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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.



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!


Starbucks $1 Reusable Cup: Is it Right For You?

Starbucks $1 Reusable Cup:  Is It Right For You?  {The Greening Of Westford}
In January Starbucks introduced their $1 reusable cup.   In an effort to encourage more customers to bring their own mug instead of using a disposable cup each time.  Starbucks feels that this low price will make it an affordable alternative.  Their goal is to serve 5% of their beverages in reusable cups by 2015.  Currently, that number is only 1.9% (2011).
 I had to try it out for myself.  My local Starbucks sold out quickly.  The manager told me that they were only given 75 to start, but she ordered more.   So I went back a few days later and purchased one along with the man in front of me.
My Initial Impressions
  • Inexpensive, at this price customers might be able to have a few to make sure there is one in the car at all times
  • Saves 10 cents each time it is used paying for itself in 10 uses.
  • They are recyclable in most areas once they wear out 
  • It is HOT!  Like too hot to hold without a sleeve.  Both the man in front of me and I commented on this.
  • It is plastic.  Although it is BPA-free #5 plastic, the question among those concerned about plastics is “What is replacing the BPA?”  And in the end it is still plastic.
  • The top was difficult to remove and put back on.  I was afraid I was going to spill the entire mug.  It loosened after a couple of uses and isn’t a problem anymore.
  • Only good for 30 uses.  
  • I still wondered if I’d remember to bring this mug.
Since I now have a “spare” reusable travel mug, it actually stays in my car!  I have used it a couple of times.  Only a few because I don’t get coffee out that often.
To fix the temperature issue, I used an old sock.  I cut off the top of one of my husband’s old socks (had a hole in it and happened to get washed with something red turning it slightly pink).  It’s not the prettiest thing but it works and the barista commented on how cute it was!
I’m still concerned about it being plastic and that is meant to carry a hot liquid.  Plastics are more likely to leach toxins when heated.  That is why I never put plastic in the dishwasher or microwave.
I wasn’t pleased to discover that this cup is only expected to last 30 uses.  When this cup wears out, I will invest in a stainless steel one to keep in the car – along with my reusable grocery bags.  I think I’ve proven to myself, that if I have an extra mug designated for the car, I will leave it there.  
Personally, I would love a see a borrowing type of system.  Maybe you join a club for a small fee, or leave a deposit, and you get a travel mug – a stainless steel one.  Next time you bring that back for them to clean and get another one.
I’m curious to find out if this new cup is bringing Starbucks closer to their 5% goal. 
Have you bought one of these cups?  Do you bring your own mug?


Ditch The Plastic Bags

The little plastic grocery bag.  It has become quite the hot topic.  Plastic bag bans and fees are popping up around the world.  Just last week, Brookline, MA became the second Massachusetts town to ban plastic bags.  The first in Massachusetts was Nantucket in 1990!  But what is the big deal with plastic bags?  Why are they so bad?  

I wrote about The Problems with Plastics in Greene Westford column in May 2011.  Here are the reasons stated in that article.


Plastic never goes away!  Yes these bags can be recycled (at grocery stores NOT curbside).  However, this is only possible a few times. Each time plastics are recycled, they are degraded.  Eventually, recycling is no longer possible and they must get thrown away.  In a landfill, it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.  Even then, plastics actually photo degrade which releases toxins into the soil, air, and water.  Ironic that plastics are long lasting, yet they are mostly used for disposable items like water bottles and ziptop baggies

Recycling Rates are very low.  Many people don’t know or take the time to recycle the bags so the recycling rate is very low.  Numbers varied, but it is less than 5%.

Plastic pollutes the oceans.  Lots of plastic makes it way to the oceans (heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch?).  In the oceans, plastic bags can strangle animals or they mistake plastic bits for food.  Not such a healthy meal for them.  Or us!  Guess who is eating those fish?  

Plastic contains toxic chemicals.  Plastics contain 2 chemicals that are of particular interest – bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.  These chemicals can leach into foods where they are then ingested.  Both of these chemicals mimic estrogen and can disrupt our own hormones.   Effects of exposure to these hormone disruptors include immune dysfunction, metabolic disorders (diabetes) and reproductive problems. Infants and small children are most vulnerable to BPA.   

Plastics are made from oil.  The same oil that is used to produce gasoline.  Oil, as we know, is not going to last indefinitely.  It is estimated that 10% of the world’s oil supply is used for creating plastics. 

