07/06/09 The Town of Lexington, in conjunction with Metech and one of it major customers, is sponsoring a free household electronics recycling event similar to the one last year. The date is Saturday, July 18, between 9AM and 3PM at Lexington High School. The event is open to the general public and no appointments are needed. You do NOT need to be a Lexington resident to take advantage of this opportunity. All collected equipment will be responsibly recycled. It will be dismantled and all hard drives and
similar memory devices will be physically destroyed at Metech's Worcester facility; no equipment will be resold and no materials will be sent to land fill. In addition, all materials that are considered hazardous in nature, e.g. cathode ray tubes, batteries and circuit boards, will be recycled in either the United States or Canada. All electronic items are accepted except major appliances, dehumidifiers, air conditioners, and microwaves. In addition to this one day collection event, Metech will arrange to pick up obsolete electronic from schools, municipalities, and non profit organizations through the end of August. For more information about Metech or the current no charge recycling programs, contact either Chris Ryan or me at 508-795-1950. You can also visit our web site at http://www.metechgroup.com/www.metechrecycling.com.
06/30/09 Summer planting season is upon us. When you are done planting, don’t put those pots in the trash, put them to good use. Plastic plant pots are accepted at the Underwood Greenhouse at 20 School Street, across from St. Joseph Church. All sizes of empty, unbroken pots, up to 2 gallon size are welcome. Just leave them at the pergola in the driveway – look for the sign.
06/15/09 Does the sound of gas-powered lawn equipment mean summer to you? Does it also mean pollution to you? Traditional gas-powered string weed eaters/trimmers are considered some of the worst polluting pieces of equipment. Fortunately, there are two eco-friendly alternatives. The Lehr Eco Trimmer substitutes a 16.4 ounce propane canister for gas as its fuel source but has the same power and portability as a gas weed eater. It's a good choice for those folks with heavy duty trimming needs and strong arms-when fueled, it weighs 16 pounds. For those with average (garden variety!!!!) trimming needs, the battery-powered cordless Grass Hog is a good eco-friendly option. While less powerful than the Lehr model, it weighs less-6.5 pounds and the battery is rechargeable. In addition, it features automatic start-up (no starter cord to pull). Check them out. And, since trimmers fall into the only-used-occasionally category of home items, why not team up with a few neighbors and
buy just one trimmer for all of you to use?
05/18/09 Just in time for garden and lawn season, there is the Healthy Lawns and Landscapes Workshop. Learn how to have a beautiful yard without using chemicals that may harm children, pets, and the environment. The workshop will cover health effects of pesticides, how to create healthy soil for lawns and landscapes, simple steps to healthy lawns, alternatives to lawns, and alternatives to pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The workshop is being held from 6:00 to 8:30PM May 28th at the Brighton Allston Congregational Church, 404 Washington Street, Brighton and admission is free and refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to David Holtzman at 617-787-3874 ext 217 to register.
05/03/09 Do you find "eco-friendly" and "certified by" labels confusing or even meaningless? Here's an explanation of what some labels mean:
*Energy Star, which is displayed on some appliances, is a designation established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It indicated that the product performs as well as its traditional counterpart while using up to75 percent less energy.
*Bird Friendly, seen on some coffees, was created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and indicates that the coffee was grown under a canopy of shade trees, preserving important habitats for migrating birds. It also certifies that the coffee is organic.
*FSC, developed by the Forest Stewardship Council, signifies that paper and wood products (furniture and flooring) have been harvested using certifies sustainable standards.
*Fair Trade Certified, created by TransFair USA, confirms that Fair Trade Certified Food such as coffee, fruit, chocolate, and sugar have been grown by farmers who use environmentally friendly practices and receive a fair price for their crops.
04/26/09 Here are more earth-friendly measures that can make a difference in reducing your carbon footprint.
* Recycle aluminum and steel cans: recycling cans directs valuable metals into new products, saving 95 percent of the energy required to manufacture aluminum from scratch and 74 percent of the energy needed to make steel.
*Recycle newspapers and magazines: recycling paper not only saves trees but also reduces contribution to air pollution by 95 percent.
*Wash laundry on cooler settings: About 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes goes to heating the water.
*Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs: A 25-watt compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) provides the same amount of light as a 75-watt incandescent bulb. CFLs use one third the energy and last 10 times longer.
*Compost your garbage: Putting less trash on the curb reduces the amount of fuel needed to haul it away.
04/19/09 Adopting eco-friendly measures, however small those measures may seem, does make a difference. Want to know how much difference your eco-friendly measures make in carbon emissions? Here are some very interesting numbers:
*By turning the thermostat down just four degrees saves 1300 pounds of CO2, the equivalent of taking 12,353,510 cars off the road for a year *By plugging your appliances, such as the television, into a power strip and turning the strip off when the appliance is not in use, you can save 1,608 pounds of CO2 equal to taking 15,280,342 cars off the road for a year.
*Switching to a hybrid car saves about 3,660 pounds of CO2. That's equal to 68,615,626 cars taken off the road for a year.
*Buying green power saves 20,508 CO2 pounds, equal to taking 194,881,372 cars off the road for a year.
04/06/09 The recent nice weather has many people thinking about gardens and yards. Before you start stocking up on gardening supplies take a minute to consider those supplies made from recycled products. Buying recycled products creates a demand that encourages more recycling. -Recycled rubber mulches. Made from recycled tires, they are available in a variety of shapes and sizes including ring shaped for placing around trees, 2-foot wide strips for larger areas, and 5-1/2-inch wide strips for borders. Like "real" mulch, they suppress weeds, but recycled mulch also helps to hold in water and doesn't scatter, rubber pavers made from recycled tires, these brick-looking pavers are softer than brick, go to www.gardners.com
03/31/09 If you are thinking about decreasing your carbon footprint by making sustainable living changes (and we hope you are), then you'll want to go to the "Down:2:Earth Sustainable Living" Expo being held this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Hynes Convention Center. The Expo features eco-friendly products and educational forums. You can gather information, get your questions answered, and get a solid start on reducing your carbon footprint.
01/12/09 Did you know that 540 MILLION telephone directories are printed in the U.S. each year? That's 1.79 directories per person, with an average weight of 3.62 pounds of paper per directory. Producing one ton of paper uses 24 fully mature trees, 380 gallons of oil, 7000 gallons of water, and 4000 kilowatts of energy. YellowPagesGoesGreen.org is a grassroots organization helping municipalities and local governments around the country establish ordinances to mandate Yellow Pages and White Pages only be delivered to home and offices that ask for them. Municipalities and local government that provide trash services are extremely concerned about costs and why they have to absorb the cost of handling the telephone directories. Some local governments are looking to establish an Ordinance
of $5 per book to the telephone companies for the delivery of unwanted books. An alternative Ordinance being looked at is to require the telephone book to be delivered in a plastic bag and the directory company has to come back the following week to pick up the old book that has been placed in the reusable bag. Meanwhile, you can stop the delivery of telephone directories to your home by going to YellowPagesGoesGreen.org and clicking on the "opt out" tab. YelowPagesGoesGreen will contact the local telephone company and provide them with your name and address and tell them to stop delivering phone books to you. This does not cost you anything. Please go to the sign up sheet and help eliminate this problem.
12/22/08 It's Christmas morning, the gifts have been unwrapped, the floor is littered with paper, boxes, bows, and ribbons, and it's time to clean things up. You may be tempted to take the easy, and fast, way out by stuffing everything into a large plastic (i.e.-non-biodegradable) bag and setting it out with the trash. There are better options. Much thought goes into buying and wrapping gifts but comparatively little thought goes into disposing what is left over - the bags, packaging and wrapping. The following is a guide to handling the unwrapping aftermath. Wrappings: Save the larger pieces of gift wrap for reuse. Unwrapping gifts carefully so as not to rip the paper not only slows everyone down making the festivities last a bit longer, it preserves the paper.
Smooth out the wrinkles and put the paper in a bag or box for storage with your other holiday items for next year. Ribbons and bows can also be saved. Wrapping paper that is too small for saving can be placed with your mixed paper for recycling. The exception to this is metallic, glittery or Mylar paper and cellophane. These items are not recyclable (so don't use them!!). Boxes: Gift boxes can be saved for reuse for birthday, graduation and other gifts. If you are unable to save all of them, place the non-corrugated ones with your mixed paper recycling and the corrugated boxes, flattened and broken down into 2"x2" pieces (they can be tied or taped together) separate from your recycling container.
12/13/08 Christmas is right around the corner and, like many people; you may still have gifts to buy. Why not be eco-conscious and save yourself time buying those last minute gifts by purchasing gifts that won't eventually end up in the trash? Gift certificates for restaurants make great gifts and Belmont has a wonderful array of good restaurants. Theatre or movie tickets and museum memberships make useful gifts.
Anyone on a tight budget is sure to appreciate a grocery store gift certificate. For the gardeners on your list, flower bulbs or packets of seeds are sure to please. Food gifts, like a basket of wine and cheese, make a thoughtful gift.
12/04/08 The holiday season brings much joy and, unfortunately, much trash. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash, producing 5 MILLION TONS of garbage. You can reduce those numbers by wrapping presents in recycled paper, old calendars, the Sunday newspaper comics, colorful circular ads, or children's art work. Decorate with raffia bows, evergreen snippets, or cutouts from old holiday cards. According to the Sierra Club, if every family wrapped just three presents this way, it would save enough ribbon to tie a bow around the earth, and enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields!!
12/01/08 The holiday season is one of abundance, and much of that abundance ends up in the trash. But there are ways you can eliminate or reduce your contribution to the additional trash.
-Instead of material gifts, give gifts of your time or expertise. Give IOUs for chores, babysitting, snow shoveling, teaching a skill such as baking, knitting, sewing, a sport, or woodworking, or offer your skills in building or repairing something.
-If you do opt to buy material gifts, look for durable and reusable gifts rather than fad items and look for things packaged in the least amount and/or recyclable or reusable packaging.
-Look for gifts with an environmental message such as nature books, thermos bottles, reusable water battles or coffee mugs, canvas tote bags, a battery recharger, bicycles, in-line skates or skis.
-Choose solar-powered instead of battery-powered products or, better yet, ones that require no power at all.
-Choose environmentally friendly gifts like homemade cookies, a plant or a tree, gifts that create no waste such as movie tickets and restaurant gift certificates, or gifts that get "used up" such as soaps, lotions, candies, or seeds for next year's garden.
-Finally, if you do go shopping, remember to bring your own bags.
10/17/08 What should you do with expired or unneeded medication, either
prescription or over-the-counter? First and foremost, do NOT flush them down the toilet or sink!!~ Flushed medications (and personal care products) end up in the water supply and, soon enough, in fish and wildlife whener they can have a sudlethal and, in the case of hormones, feminizing effect on fish. Municipal water treatment plants simply cannot remove the smorgasbord of chemicals we humans pour into our bodies these days. Ideally, take-back programs would solve the problem but take-back programs are hard to establish, given that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has stringent requirements for collection of controlled substances. Until take-back programs are the norm, the best way to dispose of medications is to take them out of their labeled containers and place them in your trash,
preferably mixed in with an undesirable substance such as used coffee grounds or used kitty litter.~ Remove any identifying information from the original plastic container and place it in your recycling bin.
09/18/08 The codes (a number inside a triangle) on the underside of plastic containers refer to the type of plastic used to make the container. Each number poses different risks.~ The following is a guide to the numbers and risks. #1 PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) is usually found on thin, clear plastic containers such as bottled water or cooking oil.~ Number ones are safe for one use and to recycle, but don't reuse, refill or heat. #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) is usually found on thicker opaque plastics such as milk jugs, juice bottles and detergents.~ Number twos are safe to refill, reuse and recycle. #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) is usually found in soft plastics like grocery bags and plastic wraps.~ Number fours are safe to recycle. #5 PP (polypropylene) is
found in hard but flexible plastic such as ice cream, yogurt and take-out containers.~ They are safe to recycle but not to heat. #7 Other (including polycarbonate, nylon and acrylic).~ This is a grab-bag of plastics and only those labeled as a bio-based plastic should be used. #3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or vinyl) should be avoided because many PVC products have phthalates which are suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals.~ Grocery stores commonly use PVC to wrap meats and cheeses.
09/11/08 Although Belmont's recycling program accepts all numbered plastics (those triangles with a number, 1 through 7, stamped on them), not all plastics are created equal.~ Specifically, those plastics comprised of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cause harm to the environment during their manufacturing and can cause harm if the PVC chemicals get into the body, especially children.~ They enter the body when toxins leach from container to food as the plastics degrade through heating or simply over time.
Armed with this information, what should you do?
-Use glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic for microwaving
-Use wax paper instead of plastic wrap for microwaving
-Never microwave in single-use containers such as yogurt cups or Styrofoam
-Pack lunches using reusable sandwich wraps like Wrap-N-Mat Wraps
-Pack snacks in unbleached wax paper bags
09/04/08 Here are some ideas for uncluttering your home of books that are sitting around collecting dust. The Belmont Public Library's annual book sale is held each October. The main library on Concord Avenue will soon be accepting donations of used books. Due to limited storage space, donations are accepted only in the weeks preceding the sale. Keep an eye out for the Library's notice. The Used Book Superstore, 256 Cambridge St (Route 3A) in Burlington, a for-profit enterprise operated by Got Books, sells used books for ten percent of the original price ($1 minimum). Got Books will pick up your used books and also collects books at about 300 drop-off centers throughout New England. Go to gotbooks.com for collection and drop-off information. Got Books also
operates Charity Book Sale in Lawrence. Charity Book Sale donated half of its profits to nonprofit organizations.
08/27/08 Reducing, reusing, and recycling has both an economic impact (it saves the $69 per ton fee paid by the town to dispose of trash) and an environmental impact (by saving resources).~ Consumers can contribute to both the economic and environmental impact with their everyday choices by choosing to conserve energy and water, by reducing consumption, by repairing instead of buying new, and by finding new uses for old items rather than throwing them in the trash. Consumers can also have a role in changing the way America does business by choosing to shop at environmentally responsible business, thereby by sending a message to conventional business that they haven't earned your support.~ Consumers can also cause an impact by shopping for locally made or grown items.
Consumers can also support responsible business with their investment dollars - including the rapidly growing clean energy sector. And finally, consumers can be advocates.~ For instance, a consumer group successfully conducted a letter writing campaign to push water filter companies to recycle their used filters.
08/13/08 The back-to-school shopping season is here.~ This year, start your child's education off with the earth in mind.
- Buy a "staple less" stapler that punches a small hole in papers and folds the remaining flaps together to hold paper securely.~ No more metal staples to poke into fingers or feet and add to the trash.
- Get a PVC-free backpack.~ Look for one without the recycle #3 or the letter V.~ Both signs indicate that the pack contains PVC which has been linked to cancer.
- Recycle old crayons by sending the unusable nubs to be melted down, reshaped and resold.~ Go to CrazyCrayons.com for additional info.
- Use charity-minded research engines when researching school papers. For example GoodSearch.com donates 50 percent of its advertising revenue from your searches to the charity of your choice.
08/05/08 With the return to school (sorry kids - its reality), especially college, many people are purchasing new computers.~ But, what to do with the old computer that's being replaced?
