Archive | reuse

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?


Know Before You Donate

Know Before You Donate

Used under Creative Commons license by DarkroomDaze/Flickr


There are so many great organizations that rely on donations.    Whether it’s clothing, furniture, shoes, …..  It CAN be used for a good cause.  There are also loads of recycling options for metals, chips bags, wine corks and other items.  IF, and this is a big if, the organization can use it!   Disposable costs can be high, not to mention the wasted time and energy used to sort through the items.  Make sure your good deed is actually GOOD!

Understand What to Donate

Many organizations have websites with explanations on what they accept.  Some even have specific lists of do’s and don’t.  They fascinate me. I know, recycling geek that I am!  But I have discovered many items I did not think could be re-used by looking through these lists.  

Many charities work directly with people in need.  For this reason, they can only use donations that still have some life left in them.  They are not recycling the items.  One such organization in my area is The Wish Project.  In their October Newsletter they stated: 

“Currently, more than 20% of goods donated are unwanted and we struggle each week to find a way to recycle them or relocate them. “

On the other hand, there are textile recyclers who can take just about any kind of textile (fabric) as long as it’s dry, clean and free of mildew or hazardous materials like oil or paint.  But you need to be sure that where you are donating can handle this.

Still Not Sure….

If you still aren’t sure, ASK!  I’m sure they’d prefer to answer a few emails or phone calls than get mountains of unusable items.  It takes a lot of time, energy and money to dispose of the items a charity can’t use.  Trash disposal is big bucks.  Money that your charity can’t use to further their cause. 

Don’t think – Oh I bet they’ll be able to use this.  They may not.  I once had a mountain of plastic clothes hangers that I didn’t want to recycle since they were still useable – just not by me.  I thought a local charity might be able to use them, but hangers were not on their list of acceptable items.  So I emailed to check.  Turns out they CANNOT use them.  They usually fold all of their clothing.  Good to know! 

Asking saves you time and energy as well.   If I had just assumed they could use the hangers, I would have wasted time and gas bringing the hangers to them.  Instead, since I discovered that Savers does accept and use plastic hangers.

I write this with first-hand experience.  I sometimes get the weirdest things in the Upcycle It! bins.  Some people think I can recycle ANY plastic.  Not true.  Those items aren’t so bad, but it does take extra time and energy to sort through it all.  Take a look at MY trash after one sorting session   Ironic isn’t it!



It’s the really weird things that make me go, “huh?”  I once received a bag full of what looked like wall board and carpet fibers, a CFL light bulb, and scrap wood.  I kid you not.  I’m really not sure what the thought process was here.  In my trash they went, well except the CFL which went to the hardware store to be disposed of properly.  I appreciate the effort people make to donate goods, recycle, and reduce waste in general.  Just make sure you aren’t unknowingly causing more of a mess somewhere else.


Got any good donation tips?


3 Uses for Cereal Bags

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


3 Uses for Cereal Bags



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


Use Cereal bag in place of waxed paper

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


Use cereal bags to keep hamburgers from sticking to eachother

Cereal bags can help keep snacks form sticking 

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


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

Ever reuse cereal bags?


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


What To Do With My Old Cell Phone?

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

My old cell phone sitting in my car to be donated

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Your Old Cell Phone

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

So started my investigation…

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Help victims of abuse

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

Make the internet safe for kids

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

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


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

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

Do you have an old cell phone sitting around?

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


How Reusing Can Help Build Aidan’s Playground


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also just added:

An Evening With Peter Walsh to Benefit Aidan’s Playground

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

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

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

Hope to see you on June 1!


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.


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

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


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?  


Ditch The Plastic Bags

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Do You Use Reusable Bags?

This post is shared at Small Footprints Friday


Give the Gift of Warmth

Where to donate winter coats

Winter in New England means snow ball fights, sledding, making snow men and snow angels.  You can’t possibly do that without a good winter coat!  And winter is here!

A few weeks ago, I had my kids try on all their coats, mittens, hats and boots.  Now I have a pile of perfectly good winter gear that doesn’t fit anyone.  What to do with it?

Well, I could of course donate them where I donate the rest of our clothing.  But there are so many organizations that specifically collect winter gear that I’d like to make sure these items get there and get into the hands of people who need them.  NOW!  It’s cold in Massachusetts and you NEED a winter coat, hats, mittens, ….

