Tag Archives | recycle

The 5 R’s – Refuse Reduce Reuse Repurpose Recycle

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

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 {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

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?


13+ Ways To Recycle An Old Yoga Mat

13+ Ways to Recycle Your Yoga Mat {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}


My yoga mat has seen better days.  It’s about 5 years old… at least! And it’s starting to fall apart.  I often leave little bits of hot pink yoga mat at class.  But what to do with my old yoga mat?!  I will not toss it in the trash!  How do I recycle my yoga mat?

Say it with me, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE – in that order.  


Could I keep using this mat and not get a new one?  In this case, no.  Like I said, I’m leaving a trail behind me and I’m feeling like this mat has lost its cushion which isn’t good for my back.

That doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t reduce as part of this new yoga mat journey.  But that is for another post.



The next best option would be to reuse it somehow.  So off to pinterest and the internet.  Here are just a few ideas I found.

Oh and make sure you clean/disinfect your mat really well before using it!  

  1. Ask your yoga studio if they’d like to have an extra for people who forget.
  2. There are 2  companies I found that reuse old mats for at risk individuals  –   The Boulder Mat Company   and Jade   .  They both have lists of drop off locations.
  3. Ask your local Animal shelter if they could use it as a lining for pet crates.  Or use it for your cat or dog crate.
  4. Under a pet crate to protect the floor
  5. Shelf or drawer liners
  6. Cut the mat into squares and use them as “bases” while playing baseball.
  7. Jar openers – cut the mat into squares or circles and use to grip those hard to open jars.  This probably wouldn’t work with those thick mats, but perhaps the thinner ones.
  8. Foot pads for furniture on wood or tile surfaces.
  9. Tent “door mat” – Bring it camping and place it outside your tent as a place to sit and remove shoes. 
  10. Coasters
  11. Knee pad while gardening
  12.  In between pots and pans so they don’t get scratched while stored.
  13. Place mat for pets’ bowls



If the above ideas won’t work for you, there is always the recycle option.  Although, I’m coming up blank in this department.  Recycle Your Mat used to take them, but it seems they have stopped and now direct you to other programs.  Some of which I have mentioned here.


So what will I do with my yoga mat?  I’ll keep it around and use it for a few of the reuse options above.  I may give it to my puppy for her to practice her downward dog.  


13+ Ways To Recycle Your Yoga Mat {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}


How Will You Recycle Your Yoga Mat?

 This post has been shared at Simply Natural Saturday List It Tuesday, Small Footprint Friday



Local Styrofoam Recycling: ReFoamIt

Local Styrofoam Recycling: ReFoamIt  {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

For the longest time,  I didn’t think anything could be done with Polystyrene – or better known as Styrofoam.  It has the chasing arrows #6 recycling symbol on it?  Why can’t I recycle it with all my other plastics and glass.  The answer always came back – sorry, no.

The reason is one of simple economics.  No one seemed to want recycled Styrofoam.  No demand, no need to collect it.

Well, that has changed!   About 4 years ago, I heard of a company called ReFoamIt, then out of Framingham, MA.  They recycle Styrofoam!  I have spoken with Dave and Barbara Sherman, owners of ReFoamIt, a few times over the years at various events and have watched their business grow.  

When I first met them at the Westford Farmers Market in 2010, they were hauling the Styrofoam to Rhode Island for processing and held a few collection events a year to collect Styrofoam.  Now, they have their own facility in Leominster, MA, hold several collection events, have containers collecting Styrofoam in many towns in MA, have agreements with business that have excess Styrofoam and can accept Styrofoam at their facility.

In Leominster, they sort all the Styrofoam that comes in.  Dave explained that they have to separate colored Styrofoam and process it separately.  They must also ensure that all of the items are, in fact, polystyrene and are free of any tape or paper.  The Styrofoam is then ground into bits.  From there it is densified into large blocks for transporting to a manufacturer who will reuse the material.  The grinding machine used  was found used on ebay!  Talk about recycling!