So those are the big picture reasons.  Let’s make this a little more personal.


Plastic bags are a pain to deal with  Reusable bags are so much easier to carry.  You can sling them on your shoulder and they don’t dig into your fingers cutting off the circulation.

Save Money.   Many stores give discounts – Target, Whole Foods, and Stop and Shop give you 5 cents per bag. Roche Brothers give 5 cents for their bags to Children’s Hospital.   Make sure to ask at Target, they often forget.

Oh I can hear it now.  “Yes but those reusable bags are full of bacteria!  And what if my meat leaks in them.”  Um, you wash your clothes right?  You wash your counter after meat juice leaks all over the place, right?  WASH THE BAGS!

I was recently told about this Plastic Bag Ban Map.  It shows what is going on worldwide with plastic bag bans and fee programs.


I had a lot of fun looking around.  A few things struck me:

  • Notice that MANY island nations and those bordering the ocean have instituted some sort of reduction measures.  They see the destruction first hand.
  • Many countries, The. Entire. Country, has a bag ban in place: Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Taiwan, and China are among them.
  • The red pins represent the failures.  I was saddened to see that most of the red pins are in the US.

There are opportunities here.  Opportunities = Jobs, Money, Growth.  Washington DC instituted a bag fee.  All of the money collected would go toward cleaning up the Anacostia river. Plastic bags made up 21% of the trash is this river and 40% in its tributaries.   Guess what happened?  People brought their own bags and the fee generated only half the revenue expected!

If you live in Massachusetts, you might be forced to consider this switch soon.   State Rep. Lori Ehrlich will be co-sponsoring a bill to ban the bags in Massachusetts.  She will bring this bill to session this January.

I hope this gains momentum.  I am afraid that an outright ban will most likely fail in Massachusetts.  As I looked around at articles online about Brookline’s ban, I kept seeing comments to the tune of “I don’t want big government telling me what to do.”  “I reuse my bags!”  Not that people want more fees in “Taxachusetts”, but I think it might be less of a sting to people.  Well, maybe a different sting.

Do You Use Reusable Bags?

This post is shared at Small Footprints Friday


Building with Habitat in Nepal: Support Cheryl

Local business owner, Cheryl Turgeon, is donating her time to help build a house in Nepal!  She needs to raise $1500 by the end of this month. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.  

Cheryl is the owner of The Whole Body Spa in Westford.  I have been going to Cheryl for facials for over a year.  My skin has NEVER been this good.  She is amazing at what she does.  She also sells her own line of facial cleansers and makeup – which are also fabulous.  She recently added “Simply Natural Deodorant”, 4 ingredients and it works!  (I was one of the testers 😉

Here is the information on donating to her build.

I am helping build a house in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world.

This house will give a family a decent & affordable home.

On Sunday, October 7, 2012, I will join more than 500 participants in the International Habitat for Humanity Everest build.  Each of participant has a goal of $1500 to raise towards this build by August 30th, 2012.

I hope you will support my efforts by contributing to my Everest Build for Habitat for Humanity. With your gift, we will all be closer to the ultimate world : a world where everyone has safe, decent & affordable housing.

to help me in my efforts to support Habitat for Humanity Everest build in Nepal please make a tax deductible donation by going to the following website

Then fill in:  Donation type/event:  Global Village

                  Assign Donation to (project name): nepal Cheryl Turgeon

or you can write a check to habitat for humanity-lowell chapter and give it to me directly and I will forward it to the nepal build fund.


Got Electronics?

A Greene Westford column reposted.

Recycle your old broken computers, TVs and toasters at the Recycling Commission’s Electronics Event this weekend

