Archive | reduce

The 5 R’s – Refuse Reduce Reuse Repurpose Recycle

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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



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



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


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

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

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



 Can you think of others?


The Gifts Live On

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


{The Greening Of Westford} Donating Unused items

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

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

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

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

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

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

{The Greening of Westford} donating furnitureFURNITURE  

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

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



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


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

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


What was left

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




Easy Foaming Hand Soap

{The Greening Of Westford} Easy Foaming Handsoap

There was a time when you would place a bar of soap next to the bathroom sink for washing hands.  Somewhere along the way, that became a disgusting thought – “Use the same soap someone else has used??”  Ewww!”  Honestly, if it’s my own house I don’t mind so much but do feel a little weird elsewhere and forget that concept in a public restroom!  Plus that bar can get pretty slimy and gross – think kids playing with the bar of soap while washing their hands.

In comes liquid foaming soap.  Convenient, not as messy, and scents that can make you feel like you are on vacation.  On the other hand, there is the wasteful packaging, those scents contain Phthalates, anti-bacterial liquid soap most likely contains triclosan, and they are expensive!

So pick your reason for wanting to rid your bathroom of these liquid foaming soaps:

  1. Wasteful
  2. Potentially dangerous chemicals
  3. Expense

I’m not going to suggest we go back to the bar of soap, although that is an option.  I’m going to say,

Make your own!  
It is so easy.  The most difficult part, is finding a container you like.

Foaming Soap

It’s not special foaming soap, its the container does the foaming action  I tried ordering empty foaming soap dispensers.  They were difficult to find and expensive.  Buy one already filled with soap and refill that one when it becomes empty.  Whole Foods carries their 365 brand foaming hand soap for about $5.  Or if you have those pretty smelling ones lying around, keep them!


liquid soap of your choice (Castile or anything unscented and without triclosan)

Fill your container about a 3/4 with water, then fill the rest with your liquid soap.  (You might need to play with this ratio.)
Mix gently

That’s it!  You can add essential oils if you like for fragrance or extra cleaning properties.  Teat Tree oil and lavender work nicely.  Vitamin E or glycerin can be added for softening qualities.  It’s up to you.

Cost Savings:
This method costs a fraction of what it would cost to buy new foaming dispensers filled with soap each time. Plus don’t forget your other savings in terms of health and resources.

32 oz of Castile soap (at Bed, Bath and Beyond) is about $9.  You can make 128 oz of foaming soap from this.

Pretty smelling scented ones, on sale, are 5 for $15.  Even at this great price it would cost $45 for the same amount of soap*.

Do you make your own foaming hand soap?  Will you now?

*The math:

Each pretty smelling bottle contains 8.75 oz. and costs $3 (on sale)

128oz/8.75oz  =  15 bottles (rounded up to whole bottles)
15 * $3 = $45

This post has been shared at Simply Natural Saturdays, Your Green Resource, From the Farm, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways


Beyond Reusable Grocery Bags

Beyond Reusable Grocery Bags {The Greening of Westford}

Many of us have made (or are making) the switch to reusable grocery bags.  We do this for many reasons – to reduce waste, reduce our exposure to toxins, and, yes, to make our lives easier.  Many people think that it is a hassle to bring your own bags or containers, but I find them so much easier to deal with than plastic bags.  They are easier to carry, they fit more so you are managing fewer bags, and with containers for bulk items, you can be sure you are getting enough but not too much.

Can you expand your reusables while shopping?  Here are some ideas:

Reusable Shopping Bags at the Mall or drugstore, or anywhere else.  I keep one of those small reusable bags that folds up in my purse at all times to use at stores other than the grocery store.  When shopping at the mall, I always make sure I bring a bag or 2.  My fingers thank me.  Don’t you hate carrying those plastic bags?!  Reusables come in cute styles and you can carry them on your shoulder.

Reusable produce bags   Ditch the plastic bag for produce.  Many items do not need a bag.  But for those that do, try reusable ones.   or you could make your own if you are handy. Look for mesh or something see-through to make it easier on the cashier looking for the produce code.  I found mesh, drawstring laundry bags that are the perfect size.

Bring your own bags or containers for bulk items   Many stores will let you bring your own container to fill with bulk items.  You will often need to have it weighed first so the cashier can deduct that weight at the register (called the TAR weight).  If you buy new sheets, take a look at how they are packaged.  Mine came in a great cotton drawstring bag, perfect for bulk purchases!
Can you adopt one of these?  If you already do them, do you have more to add?
This post was shared at Simply Natural Saturdays


30 Green Tips For Earth Month 2013

Green Tip #27: Get rid of old prescriptions properly at a National Drug Take Back Day or at a pharmacy. Disposing of drugs properly eliminates the possibility of them entering rivers or oceans harming aquatic life.

Green Tip #26: As the weather starts to get nicer, hang you laundry outside to dry. This can save you up to 12% on your energy bill.

Green Tip #25: Children’s lunches can create 67 pounds of garbage per child per year. Consider buying reusable sandwich containers, water bottles, reusable utensils, and reusable snack bags.

Green Tip #24: All sorts of textiles (fabric) can be recycled.

Green Tip #23: Stop buying bottled water. Buy a reusable water bottle and save yourself loads of money. If you need more convincing, see the film “Tapped” – available on Netflix.

Green Tip #22: MA residents: Take advantage of your FREE energy audit. Schedule one today!
{This is an affliate link, so I will get a few $ if you sign up through my referral 🙂 }

Green Tip #21: From GREEN TIP TUESDAY: Recycle or Reduce your paper use: Each TON of recycled paper SAVES: 17 – 35’ Trees, 380 Gallons (2 barrels) of oil, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 4077 kilowatts of energy, 6950 gallons of water.

Green Tip #20: With regular oil changes and properly inflated tires, you can improve your gas mileage by as much as 3%.

Green Tip #19: Harmful chemicals can be in everyday cleaning products. Consider changing to eco-friendly ones or make your own green cleaners.

Green Tip #18: Indoor air quality is 2 to 5 times worse than air outdoors. Open the windows, often. Many common house plants will also help filter the air.

Green Tip #17: From America Recycles Day: how much should you rinse cans and bottles before recycling? 

