Author Archive | Kristina

Coconut Rice Pudding


Coconut Rice Pudding recipe

Ever since I was a child, I have loved rice pudding!   Maybe it’s an Armenian or Middle Eastern thing.  Not sure, but it’s so yummy and comforting.  Combine that with my love of coconut – Coconut Rice Pudding.  Oh yeah!

I started making it again a few years ago.  Just as good as I remember, although I miss my grandma making it.  The recipe I used was from an old church cookbook – you know it’s good! 

Of course, I had to add my own little flair.  I also adore coconut.  So I combined the two!  Delicious!



Coconut Rice Pudding
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  1. 4 cups milk
  2. ½ cup rice
  3. ½ cup unsweetened coconut
  4. 1/3 cup sugar or honey or other sweetener of choice
  5. 1 egg (optional)
  6. 1/2 tsp coconut flavoring
  7. 1/8 tsp vanilla
  1. Crack the egg into a dish and let sit – brings it up to room temperature
  2. Put rice, coconut, and sugar/honey in a pan and heat on medium heat until boiling, stirring constantly.
  3. Turn heat down to low, simmer for 30 mins or until rice is tender, stirring frequently.
  4. Turn heat off, add vanilla and coconut flavoring
  5. Add a little of the rice pudding to the egg and beat immediately. You want to temper the egg so it doesn’t make scrambled eggs. Add the egg to the rest of the rice pudding and stir for a few mins. to cook the egg.
  1. Personally, I like the custard-y flavor the egg gives the pudding. It's totally optional and, honestly, not part of the traditional recipe I started with.
The Greening of Westford

Ever had rice pudding?

 This post has been shared at Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Tasty Tuesday


How To Preserve Tomatoes FAST!


How to preserve tomatoes fast!


Freezing Tomatoes Many Ways

I just love the idea of having garden quality tomatoes all year long.  I just have not taken the plunge into canning.  Honestly, it kind of scares me.  I am a simple girl!   I kept hearing more and more ways of freezing tomatoes. I can do that!  And when my local farmer started selling 1/2 bushels, I went for it.  What made this easy, was that my farmer gave me a variety of tomatoes – some small, plum, heirloom.  I could pick and choose which ones fit the methods the best.


Spaghetti Sauce

I made 2 types.  The first was a quick, fresh tasting sauce made by  roasting the tomatoes, adding some garlic and few other spices and simmering on the stove for a bit.  The second way was a more traditional longer cooking method using my slow cooker.   I reused some of my glass jars and in the freezer they went.




Frozen Whole

Yup!   I just washed them and tossed them in a freezer bag as is.  Turns out my Mom and a friend do this all the time.  I’ll use these for any dishes that call for fresh tomatoes that are then cooked.



Pureed And Diced

For the puree, I cored several tomatoes then I just tossed them  into the food processor, peels and all, and blended away.  For the diced tomatoes, I blanched and peeled the skins then chopped.  I love that I can now stop buying canned tomatoes.  Actually I had stopped using the canned tomatoes completely and just didn’t make those recipes anymore.  Some were favorites though so I’m so glad to have these tomatoes to use instead.




Tomato Leek Soup

I happened to have a bunch of leeks that I needed to use so I made some tomato leek soup.  I simmered this mixture for a bit then blended it with my immersion blender.   YUMMY!  This didn’t even make it to the freezer.




Sun-Dried Tomatoes

OK, oven-dried tomatoes.  I picked out the smaller tomatoes and halved them.  Placed them on a baking sheet and roasted in the oven for about 6 hours on 200 degrees F.  I then froze them to keep them fresh.  




Roasted Tomatoes

Sliced a bunch, olive oil, salt, pepper and into the oven they went on 400 degrees F for about 30 – 40 minutes, possibly less depending on the size of the slices..  I have several pasta recipe that call for roasting tomatoes.



And that was it!  1/2 bushel processed almost effortlessly in over about 3 days.

I am so glad I challenged myself to do this.   I have a beautiful variety of tomato products to use all winter.  


Do You Freeze Tomatoes?


This post has been shared at Natural Living Monday, Fabulous Frugal Thursday


3 Uses for Cereal Bags

 You buy a box of cereal and inside that box is a cereal bag.  Until bulk cereal options are better around me, I am stuck with these two.  The box can get recycled or upcycled into many things – just take a look on pinterest.  So how can I reuse the cereal bag?  Glad you asked?


3 Uses for Cereal Bags



Leftovers  This is especially handy for things like a watermelon.  On this occasion, I cut the cereal bag to size, then secured it around the watermelon with a spare rubber band that came on a package of something or another.  For some things you could even use the bag as is and just toss in your leftovers.


Use Cereal bag in place of waxed paper

Non-Stick  Smusher  There are times when you need waxed paper for some sort of baking. In this instance I used my cut cereal bag over my healthier fudge bars while squishing them into shape.


Use cereal bags to keep hamburgers from sticking to eachother

Cereal bags can help keep snacks form sticking 

Separator   Separating homemade hamburgers or snacks in the fridge or freezer.  


I love finding new uses for things!  After I’m done with these cereal bags, I can give them a quick wash and reuse them or recycle them at my grocery store.

Ever reuse cereal bags?


