Tag Archives | westford ma

You Say Trash, I Say Opportunity

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

Incinerator floor filled with trash…and recyclables

 

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

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

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

Here’s the legal-ease:

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

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

 

What happens if these items are found in the trash?

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

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

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

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

 

Why do municipalities want to increase recycling?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why isn’t there more recycling? 

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

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

 

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

 

What are the recycling rules where you are?

 

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

4

The Greening of Westford Has a New Address

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Did you see the change?!?!  No more .blogspot in my URL.  I’m all official and stuff now!

I have really loved blogging over the past few years and finally decided to take the plunge and get even more serious about it.  After speaking with several awesome high powered  bloggers, I decided to take the plunge and buy my own domain name.  I’ve also made some changes beneath the hood.  You may not notice them, but they will give me more power!

So, you shouldn’t have to change much, but if you use an RSS reader (especially Google Reader which went kaput July 1) just double check that you are still getting my most current feed.  You should since I carefully made sure to use the same one. But never hurts to double check.

If you have any old links (with .blogspot) anywhere they should still work.  If they don’t, please let me know or remove the .blogspot and try again.

I would LOVE to know what you want to see.  Any burning questions?  Things you want to learn more about?  Please leave a comment.

 

4

My Visit to the Westford Solar Park

The Greening of Westford: Westford Solar Park
In early May I had the incredible opportunity to visit the Westford Solar Park in my hometown of Westford, Massachusetts.  I’m such a geek! But I sure wasn’t alone.  About 30 of us were giddy with excitement about being able to see this array.
The Westford Solar Park is New England’s largest privately owned solar energy facility.  Owner of the Solar Park, Cathartes Private Investments, partnered with Nexamp to build and operate the park.  The 4.5 Mega Watt array sits on approximately 20 acres, consists of almost 15,000 individual solar modules and is said to produce enough electricity to run approximately 600 homes.
It is a fixed array, meaning the panels do not move to track the sun’s movement.  When asked why, Nextamp’s Senior Vice President, Will Thompson said  “financially it doesn’t make sense”, siting high failure rates on the tracking mechanisms and little gain in power production.
This land was the site of the Fletcher Quarry for decades.  There was nothing else that could have been done with the land.  Talk about recycling!  This commercial venture, which generates so much solar power, was a perfect use. Another interesting fact is that this array does not require any personnel on a regular basis.  The solar park is monitored by Nexamp remotely.  If a problem arises, they can send someone to take care of it.
The energy is actually used by the businesses and houses adjacent to the park.  Electricity is electricity. Once the power is converted and fed into the existing power grid, it goes to the closest location it is needed.  Think of the businesses in that area.  Kind of cool to think your Chinese take-out or pizza was made using solar power.  OK, my geek is showing again.
What would be even better is if, during a power outage, the solar array could be left on.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the way the existing power grid works.  Everything must be shut down.  But hopefully this will be able to change in the future.
According to Westford Town Manager Jodi Ross’ April Newsletter, “I am pleased to report that our town just entered three agreements with Nexamp to purchase solar energy credits, which will reduce our electricity expenses by about $400,000 per year.”  On the tour we were told that these energy credits were being supplied from other projects, not the Westford Park itself.
Massachusetts has big plans for solar.  Governor Patrick set a goal of reaching 250 MW of solar production in Massachusetts by 2017.  Well, we hit that 250 MW this past May.  The Governor has a new goal of 1,600 MW by 2020.  Since 2007 the solar energy installations in MA have sky rocketed from 3 MW to 250MW !
I find it extremely encouraging that an investment group, Cathartes Private Investments, is looking to build renewable energy facilities.  Obviously, they see the financial potential.  And I love that!  Yes it’s good for the environment, but the majority of people don’t see that as a good enough reason,  unfortunately.  Good thing there are other benefits!
If you are interested in installing solar on your house, take a look at Sustainable Westford’s Solar Challenge. The initial consultation is absolutely free and you will receive a $50 gift certificate to use at the Westford Farmer’s Market this season.
Take a look around.  Are you seeing more solar panels and wind turbines?

2

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

Building with Habitat in Nepal: Support Cheryl


Local business owner, Cheryl Turgeon, is donating her time to help build a house in Nepal!  She needs to raise $1500 by the end of this month. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.  

Cheryl is the owner of The Whole Body Spa in Westford.  I have been going to Cheryl for facials for over a year.  My skin has NEVER been this good.  She is amazing at what she does.  She also sells her own line of facial cleansers and makeup – which are also fabulous.  She recently added “Simply Natural Deodorant”, 4 ingredients and it works!  (I was one of the testers 😉

Here is the information on donating to her build.