You know you do.  That old cell phone, computer or printer sitting in the basement.  How about a broken hair dryer, blender, toaster or anything else with a cord?  If you have electronics that work, but aren’t being used, there are other reuse options.  You might even be able to make a little cash selling them.   If they are not working, they can all be recycled at the Westford Recycling Commission’s Electronics Collection event.
Saturday June 23 8am – 2pm at the Highway Garage 28 North St.
The Westford Recycling Commission (WRC) holds these events 3 times per year – March, June and September.  Electronics need to be handled properly when being disposed of and the WRC wants to make this as easy as possible for residents.  It is not always clear what should be done with certain things, but the WRC has an extensive list of how to recycle beyond plastics and paper.  If you have questions, please check the WRC website or ask.  They are there to help reduce trash in Westford and are a wealth of information.  You can now find them on Facebook.
WRC has used Electronics Recyclers International (ERI) from Holliston, MA for several years.  One of the main reasons is that they are “responsible recyclers”.  What does this mean?  It means that these items will not end up overseas in a dump nor will your personal data be in jeopardy.  Last September, ERI announced that they achieved both the Basel Action Network’s E-Stewards Certification and the EPA’s R2 Certification for Responsible Recycling Practices for Electronics. ERI is the only e-waste recycler in Massachusetts to be both R2 and E-Stewards certified.
As of the last collection in March, fees charged have been reduced.  CPUs with mouse and keyboard, appliances without CFC (stoves, washer, and dryers) and cables are now free.  The fees for many other items have been reduced as well.  Check out the entire list here.
Over 34,000 lbs of electronics were collected at the last event in March.  According to Terry Grady of ERI, this event brought in more electronics than any event in 2011.  Only 3,200 lbs of this was computer equipment.  About half of the items collected at this event were monitors, TVs or other “screen” devices and over 7,500 lbs consisted of printers, stereo equipment, DVD players, VCR’s or other items with a cord.
Just load up your trunk, drive to the highway garage, pay your fees as your items are removed from your car, and be on your way.  All are welcome!
[Top photo used under Creative Commons license US Army Environmental Command via Flickr]


Veggies and More at Fat Moon Farm

A Greene Westford column re-posted.

Fresh local vegetables, herbs and learning opportunities right down the road

Elizabeth Almeida grew up on a farm in Ohio, daughter to a beef cattle farmer and a teacher.  Her husband’s family owns mango and coconut groves in India.  Together, Elizabeth and Noel “share a love of tasty, fresh, and healthy food and hope that you will soon join them at the farm to be part of the local food movement.”
Fat Moon is located at Meadowbrook Farm on Gould Road.  The name, Almeida explains, comes from their son “who would call the full moon the Fat Moon. And the moon over the field is beautiful.”  The farm began last June with pumpkins and squash.  This year she is planning a full season of growing.  Arugula, basil, several varieties of beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, eggplant and that is only up to “E” in her long list of vegetables!  Spinach, Swiss chard, over 10 varieties of tomatoes, turnips and watermelon round out the alphabet.   Her planting plan extends through the fall.  “My goal is to have fresh vegetables through Christmas”, says Almeida.
To help her with this goal, Almeida has installed a high tunnel.  This unheated greenhouse, funded by a USDA grant,  will allow her to start plants earlier.  She has also resurrected the greenhouse located at Robinson Elementary and has been using it to start warm weather crops such as eggplant, tomatoes and peppers.
Currently, she has pea shoots (which are delicious), garlic scapes, lots of herbs, and radishes available at her weekly farm stand on Thursdays from 3 – 7pm.  She updates her website weekly with what is available, along with recipe ideas on her Facebook page.
The small-scale lends itself to organic production methods.  Elizabeth explains that she is following organic methods, although not certified organic because of the cost.  She is perusing another certification called “Certified Naturally Grown.”  I watched as she dug for cutworms and grubs that were attacking the spinach and feed them to the chickens.
In addition to offering fruits and vegetables, Elizabeth offers many classes and opportunities for people to learn about food, how to prepare it, and other healthy living topics.  Picnics and playgroups on the farm are offered free of charge for children and their families.  The Kids CSA teaches children about healthy foods in addition to a weekly share of plants for your garden and/or vegetables.  The kids have also made rain gauges out of old soda bottles (pictured at right).  Cooking classes offer learning opportunities for adults to learn how to cook with local ingredients.  Her latest endeavor is a pumpkin patch with a pumpkin contest in October.  You can sponsor a plant and get your pick of the pumpkins.
She has received such a warm welcome from the neighbors and enjoys giving people the opportunity to “see how things are grown and make a connection to where their food comes from.”
More information on Fat Moon is available on their website.


Happy 2nd Birthday Upcycle It!


Today marks 2 years since the Upcycle It! program started in Westford.  It has been quite a success!
As of today, the totals are:

279, 562 pieces
2,759 lbs of trash kept out of the waste stream
$5,656.46 raised
I was recently informed that Upcycle It! is one of TerraCycle’s MVC’s – Most Valuable Collectors.
Over these 2 years, I have learned quite a bit sorting through the upcycle.  So, on this 2nd birthday, I’d like to share with you some random thoughts and a few things I have learned along the way.

