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Purging Stuff: Week 3 – Food

Ways to deal with food waste and save money {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}
Dragon Fly Farms produce at the Westford Winter Farmers Market

I took a slight detour this week – I purged my refrigerator, freezer, pantry and other stashes of food.  Sort of like this food challenge post. The amount of food that goes wasted in this country astounds me!  

In 2009, the EPA estimated that food scraps accounted for 14.1% of our national waste.  It is the second largest category (paper is #1 – don’t get me started on that!)  This does NOT include yard trimmings, which accounts for another 13.7%. Not only could some of this food be eaten, but it is costing towns and cities millions (maybe billions) to dispose of.  Money that should be spent elsewhere.  Trash disposal fees are big in municipalities.  Many of them are turning to Pay-As-You-Throw situations where homeowners pay for each bag of trash they dispose of – most tend to be charging around $2 per bag.

I volunteer with our town’s Recycling Commission.  We are focused this year on getting more people to compost to reduce the trash and thus the trash budget.  One member did a quick calculation on the annual savings: Almost $74, 000 saved if ALL 14.1% was composted (or eaten)  instead of thrown in the trash. If only 10% of our residents composted their food waste, the town could save over almost $7,400. Think of it this way, if 14.1% of trash is potentially compostable, then that is a potential savings of 14.1%  of the trash budget.

I recently saw a special on Food Network called “The Big Waste“.  It dealt with the waste that occurs commercially.  I was sick!  If you get a chance, watch it.  I can’t believe the amount of food that is tossed from grocery stores and suppliers.  There has to be a better way!  Can’t some of this get donated to food pantries?  Or sold to customers at reduced prices – like the quick sale items?

Back to what I did this week to reduce my food waste. I am usually pretty good about meal planning, but I also tend to track prices and stock up when I see a sale.  So, if I’m not careful, I can end up with a lot of stuff in house.  When I look through all the food we had, I realized I had plenty to make meals this week without going shopping.  I really like to do this once in a while.  I can use up things before they spoil and remember what I have so I don’t buy more.  It also gets me to be more creative and find uses for odds and ends.  I have developed or found many favorite recipes this way. I must confess – I did go to the store once.  But I only got a few things – fresh fruit, milk and deli meat for lunches.

We ate pretty well.

Turkey Burgers – I used ground turkey in the freezer, served with homemade fries and green beans (left over from another dinner)

Homemade Pizza – This is definitely a staple on our menu.  It is a great way to use up leftover meat and/or veggies, condiments, you name it!  I always keep Whole Foods organic wheat pizza dough and mozzarella in the freezer.  This week, I used one of the leftover turkey burgers and sun-dried tomatoes that were sitting in the frig.

Pasta Primavera  – Another staple.   This is one of those recipes that was created out of a need to use up leftovers.   It tastes great and is a great way to use up veggies, meat, and beans.    To make it, I saute veggies and garlic,  make a simple sauce (flour, butter, and chicken stock) add Parmesan cheese, any meat or beans you want, and whatever other herbs or spices your’d like,  then toss with pasta.  If the sauce is too thick, I add some of the pasta water.  I have also used milk, half and half, evaporated milk – whatever dairy I happened to have left over – to make it more of a cream sauce.

Shredded BBQ Chicken –   I came across some chicken thighs in the freezer – not a big fan and I had bought these by mistake.  I also had 3 bottles of BBQ sauce!  I put 2 boneless chicken breasts and the thighs into the crock pot with BBQ sauce and about 4 cloves of minced garlic and let it cook away.  I didn’t have any rolls, so I served them on tortillas.

Snack Dinner – This is my version of eating leftovers for dinner.  My kids love it.  They think they are getting away with eating “junk” for dinner.  I pull out whatever we have – leftovers, hummus, bread, wheat crackers, cheese, applesauce, veggies (I always have carrot sticks in the fridg), fruit, yogurt, whatever I can find.  Everyone fills their own plate with an assortment.

I still have quite a bit of food left, so I will continue this week using up what we have and really planning my menu so I buy very little.

How do you deal with food waste?