I am helping build a house in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world.

This house will give a family a decent & affordable home.

On Sunday, October 7, 2012, I will join more than 500 participants in the International Habitat for Humanity Everest build.  Each of participant has a goal of $1500 to raise towards this build by August 30th, 2012.

I hope you will support my efforts by contributing to my Everest Build for Habitat for Humanity. With your gift, we will all be closer to the ultimate world : a world where everyone has safe, decent & affordable housing.

to help me in my efforts to support Habitat for Humanity Everest build in Nepal please make a tax deductible donation by going to the following website

Then fill in:  Donation type/event:  Global Village

                  Assign Donation to (project name): nepal Cheryl Turgeon

or you can write a check to habitat for humanity-lowell chapter and give it to me directly and I will forward it to the nepal build fund.

0

Veggies and More at Fat Moon Farm





A Greene Westford column re-posted.

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

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

0

The Meaning Behind My Blog’s Name

Throughout the summer, I am participating in a Summer Blog Challenge hosted by Going Green with the Grizls.  The idea is to blog once a day.  I have no hope of keeping up with that!  But from time to time I will be blogging along.

So, The Greening Of Westford…..  A few years ago, I started going green.  What I found was that, for the most part, it was easier than I thought and often saved me money.  What I found difficult was doing all the research to figure out what to do, how to do it and why!  I loved finding out about a “hard to recycle center” in Boulder, Colorado, but that didn’t help me here in Massachusetts.  So I started researching and amassing a list of how to recycle this or that, recipes for homemade cleaners, lists of companies to contact to get off their mailing lists, etc.

Time went by and I really wanted to let people in on the secrets I had found.  In March 2010, I took the plunge and started a Facebook page.  I am not an outgoing person, so this was a big step for me.  But what to name it…  I had been talking to friend of mine about all of the greening I had been doing and she mentioned a film called “The Greening of Southie.”  I really liked the name.  So, The Greening of Westford was born.

Originally I wanted people in and around Westford, Massachusetts know where they could recycle plastic bags or that aluminum foil can be thrown into our recycling bins.  It has since expanded to include the greater area and be just a more practical guide to getting the information we all need.  I still do the extra research to find out where to do or get something in this area and alert people to things going on in this area.  But I hope that others can get enough information to find out how to do things around them.

Now, I admit I could have done some sort of play on my last name (it’s Greene).  How funny right?  Guess I married the right guy, for more than just that reason. 😉  But that would have been too personal 🙂

Enjoy!

4

I’ve Been Nominated! Top 25 Eco-Friendly Moms




About a week ago, I received an email from Circle Of Moms.  I have been nominated as one of the Top 25 Eco-Friendly Moms for 2012.  I was floored!  I love spreading the eco-word around town and beyond.  I can’t even tell you how awesome it was that someone thought of me in this way and nominated me!!!!

If you have a minute, I would so appreciate your vote.  Just click on the orange thumbs up next to my blog name “The Greening Of Westford”.   You can vote DAILY through June 13.



While you are there, check out some of the other incredible Mom blogs.  Many of my favorites are there.  I still have to pinch myself every once in a while to make sure it’s real.  There are some very big blogs on this list and I am so amazingly honored to be among them.


To vote, click here!


THANKS!!!

2

Organic Options Close To Home

A Greene Westford column reposted.


Market Basket now carries their own brand of organic milk





Market Basket offers organic options at affordable prices. 