This Post has been shared at Small Footprint Fridays, List It Tuesday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday


Walmart and P&G are Phasing Out Harmful Chemicals

 Walmart and P&G phasing Out Harmful Chemicals


This week, Walmart announced they will be attempting to minimize the harmful chemicals in their household cleaning, personal care and beauty and cosmetic products.  Beginning in January 2015, Walmart will require their suppliers to disclose, online, ingredients contained in products sold on Walmart shelves.  This is a HUGE step as none of these products currently are required to disclose their ingredient lists anywhere.  Walmart will also work to reduce the use of 10 “high priority” chemical ingredients.  The list of 10 has not yet been disclosed but Walmart assures Safer Chemicals Healthy Families that the 10 are on its list of the “Hazardous 100+”.  Another distinction is that Walmart will be working with suppliers to ensure the replacement chemicals aren’t just as bad.

Proctor &Gamble announced earlier in the week that it will eliminate triclosan and dibutyl phthalate from all of its products by 2014.  Triclosan and phthalates are believed to be hormone disruptors.

I am VERY happy with these announcements!  It shows that companies are listening to consumer concerns.  I constantly feel like I have to be a scientist to go shopping – is this made of PVC, what are the ingredients, is that one a safe one?  It has this certification, but does it really mean anything?  It is enough to make your head spin.  Fix it from the top!  If manufacturers and retailers can rid our shelves of dangerous chemicals, then I don’t need to worry, as much.  There are still plenty of other decisions I will need to make.  But trying to pick the hand soap that DOESN’T have an ingredient possibly adding to antibiotic resistant bacteria – yeah I don’t think anyone wants that.

This also covers the other shoppers who may not even be aware that their cleaning product or tube of lipstick could be harming them.  I was one of these consumers once, and probably still am in other areas.  I remember years ago, my children were small and I was just beginning to go green.  I started seeing “no growth hormone” stickers on milk.  I remember, clear as day, standing in the aisle of the grocery store with my 4 year old and 2 year old twins, just trying to get some milk and thinking “Did I need to worry about that?”  I had no clue what it meant at the time.

Say what you want about Walmart, but you can’t deny their reach.  According to Forbes magazine, they are the largest retailer in sales and the #24 “World’s Most Powerful Brand”.  If they rid their shelves of 10 dangerous chemicals, that is a significant drop overall. 

One thing that bothers me though is that I had a difficult time finding these announcements in Walmart or P&G press releases. Nor could I find it easily in main stream media.  If I missed it, please tell me.  I wish the companies and media saw this as more news worthy.

Let’s just hope they follow through and continue to do more!

What do you think about these announcements?


Photo used under Creative Commons by Walmart/Flickr


What the Heck is a GMO?

What the Heck is a GMO?   

GMO.  We hear the word batted around on the news, in magazines and at the grocery store.  But do you really know what they are?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  GM plants (genetically modified, as they are referred to) have had their DNA altered through genetic engineering techniques.  We aren’t talking about cross pollination here.  This is done in a lab at the gene/DNA level.

Example: GMO Corn

DNA from one organism, say bacteria, is injected into another organism, say corn.  Some sweet corn has been genetically altered so that its DNA includes an insect-killing gene from bacteria.  The corn is now able to kill insects all on its own without the use of insecticides.  Sounds like it might be useful.  Reduce the pesticide use, right?  Wrong.  According to Just Label It!, recent evidence shows that these pests are becoming resistant to the insect-killing agent in Bt Corn.  As a result, insecticides are still being sprayed on Bt Corn.  Then think about the corn itself.  What happens to the corn?  We eat it.  Would you want to eat insecticide? 


GMOs linked to Diseases

Many people believe that GMOs play at least some role in celiac disease, food allergies, auto immune diseases, and even leukemia.  I was dumb-founded at the evidence presented in the film Genetic Roulette.  As far as I know, there isn’t conclusive evidence linking GMOs to diseases, but it just may be that the studies have been suppressed or haven’t been given funding. 

For me, I see such an increase in food allergies, food intolerances, ADD/ADHA and autism now compared to when I was growing up.  Something is going on.  Peanut free tables and classrooms are common place in schools.  I never ever remember knowing or meeting one person of my age group allergic to peanuts.  Now, I can name at least 10 my children know without trying very hard.


How To Avoid GMOs

Many countries around the world label GMOs.  64 countries and counting.  Some have even banned GMOs.  The U.S. as a whole, is not among them.  There is information floating around the internet claiming you can use the PLU codes found on produce.  Unfortunately, this is not reliable.  Using the GMO designation (the number 8) is optional.  With all the controversy, I’d be very surprised to find anything labeled with the number 8.  

Maine and Connecticut recently passed legislation to require labeling of GMOs.  Chipotle is now, voluntarily, labeling all of their ingredients.  23 states have introduced labeling legislation just this year – including Massachusetts.

For now, if you want to avoid GMOs:

  1. Buy USDA certified organic – organic foods can NOT contain GMOs.  This is especially important for the top GMOs crops – corn, soy, canola, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow summer squash.NonGMOProjectLabel
  2. Look for third party certification verifying there are no GMOs – like the Non-GMO project label to the right.



I am just beginning to delve into the GMO topic.  It is a huge topic and I urge you to learn more.  Stay tuned here and on my Facebook and twitter feeds as I will be passing on what I learn.   

Washington state is gearing up for a vote this November.  If you know anyone who lives in Washington State, send them the link and ask them to #Yeson522.


Are you concerned about GMOs?


Why Are The Bees Dying?

Why are the bees dying?