Answer: You don’t absolutely NEED to rinse your cans and bottles before recycling because they will be cleaned during the recycling process. Dumping out the liquid inside your can or bottle will keep things cleaner and may lighten the load in your recycling bin, but your material definitely does not have to be squeaky-clean before you recycle it. Think of it this way: if you’re out and about, you don’t rinse out your soda bottle before placing it in an outdoor bin, and it still gets recycled!

Green Tip #16: Pay your bills online to save paper, time, transportation costs and stamps. Each bill paid electronically will save you $5.28 a year in stamps alone.

Green Tip #15: Recycle or donate your unwanted electronics. Proper recycling keeps harmful materials out of the air, soil and water and recovers useful plastics and metals while donating keeps something useful in use!

Green Tip #14: The average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash each day. Can you decrease your trash?

Green Tip #13: Americans waste up to 50% of the food they buy. This waste contributes to climate change because more water and resources are used to produce this food that isn’t used. Save yourself some $ and use up those leftovers!

Green Tip #12: Instead of buying a book, check one out from your local library. Libraries also have movies, music CDs, and magazines.

Green Tip #11: Your trash could be someone else’s treasure. When you come across something you don’t need, think about donating it to a charity or offer it on FreeCycle.
Green Tip #10: Save money and packaging waste by making your own foaming hand soap

Green Tip #9: Green your laundry.  Wash your clothes in warm or cold water. Most of the energy its takes to do a load of laundry is spent in heating the water.

Green Tip #8: 100 million trees are used each year to produce junk mail. Reduce your junk mail, saves trees and reclaim your wasted time.

Green Tip #7: Eating just one meatless meal per week can reduce your carbon footprint. It is estimated that the meat industry generates almost one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Skipping one hamburger can save 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide and 280 gallons of water.  Ever tried Falafel?

Green Tip #6: Plastic bags of ANY kind cannot be placed in your curbside recycling bin. I would stake my reputation on the fact that this is true for ANY curbside program in the US. Take them to the grocery store along with all plastic bags labeled with a #2 or #4.

Green Tip #5: Plastic can leech chemicals into your food. Consider reusing glass jars to store your leftovers. Spaghetti, salsa and applesauce jars are some of my favorites.

Green Tip #4Old eye glasses can be recycled by the Lion’s Club. Drop off locations are located at the J. V. Fletcher Library , Nab One Stop and The Roudenbush Community Center, Inc. among others around town and beyond. This is a national program.

Green Tip #3: Electronics can be recycled at Westford Recycling Commission drop off event this Saturday 8am – 2pm at the Highway Garage. All are welcome, fees apply.

Green Tip #2: Refresh your memory on recycling rules. Whether you live in Westford or not, watch the latest Westford Recycling Commission video.

This information applies to any town that uses Integrated Paper Recyclers (like Chelmsford) but my guess is that most curbside programs in MA follow most of these rules as well. It will give you some questions to ask your own recycling program.

Green Tip #1: Upcycle all those Easter Candy wrappers. Bring any candy wrappers, big, small, any brand, to an Upcycle It! drop off point – J. V. Fletcher LibraryThe Roudenbush Community Center, Inc., or Westford Starbucks.


Think Before You Trash


Think donate BEFORE you toss {}

I recently cleaned out my children’s craft closet.  It was a daunting task.  It had not bee touched in who knows how long and we hadn’t seen the floor in quite some time.

Yes there actually is a floor in there, somewhere.

I was determined to recycle, reuse or donate as much as possible.

I started pulling everything out of the closet and of course, made even more of a mess at the start.  What I noticed was that there were certain categories of things.  Most of which my children had outgrown, but still usable.

stickers – > DONATE
foam stickers -> DONATE
little craft items -> DONATE
coloring books that were hardly touched -> DONATE
paper, empty boxes to be recycled -> RECYCLE
beads and other jewelry making supplies – >KEEP
old fabric scraps -> RECYCLE

So I got organized.  I got some boxes, recycling bin, and a trash barrel.  And I labeled them – well in my head.  



Some of this would be donated and some kept.  I tried to organize the each pile so that I could donate like items together – ensuring that the person who unpacked this donation would be able to figure out what it was and not think I was giving them trash!  Anything we were keeping I would be able to figure out the best way to store it in the closet so this didn’t happen again…. well,not for a while at least.

It took me a couple of days, but I did it!



This is what I took out of the closet (there was more recycling).  The left most pile was taken to Savers.  The fabric recycling pile was taken to the clothing donation bins around town.  They can reuse this fabric as rags or in stuffing things like furniture.  Recycling – into our curbside recycling bin.  The trash is only about a quarter of the total amount of stuff!

This did take me a bit longer than if I have just trashed everything, but honestly not that much longer.  And I felt so much better about it.  

One thing I learned, there is such a thing as too many foam stickers!  Definitely need to think before I buy any more craft items.

The Results:



The shelves still need a little straightening, but you can now see the floor!  In case you were wondering, yes that bin on the right was there in the Before pic!

Even though I did this project about a month ago, I was prompted to post it now because of Reduce Footprints challenge this week:

This week, before tossing anything out, consider alternate uses. For example, could the item be composted or used for another purpose? Could the item be given away and used by someone else? And here’s a “biggie”: could we avoid the item in the first place thereby eliminating the need to toss it out? The idea is to think before tossing anything and end up with less trash at the end of the week.

Is this something you think about? How do you reduce your waste?  


From Food Waste to Fried Rice

From Food Waste to Friend Rice {The Greening Of Westford}

This year’s goal is to reduce my food waste.  It amazes me how much food goes bad in my house.  And I think I’m pretty good at planning and eating up leftovers!

The biggest issues I have now are:

  1. Condiments
  2. Using my freezer
  3. Eating things out of my freezer

For some reason, I have loads of condiments both in the pantry and the refrigerator.   Some I use on a regular basis – like soy sauce, ketchup, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar.  Not a problem.   But then there are others like white balsamic vinegar, deli style spicy mustard and an array of Asian items.  Things I bought for one particular dish and probably never used again.

I have been making an effort to freeze items I won’t use BEFORE they go bad.  I made corn chowder and a lentil pasta sauce recently.  Both really yummy, but too much to eat.  Before they went the way of the science experiment, I froze them.  Of course, I also tossed a few things that didn’t make it to the freezer in time.  You win some you lose some!  To help me with this one, I find I need to have loads of freezer containers around. I use glass mostly, either mason jars or jars from pickles, apple sauce or spaghetti sauce.  Marking them is key too – I have found that a dry erase marker works wonderfully on a metal lid!