In late May, Staples, Inc. announced the expansion of its electronics recycling program.~ Now used computers and monitors, as well as, cell phones, pagers and digital cameras, can be dropped off at any Staples store, regardless of brand and whether or not the device was purchased at Staples.~ A fee of $10, to defray handling, shipping and recycling costs is charged for the large items (computers and monitors) but there is no charge for smaller items.~ Peripherals like keyboards, mice and speakers are not accepted at this time. The best part of this program lies in what is dome with the devices after drop-off.~ The devices are shipped to a domestic recycling facility Amandi Services in Vestal, NY.~ Amandi, which complies with federal standards for electronics recycling and takes steps to ensure personal data on old
computers, is not compromised.~ All devices are recycled in an environmentally and socially responsibly way, rather than shipped overseas.
07/28/08 Here are three more things you should never buy again.
-Beauty/Body care products with phthalates and/or parabens. - Phthalates are a group of industrial chemicals linked to birth defects.~ They are used in many cosmetic products from nail polish to deodorant.~ Parabens are preservatives used in numerous products that have been linked to breast cancer though more research is needed. Phthlates are NOT listed on product labels and can only be detected in laboratory tests.~ So, to be safe chose products from companies that have signed on to the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.
-Cling wrap. - Many people don't realize that cling wrap may be made with PVC.~ #3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) leaches toxins when heated or micro waved and it is an environmental problem throughout its lifetime.
-High VOC paints and finishes. - Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can cause health problems from dizziness to lung and kidney damage.~ Infamous for polluting both indoor and outdoor air, they are found in products including paints as well as finishes used for wood, such as stains or varnishes.~ There are now a wide variety of low- or no-VOC paints on the market.~ Look for paints certified by Green Seal (www.greenseal.org), or look for natural paints made by green businesses.
07/15/08 The list of things you should never buy again is back.
-Farm raised salmon - Several reputable studies have found that PCBs and other environmental toxins are present in higher levels in farm raised salmon than wild salmon.~ Pregnant women, women of child-bearing age, and children should be especially careful when choosing fish due to high levels of environmental toxins, including mercury, found in fish.
-Rayon - The world's first synthetic fiber, rayon was developed and manufactured by DuPont.~ It is made from liquefied wood pulp but turning wood into rayon is both wasteful and dirty since lots of water and chemicals are needed to extract useable fibers from trees.~ Only about one third of the pulp obtained from a tree will end up as finished rayon thread and the resulting fabrics usually require dry cleaning which poses its own environmental concerns as well as added expense and inconvenience.~ To make things worse, much of the rayon sold comes from developing countries where environmental and labor laws are weak and/or poorly enforced.
07/08/08 Here are a few more things you should never buy again.
-Higher octane gas than you need - Only one car in ten manufactured since 1982 requires high-octane gasoline. High octane gas releases more hazardous pollutants into the air.~ The alternative is to buy the lowest-octane gas your car requires (as listed in your owner’s manual).~ The BEST option is to make your next car purchase a hybrid, or ditch the car altogether and take public transportation, ride a bike, or walk.
-Toys made with PVC plastic - Although 70 percent of PVC is used in construction, it can also be found in everyday plastics including some children's toys!!~ Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen and additives such as lead and cadmium are sometimes added to children's toys.~ To make things worse, PVC is the least recycled plastic.~ The alternative is to avoid plastics labeled PVC or #3.~ Look for #1 or #2 plastics which are easier to recycle and don't produce as many toxins. Also, use sustainable construction materials.~ The BEST option is to take action to tell manufacturers to stop using PVC plastics, especially in children's toys.
-Plastic forks, knives, and spoons - "disposable" plastic utensils are NOT biodegradable and not recyclable in most areas.~ The alternative is to use compostable food service items; companies such as Biocorp make cutlery from plant materials such as corn starch and cellulose.~ The BEST option is to carry your own utensils and food containers.
07/02/08 Here are more things to never buy again.
-Chemical pesticides and herbicides - American households use 80 million pounds of pesticides each year!! The EPA found at least one pesticide in almost every water and fish sample from streams, and in more than one-half of shallow wells sampled in agricultural and urban areas.~ These chemical pose threats to animals and people, especially children.~ The alternative is to buy organic pest controllers such as diatomaceous earth.~ The best option is to use native plants that don't need chemical enhancement, and to practice integrated pest management by planting flowers and herbs that act as natural pesticides.
-Conventional household cleaning products - Household cleaning products can contain hazardous ingredients such as organic solvents and petroleum-based chemicals that can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your indoor environment which can be particularly dangerous for children.~ The average American household has three to ten~hazardous chemicals inside the home.~ The alternative is to buy nontoxic, vegetable-based, biodegradable cleaners.~ The best option is to make your own cleaner using vinegar, water, and castile soap.
06/24/08 Finding that reusable plastic water bottles may be toxic does not mean a return to disposables is necessary or warranted.~ Keep your drinking water in a glass pitcher and take it with you in a stainless steel Kleen Kanteen (kleenkanteen.com) or Sigg (sigg.com).
Here are five things you should never buy again, along with alternative products.
1. Styrofoam cups. - Styrofoam is forever-it is never biodegradable.~ The alternative is recyclable and compostable paper cups and the best option is reusable mugs and (non-BSP) water bottles
2. Paper towels. - Paper towels waste forest resources, landfill space, and your money. The alternative is recycled, non-bleached paper towels and the best option is cloth dishtowels which can be washed and reused.
3. Bleached coffee filters. - Dioxins, chemicals formed during the chlorine bleaching process, contaminate groundwater and air and are linked to cancer in humans and animals.~ The alternative is unbleached coffee filters and the best option is reusable filters such as washable cloth filters.
4. Over packaged foods and other products. - Excess packaging wastes resources and costs you more.~ About 33 percent of trash in the average American household comes from packaging. The alternative is buying products with minimal packaging.~ The best option is to buy in bulk and to use your own containers when shopping.
5. Teak and mahogany. - Each year, 27 million acres of tropical rainforest (an area the size of Ohio) are destroyed.~ Rainforests cover six percent of the Earth's surface and are home to over half of the world's wild plant, animal and insect species.~ The Amazon rainforest produces 40 percent of the world's oxygen.~ The alternative is to use Forest Stewardship Council certified wood and the best option is to reuse wood and to buy furniture and other products made from used or salvaged wood.
05/06/08 Biphenyl A (BPA) has been in the news lately due to its link to cancer and reproductive problems.~ BPA is a major component of polycarbonate plastic and is commonly marked with a number 7 inside the arrowed recycling triangle.~ It is used in hard plastic bottles such as Nalgene, baby bottles, the lining of baby food and other cans, and numerous other items.~ The safety concerns are so great the Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us are phasing it out and Canada is moving toward a complete ban.
04/21/08 Compostable waste like yard trimmings and food scraps make up 23 percent of the U.S. solid waste stream and enormous tracts of land are devoted to producing the ingredients that go into making various meals and snacks.~ For example, 255 million chickens are employed fulfilling our national egg demand and an area the size of Wyoming is devoted to growing wheat.~ Bearing this in mind, wasting food isn't solely about wasting money.~ Wasting food is also about wasting the land resources used to produce food.~ So, follow the advice of your parents - clear your plate- or save the leftovers and eat them later.
04/14/08 April 15, the last day to file taxes, is fast approaching and with it comes a once-a-year eco-opportunity: electronic filing!! Filing your tax returns electronically, not only saves paper and postage, it saves the fuel used to get you to the post office as well as that required for land and air transport by the Postal Service for paper filings. Although electronic fining won't make filing taxes any less painful, it will help the environment.
April 15, the last day to file taxes, is fast approaching and with it comes a once-a-year eco-opportunity: electronic filing!! Filing your tax returns electronically, not only saves paper and postage, it saves the fuel used to get you to the post office as well as that required for land and air transport by the Postal Service for paper filings. Although electronic fining won't make filing taxes any less painful, it will help the environment.
03/26/08 In April and May, several communities and organizations will present free Healthy Lawns and Landscapes workshops, led by Ann McGovern of the Mass. DEP. The purpose of the workshop is to teach the skills for maintaining landscapes without using pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Attendees will also have a chance to win a compost bin. For more information, log on to:
03/20/08 Spring is finally arriving and with it comes thoughts of gardens and lawns. And, while a lush lawn and beautiful flowers are wonderful, achieving them with chemicals harms the soil, water supply (chemicals run off and seep into water sources), even people and animals. You can, however, get that lush lawn and beautiful flowers without the environmental harm. There are numerous suppliers of organic seeds for flowers, herbs and vegetables, as well as non-harmful pest and disease control products and fertilizers. Check out Johnny's Seeds www.Johnnyseeds.com , Bradfield Organics www.bradfieldorganics.com , Coast Of Maine www.coastofmaine.com , Nature's Avenger www.naturesavenger.com , Hydrolysate of American, LLC www.multibloom.com , and Harrington's Safe Lawns &
03/05/08 Belmont recently added corrugated cardboard as well as milk and juice cartons/boxes to the list of recyclable items. And, while you can simply flatten milk and juice cartons and individual juice boxes and put them in your green or blue recycling bin, cardboard requires a small amount of preparation. All corrugated cardboard must me flattened into (approximately) two foot by two foot pieces. The pieces can simply be placed out as is (under your recycling bin to keep them from blowing away). They can also be tied into bundles no thicker than nine inches, or placed, untied, in a separate recycling bin, bag or laundry basket.
02/27/08 Winter in New England brings snow - lots of it - and while shoveling removes much of the snow, the underlying ice defies most shovels. That's where the big guns of snow/ice removal come in. But, which snow/ice remover is best, environmentally, to use? Rock salt, while cheap, is a very bad choice environmentally. Along with eating at concrete, it gets absorbed into the ground, tainting soil alkalinity, groundwater resources, and water resources, leading to adverse effects on vegetation and wildlife.
Kitty litter, while environmentally harmless, is messy. It also adds sediment to the water supply and contributes to air pollution.
Calcium chloride is less harsh than rock salt but can burn your skin and animal paws. Potassium chloride, while safer to people and pets than calcium chloride, requires higher temperatures (at least 15 degrees) to melt. The best solution, aside from the sun, is Safe Pet Ice Melter. It melts at lower temperatures and doesn't harm animals
02/21/08 Although winter is winding down (we hope) there are likely a few more weeks of cold temperatures to endure. When the temperature drops, so does vehicle efficiency-as much as 50 percent. Fuel consumption is highest after a cold start and before the engine has reached its normal operating temperature. Driving in snow adds to fuel inefficiency because tires lose traction, making the engine work harder. If cold weather driving is unavoidable, follow these tips:
-Scrape snow and ice off all windows, mirrors, lights, and hood, roof, and around the tires. Piled snow can be heavy and increased weight reduces fuel efficiency.
-Check tire pressure. Tires lose pressure more rapidly in cold temperatures and low tire pressure adds to fuel inefficiency.
-Plan your route in advance, aiming for the shortest route with the fewest hills.
-Warm up the engine on the road, not in the driveway. Idling for a prolonged period wastes fuel.
-If possible, park in a heated garage to avoid cold starts.
02/08/08 In the US, paper products make up the largest percentage of municipal solid waste with hard copy bills alone accounting for almost 700, ooo TONS of waste and almost two million tons of carbon dioxide. More and more companies are offering paperless billing options. For instance, some wireless phone companies will deliver your monthly bill to your email, often with a simultaneous text message notifying you that the bill was emailed. Utility bills can be viewed on the company websites and credit card bills can be automatically debited each month, on time. Also, rather than waiting for a monthly bank statement to confirm that your balance is correct, you can simply log on and get a daily updated online bank statement. So, contact the companies that currently send you a
monthly paper bill and ask them what options are in place to reduce the paper onslaught in your mailbox.
01/31/08 Seldom used items, from power tools to party goods, often collect dust, rust, take up valuable storage space, and ultimately end up in the trash. Consider renting or borrowing such items the next time you need them. Infrequently used items can also be shared among neighbors, friends and family. Borrowing, renting or sharing items saves both money and natural resources.
-Borrow or rent party decorations and supplies, seldom used media equipment, and tools like ladders, chainsaws, floor buffers, rug cleaners, and garden tillers.
-Neighbors can pool resources, forming "banks" to share tools and other equipment.
-before discarding old tools, camera equipment or other goods, ask friends, relatives, neighbors, or community groups if they can use the item.
-Share magazines with others to reduce the generation of waste paper.
01/10/08 Americans will replace an estimated 130 million cell phones this year with the majority of the old phones either thrown away or stuffed in a box or drawer. Cell Phones for Soldiers collects old cell phones and sells them to ReCellular which, in turn, recycles the phones. Cell Phones for Soldiers uses the money raised from the sale of the phones to buy prepaid calling cards for placecountry-regionU.S. troops stationed overseas. Using a network of more than 3,000 collection sites throughout the country, they were able to gather about 15,000 cell phones each month in 2007, turning them into more than 12 million calling minutes. Cell Phones for Soldiers was founded by two placeCityNorwell, StateMA teenagers with $21 of their own money. Since then, the 501c3 non-profit
organization has distributed more than 400,000 prepaid calling cards. The nearest cell phone drop-off center is Caldwell Banker Residential Real Estate at 7 Channing Rd. in placeCityBelmont. All Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicle offices also accept phones.
01/04/08 Recycling is only the third part of trash reduction, after "reduce" and "reuse." With that in mind, be trash-conscious whenever you shop, be it for a car or a coffeemaker. While it is tempting to go for the good deal, the immediate gratification of a low price isn't necessarily environmentally sound if that low price is indicative of inferior quality that will send the item to the trash sooner rather than later. Before making a purchasing decision, consult experts such as Consumer Reports, ConsumerReview.com, or productopia.com to evaluate the repair history of the product. Also, maintain the things you do buy so they last as long as possible.
12/28/07 Now that the holiday season is over it's time for the clean up. In a big change from years past, corrugated cardboard is now recyclable in placeCityBelmont. Please follow these simple "rules" to ready any, but not all (no pizza boxes, please), cardboard for recycling:
1. Flatten all boxes,
2. Cut into pieces no larger than 2 feet by 2 feet, place in brown paper bags, or tie with string into bundles no higher than 9 inches, or place under your recycling bin (to keep it from flying about).
You can also recycle beverage milk and juice cartons. Please flatten the cartons and place in your recycling bin. The plastic spouts do NOT need to be removed.
12/13/07 "Tis the season for giving, receiving, and...throwing away. Americans throw away an EXTRA 25 million tons of trash over the holidays, much of it in the form of packaging. With a little thought and imagination, that amount can be drastically reduced, if not eliminated. For starters, after opening gifts, neatly fold and roll the glittery paper for reuse. After that paper has wrapped its last gift, place the non-metallic paper with your mixed paper recycling and don't replace it. Instead, get creative in your gift wrapping. Those brightly colored advertising flyers make great wrapping paper. Or, how about giving that outdated poster hanging in your child's room a second life (especially if your kid moved out 10 years ago...). Old fabric such as sheer
curtains, make lovely Victorian-inspired packaging. You can also wrap gifts within gifts, like an LED flashlight hidden in a water bottle, or earrings tucked into a wallet, purse, or makeup bag. Instead of store-bought ribbon, use scraps of fabric ribbon oor old neckties. Old bowties can be turned into, what else?, bows. If you can't break the wrapping paper tradition cold turkey, do it in smaller steps by wrapping responsibly, using paper made from tee-free materials like Papermojo's lokta or banana fiber sheets (www.papermojo.com), or from post-consumer waste like Selter's 100 percent post-consumer recycled gift wrap (www.seltzergoods.com).