11

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

4

Change The World Wednesday – Lemons

 

This past week’s Change the World Wednesday challenge was:

This week make a conscious effort to waste no food. If you need some ideas on how to accomplish this, please read the article referenced in the previous paragraph.
 
I really try to do this on a regular basis, but it doesn’t always happen.  Reduce Footprints had a related challenge a few months back.  The challenge was to use up whatever food you have before buying anything more.  I made some really great meals out of my leftovers.  In order to reduce your food waste, you really need to start upfront – planning before you go buy food.  For me this means making a menu for the week and looking ahead at what will be leftover and what I can do with them.
 
When I started thinking about this challenge, I saw it in in a different light than the first challenge.  Let’s see if I can use parts of food that I would normally compost or throw out.  I found so many things that Americans (especially) throw out that could be used.  Too many for one post!  So this post will concentrate on uses for lemons, especially the peels which are often composted or tossed out.  Don’t toss those lemon peels – or any other citrus peel.
Citrus zest/peel (the colorful part of the outside of citrus) has many health benefits and shouldn’t be tossed.  Before you squeeze your lemon, lime, or any other citrus, zest it.  The zest is great for you – high in antioxidants, killing cancer cells and inhibiting tumor growth.  It’s where the essential oils of the citrus are.
For Cleaning
  • Use to clean the microwave – Add lemon rinds to a bowl half filled with water and cook on high for 5 mins.  The steam created will loosen any crud making it easy to wipe away.
  • Freshen the Garbage disposal – Send spent lemons down the garbage disposal to freshen them.
  • Use to scrub greasy messes – Use a juiced lemon, add some salt if you need more of a scouring action – be careful with Granite or Marble.
  • Infused Vinegar – use the peels to infuse plain white distilled vinegar with lemons awesome scent and cleaning power.  Fill a glass jar with lemon peels then fill the jar with white vinegar.  Let this sit for 2 weeks.  Strain and use as a cleaner.
For Eating
  •  Make Limoncello – This is an Italian lemon flavored alcohol.  There are many recipes on the internet.  This would make a great gift.
  •  Make zest – You can zest a lemon, dry the zest on a towel then store in a jar.  You can also freeze the zest.  Use any where you would use fresh zest or lemon.
  • Make  Lemon Powder – Make the zest above, dry it thoroughly, then grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestal.  You can also peel the zest with a vegetable peeler and roast the peels lightly, then crush into a powder.  Use the powder anywhere you would lemon juice. 
  • Preserved lemons –  Preserved lemons are whole lemons preserved with salt.  Preserved lemons are used in many Moroccan dishes.  This can also be done with limes.
  •  Candied lemon peels – These sound really yummy!  They can be eaten like candy or used as a garnish.
  •  Lemon infused Olive Oil – Lemon infused oils are delicious and a great way to use lemon peels. 
  • Freeze the used halves, then use when roasting fish or chicken.  I always place lemons inside the cavity of a chicken.  It just gives such a good flavor.
For Beautifying
  • Make a sugar scrub – Mix 1/2 sugar with finely chopped lemon peel.  Add enough olive oil to make a paste.  Use in the shower as a body scrub to soften your skin.
  • Soften Elbows – Add some salt or baking soda to a lemon half.  Scrub elbows to soften.
There are so many more out there.  Next step for me is to set an up easy way for me to save the zest so I can try some of these.  
 

*Top picture used under Creative Commons by Mowie Kay/Flickr.


This post is part of Frugal Days Sustainable Ways.

 

6

Have a Green Halloween



Here is a repost of my latest Greene Westford column from Westford Patch.


With a little effort, your Halloween can go green and stay fun.