This leads to issue #3 – eating food from the freezer before freezer burn sets in.  My freezer is stocked! Time to start eating.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to plan my meal sizes better.  We are ending up with too many leftovers.  I try to get creative with the leftovers.  I’m not big on reheating the same meal – and neither is my family.  I try to think of the leftovers as ingredients for something else like pizza toppings or add-ins to pasta.

My latest creation is fried rice!  I made some the other night with leftover brown rice, eggs, leftover veggies and the most usual array of Asian condiments.  I had little bits of oyster sauce, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce.    So I mixed them with a little rice vinegar and fresh ginger.  It was pretty tasty!  And I eliminated 2 of my random condiments.  Now I will say right up front – the picture at the top is NOT mine.  Honestly, it tasted WAY better than it looked!

There are great resources on the web and pinterest.  Some of the most helpful to me are:
All Recipes – you can enter the ingredients you want to use up and they will suggest recipes
Love Food Hate Waste – great information on the food waste problem and how to combat it
Still Tasty – for each category of food, there is detailed information on how long it is good for and the best way to store it.

It is amazing what you can come up with with a little effort.  Now I just need to work this into my weekly routine.

How do you deal with food waste?

Top Photo Used under Creative Commons License.  Credit Jerry Wong via Flickr.


7 Ways My Smart Phone Saves Paper

7 ways my smart phone saves paper - The Greening Of Westford

Besides playing games, getting email, texting and taking quick photos, my smart phone has a bunch of cool features that actually help me save paper.   Now, saving paper in and of itself is very cool to me.  But more so, storing important items on my phone makes my life so much easier! No coupons floating around getting lost or forgetting my shopping list at home.


1.  No More Appointment Cards Not only is it convenient to have access to my family’s calendar wherever I am, but I don’t need to take an appointment card – which I always lose anyway!

2. No Need for Weekly Store Sales Fliers Many stores will price match another store’s sales price.  This may not work everywhere, but I was able to show the clerk at Walmart  the sales flier on my phone to get that price matched.
3. No Printed Receipts  Many stores are using electronic receipts. Among them are Sears, Apple, and Verizon.  No losing the receipt and if you need to make a return, no losing the receipt!
4. Online Purchase Pickups  Have you ever used Groupons, Best Buy in store pickup or bought movie theater tickets online?  Ask if you can show your electronic receipt rather than printing it.  I have done this at several locations.
5. To Do Lists  There are so many note pad type apps.  I have several ongoing lists for grocery shopping, To Do, to buy, Wholesale Clubs, you name it.
6. Electronic Coupons  I always have the latest coupons by using the Michael’s and JoAnn apps.  I just hand the clerk my phone.  No more printing the coupons from my email. 
7.  Redeem Store Points  When you recycle ink cartridges at Staples they give you $2 in Staples credit, which you have to wait to use, then print the coupon, which expires in a couple of months.  It is a pain!  I recently installed the Staples app.  It isn’t the most user-friendly but I was able to use my staples rewards with it!  No printing necessary.
Airlines are also offering electronic boarding passes.  I don’t travel often enough for this to make a difference, but I have a friend who travels weekly and swears by it.

Now only if solar chargers were more affordable……

What are your cool smart phone tricks?

This post has been shared at: Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Simply Natural Saturdays, List It Thursday




How To Cook Dry Beans

how to cook dry beans
“Why in the world would she want to cook her own beans?  Canned are cheap as “beans” 😉 to begin with!”

Well, yes, beans are a fairly inexpensive protein in the can, but here are many reasons why I cook my own.

  1.  Avoid the BPA.   Most cans contain BPA in the lining.  Until a suitable alternative is available, cooking your own reduces this exposure.
  2. Save Money.  Dry beans are anywhere from 1/2 to 1/3 the price of canned beans.  I did a comparison in my area and this is what I found – You can buy a pound of dry Goya black beans at Market Basket for $1.49 which cooks up to at least 6 cups of beans.  This is the equivalent of 3 cans which will cost you about $2.40.  You have saved $0.91.  Now you could take that savings and run.  Or use the savings to buy organic dry beans.  Dry organic black beans in bulk at Hannaford are $2.99 per lb  For some reason I couldn’t find organic canned beans at Hannaford or Market Basket, so from amazon a can of Eden Organic black beans is $1.66.  Again, a little more than 1/2 the price.
  3. I control the ingredients.  There is usually a lot of salt added to canned beans.
  4. Taste and texture.  I can control how soft the beans are by cooking them more or less.  The taste also seems fresher to me.
  5. Reduce packaging waste.  I have been trying to reduce whatever waste I can.  By buying beans in bulk, in my own container, there is another package eliminated!

I know.  It seems difficult and not worth it.  It really isn’t that tough.  Yes it takes a little more planning on the cooking and using (defrosting) end.  When I need beans for a recipe, I cook up at least a pound of beans, use what I need then freeze the rest.  To defrost them quicker, I place the glass jar in a bowl of cool water.  Again, it is not as fast as popping the lid off a can, but close.

I will let you in on a little secret.  Years ago, before marriage and kids, I lived with my cousin.  We tried a few times to cook dry beans and they never got soft, so we gave up.  Well, years later I discovered that you have to soak AND cook them.  We only ever soaked them!  Ah to be young!  

How To Cook Dried Beans

This applies to beans that need to be soaked and cooked.   This method does not apply to lentils or split peas since they don’t need to be soaked and cook very quickly.

Step 1: Prep   Dry beans often have small stones or clumps of dirt in them.  This is normal, but you need to get those out before you cook them.  Sort through the beans, picking out the undesirables then rinse in cold water.

Step 2: Soak   Most beans need to be soaked before cooking.  The larger the bean, the longer the soaking, the longer the soaking the shorter the cooking time. 

Black eyed peas and Adzuki beans do not require soaking – skip this step.

Overnight method:  Put beans in a bowl (I use the pot I will be cooking them in) add enough cold water to cover the beans completely with a few inches of water.  They will absorb the water as they soak.  Let sit overnight (6 -8 hours).

Quick soak:  Place in a pot with enough water covering the beans.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 mins.  Take pot off the heat, cover and let sit for 2 hours.