Remember the film “Bee Movie”?  Remember when the bees went on strike and everything started to die?  Until I saw that movie, I had never really thought about that.  But it’s true!  If bees aren’t there to pollinate, many fruits, veggies, and flowers that rely on pollination… won’t produce their fruit.  Think almonds, blueberries, kiwi, and cocoa!  Yes chocolate!!  And that is the tip of the proverbial iceberg folks.

As far back as 2007, when Bee movie was released, colony collapse disorder (CCD) has been discussed.  Bees are disappearing and/or dying for unknown reasons.  Last winter 1/3 of all the bees in the US were lost.  

“Honeybees originally imported from Europe are used to pollinate $14.6 billion worth of fruits, nuts and other U.S. crops annually. Bees also have disappeared from hives in Brazil and across Europe.”

That is a LOT of pollinating!!!

Why is this happening?

That is the $64,000 question.   Some thoughts include:


What’s Next?

The bottom line for me – bees are disappearing, PERIOD!   If this continues, our food supply is in danger.  

This is definitely a topic I want to pay closer attention to.  To raise awareness I am joining with others in the Get The Buzz On Bees and Make Your Backyard Count Blog Fest.  Take a look at it for loads more information.

A new report from Friends of the Earth suggests that many garden products and plants sold at major retailers containing neonicotinoid insecticides are a major contributing factor to this issue.  For more information and ways you can help, click here.

Are you concerned about the bees?


Great Deal on Vitacost Organic Coconut Oil


Vitacost is having an amazing sale on their organic extra virgin coconut oil – $16.99 for 54 oz.

You can save even more:

1)  Use Ebates – If you shop Vitacost through your ebates account, you will get 4% back from ebates – that’s $0.68. 

2)  Don’t have an ebates account?  Get one!  For signing up here, you can choose to receive  a $10 gift card from Macy’s, Walmart, Target or Kohl’s or $5 in ebates cash.    Then get your $0.68.  Hey, it adds up.  (This is an Affliate link which means I will get some $ if you use it)

3)  New to Vitacost?  Sign up here and receive a $10 credit to use toward a purchase of $30 or more.  You might even be able to use it on this order!  (This is an Affliate link which means I will get some $ if you use it)

If you use all 3 of these money savers, it’s practically free!

Vitacost has loads of great products at great prices.  Free shipping on overs over $49.   I get all my shampoo and coconut flakes from here.


What Do Kids Think About School Lunches?

School has started and so have the school cafeteria lunch discussions.  In the news recently, I have read about schools dropping out of the National School lunch program for various reasons, parents wanting better food, new “healthier” guidelines,  kids “refusing” to eat the “healthier” lunches, etc….  But has anyone wondered what the kids think?

I was cleaning out an old stack of papers yesterday and came across this.  It’s my daughter’s persuasive writing assignment from 5th grade.  I think it’s interesting to see things from the child’s perspective.  Even more interesting to find out that not all of them want junk food.

 Now, I am not naive.  I completely know that she still loves pizza , desserts, potato chips and the like.  Is she going to refuse that dessert when she buys lunch at school, no way.  But if she can make the connection between food and how she feels and performs, Woo Hoo!  Proud Mom moment!!!  And I’ll take it!  All my home cooking and talking sunk in.  Even if it was only to help her write this paper, it’s in her brain to stay.


An 11 year old's thoughts on school lunches


What do your kids (and you) think about school lunches?



Green Around Town: Recycling and Composting

Every once in a while, I get the feeling that we as a country and planet, are not moving quickly enough towards sustainability.  It gets discouraging.   I can start to lose steam, almost a “why bother, no one else does,” attitude. 

This time,  I decided to really notice green actions and examples near me.  I made sure to take pictures and went through my old ones to see all that WAS happening around me.  Here are all the examples I found of recycling and composting alone near Boston.


My parents sent me this picture while at my Mom’s college reunion at Clark University in Worcester, MA.



It was great to see recycling right next to each trash container on our town common during the annual strawberry festival in June.



I took this over a year ago while at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Love the graphics!  Hate that the trash is still overflowing.


I saw these all over Boston on a recent trip.



This was great to see a few years back when Loon Mountain in Lincoln, NH added them.  Before that they had no recycling whatsoever.



The owner of Westford Pilates, Chris, put this at her studio all on her own.  She told me she takes it home to recycle because her building doesn’t have it available.


Still wish more was happening, but this  was encouraging!  I came across even more in other categories like solar power and electric vehicles, but I’ll save that for another time.

Do you see green actions around you?



Out Of The Box School Fundraisers

Back to School!  We are at the mid-point of the summer.  Back to school sales are upon us.  We’ve even started searching for back to school supplies.

Many schools are hurting for funding and are looking at ways to creatively raise some cash.  It is a necessary evil.  Boy, I really don’t care for most of the traditional school fundraisers.  The items are almost always overpriced because there is a middle-man taking their cut.  The products can be sub-par as far as quality in some cases.  Most people feel obligated to buy something.  Wouldn’t it be better to go a different way?

As part of a Back to School Blog Carnival hosted by Retro Housewife Goes Green, I’ve put together a few options that won’t cost family members an arm and a leg and actually do some good besides raising the profits of the company selling the junk  merchandise.


Out of the Box School Fundraisers {}


If you have been reading this blog, you know that I started a TerraCycle program called Upcycle It! a little over 3 years ago.  TerraCycle collects otherwise un-recyclable items, keeping them out of the waste stream,  and turns them into new products.  They accept over 40 different items such as chip bags, granola wrappers, writing instruments, cell phones and much more.  

