Archive | recycle

What Happens To My Recyclables

This week’s Greene Westford column re-posted.

IPR truck arrives for sorting at the North Andover facility.

Take a virtual tour of Integrated Paper Recyclers and learn what happens to Westford recycling once it leaves the curb.

Ever wonder what happens to your recycling after the black and yellow trucks pick it up?  Call me a garbage geek, but I was so excited when I had the opportunity to find out first hand. 

Last November, I joined members of theWestford Recycling Commission, and representatives from Chelmsford and Dracut, at the Integrated Paper Recyclers (IPR) facility in North Andover.  In addition to handling Westford’s recycling, IPR services over 40 communities locally.
IPR employees hand pick non-paper items out of the stream
Christine DeRosa of IPR showed us how the single stream recyclables are sorted into paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass and plastics 1, 2 and 3 – 7.  All of the recyclables enter the first sorting station where paper and cardboard are removed.  The mix is then hand sorted to ensure that non-paper items are removed before it is compacted into cubes called bales. 
Several years ago, IPR noticed that they were losing small bits of paper.  They added a new mechanism that is able to capture the smaller pieces of paper, even shredded paper.  The paper is sent to a paper mill in Fitchburg, MA where is it used to make the paper for books.  Most notably the Harry Potter books.  The cardboard is used to make new cereal boxes or board games like Monopoly.
The “baler” compacts each type of recyclable into a cube and secures it for transport. 
Once the paper and cardboard are removed, the rest of the mix continues along the sorting process.  Plastics are removed and sorted by their chemical makeup denoted by their recycling symbol.  Infrared machines determine the type of plastic by weight.  Plastics with a recycling symbol #1 are used to make carpeting and clothing.  Others may be turned into milk jugs or lawn furniture.  Even plastics #3 – 7 are used, according to Ms. DeRosa, to make biodiesel.
Glass is the final item to be sorted.  The glass is crushed and used as road fill.
Crushed glass is used as road fill.

Ms. DeRosa estimates that less than 10% of the almost 6500 tons of recyclables processed monthly ends up in a landfill.  She explained that it is in their best interest financially to recover as much material as possible and find outlets for it.  IPR pays to dispose of its trash just like towns do.
What is the most unwanted item that ends up in a recycling plant – plastic bags! Followed by jump ropes and kiddie pools.   Plastic bags get caught in the sorting mechanism, causing problems and time to dislodge.  Plastic bags should never go in your recycling bin.  They can be taken to grocery stores for proper recycling

Bales of paper, plastic and aluminum ready for reuse.


Purging Stuff: Week 2

This week I attacked the playroom and found and dealt with more electronics.



I ventured into the play room.  I purged many toys my kids have outgrown.  Only a handful of miscellaneous unidentifiable items were tossed.  Many of the toys were still in very usable condition.  It is difficult to donate toys.  Charities will only take small toys and some won’t take them at all.  Here is a quick run down of charities in the area that will take toys:

  • Big Brother Big Sister – will accept small toys, games, and stuffed animals.  To donate, you must arrange for a pickup at your house.
  • Savers – This is basically a large indoor year round yard sale.  They work with local charities, donating money for your donations.  They will accept toys, games, puzzles and stuffed animals.  The closest location to Westford is Nashua, on the Daniel Webster Highway, near Best Buy. 

The Wish Project (formerly Lowell Wish Project) and Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts (HGRM) in Acton, MA, do not accept toys of any kind.  Their goal is to provide those in need with essentials – beds, kitchen items, etc.  I’m sure The Salvation Army takes toys too, but there isn’t a location terribly convenient to Westford.

Yard sale toys

With so many large toys, I decided to have a yard sale.  I like doing the town wide yard sales organized by our community center, Roudenbush.  So this spring I’ll haul everything to the Abbot School lawn.   Anything small left over will go to charity or possibly freecycle if too big.  Since I cleared out part of the basement last week, I now have space to store the toys until spring.

I was able to get my kids to help clear out thing they no longer played with.  To some small extent, they felt good giving them to a child who was less fortunate.  But I have to admit, that the prospect of them making some money selling their toys, helped more.  Need to work on the charity piece with them.


It is amazing how many electronics I found.  I remember hearing a statistic a while back, something like each home has at least 3 – 4 pieces of electronic waste that could be recycled.  I actually thought that was high – until I started looking!

More old installation CDs, various cables, DVD writer, web cam, broken calculator, old portable CD player, a walkman!    I went through it all to determine what still worked and offered that on Freecycle.  The rest went to Best Buy for recycling.  Best Buy will also recycled used gift cards!

Webcam -> Freecycle (picked up 2 days later)
Sony Clie -> Freecycle  (picked up the next day)
Pioneer DVD/CD writer -> Freecycle ( picked up a few days later)
broken Discman -> recycled at Best Buy
broken walkman -> recycled at Best Buy
old installation CDs ->  recycled at Best Buy
broken head phones -> recycled at Best Buy

How did you do?


Struggles with Going Green


Each week Reduce Footprints presents a challenge to her readers called Change the World Wednesday.  This week’s challenge is to:

This week, please share road blocks to green living. For example, perhaps you’d really like to compost but don’t. We’d like to know why. Maybe you don’t recycle … let us know why. We’re looking for all the reasons for NOTadopting a green activity. If you’re not struggling with any road blocks at this time, then please share ones which you’ve heard from others. For example, one of the most common reasons is that it’s too expensive.

Then …

Take a look at the road blocks shared and offer solutions. For example, to people who say green living is too expensive, we might share examples of how green living is actually frugal. The idea of this challenge is to help us all find solutions and “bust” all excuses for not living green.