Upcycle It! Top Ten Lessons Learned
10.  No matter how much you squeeze a juice pouch, there is still some juice left.
9.  Box Tops are now on Chex Mix bags.

8.  You can learn a lot by going through someone’s trash.

7. An elementary school does NOT go through as much glue as you might think.
6. It takes less than 2 weeks for juice pouches to really stink!
5. After sorting trash for a while, you can tell what kind of packaging something is just by the color and feel.
4. If you want good shipping boxes, stalk the chip and cereal vendors at the grocery stores.
3. If you sort upcycle stuff, ironically YOUR trash is very large because of the mistake items.
2. The number of candy wrappers upcycled increases from Halloween through Valentines, but so do toothbrushes and toothpaste.
1. People love to upcycle!
Do You Upcycle?
*Top photo used under Creative Commons from Landhere/Flickr


Organic Options Close To Home

A Greene Westford column reposted.

Market Basket now carries their own brand of organic milk

Market Basket offers organic options at affordable prices. 

I know people were upset to find out that Whole Foods would not be going into the new Cornerstone Square.  I was definitely one of them.  I do shop at Market Basket occasionally, but I would love for another supermarket to come to town. 
I recently looked more closely at what Market Basket offers and their prices.  I found quite a bit of organic and other more natural items at great prices.  Here is what I found:
Pete and Gerry’s Large Organic Eggs – 12 for $3.69
Organic Valley Organic Butter – 1 lb for $4.69
Organic Valley Organic Cream Cheese – $2.49.  This is a great price!  I saw it once on sale for $1.99, plus I had a coupon.  Still waiting to see that deal again!
Stonyfield Organic Yogurt – 32oz for $3.69
Annie’s Mac and Cheese – prices vary depending on exact type.
Clif Kid Organic Z bar – box of 6 for $4.79
Kashi granola bars – box of 6 for $3.00
TLC Crunchy granola bars – box of 12 for $3.00
Market Basket Organic Milk –half gallon for $3.49, available in fat free and 2%.  Although, honestly, this isn’t the low Market Basket price I would expect.  I have gotten other store brand organic milk for $2.99.  But it’s a start.
Amish County Farms Organic Milk – half gallon for $3.19
Heinz Organic Ketchup – 15 oz for $2.99
Pomi Chopped Tomatoes in a Tetra Pak – $1.99 (Good alternative if you are concerned aobut bisphenol-A (BPA) in cans, especially tomatoes because of their acidity)
Muir Glen Organic canned tomatoes – 14 oz can for $1.99.  Muir Glen is transistioning to BPA-free cans.
Eden Organic Canned Beans – variety of beans available 15 oz can for $2.50.  These cans have been BPA-free since 1999.
McCormick Organic Spices – prices range from $3.99 to $4.99 depending on the spice
Pacific Organic Broth – 32oz Tetra Pak for $3.49
Vermont Village Organic unsweetened Applesauce – 24 oz for $3.99
Bragg Organic Raw unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar – 16oz for $3.49
Domino Organic Sugar – 24oz for $2.29         
Bob’s Red Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – 5 lbs for $4.99.  Market Basket is one of the few places I can find Whole Wheat PASTRY flour.  It’s lighter in texture than normal whole wheat flour.
Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate – $2.50 per 3.5 oz bar.  Recently on sale for $1.99.   I have routinely seen these at $3.99 everywhere else.
Spectrum Organic Refined Coconut Oil – 14oz for $7.99
Spectrum Organic Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil – 14oz for $9.99
Olivia’s Organic lettuces – 5oz for $2.99
Nature’s Circle Farm Organic Russet Potatoes – 5lbs bag for $3.99.  Potatoes are one of ‘The Dirty Dozen’ containing high levels of pesticides and should be something you consider buying organic.
Marcal 100% Recycled Paper Towels – 1 roll (137.8 sq ft.) for $0.99
Tom’s Of Maine toothpaste – $4.49
In addition, Market Basket carries Coleman Organic chicken in various cuts, Kashi cereal, Bear Naked Granola, organic coffee and several Bob’s Red Mill products. Their prganic produce section is small, but seems to be growing.


Upcycle It! in the Top 100

Anastasia and Ashley (WA Environmental Club Students) after sorting Upcycle It! 

I have been getting TONS of email lately from TerraCycle.  All good!  I wanted to share the success with all of you.

About 2 weeks ago, I started getting emails with the title:

“Congratulations from TerraCycle–you’re a top 100 Brigade member!”