As if that wasn’t cool enough, for each item sent to TerraCycle, money is donated to your school or non-profit.  Most items are 2 cents.  Doesn’t sound like much does it?  But it’s pretty much free money.  Think about all the granola bar wrappers coming into schools each day.  All you have to do is get those wrappers into a box, slap a pre-paid shipping label on it and voila – money!  Since starting Upcycle It!, we have raised almost $9,000.  Yup, 2 cents at a time folks!


ShoeBox Recycling

Got shoes that you’ve outgrown?  What school aged child doesn’t!  Collect those paired, reusable shoes, ShoeBox Recycling will pay you $0.50 per pair.  Our school district’s elementary and middle school Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) started this program last school year.   The Elementary schools alone made almost $3000.  The President of the PTO said it was so easy!  She was very smart and placed boxes at our local library, a couple of shoe stores in town and the senior center in addition to the elementary schools.

The shoes are “distributed for resale and reuse in [their] original form, at various local marketplaces around the world.”  ShoeBox Recycling provides the boxes and FedEx will deliver them, free of charge.  Your school will receive a monthly check with your earnings.


Natick BoxTextile recycling

Did you know that you can donate clothing that may be ripped or stained?  Yes, you can!  And your school could benefit.  There are many companies that collect old clothing or fabric of any kind (including old stuffed animals, curtains, towels and more) and pay those who house their collection bins. 

One such company in my area, Bay State Textiles, pays schools $100 per ton.  Bay State Textiles works with your school and provides education materials to help spread the word.   They are currently working with several towns in the area.  One, Beverly, MA, collected over 11,000 pounds in the month of June alone.  The school made $586!  


All of these programs take minimal effort, reduce items going into the waste stream, and don’t cost parents or relatives a dime.  Win-win-win.  The environment benefits too – WIN!

 For more great back to school posts, be sure to check out the blog carnival.

Know of any other out of the box fundraisers?


This post has been shared at Fabulously Frugal Thursdays, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday


You Say Trash, I Say Opportunity

How the Massachusetts waste ban should be a money maker { }

Incinerator floor filled with trash…and recyclables


Did you know that in Massachusetts certain items are banned from your trash?  In 1990, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) deemed certain items that should not be put into the trash either because they are hazardous or they are easily recyclable.  The recyclables ones are:

  • Ferrous & non-ferrous metals
  • Glass & metal containers
  • Leaves & yard waste
  • Recyclable paper, cardboard & paperboard
  • Single resin narrow-necked plastics (plastics #1 and #2)
  • White goods (large appliances)

Metal, glass, paper, plastic.  All commonly recyclable in Massachusetts.

Here’s the legal-ease:

“No person shall dispose, transfer for disposal, or contract for disposal of the restricted material except in accordance with the restriction established in the table. No landfill, transfer facility or combustion facility shall accept the restricted material except to handle, recycle or compost the material in accordance with a plan submitted pursuant to 310 CMR 19.017(5) and approved by the Department.”

I highlighted the word person in the above statement. Notice that this is generic. It applies to everyone, not just big businesses or just residents. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!


What happens if these items are found in the trash?

If enforced, a fine can be issued in the amount of $100 to $25,000 for each day of violation. I spoke to our regional MassDEP representative who said that if they are able – they go after everyone – the person/company that threw out the recyclables, company who hauled it away, the municipality, and the landfill or incinerator that accepted it.

Even with these bans in place, recyclable material is still being thrown away.  According to a study conducted at a local incinerator in 2010, waste entering this facility still had:

  • 27.3% paper
  • 11.6% plastic
  • 5.7% metal
  • 1.8% glass

In theory, another 45% of the trash being tossed in these MA towns could have been recycled.  Almost half!  As you can see from the picture I took at this very facility, there is a lot of cardboard and paper being tossed.  Can you find the Christmas tree?


Why do municipalities want to increase recycling?

Although there are many who want to make a positive impact on the environment, usually the bottom line is money and compliance to the above ordinance.

I took a look at Westford’s disposal costs for 2012.

Recycling cost $240,000  for 2816 tons  => $85 per ton

Solid Waste cost $1,173,352  for 8168 tons  => $143 per ton

Granted recycling is picked up every other week in Westford so the cost of the trucks is ½ what it would be for trash pickup.  For recycling, however, that is where the cost ends.   We can recycle as much as we want without this pickup cost changing.  The recycler is then able to take this resource, yes resource, separate it and resell it for a profit.  In reality, the per ton cost ($85) will go down if we recycle more.  Not so for trash.

For trash disposal, we not only pay for the trucks to pickup, but we pay an additional fee to the incinerator for each ton of trash disposed  (a tipping fee as it is known in the industry).     The total cost of solid waste is split about equally between pickup and disposal in this particular scenario.  With approximately 45% of this 8168 tons of trash containing recyclables, there is a real money saving opportunity here.  About $250,000!

Many people don’t even know about the waste ban.  Why would they?  You never hear of enforcement, businesses routinely neglect recycling because it costs extra, initially; even some cities and towns don’t force their own employees (including schools) to recycle!  It drives me crazy.  I would love to see more education and enforcement.


Why isn’t there more recycling? 