Densified Styrofoam

38 lbs of Styrofoam “densified”

A pickup truck load of Styrofoam can be densified into a block such as the one above.  This block is approximately 2 ft. by 1 ft. 10 inches and weighs 38 lbs.  

Most of ReFoamIt’s Styrofoam gets sold to a company in Tennessee.  “I believe in doing American business in America.”,  explains Dave.   Recycled foam can be made into picture frames and house molding.

Many towns/cities have containers for their residents to recycle with ReFoamIt.  They include Harvard, Newton, Carlisle, South Hadley and Newburyport.  Many more, like Sudbury, Westborough,  Melrose, and Ipswich, hold special collection days during the year.  

Now I am all for REDUCE as the first option, but in some instances it may not be possible.  If you can then combine recycling with a cost savings, win-win!  The cost savings have to be of interest to businesses.  If you are business that deals with a lot of Styrofoam, take a look at this.  If you can reduce your number of dumpsters or times they are emptied, you know you will save money!

The picture at the top is one load from a company in Uxbridge, MA.  This company sends 2 to 3 trucks weekly with approximately 1200 – 1400 pounds of foam per load.  This company makes Styrofoam products and sends their rejects and scrap here for recycling.  

A furniture company used to fill 3 dumpsters in less than a week.  They were paying to have the 3 dumpsters emptied twice a week costing $60 per dump – that’s $360 per week.  Once they found ReFoamIt, they were able to reduce to one trash dumpster, emptied once per week, and one Styrofoam container emptied once per week.  This saved them about $200 per week in trash fees.  Dave related a similar story involving a hospital that saves $4,000 per year in trash fees by recycling their foam.

If you would like to recycle your Styrofoam, call ReFoamIt to arrange for an appointment.  A few other tips I picked up from Dave:

  • Remove any tape
  • Make sure there is a #6 recycling symbol 
  • Do not crush or break the pieces.  They need to be able to see the #6 recycling symbol.
  • Packing peanuts not accepted. They can go to a UPS or similar shipping company.
  • Foam wrappers like this, are not accepted

Styrofoam Not Accepted

For more information on what is and is not accepted,  look here.



Green Around Town: Recycling and Composting

Every once in a while, I get the feeling that we as a country and planet, are not moving quickly enough towards sustainability.  It gets discouraging.   I can start to lose steam, almost a “why bother, no one else does,” attitude. 

This time,  I decided to really notice green actions and examples near me.  I made sure to take pictures and went through my old ones to see all that WAS happening around me.  Here are all the examples I found of recycling and composting alone near Boston.


My parents sent me this picture while at my Mom’s college reunion at Clark University in Worcester, MA.



It was great to see recycling right next to each trash container on our town common during the annual strawberry festival in June.



I took this over a year ago while at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Love the graphics!  Hate that the trash is still overflowing.


I saw these all over Boston on a recent trip.



This was great to see a few years back when Loon Mountain in Lincoln, NH added them.  Before that they had no recycling whatsoever.



The owner of Westford Pilates, Chris, put this at her studio all on her own.  She told me she takes it home to recycle because her building doesn’t have it available.


Still wish more was happening, but this  was encouraging!  I came across even more in other categories like solar power and electric vehicles, but I’ll save that for another time.

Do you see green actions around you?



Out Of The Box School Fundraisers

Back to School!  We are at the mid-point of the summer.  Back to school sales are upon us.  We’ve even started searching for back to school supplies.

Many schools are hurting for funding and are looking at ways to creatively raise some cash.  It is a necessary evil.  Boy, I really don’t care for most of the traditional school fundraisers.  The items are almost always overpriced because there is a middle-man taking their cut.  The products can be sub-par as far as quality in some cases.  Most people feel obligated to buy something.  Wouldn’t it be better to go a different way?

As part of a Back to School Blog Carnival hosted by Retro Housewife Goes Green, I’ve put together a few options that won’t cost family members an arm and a leg and actually do some good besides raising the profits of the company selling the junk  merchandise.