12/6/07 For many the holiday season is a time to get together with friends and family and often that means a house party. If you are planning a party, think environmentally. Use "real" plates and silverware rather than paper and plastic. If you don't have enough, and who does? Borrow from friends and neighbors or rent what you need. Serving dishes can also be rented or borrowed. Instead of use-once-and-throw-away paper napkins, use cloth ones. In addition to being environmentally friendly, they look prettier and can be used for years to come. Keep the environment in mind when choosing decorations too. Natural decorations, holly, berries, balsam or fir sprigs add a festive air with the added bonus of that wonderful holiday aroma.
11/29/07 The holiday season abounds with lights, ornaments, trees, gifts,...and... Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap. Whether they come in things you order to give or in the packages sent to you from friends and relatives, Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap are a nuisance. Too often they end up in the trash where they do NOT degrade. There are two alternatives, and far better, ways to dispose of them. The first option, though obvious, merits saying: reuse. When a package arrives, remove the packaging and set it aside to use in outgoing packages, kind of like the fruitcake that goes around the world. The second option is to take any clean Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap to the UPS store in Cushing Square where they will be happily received and reused.
11/08/07 We're all seen them: empty plastic bags billowing from trees and floating down streets. Billions of plastic bags are choking our planet. Both consumers and the environment ultimately pay dearly for these "free" bags. Each year billions of bags end up as ugly litter, eventually breaking down into tiny toxic bits polluting out soil, rivers, lakes and oceans. In addition, production of plastic bags requires vast amounts of oil. With the holiday season fast approaching, meaning more shopping by more people and more plastic bags now is the perfect time to invest in reusable bags. Resuablebags.com has a wide selection of bags ranging from $2.95 plain organic cotton to decorative and pretty $29.95 totes. They even have $4.95 to $5.95 sturdy nylon foldable
carryalls with their own attached pouch, available in different sizes that weightlessly tuck into a pocket or purse. Or, reusable bags can be purchased at local grocery stores. Shaw’s sells sturdy green canvas bags for 10 for $10.00.
11/01/07 Now that Halloween is over, what can you do with your pumpkin? Compost it, of course. Just remember to scrape off any non-biodegradable paint or ink that may be on the surface, and scrape out candle wax that dripped inside. Also, any glitter, sequins, pins, etc, used in the decoration process, must also be removed. To speed up the degradation process, it is best to cut the pumpkin into small pieces.
10/31/07 There are guidelines for using compost. First, determine how much compost is needed for lawns and garden beds, by multiplying the square footage of the area to be treated by the thickness that will be applied. -A three- to four-inch layer of finished compost can be worked into the top of garden soil before planting in spring or late fall, or a handful can be transplanted into the hole before planting annuals or perennials. -A half-inch of compost can also be applied as a top dressing to lawns in the spring and fall and for shrubs and garden plants several times a year. -for a flower bed containing existing perennials, estimate the area those plants occupy when determining how much compost is needed. If half the area is already covered by plants, you will need half as
much compost. -Mix one part finished compost [see last weeks' tip for the definition of finished] with two parts soil for a nutritious potting mix for houseplants. When planting seeds, use less compost and more soil to allow roots to take hold firmly.
10/25/07 Once you have leaves and other compostable items added to your compost bin, the next step is maintenance. Keeping a healthy nutrient balance, two parts carbon-rich "brown" items such as leaves, twigs and bark, and one part nitrogen-rich "green" items like grass clippings and food wastes, helps to avoid odors. The pile should be kept slightly moist, but not wet, and needs to be aerated by manually turning the pile, to move the material on the outside of the pile to the center where it will be subjected to higher temperatures. Piles with a higher moisture percentage (60 to 70 percent) should be turned every two days while less moist piles (40 to 60 percent) can be turned every three days. If the moisture falls below 40 percent, add water. The more
frequently a pile is turned, the more rapidly the materials will decompose. Adding native soil from your yard or garden is essential for introducing native organisms. Compost should be "finished" before application, that is dark in color, sweet and earthy smelling and shouldn't give off heat or steam.
10/11/07 Halloween and trick-or-treating are filled with risks, from unsafe candy to costumes. The vinyl (or polyvinyl chloride) used in commercially-made costumes are an environmental threat due to the carcinogenic dioxin released into the atmosphere during production. In addition, shiny imitation leather accessories and other soft vinyl products usually contain phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals that have been linked in animal studies to reproductive abnormalities and liver cancer. The easiest way to avoid these dangers is by creating you child's (or your!!) costume using resources found around the house. For instance, black tights and a black turtleneck can form the basis for numerous costumes: add yellow horizontal stripes and coat hanger wings, and a bumblebee emerges.
Or, use an old black headband and glued-on ears made from a discarded sweatshirt and you'll have a cat or a mouse. Stuff black stockings and pin or sew them to the back of the turtleneck and you have a spider. Want something more visible in the dark? A white turtleneck and leggings can form the basis for an angel, a Dalmatian, or a prisoner with a bit of non-toxic paint or ink.
10/04/07 More on composting. Each American is responsible for 1200 pounds of compostable organic waste annually which, if composted, would negate the need for petroleum-derived synthetic fertilizers. It takes the fossil fuel equivalent of 2.5 gallons of gasoline to produce a single 40-pound bag of synthetic fertilizer. Composting also saves water because adding compost to your plantings helps the soil retain moisture, reduce evaporation and prevents water run-off. So, what gets composted? In addition to lawn and garden clippings, much of your household waste can be composted, including bread, eggshells and fruit and vegetable rings. Basically, any plant-based kitchen leftover can be composted as well as paper products-cardboard rolls, tissues, paper towels, and coffee
filters. Even pet fur can be composted. While wood ash can be composted in small amounts (large amounts can raise the alkalinity of the pile casing nitrogen loss in soil). What cannot be composted? Any animal or meat byproducts, such as dairy, lard, oils and fish waste which create odor problems and can attract rodents and other pests. Pets can also become ill if they eat meat-containing compost. Pet wastes, such as feces and litter, cannot be composted as they contain parasites, bacteria, pathogens and viruses that are harmful to humans. Also, any yard trimmings that have been treated with chemical pesticides cannot be composted since the residues of these chemicals could kill beneficial composting organisms. For a complete list of what should and should not be composted, visit the EPA's composting fact sheet at www.epa.gov/compost
09/27/07 Last week's Tip set out the reasons to compost your leaves and other yard waste. So, where can buy a compost bin? The Belmont Department of Public Works sells two styles of bins. The bins, which retail for $60-$100, are available to Belmont residents for $20 due to a recycle equipment grant program from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).
The two available bins are the Earth Machine and the New Age Composter. Both are made from a minimum of 50 percent post-consumer recycled plastic collected or processed in Massachusetts and are rodent-resistant. The Earth Machine is 33 inches high and is conical-shaped, it has a 30 inch diameter at the base and 18 inches at the top, it has an 11 cubic feet capacity. The New Age Composter stands 32 inches high and is cylindrical-shaped, it can be adjusted from 26 inches to 44 inches in diameter and has a 24 cubic foot capacity. For additional information call the DPW at 617-993-2690. These Composters can be purchased at the DPW office located on the first floor of the Homer Municipal Building, 19 Moore Street.
09/21/07 Fall is here and the leaves are starting to drop. While raking your leaves into marked barrels or biodegradable bags and have them hauled away, there is a better option. Composting your yard waste, as well as non-meat food scraps, creates a rich natural -and free- fertilizer for your plants, lawn, and garden. The plant-derived nitrogen and phosphorus in homemade compost is more easily absorbed than the concentrated synthetic varieties found in bagged fertilizer and it is loaded with micronutrients that improve soil structure, providing valuable nutrition to foster plant growth. While composting bins (indoor or outdoor) help hide waste piles and any odors they may give off, as well as keep animals from rummaging through your food scraps, an actual bin is not necessary. A
well-tended simple pile in the backyard is sufficient. If you opt to buy a composting bin (two types are available at a discounted rate from placeCityBelmont's Highway Division) first determine what you'll be composting and the volume that will entail. The more you compost, the larger your composter should be. For leaves and lawn clippings, you will need at least a three cubic foot bin. Also, pay attention to the material of the composter. The most common material is plastic so look for the highest percentage of recycled content you can find and avoid those made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which releases carcinogenic dioxin into the atmosphere when it is manufactured and incinerated.
09/06/07 School lunches can leave an enormous mountain of waste, from disposable paper sacks and the throwaway plastic packaging from pre-packaged lunches to over a half pound of food waste per person every day. You can cut down waste and boost the health of your children by giving them organic fruits, vegetables and homemade sandwiches packed in minimal and reusable or biodegradable packing. Avoid the hormone-disrupting chemical biphenyl A found in #7 plastic water bottles. Instead, use Klean Kanteen's 18-ounce reusable bottle for
lunchboxes ($13.50 at www.greenfeet.com, 888-562-8873). Use PVC-free wrappings, such as certified organic or recycled cotton canvas lunch sacks from Ecobags ($6 at www.ecobags.com, 800-720-2247), cellophane
wrap made from the cellulose of well-managed cottonwood trees ($20.50/12in x 100ft. roll( and biodegradable and compostable forks and spoons made from GMO-free potatoes ($4.25/50 forks or spoons; all from www.greenearthofficesupply.com, 800-327-8449). And remember, these ideas work for adults taking lunch to work: lunch from home isn't just for kids.
08/30/07 The new school year is fast approaching and with it comes the opportunity to invest in greener academic supplies.
Academic paper use generates mountains of waste-28 pounds per student, teacher, or staff member in one placeCityNew York City alone!! You can reduce that number by buying processed chlorine free (PCF) paper which avoids the release of dioxin and mercury in the bleaching process, and has the highest percentages of recycled post-consumer waste (PCW) available. Opt for products like:
-100 Percent PCW Multipurpose paper, PCF, available at Office Max ($7.49 for 500 sheets) -Ampad 40 Percent PCW one-, three- and five-subject notebooks, available at Staples ($5.29-$8.29) -Smart Paper Torchglow PCF, 30 percent PCW recycled paper, available at www.greenlinepaper.com ($5.67/500 sheets in a variety of colors) -Abundant Earth recycled notebook binders with reusable spine, up to 38 percent PCW content ($9.95/5-pack at www.abundantearth.com) -EcoWriter 90 percent PCW pencils $.25 each at www.greenlinepaper.com) -Sustainable Group 1- and 3-ring binders with a minimum 40 percent PCW cardboard (from $47.60/case at www.treecycle.com -Oxford 30 percent PCW cardboard report covers ($22.99/25 at Office Depot) -Choice #2 cedar pencils ($1.99 for 12 at www.forestchoice.com) -Skilcraft recycled plastic medium point pens ($3.42/12 at www.greenliner.com) -Biodegradable corn-starch pens ($13.20/12 at www.greenearthofficesupply.com)
8/23/07 Hard to believe, but it's back to school time again. When getting your children outfitted consider the impact of your choices. -Is a new backpack really necessary? Take a good look at last year's backpack. If it is merely dirty, give it a good washing and it will be ready for another year. If it has small rips, repair them. If you do opt for a new backpack, rather than let the old one sit unused, give it to a charity group that will distribute it to needy children.
-Does your child bring his/her lunch to school each day? Rather than use paper bags that are used once and thrown in the trash, invest in a reusable-and often colorful and insulated-lunch tote. Many local stores stock them and several styles can be found at
08/16/07 What to do with "empty" aerosol cans? They are, after all, metal and therefore would seem to be recyclable. Unfortunately, they are NOT. Belmont's recyclables handler, FCR, does not accept aerosol cans because they pose dangers for the FCR workers, from their explosiveness to acute and chronic headaches from handling them. So, until a better solution is found, please discard all aerosols in your trash.
08/08/07 The bad news is that each person in the placecountry-regionUnited States produces 22 TONS of carbon dioxide yearly! The good news is that we can all take some small and not-so-small steps, to cut our annual CO2 production.
1. Replacing five 75-watt incandescent light bulbs with 19-watt CFLs can cut 275 pounds of CO2 per year;
2. Instead of short-haul flights of 500 miles or so, taking the train saves 310 pounds of CO2 per year;
3. Forgoing the air conditioner with a fan can save 363 pounds of CO2 annually;
4. Replacing an old refrigerator (more than 10 years old) with an energy-efficient Energy Star model can save for than 500 annual pounds of CO2;
5. Taking a five minutes shower rather than an eight minute one saves 513 pounds of CO2 per year;
6. Chalking, weather-stripping and insulating your house can save 639 pounds of CO2 (natural gas heating) or 472 pounds) electric heat) plus 226 pounds from air conditioning use;
7. Air drying half of your wash loads, either outside or on an indoor line/rack, can save 723 pounds of CO2 yearly;
8. Trimming down on red meat, which takes more fossil fuels to produce than fish, eggs and poultry, reduces CO2 production by 950 pounds.
08/01/07 How important is it to minimize or eliminate your personal use of "un-natural" chemical-laden products? Researchers for the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently found that 95 percent of San Francisco Bay Area wastewater samples contained at least one unregulated, widely-used, hormone-disrupting chemical commonly found in personal care and household products. Given that male fish exposed to tese chemicals can grow eggs in their testes, what can happen when humans are exposed to these same chemicals? You can take simple steps to help protect the health of your family, pets and wildlife, and the environment. Make sure your personal care and household products are fragrance-free -pass on the plastic bottles and utensils-use glass and stainless steel -skip the
"antibacterial" products - plain soap and water, used correctly, is just as effective.
07/26/07 As you head to the beach to enjoy sun, saltwater and sand, consider this disturbing fact: each year an estimated 14 billion pounds of trash are dumped into the world's oceans. Plastics currently account for 90 percent of all floating marine debris, and most of it originates from land. Plastic bags, bottle caps, cigarette butts, food packaging and other waste ends up choking, poisoning or blocking the digestive tracts of sea birds, turtles and other marine animals who mistake litter for food. Shrimp and other fish ingest particle-sized plastic bits that resemble plankton. According to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, there is some level of plastic in all the seafood we eat. In addition, petroleum-based plastic contains suspected hormone-disturbing chemicals
that leach out into substances it comes in contact with. So, what can we all do? Pick it up. When you go to the beach, bring a trash bag with you and pick up litter. Do this for any outdoor activity (beach or not) since streets and storm drains empty into rivers and streams that lead to our coasts, making every bit of litter count. Avoid plastic disposables. For outdoor eating, bring food and water in reusable containers. Avoid plastic bags and wraps of all sorts since they easily blow away, ending up in the water.
07/11/07 To follow-up on the recent eco-friendly, "unchemical" lawn care tips, there is a new and interesting product that irrigates plants near the roots without wasting water. The Aqua Cone is a handy inverted cone that attaches to the end of a soda bottle, allowing you to irrigate your plants at the root level where water is most needed without wasting water on plants that can go an extra day or two before their next feeding. This devise is especially useful in hot summer weather but also helps n wet conditions where using a hose or sprinkler to provide water at the root level can be wasteful. A set of six Aqua Cones sells for $12.99. Log on to www.landscapeusa.com, or call 800-966-1033
07/05/07 The tips from the past few weeks have a set out a step-by-step process to having a healthy, non-chemical, environmentally-friendly lawn. The final step is making the transition to natural lawn care. If your lawn is addicted to chemicals, it will take time to make the transition. Improving soil quality and lawn health is usually a multiyear project. Start by weaning your lawn off chemicals by switching to a low-nitrogen organic fertilizer. Apply it once in the early spring (after the soil has begun to warm up) and again in the early fall. Organic nutrients are released slowly over the entire growing season, making them available when needed and providing more consistent top growth as well all root growth. It also gives rise to fewer problems with nutrient
runoff since the nutrients are not water soluble and mostly stay in the soil. The transition to healthy soil and turf may take several years. While it is happening, monitor for weeds, pests, and disease. Once the transition is complete, it will require much less fertilizer, water, and attention.