There are many organizations that collect winter coats. 

One Warm Coat

One Warm Coat collects coats, jackets, hats, mittens, sweaters, sweatshirts and any other outwear to keep someone warm.  They have collection sites across the country including Burlington Coat Factory and The Container Store locations.  Check here for a donation site close to you.

Coats For Kids

Massachusetts based Coats for Kids is sponsored by local Anton’s Cleaners.  This is the 18th year Anton’s has run this coat drive, collecting over 744,000 coats in the first 17 years.  All coats are cleaned, by Anton’s, free of charge, and donated to those in need.  The coat drives from Oct through January 12, 2013.  You can bring your gently used coats to any Aton’s Cleaners, Jordan’s Furniture, or many schools throughout Massachusetts.  Local schools who participate receive rewards for their donations.

Local Schools, Churches, Scout Troops

Many schools and other community organizations have coat drives.  I know my children’s school usually does a coat and/or hat drive most years.

Local Charities

I always knew that The Wish Project in Lowell, MA took all sorts of in season clothing, but only recently realized that a local food pantry – Loaves and Fishes in Devens,MA – also takes seasonal clothing, including coats.

Just remember that someone will need to wear this coat, so they need to be in good, working condition and clean.  If your coats are past their prime, they can still be recycled.

Have Any Winter Gear to Donate?


6 Oddball Things I Always Save

You know how you see something and think, “I bet I could use that for something.  I should probably save  it.”    Well, here are 6 things that I always save and always use.

Rubber bands    Lots of produce comes with rubber bands on it.  I save them all.  I use them to hold various electric cords together, holding a cereal bag liner on a watermelon or holding a cut apple together so it doesn’t brown.

6 oddball things to save money

Glass Jars   I save ALL glass jars that come into the house – spaghetti sauce, jelly, salsa, pickles, condiments, etc.  I use these for EVERYTHING – dry goods like beans, flour, sugar and dried fruit; leftovers, freezer storage, crafts.  I like to save all of them because then I can pick just the right size for the job.  The possibilities are endless and they look so cute and clean.

Popsicle Sticks   We don’t buy them often, but when we do I save the sticks.  They come in very handy when making beauty products and crafts.


Cereal Bag Liners   This is a new one.  I now have several on hand at all times. They are great for anything you would use waxed paper for.  I use them when making granola bars to help with pressing the bars into the pan and separating them in the freezer so they don’t stick.  I store them in an old cereal box with the top cut off.  Eventually this box will be decorated to make it look pretty….

Veggie Scraps   Carrot peels, ends of onions, you name it, it goes into my “Veggie Scraps” bag in the freezer.  When I make stock, these scraps help flavor the stock.  I usually have enough so that I don’t have to add anything else except a few herbs and some salt.

The key here is to have a place for these things to go.  This way you actually can reuse them!

Do you have uses for oddball stuff?

This post has been shared at Healthy 2Day WednesdayFrugal Days Sustainable Ways, Frugal Tuesday TipPenny Pinching PartyTeach Me TuesdayFrugal Friday,  Simple Lives ThursdayYour Green Resource,  Seasonal Celebration Sunday, Living Big Less Money, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Simply Natural Saturdays


Thrift Store Treasures

Over the past few years, yard sales and thrift stores have become favorites of mine.  You just never know what you will find!  The prices can’t be beat and I love knowing that I saved something from getting tossed.  

When my daughter was about 18 months old, I filled our backyard with loads of fun outdoor toys for her.  All from yard sales.  I don’t think I spent more than $20 total.   We had more than she could ever play with – a play kitchen complete with fake food and dishes, riding toys, a Cozy Coupe (we ended up with 3 of these when her twin brother and sister came along), sand toys, a rocking horse, you name it.  

One year for Christmas, all of my son’s gifts were purchased at yard sales.  I would have gotten some for the girls too, but everyone seemed to be selling boys’ toys that year.  Again, you never know what you are going to get.   And I have to mention, that the one item I purchased from the store (because I couldn’t find it on Craig’s list or yard sales), he rarely played with.  

Kitchen items are plentiful also.  Here are a few of my favorites.

