the amount of energy you use to heat your home by getting an energy audit (a lot times for free)  and save MONEY in the process.



Reuse something you already have instead of buying something.   Replace needing a single use item, with something you can use over and over again.   Both of these options will save you money as well.

  • Slowly replace any single use items with reusable ones – like reusable grocery and produce bags, reusable water bottles, travel mugs.
  • Instead of tossing those return envelopes you get but don’t need, reuse them for permission slips to school or other things that need to be sealed but don’t need a fresh envelop.
  • Reuse those cereal bag liners
  • Reuse glass jars such as the ones from pickles, jellies, and salsa as new containers for leftovers or pantry storage instead of buying something else.
  • Make your own reusable mop head instead of buying disposables.



 Repurpose – to take something and use it for something else.  This requires a bit of thinking and crafty-ness, but doesn’t have to be gorgeous.



And last but not least, if the above 4 options won’t work, recycle.  I don’t mean this in a negative way either.  Recycling is important.  When you are just starting to use the 5 R’s, it can be difficult to use the first few options.  Maybe you missed the opportunity to refuse or reduce because you just weren’t there in your green journey when these purchases were made.  Maybe there is no alternative.  Recycling is a great way to open your eyes to all that you toss and a chance to rethink your future purchases.


The 5R's - Refuse Reduce Reuse Repurpose Recycle #earthdaygs {}

This post is part of Green Sisterhood’s Earth Month Blog Party.  For more great ideas, take a look at these other posts:

Almost All The Truth – The 5 R’s
ecokaren – How Much Waste Do American’s Generate?
Green 4 U – We Should Teach the 5 R’s from Refuse to Recycle 
Green Talk – 15 Ways to Recycle or Repurpose Underwear
Jen and Joey goes Green
The Soft Landing – 4 Simple Ways To Reduce Waste that Will Impress Even Your Most Skeptical Friends
Eco-Novice: Going Green Gradually  –  Reduce Your Spending, Toxic Exposure and Waste By Ditching Disposables



 Can you think of others?


Earth Month 2014

April 22 is Earth Day.  More recently, people are celebrating the whole month long!  There is so much to do and say that a single day is really tough. Plus a month long celebration gives people a chance to really get into it.  April is usually very spring-like, the weather is warming up, spring cleaning starts to happen, gardening, tons of things that really speak to Earth Day.  But this year –   There is still snow on the ground in many parts of Massachusetts!  This will be a tough one!

So this year, I’ve joined my Green Sisterhood in a month long celebration to encourage me, and you.

Here’s what’s up for this month:


Instagram Challenge April 1 -April 5

Earth Month Blog Party #earthdaygs

Each day, upload an example of the theme for that day.  So for tomorrow on April 1, upload a picture of you refusing something –  a bag you don’t need at the grocery store, Not buying something, whatever, get creative!

If you are not on instagram, feel free to upload on another social media channel and let us know!  Be sure to use #earthdaygs and the themed hashtag for that day  so we can all see what awesome things you do for the 5 R’s.


Twitter Chat  -Thursday April 3 9pm EST

I’ll admit I’ve never participated in a twitter chat.  Have you?   I’m excited to try it out since I hear you get loads of great information and it’s fun!    There are also prizes to be won.  Who doesn’t love winning a prize for answering a question?   You have to follow @Greensisterhood and me @GreeningWestford on Twitter and use#earthdaygs so you can enter to win prizes. 

Earth Day Twitter Chat - April 3 9pm EST  #earthdaygs


Green Sisterhood Blog Party All Month Long

There is nothing like a good old fashioned blog party to get things going! Come back here every Friday for a new post.  And remember to check out the other Green Sisters’ posts.  These ladies are THE sources for all green info!

Earth Month Blog Party #earthdaygs

Here are the bloggers participating:

Almost All The Truth
Green 4 U
Green Talk
The Greening Of Westford
Jen and Joey goes Green
The Soft Landing
Eco-Novice: Going Green Gradually


Are you ready? Leave me your Instagram and Twitter handles in the comments so I can follow you.