I’d love to know!  Many municipalities in MA have moved to a PAY-AS-YOU-THROW (PAYT) system.  You pay for all or a portion of the trash you throw out.  In these situations, recycling is usually free.  In those towns/cities, recycling rates have sky rocketed and trash rates have plummeted!  Recycling rates in Massachusetts vary from area to area.  Usually in direct proportion to how much residents are asked to pay for their trash.  The lowest trash rates being in those towns/cities where residents pay for all of their trash.

Normally, I am not one to support this type of negative reinforcement, but I am beginning to think that unless there is some immediate detrimental effect, people do not change their habits.  And the results are pretty impressive.


Talk about a quick money maker! Take a few MassDEP employees a few days a month to go around and educate on the waste ban.  Then round two: fine businesses, residents, haulers, incinerators and landfills still allowing recyclables into the trash.  I’m sure the word would spread pretty quickly!  This could boost the recycling industry and lower business’ and municipal disposal costs.  I’m sure it’s more complicated than that, but still….  what an opportunity!


What are the recycling rules where you are?


This post has been shared at Simply Natural Saturdays, Green Living Thursdays


Genetic Roulette {Friday Film Fest}


{The Greening Of Westford} Genetic Roulette Review

Have you heard the term GMO?  Most people have, but may not know exactly what they are.  The film Genetic Roulette, explains not only what a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) is, but also gives some background and presents issues surrounding GMOs.  The film starts with the statement that since the mid 1990’s, Americans are sicker than Europeans.  Not the kind of statement you want to hear, but hear you must.

As the film progresses, what GMOs are and how they affect our bodies unfold.  The film makes links between GMO use and the many diseases that are on the rise.  It also sheds light on the unsettling, in my opinion, links between business and the government.

Most documentaries have interviews with experts.  This film is entirely “interview” format.  No voice overs explaining and making connections.  While I was impressed with the number of experts interviewed for this film and the amazing way it was edited to explain in a logical fashion, I did find the format difficult to follow at times.  There is a lot of information in this film!  Some of it I was familiar with so I could absorb most of it.  But for the truly “new to GMOs”, it might be too much information and be overwhelming.

This is what I liked best about the film.  Not only do they explain GMOs so you can decide for yourself whether you want to be eating them or not, but if you choose not, they also give resources for avoiding GMOs.

To watch the film for yourself, you can rent it for 7 days for $2.99 or purchase it for $14.99 here: Genetic Roulette – The Gamble of Our Lives.


Have You Seen Genetic Roulette?  What Did You Think?


Full disclosure: There are a few affiliate links in this post. Any products ordered through the links will put a few cents in my pocket and help support this blog. Thank you!



The Greening of Westford Has a New Address


Did you see the change?!?!  No more .blogspot in my URL.  I’m all official and stuff now!

I have really loved blogging over the past few years and finally decided to take the plunge and get even more serious about it.  After speaking with several awesome high powered  bloggers, I decided to take the plunge and buy my own domain name.  I’ve also made some changes beneath the hood.  You may not notice them, but they will give me more power!

So, you shouldn’t have to change much, but if you use an RSS reader (especially Google Reader which went kaput July 1) just double check that you are still getting my most current feed.  You should since I carefully made sure to use the same one. But never hurts to double check.

If you have any old links (with .blogspot) anywhere they should still work.  If they don’t, please let me know or remove the .blogspot and try again.

I would LOVE to know what you want to see.  Any burning questions?  Things you want to learn more about?  Please leave a comment.



The Gifts Live On

Losing a loved one is always difficult.  No matter how long it was “expected”.  When this happens, the last thing on your mind may be how to donate unwanted items.  Most people are just too distraught to think about that and it might even seem weird to give away your loved ones possessions.  Although I can’t imagine tossing them in the trash seems better.  I think people just find it overwhelming and are not up to the task during such a difficult time.


{The Greening Of Westford} Donating Unused items

My Auntie Charl was an amazing woman who we lost to cancer in March.  She would always take the time to sit and talk with you and if you ever needed a piece of candy, you knew where to go!  When my cousins and I were young, she was the president of the Wild Cats Club.  A club she made up when we all slept at our grandmother’s house.

She lived pretty simply.  My 7 cousins and I were left her house and needed to prepare it to be sold.  I felt strongly that anything useful should be reused by some.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it the weekend my cousins were going through the house.  They were behind me, but had no idea how to sort out what could be donated and where it could go.  I did!

I gave them a list of things that I knew I could recycle/donate easily:

  • Furniture – it might have been from the 1950’s but it was quality furniture
  • ANY fabric, old sheets, curtains, clothing that couldn’t be worn, etc
  • Books, CDs
  • kitchen items like dishes, pots, pans
  • Pictures and other decorative items

The picture above shows everything that fit these categories.  Unbelievable from such a small house with only one person.

Now to find donation places near her house.  Around my house, I knew exactly where I could go, but I didn’t want to have to move it 30 minutes away.

{The Greening of Westford} donating furnitureFURNITURE  

A quick internet search for “furniture donation” with her location, gave me loads of options.  I ended up finding Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance.  They work with local social workers to identify families and individuals that can use the donated items.  They were perfect.  And they could come the following week.  All of the furniture went to them:

  • Hutch
  • Kitchen table and 6 chairs
  • Bedroom set
  • TV stand
  • 2 matching end tables and  coffee table



Easy!  My cousin had already taken all of the wearable clothing to a Multiple Sclerosis charity.   All fabric, whether ripped, stained, broken, can be donated!  While waiting for the furniture to be picked up, we loaded all of the blankets, pillows and other fabric items into the truck and made 2 trips to the Salvation Army donation bins that were right down the street.  I think we filled one of them!