I found several of these glasses.  I think I bought 12 of them for about $2.  We use them for pudding mostly. I also found a set of ice cream sundae glasses.  Those are fun!  I am still on the lookout for long spoons.

yard sale finds

This was a great discovery.  A set of 4 Pyrex Amish Butterprint nesting “Cinderella” bowls.  At the time I had no idea what pattern they were or anything.  I just thought they were pretty!  I debated because I really didn’t need any more bowls.  The woman selling them wanted $5, so I bought them.  They are by far my favorite bowls!

yard sale treasures

Several of my glass storage containers came from yard sales and thrift stores.  

thrift store findsthrift store treasures

Now, the piece d’resistance, my whip cream dispenser!  I found this, again, by chance at Savers last week.  Savers is a huge thrift store that donates a portion of their sales to charity.   I had seen one of these in a kitchen store a few years ago, but couldn’t justify the cost.  They sell for at least $50 new.  I took a gamble on this, since I couldn’t be sure if it still worked.  But for $3.99 (less my 20% off) I took the risk.  You need NO2 chargers to make the cream whip.  Found those at Bed, Bath and Beyond (10 for $7.50).

thrift store whipped cream dispenser

We tried it out that night and Voila!  Homemade whipped cream in about 30 seconds!!!!!  I can’t wait to try out different flavors.

The real fun now is going with my daughters.   They are learning that they can get cool stuff for very little money and that just because something is old, doesn’t mean it isn’t any good.

Do you go to yard sales and thrift stores?  What is your favorite find?


Making the Switch to Glass Storage

As you might know, as convenient as plastic is, it is harmful to us and the environment.  If you aren’t already convinced of this, take a look here.

Reduce Footprints current challenge is

This week refuse to use plastic wrap (aka cling film, cling wrap, glad wrap, etc). Instead, choose Eco-friendly, safe ways to store food. And, as always, we’d like to hear all about your efforts.
Or …

If you’ve already banned plastic wrap from your life, please review your food storage methods to see if there’s any room for improvement. For example, if you’re reusing plastic containers to store food consider glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers instead (old plastic containers may leach harmful toxins into your food). If you use aluminum foil to cover your food, consider covering food with an inverted plate, a lid from a casserole or pan, etc. And, please tell us about your efforts.

But replacing all the plastic storage items you have collected over the years could be daunting and expensive!  It doesn’t have to be!

I stopped buying plastic wrap a few years ago.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.  But as I think back, I took this step several years into my green journey.  I was LOOKING for things to reduce and change.  So, depending on where you are, this may be easy or difficult.

Before I made this step, I made sure to set myself up for success.  I stocked up on plenty of other storage containers (with lids) so I wouldn’t be looking for the plastic wrap.  At first I used my stand-by plastic containers.  Then I slowly converted to glass. I watched for sales and bought 2 sets of  Pyrex glass storage containers with lids (affiliate link).  I still kept foil in the house for those rare occasions.  Foil is expensive!  So I reached for it sparingly.

Inexpensive Glass Options

Reuse glass jars you buy food in!!!! My best discovery.  Total light bulb moment.  Like spaghetti sauce, salsa, pickles, applesauce.  They are free and come in so many shapes and sizes.  I figured I would do this until I stocked up enough on “real” containers from sales or yard sales.  After a while, I didn’t want to give up my free jars!  Why should I?  They worked great and they were “free”.  I learned from my trip to the recycling plant, that glass gets crushed and sits for a long time before it can be reused.  So, to reuse it at my home was a much better option.  I keep them all in the basement.  I save them ALL! At some point or another I am looking for a particular size and there is it.


Where to find cheap glass storage for food

Where Else To Find Them  Yard sales and thrift stores are great places to look.  I found these babies at our thrift store Savers for about $2 each.  Don’t pass them up because the rubber ring is dried out or missing.  You can buy replacement rubber rings at kitchen stores and hardware stores (during canning season) for about $3 for 4.  I even saw them 4 for $1 at The Christmas Tree Shop this past spring.

 Glass storage for food - CHEAP! Mason jars are another inexpensive glass storage option.  A case of pint jars are about $11 – less than $1 a piece.  I use them in the fridge and the freezer.  They come in a wide variety of sizes and are plentiful during spring and summer.  You can find them at hardware stores, Target, Walmart, or online (affiliate).  I saw them sold singly at The Christmas Tree Shops this past spring as well.  Update 7/20/12:  I was at Bed, Bath and Beyond yesterday and they sell cases of mason jars at about the same price as elsewhere, BUT you will use your 20% off coupon to get them even cheaper!