06/28/07 The final steps toward a natural, eco-friendly lawn are weed control and insect/disease control. Healthy soil and proper lawn maintenance go a long way toward controlling weeds. Weeds are often an indicator of infertile soil and stressed turf. Moss indicates shady, acid and infertile soil. Nutsedge indicates poorly drained, too wet soil. Crabgrass is a sign of insufficiently dense soil and grass mowed too low. Dandelions indicate a potassium deficiency. Obvious weeds should be hand pulled or removed with a dandelion digger before reseeding the area. Corn gluten is an effective, organic herbicide that prevents weed germination. Apply in early spring and fall but don't use it if you are planning to reseed as it also prevents grass seed germination. A healthy, properly maintained lawn will also minimize insect problems. Two common insect pests in lawns are white grubs, which are the larvae stage of several types of beetles, and chinch bugs. Grubs chew on the roots
of turf and can kill entire sections of lawn. Apply Milky Spore, a bacteria, or Grub Guard, beneficial nematodes, to control. Chinch bugs suck the grass blades, withdrawing moisture and injecting a toxic saliva that can kill grass. Severe infestations can be controlled by spraying a quart of premixed insecticidal soap with a tablespoonful if isopropyl alcohol, spraying the lawn every three to four days for two weeks.
06/21/07 The next steps to a low-maintenance, natural and eco-friendly lawn are proper mowing and proper watering. Mowing should be done a little at a time, rather than waiting for the grass to be too long. By mowing a little at a time, more leafy material will be removed which will stimulate the grass to replace itself using the nutrient reserves stored in the root system. Cutting off too much of the blade at one time can deplete the reserves faster than they can be replenished leading to a weak root system that's more susceptible to disease and less able to compete with weeds. Grass roots grow about as deep as the blades grow high so don't cut the grass shorter than two inches. Also, do not mow your lawn during extreme heat or when the grass is lying dormant, and keep the
mower blade sharp. A dull blade injures the lawn by tearing rather than slicing the grass blades. The amount of watering needed depends on weather conditions, grass variety, and soil type. Water deeply and consistently or not at all. Vacillating between watering and not watering stresses the lawn so make your watering early in the season and stick to your plan. Shallow watering leads to shallow rooting and weak growth whereas watering to a depth of six to eight inches encourages deep rooting and a stronger lawn. Generally, this means watering for two to four hours. After watering, insert a spade into the lawn and tilt it forward to test how far the moisture has spread.
05/31/07 A green, lush lawn looks wonderful, and sets off trees and flowerbeds beautifully. But, our love affair with lawns comes at a price. Each year placecountry-regionU.S. homeowners apply more than 3 million tons of synthetic lawn fertilizers and 70 million pounds of lawn pesticides and herbicides that pose serious hazards to children, pets, and wildlife. In addition, an estimated 65 percent of these chemicals end up in our lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers. Much of this can be avoided by converting to a natural, low-maintenance lawn. Over the next several weeks, the weekly Tip will explain seven steps to natural lawn conversion.
Step 1: Choose the right kind of grass, taking into account:
*climate: choose a grass variety appropriate for your local temperature, wet/dry conditions, and ability (or lack thereof) to withstand drought; *amount of sun/shade: most grass varieties require full sun to look their best so if your yard doesn't get full sun, select a more appropriate grass variety;
*traffic: some varieties are more tolerant of foot traffic than others. Chose wisely; *special site considerations: steep slopes, deep shade, rocky areas, and walking paths are simply not good places to plant grass. Instead look to perennials, ground covers, a gravel path, or stepping stones.
05/24/07 Warm weather is finally here and that means more time spent enjoying the outdoors. Many people chose this time of year to put up bird feeders, houses and bird baths. If you are part of this group, please consider purchasing and installing feeders, houses and baths made from recycled materials. Using things made from recycled materials not only decreases our trash production, it also creates a market for recycled materials. To find recycled materials bird feeders, houses and baths, Google recycled bird houses or try these websites:
05/17/07 As the weather gets warmer, many people will be investing in air conditioners. When buying a room air conditioner, remember that size matters and that bigger is not necessarily better. Select an air conditioner with a cooling capacity, measured in British Thermal Units per hour (BTUs/hr) that corresponds with the size of the room you will be using it in. If the air conditioner is too small for the room, it will need to run continuously to match your cooling needs, using unnecessary energy. If it's too large, it will constantly turn on and off, which also increases energy consumption. A good rule of thumb is to multiply the square footage of the room by ten, then add 4000. For example, a 500 square foot room would need a 9000 BTUs/hr unit [(500 x 10) + 4000].
For a more precise assessment, look at the equivalency chart on www.energystar.gov
05/10/07 Now that winter snow and April showers are a memory, it's the perfect time to pull out your bike and pedal to work. Cycling has many pluses, including calorie burning (@5 mph you burn 175 cal/hour), and cutting emissions (a car releases 23 pounds of greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, for every gallon of gasoline burned). On a personal level you also save money, get good exercise, and experience your surroundings in ways that just aren't possible at 30 mph. On a broader societal level, cycling cuts air pollution reduces greenhouse gases, and helps unclog the streets of congestion and traffic. So, get your bike tuned up, pump up the tires (put Tuffo lining in the tires to reduce the likelihood of flats), check the brakes, put on a certified bike helmet,and go.
05/03/07 With severe to extreme drought conditions affecting parts of the place, country, region U.S., as well as elsewhere, it's time to begin thinking about our "water footprint" in addition to our carbon footprint. There are many ways to conserve water - not letting the faucet run while brushing your teeth or shaving, collecting rainwater for lawn irrigation, to name a few - one simple way is to switch from liquid detergents to powders. Liquid laundry detergents are mostly water (up to 80 percent). Double- and triple-concentration formulations are better but only cut the water amount in half. It also costs energy and packaging to put the water into the detergent. So, do the enviro-friendly thing and switch to powder laundry detergents. The same goes for dishwashing
detergents (dishwasher and hand washing formulations); when there's a choice, opt for dry powders.
04/26/07 Are you in the market for a new printer? If so, opt for an inkjet because it consumes 90 percent less energy than a laser printer. Whenever possible, choose a multi-function devise that prints, faxes, copies, and scans: multi-function devices use less energy that the individual machines use. When you buy a new printer, don't forget to recycle your old one. Many companies take back old equipment. For a searchable list of companies accepting old electronics, as well as other equipment, go to http://www.pprc.org/pubs/epr/takeback.cfm.
04/20/07 Here are 5 easy things you can do in honor of Earth Day 2007.
1. Take a reusable coffee/tea mug with you when you stop for you caffeine. Reusable mugs are healthier for you and for the planet, leaving trees in forests and keeping non-degradable polystyrene out of the trash.
2. Drink tap water instead of bottled. There is little evidence that bottled water is safer since tap water must meet strict federal and local standards for chemical contaminants. Also, tap water helps eliminate the waste associated with single-use plastic bottles. If you're concerned about tap water quality, buy a tap-water filter that eliminates lead that may leach into water from decaying pipes, and chlorine often used to sanitize water.
3. Replace standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFBs) and save 75 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year per bulb.
4. Install aerators on your water taps. Aerators cut water usage from 5 gallons per minutes to 2.75 gallons or less.
5. Use "green" cleaners abound the house. Conventional cleaners are filled with chemicals that produce harmful byproducts during their production and harm aquatic life when washed down the drain. Green cleaners also contain fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems.
Warm weather will soon be here (we hope) and for many people that means gardening time. Every gardener wants a lush lawn and beautiful plants, and you can get that without harming the environment with harsh chemicals. Ensuring that plants are lush, health, require less water, and are therefore more disease-resistant is improved soil. You can improve your soil by adding organic matter. Unlike petrochemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers leach slowly from the soil, making them less likely to contribute to water pollution and problems like blue-green algae growth. Organic fertilizer options include:
* Worm casings. This is the digested soil worms leave behind. It's cheap ($5.95/5lb bag) and available from www.plantnatural.com (800-289-6656).
* Compost tea Brewer with Catalyst. Added to aerated compost at the beginning of the tea-brewing process, it can be used as a foliage spray or soil drench, and is rich in microces. Fair warning: it's expensive. Log on to www.seedsofchange.com (888-762-7333) for more information.
03/23/07 Plastic baggies are great and convenient for storing food and packing lunches. Unfortunately, they get used only once before ending up in the trash because they aren't recyclable. There are alternatives to use-'em-once plastic baggies. You can invest in a few reusable rigid plastic food storage containers (Rubbermaid, or the like). There is also a fairly new product called Bag-E-Wash. It is a dishwasher accessory that allows you to easily clean and reuse plastic food storage bags. It is designed to hold bags open for secure and sanitary cleaning and drying and can be adjusted to use with quart and gallon-sized bags. One box of 30 gallon-size bags washed and reused 50 times each saves $150.00, not to mention saving you the time and gas needed to go to the
store and buy new bags.
Contact Bag-E-Wash.com for purchase information.
03/15/07 The average American uses 50 pounds of tissue paper each year, and 40% of trash found in placecountry-regionU.S. landfills consists of paper products (paper napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, & tissue). While some of this cannot be avoided, you can decrease the negative environmental impact of paper by making wise choices.
Paper derived from virgin wood pulp carries a double environmental burden. Deforestation and indiscriminate logging (using gas-guzzling trucks) damage ecosystems by increasing erosion, silting, and flooding. In addition, manufacturers bleach paper products with chloride or chlorine derivative to keep tissue white. This process releases dioxins, known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors into the environment.
Switching to recycled products is easy - pay attention to labels. Look for goods that have the highest Post Consumer Waste (PCW) content. This refers to the amount of pulp derived from paper that was used by consumers and then recycled. Also, look for products labeled Processed Chlorine Free (PCF). This means that no additional chlorine or chlorine derivatives were used to bleach the final product.
Check out www.thegreenguide.com for more product information.
03/08/07 Spring is slowly arriving and some minds turn to fixing up the house. Before you break out the paint brushes take note of these earth-friendly pointers:
* When buying paint, rather than overestimating how much to buy, figure out how many square feet you actually have by measuring the height and width of each room and then multiplying those two figures. One gallon of pain covers approximately 400 square feet.
* Most paint contain volatile organic compounds (VOC) which release toxins into the air. Use low-VOC paints and stains whenever possible.
* To prevent paint from drying out, cover the can with plastic wrap (like the Sunday newspaper bags) before replacing the lid. Then store the can upside down where it won't freeze.
* Never, never, ever pour paint down the drain.
* Totally air-dried, solid latex paint can be placed with your trash for pick up.
03/01/07 Our everyday actions and decisions collectively make a big impact on preserving our resources and decreasing our trash production. For instance:
* Less energy is used by putting small pots on small burners and large pots on large burners when cooking.
* Using cold or cool water whenever possible, be it for cooking, cleaning or hand washing, saves the fuel used by your water heater.
* Watering plants with water left over from drinking, water used to wash fresh vegetables and fruits, or rain water collected in a bucket outside saves additional water.
02/22/07 Packaging serves numerous purposes, including protecting a product, prevention of tampering, providing information, and preserving hygienic integrity and freshness. Some packaging however is designed largely to enhance a product's attractiveness or prominence on the store shelf. Since packaging materials account for a large volume of the trash we generate, it provides a good opportunity for waste reduction.
*Buy larger packages. As the amount of product in a container increases, the packaging waste per serving decreases, and larger quantities decrease the number of energy-consuming trips you make to the store.
*When choosing between two similar products, opt for the one with the least packaging.
*Remember that wrenches, screwdrivers, nails and other hardware is available in loose bins.
*At the grocery store, consider whether it is necessary to buy items such as tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms in prepackaged (and often non-recyclable) containers when they can be bought unpackaged.
*For household cleaning projects, use products you already have on hand.
02/15/07 Junk mail!! It clogs up your mailbox, clutters up your kitchen, leaves you vulnerable to identity theft, and needlessly uses up trees. Did you know that 100 million trees are chopped down each year for junk mail sent to American homes? Those 28 billion gallons of water are used to process the paper used for junk mail each year? That paper makes up one third of the waste in American landfills? That the typical American household receives about 70 tones of junk mail each year? For a dime a day you can drastically reduce the amount of junk mail your household receives. Greendimes will contact national and local companies to take your name, and your family members' names, off major distribution lists and keep them off, reduce unwanted credit card solicitations, and unsubscribe you from
unwanted catalogue lists. Greendimes does all the contacting for you - no printing out forms, no buying postage, no filling out online forms, and no mailing letters. In addition, Greendimes will plant one tree each month on your behalf. To learn more or to sign up for this service, log on to www.greendimes.com/index.html?src=mem&refid=4031
02/09/07 Now that the Christmas season has passed, many residents are thinking of taking down their outdoor wreaths. When discarding your wreath, remember that it can be put in with your yard waste BUT only after it is dismantled. The base of the wreath is a sturdy metal double ring and the fir branches are held on to the rings with wire. The wire and the rings cannot be discarded with yard waste. To dismantle your wreath simply find the end of the wire and "unwrap" the fir branches. Place the greenery in your yard waste barrel or bag and save the wire to reuse. The metal rings can be saved to return to the Belmont Lions Club next November to be reused, or they can be saved for future home hobby projects.
02/01/07 If house remodeling, big or small, is in your future, take the time to watch "This Old House" on PBS. The next eight segments will feature the eco-friendly rehab/remodel of an placeCityAustin, StateTexas house. You can pick up ideas on energy-efficient appliances, eco-friendly flooring and paint options, and deck materials (a composite made from recycled plastic shopping bags and scrap wood), enviro-friendly kitchen and bathroom countertops (made from crushed, recycled glass and concrete, even eco-friendly gardening tips. Other energy-saving featured will be an "on demand" water heater, tight duct work, compact fluorescent bulbs, and solar panels.
01/25/07 So, you got a new cell phone and don't know what to do with your old one? Donate it!! CollectiveGood.com and ReCellular.com are two charitable organizations that accept used cell phones. ReCellular refurbishes the donated phones and resells them, giving part of the proceeds to charity.
Log on to WirelessRecycling.com and enter your ZIP code to find nearby ReCellular drop-off sites.
Another option is to try selling your old cell phone on eBay or Craig's List, then giving the proceeds to charity.
Whatever method you use, get a receipt from the organization you donate to and use it for a tax deduction.
01/18/07 The tip on reducing junk mail published two weeks ago contained information on the Stop Junk Mail Association. However, the phone number is no longer in service. So, here are a few more numbers to call and places to write in order to reduce junk mail.
* The Direct Marketing Association (805-658-4321) will send you a Junk Mail Reduction Kit with pre-addressed post cards.
* The credit bureaus are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to selling your name and information to credit card companies who, in turn, send those pre-approved applications. Call 1-888-657-8688, the Opt-Out Request Line to have your name removed from those lists.