13+ Ways To Recycle An Old Yoga Mat

13+ Ways to Recycle Your Yoga Mat {}


My yoga mat has seen better days.  It’s about 5 years old… at least! And it’s starting to fall apart.  I often leave little bits of hot pink yoga mat at class.  But what to do with my old yoga mat?!  I will not toss it in the trash!  How do I recycle my yoga mat?

Say it with me, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE – in that order.  


Could I keep using this mat and not get a new one?  In this case, no.  Like I said, I’m leaving a trail behind me and I’m feeling like this mat has lost its cushion which isn’t good for my back.

That doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t reduce as part of this new yoga mat journey.  But that is for another post.



The next best option would be to reuse it somehow.  So off to pinterest and the internet.  Here are just a few ideas I found.

Oh and make sure you clean/disinfect your mat really well before using it!  

  1. Ask your yoga studio if they’d like to have an extra for people who forget.
  2. There are 2  companies I found that reuse old mats for at risk individuals  –   The Boulder Mat Company   and Jade   .  They both have lists of drop off locations.
  3. Ask your local Animal shelter if they could use it as a lining for pet crates.  Or use it for your cat or dog crate.
  4. Under a pet crate to protect the floor
  5. Shelf or drawer liners
  6. Cut the mat into squares and use them as “bases” while playing baseball.
  7. Jar openers – cut the mat into squares or circles and use to grip those hard to open jars.  This probably wouldn’t work with those thick mats, but perhaps the thinner ones.
  8. Foot pads for furniture on wood or tile surfaces.
  9. Tent “door mat” – Bring it camping and place it outside your tent as a place to sit and remove shoes. 
  10. Coasters
  11. Knee pad while gardening
  12.  In between pots and pans so they don’t get scratched while stored.
  13. Place mat for pets’ bowls



If the above ideas won’t work for you, there is always the recycle option.  Although, I’m coming up blank in this department.  Recycle Your Mat used to take them, but it seems they have stopped and now direct you to other programs.  Some of which I have mentioned here.


So what will I do with my yoga mat?  I’ll keep it around and use it for a few of the reuse options above.  I may give it to my puppy for her to practice her downward dog.  


13+ Ways To Recycle Your Yoga Mat {}


How Will You Recycle Your Yoga Mat?

 This post has been shared at Simply Natural Saturday List It Tuesday, Small Footprint Friday



Homemade Nutella with Almonds

Homemade Nutella with almonds {}

Creamy chocolate-y nutty goodness!  Nutella is relatively new to the United States.  I first tried it while spending a semester in England  back in the early 90’s.  I was hooked!  It was quite a while before I saw it on store shelves here in the US.

Traditionally, nutella is made with hazel nuts.  Which I tried the first time around.  It was delicious.  My children wanted to be able to share with with their grandma who, unfortunately is allergic to hazel nuts.  So I played around with a few variations before I settled on this one – with almonds!  My kids actually like it better.  Almonds are easier to find around here and not as pricey as hazel nuts.


Homemade Almond Nutella
Write a review
  1. 1 cup almonds
  2. 1 ½ TBSP coconut oil, melted
  3. ½ cup coconut milk
  4. ¼ cup honey
  5. 4 TBSP cocoa powder
  6. Pinch salt
  7. ¼ tsp instant espresso powder (optional)
  8. ½ TBSP vanilla extract
  1. Add the almonds to a food processor and grind until smooth. This will take a while – 5 – 10 minutes. Make sure they are as smooth as you want them before adding anything else, especially the coconut milk, as they will not grind much more after.
  2. Add the coconut oil and grind some more.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it is well combined.
  1. About the espresso powder – as a matter of habit I almost always add a little instant espresso (or coffee) to anything with chocolate. Just makes it taste better in my opinion, but you can leave it out.
The Greening of Westford
With the substitution of honey for regular sugar, this variation is practically healthy.  Now that doesn’t give you the freedom to eat the whole jar, but feel better about it.  

We like this homemade nutella on toast, fruit, or as a quick substitute for chocolate in s’mores.

Have you tried nutella?  What do you like to eat it with?