I know that I am not perfectly green by any means.  There are lots of things, I’m sure, that I don’t do and maybe should.   What has been bothering me most lately is when I give in and do the not so green thing because of what someone else may think – including my children.
I wrote an entire article on how to Have a Green Halloween.  In it I talked about costumes and how not to buy a brand new one each year.  I was all set with this one in early October.  My oldest daughter found a great Spanish Dancer costume at a yard sale.  It was an old dance costume, well made and $1!  My son decided he wanted to be Frankenstein.  Great!  I went to Savers (it’s basically a huge indoor yard sale) and found a blazer for $4.  I figured he could wear jeans and a T-shirt.  I would figure out how to use old wine corks for those head bolts and just needed to look into some eco-friendly face paint.  Two down, one to go.  My youngest daughter decided she was going to be a witch and wear her sister’s old costume.  Yeah!  I did it!!!!
Then, the two younger kids changed their minds.  Less than 2 weeks before Halloween.  I sort of brushed it off and thought I could convince them to go with the original ideas.  No dice.  My son now wanted to be a Ninja.  Daughter #2 still wanted to be a witch but now refused to wear her sister’s costume.  Ugh!  Now what?!  Do I “force” them to wear the other costumes?  How do I explain this to them so they want to reuse another costume?  Why do they think a new, cheaply made costume is so cool?

I ended up giving in and bought 2 costumes.  I consoled myself by remembering that my kids love to play dress up.  These costumes would be used many more times. And when they were done, I could donate them to other children to use.

Update: I meant to explain a little more on why I gave in.  As I re-read this, people may think my kids were being bratty and I gave in because of that.  Not the case.  For my son, he rarely asks for anything and is quite happy, most of the time, with whatever he is given.  So when he expresses a real opinion on something, I want to listen to him and honor that request when I can.   As for my daughter, she is the younger of 2 girls.  As soon as she could express herself, she has copied her older sister on everything.  As flattering as people might think this is, her older sister did not this flattering.  Much tension over this exists.  So, when she does express her own interests, no matter how small, I like to recognize and encourage her to be her own person.  Now, I probably could have found a way for them to be what they wanted without buying brand new costumes.  I did try, but couldn’t find used ones and I am not terribly crafty so making them myself wasn’t going to happen.  So there you go!

There are lots of things my kids do that others may not – we use cloth napkins all the time (even for school lunches), they recycle, upcycle, have reusable water bottles and snack bags, etc.  At times though I don’t want to risk alienating my children or making them feel they are sacrificing just for my ideas.  Of course, I hope these also become their ideas, but they may not.

As far as what other people think, I don’t want to become that person.  I rarely tell people about environmental issues unless asked.  I don’t want to come off as preaching even though at times I am biting my tongue.  Every soccer season I cringe when the parents in charge of the snack bring out the individual drinks and individually packaged snacks for everyone.  I can’t help but do the math in my head – X teams in the town, Y games per season, then multiply this by all of the towns in the state, country – how much plastic is being used on fields each Saturday morning.  And that’s just one sport!!!!   What is wrong with a big jug of something to drink and their reusable bottles (which most kids bring).  The communal snack, well, it can be muddy and maybe not the greatest idea for each kid to be grabbing into a bowl, but there has got to be a better way.  Each year I say I am going to suggest that kids bring their own bottles to refill, but I don’t.  I didn’t play sports as a kid so I have no idea what was done then.

I am, by nature, much more private and non-confrontational.  So putting myself out there is not natural for me.    But at this point in my green journey, I feel like I should be more active in educating people and pointing out things they could do or at least do them myself and hope that some will follow.  For now, I do it in this blog and Greene Westford column – sort of passive.  Maybe that’s enough?????

Any suggestions?  How do you deal with other people?


Purging Stuff: Week 1 Results

This week began my January long purge.  I have to admit that when I start something like this, I often have trouble focusing on ONE area.  I wander around the house picking up random things trying to decide where to start, which area is THE place to start?

This time, I didn’t decide.  I just cleaned out whatever struck me as interesting at the moment.  Interesting?  I know, sounds crazy.  But you know how sometimes you really FEEL like cleaning that cabinet or that pile that has been sitting in the corner of the dining room for months?

I started with clothing.  I had actually started going through my daughter’s closet the week before, so I finished that.  I always have an empty bag in my closet for “clothes to donate”.  It was getting full so I bagged up everything I had.

Then I moved on to the office – went through a few bookshelves and drawers with random electronics.  I finished this week with bookshelves in other locations and started the basement files.

What I Purged and Where It Went

2 kitchen sized trash bags and 3 grocery store bags of clothing -> clothing drop at the Roudenbush Old Nab preschool parking lot.

1 old, but working, digital camera -> Offered on Freecycle (was picked up that evening)

Set of curtain rods -> Offered on Freecycle (picked up next day)

Large 9×11 size envelop with old Christmas cards  ->  St. Jude’s for their card recycling program.

30 (?) Children’s books ->  I will save these for a spring yard sale, but may rethink that if I run out of space

10 Cookbooks and other misc books -> Donated to  JV Fletcher Library for their library book sales

Lots of paper( I had user’s manuals from things I don’t even own anymore!)  ->  Recycle bin

Notes from college classes (printed on one side only) -> Saved for use in my printer
Did anyone print double sided 10 + years ago???

Very old bank and utility statements ->  Will be shredded, then recycled

Lots of old electronics ->  Whatever still works will be offered on Freecycle or perhaps sold through Gazelle.  The rest will be recycled.

Did you join me?  How did you do?


Time To Purge Some Crapola


I seem to always be purging stuff from our house. Sometimes more vigorously than others.  This month I am joining ecokaren’s De-Clutter 2012 Challenge.  For the entire month of January, I will be de-cluttering our house -clothing, toys, basement stuff, etc.  And in the spirit of being green, of course, I will be finding homes for as much of it as I possibly can.  Join me!

I found that when I blogged about my Spring Cleaning last year it really helped motivate me.  Don’t feel you need to show pictures or anything.  Just comments on what you are getting rid of is fine.  If you need help figuring out where it should go –  ask!

I’ll post something short each week to tell you what I am getting rid of and where it’s going.

Stay tuned!

Update Post Challenge – What a great challenge!
Here are links to each week’s results:

Week 1: Purging Stuff: Week 1
Week 2: Purging Stuff: Week 2 – Toys and Electronics
Week 3: Purging Stuff: Week 3 – Food 
Week 4: Purging Stuff: Week 4 – Digital Cleanout


2011 Year in Review

Reposted from Greene Westford on Westford Patch.