Step 3: Cook   Remove any beans that are floating.  Drain and rinse the beans.  Place them in a pot.  Add enough cold water to cover the beans by one inch.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  If cooking kidney beans, boil for 10 mins. before lowering the heat to destroy a toxin in the beans .  Simmer until beans are tender (see table below for approximate cooking times).  When checking for doneness, test a few beans to make sure they have all cooked.  You can add seasoning while cooking, but do not add salt or anything acidic.  Your beans will never cook.

These times are a rough guide.  Depending on the age of your beans and the length of time you soaked them, the times may vary.



Cooking Time

Black Beans


1 hour
Black-eyed peas

1 hour

Cannellini beans

1 ¼ hours

Chick peas/Garbanzo beans


1 – 1 ½ hours

Great Northern Beans


1 hour

Kidney Beans


1 ¼ hours

Peas -split


1 hour

Pinto Beans


1– 1 ½ hours


SAVE the cooking liquid!   Often you will want some cooking liquid when using the beans.  Definitely for chick peas – I always add some cooking liquid when making hummus.  Just add some of the liquid to your storage container.  It will also help the beans from getting dried out.

Beans will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days.

For longer storage (up to 6 months), freeze them.  Baggies, plastic containers, or glass – whatever works for you!  I freeze mine in 2 cup portions (just like the cans) in pint mason jars with some of the cooking liquid.

Easy peasy right!?  Apparently, you can also cook them in a slow cooker.  That will have to be another post since I haven’t tried it yet.

Do you cook your own beans?

Top photo take by CIAT/Flickr used under Creative Commons.


5 Easy Steps To Recycling

5 easy steps to recycling
We all know the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle chant.  And guess what?  It is in that order for a reason.  The BEST option is to reduce. 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.  

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.  
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 or if you can do without it. If you have questions, ask.  This method 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 will stick with it.  If you need to sort items, multiple bins might 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.  Convert the office trash can to a recycle bin since 99% of what you get rid of in that room is paper.  Place  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 in 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 very little extra effort.  If you have a local recycling department, they can be a great resource.  

For more ideas on recycling, check my guide on How to Recycle Everything.

If you are ready for the REDUCE step but need a little push, educate yourself on some of the dangers of the packing you use.  


Happy Recycling!



Back To School Green Style

{} back to school green style save money
I can already hear the bustle of back to school – buses, school shopping, the whining!  Backpacks, school supplies, clothes and more will be needed. I am constantly trying to reduce what we use, while still making sure we have what we need. I love that the more efficient I am with back to school shopping, the less clutter I have in my house and the more cash I have in my wallet!
Take Stock
The sales can be tempting. Before you stock up, inventory what you already have.
What Do They Really Need
Take a look at your child’s school supply list.  Depending on your child’s grade, teacher or classes, you may need (or not) specific items.
Donate or Repurpose Old Backpacks 
Do you have backpacks that are still in good condition but the kids won’t use them? Donate them.  Many charity are looking for backpacks.  You can also re-purpose them for sports or hobby equipment.  I use my son’s old backpack for his soccer gear.
Waste-free Lunches And Snacks
Think waste-free when packing your child’s lunch or snack. In the United States, the average school aged child produces 67 pounds of packaging waste per school year. Try these alternatives to one time use products.
  • Water bottle – There are many available online and at local stores.  Look for stainless steel or BPA-free.  Think about how it will fit in your child’s lunch box or backpack and how easy it is to clean. You might want to hang on to that baby bottle brush!
  • Reusable Sandwich Container – You can find these in stores as well as online. If you opt for plastic, make sure it is BPA-free.
  • Reusable Lunch bag – You can find these just about anywhere you find the sandwich containers and water bottles.
  • Reusable Baggies – Reusable fabric bags are popping up on the internet, small shops and craft fairs.
Eco-Friendly Classroom Supplies
When sending in donations for the classroom, try environmentally friendly cleaners or recycled content paper towels.
Think Outside the Envelop
Re-purpose unused return envelops. No matter how I try to reduce my junk mail, I still get mail with return envelops.   I keep these in my office and use them for permission slips, lunch ticket money, Box Tops, anything that needs to be sealed but doesn’t need a brand new envelop.

What are your tips and tricks?

This post is part of this months Green Moms Carnival Back-to-School edition hosted by Micaela of Mindful Momma.  Check out the whole post  for lots of great tips and  suggestions for sending your kids back-to-school the eco-friendly way. 


Bag It {Friday Film Fest}

Bag It film review

Bag It film review

The Movie Bag It is the first in the Friday Film Fest Series.  I hope you were able to watch it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I watched Bag It at my computer, streaming it from Netflix.  The documentary style film features Jeb Berrier, who I personally found humorous and lovable!  Even though it is a documentary, it is very entertaining in an educational, eye-opening, jaw dropping way.

The film starts with Jeb trying to reduce his plastic grocery bag use.  He is prompted to look into plastics bags when a near by town challenges his town to see who can reduce their plastic bag use the most.   He goes on a journey delving deeper and deeper into plastics as he realizes they are everywhere!  Along the way, he interviews an amazing array of “plastics experts” – ordinary people turned activist, scientists, and politicians.

His journey leads him to noticed how much plastic there is in the world.  Every time there was a scene from a grocery store, I couldn’t help but noticed that EVERYTHING was wrapped in plastic. There is so much disposable packaging – water bottles, plastic bags, and individual packaging.

I come in contact with it A LOT of single-use disposable packaging.  This is a picture of the granola wrappers Upcycle It! collected in ONE WEEK, from one town with a little over 20,000 residents.  It’s difficult to say how many people contributed to this pile.  But think about it.  How many granola bar wrappers could you go through?  We used to buy them by the case!  I rationed them out and still we ( a family of five) would go through a box of 90 or so bars in a month.  I now make my own.

The film then goes on to question whether plastic is OK for humans.  He learns about the dangerous chemicals contained in plastics – BPA and phthlates.

My stomach turned as I watched the list of ailments and diseases BPA and phthlates have been linked to – allergies, autism, ADHD, diabetes, infertility.  Even in the short time since this film came out, autism has risen again from 1 in 250 (in the film) to 1 in 88 children!  I cringed as I watched that baby put the rubber ducky in her mouth as one of the scientists called it a “phthlate lollipop”.

During the film, Jeb’s partner becomes pregnant.  This “freaks” him out.  What will the plastics do to his child?  Many people are often jolted into action when they start having children.  I was!