* junkbusters.com offers a number of free services to help you get rid of unwanted postal and email
01/11/07 Junk mail!! It's annoying. It kills trees. It often gets tossed without being read. And it often touts something you have no interest in. So, how to stop, or at least diminish, it? You can directly contact the senders of the unwanted mail or you can check out subscription services such as www.greendimes.com or www.41pounds.org. Both services promise to decrease your load of junk mail. For more information, log on to www.thegreenguide.com
01/04/07 The holiday season is also the catalog season. If your household is like most, you received, literally, dozens of merchandise catalogs, some of which were of no interest to you. Before you discard catalogs in your mixed paper recycling, take steps to decrease or stop merchandise catalogs being mailed to you in the future by contacting companies that sell your address to mailing lists. Write to Direct Mailing Association, Mail Preference Service, addressStreetP.O. Box 9008, CityFarmingdale, StateNY PostalCode11735, and Stop Junk Mail Association, #150, placeCitySausalito, StateCA PostalCode94965 (you can save time and paper by calling them at 1-800-827-5549). If you want to stop specific catalogs, call the 800 number listed on the catalog and ask to be removed from the mailing
12/22/06 Surveying the landscape once the gifts have been opened, the floor beneath the tree is littered with paper, ribbon, boxes, bows, and other incidentals of the unwrapping process. You may find yourself wondering what to do with all that is left unwanted. The easy choice is to stuff it all in a big non-biodegradable plastic bag and set it out with the trash, but there are other options. So much effort goes into buying stuff, but comparatively little thought goes into disposing of what is left over - the bags, bow, packaging, wrapping, and, later, the items themselves once they are through with their useful lives. Here are some ideas for handling you holiday waste. *Wrappings: save the larger pieces to reuse for wrapping smaller gifts next year. Unwrapping gifts carefully so as
not to rip the paper in shreds slows everyone down and can be an opportunity to make the festivities last a bit longer. Put paper in a bag or box and store with your holiday ornaments until next year. Some ribbons and bows can be used again, too. Pieces too small for reuse can be recycled with your mixed paper. Exceptions are metallic, glittery, Mylar, and cellophane. Ribbons and bows are not recyclable. *Boxes: gift boxes can be saved and used again for birthdays, graduations, and other gifts. If you are unable to save all of them, recycle the non-corrugated boxes with your mixed paper.
12/14/06 Many people are in the final stages of holiday preparation - gift wrapping. This year, be creative and environmentally friendly when wrapping gifts.
* For most gifts, boxes are not needed. Just wrap the item as is. It will still look pretty under the tree and be a surprise to the recipient. Plus, fewer boxes means less waste.
* Instead of using commercial gift wrap, get creative. Decorate used paper bags with crayons, markers, stickers, and glitter. This is a great activity for children, giving them a job and raising their eco-awareness at the same time. *No time to create your own bags? Buy reusable bags from www.reusablebags.com. The wrapping will be part of the gift.
12/06/06 The holiday season is one of abundance and much of that abundance ends up in the trash.~ Here are some tips for reducing your contribution to that additional trash.
*Instead of material gifts, many of which get wrapped in yards of one-use paper, give gifts of your time or expertise: IOUs for chores, babysitting, snow shoveling, teaching a skill such as knitting, sewing or a sport, or offering your skills in building or repairing something.
*Give things that create no waste like gift certificates to restaurants, movies, plays, organization memberships, or~museums.
*Give homemade gifts like baked goods.
*Give plants or things that get "used up: soaps, candles, or seeds for next year's garden.
*If you buy material gifts, look for durable and reusable gifts rather than fad items.
*Give gifts with an environmental message such as nature or gardening books, thermos bottles, canvas tote bags, a battery recharger, bicycles, in-line skates, ice skates, or walking shoes/boots.
*Choose solar-powered instead of battery-powered products or, better yet, things that don't require power at all.
And don't forget to bring your own tote/shopping bags when you go shopping.
11/30/06 The holidays are here again and that means increased trash.~ Between Thanksgiving and New Years' Day, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash, producing an additional 5 million tons of garbage. You can do your part to reduce those numbers by wrapping gifts in recycled paper, old calendars, the Sunday newspaper comics, colorful circular ads, or children's artwork.~ Decorate your packages with raffia bows, evergreen snippets, or labels made from old holiday cards. According to statistics developed by the Sierra Club, if every family wrapped just three presents this way, it would save enough ribbon to tie a bow around the earth, and enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields!
11/22/06 The holiday season is upon us and it brings lots of eco-friendly opportunities.~ Let's start with entertaining.~~The holiday season is often a time for house parties.~ When planning a party, think about minimizing the waste that will be created.
*Using china (or similar) plates rather than throw-away paper plates.~ If you don't have~sufficient suitable plates, borrow from a friend or neighbor (this is the season for sharing, after all) or rent them (and you won't have to worry about breaking your good plates).~ If paper or plastic plates are a must, buy the reusable~and/or recyclable ones available at party goods stores.
*Drinking vessels (cups. glasses) and "silverware" can also be borrowed or rented.~ Again, if you insist on using plastic, buy recyclables-and then actually recycle them!
*Use washable tablecloths and napkins.~ A party is the perfect time to use that lovely tablecloth with a spot on it. ~Just place a serving dish on the spot and don't worry about something being dropped on the table (after all, it's already stained).~ If you must use paper napkins, us small ones: less paper = less waste.
*Buy or borrow "permanent" decorations that can be stored away and used for years to come.
11/08/06 Most people know that wine bottles are recyclable - put them in your curbside pickup bin and away they go.~ But, what about the corks?~ Up to now, they have been relegated to the trash.~ However, just in time for the holiday/entertainment/party season, a recycling option for wine corks has popped up.~ You can mail your corks to Yemm & Hart, a Missouri-based eco-friendly product manufacturer that turns corks into coasters, clipboards, and flooring.~ Also,~once the company gets~1 33, 333~corks (1,000 pounds), it will begin manufacturing and will offer discounts on the finished products to those who donated.~ Go to www.yemmhart.com for more information.
11/02/06 Halloween is over and the holidays are approaching fast.~ Before you start gift shopping, take some time to think about the impact of the gifts you buy and the type of shopping you do.
~Going to a retail store (usually) uses costly and environmentally-unfriendly fuel as well as your time.~ Alternately, on-line shopping uses far less fuel because delivery trucks carry large numbers of packages destined for many homes.~ And, if you combine your on-line shopping with that of family, friends, and neighbors so that only one package needs to be delivered to one destination, fuel costs and emissions are further decreased, and you can save on shipping fees.~ Another option is to shop at local stores:~walking to local stores further cuts your costs and the costs to the environment. The savings continue if the gift you select needs to be returned or exchanged!!
~So, before you start shopping, think about the environmental impact of your choices.
10/11/06 Have you noticed that the "paper or plastic" question that confounded grocery shoppers for year has been revised? Nowadays, the bagger is likely to say, "Is plastic OK?" as he/she proceeds to put the bananas in one plastic bag, the six-pack of soda in another, and the pasta and sauce in yet another. It's no surprise: plastic bags cost one cent while paper grocery bags cost four cents.~ Plastic bags are so cheap to produce, sturdy, plentiful, and easy to carry and store that they represent 80% of the grocery and convenience store market bags. As a result, plastic bags are everywhere. They sit balled up and stuffed into another bag that hangs in the closet. They line kitchen trash baskets. They clutter landfills, flap from trees, float in the breeze, clog roadside
drains, drift on ponds and lakes-and end up in the stomachs of sea turtles and other water animals.~According to calculations extrapolated from 2001 USEPA data, between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are consumed each year worldwide, many of them ending up as litter. It takes months to hundreds of years for plastic bags to break down (if they ever do) and as they do, tiny toxic bits seep into the soil, lakes, rivers, and oceans. So, should you ask for paper bags at the grocery store? Maybe not. While paper bags appear to be the better choice, they consume more energy to produce, generate more solid waste, account for more atmospheric emissions, and release far more waterborne wastes according to the Film and Bag Federation (a trade group within the Society of the Plastic Industry). Given this information, the eco-friendly choice is reusable bags.~ http://reuseablebags.com~offers a wide selection of reusable bags in various sizes.
10/04/06 Now that the leaves are falling and weekly yard waste collection will be returning at the end of October, it’s time for a few reminders.
The Town’s yard waste hauler will pick up leaves only if they are in 30-gallon (and less than 50 pounds) biodegradable bags or barrels clearly marked with two yard waste stickers (available from the Highway Division). Bags should be closed by folding over the top; No staples or tape, please. Brush, defined as bushes, tree material and hedges, greater than 1 inch but no greater than 6 inches in diameter, may be tied up into bundles for the trash truck. The bundles cannot exceed 3 feet in length and 24 inches in diameter and must be tied with rope or twine, not metal. Stumps and logs are the responsibility of the homeowner. The Town’s yard waste hauler can not take stumps greater than 6 inches in diameter from privately owned trees. For larger stumps, contact a local
landscaper or tree company. Finally, consider other options for leaf disposal. You can mow them with a mulching lawnmower and let them fertilize your lawn, or you can take them to the Town’s transfer station located on Concord Avenue.
09/21/06 Non-toxic non-commercial make-it-yourself cleaning products not only help the environment, they are less expensive than their commercial counterparts because you aren't paying the costs of packaging, advertising, and shipping. Here are a few more "recipes."
-Easy Deodorizer: Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet or rug and let sit overnight.~ In the morning, sweep off as much as possible with a broom and vacuum the rest.
-East carpet spill absorber: Pour cornstarch or cornmeal on the spill and allow to sit for 15 minutes.~ Sweep up as much as possible with a broom and vacuum up the remainder.
-Dishwasher soap: Mix equal parts borax and washing soda and use in place of commercial detergent.
-Overnight food stain remover: Sprinkle baking soda over dishes and allow to sit overnight.~ The baking soda will loosen grime and cut down on odors.
-Aromatic disinfectant: Mix small handfuls of dried lavender, rosemary, sage, rue,~and mint into 2 quarts of apple cider vinegar in a jar and cover tightly. Let sit for at least 4 weeks, then strain out the herbs and pour into a spray bottle.
-Toilet disinfectant: Put 2 cups of distilled white vinegar and a few drops of essential oil in a spray bottle.
09/15/06 To go along with our recent series of “Green Cleaning” tips, here are some recipes for non-toxic, environmentally-friendly compounds to use for housecleaning.~
All-purpose Castile cleaner: 1 teaspoon washing soda, 2 teaspoon borax, 1/2 teaspoon castile soap, 2 cups hot water, 10 drops essential oil (any scent you choose) mixed in a 16-oz spray bottle.~ This works especially well on greasy stains and has an indefinite shelf life
Borax cleaner (for general cleaning): mix 1/2 cup borax in 1 gallon hot water until borax is thoroughly dissolved.~ This works on areas that need general cleaning and, when made in smaller batches, stores indefinitely in a spray bottle
Scented soap and water: 2 cups hot water, 1-2 ounces castile soap, 5-10 drops essential oil, mixed with a gentle shake in a spray bottle.~ This is good for countertops and cupboards and stores indefinitely
Club soda spray: Club soda in a spray bottle is especially good for cleaning up acidic stains
Scented vinegar spray: 1 teaspoon borax, 1 tablespoon castile soap, 1/8 cup distilled white vinegar, 2 cups hot water, 5-10 drops essential oil mixed in a spray bottle.~ This combats mildew and is good for drawing out dirt and general cleaning and has an indefinite shelf life
Scented baking soda:~ 10 drops of essential oil and a small box of baking soda mixed in a shaker container using a fork.~ Sprinkled lightly on surfaces, rubbed in, then wiped off with a clean damp cotton cloth (to remove residue); it cleans surfaces and has an indefinite shelf life.
09/06/06 The air inside our homes can be two to five times more polluted than~outdoor air due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from cleaning products, pesticides, and out gassing from carpets, furniture, and other chemically treated materials.
Eliminating toxic products and pesticides from your home by adopting green cleaning practices will improve your indoor air quality.~ First, make sure your home is well ventilated (airtight homes can result in "sick building syndrome"), avoid furniture made from particleboard or other composite materials (they can emit trace amounts of formaldehyde), and use low-VOC paint and insulation.
Indoor plants can dramatically improve air quality.~ While all plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, some actually remove chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde from the air.~ Top plants on the air cleaner list are Aglanonema (Chinese evergreen), Spathiphyllum (peace lily), Syngonium (arrowhead vine), Hedera (English ivy), Dracaena (corn plant), spider plans, Scidapsus (devil's ivy), daisies and chrysanthemums.~ About 15 plants for every 1500 square feet of house is ideal.~ Remember to dust the leaves (plants need to breathe, too!!) with a damp cloth and keep the soil/root area clear (some of the cleaning action occurs at this level).
Commercial air fresheners (sprays, containers, and plug-ins) are actually potent chemicals.~ Rather than pollute the air in your home with chemicals, try boiling some water with a few cloves in it, or placing a few drops of essential oil on a working light bulb.
08/31/06 This week's tip is about non-toxic "green" cleaning of bathrooms.~ Due to dampness and warmth, bathrooms are especially susceptible to mold, mildew, and harmful bacteria.~ Many consumers adhere to the theory that the only way to truly clean a bathroom is with very strong, very toxic chemicals.~ But, many commercial disinfectant cleaning products contain ingredients that are harmful to the environment, highly caustic, and dangerous to handle or inhale.~ They also may contribute to the rise in drug-resistant bacteria when they find their way into our water supply after washing them down the drain.~ Plant-based cleaners and essential oils with antiseptic properties offer smart alternatives that do destroy microbes without harming the environment.
The first step to dealing with mold and mildew is prevention: open a window, use the ceiling fan (or use a small countertop fan), repair and leaking pipes, and wipe down a "sweat" on the toilet tank.~ Once mold or mildew has formed, spray with a solution made of one drop of tea tree oil in one cup of water, or a simple half-cup of vinegar in one cup of water solution.~ There are also enviro-friendly commercial mold and mildew removers available: try Enviro-Majic Mildew Stain Away or Naturally Yours Mold, Mildew Remover, Earth Friendly Shower Cleaner, Method Daily Shower Cleaner, or Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner.
08/23/06 If you've been following our recent tips, you know that we're tackling housecleaning the non-toxic way.~ This week the focus is on the refrigerator.~ Refrigerators usually consume more energy than any other appliance but there are several ways to increase their efficiency.~ First, keep the refrigerator clean because it runs more efficiently and consumes less energy when it's clean - inside and out.~ For cleaning the inside, use a mixture of four tablespoonfuls baking soda in one quart water.~ If there are really tough spots, put straight baking soda on a sponge and scrub.~ For outside cleaning, dust off the coils (behind and/or underneath) periodically with either a coil-cleaning tool or a simple feather duster.
Once the refrigerator is clean, remember not to overload it: cool air needs to be able to circulate between and around items for the refrigerator to do its job.~ Also, the racks on the door are the warmest spot so use them to store items such as condiment that don't spoil easily.~ This way you will end up wasting less food.~
Does all this seem insignificant?~ Try to view it in the larger picture:~every trip to the store to buy/replace food uses energy, the trucks, etc. that delivers the food to the store burn environmentally unfriendly fuel, growing/producing food requires energy and, often, environmentally unfriendly fertilizers, and packaging food often uses environmentally unfriendly and non-recyclable products.~
08/15/06 Continuing our series of non-toxic cleaning solutions, this week's tip again focuses on the kitchen where many toxic cleaners are unnecessarily used.
