Tag Archives | reduce

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.

 

Refuse

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

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

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

 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.

 

Recycle

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
Eco-Mothering

 

 

 Can you think of others?

6

Easy Foaming Hand Soap

{The Greening Of Westford} Easy Foaming Handsoap

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

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

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

  1. Wasteful
  2. Potentially dangerous chemicals
  3. Expense

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

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

Foaming Soap

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

Materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*The math:

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

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

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

1

Bog Berry Dryer Balls {Review & Giveaway}

 

Bog Berry Dryer Balls review {The Greening Of Westford}

 

Have you heard of wool dryer balls?  They are the eco-friendly replacement for dryer sheets that reduce drying time, soften clothes and eliminate static cling.  I tried making my own a couple of years ago and was not overly impressed.  I did see a decrease in static but didn’t see a decrease in drying time. 
 
I was fortunate to connect with Brooke of Bog Berry’s Wool Dryer balls to have a chance to test them out.  Let me tell you….   You know I am a DIY girl at heart, but in this case, BUY BOG BERRY DRYER BALLS!
 
These things work!  The softening capability was way better than my attempt!   Because you know the engineer in me needs hard data to really believe something, I started designing tests the second I knew these babies were coming.  Let me tell you how I tested the claims.  
 
 
Static And Softening Test
 
Purpose  To test the static busting and softening capabilities of Bog Berry Wool Dryer Balls.   
 
Materials  
 
 
  • Two identical loads of laundry each consisting  of – 

                 3 towels
                 3 pairs of jeans

                 3 items of fleece
                 2 microfiber cloths
                 2 napkins
 
 
  • 1996 Kenmore Electric Dryer
  • 6 Bog Berry Dryer Balls
 
Procedures
 
  1. Wash one load of laundry and dry WITHOUT dryer balls
  2. Observe static and softness
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 WITH Dryer balls
 
Results
 
No Dryer balls –  The microfiber cloth was completely stuck to the napkin.  I had to pull them apart and shake them to release the static.  Loads of static from the fleece too.   Clothes were the same in terms of softness as when they went into the wash.
 
With Dryer Balls – The microfiber cloth and napkin barely stuck to each other.  Our clothes were noticeably softer.
 
 
Drying Time Test
 
I wasn’t seeing a difference in dryer time in the first test, so I asked Brooke.  She told me that 6 is the minimum.  For a heavy load like I was doing I would need more (as many as 12) to see a noticeable difference.  I didn’t have 12, so I tried another test with a smaller, lighter load.
 
Purpose  To test the drying time reduction capability of Bog Berry Wool Dryer Balls.   
 
Materials  
 
  • Two identical loads of laundry each consisting  of – 

            1 pair of nylon running pants

            2 cotton shirts
            2 pairs of nylon shorts
            1 pair of cotton pants
 
  • 1996 Kenmore Electric Dryer
  • 6 Bog Berry Dryer Balls
 
Procedures
 
  1. Wash one load of laundry and dry WITHOUT dryer balls
  2. Measure dry time
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 WITH Dryer balls
 
Results
 
Without Dryer balls – drying time = 21 mins
With Dryer balls – drying time = 16 mins
 
That’s a 23% decrease in drying time!
 
 
Based on my 2 tests and having been using them for a couple of months, I have to say I like them and they work for us.    I calculated some savings.
 
Savings
 
No more dryer sheet cost  – $15 per year
Based on 10 loads per week, cost of $0.04 per sheet 
   savings = $15 per year
 
 
Electricity savings  – $57 per year
I used this handy calculator to figure out my savings using these parameters – 10 loads per week, cost of $0.15 KWh (specific to your area), and a savings of 23% which for me is about 10 minutes per load.
 

To gain these savings, I would need a set of 12 dryer balls.  This would cost $59 plus shipping. In less than a year, I can recoup this savings.  And you can’t even put a price on the reduction of chemicals.

 

As an added bonus, Brooke is originally a local girl from MA!
 
 
Giveaway
 
 
Bog Berry Handicraft is giving one Greening Of Westford reader a set of 6 wool dryer balls in the color palate of your choice. For the main entry, visit Bog Berry and let me know which is your favorite color combo.   This one doesn’t have to be done first but it does have to be done for all other entries to count.