In the past year, there have been many good steps for the environment in Westford.  From solar panels to upcycling to less trash on the streets, take a look at some of the highlights from 2011.
Solar Panels on Stony Brook Middle School Go Live
On April 22, Earth Day, Westford’s first town building went solar.  The 176 panel system is expected to generate about 40,000 kilowatt hours annually.  Since the beginning of April 2011, the array has generated almost 35,000 kilowatt hours.  Well on its way to reaching the estimate.
More Solar Coming to Westford
A 4.5 Megawatt system, announced earlier this year, will be located near Route. 3 in Westford. In comparison, the Stony Brook system is rated at 36 kilowatts.  This is 125 times greater in terms of energy generation!
Upcycle It! Turns One Year Old
In May, Upcycle It! celebrated its first birthday.  The program, run by Sustainable Westford, collects non-recyclables such as chip bags, energy bar wrappers and pens to be upcycled into new products.  In the process, 2 cents per item is generated for the Westford Schools.  In July, the program was #2 in the country for most items upcycled.  Since its inception, the Upcycle It! program has saved over 210,000 pieces of trash weighing over a ton, generating over $4300 for Westford School’s.
First Winter’s Farmers Market 
In addition to the summer farmers market, the Westford Farmers Market ran the first winter market starting in January 2011 running through March.  This year, the winter market is on Saturdays at Eric’s Garden Center.
Reduction in Trash
The Westford Recycling Commission reports that we decreased our trash by almost 5 percent by the end of fiscal 2011.  This is in addition to a similar reduction the year before!  The Recycling Commission is focusing on composting to reduce trash even further in 2012.
Westford’s Litter League Green Team Debuted
The Litter League Green Team, started by Carmen Chiungos, meet every Saturday from April through October, picking up trash in various parts of town.  Carmen, a Passionate Westford Resident, start the group because she didn’t like seeing all the trash around town.
Composter at Westford Road Race – The Westford Road Race not only had recycling, but they also provided composting for banana peels and orange rinds!  Absolutely awesome to see.
Happy New Year Everyone!


Green Your Summer Vacation

Reduce Footprints Challenge this week is:

This week, head over to Zero Waste Week 2011 and commit to at least one activity which will reduce waste away from home. Be sure to come back here and share your commitment. The same rules will apply as always … if you write about it and/or tweet about, you’ll be honored next week. After committing to an activity, keep track of your progress because we’ll be talking about our successes next week.

For this challenge, I have “recycled” an article I wrote for Westford Patch back in June which listed tips for greening your vacation.  I have reprinted it here.

Summer means vacation! Making your vacation more environmentally-friendly does not mean you need to bike to your destination or even find a green hotel!
Although those certainly would do it, there are simpler things you can do wherever you go.
Before You Leave Home

  • Turn your hot water heater to “vacation” (or down low). Just remember to turn it back up when you return. When I had an energy audit, the auditor told me this makes sense to do anytime  you are away for more than three days. 
  • Set your thermostats up  so you aren’t cooling  your home unnecessarily. 
  • Unplug everything you don’t need running – TV, coffee maker, toaster, stereos, microwave, cable box, etc. Anything with a clock or remote control continues to use electricity even if you are not using it. I recently discovered that a cable box can draw almost as much electricity even when it’s turned off.  
  • Stop your newspaper. No sense in just recycling it when you get home. 
  • Driving? Make sure your car is tuned up and your tires are at the correct pressure to get the best gas mileage possible. 
  • Bring reuseables such as water bottles, snack bags and grocery bags. This way you can pack your own snacks or even lunch, saving you money on eating out. You will also be saving the packaging of single serve items. Bottled water is super expensive especially at vacation destinations. You can refill your water bottles for free most anywhere. And remember that grocery bags can be used for any purchase. 
  • Flying?  You can bring an empty water bottle through airport security and fill it on the other side. 
  • Another tip for flying – instead of printing your boarding pass, see if your airline has a mobile boarding pass application that allows you to use your phone for your boarding pass. 
  • Instead of buying new books, magazines or DVDs, go to the J.V. Fletcher library or borrow from a friend. 

 At Your Destination

  • Look for recycling bins at amusement parks or other attractions. 
  • Find out the recycling options. Ask the hotel or property agent. Recycling rules vary greatly. You may need to separate your bottles from your paper. 
  • If you are in a hotel, take advantage of their programs. Most hotels will offer to conserve water by not washing your towels everyday. 
  • You already have your water bottle so no need to buy bottles of water. 
  • Turn down the AC/heat and shut off lights when you leave. Hotels are now starting to install devices connected with your key that will automatically shut the lights off when you leave. You may not be paying for these directly, but we all are paying for it in the end.
  • Try to resist the tacky souvenirs that will break quickly and be thrown away. I know this is difficult with children. Hats, T-shirts, even a great picture make fantastic souvenirs too.   

You may be great at recycling at home, but going to a new place may throw your routines off. Little steps. Pick one thing – maybe bringing your water bottle.  I bring mine everywhere because I find it so convenient and I drink more water this way.  Always a good thing.  
Most importantly, have a great time!