*Drain cleaning: Drain cleaners are among the most dangerous of all household products and the best way to avoid~their use is to prevent drain clogs.~ Scrape~dishes well before putting them in the sink; use a trap or screen to keep food scraps from going down the drain; do NOT pour cooking grease or oil down the drain because it builds up in your, and the community's~pipes (instead, let it cool and collect it in a sealable container~and either place it in the trash or put in the composter); once a week pour boiling water down the drain to clean it.~ If the drain does become clogged, use a plunger or make a drain opener of one cup baking soda and one cup vinegar in a large pot of boiling water poured down the drain followed by a flushing with tap water until it clears.~ If all else fails, use an enzymatic drain cleaner
such as Citra-Solv Citra Drain, Earth Friendly Enzymes, or Naturally Yours Enz-Away
*Countertop cleaning: Avoid products with the words antibacterial or disinfectant as they can be very toxic.~ For most countertops (laminate or Corian), a mixture of vinegar and water will work.~ For stubborn spots make a 3-parts baking soda 1-part water paste.~ Apply and let stand for a few hours before wiping off.~ Do NOT use any acetic mixture on marble counters, as it will corrode the surface.~ Instead use a solution of one tablespoonful dishwashing liquid in a quart if warm water, rise well and wipe dry with a soft cloth.
08/10/06 Cleaning the kitchen doesn't have to involve using harsh toxic chemicals.~ Many of those toxic chemicals, which end up in the air, waste water, and soil, can be avoided by using some simple non-toxic (and less expensive!) alternatives.~ For example:
* Stainless steel sinks (and stainless steel dishwashers and refrigerators) come clean with full-strength white vinegar on a sponge.~ If a spot needs scrubbing, use a little baking soda on a damp sponge and scrub with the grain.~ Rust stains can be removed by rubbing with a paste of 2 parts baking soda and 1 part water, then rinsing well.
*Porcelain sinks come clean with a bit of baking soda on a sponge.~ An eco-friendly cream cleaner or a nontoxic, non-abrasive cleaner like Bon Ami can be applied for hard-to-remove stains.~ For porcelain sink stains (kitchen or bath) try an herbal bath: steep several bunches of rosemary or thyme in hot water for a few hours, then strain.~ Stop up the sink and pour the mixture in, letting it sit overnight.~ You get a clean sink and the air will smell great.
*Chrome faucets and fixtures come clean with club soda, a mixture of equal parts distilled white vinegar and water, or a non-toxic cleaner such as Bon Ami.~ For really grimy spots, use a few drops of citrus essential oil on an old toothbrush and scrub
07/27/06 Recent tips addressed the issue of how to dispose of household hazardous waste and ways to buy fewer toxic household products.~ Taking a step back, guided by the motto of "reduce, reuse, recycle," the next few tips will address alternatives to toxic household chemicals, also known as green cleaning, room by room.
The first questions you may have are, what is green cleaning and why should you do it.~ Green cleaning has many meanings to many people but basically it means reducing negative environmental impact in small, everyday, doable ways by being cognizant of how your actions impact the environment by~using~products that are not harmful to people, plants, and animals; don't damage the environment during manufacture, use, or disposal; don't use a disproportionate amount of energy or resources in their manufacturing, use, or disposal; cause minimal waste via long useful life and minimal packaging; do not involve unnecessary use or cruelty to animals in their development, and; do not use materials derived from threatened species or environments.
Reasons to green clean are numerous.~ It does great things for the air, soil, plants, animals, and people.~~Your choices affect not only you and your house, but also the lives of those you live with and the health of the community, and even the earth as a whole.~~Green cleaning~de-clutters your house by ridding it of toxic products dangerous people and animals, and saves money (commercial products are expensive and include development, testing, packaging, and advertising costs).
Where to start?~ First, make a commitment of awareness.~ Read the list of ingredients on the labels~of cleaning products currently in your house and then think about putting those ingredients on your skin and in your lungs.~ Once you get past that, make sure you have the~three basic~items in your house that can be safely used for cleaning: baking soda, vinegar, and soap.~ Next week: the kitchen.
07/14/06 Our last two Tips told you how to dispose of household hazardous waste and what products are considered household hazardous waste.~ Starting this week, we're going to give you whys, ways, and products to eliminate, or at least reduce, your use of household hazardous waste. First, the whys: most of the chemicals found in household products fall into one of~three broad classifications.~ Synthetic organic compounds are chemicals that form the base for detergents, plastics, propane (and other gas fuels), heating oil, and lubricants.~ Examples are aromatic hydrocarbons such as degreasers, deodorizers, and pesticides, ( all known carcinogens); volatile organic compounds which are compounds that evaporate easily at room temperature, attach to soft materials in the house, and eventually work
their way outdoors where they cause low-altitude smog; petrochemicals which are linked to numerous environmental and health problems and are found in some household cleaners such as floor wax, furniture polish, degreaser, and all-purpose cleaners (look for the words petroleum distillate, naphtha, or naphthalene on the labels).~ Chlorinated compounds are common in household products such as bleaching agents, sol vents (think dry cleaning), tub/tile cleaners, and pesticides.~ These compounds get washed down the drain, entering the environment and are associated with biological dysfunction.~ Phosphates contain phosphorus which, in overabundance, encourages algae and weeds thus depriving less aggressive~plants and animals of oxygen, ultimately causing lifeless streams and rivers.
06/29/06 Summer is finally here and there are moving vans all over town.~ If you are packing up for a move this summer (or anytime), remember not to throw away any hazardous household products.~ Products whose labels say "Danger," "Poison," "Warning," or "Caution" contain ingredients that may be hazardous to your health or may pollute our water.~ Moving companies cannot transport these products ... and you shouldn't hide them in the trash or dump them down the sink or into a storm drain.
Here's what you can do:
1) Gather up the hazardous products that your mover can't transport to your new home or that previous residents left behind.
2) Keep the products you will use up or that you will personally transport to your new home.~
3) Give the remaining products to friends or neighbors.
4) Take what ever is left to the~Hazardous Waste facility in Lexington.~ Call 617-993-2720 to schedule a drop off.
05/31/06 5 More Ways to Save Energy at Home
The typical American family spends $1400 annually on energy at home and, with New England's harsh winters, local costs could be considerably higher.~ Here are 5 more ways (the first 5 were in last week's Tip) to~decrease costs by saving energy.
* Weather-strip and caulk: By investing a few dollars and a Saturday afternoon, you can realize considerable energy savings.~ Weather-stripping and caulking the gaps in your doorframes and windows is a cheap~and easy project, and it makes your house more comfortable by keeping the extreme cold and heat outside.
* Choose efficient appliances: Energy-efficient appliances are marked with the government's "Energy Star" label, and they are ranked at www.energystar.gov. The initial cost may be slightly more but is more than made up by the energy savings over time.~ For example, new refrigerators use half the power as those a decade old, resulting in about a $50 annual savings.
*Install compact fluorescents: Compact fluorescent lights have advanced over the past decade and now shed more appealing light.~ They are three time more efficient than ordinary bulbs, converting their energy into light, not heat, and they last longer, saving you up to $15 per bulb each year.
*Get rid of you halogen torchieres: While they are inexpensive to buy, halogen torchiere lamps are expensive to operate and they are dangerous.~ A single 300-watt halogen bulb can cost over $100 in electricity each year and halogen torchieres caused 189 fires and 11 deaths in five years.
*Wash your clothes in cold water: Heating the water uses 90% of the energy involved in washing clothes.~ Cold water washes dramatically reduce the impact on the environment and your wallet, without negative consequences: with liquid soaps, all the heavily stained clothing will get just as clean
05/25/06 Five Easy Ways to Save Energy at Home
1. Pull the plug~Televisions, clock radios, VCRs and similar appliances constantly use electricity for clocks and instant-on features.~ If you have rarely used electronic equipment, such as in a guest room, pull the plug when it's not in use.~ Also, turn off lights that aren't really needed or are in unoccupied rooms.
2. Use the microwave~ A microwave use one-fifth the power to cook the same things as a large electric oven does, and less than half as much as a frying pan, toaster, gas oven, or electric convection oven.
3. Adjust the thermostat~you can cut your energy consumption by adjusting the thermostat as little as a degree or two in the winter and summer; you will burn less fuel for heat and use less electricity for air conditioning.~ You will save money and barely notice the difference.
4. Turn off the computer~Modern computers are safe to turn on and off frequently, so shut yours off at night and when you are leaving for a few hours.~ Additionally, most PCs come equipped with the power-saving features that you should make certain are activated.
5. Switch the showerheads~Outdates showerheads use five gallons of water per minute, and can use over 50,000 gallons a year for a four-person household.~ By installing a new showerhead, you can cut consumption in half.~ A Boston-area household would see~a $95 reduction in its water bill, in addition to energy savings from heating less water.
05/19/06 Disposing of unwanted OCs, notebooks, monitors, ink and laser printers, PDAs, and networking equipment just got easier.~ For a small charge (to cover pick-up and recycling costs) Hewlett-Packard Development Company will come to your house or business and pick up any computer hardware, even non-HP products! All you need to do is log on to www.hp.com/recycle to schedule a pick-up.~ They accept bulk orders and large items as well as small ones. And, what happens to the things they pick up?~ The old
components (including gold, platinum, and silver) are turned into a variety of things from airplane parts to toys to fences.
HP also offers other options for old computer hardware.~ They accept trade-ins as credit toward new HP products, asset recovery for large businesses (cash or credit for use equipment), and donation to programs for the disabled and/or disadvantaged, and leasing.~ To view all the options go to www.hp.com/recycle.
05/09/06 It rained for a week and everything is green and lush but, how can you keep your lawn and outdoor plantings looking great all summer?~ You could water daily/semi-weekly/weekly or you could enjoy a beautiful lawn and garden while being environmentally friendly at the same time by investing in a rain barrel.
What is a rain barrel?~ A rain barrel is a rainwater harvesting system connected to a downspout tube from you house (or other building).~ Rain barrels have a spigot that allows you to tap into the collected rainwater for use on your lawn, garden, and other outdoor plantings.~ They come in a variety of sizes, materials (including some made from recycled plastic!!), and prices.~ To learn more about purchasing, installing and using a rain barrel one check out the internet.
05/04/06 The lawn care season is finally here and for many people, in the quest for the perfect lawn, that means the application of pesticides.~ Before laying on the pesticides, consider this: several types of cancer, neurological problems, endocrine disruption, and certain birth defects have been associated with chemicals contained in common lawn pesticides.~ Children and pets in particular are susceptible to the toxic effects of lawn care chemicals in part, because they spend much more outdoor time playing on the grass.~ Wildlife is also adversely affected. So, what's the alternative?~ Natural lawn care, starting with aeration and compost application, seeding with grass suited for the area and soil type, using corn gluten for pre-emergence weed control, and annual applications of slow-release
nitrogen organic fertilizer (which does not contain2, 4D toxic herbicide like many commercial fertilizers), mowing high (2 to 3 inches), deep watering early in the morning, and frequent soil testing to determine needed additives such as lime or rock dust.~ If you use a lawn service, look for a company that follows a natural program. Your decision to stop using harmful pesticides benefits not only your immediate family, but also you neighbors, pets, and wildlife.
04/28/06 Got books?~ Want to get rid of some books?~ As most readers know, you can donate old books to the Belmont Public Library for its annual fall fund-raising book sale.~ You can also sell then at a yard sale.~ But neither of these options is viable for old textbooks (the library doesn't accept them and they aren't likely to sell at a yard sale).~ Now there's another option.~ Got Books? In North Reading accepts donations of all types of books and you don't even need to go take your books to them: they will pick up your donations.~ You can also~take your donations to~their store at 35 Concord St, North Reading.~ Got Books? sells the books to raise money for local nonprofit organizations.~Go to www.GotBooks.com or call 978-664-6555 for more information or to arrange for a pick up
04/13/06 When ordinary toothbrushes are past their prime and no longer appropriate for cleaning teeth, they can have a second life cleaning other things.~~ Old toothbrushes are great for loosening the greenish gunk that collects around sink and bathtub faucets, as well as cleaning between ceramic tiles.~ In their retirement, old toothbrushes are also handy for cleaning garden dirt from beneath fingernails, or scraping mud and dirt from the soles of shoes.~ They are handy for cleaning out the hard-to-reach bottom of planters, too.~ With some imagination and thought, you can come up with tons of uses for old toothbrushes.
04/06/06 When the time comes to part with your, or your children's, old trophies, don't consign them to the trash.~ Let your trophies live on by offering them to a local recreation center or school to be reused. Old trophies can be inexpensively made into new ones by replacing the old name plaque with a new one.~ Some trophies can be further changed by removing and replacing the figurine on top.~ Although installing a new plaque on an old trophy may not save money, since the new plaque may cost as much as an entire new trophy, it does conserve resources and keep those old trophies out of the waste stream
03/30/06 Spring finally seems to be here.~ It's time to get out the bikes and go for rides.~ If you are replacing your current bike(s), or bought a new bike but didn't know what to do with the old one(s), this tip is for you.
Bike-not-Bombs is~a non-profit organization located in Roxbury.~ BNB rehabs old and not-so-old bikes, them ships them to less wealthy countries.~ The rehabbing is done by disadvantaged teens who learn valuable life lessons as well as useful skills.~ BNB conducts bike collection drives throughout the year at various locations which afford an opportunity to donate old bikes at convenient locations.~ BNB requests a $5 per bike donation to defray storage, processing, and shipping costs.~ A signed, dated receipt for the cash donation and the value of each bike is available upon request.~ BNB is a 501(c) 3 charity under the IRS code, so your donation is deductible to the extent provided by law.
Upcoming dates and locations are:
*April 2, 12:00PM-3:00PM, Concord-Carlisle Regional High School, 500 Walden St, Concord
*April 29, 10:00AM-2:00PM, Lexington Visitor's Center, 1875 Mass Ave, Lexington
*April 30, 9:00AM-2:00PM, Newton Recycle Center, Rumford Ave., Newton
*May 13, 1:00PM-3:00PM St. John's Methodist Church, 80 Mt. Auburn ST., Watertown
*May 20, 9:30AM-3:00PM, Concord Town Yard, 133 Keyes Rd, Concord
Other dates and locations are listed on the Bikes Not Bombs website.
03/22/06 Donate-Don't Dump
When you donate goods reduces solid waste, helps the environment, makes you feel good, and, as a bonus, can earn you a tax deduction.
Under the IRS code, individual taxpayers (as versus businesses) can claim the fair market value of goods donated to charitable organizations.~ How to determine fair market value? Look as classified ads, current price guides, talk to dealers, or check out EBay.~ What's a charitable organization? Public charities, public schools, public parks/recreation programs, churches, and non-profit groups.~ To be certain the recipient of your donated goods qualifies as a non-profit organization under the IRS rules, ask for a copy of the organization's exemption letter, or contact the IRS.~ If the item is valued at greater than $5000, you will need a written appraisal from a qualified appraiser.~ In addition, the IRS publishes two free documents that explain how to determine fair market value.~ Publication # 526 addresses goods valued
at less than $5000, while #561 addresses those items valued greater than $5000.~ Finally, always get a receipt from the organization.
03/16/06 Paper napkins are environmentally unfriendly.~ It has been estimated that paper napkins account for nearly fifteen times more solid waste than cloth napkins.~ To put that estimate into a larger picture consider this: in 1991, one national restaurant chain (Red Lobster, Inc) made the switch from paper to cloth, it estimated that the switch would create 4.7 million fewer pounds of paper waste per year.~ That's a big savings and, while the differences between a national restaurant chain and an individual household are obvious, if enough individual households opted for cloth rather than paper, the positive impact on the environment would be considerable.