Whipped Body Butter 2.0


Whipped Body Butter 2.0 - 4 easy ingredients.  {}


Whipped body butter 2.0 – why 2.0?  Well, this is a little step up from my simple 1 ingredient body butter.   When you first start out making your own products, the list of ingredients in some recipes can be so overwhelming and, for me, a show stopper.  I don’t want to invest a lot of money in several ingredients when I’m not even sure I’ll like them.  This is little step up and it’s worth it!  Plus the added ingredients are still very basic and can be used in many other recipes.

I love making my own beauty products.  I swear they work soooo much better than anything I have ever purchased.  Even better – I control what goes into them.  Not only can I make them free of toxins and other bad ingredients, but I can add ingredients that I find work for me.  Win – Win!  

Whipped Body Butter


1/3 cup coconut oil (like this ONE)
1/3 cup cocoa butter (like this ONE)
1/3 cup shea butter (like this ONE)
2 TBSP avocado oil (olive, jojoba or almond oil are all good choices as well)
1 tsp Vitamin E (optional)



  1. In a double boiler, melt the coconut oil and cocoa butter. You will be whipping this later with a hand or stand mixer so use a bowl that will work.
  2. Add shea butter and let it melt. I find that if I heat shea butter too long or too hot, it gets gritty. It’s a soft butter and won’t take long to melt.
  3. Take off the heat and add Vitamin E (if using) and avocado oil.
  4. Put the mixture in the refrigerator or even freezer and let it cool. Mine took almost an hour in the refrigerator. You want it at a sort of a gel like state. Alternatively, you could place the bowl in an ice bath.
  5. Whip the mixture until it is soft and frothy and completely cooled. If it’s not starting to look like whipped cream, it may need to cool more.  Whip for about 5 – 10 minutes.



  • Vitamin E is used as a preservative.  I always add some to anything I’m making just ’cause.  If you don’t have any, it’s not a big deal.  The other oils have a pretty long shelf life all on their own.
  • Essential oils could be added to this base as well.  This is your mix, so add whatever you like – lavender, grapefruit, rosemary….

Easy peasy, right?  

Are you gonna try this?


This post has been shared at Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural, Small Footprint Friday


How To Clean Stained Mugs WITHOUT SCRUBBING!

How To Clean Stained Mugs WITHOUT SCRUBBING  {}

 Oh those white porcelain mugs! Perfect for drinking your morning tea or coffee.  Also perfect for stains.   Coffee and tea can wreak havoc on white mugs. You’ve tried scrubbing, even with your beloved baking soda, but it barely makes a dent.  Well, stop scrubbing and clean stained mugs the easy way.

Getting rid of these stains is pretty easy.  You will still be using your baking soda, but no scrubbing.

Clean Stained Mugs


Step 1:  Sprinkle a good amount of baking soda into the mug.  About a 1/4 cup or more depending on how stained it is.




Step 2: Add boiling hot water to the mug.  Fill all the way so all the stains are covered with water.  Let the mug sit.  Forget about it and come back later.  At least 15 minutes, but the longer the better.



Step 3: Dump the water and rinse.  Voila! Clean mug.  I sometimes grab my nylon scrubber and run it along the edges that may not have totally come clean, but that is it!

What are your quick, easy cleaning tips?

This post is shared at Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural , Fabulously Frugal Thursday


Local Styrofoam Recycling: ReFoamIt

Local Styrofoam Recycling: ReFoamIt  {}

For the longest time,  I didn’t think anything could be done with Polystyrene – or better known as Styrofoam.  It has the chasing arrows #6 recycling symbol on it?  Why can’t I recycle it with all my other plastics and glass.  The answer always came back – sorry, no.

The reason is one of simple economics.  No one seemed to want recycled Styrofoam.  No demand, no need to collect it.

Well, that has changed!   About 4 years ago, I heard of a company called ReFoamIt, then out of Framingham, MA.  They recycle Styrofoam!  I have spoken with Dave and Barbara Sherman, owners of ReFoamIt, a few times over the years at various events and have watched their business grow.  

When I first met them at the Westford Farmers Market in 2010, they were hauling the Styrofoam to Rhode Island for processing and held a few collection events a year to collect Styrofoam.  Now, they have their own facility in Leominster, MA, hold several collection events, have containers collecting Styrofoam in many towns in MA, have agreements with business that have excess Styrofoam and can accept Styrofoam at their facility.