Out of the Box School Fundraisers {thegreeningofwestford.com}


If you have been reading this blog, you know that I started a TerraCycle program called Upcycle It! a little over 3 years ago.  TerraCycle collects otherwise un-recyclable items, keeping them out of the waste stream,  and turns them into new products.  They accept over 40 different items such as chip bags, granola wrappers, writing instruments, cell phones and much more.  

As if that wasn’t cool enough, for each item sent to TerraCycle, money is donated to your school or non-profit.  Most items are 2 cents.  Doesn’t sound like much does it?  But it’s pretty much free money.  Think about all the granola bar wrappers coming into schools each day.  All you have to do is get those wrappers into a box, slap a pre-paid shipping label on it and voila – money!  Since starting Upcycle It!, we have raised almost $9,000.  Yup, 2 cents at a time folks!


ShoeBox Recycling

Got shoes that you’ve outgrown?  What school aged child doesn’t!  Collect those paired, reusable shoes, ShoeBox Recycling will pay you $0.50 per pair.  Our school district’s elementary and middle school Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) started this program last school year.   The Elementary schools alone made almost $3000.  The President of the PTO said it was so easy!  She was very smart and placed boxes at our local library, a couple of shoe stores in town and the senior center in addition to the elementary schools.

The shoes are “distributed for resale and reuse in [their] original form, at various local marketplaces around the world.”  ShoeBox Recycling provides the boxes and FedEx will deliver them, free of charge.  Your school will receive a monthly check with your earnings.


Natick BoxTextile recycling

Did you know that you can donate clothing that may be ripped or stained?  Yes, you can!  And your school could benefit.  There are many companies that collect old clothing or fabric of any kind (including old stuffed animals, curtains, towels and more) and pay those who house their collection bins. 

One such company in my area, Bay State Textiles, pays schools $100 per ton.  Bay State Textiles works with your school and provides education materials to help spread the word.   They are currently working with several towns in the area.  One, Beverly, MA, collected over 11,000 pounds in the month of June alone.  The school made $586!  


All of these programs take minimal effort, reduce items going into the waste stream, and don’t cost parents or relatives a dime.  Win-win-win.  The environment benefits too – WIN!

 For more great back to school posts, be sure to check out the blog carnival.

Know of any other out of the box fundraisers?


This post has been shared at Fabulously Frugal Thursdays, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday


You Say Trash, I Say Opportunity

How the Massachusetts waste ban should be a money maker {thegreeningofwestford.com }

Incinerator floor filled with trash…and recyclables


Did you know that in Massachusetts certain items are banned from your trash?  In 1990, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) deemed certain items that should not be put into the trash either because they are hazardous or they are easily recyclable.  The recyclables ones are:

  • Ferrous & non-ferrous metals
  • Glass & metal containers
  • Leaves & yard waste
  • Recyclable paper, cardboard & paperboard
  • Single resin narrow-necked plastics (plastics #1 and #2)
  • White goods (large appliances)

Metal, glass, paper, plastic.  All commonly recyclable in Massachusetts.

Here’s the legal-ease:

“No person shall dispose, transfer for disposal, or contract for disposal of the restricted material except in accordance with the restriction established in the table. No landfill, transfer facility or combustion facility shall accept the restricted material except to handle, recycle or compost the material in accordance with a plan submitted pursuant to 310 CMR 19.017(5) and approved by the Department.”

I highlighted the word person in the above statement. Notice that this is generic. It applies to everyone, not just big businesses or just residents. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!


What happens if these items are found in the trash?

If enforced, a fine can be issued in the amount of $100 to $25,000 for each day of violation. I spoke to our regional MassDEP representative who said that if they are able – they go after everyone – the person/company that threw out the recyclables, company who hauled it away, the municipality, and the landfill or incinerator that accepted it.