Yes, cloth napkins need laundering, but adding them to your normal wash adds next to nothing to your laundry costs, save trees, preserve landfill space, and reduce the air and water pollution produced by paper manufacturing.~ Besides, cloth cloths, available in pretty colors, patterns and fabrics, add to the decor of your table, not to mention a touch of class: have you ever seen paper napkins used in a classy restaurant?
03/09/06 Milder weather is finally here and thoughts of gardening and lawn care are sprouting up.~ Before you plant the first seed, think about going organic this year.~ You can~help the environment,~as well as children and animals that walk~and play on your lawn and garden by not~lacing them with harmful~chemicals.
Mahoney's Garden Center in Winchester is hosting~the following Saturday seminars on~low maintenance landscaping and~organic gardening:
* March 25th-ground covers made simple;
*March 25th-organic gardening with compost tea;
*April 1st-low maintenance landscaping;
*April 8th-seed starting and organic vegetable gardening;
The seminars are free but seating is limited so call 781-729-5900 ext. 239 for~reservations or~visit www.mahoneysgarden.com~for more information.
02/22/06 According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away one million tons of disposable paper plates and cups each year.~ It takes about 17 trees to make one ton of paper, that's roughly 17 million trees being destroyed annually for the sake of disposable dinnerware.
There are ways to avoid, or at least reduce, this waste.~
* Wash dishes!!~ Washing dishes not only saves the trees directly used to make paper plates, cups, and napkins, it has other environmental benefits: trees absorb carbon dioxide, helping to combat global warming.~ In addition, the paper-making process uses huge amounts of energy and pulp mills discharge huge amounts of toxic chemicals into streams and coastal waters so fewer paper goods means less air and water pollution.
* Keep a washable cup at work.~
* Take a washable cup with you when you go to Dunkin' Donuts, Starbuck's, etc
02/15/06 Like paper plates and cups, disposable razors are seductively convenient, but problematically short-lived.~ When a disposable razor loses its edge, it gets tossed in the trash; joining 180,000,000 other disposable razors tossed by Americans annually, and sent to a landfill to leach into groundwater~or to an incinerator where it's toxic components are released into the air we breathe. In addition to environmental concerns, disposable razors do not give as close a shave as reusable razors according to a panel of men who evaluated shaving systems for Consumer Reports magazine. So, do yourself and the environment a favor and use a non-disposable razor.~ And remember, if you opt for an "electric" razor, chose one that features a rechargeable battery.
02/07/06 The world is constantly changing with new roads being built, new suburbs springing up, new governments created, and national boundaries being redefined.~ These changes require new maps.~ But, what to do with the old maps?
If the old maps are ripped and frayed, recycling them with your mixed paper may be the answer.~ But, for for maps in good condition, there are other uses such as:
*wallpaper for a child's room, a den, a study, a reading room, or a hallway
*brighten up the walls in your basement
*donate them to schools for use as educational tools
*use them as gift wrap
*laminate smaller maps and use them as placemats
01/27/06 An easy and money-saving~way to cut waste is to re-use copy paper in you home.~ When printing off draft letters, lists, etc, simply re-use the blank side of~an already used sheet of~paper.~ Determine how your printer feeds the paper and then place the~unused side face up or face down, as needed, and use the paper again.~ If you find the paper jams in the feeder, try placing the used sheets one at a time.
Along the same lines, when photocopying multi-page documents, select "2-sided" copy.~ You'll use half as much paper - and save some trees.~ Also, two-sided copies take up less space.
01/19/06 Now that the holiday season has ended, many residents are starting to take down their outdoor wreaths.~ When discarding your wreath, please remember that it can be out in your yard waste (yard waste pickup resumes in April) BUT only after it is dismantled.~ The base of the wreath is a sturdy metal ring while the fir branches are held onto the ring with wire.~ The metal ring and wire cannot be placed in your yard waste. To dismantle your wreath; simply find the end of the wire and "unwrap" the fir branches.~ Place the greenery in your yard waste barrel or bag and save the metal ring and wire for future home or hobby projects.
01/12/06 Many things we do in our everyday life are done out of habit rather than necessity and some of those habits hurt the environment.~ The good news is that many of our everyday habits can be changed.~ A few examples are:
* Direct deposit pay.~ Many companies pay by direct deposit and give the employee a weekly (or biweekly) piece of paper showing gross pay, net pay, etc.~ The employee faithfully collects the pieces of paper, filed them for a year, and then shreds them.~ Do you really need that piece of paper?~ Most employers, particularly large ones, post the same information on a secure website that the employee can check whenever he or she wants and, when needed, print out.
*On-line bill paying.~ Many companies and banks offer on-line bill paying.~ This eliminates the need for a payment envelope, postage, and the fuel for vehicles to transport hard copy payment.~ It's also very convenient.
*Stopping for coffee on the way to work.~ Most coffee stores supply~one-use cups for coffee, often bio-disastrous Styrofoam.~ By buying a reusable plastic or metal cup, you can keep five disposable cups out of the waste stream each week.
01/05/06 January is the coldest month in New England. It is especially cold for those who are homeless.~ To help the homeless, Homegoods is holding a blanket and bedding drive. From now to January 15 bring your clean blankets and sheets to any Homegoods store and they will distribute them to the homeless population.~ There are four nearby Homegoods stores: Assembly Square Market Place in Somerville (Homegoods is located with TJ Maxx and more), 978 Boylston St in Newton, 309 Great Road in Bedford, and 296 Mishawum Rd (Woburn Mall) in Woburn (inside TJ Maxx and more).~ This is a great chance to clean out your linen closet, recycle, and help those who are needy.
12/28/05 Did someone in your household get a~brand new bike for Christmas, leaving you with an old bike to dispose of?~ Rather than throwing old bikes in the trash, donate them to Bikes Not Bombs, a nonprofit organization that promotes community-based education and development projects involving bicycles.
Bikes No t Bombs accepts new or used bicycles, so long as the bike is not completely rust covered, as well as bicycle parts of almost any kind.~ The organization trains young people to become bicycle mechanics and community leaders.~ BNB operates a full service shop where they repair customer bikes and sell refurbished ones (with a warranty).~ They receive about 1500 used bikes each year, and, after being repaired,~about 1000 of those are sent to bicycle projects in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
12/15/05 The Christmas season is an ecological nightmare.~ But, by wrapping gifts in re-useable materials you may already have on hand, you can unclutter your closets, have a little fun, and even save a tree, not to mention the expensive polluting fuel you'll save by not making last-minute trips to the store for traditional paper wrap.
Colorful scarves, cloth napkins and even dish towels make excellent gift wrap, as do fabric bags tied up with a pretty ribbon, and all are eminently re-useable.~ Or, you can easily make bright colorful squares using material left over from sewing and crafts projects or remnants bought inexpensively on sale.~ Just cut the cloth to size and run a zigzag stitch around the edges to prevent raveling.~ Use it as you would regular paper gift wrap, tying it with a ribbon.~ The recipient can press out the wrinkles and reuse it.~
Too complicated for you?~ Use the Sunday comic pages (especially good for children) or colorful advertisements (usually made of sturdy paper) for wrapping, or a decorative gift box.~ For grandparents, artwork made by the grandchildren makes unique and thoughtful wrapping.
Something elegant but simple, especially for gifts consisting of several items, is a basket with the gifts arranged attractively and a bow on or ornament on top.~ The basket is instantly re-useable.
By strategically placing a ribbon or bow, you can conceal a crease in previously-used gift wrap and give it a second (or third or forth...) life.
12/07/05 As you do your holiday shopping, focus on earth-friendly gifts like,
*a battery charger with rechargeable batteries, good for a child who enjoys battery-operated toys, or an adult who uses a battery-operated portable tape recorder, beeper, radio, etc.
*a gift certificate for diaper service for soon-to-be parents
*plants as hostess gifts
*a gift certificate for babysitting for friends w/ young children
*a composting bin for leaf-raking, grass-cutting friends (available at the Belmont Highway Division)
12/02/05 The holiday season is here again and that means house parties. When planning a party, think about minimizing the waste, and negative effect on the environment, that will be created.
*Using china (or similar) serving dishes, plates and bowls rather than throw-away paper or plastic products is one eco-friendly strategy.~ Don't have enough suitable plates?~ Borrow from friends and relatives or rent them.~ AA Rentals in Waverly Square has dining ware for rent and it's only a short trip (i.e., doesn't eat up a lot of expensive gasoline going back and forth) away.
*Drinking vessels (cups, glass and the like) and "silverware" can also be borrowed or rented.
*Use washable fabric tablecloths and napkins rather than use-once-and-throw-away paper. A party is the perfect time to use that beautiful tablecloth with the stain on it: just place a serving dish over the spot and don't worry about something being dropped on it.~ These too can be borrowed or rented. If you really must use paper, use small rather than large napkins: less paper means less trash.
*When buying party decorations, buy "permanent" ones that can be stored away and used again for years to come
11/25/05 TIS THE SEASON TO RECYCLE
How do you hold onto your values during the holiday season?~ The holidays can be stressful and they also stress the environment.~ Buying gifts means lots of packaging.~ It also means there are used, older, or small items that are no longer needed.~ For the environmentally concerned, it poses a dilemma of how to get through the holiday season while still reducing waste and recycling all you can. Here are some suggestions to conserve resources for the holidays and make celebrations cleaner and greener.
· Shop green – choose products with recycled content, items that are built to last or that save energy.~ For example, try giving everyone on your list a compact fluorescent bulb.
· Consider giving the gift of time – yours or someone else’s, such as a handmade gift, music lessons, a trip to a state park, a night on the town, or event tickets.
· Give “eco-friendly” gifts, such as hand-knit items, plants, a window box herb garden, fruit baskets, bird feeders and seeds, compost bins, family memberships or donations to the recipients’ favorite organization.
· Recycle all the cardboard boxes, reuse wrapping paper, put lights on timers and use energy efficient bulbs in holiday lighting.
· As you make room for new holiday treasures; consider donating unwanted toys, electronics and clothing to charity instead of throwing them away.
11/17/05 With the rise in fuel prices and threats of rolling electrical brown-outs, just about everyone's attention is focused on looking for ways to save on heating costs this winter. When thinking of cost saving, think about your furnace filter. Most furnace filters available at hardware stores are short-lived disposables. Using these single-use products, and changing the filter as frequently as recommended, will mean using a new filter every month or two and putting a used filter in the trash. Re-useable furnace filters are available and can be more effective at trapping tiny airborne particles than single-use filters. Re-useable filter are usually made of synthetic fibers (polyester and polyethylene) and rely on static cling to attract and hold micro particles. They can
usually be cleaned by rinsing with water, then allowing to thoroughly dry before replacing in the furnace. By buying two reusables, you can have one installed while the other one dries. Initially, re-useable furnace filters cost more than single-use ones but, over time, they cost far less than disposables. In addition, using re-useable filters conserves the natural resources, including the energy and materials needed to manufacture the disposables and the fuel required to transport them from the factory to the store. Cleaning furnace filters frequently saves energy and could prevent premature blower failure. Dirty filters use more costly fuel than clean ones because the fan must work harder (consuming electricity) to force air through the dirty filter.
11/10/05 Paper towels are the siren call of convenience.~ We reach up and rip off a piece of paper towel to dry our hands, mop up spills, or wipe a countertop, then toss the spent piece of paper into the trash. Using paper towels is a habit and habits are powerful forces.~ When you multiply your own household's daily paper towel habit by 365 days each year and millions of other households, it adds up.~ It has been estimated that Americans use over 27 million trees worth of paper towels each year.~ Towel by towel, we are pulping our forests into throwaway products. It would be nice if paper towels were recyclable but, even though they contain some recycled fibers, the wet-strength additive in paper towels makes then unrecyclable.~ So, breaking the paper towel habit is the answer.~ Buy a colorful array of
cotton kitchen towels for as little as $2 a piece (when buying by the dozen) and each cotton towel could easily outlast $30 worth of paper towels. By tossing them in with the rest of the laundry,~they add virtually nothing to chore time and the laundering expense is negligible.~ You may want to designate one color towel specifically for drying hands, another for wiping countertops, etc.~ Use a sponge for cleaning up spills.
11/02/05 Poor eyesight can be devastating.~ It can force adults out of work and children out of school.~ According to World Health Organization statistics, one in every four people needs corrective lenses, but many have no hope of affording glasses. To serve those who cannot afford glasses, the Lions Clubs International collects old, unwanted glasses and distributes them free of charge to needy people in developing nations, where a pair of glasses can cost up to a month's wages. Anyone with a pair of old prescription glasses can make a valuable contribution to the re-use program.~ Ordinary nonprescription sunglasses are also welcomed.~ Collection is year round but especially in May when "Lions Recycle for Sight" collection bins are displayed in many businesses throughout the US and Canada.~
Glasses can also be dropped off at many LensCrafters outlets in the US.
The collected glasses are forwarded to one on five regional recycling centers, where volunteers clean, repair, sort, and categorize them according to prescription.~ The glasses are then distributed to optical missions in developing countries.
10/26/05 Everyone knows you can get a pre owned cat, dog, or rabbit from an animal shelter.~ But, did you know that many shelters accept - and reuse - previously owned pet care items?~ Some shelters accept a variety of items, including crates and carriers, metal food and water bowls (no plastic, please), doggie sweaters, leashes, flea combs,~and dog collars, provided they are in good condition. Animal shelters, and some veterinary offices,~use old towels and blankets~for bedding and for drying just-bathed dogs.
Cost- and eco-conscious cat owners can hand shred newspapers into thin strips for use as cat box filler.~ It's low tech, but it works.~ It's also so cheap that you can change the litter box daily. Some kennels like to receive funky old tennis balls that have lost their bounce, to use for exercising dogs. (But do NOT let your dog use tennis balls as chew toys: tennis ball innards are very bad for doggie digestion).
10/20/05 Why buy a cheap throw away Halloween costume, that hundreds of other people will also be wearing, when you can rent a fantastic unique one from a theatrical supply shop, costume shop,~or a vintage clothing store?~ Better~yet, you can create your own costumes for free with materials scrounged from your closets, basement, garage, yard sales, or neighbors.
Let the available materials inspire your imagination or brainstorm with friends.~ A touch of ingenuity, a few bits of colored paper (cut from magazines), some scraps of cloth (from long ago sewing or craft projects), plus some glue and glitter can turn a lowly egg carton into a jeweled crown fit for a princess.~ If your imagination isn't up to the task, borrow a book on costumes from the library.
You can also swap and trade items with friends, neighbors, and others.~ If you have a splendid "princess" gown, aging Santa suit, or fine vintage out that isn't being used consider trading it for a friend's frog suit, Superman get-up or witch costume.~
10/14/05 Coffee filters made with paper whitened with chloride bleach may contain trace amounts of the highly toxic synthetic chemical dioxin. According to a study performed by research chemists at Wright State University, about half the dioxin in paper coffee filters actually leaches into freshly brewed coffee.~
Fortunately, there are several types of reusable filters that won't pollute your coffee.~ These filters also preserve trees and decrease solid waste and, in the log run, will cost you far less than paper filters.
*Cloth filters made of unbleached cotton muslin may be reused daily for up to 2 years.~ After each use, cloth filters should be rinsed thoroughly with plain hot water.~ To freshen a cloth filter, soak it occasionally in a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda and 2 cups hot water.~ Rinse thoroughly before using again.
*Gold-plated filters are made of a fine mesh that allows more of the coffee to pass through into the brew.~ Unlike paper filters, which can impart an undesirable flavor, gold does not affect the taste.~ Designed to last many years, gold-plated filters are easy to clean.~ A thorough rinse with hot water is sufficient.~ Costing $10-$20, they are available in home goods stores and coffee-specialty shops.