The Lazy Way To Compost

It’s been a BUSY summer and I just realized I haven’t posted in almost a month!  Here is a repost of one of my Greene Westford columns from Westford Patch.
Earth Machine Composter use at the Westford Road Race this past spring
When I was a child, my grandparents always had a wire stand with a small bag attached to it on their counter. Kitchen scraps would go in and then be taken to the large garden out back. I really never thought about it much until years later. They were composting!  To my grandparents it made total sense. Why throw out useful material when it was so good for their garden.
According to Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, “[f]ood scraps account for more than 800,000 tons of the waste generated each year in Massachusetts.” Some of this is good food that goes bad.  This waste can be reduced by watching how much you buy.  You can save money in the process. 
Some of this cannot be eaten – melon rinds, vegetable ends, coffee grinds and the like. These items can be composted into rich food for your garden. If you aren’t a gardener, you still might care to reduce this waste. Why?  Westford pays for each ton of trash that is hauled away. Compostable items are heavy! So the more you throw into your trash barrel, the more it costs the town. 
The whole process can seem confusing and daunting.  It really isn’t. Composting is easier than you think. Composting will happen regardless of your efforts, or lack thereof. Organic materials rot! 
There is no single correct way to compost. A very quick way to get started is to purchase an Earth Machine Composter from the Westford Recycling Commission for $45. This same composter retails for well over $100.  If you don’t live in Westford, check with your town.  Quite a few of them offer these, especially if they are paying for any of your trash disposal.
Start throwing your compostable items in and Voila! Compost! Or at the very least a lot less trash. You could turn the compost, but it’s really not necessary. You could make sure you have the right ratio of “brown” to “green” materials, but again, not absolutely necessary.  Roughly equal parts of brown and green materials will give you the optimal ratio. You should keep the pile moist but not soggy. Add some water when you think of it.
I don’t really pay attention to my compost bin. Sad to say I did not inherit my family’s green thumb, so I am not terribly concerned with getting usable compost at the end. To me, if I am reducing my trash I am happy.  After 3 years, my Earth Machine is pretty much always half full no matter how much I put into it.
With any big change, figuring out a system that will work for you is key.  Most likely you will need someplace to gather your scraps in the kitchen, then transfer them to your yard composter. I generally use a porcelain crock that sits on my counter. When it fills (which for me is pretty quickly) I take it out back to dump it. Sometimes in the winter months I have a secondary stage. I keep a 5 gallon pail out my back door. The counter-top composter gets dumped into the 5 gallon pail, then the 5 gallon pails goes to the yard composter less frequently
Here are some items that CAN go into your composter:
  • Fruit and Vegetable scraps – melon rinds, banana peels, apple cores, carrot tops…
  • Dryer lint
  • Grass clippings
  • Coffee grounds (include the paper filter)
  • Egg shells
  • Leaves
  • Straw
  • Hay
  • Shredded newspaper or cardboard
  • Paper napkins or paper towels (depending on what is on them)
  • Human hair
  • Tea bags and grounds
  • Old flower arrangements
  • Dog or cat fur
Do NOT include:
  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Dairy
  • Fats or oils
These will attract animals and will smell.
Do You Compost? 


Brewing Sustainability at The Westford Starbucks

Recently, I featured our local Starbucks in Greene Westford.  Here is that article reprinted from Westford Patch.

Anna Fadden started working at the Westford Starbucks in January 2006 soon after it opened. She quickly noticed a lack of recycling. With a lot of legwork, Anna was able to set up recycling for cardboard, newspapers, glass, plastic, and aluminum cans. 
Starbucks pays an additional $130 per month to recycle these items. They do it because it’s the right thing to do.
They didn’t stop there. Last spring, they started saving their coffee bags for Sustainable Westford’s Upcycle It! program. Since that time, they have saved just over 6,000 coffee bags, generating $120 for Westford schools. They also have a container for customers to drop off their Upcycle It! items.
Westford Starbucks will serve as a model recycler for other area Starbucks. The local district manager will be passing along Anna’s knowledge so that others may do the same.
In the future, Westford Starbucks hopes to have more recycling for its customers.  Anna has also looked into recycling gift cards and is in the process of tracking down an outlet for spent whipped cream chargers.
When you go to Starbucks, do your part too. If you are staying to enjoy your beverage, ask for an in-house dining mug. If you are on the go, bring your travel mug and get a 10-cent discount.
Do you know of any other businesses going green?


5 Easy Steps to Recycling


There is a great blog that I have been reading lately called Reduce Footprints. Each week, there is a new challenge.  This week’s challenge is to share your recycling knowledge and/or tips.  In response to that challenge, here goes….. 

We all know the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle chant.  And guess what?  It is in that order for a reason.  The BEST option – reduce. Don’t use it in the first place if you will eventually need to get rid of it – regardless of whether that is trash or recycle bin.  This can be easier said than done and does require a lot more effort and change.  So I say, start with the easier one – recycle – for now.  In time you will get there.  You can’t do it all at once.  Don’t try. You are more likely to fail. 

I have many posts on what is recyclable and how to recycle it for the Westford MA area.  I have decided to consolidate all of that information into this post, with the added benefit of how to figure this out for your area. Recycling varies widely from state to state, town to town, sometimes even within the town!  It can be very confusing and can change.  The thing to remember is to keep taking a peek at the rules – usually things that were NOT recyclable will become recyclable in some manner.  You also need to find out what is available to you.  Most likely, you have a convenient option available to you for common items like paper, plastics and metals (cans). Then there are other items that, with a little effort, can be recycled or reused as well.

Step One:  Educate Yourself

Find out what form of recycling is available to you.   Do you have curbside recycling, a transfer station or do you use a private hauler?
If you don’t know, do a quick internet search on “your town/city state recycling”.  For example, if I type the following into a search engine “ westford ma recycling”, the first thing that pops up is our town’s recycling website with tons of information.

Once you have this information, take time to read and understand what can and can’t be recycled.  Keep this handy.  You will refer to it often.  Take a look at Westford Recycling Dos and Don’ts  and Common Misconceptions about Westford Recycling. Each give some basics about curbside recycling in Westford MA.  They will alert you to things to look for in your recycling program.  Do you need to sort?  Can you recycle a pizza box?

If you have trash and recycling services provided by your city or town, there will be tons of information on recycling.  A little known fact – municipalities pay big bucks for trash and recycling services.  Recycling services are cheaper so they will do whatever it takes to educate and encourage their citizens to recycle instead of throw in the trash.  This includes composting in some areas.  Our town offers a backyard composter for a fraction of the retail price.

Step Two: Analyze Your Trash

This goes along with Step one.  Concentrate on everything you get rid of for a week or so – really look at each item and figure out if it is recyclable in your area. If you have questions, ask.   I like this method since it focuses you and makes it very applicable to what you use. 
Once you know where things go, it will become second nature and you won’t need to think about it.

Step Three: Make it Easy

If something is easy and convenient, more likely you and your family with stick with it.  If you need to sort items, do multiple bins make sense for you.  Do you have space in your kitchen for separate bins?  Where is the best place to put the recycle bin?
Put bins all over the house to catch recyclables.  I converted the office trash can to a recycle bin since 99% of what I get rid of in that room is paper.  I also have another bin on the second floor to catch toilet paper tubes and plastic bottles.

Step Four:  Get your family involved  

Teach them – especially the kids.  They will nag your spouse or grandma for you!  Kids catch on so quickly.  It will become second nature to them in no time.  I have seen this is our schools and with my own children.