I get so many emails, that at first I put it aside and figured I look more closely later.  Then 2 more came, from different people at TerraCycle.  Honestly, at first I thought “Do you people talk to each other? I already got this email.”  Sorry TerraCycle.  When I looked closer, it turned out that they were for different brigades (collection items)!  We are in the Top 100 for
Chip Bags –  our total is 53,799,  more than around 9,500 other collection sites
Candy Wrappers – our total is 15,411, more than around 15,000 others
Oral Care – our total is 4,739
Writing instruments – 11,311, more than around 1,250 other locations
These totals are as of today.  We are always sending more shipments and the totals climb every couple of weeks.
In the midst of all this, we hit $5000 in late February.  Somewhere in here TerraCycle asked to feature our program in their blog.  And we were!
As of today, our totals are:
250,736 pieces
2,559 lbs of trash kept out of the waste stream
$5088.36 raised

Our next grant was also announced.  If you are a student, teacher or otherwise associated with one of the Westford Schools and would like to do an environmental project, apply!  There is up to $1500 available in this cycle.  Get an application here.
Keep this grant in mind.  It will be available twice a year around November and March.  Check here and the Westford Farmers Market for details.


3rd Graders Make Great Upcyclers

Photo credit Gavin Stewart/Flickr

If we want to save this planet, kids are the way to go!  Over the past few years I have spoken to many children in their classrooms, girl scout and cub scout meetings, and after school clubs.  They understand Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!  They teach their parents and grandparents to shut off lights and put the banana peel in the compost.  Now, 3rd graders at Abbot Elementary are teaching their fellow classmates and teachers how to upcycle.

Through a grant funded by Sustainable Westford’s Upcycle It! program, Jamie Kelly and Lisa Sanderson are teaching the 3rd graders a valuable lesson.  The students have become “treasure hunters” armed with iPod Touches. They began the year taking pictures of trash barrel contents all over the school.  They collected and analyzed the type of trash being thrown out. From there students created a slideshow presentation of their findings to the entire school.  They then sent out a survey to all students and staff to see what they knew and didn’t know about recycling and upcycling.  This data helped them focus on what education the school needed.  They then wrote, starred in and directed public service announcement video.  Take a look at the videos and survey results on the Abbot Treasure Hunters blog

Fantastic job! Can’t wait to see what comes next.


Clean Up Westford, One Hour at a Time

Now that the snow has finally melted, have you noticed something?  I have… all the trash along our streets!

Carmen Chiungos, long-time Westford resident, also noticed.  And she wasn’t going to take it lying down.  She created the Westford Litter League Green Team.  Each Saturday morning a different area of town is cleaned up by volunteers.  Who are these volunteers you ask?  They are me, you, and anyone else in Westford who doesn’t like seeing the trash.

I went the first week at Forge Pond. We picked up about 6 bags of trash. 

Every Saturday from 8am to 9am, just bring a trash bag and some hand protection.  

Come join us:

April 30 – The American Legion on Dunstable Rd

May 7 – Power Rd and Vine Brook Rd

May 14 – Bridge St. and Graniteville Rd

May 28 – Rt. 27 and Vose Hill Rd

If you can’t make it, clean up around your own street. 


Greene Westford, Upcycle It!, and the Green Living Fair

I have been quiet for a while, but I’m still here! My new column, “Greene Westford“, is keeping me busy. I’ve also been busy with the Green Living Fair being held on April 2 and Upcycle It!

In the meantime, please enjoy my latest column Sustaining Styrofoam in Westford.

Hope to see you at the Green Living Fair!


Upcycle It! Turning Trash into Cash

Sustainable Westford’s Upcycle It! program is taking trash to new heights and Westford schools are cashing in.

Upcycle It! collects non-recyclables such as chip bags, granola bar wrappers, cookie wrappers and more to keep them out of the waste stream. These items are sent to a company called TerraCycle. These items are then upcycled into new products.

TerraCycle collects 36 different ‘brigade’ items (types of waste) including chip bags, energy bar wrappers, candy wrappers, coffee bags, dried out pens and yogurt containers and upcycles them into eco-friendly products. The awesome thing is that all of the items are non-recyclable or hard to recycle. Now you are thinking, “Wow, that’s cool. But how do they get this stuff. Are they going through landfills?” Lucky for them, no. Any group or individual can sign up to collect and send items to TerraCycle. The shipping is free and 2 cents per item is donated to the school or charity of your choice. TerraCycle then takes the trash and makes backpacks, tote bags, and flower pots just to name a few of their 243 products. Sustainable Westford donates this money back to the Westford Public Schools.