Being conscious of the environment can be woven into anything you do.  Even Halloween.  It’s about Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, in that order.  The goal is not to use more than you really need, so there will be something left for future generations.   When done with thought, it can simplify your life and even save you time and money.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend $6.9 billion this year on Halloween.  The bulk of the money will be spent on costumes, followed by candy and decorations.  You can save some money, save the planet and still have a blast this Halloween.
Costumes
  • Make Your Own.  You don’t need to be a seamstress.  There are many easy ideas online for some really great costumes. 
  • Swap or Borrow Costumes.  If homemade is not your thing, try swapping costumes with friends.  
  • Reuse old costumes.  Perhaps a younger sibling wants to be a witch this year.  Look at old dance costumes or search yard sales or thrift stores.
  • Donate old costumes.  If you have costumes you will no longer use, donate them.   Roudenbush Community Center has teamed up with From The Pumpkin Patch to collect gently worn costumes for local children in need.  A collection will also be held at the Westford Family Fun Fest this weekend.
Treats
  • Upcycle your candy wrappers.  Save your candy wrappers and the bags they came in and bring them to an Upcycle It! drop off location.
  • Try alternatives.   Honey sticks such as those sold by Nissitisett Apiaries at the Westford Farmers Market are more natural and you know how the kids love those!
  • Try non-food items. Tattoos, stickers, pencils and other small items are always a favorite.  According to Care 2, an environmental website, kids of all ages would be excited to see these items as a Halloween treat.
  • Don’t waste the candy you do get.  Chop it into your favorite cookie or granola bar recipe, use some of it to make a ginger bread house, or freeze it for later.  There is even a Halloween Candy Buy Back program sponsored by area dentists.  The candy is sent to deployed U.S. military troops.
Decorations
  • Use Natural Elements.   Pumpkins, apples, gourds and other natural elements make great decorations and can be composted.  You may even find them around your yard saving you money.  
  • Yard sales are another good source.  If you love Halloween and will decorate year after year, invest in things that will last.  
  • Make your own.  The internet is a treasure trove of DIY ideas using items around the house.
Don’t for the rechargeable batteries for the flashlights or a reusable bag for gathering your loot.
Happy Halloween!

0

Change The World Wednesday – Clean Out The Pantry

 
 
Last week, Reduce Footprints’ weekly challenge was this: 

 
This week, use what is in your cupboards, pantry, freezers, etc. before buying new food items.  

I am usually very good about making a menu for the week and shopping from that menu.   It really helps reduce food waste and we eat so much better.  I started this about 7 years ago when I had 3 children under the age of 3 and started dreading 4pm when I would need to start thinking about dinner.  We ended up eating horribly and I was stressed every day at the worst time of day!  So I started making up a menu for the week.  I’m not saying I spent hours on this.  In the beginning I spent maybe ½ hour.  When I had time and energy I would look for a new recipe to try.  It’s to the point now, where I could probably throw together a menu in about 10 mins, check for what ingredients we need and I’m out the door.  It makes the week go so much smoother too.  I can look ahead and plan an easy slow cooker meal for busy days or plan to use leftovers in another recipe.
 
This challenge could not have come at a more perfect time for me.  In the summer, my meal planning goes out the window.  So over the past few weeks, I have been shopping randomly without a plan.  We have lots of food, but nothing really to eat.  Know what I mean!
 
I went through the frig, freezer, pantry and other storage places and figured out what I could make from it all. 
 

What we ate this week

 
Roasted Chicken, potatoes, frozen peas – Night one was pretty easy.  I had a frozen chicken from my meat CSA that we hadn’t used yet.
 
Homemade BBQ chicken pizza with some of the leftover chicken.  I always have frozen pizza dough and mozzarella.  You can actually freeze shredded cheese with great results if you plan on using it in some sort of melted application – lasagna, mac ‘n cheese, pizza…  When I make this pizza, I use BBQ sauce instead of marinara and usually add caramelized onions.
 
Quinoa, black beans, corn and tomato salad – Used up some extra black beans I had from another recipe earlier in the week, leftover corn on the cob and one lonely tomato from the garden.   This was awesome!  I remember a friend of mine making something similar years ago.  I used this recipe loosely but improvised in some places.  I will definitely make this again!  Lime juice was the key.
 
My Fake Lasagna Bake – Think the ingredients of lasagna but all mixed together  instead of layered neatly.  Didn’t have ricotta, so I mixed together penne, the rest of a jar of spaghetti sauce, defrosted and drained spinach, pink beans I found in the freezer, 2 cans of diced tomatoes (about to expire), and mozzarella left from the pizza.  I also added sauteed onions and garlic for flavor.  My parents happened to stop by and I served it to them.  My Mom asked for the recipe!
 