Step Five:  Expand Your list of Recyclables

Once you have the easy stuff down pat, add to it!  There are other items that can be recycled or reused with a little extra effort.  If you have a local recycling department, they can be a great resource.  
Here are a few I have found.  Again, internet searches and a few follow up emails or calls can do wonders!  Quite a few of these things are recycled by national chains or organizations, find the location closest to you.
  1. Clothing – So many charities would be happy to have your gently worn clothing.  
  2. Wine corks – All Whole Foods locations collect natural wine corks.
  3. Eye glasses – The Lions Club has collection boxes in many locations, or ask a local eye glass shop or eye doctor.
  4. Energy Bars, Chip Bags – local TerraCycle organizations.  This one may be a little harder to find.  Try the TerraCycle Facebook page.
  5. Athletic Shoes – If your running shoes are worn out, take them to a Nike Store to be re purposed into play surfaces.  I think it would be awesome if Gyms had collections for their members – any takers out there?
  6. Plastic bags – Most grocery stores collect plastic store bags, sometimes more.
  7. Cosmetic tubes or jars – Origins and TerraCycle collect old cosmetic packaging.
  8. Brita Filters – All Whole Foods locations collect Brita Filters and all #5 plastics for a company called Preserve.
  9. Bicycles – Bikes Not Bombs is a non-profit that collects bicycles all over the country.
  10. Ink and toner Cartridges – Staples
  11. Rechargeable batteries – Best Buy
  12. CDs, Cables, wires – Best buy
Take it easy. Start small and take steps when you are ready.  If you try to do everything at once you will fail.
Happy Recycling!


Despite Road Race Organizers Great Efforts, Litter Still a Problem


Did you know that the Selectmen recently adopted a “Carry In/Carry Out” policy?  This means that any group using certain town land is responsible for removing  trash and recyclables generated by their event.  Who owns which pieces of land in town is a little confusing, so this only applies to those areas which are governed by the Board of Selectmen.  Keep an eye out.  Other areas may follow suit.

One place I am sure it applies is the town common.  Currently, there are trash barrels at the ends of the ends of the common.  That may not be the case in the future so be prepared to take your trash, recyclables and upcycables with you.
I, personally, think this is fabulous!  There aren’t too many of these places in town where this is inconvenient, in my opinion.  If you are at the common, how much could you have?  Take it with you.  If you are there for the Farmers Market or Strawberry Festival, the organizers always have trash and recycling available.  Just look for it.  So this doesn’t mean you necessarily need to carry your items in and out, but the organizers will need to think about what is convenient for their event.
This newly adopted “Carry In/Carry Out” policy was mentioned to the organizers of yesterdays road race.  Not only did they agree that they would take care of trash, but they would also have recycle bins AND a composter for the banana and orange peels.  Awesome! 
I was at the road race yesterday to cheer on my husband and many friends.  Have to admit though I wanted to see that Composter and the Recycle bins in action.  And I did!  It was great to see people throwing in their banana peels.  I commend the organizers for their effort.  Saving the chip bags next year for Upcycle It! was mentioned to them that day and they agreed!
What I didn’t like seeing were the water bottles and cups left along the road.  Even if you didn’t know where the trash and recycling was, did you think leaving it for someone else to pick up was the thing to do?  Thank you to the many volunteers who most likely cleaned up the mess. 
I have also seen trash left on fields after a soccer or baseball game and along the sides of the road.  Is it really too much to pick it up and take it with you?   Does anyone else remember the “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” campaign years ago.  I can still picture the Native American with a tear drop streaming down his face as he looks at all the trash.
As I crossed the street yesterday to recycle our cups, I picked up a few bottles along the way.  Maybe people saw me and thought “Gross”, but hopefully they thought twice about where their own cup or bottle ended up.  Just maybe, they picked up a bottle or two themselves.


Spring Cleaning: The Office/Paper Clutter

I am loving this Spring Cleaning Series!  It is motivating me to clean out.  The fact that I need to take an AFTER picture is working sort of like when your in-laws are visiting – you can’t just throw things into a corner!
This one was tough.  No matter how I have tried to reduce our junk mail and other paper, we still have so much in our office space.  Here are the before pictures:
Filing Cabinet Before
Desk Before
I found I needed 5 areas for the paper:
  1. Shred – For anything with sensitive data (name, address, account info,etc) on it that we no longer need
  2. Paper for Printer – Anything that was only printed on one side, and not a candidate for shredding, went into my printer so I can print on the other side.
  3. Scan – I have been scanning things like important receipts, the kids’ physicals, dog’s rabies certificate, etc so I have a backup.
  4. Stays – Gets re-filed.
  5. Recycle – Any paper that doesn’t fit any of the above categories.
As I went through all the paper, I sorted them into the piles.  I also tried to make a note of what I could eliminate in the future.  I found a few bills that I hadn’t made electronic and spent a little more time opting out of a few more mailings.
Next came the stuff in the desk:

  • CD’s – we had so many CDs for drivers, installation disks and random software for printers or computers that were long gone.  They all went into a pile to be recycled at Best Buy.
  • Old Cables – I got under the computer table and went through all the cords.  There were a few we didn’t need.  Anyone need a serial printer cable?  Think they stopped using those quite a while ago.  All of these random cables, no longer needed, will also be getting recycled at Best Buy.
  • Pens, Markers, Highlighter – all were tested.  Those that were out of ink, got put in the Upcycle It! bin.  Note to self – we are ALL set with any sort of pen, highlighter or marker we could ever want.
  • Envelopes – You know the envelopes you get for paying your bills (the ones you still get in paper form that is) or various junk mail you can’t get rid of, I keep these.  I then use them sending things to school – permission slips, lunch ticket money, Box Tops….  I must use a couple a week for various things.  I straightened out a draw so there was room for these.
Long ago, I “converted” my trash basket in the office to a recycle bin.  Converted, meaning I just said “OK you are now a recycle bin!”  99% of what I need to get rid of in there is paper.
I finished up by backing up all of my computer files.


This is by no means the only paper clutter in the house.  But obviously it’s the one I have neglected the longest – old utility statements from 2006 and manuals from things I don’t remember owning?!


How do you deal with paper?