We filled the truck again and took it to Savers to be sold again.  Savers gives a portion of their proceeds to the Epilepsy Foundation.

A few phones calls and a couple of hours saved a dumpster-worth of usable items from the landfill.  The only reason these last few items were still left was because we didn’t have any more space in the truck!


What was left

I felt great, knowing that many of her precious belongings will be put to good use.  I like to think this would make her happy too.




What To Do With My Old Cell Phone?

{The Greening Of Westford} Reduce Reuse Recycle Your Old Cell Phone

My old cell phone sitting in my car to be donated

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Your Old Cell Phone

While doing some de-cluttering, I found my old cell phone.  Sitting in a draw.  I know I can recycle it or possibly donate it to a charity.  But where exactly can I bring it and how can I be assured it will be used to the highest degree possible?

So started my investigation…

I couldn’t find a consensus on how many cell phones are purchased each year in the U.S., so I did my own math.

According to the US census for 2011, there are 233 million people between the ages of 15 and 80.  Assuming each of those people has a cell phone and the average life of a cell phone is 3 years (which is probably on the high side), 77.7 million cell phones are being replaced per year.  That’s a lot of phones!  Worldwide, the numbers are closer to 1 billion per year!

Not only do you want to make sure that your old phone doesn’t end up in a third world country or landfill, but go one step further.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – in that order.


Do you REALLY need a new cell phone?  Can you get by for a bit longer with this one?

Or maybe you can buy a used phone.  Look for a refurbished phone through your cell phone provider or on Ebay.


Gift it   Can someone else in your family use your old phone?  Maybe a grandparent or a teen?

Sell it    If it’s still fairly new try selling it.  Gazelle, a Boston based company, will give you an estimate right on their website.

Help victims of abuse

Verizon’s HopeLine Recycling Program will accept any phone in any condition from any provider.   The phones are scrubbed of personal data, refurbished and sold or given to victims of domestic abuse. Phones that cannot be refurbished are recycled responsibly.  Verizon accepts phones and accessories at any of their Verizon Wireless Communications Stores, through Hopeline phone drives or through the mail with post-paid label.

Make the internet safe for kids

Sprint has  a program that “Enables anyone to recycle wireless phones, batteries, accessories and data cards for free, regardless of carrier or condition. Program benefits Internet safety for kids.”  According to their website,   More than 90% of the devices collected are reused. Any equipment not reused is recycled.”

Many cell phone providers are offering buy back deals, reuse opportunities with charities or recycling options.  When you upgrade, ask what they can do with your old phone.


As a last resort, recycle it  If you know your phone does not work, recycle it for FREE:

In the end, I decided to bring it to the Verizon Wireless store at our local mall.  I had to go there anyway, so it was easy.

Do you have an old cell phone sitting around?

This post has been shared at Natural Living Monday, Living Green Tuesdays, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday


My Visit to the Westford Solar Park

The Greening of Westford: Westford Solar Park
In early May I had the incredible opportunity to visit the Westford Solar Park in my hometown of Westford, Massachusetts.  I’m such a geek! But I sure wasn’t alone.  About 30 of us were giddy with excitement about being able to see this array.
The Westford Solar Park is New England’s largest privately owned solar energy facility.  Owner of the Solar Park, Cathartes Private Investments, partnered with Nexamp to build and operate the park.  The 4.5 Mega Watt array sits on approximately 20 acres, consists of almost 15,000 individual solar modules and is said to produce enough electricity to run approximately 600 homes.
It is a fixed array, meaning the panels do not move to track the sun’s movement.  When asked why, Nextamp’s Senior Vice President, Will Thompson said  “financially it doesn’t make sense”, siting high failure rates on the tracking mechanisms and little gain in power production.
This land was the site of the Fletcher Quarry for decades.  There was nothing else that could have been done with the land.  Talk about recycling!  This commercial venture, which generates so much solar power, was a perfect use. Another interesting fact is that this array does not require any personnel on a regular basis.  The solar park is monitored by Nexamp remotely.  If a problem arises, they can send someone to take care of it.
The energy is actually used by the businesses and houses adjacent to the park.  Electricity is electricity. Once the power is converted and fed into the existing power grid, it goes to the closest location it is needed.  Think of the businesses in that area.  Kind of cool to think your Chinese take-out or pizza was made using solar power.  OK, my geek is showing again.
What would be even better is if, during a power outage, the solar array could be left on.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the way the existing power grid works.  Everything must be shut down.  But hopefully this will be able to change in the future.
According to Westford Town Manager Jodi Ross’ April Newsletter, “I am pleased to report that our town just entered three agreements with Nexamp to purchase solar energy credits, which will reduce our electricity expenses by about $400,000 per year.”  On the tour we were told that these energy credits were being supplied from other projects, not the Westford Park itself.
Massachusetts has big plans for solar.  Governor Patrick set a goal of reaching 250 MW of solar production in Massachusetts by 2017.  Well, we hit that 250 MW this past May.  The Governor has a new goal of 1,600 MW by 2020.  Since 2007 the solar energy installations in MA have sky rocketed from 3 MW to 250MW !
I find it extremely encouraging that an investment group, Cathartes Private Investments, is looking to build renewable energy facilities.  Obviously, they see the financial potential.  And I love that!  Yes it’s good for the environment, but the majority of people don’t see that as a good enough reason,  unfortunately.  Good thing there are other benefits!
If you are interested in installing solar on your house, take a look at Sustainable Westford’s Solar Challenge. The initial consultation is absolutely free and you will receive a $50 gift certificate to use at the Westford Farmer’s Market this season.
Take a look around.  Are you seeing more solar panels and wind turbines?


