Tag Archives | reuse

All The Cool Kids Pack Waste-Free Lunches: Wild Mint Shop {Review and Giveaway}

 

To Go Ware Bamboo Utensils {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

This post is sponsored by Green Sisterhood  but, as always, the opinions are my own.

 

I have been packing waste-free lunches since my children started school.  When they were young, they took whatever reusable items I used without question.  At around age 10, however, that started to change.  I’m starting to run into the “cool factor”.  Some of these items somehow aren’t cool anymore.  So far, water bottles and the lunch bag itself are fine.  Reusable snack bags and eating utensils, not so much.  When my 12 year old grabbed the bamboo reusable utensils I received for review from Wild Mint Shop and asked if she could use it, I knew I had a winner.  We passed the “cool” test!

Now, I’m not usually one for being trendy or giving in to such things.  Why can’t she just grab a metal spoon or fork from the drawer?  Sure, she could, but will she?  Probably not.  She’s 12.  Is this really a battle I want to fight?  Heck no.  In the end, as long as she’s not using a plastic disposable utensil and understands why she shouldn’t, I’m happy.  So if it means getting utensils made from sustainable bamboo in an awesome little case, why not!

 

Why Pack Waste-Free Lunches

There are so many reasons to pack a waste free lunch.  Wild Mint’s Lunch Savers tips and tricks guide sums it up fantastically – “Saving Your Money, Your Health and the Environment”.  If I were to write my own waste-free lunch guide, this would be it.  If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I am an engineer and I need facts and solutions.  This guide totally fits the bill!

Here are just a few facts from the guide:

  • By Wild Mint’s calculations and extensive chart, you could save over $400 per year per child by choosing reusable vs. disposable lunch packaging.
  • Many disposable packaging contains harmful chemicals which can leach into your food.  These chemicals can cause harm over time.
  • Packaged items often contain other undesirable ingredients like preservatives, and extra fat, sodium and sugar.
  • A school age child’s disposable lunch accounts for an estimated 67 pounds of trash per school year.
  • Plastic and Styrofoam do not break down over time and can stay in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years.

 

The guide goes on to point out what to look for in reusables and provides options on the site.  “At Wild Mint, we are passionate about helping families live healthier, safer, and more environmentally friendly lives.  On our website, www.WildMintShop.com, we offer a one-stop shopping destination where people can find only the best and safest products, information on toxic chemicals, healthy living tips, recipes, and more.”

 

How To Start

Just do it!  Pick one item or go all out.  Wild Mint’s How to Pack a Healthy, Non Toxic and “Green” Lunch for Children guide is a great place to start.  Most children in my area use reusable water bottles and reusable lunch bags so that’s always an easy place to start.  For me, I think the reusable bottle is a “no-brainer”.  If you are still buying prepackaged drinks, STOP!  Get a bottle and fill it.  You will save the cost of the bottle in no time.  We use ours daily for school, sports, and outings of all kinds. 

If your children are older, get their input. As I mentioned, I have already seen a small revolt against our reusable snack bags.  My kids tell me that the ones we have are too “little kiddish” looking.  So this year I will be letting them pick out their own designs.  My girls have each found patterns they love on Wild Mint Shop.

 

Add More Reusables

ToGoWare

If you have the basics covered, think about adding a few other items to complete your waste-free lunch.  Adding reusable napkins, utensils and even straws can save your children time as well.  If lunch at school is anything like it is here, children have about 20 minutes.  Lunch rooms are crowded and it can take a few minutes to navigate your way to the plastic utensils and napkins.

 

Lunch

 

 

We have been using the to go ware bamboo flatware everywhere we go and even at home.  They have easily become a useful addition to our reusables.  The knife easily cut through the tomato and mozzarella salad.  I really appreciate the fact that the utensils are made of a sustainable material like bamboo and the case is made from recycled PET plastic.

 

Which reusables are your favorite?

 

 

Savings

The Greening Of Westford readers will receive 10% off any orders from Wild Mint Shop until September 4, 2014 using the code “WildMint”.

 

Giveaway

Wild Mint Shop is also giving you a chance to win an e-gift certificate worth $120.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

9

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

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.  

Reduce

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.