This contest is only open to residents of the US and Canada, 18 years old or older. The contest will run from Friday March 29, 2013 thru Tuesday April 9, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced Wednesday April 10. The winner must reply within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.

There are additional ways you can enter:

 

Separate comments must be left here for each additional entry!

Also, please include your email with comments or if you’d rather, after you leave your main entry comment, email me at thegreeningofwestford(at)gmail(dot)com so I will have a way of contacting you if you win. You will have 48 hours after I contact you to send me your info or else I will choose another winner.

 
 
Coupon Savings
 
If you just can’t wait or would like to order more, Brooke is offering The Greening of Westford readers a 10% discount oany purchase 29.50 or higher  from her Etsy shop.
 
Use the code:  GreeningOfWestford  at her Etsy shop.  This code will only work at her Etsy shop not on the website.



UPDATE:  The winner is Katie of Littleton! Congratulations.
 
 
Have you ever tried dryer balls?
 
Disclosure: Bog Berry Handicraft provided me with a complementary set of 6 wool dryer balls for this product review.  The opinions expressed are mine.

30

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!

 

5

Back To School Green Style

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

What are your tips and tricks?

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

12

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

 CheapGlassFoodStorage
 
 
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!

 BigPickleJar

 

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?

 
 

35

Single-Use Society

{The Greening Of Westford} Single-use society


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

Reduce Footprints issued this challenge:

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

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

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

6

Happy 2nd Birthday Upcycle It!

 

Today marks 2 years since the Upcycle It! program started in Westford.  It has been quite a success!
   
As of today, the totals are:

279, 562 pieces
2,759 lbs of trash kept out of the waste stream
$5,656.46 raised
 
I was recently informed that Upcycle It! is one of TerraCycle’s MVC’s – Most Valuable Collectors.
 
Over these 2 years, I have learned quite a bit sorting through the upcycle.  So, on this 2nd birthday, I’d like to share with you some random thoughts and a few things I have learned along the way.

 
Upcycle It! Top Ten Lessons Learned
 
10.  No matter how much you squeeze a juice pouch, there is still some juice left.
 
9.  Box Tops are now on Chex Mix bags.
 

8.  You can learn a lot by going through someone’s trash.

 
7. An elementary school does NOT go through as much glue as you might think.
 
6. It takes less than 2 weeks for juice pouches to really stink!
 
5. After sorting trash for a while, you can tell what kind of packaging something is just by the color and feel.
 
4. If you want good shipping boxes, stalk the chip and cereal vendors at the grocery stores.
 
3. If you sort upcycle stuff, ironically YOUR trash is very large because of the mistake items.
 
2. The number of candy wrappers upcycled increases from Halloween through Valentines, but so do toothbrushes and toothpaste.
 
1. People love to upcycle!
 
 
Do You Upcycle?
 
*Top photo used under Creative Commons from Landhere/Flickr

6

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.

        5

        Have a Green Halloween



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


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


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

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        Upcycle It! Turning Trash into Cash

        Sustainable Westford’s Upcycle It! program is taking trash to new heights and Westford schools are cashing in.

        Upcycle It! collects non-recyclables such as chip bags, granola bar wrappers, cookie wrappers and more to keep them out of the waste stream. These items are sent to a company called TerraCycle. These items are then upcycled into new products.

        TerraCycle collects 36 different ‘brigade’ items (types of waste) including chip bags, energy bar wrappers, candy wrappers, coffee bags, dried out pens and yogurt containers and upcycles them into eco-friendly products. The awesome thing is that all of the items are non-recyclable or hard to recycle. Now you are thinking, “Wow, that’s cool. But how do they get this stuff. Are they going through landfills?” Lucky for them, no. Any group or individual can sign up to collect and send items to TerraCycle. The shipping is free and 2 cents per item is donated to the school or charity of your choice. TerraCycle then takes the trash and makes backpacks, tote bags, and flower pots just to name a few of their 243 products. Sustainable Westford donates this money back to the Westford Public Schools.