When my children were young, I started on the green journey – reducing our waste, switching out single-use items for reusables, reducing plastic.  I even got my mother into the act.  She and I designed and sold reusable snack bags.  We stuck to selling at our local farmers market and craft fairs.  I have many of these and my kids happily used them for years.

But it finally happened.  My 10 year old rolled her eyes at using the reusable snack bag.  “Ugh, why can’t I use a plastic bag?”  She did use the reusable one in the end.  When I dropped her off at dance class, most other kids had a disposable water bottle and a plastic bag with their snack or a single size snack package.  When did plastic become so cool?  Why does my daughter WANT to use a plastic bag? Is it just because most other kids are doing it.  She wants to fit in?  OK, I get that.  I don’t have to like it but I remember being young.  I do!  So how do we make it cool to bring your water bottle and reusable bag.  Maybe over time it happens?  Reusable bottles seem to be more acceptable now.

Back to the film – I was, once again, saddened and angered by the realization that other countries are doing more to protect their citizens against corporate greed than the US.  the film shows a world map with the areas that have already banned plastic bags.  In the U.S., the American Chemistry Council (ACC) is hard at work throwing millions of dollars into campaigns against reducing plastic bag use, protecting the corporations they represent.  The ACC was able to get the California legislature to pass a law to prohibit the charging of fees for plastic bags!  This forced San Francisco to pursue an outright ban instead of a bag fee.  Guess what?  THEY WON!  Of course, this doesn’t happen everywhere.  Efforts were defeated in many other places – out spent by the corporations protecting their precious profits.

What confuses me the most is that these corporations are not faceless entities.  There are people behind the lobbying groups, corporations, their lawyers, etc.  People who, I’m sure, have children.  Does something happen when they walk through the door of their office?

Is this film suitable for children?  For the most part yes.  It might be a little long for them and the final scenes showing the birth of Jeb and Anne’s child might be a little much.  I tried to get my kids (ages 10, 8 and 8) to watch it.  They lasted about 20 minutes, thought is was boring and left the room.  They came back later and watched another 10 mins or so.  While they certainly didn’t get what I got out of it, I know they listened to some of it based on their comments and questions.  I think this is just how it goes with children.  We teach them over and over and over again, and, hopefully, eventually it sinks in.  I’ll try again when they are a bit older.

Not much of the information in this film was news to me.  I thought the way it was presented was excellent.  It might be a lot for the beginner to take in.  Any beginners out there feel this way?

Where do we go from here?

I was inspired by Jeb collecting signatures at the end of the film in support of a plastic bag fee.  Could we do that here in Westford?  Here are a few things I am going to do:

  1. I am participating in National Zero Waste Week 2012.  During the week of Sept 3, people committed to this challenge will try to reduce or recycle ‘One more thing’. This actually started in the UK but has hopped the pond.  Join in with me!
  2. My husband and I get coffee out every Sunday morning.  Up until now, we take the disposable cup from the shop.  Not anymore!
  3. I am going to figure out how to encourage more people to use reusable grocery bags. Just not sure how.  Any suggestions?
What did you think of the film?  
Please leave you comments or if you are a blogger feel free to link up a post.

If you’d like to join the Friday Film Fest, take a look at the complete list of films.
Up next week is Forks Over Knives.


This post is shared at Your Green ResourceMonday ManiaTiny Tip Tuesday and Frugal Days Sustainable Ways.


Single-Use Society

{The Greening Of Westford} Single-use society

Paper towels, napkins, paper plates, wipes.  How many single use items do you use in a day?  

Reduce Footprints issued this challenge:

For the next two weeks refuse to use (or buy) paper towels. Yep, 14 days … no paper towels. And … to make things just a bit more interesting … let’s include paper plates and single-use utensils, cups, etc.
Or …

If you never use paper towels or single-use utensils, please share how you avoid them. We’d like to know how you handle “messy” messes (like pet “accidents”, cooking oil splatters & spills, etc.) … and what you use instead of single-use products for picnics, entertaining, etc. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with tips and ideas to help us all live without these products and reduce waste.

We are more in the second half of this challenge.  I haven’t bought paper napkins in years.  Our paper towel use is much less. I still buy them, but we rarely use them.  Same for paper plates, although currently I am on vacation and we are using them a lot :(.
How did we do it?
Several years ago, I started reducing our use of paper towels and napkins.  Luckily for me, my children were young and didn’t notice.  My husband is very supportive and a “go with the flow” kind of guy.  I think the key is to make sure the reusable ones are as convenient as possible.
Paper napkins  It was surprisingly easy to ditch these!  I first started out by placing a basket with the paper napkins on our kitchen table.  Instead of setting a napkin at each place automatically, if you needed a napkin you took one from the basket.  More often than not, not ALL of us needed a napkin at every meal.  So, for now we were at least reducing our use!
Next I replaced the paper napkins with cloth ones.  I dug out a few cloth napkins we had received as a wedding present.  My mom found  some old ones that belonged to my grandmother.  I found a few more at a yard sale.  The kids just naturally reach for the cloth ones.  It is funny to see their friends looking for a napkin.  They sort of hesitate when my children hand them the cloth napkin.  
I have since built our supply through sales, yard sales and cutting up old tie dye T-shirts. My children think the T-shirts are hysterical.  “Mom, you always say don’t use your shirt as a napkin, but this shirt IS a napkin!”   I cut these a little smaller and they are great for tossing in their school lunch bags.
Paper Towels
A little more difficult, but we reduced a lot.  I still have a roll on the counter, but we go through it very slowly.  I just made sure to make reaching for the reusable ones convenient.
I cut up several old T-shirts and towels to use for wiping up tables and counters. I LOVE the towels!  They are nice an thick.  These came from very old towels that really could not be used as bath towels by anyone anymore.   I bought a towel rack that hangs on the cabinet door below the sink so I can hang this cloth there.  It gets replaced daily.
For the most part, my children see me using the cloths and they reach for them too.  It is great to be getting them into this habit now.  
Paper plates, plastic utensils
I still use paper plates on occasion for kids’ birthdays and such.  Like I mentioned above, we are on vacation right now.  Who wants to do dishes for 9 at every meal on vacation?!  not me.  So we are using paper quite a bit.  But we have progressed.  No plastic utensils.
It’s a process. 
It seems that more and more products are coming in single-use “convenience” packs.  Sunscreen, bug spray, bottles of water.  I remember listening to a morning talk show about 8 years ago talking about new trends.  That year’s trend – single use items.  “You will be seeing more and more single use items.”  That stuck in my mind.  “Why would manufacturers be doing this?”  The “green” movement was gaining momentum, why weren’t they on board with that.  We are a fast paced society, convenience and speed are king.  I get that to a point.  Manufacturers are out to make money.  If these products weren’t selling, they wouldn’t be making them.  
I also notice that single-use items are ingrained in our society.  They are everywhere – the individual ketchup packets and snack bags, Styrofoam trays used for school lunches, plastic grocery bags.  I don’t get the looks at the grocery store when I bring my reusable bags, but every once in a while I get a surprised look at other stores.  Or when I refuse a bag for ONE item, I get the “Are you sure?”  There is almost a status symbol associated with single use items.  How do we do this for reusables?
Personally, I know there is a cost to this convenience and I can’t go back.  Of course, I think I also started from a different place.  My mom rarely had paper towels around when we were growing up (she still doesn’t), or plastic sandwich bags and other single use items.  I can only hope that I can do the same for my children and hopefully a few others who read this blog.
[Top photo used under Creative Commons license, by John Ott/flickr]