Spring Cleaning: Closets

So, I’m preeeeeeetty sure we are done with the snow.  Time to switch out the winter clothes and put the snow gear away!  What to do with all the clothing and shoes?
I started with my daughter’s closet.  Here is the before shot.
Closet Before
Set Up 5 Zones 
  • Give – for things that do not fit her but are in good wearable condition to give away
  • Recycle – for items that are too stained or ripped to wear
  • Store– for items that are too warm now, but that she will fit into next winter
  • Keep – those items that I want to stay in her closet
  • Misplaced – for those items that made their way to her closet, but shouldn’t be here

The Method

  1. As always, I started by opening the windows to let the fresh air in.  
  2. Start 

    emptying the shelves and hanging items.  I took this one area at a time.  

  3. Look at each and every item and select the appropriate zone.  
  4. As you do this, make notes on what you may or may not need in the future.  My daughter has WAY too many black leggings and hardly any “good” pants. . I also make notes on what I will need next year – snow pants, thermals, sports gear, etc.  Sometimes you get a good deal at a yard sale.  Of course it’s only a good deal if you really need it. 
  5. Bag up the things you will GIVE and decide where to give the clothing.  These went to the Blanchard Middle School’s: The Big Give with Lowell Wish this past weekend.
  6. With some of the RECYCLE items, I made new cleaning cloths and a few napkins out of the tie dye T-shirts.  The rest were bagged up and will be dropped off at the Public Clothing Boxes next time I am out.
  7. Those that are in STORE, KEEP, and MISPLACED all went back too.
So her closet was put back together and this is the after.
Closet After
Now that there is room, the next step is to pull out the new season items and go through those.  Does everyone have sandals, shorts, bathing suits?  They try everything on and I make my shopping lists from this.  It’s nice to do it now, since the Westford Friends and newcomers Clothing Sale and Town Wide Yard sales are coming up on April 30.

I still need to repeat this with the other closets in my house, but it’s a great start!

Look for my next Spring Cleaning on Mondays.  Coming up:  The Office/Paper

Did you clean a closet?  What did you do with the clothing your family can’t use?


Where to Recycle Clothes And Shoes

SPRING!  I love feeling the warm sun, hearing birds sing and seeing the flowers bloom.  I also love cleaning out the closets!  Putting away the boots, snow pants, heavy jackets and sweaters!  And cleaning out what I know won’t fit next year.  But where do you take the stuff?  Whether you are willing to take them to a specific location or want the convenience of putting them out on your door step, I have an option for you.

Good Condition 

The Lowell Wish Project is a local organization that helps those in need in the Merrimack Valley area.  Donations go directly to the individuals who request them through their social workers or other agencies.  For this reason, the items donated need to be in good condition.  They have needs for clothing for babies through very large adults. Normally Lowell Wish only needs casual clothing, however with Easter coming, they will accept dresses and suit through April 23.  Lowell Wish accepts many other items including blankets, sheets, mattresses, furniture, and baby gear.  See their website for full details.
Drop off at 1 A Foundry St. Lowell  Tues, Wed, Fri and Sat. 9am – 2pm, 

The WFN is accepting CHILDREN’S (baby thru teen) clothing for their Spring Clothing Sale.  The sale will be part of the Roudenbush Town Wide Yard Sale on the Abbot School Lawn On April 30.
Where: Locations around Westford – 45 Pleasant St., 13 Depot St. , 47 Providence Rd. , 15 Villanova Dr.

Big Brother Big Sister works to provide children with one-to-one friendships with adult mentors.  Your donations are sold to thrift stores.  The money supports their many programs. BBBS accepts many items including stuffed animals, toys, small appliances and more.
Where:  Your house.  BBBS will pick up donations.  See website to arrange a pickup.

Priceless Prom (Prom and Bridesmaid Dresses)
Priceless Prom helps girls find dresses for the Prom.  They accept Prom and Bridesmaid dresses  within the 3 year fashion range.

Suitability  (Women’s Professional Clothing)
Suitability is committed to helping women become self sufficient and economically independent. They provide interview clothing, free of charge, for women applying for positions at any level.  Clothing must be ready to wear.
Where: 536 Pawtucket Blvd, Lowell;  By appointment.  Call 978-934-8898.

Not So Good Condition 

Re-purpose Clothing into:
  • Cleaning Cloths – Cut up old T-Shirts or other appropriate material to use in place of a paper towel.  They work so much better.
  • Reusable Napkins – I made my children tie dye T-Shirts years ago. When they outgrew them, I just couldn’t get rid of them.  So I cut them up and made napkins.  Now, when I wipe my mouth, I smile.

Public Clothing Drop Boxes
Once you are set on napkins and rags, you can drop unwearable clothing at the Public Clothing Drops around town.  I had a hard time confirming this, but it is my understanding that the company who owns these bins sorts the clothes.  The wearable ones are sold to thrift stores.  Unwearable items are sold in bulk to companies that shred them for other uses.

Where:  Old Nab Preschool, Abbot School

Flip Flops 
Old Navy has teamed up with TerraCycle to upcycle old flip flops into playgrounds.
Where: Collection bins at Old Navy through May 21st.

Running Shoes  
Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program takes any brand old, worn out athletic shoes and recycles them into playground surfaces.  
Where: Nike Outlet at the Wrentham Outlet
Converse Community Store North Andover

Have You Started Cleaning Out?  Do You Try to Donate or Repurpose what you can?


Electronics Reuse and Recycling

Electronic waste is the term used for any unwanted electronic – computers, cell phones, printers, MP3 player, GPS, TV, VCR, alarm clocks, hair dryers etc. The list gets longer with each technological advance. In the U.S. alone, 14 to 20 million PCs are thrown out every year. The items in the picture, are the things I found in my house without much looking. There are still 2 computers, a couple of old hard drives and possibly a walkman lurking in the basement!
E-Waste contains toxic substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium so it needs to be disposed of properly. With proper disposal,

  1. these harmful materials can be dealt with so they do not contaminate our soil, water or air and
  2. useful materials such as aluminum, gold, and silver are reclaimed and reused.
Besides not tossing your old cell phone in the trash, you need to make sure you recycle it with a reputable recycler. There has been much in the news recently about electronics being dumped in 3rd world countries and possibly burned.

The Westford Recycling Commission has 3 electronics recycling events throughout the year in March, June, and September. If you missed the last one, and don’t want to wait until June 25, here are some other options.

Best Buy has several options including a Trade-in program for electronics in good condition.