Overnight French Toast – Loaf of cinnamon raisin bread from the freezer(honestly have no idea how long it was in there!) , last of the eggs, and some cream leftover from another dish.  Basically you layer the bread in a 9 x 13 buttered pan, mix the eggs and cream together and pour over the bread.  There needs to be enough egg and milk to cover the bread.  Let it sit overnight then baked for about 30 – 40 mins in a 350 degree oven.  The kids loved it and the bread tasted great soaked with the cream, eggs and covered in maple syrup.
 
Iced Tea – Apparently I have lots of tea!
 
Homemade “Chex” Snack mix – Used up some stale pretzels and cereal in this one.  Everything crisps up nicely.  I have been making this for a while.  Here is my basic recipe.  You can easily substitute with whatever you have on hand.  It’s a great way to use up stale cereal or other snacks.  Or things your kids didn’t like.
 
Quesadillas – No tortillas so I made them with some help from my friend Sally.  So good!  I also pulled out some salsa and a few veggies – lunch! 

To prevent leftovers

 
Although this challenge was a great opportunity to use up some things, I like to plan a little more so that I don’t end up with lots of leftovers.
 
Make a plan for the week – This one really works for me.  It makes shopping and making dinners so much easier.  I also found I was spending less on food.  Guess why?  I was thinking about how much we actually eat in a week instead of throwing a bunch of stuff into my grocery cart.  Some of which would get thrown away because I had no real plan for when to use them or I bought too much.  I can also think ahead and pick easy dinners (like in the crock pot) for busy days.   If I want to try a new recipe that means I need to buy something I normally don’t use (like fresh herbs) I can look for another recipe to make within the same week to use up that ingredient.
 
Plan for the leftovers – I don’t like leftovers.  Reheating the same meal to eat again, yuck!  This way I can think about how to use what is left in another recipe.  This is where the pizza and pasta recipes and other tips below come in handy.
 

What to do with leftovers

 
Pizza – I make homemade pizza almost once a week to use up leftovers.  Two of my favorites are:  1)  BBQ chicken with some caramelized onions 2) Turkey burgers with feta, Kalamata olives and  sun-dried tomatoes. 

Pasta – I got this recipe from my Italian hairdresser.  I mix eggs with some milk – maybe 4 eggs with about 1 cup of milk.  I have also used evaporated milk, cream and half and half.  Once the pasta is done, I drain it, reserving some cooking liquid, and put it back in the pot.  Over low heat I add the egg and milk mixture and cook it gently stirring constantly.  When it’s almost done I add tons of Parmesan cheese and whatever veggies I have.   It’s sort of like a pasta carbonara without the bacon – unless I have leftover bacon!  Or ham or anything else like it.
 
Search the Internet –  You can find recipes for almost anything.  I really like
 
www.allrecipes.com.  It has an ingredient search feature so you can enter the items you have and recipes using those ingredients come up. 

Use Your Freezer – If you don’t use it by the next day, freeze it!  I do this with a lots of meats then use them on pizza or in soups later.  Here are some others to try:
  • Freeze bananas for smoothies or banana bread.
  • Fresh herbs – try drying or freezing them.  Freezing works well for most green herbs (rosemary, thyme, dill, parsley).  Basil can also be frozen but requires a little extra effort.  You can make pesto and freeze that.  Or chop the basil and add it to a little water and freeze in ice cube trays.  I have done this with Rosemary and it’s great!  The Rosemary isn’t as powerful as fresh, but not as mild as dried either.
  • Wine – Freeze for use in cookingI have not tried this myself, but I really should.   Tried it!  Love it!   I love cooking with wine, but when I open an entire bottle for that ½ cup, I almost never finish the bottle.
  • Greens – You can’t freeze greens, but you could add to smoothies and freeze those.