In Leominster, they sort all the Styrofoam that comes in.  Dave explained that they have to separate colored Styrofoam and process it separately.  They must also ensure that all of the items are, in fact, polystyrene and are free of any tape or paper.  The Styrofoam is then ground into bits.  From there it is densified into large blocks for transporting to a manufacturer who will reuse the material.  The grinding machine used  was found used on ebay!  Talk about recycling!

Densified Styrofoam

38 lbs of Styrofoam “densified”

A pickup truck load of Styrofoam can be densified into a block such as the one above.  This block is approximately 2 ft. by 1 ft. 10 inches and weighs 38 lbs.  

Most of ReFoamIt’s Styrofoam gets sold to a company in Tennessee.  “I believe in doing American business in America.”,  explains Dave.   Recycled foam can be made into picture frames and house molding.

Many towns/cities have containers for their residents to recycle with ReFoamIt.  They include Harvard, Newton, Carlisle, South Hadley and Newburyport.  Many more, like Sudbury, Westborough,  Melrose, and Ipswich, hold special collection days during the year.  

Now I am all for REDUCE as the first option, but in some instances it may not be possible.  If you can then combine recycling with a cost savings, win-win!  The cost savings have to be of interest to businesses.  If you are business that deals with a lot of Styrofoam, take a look at this.  If you can reduce your number of dumpsters or times they are emptied, you know you will save money!

The picture at the top is one load from a company in Uxbridge, MA.  This company sends 2 to 3 trucks weekly with approximately 1200 – 1400 pounds of foam per load.  This company makes Styrofoam products and sends their rejects and scrap here for recycling.  

A furniture company used to fill 3 dumpsters in less than a week.  They were paying to have the 3 dumpsters emptied twice a week costing $60 per dump – that’s $360 per week.  Once they found ReFoamIt, they were able to reduce to one trash dumpster, emptied once per week, and one Styrofoam container emptied once per week.  This saved them about $200 per week in trash fees.  Dave related a similar story involving a hospital that saves $4,000 per year in trash fees by recycling their foam.

If you would like to recycle your Styrofoam, call ReFoamIt to arrange for an appointment.  A few other tips I picked up from Dave:

  • Remove any tape
  • Make sure there is a #6 recycling symbol 
  • Do not crush or break the pieces.  They need to be able to see the #6 recycling symbol.
  • Packing peanuts not accepted. They can go to a UPS or similar shipping company.
  • Foam wrappers like this, are not accepted

Styrofoam Not Accepted

For more information on what is and is not accepted,  look here.



6 Things That Make Going Green Easier

6 Things That Make Going Green Easier {}

There are some things that make going green so much easier.  These aren’t super expensive items.  Just little things that make your life a little easier being green.  

I’m not talking reusable bags, water bottles, lunch boxes and the like.  I’m assuming you already have these items.  The things I’m talking about, make it EASIER to use these items or avoid others.

Disclaimer:  The links below are affiliate links which means if you happen to order these items though the links, I will received a little cash.


1) Bottle Brush   

Indispensable for cleaning waster bottles.  For years I used my baby bottle brush. I have since graduated to this one and I love it.   This one was about $5. 


2)  Small Cleaning Brush  

I use this to clean out my stainless steel reusable straws, but they also come in handy when cleaning out water bottle or sippy cup spouts.  This one is $6. 

Mine came with my stainless steel straws, but you can order them separately.  The straws are really cool though!  My kids love them.

If you need both a bottle brush and small brush, take a look at this combo for $10.



3)   Label maker 

A must for labeling reusable water bottles, lunch boxes, glass jars used for food storage, and general organization.  When you have reusable items, you want a way to label them so you don’t lose them.

My mother-in-law gave me mine as a Christmas gift years ago.  BEST GIFT EVER!  I never realized how pricey it was.  She said she got an amazing Black Friday deal.  I hope so, because it’s nice and all, but almost $90?!  I’d probably try this one if I were getting one now.  This one is listed at $15.99.


4)   Dry erase markers  

They work really well when you are in a hurry and need to label the top of a glass jar before putting it away.  Yes, the marker can wipe off if touched, but I’ve had pretty good luck.  You can find these any where pretty cheap.  I always grab a few during the back to school sales.

