Tag Archives | TerraCycle

Out Of The Box School Fundraisers

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

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

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


Out of the Box School Fundraisers {thegreeningofwestford.com}


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

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


ShoeBox Recycling

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

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


Natick BoxTextile recycling

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

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


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

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

Know of any other out of the box fundraisers?


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


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


Upcycle It! in the Top 100

Anastasia and Ashley (WA Environmental Club Students) after sorting Upcycle It! 

I have been getting TONS of email lately from TerraCycle.  All good!  I wanted to share the success with all of you.

About 2 weeks ago, I started getting emails with the title:

“Congratulations from TerraCycle–you’re a top 100 Brigade member!”

I get so many emails, that at first I put it aside and figured I look more closely later.  Then 2 more came, from different people at TerraCycle.  Honestly, at first I thought “Do you people talk to each other? I already got this email.”  Sorry TerraCycle.  When I looked closer, it turned out that they were for different brigades (collection items)!  We are in the Top 100 for
Chip Bags –  our total is 53,799,  more than around 9,500 other collection sites
Candy Wrappers – our total is 15,411, more than around 15,000 others
Oral Care – our total is 4,739
Writing instruments – 11,311, more than around 1,250 other locations
These totals are as of today.  We are always sending more shipments and the totals climb every couple of weeks.
In the midst of all this, we hit $5000 in late February.  Somewhere in here TerraCycle asked to feature our program in their blog.  And we were!
As of today, our totals are:
250,736 pieces
2,559 lbs of trash kept out of the waste stream
$5088.36 raised

Our next grant was also announced.  If you are a student, teacher or otherwise associated with one of the Westford Schools and would like to do an environmental project, apply!  There is up to $1500 available in this cycle.  Get an application here.
Keep this grant in mind.  It will be available twice a year around November and March.  Check here and the Westford Farmers Market for details.


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!


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.”



Aveeno is on a mission to promote healthy habits with its Road to Healthy Skin tour. The tour will be in different cities throughout July, August and September to educate the public about the dangers of sun exposure and promote the use of sun protection. The Tour bus (a 38-foot RV with two exam rooms) will provide free, full-body skin exams by local dermatologists, free sunscreen samples, and you can drop off your empty AVEENO lotion tubes to be sent to TerraCycle! $0.02 for each tube collected on the tour will be donated to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about this until the tour passed Boston and Cambridge. But as a melanoma survivor, I still wanted to post this.

One day I noticed a mole on my inner ankle. Never remember seeing it before. I ignored it for a while. I’m a mom, who has time to call a doctor for yourself, plus I didn’t have a current dermatologist. You know. All the lame excuses we moms use. A while passes and I finally found a dermatologist and figured I should get it checked just in case. When I called in April 2007, the next available appointment was in August. As the receptionist checked other locations and for cancellations I debated “Should I tell her that this is an emergency? No, it’s probably nothing. I’ll wait.” Luckily, there just happened to be a cancellation for that Friday so I took the appointment.

At the doctor’s office, I told him that I noticed this mole a while ago and honestly had no idea if I had one there previously. Either way, it definitely was not this big. I would have known about it. So he took a biopsy. After about 2 weeks I hadn’t heard anything and was about to call. Meanwhile, still thinking “If I haven’t heard that probably means it’s nothing.” It was a Friday afternoon, right before Mother’s Day and the Dermatologist called. It was melanoma. The reason it took so long to get back to me – they sent the sample for a second opinion to an expert in Boston.

Lucky for me, we caught it early. However, I didn’t know that right away. For a month I lived with the fact that it might have spread to my lymph nodes. Melanoma runs the gamut in severity – it can be “nothing” all the way to , “let’s just make you comfortable” I did have surgery on my ankle to remove a large part of tissue in that area. I was on crutches for 6 weeks during the summer, with a 5yo and twin 3 yo!

I never thought this was a possibility for me. I am Armenian so my skin is not super pale. I have always tanned. Yes I did burn a few times as a kid. I guess that was enough for me. Now I wear sunscreen ALL the time, along with hats and clothing to cover more of my skin. And I avoid the sun completely when I can. So do my children.

The Environmental Working Group has a study on the safest sunscreens. To see the results, click here. This is a tricky one for me. I feel like in this case, my and my children’s risk of developing melanoma is greater than what might be caused by a risky toxin in sunscreen. I feel like my best defense is to avoid the sun and use clothing, umbrellas, and hats as protection instead of relying solely on any sunscreen. The sunscreen I do use is what several dermatologists have told me to use. I am hoping that I am not exposing myself and my family to something else. But you make decisions and trade offs all the time on what is best for you.

But back to Aveeno! I think what they are doing is fantastic. I love that they have teamed up with TerraCycle to upcycle their product tubes. They will also accept any brand of cosmetic or beauty tube. Should Upcycle It! add this brigade?


DIY Toothpaste Tube Anything holder

Looking for fun craft with do with the kids…. Look no further! You are already saving toothpaste tubes for the Upcycle It! program, well here is a cute project to make with them. Do your own Upcycling! These could hold pencils, markers, toothbrushes, you name it….. and I’m sure your kids will come up with even more ideas.

5 empty toothpaste tubes
clear tape
hole punch
ribbon or plastic lanyard
binder clips

1. Collect five Colgate® toothpaste tubes. Clean them by cutting off the bottom and slipping your scissors into the side seam. Flatten them out and clean with soap and water.