Never Waste Another Drop Of Wine

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Waste?  Really?”  In which case you probably skipped this post altogether!  However, there are occasions when you have leftover wine – now what?

There are those times when I enjoy more than one glass of wine!  But more often than not, I just want one glass but I don’t want to open the whole bottle.  I know I won’t drink or use the rest in cooking before it goes bad.   So, I skip the glass of wine.

I have always heard of people freezing wine in ice cube trays to use later.  Great idea but it never happens.  Plus I’m not even sure we own an ice cube tray!  All of the new refrigerators seem to come with ice makers!  So no wine in the freezer for me until…..

One day I thought, let me just try freezing the wine in a glass jar, as it freezes I’ll take it out and scrape at it to keep it from getting solid.  Just like the chefs on Food Network do when making a granita.  Well, I forgot to take it out and scrape at it.  Wonderful discovery – THE WINE DOESN’T FREEZE SOLID!   

When I have leftover wine, I simply pour it into a glass jar and toss it in the freezer.  

It’s like a snow cone.  Just waiting for you to scoop out and use in whatever recipe you’d like. Stir the wine a bit before you scoop it out as the alcohol may have separated a bit. 

Now I always have a glass jar of red and one of white wine waiting for me in the freezer.  I love the flavor they give to dishes!  I’m not sure how long this will keep, but I had these jars in the freezer for a few months and the flavor was still fantastic. 

By the way, I didn’t use any sort of special glass jar.  This red wine is in an old peanut butter jar.  I’m currently out of white wine, but I use a jelly jar for that.  Just make sure you don’t fill them all the way – leave plenty of head room (about an inch or so).

Have You Ever Tried Freezing Wine?

[Top Photo Uses under Creative Commons license by Mary Witzig/Flickr]

This post was shared at Simple Lives ThursdayFrugally SustainableYour Green ResourceFrugal FridaysSeasonal Celebration Sundays,  Farmer’s Daughter , The Pistachio Project,  Tiny Tip TuesdayMonday Mania and Home is Where The Heart Is.


You CAN Donate Ripped And Stained Clothing

Summer is coming.  Are you switching out your winter for summer clothes?  What do you do with clothes you will no longer wear or that don’t fit? 
There are MANY bins around that will accept old clothing.  Salvation Army, Goodwill, New England Clothes Recycling, plus various charities such as The Wish Project.
If your clothes are in good condition, donate them to a charity like The Wish Project .  These charities give clothing straight to people who need it.  They must be in wearable condition – no stains or rips.
So what do you do with items that are torn, broken in some way or stained beyond help?  DONATE THEM to Salvation Army, Goodwill or the (cream colored) NE Clothing Recycling bins around town.  These organizations work with members of the textile industry to recycle everything possible.  Members of the nonprofit trade association SMART (Secondary Materials And Recycling Textiles) include companies that work with used clothing, wiping materials (rags) and the fiber industry.
SMART members purchase excess textiles from charities and other collectors of clothing.  They then sort and grade the clothing based on condition.
  • 45% is generally exported to lesser developed countries where demand is high.  We were told by a member of SMART that many people in foreign countries will purchase this clothing, fix it, then resell it to make a living.
  • 30% become wiping and polishing cloths unused in commercial areas.
  • 20% is reprocessed into fibers for furniture stuffing, upholstery, insulation, yarn etc.
  • 5% is unusable and gets, truly, thrown out.
The EPA estimates that the average person throws away 70 lbs of clothing annually.  My guess is that most of that comes from children!  They outgrow items very quickly or are tough on them causing stains or rips.
The generic term textiles is used to mean any clothing, fabric, sheets, towels, etc.  According to EPA, textiles made up 5.2% of the waste steam in 2010.  Of this waste, only 15% is recycled in some way.  That means there is a lot of room for improvement.  The other 85%, making up over 11 million tons of clothing, could be recycled.  It may not seem like much given that it is a small percentage of the total waste.  But think about the jobs it creates along the way, the money charities can raise, and the energy that is saved because new items aren’t being made.  And it’s easy!
We want the public to know all clothing andhousehold textiles such as tablecloths, sheets, shoes, belts, and stuffed animals can be recycled.  As long as the items are clean, even if they are stained or damaged, there is a recycling use for the material,” says Larry Groipen, SMART President and President of ERC Wiping Products (Lynn, MA).  
MassDEP  didn’t know these statistics until recently. Last fall then began working with SMART to get the word out that ALL textiles can be recycled in some way.
As long as they are dry, clean and free from mildew or hazardous materials like oil or paint.
Where do you recycle clothes?
Photo on top used under Creative Commons license by Alvimann/Flickr

This post was shared at Green Sisterhood


Plastic Bags on the Decline at Market Basket

A Greene Westford column re-posted.