How Reusing Can Help Build Aidan’s Playground


While at my daughter’s soccer practice a few weeks ago, a mom I know told me about a friend of hers who was raising money to rebuild the young children’s section of a local playground in memory of her nephew, Aidan Mallio. Aidan was a loving, happy and very active little boy who was lost in a drowning accident in July of 2012 while his father was in the hospital being treated for leukemia.  My heart was breaking for this family.  

My friend went on to explain that one of the big fundraisers was huge yard sale. Yard Sale, reuse, then use the money for something good!  Right up my alley!  I offered to help out.  So, if I’ve seemed a little quiet lately, this is why.

This yard sale idea has been chosen by O, The Oprah Magazine for their De-Clutter for a Cause Contest.  Yes Oprah!  Some of you may recall that my light bulb moment for going green happened as I was watching The Oprah Show on Earth Day!  

Along with O Magazine, Peter Walsh, professional organizer from TLC’s Clean Sweep, will be hosting the huge yard sale event.    De-Clutter for a Cause: Aidan’s Playground with O, The Oprah Magazineand Peter Walsh is shaping up to be an awesome event – entertainment, raffles, an auction, food and of course loads of treasures for purchase.  

They have been gathering donations for the yard sale for weeks.  At the Town Wide yard sale a few weeks ago, we had a truck there to take away anything left at the end of the day that people didn’t want to bring home.  You should have seen the looks on some people’s faces – like they had won the lottery.  “Once it’s out of my house, I don’t want it back!” said one woman.  I hear ya!

May 18 9am – 2pm at Little Storage Solutions 509 Great Rd Littleton, MA.
Items Accepted: Books, DVDs, CDs, Household Items, Kids and Adult Clothes, Linens, Toys, Sporting Goods, Tools, Jewelry and Furniture – all in good, saleable condition

Items Not Accepted: Mattresses, Cribs, Couches, Large Electronics and Car Seats
It’s been amazing to see how many people are lending a hand, donating items for sale, raffle prizes, auctions, storage units (from Little Storage Solutions), printing, you name it! 

There is a whole group of people doing what they can and love to raise money on their own.     In the spirit of bringing the community together, the Together We Build project has been launched.   From bake sales to business donations, the site asks people to “do the thing you love best to make a difference….. It couldn’t be easier. Do something you already love and be part of this community project. Whether you make $5, $25, or $50, it’s all important. We can do this together!”

Several restaurants have donated including Papa Gino’s and Littleton Sub Shoppe & Pub.  Not Your Average Joe’s in Acton, MA will be donating a portion of your meal every WEDNESDAY IN JUNE.

Also just added:

An Evening With Peter Walsh to Benefit Aidan’s Playground

This intimate meet and greet event will take place on May 31 7:30 – 9:30 at Mangia Mangia Italian Grille in Westford, MA.  Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online.

To date, over $16,000 has been raised toward the $50,000 goal.  We are still accepting raffle and auction prizes.   If you would like to donate on behalf of yourself or your business, contact us:

For more information on all of these events, check out the main website at Castle In The Trees and our Facebook page.

Hope to see you on June 1!


What I Learned About the Environment From Elementary School Students

{The Greening Of Westford} Speaking with Kindergartners about Recycling
Speaking with Kindergartners
Nestled in a neighborhood in the Burncoat section of Worcester, MA sits a special  Elementary school – Thorndyke Road School.  It looks like an old mansion from the outside with its large entrance and beautiful columns.  What was going on inside, was even more amazing.
Being that Earth Day was last week,  this Kindergarten through 6th grade school had a very special week planned!  They did some spring cleaning and learned how to clean with vinegar, 4th, 5thand 6th grade students participated in an Environmentally themed Science Fair, and  they asked me to be a guest speaker for the day.  I was thrilled!
TRS had only recently started recycling at their school this year.  Through the efforts of one teacher, Stephanie Syre-Hager, and almost 50 5th and 6thgrade students they have made huge strides in “greening” their school.    They are focused on recycling right now, but I have no doubts they will be doing much more very soon.  The 5th and 6thgrade students volunteer to become Recycling Leaders and give up one lunch and recess per week to work on recycling in their school!   They broke into groups to work on different areas – there were Recycling Educators, Recycling Cheerleaders, Recycling Artists, Recycling Performers, Recycling Managers and the Celebration Planners.
Stephanie explains
Since the start of school, recycling leaders have been busy learning about recycling and coming up with ways to share information with the whole school.  The artists made posters, and they hung signs by the recycling bins to remind everyone which items should be recycled.  They also decorated an educational bulletin board.  Other groups have been working diligently too. The recycling educators are working on presenting ideas to teach younger children about recycling.  The cheerleaders presented a cheer on America Recycles Day, and the performers wrote and performed a play for several grade levels.  Our recycling managers have taken on the responsibility of distributing and emptying the bins on a weekly basis under the direction of a parent volunteer. We also had a recycled art contest around Thanksgiving. Finally, the Celebration Planners came up with ways to celebrate America Recycles Day on November 15th.  We had over 100 students take the Green Team Pledge with their families.
I had the pleasure of speaking with each of the Kindergarten through 6th grade classes throughout the day.  They were amazing!  For only starting to recycle this year, they knew a tremendous amount about the environment.  We talked about why we recycle, what we can recycle and of course I showed them my TerraCycle bags.  Kids (and adults)  just love these!  They were all so fascinated by the fact that trash could be turned into such cool tote bags, lunch bags and more.
With each grade level I was amazed at what they knew.  As I was discussing why we want to recycle, I asked how paper was made, what it was made from, of course they all knew – Trees.  I went on to explain that recycling saves trees – for every ton of paper recycled 17 trees are spared.  TRS will probably save about 20 trees this year through recycling, which doesn’t sound like much, but we did some quick math and realized that if every Massachusetts Public school recycled like TRS, we could save over 65,000 trees per year!  That made an impression, on me too!
Then I went on to ask why we want to save trees – I mentioned that trees take a long time to grow and that if we cut them all down for paper we might not have any left at some point and that would be ugly!  One third grade boy also told me that, “trees help us live by giving us oxygen”. Right on!!  A  4th grade girl explained that trees are homes to small animals and where would they go if all the trees were gone?!  Another boy said “We wouldn’t be able to build more homes” since they are also made of wood.  I was speechless!   Each classroom I entered surprised me more and more.  Happily!  They get it!  I told each classroom that they could help their parents and grandparents.  They thought it was funny that they could teach their parents.  But it’s so true!  We didn’t learn this in school like they are now.  
Speaking with the Recycling Leaders