I know people were upset to find out that Whole Foods would not be going into the new Cornerstone Square.  I was definitely one of them.  I do shop at Market Basket occasionally, but I would love for another supermarket to come to town. 
I recently looked more closely at what Market Basket offers and their prices.  I found quite a bit of organic and other more natural items at great prices.  Here is what I found:
Pete and Gerry’s Large Organic Eggs – 12 for $3.69
Organic Valley Organic Butter – 1 lb for $4.69
Organic Valley Organic Cream Cheese – $2.49.  This is a great price!  I saw it once on sale for $1.99, plus I had a coupon.  Still waiting to see that deal again!
Stonyfield Organic Yogurt – 32oz for $3.69
Annie’s Mac and Cheese – prices vary depending on exact type.
Clif Kid Organic Z bar – box of 6 for $4.79
Kashi granola bars – box of 6 for $3.00
TLC Crunchy granola bars – box of 12 for $3.00
Market Basket Organic Milk –half gallon for $3.49, available in fat free and 2%.  Although, honestly, this isn’t the low Market Basket price I would expect.  I have gotten other store brand organic milk for $2.99.  But it’s a start.
Amish County Farms Organic Milk – half gallon for $3.19
Heinz Organic Ketchup – 15 oz for $2.99
Pomi Chopped Tomatoes in a Tetra Pak – $1.99 (Good alternative if you are concerned aobut bisphenol-A (BPA) in cans, especially tomatoes because of their acidity)
Muir Glen Organic canned tomatoes – 14 oz can for $1.99.  Muir Glen is transistioning to BPA-free cans.
Eden Organic Canned Beans – variety of beans available 15 oz can for $2.50.  These cans have been BPA-free since 1999.
McCormick Organic Spices – prices range from $3.99 to $4.99 depending on the spice
Pacific Organic Broth – 32oz Tetra Pak for $3.49
Vermont Village Organic unsweetened Applesauce – 24 oz for $3.99
Bragg Organic Raw unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar – 16oz for $3.49
Domino Organic Sugar – 24oz for $2.29         
Bob’s Red Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – 5 lbs for $4.99.  Market Basket is one of the few places I can find Whole Wheat PASTRY flour.  It’s lighter in texture than normal whole wheat flour.
Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate – $2.50 per 3.5 oz bar.  Recently on sale for $1.99.   I have routinely seen these at $3.99 everywhere else.
Spectrum Organic Refined Coconut Oil – 14oz for $7.99
Spectrum Organic Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil – 14oz for $9.99
Olivia’s Organic lettuces – 5oz for $2.99
Nature’s Circle Farm Organic Russet Potatoes – 5lbs bag for $3.99.  Potatoes are one of ‘The Dirty Dozen’ containing high levels of pesticides and should be something you consider buying organic.
Marcal 100% Recycled Paper Towels – 1 roll (137.8 sq ft.) for $0.99
Tom’s Of Maine toothpaste – $4.49
In addition, Market Basket carries Coleman Organic chicken in various cuts, Kashi cereal, Bear Naked Granola, organic coffee and several Bob’s Red Mill products. Their prganic produce section is small, but seems to be growing.

0

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.

2

What Happens To My Recyclables



This week’s Greene Westford column re-posted.


IPR truck arrives for sorting at the North Andover facility.



Take a virtual tour of Integrated Paper Recyclers and learn what happens to Westford recycling once it leaves the curb.

Ever wonder what happens to your recycling after the black and yellow trucks pick it up?  Call me a garbage geek, but I was so excited when I had the opportunity to find out first hand. 

Last November, I joined members of theWestford Recycling Commission, and representatives from Chelmsford and Dracut, at the Integrated Paper Recyclers (IPR) facility in North Andover.  In addition to handling Westford’s recycling, IPR services over 40 communities locally.
IPR employees hand pick non-paper items out of the stream
Christine DeRosa of IPR showed us how the single stream recyclables are sorted into paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass and plastics 1, 2 and 3 – 7.  All of the recyclables enter the first sorting station where paper and cardboard are removed.  The mix is then hand sorted to ensure that non-paper items are removed before it is compacted into cubes called bales. 
Several years ago, IPR noticed that they were losing small bits of paper.  They added a new mechanism that is able to capture the smaller pieces of paper, even shredded paper.  The paper is sent to a paper mill in Fitchburg, MA where is it used to make the paper for books.  Most notably the Harry Potter books.  The cardboard is used to make new cereal boxes or board games like Monopoly.
The “baler” compacts each type of recyclable into a cube and secures it for transport. 
Once the paper and cardboard are removed, the rest of the mix continues along the sorting process.  Plastics are removed and sorted by their chemical makeup denoted by their recycling symbol.  Infrared machines determine the type of plastic by weight.  Plastics with a recycling symbol #1 are used to make carpeting and clothing.  Others may be turned into milk jugs or lawn furniture.  Even plastics #3 – 7 are used, according to Ms. DeRosa, to make biodiesel.
Glass is the final item to be sorted.  The glass is crushed and used as road fill.
Crushed glass is used as road fill.

Ms. DeRosa estimates that less than 10% of the almost 6500 tons of recyclables processed monthly ends up in a landfill.  She explained that it is in their best interest financially to recover as much material as possible and find outlets for it.  IPR pays to dispose of its trash just like towns do.
What is the most unwanted item that ends up in a recycling plant – plastic bags! Followed by jump ropes and kiddie pools.   Plastic bags get caught in the sorting mechanism, causing problems and time to dislodge.  Plastic bags should never go in your recycling bin.  They can be taken to grocery stores for proper recycling

Bales of paper, plastic and aluminum ready for reuse.


1

5 Easy Steps to Recycling

 

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

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


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

Step One:  Educate Yourself

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

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

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

Step Two: Analyze Your Trash

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

Step Three: Make it Easy

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

Step Four:  Get your family involved  

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

Step Five:  Expand Your list of Recyclables

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

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Clean Up Westford, One Hour at a Time

Now that the snow has finally melted, have you noticed something?  I have… all the trash along our streets!