5)   Carrying bag for reusable bags  

Something to coral all the reusable bags so they aren’t floating all over the place really helps.  It’s so easy to grab this and go!  Anything will work.  I use this system I won in a contest, but any small tote bag would work.  Use what you have.


6)    Glass jars 

I save ALL glass jars that enter the house – spaghetti sauce, pickle, jelly, salsa jars are a particular favorite.  They are great for storing items in the pantry, refrigerator and even in the freezer.  Why are these green?  Because we can replace plastic containers and plastic wrap with these glass jars. These are basically FREE.


What are your must haves?

 This post has been shared at List It Tuesday, Natural Living Monday,Happy Healthy Natural Green Party, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways


This post was featured at    









Triclosan: What Is It?

Triclosan:  What Is It?  {}

Have you heard the word triclosan (tric-lo-san)?  Do you know what it is?

What Is It?

Triclosan (or sometimes triclocarban) is an ingredient added to many items with the intention of preventing or reducing bacteria.  The most common item you might find triclosan is anti-bacterial soaps.  But it appears in many other products including toothpaste, soaps, body washes, clothing and some cosmetics.

Is It Safe?

Honestly, the jury is out on this as it is with so many additives in our food and personal care products.  The testing just hasn’t been done.  For years, environmental groups have urged manufacturers and FDA to remove triclosan from products.  Their reasons, several studies have indicated that the repeated use of triclosan has been linked to hormone disruption and contributed to anti-biotic resistant bacteria.  

In 2010, FDA determined that triclosan in hand soap was no more effective against bacteria than washing with plain soap and water.  FDA also recently announced that they will be taking a closer look at anti-bacterial soaps.  According to the FDA website: “There are indications that certain ingredients in these soaps may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and may have unanticipated hormonal effects that are of concern to FDA”.

 But until manufacturers remove triclosan from products, what can you do……

How to Avoid Triclosan

READ THE  LABELS of every kind of personal care product you have or want to purchase – toothpaste, soaps, body washes, deodorant.  Look especially closely at anything labeled  “anti-bacterial”.  Even some clothing and kitchen tools now contain triclosan.  If it is an ingredient, find an alternative without triclosan.

From FDA:  “Most antibacterial products have the word “antibacterial” on the label. Also, a Drug Facts label on a soap or body wash is a sure sign a product contains antibacterial ingredients. Cosmetics must list the ingredients, but are not required to carry a Drug Facts Label.”

The Environmental Working Group has a great database called skin deep.  It’s  is a good way to look for safer alternatives.  They even have an app!  


Are you concerned about triclosan?  Have you found safer alternatives?


DIY Fabric Covered Boxes


DIY Fabric covered boxes the easy way!

Fabric covered boxes are so cute!  They make everything look so put together and organized, in my opinion.  

I feel like I am constantly trying to de-clutter and organize my house.   And I really like to try to reuse as much as possible.  

A long time ago, I saved these boxes from an  Amazon shipment that were the perfect size to store scrap paper AND fit in my cabinet.  

Reusing cardboard boxes and making them pretty

Now reuse doesn’t have to be ugly – just look at my Organization board on  Pinterest.  I have been meaning to cover these in leftover fabric for literally years (the fabric is already sitting in the cabinet!) and I finally got to it.

In an effort to get my house organized and de-cluttered, I attacked a storage cabinet in my office last weekend.  This is where I keep all sorts of supplies like scrap paper.  My scrap paper comes from my children’s school work and fliers.  So many of them are printed single-sided.  I seriously shouldn’t ever need paper for the rest of my life!

Anyway. As you know, I am a simple girl.  I like DIY projects, but they must be simple!  This project requires 3 things:


  • a glue gun
  • fabric
  • cardboard box


I looks around on the internet for other tutorials.  Some called for a fabric adhesive,  which I did not have, others used a glue gun, got one of those, others covered the entire box like a present, but seemed complicated.  When I took out my fabric I realized I only had a long wide strip.  So I went for the method that covers only the sides of the box – the only part that will be showing in my particular application.  Plus, it requires less fabric!