Toward the end of the day, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the Recycling Leaders.  The enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication blew me away.  We talked about what steps they could take next – maybe introduce recycling in the cafeteria or start their own TerraCycle program.  I wasn’t even going to mention composting because I thought it might be too much, well a 5th grade girl asked what they’d have to do to compost the food scraps from the cafeteria!
The day ended with parents and students back at school looking at the Science Fair projects, announcing the winners and honoring the Recycling Leaders.   Many students I had spoken to during the day smiled, waved and said “Hi Mrs. Greene!” I am tearing up just thinking about it.  So cute!   I wish I could have written down all of their names because I have the feeling that I will be hearing their names in the future, doing great things.
The intent of having me there was to show them that other people are doing what they are and more.  To help encourage and inspire them to keep going.    Well, they are the ones that inspired me.  I truly left there more inspired and encouraged to go further myself.  
Thank you TRS! 


YoKids sMOOthies on the MOO-ve at the MS Walk

YoKids Smoothies {The Greening Of Westford}

I am always looking for healthy snacks that my kids find tasty.  Not an easy task at times.  I recently had the opportunity to try out Stonyfield’s new YoKids sMOOthies.  We are huge Stonyfield fans, so I jumped at the chance.

They were a big hit!  My kids love the taste!  I like that they are organic, made with real fruits and vegetables, and easy to transport.  

The kids and I signed up for a 5 mile walk to benefit Multiple Sclerosis in Newburyport, MA a couple of weeks ago.  A close family friend and my cousin were both diagnosed a few years ago.  We brought the smoothies for a little extra energy before we started the walk.  It was a COLD, windy day as you can see by the looks on my children’s faces and we needed all the energy we could get!  Once we started walking, all was good and our team raised over $5,000!

Would you like to try YoKids smoothies?

Stonyfield is offering a chance for one lucky The Greening Of Westford reader to win:

  • Coupons for (4) FREE 6-packs of YoKids Smoothies 
  • (1) deck of “52 Fun Things to do in the Car” cards
a Rafflecopter giveawayDisclosure: Stonyfield gave me coupons for 4 FREE 6-packs of YoKids Smoothies and a deck of “52 Fun Things to do in the car” to review for this post.   All opinions are my own.



The Best Snack Mix Ever!

{The Greening Of Westford} Best Snack Mix EVER

I made more of this snack mix recently and was asked for the recipe on Facebook.  I tweaked a recipe I found on allrecipes and when I went to find the original recipe, it was gone!  My old link sent me to a mac and cheese recipe, which looked great, but not what I was looking for.   Time for a recipe post!  

I started making this when my kids were small.  They LOVE it.  So do their friends.  It is requested a lot.
The actual mix of ingredients isn’t important.  Use what you like or what you have.  Chocolate candies could be added later or even dried fruit.  I wouldn’t add the fruit until AFTER this has cooked.  I have used stale pretzels, plain cheerios and other items that didn’t go over very well.  Once they are in the mix with the seasonings, they are usually eaten.
The Best Snack Mix Ever!
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  1. 2 cups oyster crackers
  2. 2 cups Crispix cereal or shredded wheat (I use the store brand)
  3. 2 cups pretzels
  4. 1 cup nuts of your choice (omit for a nut-free snack)
  5. 3 TBSP butter, melted
  6. 1 TBSP veg. oil
  7. 4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  8. 1 tsp seasoned salt (I use Penzey’s seasoned sea salt)
  9. ½ tsp garlic powder
  10. ½ tsp onion powder
  1. In a large bowl, combine cereals and nuts. In a small bowl, combine butter, oil, and spices. Pour over the cereal mixture and toss to coat evenly.
  2. Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet and spread evenly in a single layer. Bake at 250 for 45 mins, stirring every 15 minutes.
The Greening of Westford
This snack mix rarely lasts more than a day or two in our house.  In fact, I had to make this again just to get a picture!

What are you favorite snacks to make?



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