Plastic Bags on the Decline

Plastic Bags end up everywhere
[Photo Credit Lauren/Flickr]


Market Basket joined 11 other supermarket chains in a voluntary disposable bag reduction effort with MassDEP

How many plastic grocery bags do you have in your house right now?  Every time you buy anything, a plastic bag is most likely used.  There are lots of problems with plastic bags. They litter our streets, waste natural resources, and can expose us to toxins.
In 2007, the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and Massachusetts Food Association (MFA) recognized this problem.  Together they set a goal of a one-third reduction in the number of paper and plastic bags used by 2013.  Over 500 grocery stores are members of the MFA, including Market Basket.  This effort was voluntary in nature.  The idea was to encourage people to bring reusable bags.
From a flyer created by the two groups, the MFA members committed to:
  • Promoting the use of reusable bags 
  • Providing in store plastic bag recycling bins for customers 
  • Offering reusable shopping bags for sale made with recycled content
  • Using disposable bags with more recycled content
According to Keith Peters, a manager at Market Basket in Westford, they have seen a 40-50% increase in the number of shoppers bringing reusable bags.  Plastic and paper bag use has decreased approximately 20%.  Peters stated that signs were used to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags.   “Choose to Reuse” was the slogan, although the signs are not being used now.
Some stores, such as Stop and Shop and Hannaford, gave a 5 cent discount for each reusable bag.  Stop and Shop and Whole Foods still give 5 cents.
In November 2011, the MFA and MassDEP announced that the goal of a 33 % reduction in the use of disposable bags was reached 2 years ahead of schedule.  The groups will continue to work together to encourage this trend. 
Many cities around the country have implemented bag bans or charge for plastic or paper bags.  Washington D.C. instituted a 5 cent tax on plastic and paper bags in January 2010.  In one year, $2 million was collected to clean up the Anacostia River.  A study in 2008 found that plastic bags made up 21% of the trash in the river and 40% in its tributaries.  The law was estimated to generate closer to $4 million in the first year.  Obviously, people are not using disposable bags.  The ban is estimated to have created a 50% decrease and it is viewed as one of the most successful programs in the country.
For the bags that you still accumulate, stores have plastic bag recycling stations.  Every grocery store in and near Westford has one.  At Market Basket, look for a white barrel container near the far exit.  They accept more than just plastic store bags.  The list includes:
  • Grocery bags
  • Newspaper bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Retail shopping bags (with strings and rigid plastic handles removed)
  • Bread, cereal and produce bags
  • Plastic wrap from paper products and bulk items (think wrapping around toilet paper and paper towels)
  • All clean, clear bags labeled with a #2 or #4 recycling symbol
All plastic must be CLEAN AND DRY!
These bags should not be put in your curbside container.  They get caught in the sorting mechanisms at the recycling facility.
It takes a while to adopt new habits.  It took me almost a year to consistently remember my reusable bags.   I used quite a few helpful hints to do it.  Just keep at it.

Do you Use Reusable Bags? 


Habitat for Humanity Builds One of the Most Energy Efficient Homes in Westford

Greene Westford column reposted.

Habitat For Humanity built one of the most energy efficient houses in Westford saving over 40% on energy bills
Wouldn’t you love to cut your energy bills by 40%?  Think of the savings over the years!  Think you need solar panels, geothermal, or a wind turbine to get there?  Think again.
Did you know that in 2008, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell in conjunction withBuilding Science Corporation, built a super-efficient home in Westford?  The estimated savings were roughly 40% over a similar more traditional home.  These savings equate to $1295 per year.  OK, but how much would this cost up front?  The additional initial investment for this 1400 sq foot home was $10,000.
Want to know how they did it?
In the words of Joseph Lstiburek, principal at Building Science Corporation,
 “The Westford House is not weird looking. It is super insulated. It is ultra-tight. It has controlled ventilation with heat recovery. It does not have lots of glass. It has real good glass. It has real good appliances. It has real good lighting. And it has real good equipment—that is small. Everything is off-the-shelf and can be built by anyone.”
  • Insulation: The foundation is insulated at a rating of R-26, walls at R-44 and the roof is R-66.   This is 50% more insulation than is required by current building codes. 
  • Ductwork was placed inside conditioned (heated/cooled) space saving more energy. 
  • Advanced framing techniques: 2×6 construction was used with studs placed 24 inches on center instead of the typical 16 inches.  This reduced the lumber needed by 40%.  In comparison, the lumber needed for this 2×6 construction was approximately 5% less than if traditional 2×4 framing had been used.
  • Windows were limited to reduce heat loss.  Where there are windows, glass with good insulation properties was used.
  • The appliances used were in the top 10% of energy star ratings.  The gas furnace operates at 95% efficiency and an instant gas water heater is used.
  • Compact florescent lighting was used throughout to reduce energy use as well. 
This house is so efficient that it achieved internationally recognized green building certification at the highest level. 
There are 4 levels within LEED certification – Certified, Silver, Gold, and, the highest, Platinum.  The Westford House achieved platinum certification.
The house achieved this certification without the use of renewable energy features such as solar panels or wind turbines.  Because of the work done here by the designers, Building Science Corporation, the Westford House serves as a prototype for high performance, highly insulated homes in cold climates.
Habitat For Humanity built several more houses in Bedford which met LEED Gold certification.  This project included 7 new homes and a renovated farm house that is 150 years old.  Habitat now builds houses to LEED standards which greatly reduces the operating costs for the new owners.
If you would like to learn more about increasing the insulation in your home, start with the Mass Save program.  If you are planning a large remodel, check into the National Grid Deep Energy Retrofit Program.
[Photo Credit Habitat For Humanity]


Fabulous Chewy Granola Bars!

OK, OK, you caught me.  Yes that was me buying Fiber One Chewy Granola bars by the case!  

Fabulous Chewy Granola Bars recipe
The best chewy granola bars ever!

I have been trying to find an alternative to Fiber One Granola bars for a long time now.  I hate buying them because of the ingredients and the waste of individual servings.  But they are so darn convenient!  I have tried other homemade granola bars, none of them passed my kids’ taste test – at least not for long.

Until these!  I combined several recipes I found across the web and did some tweaking myself.  I am happy to say I have been making these at least once a week for the past 2 months – they go so quickly and my kids don’t ask for the others anymore.  The hard part is keeping enough  around.

Seriously, it’s difficult at times to get my kids to eat healthy, so if they like them, that is saying something.

There are 2 versions of this recipe.

Method #1 – Thanks to Betsy from Eco-Novice’s recipe for granola bars,  I tried this variation with success.  Essentially you make granola first, then use that in the bars.  They are not as crumbly and are more crunchy

Method #2 – .is a little quicker, but results in a more crumbly bar.   It doesn’t affect the popularity!

Both are amazing!