Even with these bans in place, recyclable material is still being thrown away.  According to a study conducted at a local incinerator in 2010, waste entering this facility still had:

  • 27.3% paper
  • 11.6% plastic
  • 5.7% metal
  • 1.8% glass

In theory, another 45% of the trash being tossed in these MA towns could have been recycled.  Almost half!  As you can see from the picture I took at this very facility, there is a lot of cardboard and paper being tossed.  Can you find the Christmas tree?


Why do municipalities want to increase recycling?

Although there are many who want to make a positive impact on the environment, usually the bottom line is money and compliance to the above ordinance.

I took a look at Westford’s disposal costs for 2012.

Recycling cost $240,000  for 2816 tons  => $85 per ton

Solid Waste cost $1,173,352  for 8168 tons  => $143 per ton

Granted recycling is picked up every other week in Westford so the cost of the trucks is ½ what it would be for trash pickup.  For recycling, however, that is where the cost ends.   We can recycle as much as we want without this pickup cost changing.  The recycler is then able to take this resource, yes resource, separate it and resell it for a profit.  In reality, the per ton cost ($85) will go down if we recycle more.  Not so for trash.

For trash disposal, we not only pay for the trucks to pickup, but we pay an additional fee to the incinerator for each ton of trash disposed  (a tipping fee as it is known in the industry).     The total cost of solid waste is split about equally between pickup and disposal in this particular scenario.  With approximately 45% of this 8168 tons of trash containing recyclables, there is a real money saving opportunity here.  About $250,000!

Many people don’t even know about the waste ban.  Why would they?  You never hear of enforcement, businesses routinely neglect recycling because it costs extra, initially; even some cities and towns don’t force their own employees (including schools) to recycle!  It drives me crazy.  I would love to see more education and enforcement.


Why isn’t there more recycling? 

I’d love to know!  Many municipalities in MA have moved to a PAY-AS-YOU-THROW (PAYT) system.  You pay for all or a portion of the trash you throw out.  In these situations, recycling is usually free.  In those towns/cities, recycling rates have sky rocketed and trash rates have plummeted!  Recycling rates in Massachusetts vary from area to area.  Usually in direct proportion to how much residents are asked to pay for their trash.  The lowest trash rates being in those towns/cities where residents pay for all of their trash.

Normally, I am not one to support this type of negative reinforcement, but I am beginning to think that unless there is some immediate detrimental effect, people do not change their habits.  And the results are pretty impressive.


Talk about a quick money maker! Take a few MassDEP employees a few days a month to go around and educate on the waste ban.  Then round two: fine businesses, residents, haulers, incinerators and landfills still allowing recyclables into the trash.  I’m sure the word would spread pretty quickly!  This could boost the recycling industry and lower business’ and municipal disposal costs.  I’m sure it’s more complicated than that, but still….  what an opportunity!


What are the recycling rules where you are?


This post has been shared at Simply Natural Saturdays, Green Living Thursdays


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:  castleinthetrees@hotmail.com

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!