        I had wanted to start a TerraCycle program for a few years. Finally last winter, I signed up, joined a few brigades and started asking friends and others in town to collect these items with me. In April, I approached Gloria Gilbert, Westford Farmers Market founder, with the idea of putting a collection bucket at the market to make it more convenient. Little did I know, the group had recently expanded their mission to bring more “green” programs to the community, calling themselves Sustainable Westford. That conversation was the beginning of Upcycle It! Through the spring and summer, Upcycle It! spread through the town. Each week at the Farmers Market the Upcycle It! tent collected bags and bags of items. This past fall, collections began at most of the Westford schools – the 60+ buckets decorated by Westford Farmers Market volunteers are shown above. Students save items in the cafeterias and classrooms, and many others drop off items at the library, Roudenbush and Starbucks.

        Since the program began in May, $1010.42 has been raised, over 50,000 pieces of trash totalling almost 590 lbs have been saved from the waste stream.

        What to Collect

        To participate, you simply need to save the items we collect and drop them off at one of the many convenient locations throughout Westford. Although TerraCycle collects 36 items, Upcycle It! only accepts the following:

        1. Drink Pouches: ANY brand of drink pouch (no juice boxes) and its straw (no juice) – place in separate bag
        2. Elmer’s Glue: Glue bottle, glue stick or glue pen
        3. Energy Bars Wrappers: ANY brand of energy, granola, cereal or protein bar wrappers
        4. Chip Bags: ANY chip/snack bag (any size)
        5. Cookie Wrappers: ANY brand of cookie wrappers (no plastic trays)
        6. Candy Wrappers: ANY brand of candy wrappers or bag (any size)
        7. Colgate Oral Care: ANY brand toothbrush, plastic toothpaste tubes, and packaging (no cardboard)
        8. Coffee Bags: ANY brand of coffee bag As of July 2011, coffee bags are no longer accepted
        9. Writing Instruments: ANY kind of pen, mechanical pencil or marker (no wooden pencils)

        We can only accept wrappers and packaging that once held one of these items. So it matters more what was in the bag or wrapper than the type of material it is made out of. Think this way – if you can buy it in the “Chip” aisle of the grocery store, it’s considered a chip bag. So popcorn, pretzels, tortilla chips, etc… are all chips. Same logic can be applied to Candy, Cookies, and Energy Bars. The other brigades are little more self explanatory.

        Quiz for you: Using the information above, would a ramen noodle package or a package that contained croutons be accepted?

        Answer – No. Neither of these items are considered a chip, candy, cookie, or any of the brigade categories. Other common misconceptions are Crystal Light packages, frozen food bags and nuts. TerraCycle has corporate sponsors who pay 2 cents per item and for shipping. So, for example, Mars sponsors the Candy Wrappers. Mars is willing to pay for ANY brand of candy wrapper since that is their industry, but they won’t pay for a frozen food bag or cheese wrapper.

        We appreciate your support in making this program so strong. Our volunteers must sort through all of the items by hand separating them into the categories we collect. Familiarizing yourself with the do’s and don’t really helps. And yes, that’s me in the picture sorting in my garage!

        Drop Off Locations
        Sustainable Westford has drop off locations at the following:

        Westford Farmers Market
        Westford Starbucks
        J.V. Fletcher Library
        Roudenbush Community Center – Main St.
        Nabnasset, Abbot, and Miller Elementary – for parents only

        If you are participating in Upcycle It! currently, THANK YOU! It is so satifying seeing something so near to my heart succeed. The overwhelming support from Westford residents, students, parents, Girl Scout troops, teachers, and businesses has been amazing. Let’s keep it going!

        1

        Take the Trash Out… of the holidays that is

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

        Here are some ways to reduce that waste.

        Holiday Cards

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

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

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

        Green Gift Ideas

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

        Give the gift of an experience

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

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

        The gift of imagination

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

        Give the gift of Green

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

        Homemade gifts

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

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

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

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

        Gift Wrapping

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

        Bows

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

        Gift Tags

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

        Gift boxes

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

        Reusable bag as a gift bag

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

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

        What will you do this holiday season?