I had wanted to start a TerraCycle program for a few years. Finally last winter, I signed up, joined a few brigades and started asking friends and others in town to collect these items with me. In April, I approached Gloria Gilbert, Westford Farmers Market founder, with the idea of putting a collection bucket at the market to make it more convenient. Little did I know, the group had recently expanded their mission to bring more “green” programs to the community, calling themselves Sustainable Westford. That conversation was the beginning of Upcycle It! Through the spring and summer, Upcycle It! spread through the town. Each week at the Farmers Market the Upcycle It! tent collected bags and bags of items. This past fall, collections began at most of the Westford schools – the 60+ buckets decorated by Westford Farmers Market volunteers are shown above. Students save items in the cafeterias and classrooms, and many others drop off items at the library, Roudenbush and Starbucks.

Since the program began in May, $1010.42 has been raised, over 50,000 pieces of trash totalling almost 590 lbs have been saved from the waste stream.

What to Collect

To participate, you simply need to save the items we collect and drop them off at one of the many convenient locations throughout Westford. Although TerraCycle collects 36 items, Upcycle It! only accepts the following:

  1. Drink Pouches: ANY brand of drink pouch (no juice boxes) and its straw (no juice) – place in separate bag
  2. Elmer’s Glue: Glue bottle, glue stick or glue pen
  3. Energy Bars Wrappers: ANY brand of energy, granola, cereal or protein bar wrappers
  4. Chip Bags: ANY chip/snack bag (any size)
  5. Cookie Wrappers: ANY brand of cookie wrappers (no plastic trays)
  6. Candy Wrappers: ANY brand of candy wrappers or bag (any size)
  7. Colgate Oral Care: ANY brand toothbrush, plastic toothpaste tubes, and packaging (no cardboard)
  8. Coffee Bags: ANY brand of coffee bag As of July 2011, coffee bags are no longer accepted
  9. Writing Instruments: ANY kind of pen, mechanical pencil or marker (no wooden pencils)

We can only accept wrappers and packaging that once held one of these items. So it matters more what was in the bag or wrapper than the type of material it is made out of. Think this way – if you can buy it in the “Chip” aisle of the grocery store, it’s considered a chip bag. So popcorn, pretzels, tortilla chips, etc… are all chips. Same logic can be applied to Candy, Cookies, and Energy Bars. The other brigades are little more self explanatory.

Quiz for you: Using the information above, would a ramen noodle package or a package that contained croutons be accepted?

Answer – No. Neither of these items are considered a chip, candy, cookie, or any of the brigade categories. Other common misconceptions are Crystal Light packages, frozen food bags and nuts. TerraCycle has corporate sponsors who pay 2 cents per item and for shipping. So, for example, Mars sponsors the Candy Wrappers. Mars is willing to pay for ANY brand of candy wrapper since that is their industry, but they won’t pay for a frozen food bag or cheese wrapper.

We appreciate your support in making this program so strong. Our volunteers must sort through all of the items by hand separating them into the categories we collect. Familiarizing yourself with the do’s and don’t really helps. And yes, that’s me in the picture sorting in my garage!

Drop Off Locations
Sustainable Westford has drop off locations at the following:

Westford Farmers Market
Westford Starbucks
J.V. Fletcher Library
Roudenbush Community Center – Main St.
Nabnasset, Abbot, and Miller Elementary – for parents only

If you are participating in Upcycle It! currently, THANK YOU! It is so satifying seeing something so near to my heart succeed. The overwhelming support from Westford residents, students, parents, Girl Scout troops, teachers, and businesses has been amazing. Let’s keep it going!


Stony Brook Goes Solar!

Did you know that the Stony Brook Middle School has solar panels on the roof?! I didn’t until last week. I was there helping out with Upcycle It! when the custodian happened to mention it.

There isn’t too much information around at the moment because it’s not quite finished yet. I was able to get some information from the Westford Energy Committee. According to the Committee, the 36kW Solar Photovoltaic Array is estimated to return roughly $8,000 annually to Westford over it’s 20 – 25 year lifespan. The project was funded through the Green Energy Choice and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program.