What I Learned About the Environment From Elementary School Students

{The Greening Of Westford} Speaking with Kindergartners about Recycling
Speaking with Kindergartners
Nestled in a neighborhood in the Burncoat section of Worcester, MA sits a special  Elementary school – Thorndyke Road School.  It looks like an old mansion from the outside with its large entrance and beautiful columns.  What was going on inside, was even more amazing.
Being that Earth Day was last week,  this Kindergarten through 6th grade school had a very special week planned!  They did some spring cleaning and learned how to clean with vinegar, 4th, 5thand 6th grade students participated in an Environmentally themed Science Fair, and  they asked me to be a guest speaker for the day.  I was thrilled!
TRS had only recently started recycling at their school this year.  Through the efforts of one teacher, Stephanie Syre-Hager, and almost 50 5th and 6thgrade students they have made huge strides in “greening” their school.    They are focused on recycling right now, but I have no doubts they will be doing much more very soon.  The 5th and 6thgrade students volunteer to become Recycling Leaders and give up one lunch and recess per week to work on recycling in their school!   They broke into groups to work on different areas – there were Recycling Educators, Recycling Cheerleaders, Recycling Artists, Recycling Performers, Recycling Managers and the Celebration Planners.
Stephanie explains
Since the start of school, recycling leaders have been busy learning about recycling and coming up with ways to share information with the whole school.  The artists made posters, and they hung signs by the recycling bins to remind everyone which items should be recycled.  They also decorated an educational bulletin board.  Other groups have been working diligently too. The recycling educators are working on presenting ideas to teach younger children about recycling.  The cheerleaders presented a cheer on America Recycles Day, and the performers wrote and performed a play for several grade levels.  Our recycling managers have taken on the responsibility of distributing and emptying the bins on a weekly basis under the direction of a parent volunteer. We also had a recycled art contest around Thanksgiving. Finally, the Celebration Planners came up with ways to celebrate America Recycles Day on November 15th.  We had over 100 students take the Green Team Pledge with their families.
I had the pleasure of speaking with each of the Kindergarten through 6th grade classes throughout the day.  They were amazing!  For only starting to recycle this year, they knew a tremendous amount about the environment.  We talked about why we recycle, what we can recycle and of course I showed them my TerraCycle bags.  Kids (and adults)  just love these!  They were all so fascinated by the fact that trash could be turned into such cool tote bags, lunch bags and more.
With each grade level I was amazed at what they knew.  As I was discussing why we want to recycle, I asked how paper was made, what it was made from, of course they all knew – Trees.  I went on to explain that recycling saves trees – for every ton of paper recycled 17 trees are spared.  TRS will probably save about 20 trees this year through recycling, which doesn’t sound like much, but we did some quick math and realized that if every Massachusetts Public school recycled like TRS, we could save over 65,000 trees per year!  That made an impression, on me too!
Then I went on to ask why we want to save trees – I mentioned that trees take a long time to grow and that if we cut them all down for paper we might not have any left at some point and that would be ugly!  One third grade boy also told me that, “trees help us live by giving us oxygen”. Right on!!  A  4th grade girl explained that trees are homes to small animals and where would they go if all the trees were gone?!  Another boy said “We wouldn’t be able to build more homes” since they are also made of wood.  I was speechless!   Each classroom I entered surprised me more and more.  Happily!  They get it!  I told each classroom that they could help their parents and grandparents.  They thought it was funny that they could teach their parents.  But it’s so true!  We didn’t learn this in school like they are now.  
Speaking with the Recycling Leaders


Toward the end of the day, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the Recycling Leaders.  The enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication blew me away.  We talked about what steps they could take next – maybe introduce recycling in the cafeteria or start their own TerraCycle program.  I wasn’t even going to mention composting because I thought it might be too much, well a 5th grade girl asked what they’d have to do to compost the food scraps from the cafeteria!
The day ended with parents and students back at school looking at the Science Fair projects, announcing the winners and honoring the Recycling Leaders.   Many students I had spoken to during the day smiled, waved and said “Hi Mrs. Greene!” I am tearing up just thinking about it.  So cute!   I wish I could have written down all of their names because I have the feeling that I will be hearing their names in the future, doing great things.
The intent of having me there was to show them that other people are doing what they are and more.  To help encourage and inspire them to keep going.    Well, they are the ones that inspired me.  I truly left there more inspired and encouraged to go further myself.  
Thank you TRS! 


Think Before You Trash


Think donate BEFORE you toss {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

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?  


5 Easy Steps To Recycling

5 easy steps to recycling
We all know the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle chant.  And guess what?  It is in that order for a reason.  The BEST option is to reduce. This can be easier said than done and does require a lot more effort and change.  So I say, start with the easier one – recycle – for now.  In time you will get there.  You can’t do it all at once.  Don’t try.  