        1

        Yummy Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers

        What to do with those leftovers?! I have to admit that I am not the best with leftovers. They sit in my refrigerator until I finally don’t feel guilty throwing them out. I really don’t like just heating up the same meal.

        But I also tend to cook more than we need. I am Armenian. Food is central! Think Italian families. The table is full of food. To not have at least double what you think you will need is a sin! So I finally learned to reuse my leftovers as ingredients for a new recipe.

        I love making pizzas with leftovers. I’ve made BBQ chicken pizza, Greek pizza with left over turkey burgers and feta, and white pizzas. You put anything on a pizza and it tastes fresh again! One tip – I hardly ever use spaghetti sauce on these pizzas and always use just plain mozzarella cheese. I either brush the crust with olive oil or use some other sauce like pesto, BBQ sauce or, on the Greek pizza, I like olive tapenade. You could make a pizza with your Thanksgiving leftovers. It might be interesting.

        Here are a few others.

        1) Use the turkey in your favorite enchilada or burrito recipe.

        2) Turkey pot pie – you can use the turkey and some veggies.

        3) Potato Pancakes with the mashed potatoes.

        4) Soups – think beyond turkey soup. With leftover sweet potatoes or squash, you can make a really delicious and simple soup. My mother-in-law makes the most delicious roasted squash soup. You roast the squash in the oven, saute onions, add the mashed up squash, chicken stock, salt and pepper, let it simmer, then puree the soup. You can also add a little ginger if you like. She adds cream or half and half. I use evaporated milk. Even without the roasted flavor, this soup is really great. If you want to freeze it, don’t add the milk.

        5) Sandwiches – again think beyond the turkey sandwich. Try a Croque Monsieur. Typically they are made with ham, but try turkey and a different spread.

        6) Sweet Potato Bread – with lots of sweet potatoes or squash try this quick bread. My kids LOVE it.

        7) Cranberry Pork Roast – if you have lots of cranberry sauce left, try this recipe. It is amazing!

        Now, the first R in the 3 R’s is REDUCE. But like I said above, this isn’t really an option for my family especially on Thanksgiving. If you plan for your leftovers, then there is no waste. Plus, you might even be saving energy. To cook a larger turkey or more sweet potatoes doesn’t take more energy. Heat up your oven once and eat twice! Have any recipes to share?

        Bon Appetite!

        0

        TerraCycle’s Drink Pouch Brigade hits $1 Million

        A million dollars can go a long way in cash-strapped schools and nonprofits. And, when all that’s required is to save items from landfills, it almost sounds too good to be true. True it is. Schools and nonprofits across the country have now earned $1 million through the TerraCycle Drink Pouch Brigade™ program.

        At 2 cents a piece that equates to 50 million drink pouches collected over the past 2years. Enough waste to cover the Grand Canyon 9 times. Enough waste to cover 2,000 football fields. Enough waste to weigh as much as 20 full school buses! That’s a lot of juice!

        The Capri Sun beverage brand was one of the earliest supporters of TerraCycle, a company that collects would-be trash and turns it into useful items. In participating groups, each used drink pouch collected and sent to TerraCycle earns two cents.

        Westford has fully embraced Sustainable Westford’s TerraCycle program – Upcycle It! . Many parents, students and teachers see this as a great way to teach the importance of taking care of our environment while raising money for schools and charities. What kid doens’t like collecting things and seeing how big the nubmers can get. Along the way, they adopt recycling and eco-friendly ideas. It just becomes a part of how they live – not an extra effort. To date, Upcycle It! has contributed 2,325 drink pouches, with another box waiting to be counted. That may not seem like a lot, but consider that Upcycle It! started just this past May.

        TerraCycle “upcycles” collected drink pouches into affordable, eco-friendly products, ranging from backpacks to building materials.

        “Our goal is for people to look at waste in a whole new way, and through its sponsorship of the Pouch Brigade program, Capri Sun has helped us to expand the numbers of those who are doing so,” said Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle. “The $1 million that Capri Sun has helped us give out is a powerful sign of the enthusiasm that communities across the country have for the goals of this program.”

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