1.  Measure and cut a strip of fabric that will go around the sides of your box.  Allow enough width  so you can wrap the fabric inside the box and on the bottom, covering as much of the inside/bottom as you want.   Line up the fabric on the side of your box.  I chose to start this on a side that would not show so I wouldn’t have a seam.

2. With a glue gun, slap some glue on the box and attach the end of the fabric.

3. Wrap the fabric around your box to meet your starting point.

4. Trim the fabric length if needed.  If you want you can use a little more glue to make a pretty edge.  Then glue this end as well.




5.  Flip your box right side up and push the fabric in the box.  Secure the fabric with glue.  I’d like to give you specifics, but I honestly just squirted some glue in a corner and smushed the fabric.  Then went to another corner, pulled the fabric tight and did the same.  I then put a few squirts of glue here and there to make the fabric secure and lay flat.  

Resulting in something like this  Step5Final




6. Flip the box over the work on the bottom.  Fold the corners kind of  like when wrapping a present and glue away!


It’s not particularly pretty, but no one will see it.Step6Final





And just like that my organization looks a little prettier.!  It only took 2 years to get up the motivation and like 10 minutes of actual work per box.


Do you have any quick crafty organizers?


This post has been shared at Natural Living Monday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, Simply Natural Saturdays


Green Sisterhood Handmade Giveaway


Handmade Giveaway by GreenSisterhood


Recently, I joined a fabulous group of like-minded women called Green Sisterhood.   THE creme de la creme of green bloggers.   These women walk the talk and I have learned so much from them.  I was quite honored to join.

For the holiday season, Green Sisterhood wants to show our appreciation so we are sponsoring a mega handmade giveaway for the holiday!

Buying handmade is the most eco-friendly way to shop and we are thrilled to introduce these eco-friendly goodies from the handmade community on Etsy.

So check out these shops and leave a comment (required) as to what other items you would like Santa to bring you.

Green Sisterhood’s Eco-Friendly Holiday Handmade Giveaway!

 Handmade Giveaway by GreenSisterhood

1) Herban Lifestyle – Man’s Grooming Set $40

2) zJayne – Set of 3 Lavender Dryer Sachet $15

3) House of Metalworks – Yoga Hamsa Necklace $23

4) Happy Earth Tea – Organic Immune Boosting Tea $12

5) Crunchy Betty – Exquisite Cleansing Oil $15.50

6) HerbanLuxe – Vegan Mascara $11.75

7) Reiter8 – Clutch made from boat sail $23

8) ecokaren – Eco Fabric Modal Scarf $30

9) Snackaby – Food Safe Reusable Snack Bags $23

10) Juniper Mercantile – Organic Unbleached Cotton Towels $15

And to improve your chances of winning, check out these participating bloggers, sign up for their email subscriptions and follow them on Facebook! You can find the widget to enter on their blogs as well.



Almost All the Truth

Condo Blues

Conscientious Confusion

Creative Green Living



Healthful Mama

Healthy Home Magazine

Glue and Glitter


Growing Slower

Jen and Joey Go Green

Mindfully Frugal Mom

Nature Moms Blog

Non-Toxic Kids

O’Boy Organics

The Greening of Westford – me 😉

The Green Divas

The Soft Landing

Here is how to enter!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway


NOTE: The giveaway is for US and Canada residents only and ends on Monday at 11:59PM EST, December 16, 2013. Please read the Terms and Conditions at the end of the Rafflecopter widget before entering. By entering, you are agreeing to subscribe to Green Sisterhood’s email newsletter.

Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Green Sisterhood.



Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub – EASY!

Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub - EASY!

As the weather gets colder, my hands start to feel like alligator skin.  Well, what I would imagine alligator skin to feel like since I am totally freaked out by any sort of reptile and could never touch one!  But I digress, back to my hands – rough, dry skin that catches on everything.  This hand scrub does the trick!  And it’s so easy.

A few years ago a friend of mine and I took a girls weekend trip to a spa in Arizona. It was lovely.  The spa had this wonderful scrub in the bathroom.  Our hands felt incredible after using it.  Every time we did I analyzed it, sniffing, rubbing, trying to figure out what was in it.

So here is my closest approximation to that wonderful spa scrub.


Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub
Write a review
  1. 3/4 cup sugar
  2. 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  3. 2 TBSP Apricot Kernel Oil (could substitute olive oil or almond oil)
  4. All of the ingredeints below are totally optional
  5. 1 tsp vitamin E
  6. 1 tsp vegetable glycerin
  7. 3 drops each lemon, lavender and rosemary essential oil
  8. 1 TBSP aloe vera gel
  1. Mix all ingredients until combined completely
To Use
  1. Take a bit and rub all over your hands, rinse with warm water only, no soap.
The Greening of Westford

As much as I love the benefits you get from using several ingredients, it can be a bit much when you are just starting to make your own beauty products.   Start with a few key ingredients and build from there.  This recipe could be made with the first 3 ingredients only, even the first 2 honestly!  It will be a bit stiffer without a liquid oil (like olive oil), but coconut oil is a great moisturizer on it’s own and the sugar scrubs.

I think next time I’ll try using some real rosemary from my garden! 

As you add more ingredients to your arsenal, add to this recipe.  I’d suggest  Vitamin E  and one (or more) of the essential oils.  (disclosure: affiliate links)  They are easy to purchase and can be used in a variety of products.

By the way, wouldn’t this look so cute in your guest bathroom!

Easy Homemade hand scrub


Put this in a cute glass jar, label it, maybe a ribbon.  Voila!  Holiday gift!

Have any good tips for rough hands?


This post has been shared at Natural Living Monday


Know Before You Donate

Know Before You Donate

Used under Creative Commons license by DarkroomDaze/Flickr


There are so many great organizations that rely on donations.    Whether it’s clothing, furniture, shoes, …..  It CAN be used for a good cause.  There are also loads of recycling options for metals, chips bags, wine corks and other items.  IF, and this is a big if, the organization can use it!   Disposable costs can be high, not to mention the wasted time and energy used to sort through the items.  Make sure your good deed is actually GOOD!

Understand What to Donate

Many organizations have websites with explanations on what they accept.  Some even have specific lists of do’s and don’t.  They fascinate me. I know, recycling geek that I am!  But I have discovered many items I did not think could be re-used by looking through these lists.  

Many charities work directly with people in need.  For this reason, they can only use donations that still have some life left in them.  They are not recycling the items.  One such organization in my area is The Wish Project.  In their October Newsletter they stated: 

“Currently, more than 20% of goods donated are unwanted and we struggle each week to find a way to recycle them or relocate them. “

On the other hand, there are textile recyclers who can take just about any kind of textile (fabric) as long as it’s dry, clean and free of mildew or hazardous materials like oil or paint.  But you need to be sure that where you are donating can handle this.

Still Not Sure….

If you still aren’t sure, ASK!  I’m sure they’d prefer to answer a few emails or phone calls than get mountains of unusable items.  It takes a lot of time, energy and money to dispose of the items a charity can’t use.  Trash disposal is big bucks.  Money that your charity can’t use to further their cause. 

Don’t think – Oh I bet they’ll be able to use this.  They may not.  I once had a mountain of plastic clothes hangers that I didn’t want to recycle since they were still useable – just not by me.  I thought a local charity might be able to use them, but hangers were not on their list of acceptable items.  So I emailed to check.  Turns out they CANNOT use them.  They usually fold all of their clothing.  Good to know! 

Asking saves you time and energy as well.   If I had just assumed they could use the hangers, I would have wasted time and gas bringing the hangers to them.  Instead, since I discovered that Savers does accept and use plastic hangers.

I write this with first-hand experience.  I sometimes get the weirdest things in the Upcycle It! bins.  Some people think I can recycle ANY plastic.  Not true.  Those items aren’t so bad, but it does take extra time and energy to sort through it all.  Take a look at MY trash after one sorting session   Ironic isn’t it!



It’s the really weird things that make me go, “huh?”  I once received a bag full of what looked like wall board and carpet fibers, a CFL light bulb, and scrap wood.  I kid you not.  I’m really not sure what the thought process was here.  In my trash they went, well except the CFL which went to the hardware store to be disposed of properly.  I appreciate the effort people make to donate goods, recycle, and reduce waste in general.  Just make sure you aren’t unknowingly causing more of a mess somewhere else.


Got any good donation tips?


Designed by Clever Kiwi