Recycling varies widely from state to state, town to town, sometimes even within the town!  It can be very confusing and can change.  The thing to remember is to keep taking a peek at the rules – usually things that were NOT recyclable will become recyclable in some manner. 
You also need to find out what is available to you.  Most likely, you have a convenient option available to you for common items like paper, plastics and metals (cans). Then there are other items that, with a little effort, can be recycled or reused as well.
Step One:  Educate Yourself
Find out what form of recycling is available to you.   Do you have curbside recycling, a transfer station or do you use a private hauler?
If you don’t know, do a quick internet search on “your town/city state recycling”.  For example, if I type the following into a search engine “ westford ma recycling”, the first thing that pops up is our town’s recycling website with tons of information.
Once you have this information, take time to read and understand what can and can’t be recycled.  Keep this handy.  You will refer to it often.  
If you have trash and recycling services provided by your city or town, there will be tons of information on recycling.  A little known fact – municipalities pay big bucks for trash and recycling services.  Recycling services are cheaper so they will do whatever it takes to educate and encourage their citizens to recycle instead of throw in the trash.  This includes composting in some areas.  Our town offers a backyard composter for a fraction of the retail price.
Step Two: Analyze Your Trash

This goes along with Step one.  Concentrate on everything you get rid of for a week or so – really look at each item and figure out if it is recyclable in your area or if you can do without it. If you have questions, ask.  This method focuses you and makes it very applicable to what you use. 
Once you know where things go, it will become second nature and you won’t need to think about it.
Step Three: Make It Easy
If something is easy and convenient, more likely you and your family will stick with it.  If you need to sort items, multiple bins might make sense for you.  Do you have space in your kitchen for separate bins?  Where is the best place to put the recycle bin?
Put bins all over the house to catch recyclables.  Convert the office trash can to a recycle bin since 99% of what you get rid of in that room is paper.  Place  another bin on the second floor to catch toilet paper tubes and plastic bottles.
Step Four:  Get Your Family Involved  

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

Once you have the easy stuff down pat, add to it!  There are other items that can be recycled or reused with very little extra effort.  If you have a local recycling department, they can be a great resource.  

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

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


Happy Recycling!



Got Electronics?

A Greene Westford column reposted.

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

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


3rd Graders Make Great Upcyclers

Photo credit Gavin Stewart/Flickr

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

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

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


2011 Year in Review

Reposted from Greene Westford on Westford Patch.

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


5 Easy Steps to Recycling


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

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

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

Step One:  Educate Yourself

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

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

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

Step Two: Analyze Your Trash

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

Step Three: Make it Easy

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

Step Four:  Get your family involved  

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

Step Five:  Expand Your list of Recyclables

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


10 Things I Love About Whole Foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your favorite?


10 Easy Ways to Green 2011

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

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

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

3. Change to paperless billing

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

5. Change to eco-friendly cleaners.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Take the Trash Out… of the holidays that is

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

Here are some ways to reduce that waste.

Holiday Cards

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

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

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

Green Gift Ideas

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

Give the gift of an experience

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

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

The gift of imagination

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

Give the gift of Green

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

Homemade gifts

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

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

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

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

Gift Wrapping

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


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

Gift Tags

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

Gift boxes

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

Reusable bag as a gift bag

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

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

What will you do this holiday season?


Give Jeans a Chance

Have some jeans in your closet that you don’t wear? You know the ones. You think you’ll fit into them again, or maybe the style will come back…. Clean out your closet and do something good. Volcum and the National Coalition for the Homeless are teaming up again in a program called “Give Jeans a Chance”. Jeans are collected at local Volcum retailers and given to the homeless via local homeless shelters. Last year, the program donated over 5,000 pairs of jeans to 50 homeless shelters nationwide. This year, the athletic apparel brand is back with 200 more participating stores. Their hope is to collect over 10,000 pairs. The program started August 1 and runs through the end of September.

Bring your old jeans in wearable condition to the Westford Farmers Market through August 10. If you miss us there, you can bring them to Eastern Boarder at 254 DWH in Nashua. For more information on the program, click here.


Westford Recycling Do’s and Don’ts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types of materials Accepted at Curbside Recycling


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

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


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


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

Wall paper
foil wrapping paper


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

Broken glass
window glass
light bulbs


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

Oil based paint cans
auto parts
scrap metal
propane cylinders

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

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


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