 

I am going to keep this challenge going a little longer.  I need to use up some odd things I have picked up along the way.  I have some curry paste, capers and hoisin sauce, among other things, that I have yet to open!  Anyone have recipes for those?

Update: Nov. 29, 2011 –Fried Rice is a new addition to my “Use up the leftovers” recipe collection.  I sautee whatever veggies I have left with some garlic.  Add to scrambled eggs, rice and soy sauce.

 
 

4

Change The World Wednesday – Homemade Granola Bars



OK OK, yes I know it’s actually Monday.  I am writing this in response to Reduce Footprints Change the Word Wednesday (CTWW) challenge from last week.  Here is the challenge:

This week, make your coffee or tea at home. Getting coffee/tea out every day not only costs a lot but also generates a lot of waste. Make it at home instead. And don’t forget … both coffee grounds and tea leaves are great in the compost bin.

Or …

If you don’t drink these beverages or always drink them at home, choose one other food or beverage, which you typically buy at either a restaurant or grocery store, and make it yourself at home. And, of course, we’d like to hear all about it!


I almost always make my coffee/tea at home, so does my husband.  We compost the grounds and tea leaves.  We use one of those “gold” reusable filters.  I even buy loose tea and fill reusable tea bags.  However, we get coffee out every Sunday morning.  We don’t use reusable mugs.  Bad, I know.  I will work on this one.


It does somehow taste so much better when they make it.  It must be their machines.  If you do get coffee/tea out a lot, try to reduce the impact on the environment and your wallet.    Instead of committing to making your own at home ALL the time, reduce slowly over time.  Start with once a week.  Or bring your own mug.   Many places, like Starbucks, will give you a discount for bringing your mug.


I have actually already been working on the second part of this challenge.  Granola bars are our downfall!  We buy these by the case.  It kills me.  I know they are not good for you, even though I try to buy the healthiest ones I can.  And the packaging waste!  Again, we upcycle the wrappers, but still.  Reduce is the best option.


HOMEMADE GRANOLA BARS



I started playing with recipes last week.  I have a couple that are very promising.


Chewy Granola Bars – I found this one on allrecipes.com.  Here is my version:


3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cup brown rice crips (these can be difficult to find,  regular rice krispies could be used as well)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup chopped raisins
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine oats, flours, baking soda,vanilla, butter, applesauce, and honey.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  3. Lightly press the mixture into the pan.  Bake at 325 for 18 to 22 mins. or until golden brown.
  4. Let cool for 10 mins, then cut into bars.  Let them cool completely before removing from pan.

These are pretty good.  They are a little more cookie-like in texture.  But I like that they didn’t have as much sugar (the recipe actually called for honey) or butter as other recipes I saw.  They are crumbly though. Need to work on that.  You can add any mixture of dried fruits, nuts, or chocolate for the last 3 ingredients. 


There is another recipe for granola bars that have peanut butter.  They are promising, but need to be tweaked as is.  They were way too sweet even though I didn’t even add the chocolate chips.  I love the peanut butter and the texture.


This post has been submitted as part of Frugal Days,Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable.com and Snacktime Saturdays.


Have any recipes to share?  

15

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.

Voila!

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?

2

More Ways to Reduce Your Junk Mail (and Stress) | Greene Westford


With a little extra effort, you can get your mailbox back — and be more environmentally conscious.


Did you do your best to take back your mailbox by following all the tips in 5 Ways to Reduce Your Junk Mail (And Stress Level)?
Still have too much junk mail? Here are a few more ways to reduce your stress — and be more environmentally conscious…..

0

15 Ways to Reduce Common Plastics

15 Ways To Reduce Common Plastic

We use plastic every day of our lives. You can’t go far without seeing some form of plastic. 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.

For us humans, plastics contain 2 chemicals that are of particular interest – bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Both of these chemicals mimic estrogen and can disrupt our hormones.

Here are some ways to replace common plastics.
1. Plastic water bottles => Buy a reusable BPA-free or stainless steel bottle. They are available online and in many stores at reasonable prices. If you are currently spending $2 per week on bottled water the savings are $104 per yr.