2. Cut four tubes to 3 ½” x 4 ½” and one tube into a 3 ½” x 3 ½” square. Fold down the top ½” of the four rectangular tubes and tape.

3. Take one of the four rectangles and punch holes every ½” along the two tall sides and along the short bottom side that is not folded. Use this punched piece as a template and punch holes in the exact same spots on the other three rectangular pieces.

4. To punch the small square piece, line up the short punched side of the rectangle piece with any side of the short piece. Repeat punching holes for the other three sides of the square using the short side of the rectangular piece as a template.

5. Then punch two holes near the center of the square. This will be the bottom of the container and the holes will be for drainage.

6. Match up two large pieces and lace up one side tying it off at the top and bottom. Open it up. On one of the non-laced ends, attach to the next rectangular piece in the same way with the printed sides facing out. Repeat for each additional rectangular piece. When you’ve laced all four pieces, connect the two end pieces together and lace creating a cube with your pieces.

7. Match up the square piece with the bottom of the container. Use binder clips to hold it in place. Lace around the bottom of the container and tie it off. You’re ready to put your upcycled toothbrush holder into action.

If you still have more toothpaste tubes, drop them off at your nearest Upcycle It! location.


I want more trash!

OK I admit it. I LOVE trash! I love seeing that Upcycle It! barrel filled to the brim at the Farmers Market. It certainly shows Westford’s support and commitment to sustainability.Many of us are parents. Seems like the “green bug” bites a little harder when you look at those tiny faces. TerraCycle has a few new Brigades ideal for parents. Which would you like to see us join?

1) The AVEENO Beauty Brigade – ANY brand and ANY type of personal care beauty tubes. Examples include lotion, sun tan lotion, face wash tubes, body wash tubes. A tube is a container that is crimped at one end and has an opening at the other.

2) The SCOTT Brigade – the outer plastic from ANY brand of paper towel, napkin, toilet paper or similar paper products – no paper wrappings

3) The HUGGIES Brigade – the outer plastic on ANY brand of diaper/personal product packaging; excluding boxes and bins (from baby wipes). Examples would be the overall outer plastic package wrapping on diapers, depends, pull ups, pads, etc. Does not include the clear plastic wrapping inside a box of diapers.

4) The Home Storage Brigade – This brigade includes ANY size storage bags (freezer, storage, regular, sandwich) and containers. We would need to remove any crumbs and pieces of food, but stuck on ingredients (i.e. peanut butter) are acceptable.

5) The Neosporin Tube Brigade – Any size Neosporin brand antibiotic and ointment tubes

6) The Sprout Brigade – Sprout baby food pouches; excluding glass baby jars.

As you know, through these brigades we are raising 2 cents for each item for the Westford Public Schools. As of today, we have raised $188.50, all in 3 months! And we are not alone. To date, over 1.8 million units of waste have been diverted from the waste stream. Plus Terracycle and it’s sponsors paid over $800,000 to over 50,000 schools or non-profits. If you want to see what else Terracycle collects click here.

To get you started, here are links to coupons for some of these new brigades:

Huggies Little Swimmers:
Scott Paper Towels
Aveeno Baby Products
Colgate Toothpaste: 

Which ones should we add? Leave a comment with your vote!


Pieces of Trash Saved: 5832, Dollars Raised: $116.64, Life Lesson Made Easy: Priceless

We’ve all heard the phrase “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, right? Well, how about “Upcycle”? A company in Trenton, NJ called Terracycle is taking trash to new heights – upcycling!

Terracycle collects 27 different ‘brigade’ items 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 they collect are non-recyclable – there are no curbside recycling programs for them – or hard to recycle – only certain municipalities provide the capability to recycle things like yogurt containers which are typically made from #5 plastic. Now you are thinking, “Wow, that’s cool. But how do they get the stuff. Are they going through landfills?” Luckily 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 166 products.

Schools and non-profits across the US, Canada and the UK are signed up. As of this writing, Terracycle has over 10 million people collecting trash and has given over $1 million to their non-profits.
And the numbers keep growing. Since I joined TerraCycle in March of this year, I have seen their facebook fan page grow from a little over 2000 fans in March to close to 9000. The numbers increase daily! They have opened 2 new brigades in that timeframe as well – Starbucks Coffee Bag and the Home Storage Brigade (in conjunction with Ziploc).

I started my collection brigade on March 20, 2010. I started just as one person. I sent out an email to friends and family asking if they wanted to help me. I started getting such positive feedback so I kept going. I spoke to my daughters’ girl scout troops. The girls loved the idea and soon, several were sending bags of trash into school for my children to bring home to me. Moms would hand me bags before our meetings. I wanted to expand my collections and make it easier for people to get the items to me, rather than tracking me down around town. We are fortunate to have a farmers market during the summer and fall. I emailed the founder asking if I could have a collection bin there. Well, she loved the idea! Turns out that this group had recently expanded their mission calling themselves Sustainable Westford. Their mission is to bring “green” programs to the community. Now, I am running our Upcycle It! program through them and have gotten so much support and press. People are talking about it all over town. It’s so exciting!

If your school or charity is looking for a fundraising idea or you just want to do more green, join Terracycle. It’s easy. I love the feeling I get out of NOT putting so many things into the trash. I also love that my children are learning these lessons young. They don’t see trash anymore. Separating where things go when we are done with them is just part of what they do. They don’t think about it. That’s where the real benefit is!


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