I saw this HUGE beauty of a  pickle jar at the grocery store.  It stands about 14 inches tall.   We like pickles, but not enough to eat almost 2 lbs of them.  I keep thinking of when I would possibly use all those pickles JUST so I can have the jar!  Anyone know any pickle recipes?


So Many Uses

I like to store as much of my food in glass as possible.  So I use these glass options for both cold and pantry storage.  They look so cute too!

In the freezer for stock, soup, homemade baked beans and cooked dried beans are just a few ideas.  Make sure you leave plenty of head room – I usually leave at least an inch to be on the safe side.  Just like the plastic storage, make sure you label them.


how to reuse glass jars
For the pantry, I put all of my dried fruits, homemade granola, various chocolate chips, dried beans….
how to reuse glass storage

Now I certainly have not cast plastic out of my house for good.  I still have plastic baggies for certain uses.  We do have reusable cloth bags that we use a lot, but there are certain things I just can’t seem to get away from.  So there’s my plastic confession.

What is your favorite non-plastic storage?  Do you still have some plastic?



Veggies and More at Fat Moon Farm

A Greene Westford column re-posted.

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

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


Don’t Toss Those Citrus Peels!

citrus infused vinegar for cleaning {}
 A while ago I investigated ways to use citrus peels – beyond composting them.    In doing so I came across infused vinegar.  I was intrigued.   I have since made infused vinegar several times with oranges, lemons and grapefruit.  I am addicted!   
Why would I want infused vinegar?  Do I cook with it?  Maybe you could, but I use mine for my homemade cleaners.  The vinegar extracts the essential oils from the citrus peels,  mellowing the smell of the vinegar and  adding a boost of cleaning power to the vinegar.
I love that I can get extra use out of something before it gets composted.  If you are just getting started making your own cleaners, this is a great, cheap way to start without investing in essential oils.
I substitute one of these infused vinegars for the vinegar in any of the homemade cleaner recipes, then skip the essential oils. 
What You Need
ingredients to infuse vinegar
Citrus peels – orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, or a combination
Glass jar with lid – reuse an old spaghetti sauce jar
White distilled vinegar
The Method
Save your citrus peels – I save mine in the freezer until I have enough to fill the glass jar.
inexpensive green cleaners
Fill the jar with your peels, really stuff them in there, the more the better. (Can you tell my orange peels are frozen?)
vinegar cleaners {}
  Fill the jar with distilled vinegar.  Make sure all the peels are covered by the vinegar, otherwise mold could start growing.  Get the kids to help!
citrus infused vinegar cleaner
 Let the jar sit for 1 – 2 weeks, gently shaking every once in a while.  Give it a wiff every once in a while. When you can smell more fruit than vinegar, it’s done.
 Strain the vinegar and keep in another jar to use.
Have you ever infused vinegar?

This post is part of Vintage MauveFrugally SustainableSeasonal Celebration SundayYour Green ResourceSimple Lives ThursdayWorks For Me Wednesday,  Frugal Fridays, Simply Natural SaturdaysHome is Where the Heart IsTiny Tip Tuesday, Green Sisterhood Weekend Reading List, Green LivingThursdayFabulously Frugal Thursday, From The Farm, Wildcrafting Wednesday

This post was featured at Tiny Tip Tuesday!!!


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? 


Donate Books For a Great Cause

My first guest post!  I’m so excited.  Especially because the author is …….my daughter!

Books to donate!  (Photo credit: Caitlin)

Hi! My name is Caitlin and I am in Girl Scout troop 63075.

We are doing a book drive as part of our community service toward our Bronze award. You can donate books now until April 13. All the books will be going to the Reading Tree. Then, they will donate them to people and schools who don’t have books. You can donate any type of book like children’s books or adult books and any other type. But, you can’t donate magazines, newspapers or sticker books.  The books have to be in good condition. You can drop off your books at the Abbot School bell lobby. 

We hope to receive lots of books! 



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 3 – Food

        Ways to deal with food waste and save money {}
        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?


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