2. Coffee cups => Carry a reusable mug with you for coffee. There is often a plastic lid or plastic lining the cup. If you are staying at Starbucks, ask for a ceramic mug.

3. Plastic grocery bags => Reusable bags. Many stores give discounts – Target, Whole Foods, Stop and Shop give you 5 cents per bag. Roche Brothers give 5 cents for their bags to Children’s Hospital. If you currently don’t have enough, build up your supply slowly. When you forget your bag, consider buying one at the check out if it’s a quality bag you will use.

4. Store bags => Reusable bags. They are not just for the grocery store. Keep a compact one in your purse. Bring your reusable bags to the Mall, Target, any store!

5. Any plastic bag => Say “No Thanks”. 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.

6. Produce bags => Use reusable produce bags. Many online and retail stores are now carrying produce bags. I purchased mesh bags at the Dollar Tree at 4 for $1. Or reuse the same produce bag a few times.

7. Plastic food storage containers => Reuse glass food jars. The spagetti jars are great for beans, grains, coffee beans, and soups. I love the shape and size of salsa jars. They are perfect for a small amount of leftovers since they have a wide opening.

8. Plastic food containers #2 => Replace with glass ones. Use #3 above as much as you can, then look for sales or at yard sales this spring.

9. Plastic shampoo bottles => Buy bar shampoo. I haven’t tried it myself but a friend swears by it and gets it at Whole Foods.

10. Plastic milk bottles => Buy your milk from a local Dairy in glass bottles. Shaw Dairy is at the Winter Farmers Market until March 19 They also offer home delivery.

11. Plastic wrap => Use aluminum foil or wax paper. I stopped buying plastic wrap a couple of years ago, opting for aluminum foil and natural wax paper instead. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.

12. Bread bags => Buy bread from the bakery section or make your own. I am still experimenting with this one. We have gotten into the habit of having bagels with breakfast. I am testing out recipes with my bread maker to replace the store bought bagels for homemade bread. I’ll let you know when I succeed.

13. Plastic bottles for cleaning products => Make your own cleaners, refilling the same bottles. See my post on Homemade cleaners.

14. Plastic Straws => Purchase Stainless steel or glass straws. Did you know you could do that? I didn’t until recently, very cool!

15. Zip top plastic bags for lunches => Reusable snack and sandwich containers. There are loads of reusable sandwich bags and containers out there. Take a look on Etsy for some really cute reusable snack bags. We use reusable fabric snack bags made my my Mom.

While this Good Housekeeping test found that BPA and phthalates do not leach into foods when heated in the microwave, I still don’t. I’d rather not find out they were wrong, or didn’t test my particular form of plastic.

I have not suggested that you stop buying/using anything that is wrapped in plastic. Some people will stop using something if they can’t get it without plastic. I am not ready to do that. My kids love bananas, if I am at a store that sells their bananas packaged in a plastic bag, I note how silly it is and buy them anyway. Of course I do recycle the plastic bag at Hannaford.

Look around at the amount of plastic in your home. See what you can eliminate or replace.

Need help? Search the internet or ask here. Please post any ideas you have.

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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…..

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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.

Bows

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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A Greener Thanksgiving

We just finished Halloween, Christmas decorations have been in stores since late September and Thanksgiving is around the corner. Such a busy time!

Since I was born, my Thanksgivings have been spent at my grandparents’ or parents’ house with my huge extended family. Now, the extended family consists of several cousins, their spouses and children and of course the aunts and uncles. With all of these people, the paper plates, plastic cups and (gasp!) Styrofoam coffee cups come out of the woodwork. Who wants to do dishes for a crowd of at least 30! Not me. We have come a long way at Mom and Dad’s house. A few years ago, I gave them my version of a “Go-Eco” gift pack for Christmas (more on that in a later post) After a little nagging and guilt from the grandchildren, they have taken it to heart. But, the crowd of 30! So here are some things my mom and I are going to try this year to green up Thanksgiving.

– Instead of using zip top baggies or plastic wrap to send leftovers home, we are saving large yogurt, cottage cheese containers and any other large containers with a lid, to reuse. Auntie Marie can pack herself some leftovers and recycle the containers at home.