3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups brown rice crisp cereal (I have only found them at Whole Foods, but you could use “Rice Krispie” type cereal too)
1/4 cup flaxmeal
1/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped almonds – I really crush these so my kids don’t see big nut pieces
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (for method #1 only)

4 TBSP butter
1/3 cup peanut butter (I use all natural)
1/3 cup almond butter (could use peanut butter)
2/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional, could use dried fruit)

Method #1

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together, except the chocolate chips, if using and the rice crisp cereal.  
  2. Combine the dry ingredients with the melted coconut oil and bake in a 325 degree oven for 20 mins, mixing every few minutes.  When done, let cool.
  3. Add brown rice crisp cereal
Method #2
  1. Mix all dry ingredients together, except  the chocolate chips, if using.
For either method used above, 
  1. In a small pan, melt the butter, honey, peanut butter and almond butter over medium heat.  Once everything is melted, cook on low for 5 minutes.  Add vanilla.
  2. Mix wet ingredients with dry.  
  3. If using chocolate chips, let the mixture cool  before adding so they don’t melt.
  4. Press into a buttered 9×13 pan.  Press really hard!  I use a piece of wax paper cereal bag on top to help with the pressing.   Let set up in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
You could use all peanut butter or all almond butter.  If you need to be nut-free, try soy nut butter and skip the almonds.  I haven’t tried, but dried fruit could be added as well if you like.
Do you make your own granola bars?

This post was shared at The Green Phone BoothTeach Me TuesdaySeasonal Celebration SundayVintage MauveFrugally SustainableFrom Dream To RealityFabulous Friday and Snacktime Saturday.



My Reusable Bags Are In My Car… Again!

Reduce Footprints is currently doing daily challenges.  Here is yesterday’s:

Reduce the number of plastic bags you use by getting a fabric or reusable bag for shopping. Although plastic bags use 70% less plastic than they did 20 years ago, most are still made from polyethylene, a non-degradable plastic. If you live near a brewery, you can obtain 15-20 gallon durable, synthetic grain bags which breweries usually throw away. These can either be used as garbage bags or rinsed out and re-used to take trash to the dump.
I think one of the biggest issues with reusable bags is forgetting them!  It took me almost a full year to remember to bring them into the store every time.  I am so glad I kept at it.  
Benefits To Using Reusable Bags

Plastic bags are not healthy for the environment.  The problem – plastic never goes away! If it ends up in a landfill, it can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Even then, it actually photo degrades which releases toxins into the soil, air, and water. 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.

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.

Easier to carry.  My 5 reusable bags are usually enough to hold groceries for my family of 5 for a week.  It is so much easier to carry in 5 sturdy bags from the car than the 10 floppy, wiggling all over the place, twisting around your fingers plastic ones.

    How To Remember

    Location, Location, Location.  Put the bags where you will see them.  Mine are right next to me in my car.  Maybe a convenient place for you is with your keys.

      Convenience.  A few years ago, I won this great Esse CarryAll Tote for my reusable bags.  All of the grocery bags and produce bags fit nice and neat inside and make it so easy to carry.  You don’t need to spend  a lot of money on something like this if you don’t want to.  Use another tote bag to store your reusables.  Think about buying ones that fold up compactly so they aren’t floating around your car.  Another idea is to use a carabiner clip like this to hold your bags together.  You can then clip the bags to your grocery cart.

      Esse CarryAll Tote
      Carabiner Clipped bag

      Always Have One.  I have a  compact reusable bag in my purse at all times.  Carry them in the car, purse, backpack, briefcase, whatever.

      Shop At Stores That Encourage Reusables.  When I first started bringing my reusables, my grocery store was giving 5 cents per bag.  It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough of a trigger for me to remember.  Now they have signs all over the parking lot “Did you remember your reusable bags?”

      Notes.  Place a note in the car, on your shopping list or as you leave your house.  Got Bags?

      There’s An App For That! As I was writing this post, I thought there must be someone out there writing an app for this.  And there is!   The Grab Your Bags app is coming soon for the iPhone according to their website.  I didn’t see it on iTunes though.  

      Just Keep At It!  Like I said, it took me almost a full year.  Just keep trying.  It will become second nature.  I never leave my car now without thinking – do I need a bag?

        There are other ways to reduce one-time bag use.
        Produce Bags
        1. Don’t take a bag.  You don’t always NEED a bag. Throw that lemon straight into your shopping cart. Carry your one or 2 items out of the store in your hands or another bag you are already carrying.
        2. Use reusable produce bags.  Many online and retail stores are now carrying produce bags. I purchased mesh draw-string bags at a dollar store at 4 for $1. Or reuse the same produce bag a few times.
        3. Reusable bags are good for more than just the grocery store.   Keep a compact one in your purse. Bring your reusable bags to the Mall, Target, any store!
        Did you remember your bags?

        Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation from Esse for this post.  The opinions expressed in this post are my very own.


        Purging Stuff: Week 4 – Digital Cleanout

        Digital clutter can be just as maddening at the visual kind.

        This was the final week of the de-clutter challenge.   I focused on the office and the computer.  Even though you may not be able to see the clutter on your computer, boy is it ever there!  In a way, I did this to organize myself to go more electronic and reduce more of the paper coming into the house.  Paper clutter is my #1 pet peeve!

        Step 1:  Remove Unnecessary Files – I went through all my folders and deleted files I no longer needed, temporary files, files I couldn’t even open anymore!

        Step 2: Organize Folders – I re-organized some of my folders, moved some files to better places, stuff like that.  I also added folders for electronic statements and receipts.  I have gone electronic for quite a few of my bills, but didn’t really have a place to store the ones I may need.  To reduce the paper clutter, I am going electronic on some of our receipts as well.  Anything really important, large purchases, I will scan the receipt.  I will still keep the paper one, for now, just in case.  But this will make things so much easier to find.  Anyone buy anything at Sears lately?  You can opt for “email receipt only”!  Love it!

        Step 3: Scan Important Docs – I scanned any important documents or receipts we had to make it easier to find them.  The kids’ physicals was the first!  How many times do you go looking for their latest one for some reason or another?  Most of the time you can email a copy.

        Step 4: Backed Up All Files – I backed up everything – files, pictures, music.  I also set a reminder for myself in my online calendar to do this more often.

        Step 5:  Go More Electronic – Most of my bills and statements are electronic.  But I did find a few odd items that can be converted to cut down on the paper. 

        To refresh you memory, here are the results from the first 3 weeks:

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

        How do you deal with digital clutter?


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