 

Reuse 

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

 

Recycle

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

 

0

6 Things That Make Going Green Easier

6 Things That Make Going Green Easier {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

There are some things that make going green so much easier.  These aren’t super expensive items.  Just little things that make your life a little easier being green.  

I’m not talking reusable bags, water bottles, lunch boxes and the like.  I’m assuming you already have these items.  The things I’m talking about, make it EASIER to use these items or avoid others.

Disclaimer:  The links below are affiliate links which means if you happen to order these items though the links, I will received a little cash.

 

1) Bottle Brush   

Indispensable for cleaning waster bottles.  For years I used my baby bottle brush. I have since graduated to this one and I love it.   This one was about $5. 
 

   

2)  Small Cleaning Brush  

I use this to clean out my stainless steel reusable straws, but they also come in handy when cleaning out water bottle or sippy cup spouts.  This one is $6. 
  

Mine came with my stainless steel straws, but you can order them separately.  The straws are really cool though!  My kids love them.

If you need both a bottle brush and small brush, take a look at this combo for $10.


 

 

3)   Label maker 

A must for labeling reusable water bottles, lunch boxes, glass jars used for food storage, and general organization.  When you have reusable items, you want a way to label them so you don’t lose them.

My mother-in-law gave me mine as a Christmas gift years ago.  BEST GIFT EVER!  I never realized how pricey it was.  She said she got an amazing Black Friday deal.  I hope so, because it’s nice and all, but almost $90?!  I’d probably try this one if I were getting one now.  This one is listed at $15.99.

 

4)   Dry erase markers  

They work really well when you are in a hurry and need to label the top of a glass jar before putting it away.  Yes, the marker can wipe off if touched, but I’ve had pretty good luck.  You can find these any where pretty cheap.  I always grab a few during the back to school sales.

5)   Carrying bag for reusable bags  

Something to coral all the reusable bags so they aren’t floating all over the place really helps.  It’s so easy to grab this and go!  Anything will work.  I use this system I won in a contest, but any small tote bag would work.  Use what you have.

EsseBag

6)    Glass jars 

I save ALL glass jars that enter the house – spaghetti sauce, pickle, jelly, salsa jars are a particular favorite.  They are great for storing items in the pantry, refrigerator and even in the freezer.  Why are these green?  Because we can replace plastic containers and plastic wrap with these glass jars. These are basically FREE.

 

What are your must haves?

 This post has been shared at List It Tuesday, Natural Living Monday,Happy Healthy Natural Green Party, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways

 

This post was featured at    

PicMonkey-Collage-250-Healthy-Hop1

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

3 Uses for Cereal Bags

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

 

3 Uses for Cereal Bags

 

 

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

 

Use Cereal bag in place of waxed paper

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

 

Use cereal bags to keep hamburgers from sticking to eachother

Cereal bags can help keep snacks form sticking 

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

 

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

Ever reuse cereal bags?

 

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

7

The Gifts Live On

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

 

{The Greening Of Westford} Donating Unused items

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

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

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

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

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

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

{The Greening of Westford} donating furnitureFURNITURE  

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

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

 

FABRIC   

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

EVERYTHING ELSE

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

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

WhatWasLeft

What was left

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

 

 

2

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.

REDUCE

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.

REUSE

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.

RECYCLE

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

5

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!

WANTED: GENTLY USED ITEMS
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!
 
 
 

2

Beyond Reusable Grocery Bags


Beyond Reusable Grocery Bags {The Greening of Westford}


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

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

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

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

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

0

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

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

4

Ditch The Plastic Bags


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

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

BIG PICTURE REASONS 

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME

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

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

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


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


               

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

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


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

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

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

Do You Use Reusable Bags?

This post is shared at Small Footprints Friday

12

Give the Gift of Warmth

Where to donate winter coats

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

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

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

There are many organizations that collect winter coats. 

One Warm Coat

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

Coats For Kids

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

Local Schools, Churches, Scout Troops

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

Local Charities

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

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

Have Any Winter Gear to Donate?

2

6 Oddball Things I Always Save

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

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

6 oddball things to save money
 

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

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

 

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

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

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


Do you have uses for oddball stuff?

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

19

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

No Sew Reusable Swiffer Pads

Long ago I bought a Swiffer Wet Jet.  I absolutely loved it!  It was great for quickly cleaning up small spills.  With kids and a dog, that makes life very easy. 
 