  • What Most electronics including tube TVs and monitors (up to 32″), flat panel TVs and monitors (up to 60”), DVD players, audio, cell phones, MP3 players, computers, vacuums, headphones, CDs and more.
  • Fees – Free, except $10 for TVs and monitors, but you will receive a $10 Best Buy gift card in exchange   Update 1/21/12 – seems that Best Buy is no longer charging $10 for TVs

  • How – Bring up to 3 items per household per day to any U.S. Best Buy store during normal store hours
Note: I just dropped off some items at the Best Buy in Nashua, NH. Apparently, they will not take the hard drives in computers. You need to remove them first, before they will take the rest of the computer. Luckily, we had done that already because I wanted to ask about their data policy.  Not too happy about this, but I recycled my printer, some cables, the rest of the computers and dead ear buds all in one trip!

Update 1/21/12 – Best Buy, according to their website:
In the case of hard drives on laptops or desktop PCs, customers have the choice to remove their data themselves, or they can consult with a Geek Squad® Agent about services we offer to remove the hard drive before handing the PC over to be recycled. 
To remove the data yourself and wipe your hard drive clean of your personal data, see this videofrom Geek Squad®. 
You are responsible for removing any data from your device before providing the product to us. Under no circumstances shall Best Buy be liable for any loss of any data or media from products delivered to us for trade in or recycling.

If you have something fairly new that you think might be worth some money, Gazelle will buy it from you for resale at their store.

Verizon’s Hopeline program donates refurbished cell phones to victims of domestic abuse.

  • What – Cell Phones and their batteries and accessories

  • Fee – Free

  • How – Ship phone with a prepaid label

  • What – TVs (under 27″), computers, monitors, air conditioners, microwaves, and more

  • Fees – Vary from $10 – $20

  • How – Arrange for a pickup by calling Melissa at 774-776-7200
Depending on what you are disposing of and it’s condition, there is an option out there. You might even get some cash!

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.


E-Waste Recycling Day in Westford March 26 | Greene Westford

Have electronics you need to get out of the basement? Load up your car and come to the Westford Recycling Commission Electronics Recycling event – March 26, 8am – 2pm. All the electronics you see in the video, came out of my basement!


Do Not Put These In The Trash!

I don’t believe that much BELONGS in the trash. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Donate, Compost – our trash is pretty small. Did you know that there are some things that can be dangerous if thrown into the trash? Take a look at the following list and note the safe alternatives for disposal.


Button Type – Many button batteries contain mercury. They are collected at MacKay Hardware, Ace Hardware and Westford Board of Health

Lithium batteries – These batteries are reactive with water and can cause fires. Save for Household Hazardous Waste collection

Rechargeable batteries – Some may contain cadmium, a metal that is toxic to humans when inhaled or ingested. Radio Shack and Best Buy are among the places that accept rechargeables.

Regular alkaline batteries are safe to put into the trash according to Mass DEP. Since 1994, alkaline batteries contain no added mercury. This still seems wrong to me and I can’t bring myself to throw them in the trash. I have a box of them that my husband takes to work to recycle on occasion. I also recently discovered that the Littleton Transfer station will also accept them. You need to be a resident of Littleton, however.

CFLs – Any fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury. They can be disposed of properly by Ace Hardware, MacKay Hardware or Home Depot. If a CFL breaks, please read this before attempting to clean up. DO NOT USE A VACUUM or BROOM.

Sharps – To ensure proper disposal, take to the Board of Health. They should be placed in a puncture proof container such as a detergent bottle, coffee can or sharps container.

Thermometers and Thermostats – Old thermometers and some thermostats contain mercury. Dispose of at the Board of Health. Please place intact mercury containing devices in a sealed plastic bag.

Motor Oil – Used oil contains heavy metals, which can contaminate water supplies and harm eco-systems. Take the oil back to where you bought it. Whoever sold it to you is required by Massachusetts law to take back up to two gallons of your used oil per day, without charge, provided you still have the sales receipt. No receipt? Westford Fire Station (Center of Town) or Whitney’s Service will take it for a small fee of $1/gallon.

Household hazardous waste items – Westford collects household hazardous waste every other year. If you missed the last collection this past fall, you may take your items to the Minuteman Hazardous Products Regional Facility in Lexington. It is open for 8 weekend days April – Nov, 2011, fees apply.

Please pass this along to anyone you think might not know. At least we can keep really harmful stuff out of the waste stream.


10 Things I Love About Whole Foods

Ahhh… the produce, the cheese, the fish….. I love walking into Whole Foods in Bedford. Here is a list of my 10 favorites ….at the moment….

1) Bulk Spices – These are the best deal in town! The spices are so convenient – buy in bulk, use your own container, only get what you need, and so cheap! Last time I was there, I bought a small container’s worth (0.62 oz) of whole cloves for 51 cents! This would have cost about $5 at ANY other grocery store.

2) Did you know you can bring your own containers, have them weighed at Customer Service, then use them for bulk items? I find this so convenient and smart. I often get popcorn, spices and other bulk items. I really like bringing the container I use at home and filling that so I don’t buy too much, or not enough. The weight is written right on the container so the cashier knows how much to deduct.

3) Cork recycling – Whole Foods has partnered with Cork ReHarvest to recycle natural corks in all of their stores.

4) Brita filter recycling – The Gimme 5 program, from Preserve, collects all #5 plastics. Now, we can recycle #5 here in Westford, but did you know that this program also accepts Brita Water Filters?

5) Plastic bag recycling – They take most plastic bags. The woman I spoke to at Customer Service says that they go through them to make sure the correct things are in there. Ask if you are not sure.

6) Organic apples – Apples are one of the dirty dozen and my son’s favorite fruit! I stock up when I am here.

7) Unbleached Wax sandwich bags – They are an alternative to a plastic baggie. They do not seal so keeping something fresh may be an issue, but no plastic. You can find them along side the wax paper. They come in a box of 60 for $2.79. If you order a case, you get a discount.

8) If you buy a reusable bag at Whole Foods and for whatever reason it breaks or becomes unusable, they will replace it for free. Now you are thinking, “What happens to all the bags people return? Do they end up being thrown out?” No Sir! Whole Foods has committed to repurposing them somehow. They are still working it out, but I will let you know as soon as I do.