Carmen Chiungos, long-time Westford resident, also noticed.  And she wasn’t going to take it lying down.  She created the Westford Litter League Green Team.  Each Saturday morning a different area of town is cleaned up by volunteers.  Who are these volunteers you ask?  They are me, you, and anyone else in Westford who doesn’t like seeing the trash.



I went the first week at Forge Pond. We picked up about 6 bags of trash. 

Every Saturday from 8am to 9am, just bring a trash bag and some hand protection.  


Come join us:


April 30 – The American Legion on Dunstable Rd

May 7 – Power Rd and Vine Brook Rd

May 14 – Bridge St. and Graniteville Rd

May 28 – Rt. 27 and Vose Hill Rd


If you can’t make it, clean up around your own street. 

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Electronics Reuse and Recycling

Electronic waste is the term used for any unwanted electronic – computers, cell phones, printers, MP3 player, GPS, TV, VCR, alarm clocks, hair dryers etc. The list gets longer with each technological advance. In the U.S. alone, 14 to 20 million PCs are thrown out every year. The items in the picture, are the things I found in my house without much looking. There are still 2 computers, a couple of old hard drives and possibly a walkman lurking in the basement!
E-Waste contains toxic substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium so it needs to be disposed of properly. With proper disposal,

  1. these harmful materials can be dealt with so they do not contaminate our soil, water or air and
  2. useful materials such as aluminum, gold, and silver are reclaimed and reused.
Besides not tossing your old cell phone in the trash, you need to make sure you recycle it with a reputable recycler. There has been much in the news recently about electronics being dumped in 3rd world countries and possibly burned.

The Westford Recycling Commission has 3 electronics recycling events throughout the year in March, June, and September. If you missed the last one, and don’t want to wait until June 25, here are some other options.

Best Buy has several options including a Trade-in program for electronics in good condition.

  • What Most electronics including tube TVs and monitors (up to 32″), flat panel TVs and monitors (up to 60”), DVD players, audio, cell phones, MP3 players, computers, vacuums, headphones, CDs and more.
  • Fees – Free, except $10 for TVs and monitors, but you will receive a $10 Best Buy gift card in exchange   Update 1/21/12 – seems that Best Buy is no longer charging $10 for TVs

  • How – Bring up to 3 items per household per day to any U.S. Best Buy store during normal store hours
Note: I just dropped off some items at the Best Buy in Nashua, NH. Apparently, they will not take the hard drives in computers. You need to remove them first, before they will take the rest of the computer. Luckily, we had done that already because I wanted to ask about their data policy.  Not too happy about this, but I recycled my printer, some cables, the rest of the computers and dead ear buds all in one trip!


Update 1/21/12 – Best Buy, according to their website:
In the case of hard drives on laptops or desktop PCs, customers have the choice to remove their data themselves, or they can consult with a Geek Squad® Agent about services we offer to remove the hard drive before handing the PC over to be recycled. 
To remove the data yourself and wipe your hard drive clean of your personal data, see this videofrom Geek Squad®. 
You are responsible for removing any data from your device before providing the product to us. Under no circumstances shall Best Buy be liable for any loss of any data or media from products delivered to us for trade in or recycling.


If you have something fairly new that you think might be worth some money, Gazelle will buy it from you for resale at their store.


Verizon’s Hopeline program donates refurbished cell phones to victims of domestic abuse.

  • What – Cell Phones and their batteries and accessories

  • Fee – Free

  • How – Ship phone with a prepaid label

  • What – TVs (under 27″), computers, monitors, air conditioners, microwaves, and more

  • Fees – Vary from $10 – $20

  • How – Arrange for a pickup by calling Melissa at 774-776-7200
Depending on what you are disposing of and it’s condition, there is an option out there. You might even get some cash!




This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

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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!

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10 Easy Ways to Green 2011

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

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

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

3. Change to paperless billing

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

5. Change to eco-friendly cleaners.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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?

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Give Jeans a Chance

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

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

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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!

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Westford Recycling Do’s and Don’ts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types of materials Accepted at Curbside Recycling

Plastics

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

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

Paper

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

Cardboard

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

Dont’s
Wall paper
foil wrapping paper

Glass

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

Don’ts
Broken glass
dishes
Pyrex
crystal
mirrors
window glass
light bulbs

Metals

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

Don’ts
Oil based paint cans
auto parts
scrap metal
propane cylinders

Straight from the Westford CAT show “ABC’s of Recycling“:
WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT IN!

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

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