– I will be bringing our reusable bottles and encouraging the rest of the family to do the same. As a backup plan, a permanent marker will be placed near any plastic cups so people can write their name on the cup and use the same one all day long. Of course, these will then be recycled.

– A clearly marked recycle bin will be placed near the trash and the family will be told what items they can put in the recycle bin. I will be enlisting the kids on this one. If I tell them what is recyclable, they can “police” the grown ups. The grown ups will think this is so cute coming from them.

– So those yummy leftovers don’t go to waste, I am researching recipes now that use cooked turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and anything else we normally have leftover. I will be posting these for you as well. If you have any favorites, please share them!

– We normally use paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils and Styrofoam coffee cups for these events – again dishes for 30! My Mom has enough dishwasher safe dishes, utenseils and coffee cups for everyone! The dishwasher will be ready to go, so no dish pan hands. As for cloth napkins, I’m still working on that one. We don’t quite have enough for everyone and my Mom is crazy about ironing everything which puts a lot of work on her since I hate to iron. If we can work something out, then great, but I figure we ditched the paper plates, plastic utensils and the coffee cups so that’s a great start.

– We will be saving a little electricity and dining by eco-friendly candles.

Other green options include going organic and/or local with your food choices. For now, I’m sticking with these. I think this is the right dose of green for my family. What will you be doing this turkey day?

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No More Junk in Your Mail

Reduce your junk mail in 5 easy steps {TheGreeningofWestford.com}

When I first started “going green”, I started with the easy stuff that didn’t cost anything and that I would gain some other benefit from. I zeroed in on the amount of junk mail coming into my house. It was crazy. And drove me crazy!

Most of it went straight to the recycle bin. If I could stop this at the source I wouldn’t need to deal with it at all – saving me time and aggravation. My other benefits. Reducing the junk mail coming into my house did not take long, was easy and cost me nothing. And I saved a few trees in the process. Win Win!

1) Sign up for the Direct Marketing Association Program to reduce junk mail
This reduced my junk mail greatly. If you do business with a particular company you will still get their mailings (you won’t miss the new Pottery Barn catalog!) You can choose whether you want to eliminate all junk mail (with one click) or you can customize what you receive. It costs $1 and stays in effect for 3 years. This won’t eliminate everything, only those companies that use the DMA service. But mine went down tremendously!

2) Eliminate pre-approved credit card offers
This one will actually help protect you from identity theft as well as reduce the paper. The online service requires you to give your SS#. If you don’t want to do that, you can call and you won’t have to give it.

3) Stop getting checks from your credit cards
Call your credit card companies and tell them you don’t want to receive these checks. This one also reduces your risk of identity theft.

4) Get bills via email and pay them online
Many household bills can be paid online. This can be automatic or done by you each month. I have all of my household utilities automatically paid (via credit card or checking account debit). I get an e-bill – no paper, no stamp, no forgetting to pay the electric! For each bill you pay online (i.e. no stamp to mail it) you save $5.28per year in stamps – 4 bills saves $21.12. This won’t make you rich, but you are saving some money, time, aggravation and potential late fees.

5) Cancel the Yellow pages
I now get 4 versions of the Yellow Pages here is Westford! I never use a single one of them – I use a search engine. You can opt out of receiving these. Here are the big 3 on our area:

Yellow Book
online: http://corporate.yellowbook.com/products/directory-options/
Email: DistributionConcerns@Yellowbook.com
Call: 1-800-373-3280

Talking Phone Book
email distribution@talkingphonebook.com

Verizon Yellow pages
Call 1-888-266-5765.
Online: I believe SuperMedia is now handling Verizon yellow pages,
http://my.supermedia.com/directoryoptout/

LocalTel
Call 888-562-2583, Select Option 3

6) Stop Getting Valpak
If you like some of the coupons but don’t want to receive all that mail, go to www.valpak.com to choose and print coupons by geographical location.

It may take a few months to see a difference, but it helps!

Update 9/29/10: In case you don’t live in the Westford, MA area, click here to find out how to opt out of YOUR yellow pages.

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