If you are interested in seeing how the array is working, check out the web site . It shows how much energy the array creates each day and cumulative over it’s lifetime. In just the 11 days since operation began, 710.3 kWh of energy have been generated. To give you an idea of what this means, in the past 3 weeks, my home has used 713 kWh. Pretty good considering it’s winter and the system is still being worked on. Can’t wait to see what it does in the summer! Stay tuned for more information and an official ribbon cutting ceremony.

Update 4/22/2011: It’s official!  See the Solar array announcement by the Town of Westford.  Let’s see what it does in it’s first official day of operation – so far 33kWh and it’s not even 10am.


I want more trash!

OK I admit it. I LOVE trash! I love seeing that Upcycle It! barrel filled to the brim at the Farmers Market. It certainly shows Westford’s support and commitment to sustainability.Many of us are parents. Seems like the “green bug” bites a little harder when you look at those tiny faces. TerraCycle has a few new Brigades ideal for parents. Which would you like to see us join?

1) The AVEENO Beauty Brigade – ANY brand and ANY type of personal care beauty tubes. Examples include lotion, sun tan lotion, face wash tubes, body wash tubes. A tube is a container that is crimped at one end and has an opening at the other.

2) The SCOTT Brigade – the outer plastic from ANY brand of paper towel, napkin, toilet paper or similar paper products – no paper wrappings

3) The HUGGIES Brigade – the outer plastic on ANY brand of diaper/personal product packaging; excluding boxes and bins (from baby wipes). Examples would be the overall outer plastic package wrapping on diapers, depends, pull ups, pads, etc. Does not include the clear plastic wrapping inside a box of diapers.

4) The Home Storage Brigade – This brigade includes ANY size storage bags (freezer, storage, regular, sandwich) and containers. We would need to remove any crumbs and pieces of food, but stuck on ingredients (i.e. peanut butter) are acceptable.

5) The Neosporin Tube Brigade – Any size Neosporin brand antibiotic and ointment tubes

6) The Sprout Brigade – Sprout baby food pouches; excluding glass baby jars.

As you know, through these brigades we are raising 2 cents for each item for the Westford Public Schools. As of today, we have raised $188.50, all in 3 months! And we are not alone. To date, over 1.8 million units of waste have been diverted from the waste stream. Plus Terracycle and it’s sponsors paid over $800,000 to over 50,000 schools or non-profits. If you want to see what else Terracycle collects click here.

To get you started, here are links to coupons for some of these new brigades:

Huggies Little Swimmers:
Scott Paper Towels
Aveeno Baby Products
Colgate Toothpaste: 

Which ones should we add? Leave a comment with your vote!


Westford Recycling Do’s and Don’ts

Yes the order is REDUCE, Reuse, Recycle, but it’s hard to jump right in and start reducing (i.e. changing) the products you love and use everyday. So for now, start with an easy one – Recycle all you possibly can, right now, using methods you have available at your fingertips – or rather your curb.

Westford recycles quite a bit curbside. For tons of information, check out the Westford Recycling Commission website at I have highlighted the essentials here and tried to clear up any confusions people might have.

1) EVERYTHING can be mixed in the same recycling container. No need to separate paper from plastics, glass, cardboard….

2) Make sure you have a large recycle bin. It will make it much easier and you will recycle more. If you don’t currently have one of those large black and yellow rolling toters:

  1. Convert one of your existing trash barrels to a recycle bin. You can get a FREE recycle sticker at the Town Clerk’s office at the Millenium Bldg.
  2. Buy one for $40 through the Recycling Commission. You will need to prepay. Send a check payable to “Westford Recycling Commission” to the Westford Recycling Commission at 55 Main Street, Westford 01886
  3. Be put on a waiting list for a free one. Currently the waiting list is about 800 people long. To be put on the waiting list: email with “Westford Toter Request” in the subject line. Please provide your name, address, and phone number in the body of the e-mail.

3) Make recycling easy. Place extra recycle bins in various places around your house, next to or in place of a trash can. I use a cardboard box!