As my green journey continued though, I became less and less in love with the disposable cleaning pads that go along with the Swiffer.  I changed them less frequently and used the Swiffer less and less.
 
There has to be a way to make a reusable pad.  I do not sew!  But my mom does.  So I started prototyping so I could tell her what to sew.
 
I have seen really cute ones that you slip onto the Swiffer head.  I thought those might come loose as I was scrubbing, so I thought Velcro might help keep it in place.  Well, this did the trick, without any sewing!
 

What you will need:

 
Self-Stick Hook and Loop (Velcro with a sticky backing)
 
Microfiber cloth 

What to do:

 
 
 
Step 1:  Take the “hook” part (the stiffer side) of the hook and loop and stick it on the Swiffer head.  
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Step 2: I took a microfiber cloth and wrapped it around the head.  
 
 
 
Step 3:  The final product looks like this.
 
 
 
I started testing it out and the cloth stuck!  It doesn’t look as pretty as the ones you can buy on Etsy, but it works!  I just remove the cloth and wash it. 
I did leave one of my last disposable pads on the Swiffer for extra cushioning.  I use this mostly on hardwood floors with very little water, so the disposable pad does not get very wet.  I think I’ve had the same one for quite a while.  I’m sure there are other things I could use if needed.
 
I never bought the replacement cleaning solution.  I just use a spray bottle with a mixture of vinegar and water.  I squirt the floor then mop.  If you like the cleaning solution dispenser on the Swiffer, there are plenty of DIY solutions for that out there too.
 

What other disposables have you ditched?



This post is being shared at Frugal Days Sustainable WaysFrugal FridaysTeach Me Tuesdays and Simple Lives Thursday.

16

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

        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!

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        Libraries are Great and Green!


        I have always loved libraries! I am such a geek – when I got my driver’s license, the first place I went to by myself…. Yes, the library! I can still hear the Pet Shop Boys playing on the radio. Although the book collections are impressive, the library has so much more to offer. Plus, it’s free and green!

        I am not the huge casual reader, but I love learning about new things. What better way than to read a book! At the library, you get to borrow several books on the same subject – no need to decide which one to buy only to find it wasn’t quite what you thought, no need to store all those books you may never need again. When I want to learn about something new, I log in to the J.V. Fletcher library and start searching. If something catches my eye, I “request” it. You can request books from any Merrimack Valley library. When available, it will be sent to your local library and you will get an email to come pick it up. How cool! I have used this for several topics – cookbooks, green ideas, non-toxic cleaners, the list goes on. You can do this with music CDs too. Thinking about downloading a new CD, see if the library has it for you try out before you buy.

        How about movies? The library’s got them too – kids, family, major movie titles, TV series. You can borrow them for 1 week for a small $1 fee. The entire list is online.

        If you like to own books, or have a few favorites that you know you want around, check out the library book sales. The Friends of the J.V. Fletcher Library have 4 amazing book sales each year. This is where I get ALL of my kids’ books and a few titles for me too. Board books for babies, early reader books, series books, CDs, videos, it’s all there. We were able to get almost the complete collections of the Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones. When we are done, I will donate them back to the library to be sold and enjoyed by the next family. If you have books that someone else may enjoy, consider donating them to the library book sales. There is a bin outside the library door in the back. 100% of the proceeds from each sale directly benefits the library. The next sale is coming up Feb 11 – 13.

        If you have children, the library is a gold mine of activity and fun. Story times and book clubs, vacation drop in crafts, magic shows, and concerts for the kids. My children attended the book clubs this fall and loved them. Don’t forget about the museum passes. It’s a good idea to reserve these in advance. Boston Children’s museum, The Discovery Museums in Acton, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, and the New England Aquarium are just a few of the choices.

        The library now has a subscription to Consumer Reports On-line. My husband and I have had this subscription for years. It’s nice to be able to access all of Consumer Reports information and ratings for the past few years when making a big or not so big purchase. They also have a subscription to severeal other online databases such as Boston Consumers’ Checkbook (a Nonprofit providing unbiased customer ratings and comments for local services), technology titles, and eBooks among many others.

        Do you take advantage of all the library offers?

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