9) Organic whole wheat pizza dough for $1.69 – I make a lot of pizzas. It’s my way of using up leftovers in an interesting way. This dough is frozen, but for me that’s fine. I usually stock up when I am there and would freeze it anyway. The price is great too.

10) If these weren’t enough, there are some coupons to use next time you are there.

What’s your favorite?


10 Easy Ways to Green 2011

Happy New Year! The festivities are over and you are back into your routine. Most of you are already pretty green. But take a look at this list of easy fixes. They will not cost much, if anything at all. Even if you have done these in the past, every once in a while I find I need to review. For me, the junk mail is slowing creeping back. What will you do?

1. Refresh your memory on recycling rules – Did you know you CAN recycle aluminum foil, including the foil yogurt tops?

2. Get rid of junk mail – If you haven’t singed up for Direct Marketing associates, do it now.

3. Change to paperless billing

4. Recycle other stuff like plastic grocery bags, all #2 and #4 plastic bags at Hannaford. Energy bar wrappers, chip bags, and used pens with Upcycle It! Westford’s TerraCycle program.

5. Change to eco-friendly cleaners.

6. Add to your reusables – water bottle, coffee mug, reusable snack bags….

7. Switch to organic produce for the dirty dozen. Try organic homemade microwave popcorn.

8. Switch to cloth napkins – It is so much easier than you would think. I’m sure you have a few hanging around.

9. Bring your reusable bags to the grocery store. Make a point of actually remembering to bring them! If you already do this, try bringing them to other places, the mall, drug store…

10. Analyze your garbage and recycling. What are you getting rid of that could be reduced in the first place?

Already doing all this? Suggest others! And stay tuned for more ideas…..


Take the Trash Out… of the holidays that is

So the Holidays are in full swing. Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day alone, Americans produce an extra one million tons of trash per week compared to any other time of the year? And that one year’s worth of holiday cards would fill a football field 10 stories high! That’s a lot of trash! Not good for Westford’s efforts to reduce trash this year.

Here are some ways to reduce that waste.

Holiday Cards

Reduce – don’t send paper cards. Go electronic! There are sites out htere, but I think I’m just going to produce my own with a photo and family letter.

Reuse – Some people like to keep cards and look through the old ones – especially the picture cards. I have a stack too! But after you are done with the other ones, try reusing the cards you get for gift tags or postcards

Recycle – obviously you can recycle your holiday cards in your curbside bin or you could donate them to St. Jude’s – St Jude’s will accept any occasion cards year round. The cards are turned into new cards that are sold (on their website) to benefit St. Jude’s.

Green Gift Ideas

Go with less, obviously. Less packaging, less stuff! Who needs more stuff?! My mother-in-law is famous for doing this. She will usually get my husband tickets to a Patriots game and he reciprocates with tickets to the Red Sox for her birthday. It’s a great day for both of them. She has also given us tickets to something along with her baby sitting services for the night.

Give the gift of an experience

Tickets to a show, concert, sporting event, day at a museum, the list is endless!
If you have younger children, consider going to a local performance. Dance Prism is a local performance group. They perform in several small venues throughout New England and the ticket prices are very reasonable!

Family Membership to a museum – There are so many in the area. For a long time I had a membership to the See Science Center in Manchester, NH (currently the price is $70). The great thing about this one is that is also lets you gain admission to over 270 other ASTC museums across the country, including some local ones – the Boston Children’s Museum, EcoTarium (Worcester, MA), Museum of Science, Harvard Museum of Natural History among others. You can practically make up the membership price after a trip to one of these.

The gift of imagination

When my children were 2 and 4, Santa gave them one of the best gifts ever – a stage and a pretend grocery store. Santa made a simple triangle stage, put up a curtain rod and red curtains. He also added to our dress up box with clothes and other costumes and accessories that other children had outgrown. Five years later, I am waiting for the next performance to start! The grocery store was like the ones at Children’s museums. The Elves saved old plastic and cardboard food containers and glued or taped them shut. Add a cash register and you have years on fun!

Give the gift of Green

Make up a “Go Green” gift pack of your own. A few years ago, I made my parents one of these. I filled a reusable shopping bag with 2 reusable water bottles, CFLs, the Direct Marketing Association reduce junk mail form, another reusable shopping bag, their town’s recycle bin (yes, my parents were NOT recycling at this time), homemade cleaners and planted trees in their name. You could tailor this to the person you are giving it.

Homemade gifts

There are so many ideas on the web. This is a great one for kids to give each other or grandparents. Here are a few we are trying out this year:

Tissue paper decorated glass – my daughter made this at a birthday party recently. I thought it was so cute. We pulled out some other glass objects I had in the basement and made more for other grandparents. The possibilities are endless, flower vases, glass jars (the ones spaghetti or jelly come in), wine bottles, old drinking glasses…. We also used some of the wrinkled tissue paper I had been saving. It is very simple, but click here or here for more instructions.

Paper bead baubles – I found directions for these as I was roaming the net. They looked really cool and I loved that I could use old magazines! Right now I am just making a ton of the beads out of colorful magazine pages and my old scraps of scrapbook paper. I am going to try making them into napkin rings for Christmas Eve and wine charms for a gift. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

Homemade food – who doesn’t love delicious homemade food! Fudge, cookies, biscotti…..

Gift Wrapping

For the most part I use and reuse gift bags for most of my gift wrapping. This year, I am going to try to go even further.


You can make bows out of magazine pages or even a chip or candy wrapper! These are my creations. Here are some instructions. This one has nice step by step instructions. Although she uses a brad to secure the bow. I didn’t have brads, so I used a glue gun to secure each section, then to secure all the sections together. You can also use a stapler.
This one uses a candy wrapper for a foil bow.

Gift Tags

Use old Christmas cards (as suggested above) or scrap paper cut into a cute shape. I simply use a Sharpie and write decoratively.

Gift boxes

Make your own gift boxes from cereal or cracker boxes with these templates or step by step instructions. This would make a great one for gift cards. I use this for my business cards.

Reusable bag as a gift bag

Reuseable grocery bag or any kind of tote bag that the person can use again for something.

Old fabric – This Family Fun article gives you instructions on how to turn a piece of fabric into gift wrapping.

What will you do this holiday season?


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