Types of materials Accepted at Curbside Recycling


ALL plastics labelled #1-7. No styrofoam of any kind even if it has a #6 label
Caps and Lids can be included.

plastic grocery bags
snack bags – i.e. potato chip or pretzel bags
plastic produce, bread, newspaper bags, and thin flimsy type bags


Recycle all paper – colored, school, fax, newspaper, magazines
milk and juice cartons
cereal boxes
telephone books


Make sure all cardboard is cut into 3ft x 3ft sections
Recycle your pizza boxes – as long as there isn’t too much grease or any pizza left – if in doubt, rip off the top to recycle and throw the bottom in the trash.
toilet paper or paper towel tubes

Wall paper
foil wrapping paper


all clean bottles and jars, clear or colored, deposit or non-deposit
can leave labels on

Broken glass
window glass
light bulbs


all clean cans and their lids.
aluminum foil, plates and pie pans

Oil based paint cans
auto parts
scrap metal
propane cylinders

Straight from the Westford CAT show “ABC’s of Recycling“:

The Recycler we use has very sophisticated machinery used to separate the recycling, so they will catch anything not recyclable.


Pieces of Trash Saved: 5832, Dollars Raised: $116.64, Life Lesson Made Easy: Priceless

We’ve all heard the phrase “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, right? Well, how about “Upcycle”? A company in Trenton, NJ called Terracycle is taking trash to new heights – upcycling!

Terracycle collects 27 different ‘brigade’ items including chip bags, energy bar wrappers, candy wrappers, coffee bags, dried out pens, and yogurt containers and upcycles them into eco-friendly products. The awesome thing is that all of the items they collect are non-recyclable – there are no curbside recycling programs for them – or hard to recycle – only certain municipalities provide the capability to recycle things like yogurt containers which are typically made from #5 plastic. Now you are thinking, “Wow, that’s cool. But how do they get the stuff. Are they going through landfills?” Luckily for them, no. Any group or individual can sign up to collect and send items to TerraCycle. The shipping is free and 2 cents per item is donated to the school or charity of your choice. Terracycle then takes the ‘trash’ and makes backpacks, tote bags, and flower pots just to name a few of their 166 products.

Schools and non-profits across the US, Canada and the UK are signed up. As of this writing, Terracycle has over 10 million people collecting trash and has given over $1 million to their non-profits.
And the numbers keep growing. Since I joined TerraCycle in March of this year, I have seen their facebook fan page grow from a little over 2000 fans in March to close to 9000. The numbers increase daily! They have opened 2 new brigades in that timeframe as well – Starbucks Coffee Bag and the Home Storage Brigade (in conjunction with Ziploc).

I started my collection brigade on March 20, 2010. I started just as one person. I sent out an email to friends and family asking if they wanted to help me. I started getting such positive feedback so I kept going. I spoke to my daughters’ girl scout troops. The girls loved the idea and soon, several were sending bags of trash into school for my children to bring home to me. Moms would hand me bags before our meetings. I wanted to expand my collections and make it easier for people to get the items to me, rather than tracking me down around town. We are fortunate to have a farmers market during the summer and fall. I emailed the founder asking if I could have a collection bin there. Well, she loved the idea! Turns out that this group had recently expanded their mission calling themselves Sustainable Westford. Their mission is to bring “green” programs to the community. Now, I am running our Upcycle It! program through them and have gotten so much support and press. People are talking about it all over town. It’s so exciting!

If your school or charity is looking for a fundraising idea or you just want to do more green, join Terracycle. It’s easy. I love the feeling I get out of NOT putting so many things into the trash. I also love that my children are learning these lessons young. They don’t see trash anymore. Separating where things go when we are done with them is just part of what they do. They don’t think about it. That’s where the real benefit is!


The Greening of Westford 411

On Earth Day 2006, I was watching Oprah. It started me thinking, “I want to be more green.” Being a mom of three young children, you want the world to be a better place for them. I had this feeling it wouldn’t be. So I decided to do whatever I could. Being an engineer, I, of course, researched and made a list of what I could do to be more green. Very orderly and methodical 😉 I picked a few things and started. The usual CFLs and using reusable grocery bags. It took me almost a year to remember consistently to bring the bags into the grocery store.

As each new green item was mastered, I would pick another off the list to tackle. I did this slowly and only when I thought I could handle another. Eventually, I started to look for new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle – automatically. I didn’t need to think about it, it became part of my day and my life. The really cool thing, was that it became commonplace for my children too. The other cool thing I noticed was that being green actually saved me time, money, and/or aggrevation. Who doesn’t want that?!

As I was researching what to add to my “green” list, I noticed that some things didn’t seem to apply to this area. The fact that Boulder, Colorado has a place to take things that are hard to recycle is great, but it doesn’t help me. I would love to have solar panels. Do they really make sense in Massachusetts? So I started trying to find local answers to the reduce, reuse, recycle questions.
So this is the aim of The Greening of Westford – to give people local options for going green, share information and inspire.



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