*French Press type coffee makers utilize a plunger with a permanent mesh screen to filter the grounds from the brew to produce a thick, heavy-bodied coffee.~ French press coffee makers can be found at home goods stores, coffee specialty shops and on-line.
10/05/05 If you are planning to carpet your basement consider installing apiece of used carpet.~ One of the advantages of secondhand carpeting is that it may be relatively free of the dreaded "new carpet" smell which has been linked to a variety of disturbing symptoms ranging from lightheadedness and difficulty concentrating to numbness, nausea, dizziness, and double vision.~ It is believed that the chemical smell do characteristic of new carpeting is probably caused by the volstile organic compounds (VOCs) given off by new carpeting.~ Researches suspect that latex backing may be to blame.~ Until the offending chemicals are definitely identified and eliminated, used carpeting may provide a less toxic alternative, since it has already emitted many of its VOCs in its previous installation.~ Used carpeting
can be found at used building materials stores and with carpet installers.
Whether you choose new or used carpeting, make it last.~
1. Regular vacuuming (at least weekly) is essential to minimize the danger that ground-in dirt particles will abrade carpet fibers, chewing into the fabric as it is walked on.~
2. Follow carpet manufacturer’s recommendations of a deep cleaning every 12 to 18 months.~
3. Wipe~up spills promptly.~ The longer a spill remains on the carpet the more difficult it is to remove and the more likely it is to leave a stain.~ Even carpet pretreated with a "stain resister" is not stain proof.
4. To prevent premature fading, close drapes to block strong afternoon sun.
Finally, just because it incurs a spot of damage doesn't mean it's the end for an entire room of carpeting.~ Professional carpet repairers and dyers have a repertoire of restorative techniques, including redying to cover stains and fading, repairs to cigarette burns, rips and tears, pet accidents, split seams, and water damage.
09/29/05 Most people use the public library for economic reasons.~ But, there are sound environmental reasons to borrow books rather than buy them.~ By systematically enabling an entire community (or numerous communities as in out Middlesex Library System), public libraries eliminate the need for millions of individual copies.~ While this may not be good news for publishers or royalty-dependent authors, it is great news for our earth and the people who live on it.
Without ever meaning to, over the years libraries have conserved valuable tracts of forest, plus the energy that would have been needed to transport individual books to their final owners and the highly toxic chemical discharges emitted by the paper industry's pulp plants.
Libraries aren't the only source of book sharing.~ Secondhand stores (Annie's Book swap on Trapelo Rd. is one), garage sales, library fund-raising sales (the Belmont library fund-raising sale is held each October at the Concord Ave. library), and thrift stores facilitate millions of swaps every year.~~And, you can continue to~share books by donating~your discarded~to the library.
While the most energy-efficient way to share books is locally, there are more distant opportunities.~ The International Book Project is dedicated to building community libraries overseas.~ This group accepts textbooks, technical books, and reference books in good condition and preferably less than ten years old.~ Their needs are very specific so contact them first, for book selecting instructions, at International Book Project, 1440 Delaware Ave., Lexington, KY 40505; 606-254-6771.
09/22/05 As a nation, we are hooked on batteries.~ To power our portable CD players, flashlights, calculators, toys, and other gadgets, we purchase about 3 billion single-use batteries each year.~ Once they run down,~virtually all of them~get tossed in the trash.
Since a single rechargeable battery can replace several hundred single-use alkaline, switching to rechargeables can dramatically reduce the number of batteries flowing into the waste stream.~ In addition, using fewer alkalines reduces the consumption of energy and natural resources need for their manufacture and transport to retail stores.~ Rechargebles can save a sizeable amount of money in the long run, too.
Although there are several types of rechargeables, the most common type for household purposes is nickel-cadmium cell, a.k.a."nicads."~~ Nicads work well in many (though not all) situations.~ They are especially useful in portable tape recorders, toys, flashlights, beepers and TV remotes.~ Not all nicads are created equal.~ When shopping, look for the ones with the highest amp rating since the higher the amp rating the longer the battery can go between charges.~ To reach their maximum capacity, nicads must be "broken in."~ It is recommended that you fully charge and fully discharge each nicad 5 to 8 times to get it to its maximum.~ However, nicads can be permanently damaged by overcharging - leaving them in the charger too long - since this allows heat build-up so it is best to buy them with a
"smart" charger - one that shuts off when the battery is fully charged.~ Because they use one percent of their charge each day (even when not in use), nicads are not recommended for clocks, watches, smoke detectors, garage door openers, or cameras.~ Also, electronic devices that require 1.5 volts of power should not be used with nicads, which deliver 1.25 volts.
09/14/05 For busy parents, disposable baby wipes are enticingly convenient, but they're also expensive and generate unnecessary waste.
As a simple low-waste alternative to bay wipes, dampened cotton cloths are unbeatable.~ Just toss soiled cloths in the diaper pail and launder along with diapers.~ When planning to be away from home with children, pack a damp washcloth in a clean plastic bag (a re-used one, of course) turned right-side out to avoid contact with anything that may contain toxic lead or cadmium.~ Better yet, use re-useable snap-lock containers (Rubbermaid, Tupperware, or the like).
Over time, washcloths cost a whole lot less than throwaway wipes and they save trees too.~ What's more, they don't contain alcohol or any of the other potentially irritating chemical ingredients listed on the commercial wipes containers.
Look for inexpensive cotton terry washcloths at baby specialty stores or order them by mail.~ Economically priced terry baby wipes can be ordered from Babyworks (800-422-2910) and The Natural Baby Catalog (800-388-2229), among others.~ You can also make terry wipes form old towels.
If you must rely on disposable wipes, try purchasing them in refill packs.~ Drop-in refill packs cost les and use as much as 90 percent less packaging than rigid plastic tubs.~ Drop-in refills fit neatly inside the heavier duty tubs, allowing the tubs to be re-used many times.
09/07/05 It's common knowledge that automobiles are bad news for human health and for the environment.~ But the good news is that routine maintenance and thoughtful driving habits can lessen a vehicle's destructive impact on our planet.~ As a bonus, routine maintenance and thoughtful driving can, over time, dramatically reduce the cost of owning and operating a car because as a car gets older, the fixed costs of owning it tend to decrease; insurance and registration fees go down and loan payments disappear.
The key to automobile longevity is regular maintenance.~ Proper maintenance also enhances fuel economy, helps to ensure that your car is safe to drive, and can prevent some expensive repairs.~ Drivers who attentively maintain their vehicles can reduce both fuel costs and polluting emissions responsible for smog, acid rain, and global warming.
So what regular maintenance should be done?~
* Change the oil and filter every 3,000 miles or 6 months, whichever comes first.~ Dirty oil damages engine parts while clean oil minimizes wear, extending engine life.
* Check tire inflation at least once a month.~ Proper tire inflation saves gas (about 2 miles per gallon) and helps prevent excessive or uneven tire wear.
*~Rotate tires every 6,000 miles.
*~Check fluid levels (automatic transmission, power steering, brakes, and coolant) according to the schedule in your owner's manual.~ Engines and transmissions can be damaged by insufficient fluids.
*~Flush the cooling system every 2 years.~ Flushing helps minimize accumulated rust and corrosion that can lead to an expensive radiator overhaul.
*~Change single-use air filters every 12,000 miles.
*~Slow down.~ It has been estimated that fuel economy decreases as much as 25 percent when a car is driven at 65 miles per hour instead of 55.
* Drive less, walk or bike more.~ This saves wear and tear on your car, cuts fuel costs, and benefits your health.
09/01/05 When the cost of repairs of an~appliance approaches an appreciable fraction of the cost of buying a replacement, many people opt to discard the broken appliance and buy a new one. However, just because one part wears out or an appliance stops working don't assume the appliance is on its last legs and that repairing it isn't worthwhile.~ Appliance repairers and reconditioners say those assumptions are often premature and that plenty of discarded appliances are reliable.~ In fact, appliance reconditioners often pick up the best of the trade-ins by dealers when selling replacement units.~ The discarded appliance is then fitted with replacement parts, necessary, repairs made, tested, and resold for a fraction of the cost of a new appliance.~ If you are an experienced tinkerer, you can do the repairs
yourself.~ If you need help, contact the manufacturer or a local dealer. If your stove or oven functions fine but looks shabby, rather than replace it you can have it professionally reporcelanized by an appliance refinisher.~ Alternately, you can purchase a new stove top (just the face panel without the burners) or a new oven door.~ Many manufacturers also sell replacement panels and trim kits for more recent models of refrigerators and dishwashers.~ It is also possible - and much less expensive - to spruce up the outside of a refrigerator with a special lead-free epoxy spray paint available at paint and hardware stores. Sometimes it does pay to replace and old appliance, as when your current model is an energy guzzler.~ If you do decide to replace an old appliance, donate it to a charity or give it to a reconditioner rather than dump it.~ In addition to keeping it out of the waste stream, you can often declare the value of the item as a tax deduction.~ And remember,
when shopping for a new appliance, look for one with earth-friendly features such as low energy usage and a good repair history.
08/24/05 The longer a household appliance remains serviceable, the longer it stays out of the waste stream.~ It has been estimated that extending the service life of all household appliances by one-third would slow the discard rate by 25 percent.~ That's 12 million fewer major appliances per year in the Great American Waste Stream.
In addition to saving significant tax dollars from avoided municipal waste disposal costs, longer-lived appliances conserve the energy needed to manufacture replacements which in turn diminishes water pollution, urban smog, and acid rain.~ Less acid rain means healthier forests and crops.~ Less urban smog means healthier people, and less water pollution means a healthier planet. Obviously, product design is a critical factor in determining appliance durability, but care and maintenance of appliances also influences how long they last.~ Regular maintenance can maximize the service life of many appliances like furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters,~and refrigerators.~ Routine maintenance can also enhance the efficiency of an appliance.~ Timely repairs can often extend appliance life for many years.
08/18/05 Continuing with last week's Tip, here are more reasons to reuse items in their original state.
*Reusing, rather than recycling, many products uses less energy which often means burning less oil or coal resulting in fewer toxic carbon dioxide emissions.~ Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas.
*By conserving other resources that would otherwise be needed to manufacture replacement products, reuse reduces environmental damage caused by mining and lumbering operations.~ Many open pit-mines, for example, leak acid and heavy metals into the surface - and groundwater - virtually killing thousands of miles of rivers.~ Extensive timbering often causes soil erosion, increases flooding, and destroys wildlife habitat.
*What's good for the environment is often good for your pocketbook too.~ Over time, for example, washable kitchen towels cost significantly less than single-use paper towels.~ Rebuilt and recharged laser toner cartridges perform as well as - if not better than - new ones, but cost about forty percent less.
*Businesses that repair and rebuild products such as auto parts, household appliances, computers, and office machines provide jobs for skilled laborers.~ Most laser toner cartridge rechargers, for example, are local American businesses, while the majority of new toner cartridges are made in Asia.
08/11/05 Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.~ It's the mantra of waste reduction.~ While most Americans~recycle, through curbside or drop-off programs, we~have much room for improvement in the reuse portion of the equation.~ Reuse, the use in the same formats the item was produced, can be as simple at returning a soda or beer bottle to be refilled or using washable towels, napkins, and diapers.
The possibilities for reuse are virtually endless.~ Examples are buying a used computer instead of a new one, attentively maintaining your car so that it lasts longer, taking your own reusable canvas or string bag when you shop, reupholstering an old sofa instead of throwing it out and buying a new one, replacing disposable batteries with rechargeable ones, repairing durable goods such as toasters, microwave ovens and washing machines instead of dumping them in the trash when they fail, and donating outgrown clothing and still-useful household items to charitable groups.
Reusing a product again in its already-manufactured form requires far less energy than recycling.~ Washing and sterilizing a bottle so it can be refills, for example, uses significantly less energy than crushing it, melting it down, and manufacturing a new "recycled" one.~ By remanufacturing laser toner cartridges and by reconditioning household appliances, it is possible to conserve as much as 85 percent of the energy needed to make such products in the first place.
So, reduce, REUSE, recycle.
08/05/05 Waste reduction and recycling isn't confined to your residence.~ You can apply the same ideas and principles to your work place.~
For example, use narrow-ruled paper to reduce your paper use, reuse mailing labels, rebuild toner cartridges for computer printers, and print on both sides of the paper (ALWAYS hit the "doubled sided copies" on the copier machine!!).~ In some work places that do printing, reusing ink reduces both the quantity and toxicity of the company's waste.
Another example is carton less packaging by putting cardboard edges on the corners of items to be mailed, then wrapping the item with plastic film rather than boxing it.~ The cardboard edges can be reused and the plastic recycled.
By being innovative, you can save resources and money for your employer.
07/29/05 Last week we explained some terms used in the waste-reduction process in order to give readers a better understanding of waste and toxicity reduction.~ This week we finish up that list.
Recycled Content:~ The portion of a product's or package's weight that is composed of materials that have been recovered fro waste; this may include pre-consumer or post-consumer materials
Recycling:~ Separating, collecting, processing, marketing, and ultimately using a material that would have been thrown away
Reuse:~ The use of a product more than once in its same form for the same purpose or for different purposes, such as reusing a soft-drink bottle when it is returned to the bottling company for refilling, or reusing a coffee container for nuts and bolts
Source reduction:~ The design, manufacture, purchase, or use of materials to reduce the amount or toxicity of waste.~ Because it is intended to reduce pollution and conserve resources, source reduction should no increase the net amount or toxicity of wastes generated throughout the life of the product.~ Source reduction techniques include reusing items; minimizing the use of products that contain hazardous compounds, using only what is needed, extending the useful life of a product, and reducing unneeded packaging.
Source separation:~ Separating materials (such as paper, metal, and glass) by type at the point of discard so that they can be recycled.
Toxic:~ Ability (or property) of a substance to produce harmful or lethal effects on humans, animals, or the environment
Virgin materials:~ Resources extracted from nature in their raw form, such as timber or metal ore
Yard trimmings:~ The component of solid waste composed of grass clippings, leaves, twigs, branches, and garden refuse.
07/21/05 It's far better to reduce the toxicity and amount of solid waste in the first place than to cope with it after it's been created.~ Through source reduction, recycling, and composting, many environmental benefits and cost~savings and be realized.~ In order to fully participate in waste and toxicity reduction, an understanding of the terms used in the waste-reduction process is helpful.
Combustion: The controlled burning of municipal solid waste to reduce volume, and commonly, to recover energy.
Composting: The controlled microbial decomposition of organic material (such as food scraps and yard trimmings) in the presence of oxygen into a humus- or soil-like material.
Integrated waste management: The complementary use of a variety of practices to handle municipal solid waster safely and effectively.~ Integrated waste management techniques include source reduction, recycling, composting, combustion, and land filling.
Land filling: The disposal of solid waste at engineered facilities in a series of compacted layers on land and the frequent daily covering of the waste with soil.~ Fill areas are carefully prepared to prevent nuisances or public health hazards, and clay and/or synthetic liners are used to prevent release to ground water.
Pre-consumer materials: Recovered materials obtained from manufacturers.
Post-consumer materials: Recovered materials from a consumer-oriented recycling collection system or drop-off center.
Recyclable: Products or materials that can be collected, separated, and processed to be used as raw materials in the manufacture of new products.
07/15/05 There are many ways to reduce the amount and the toxicity of solid waste.~ By thinking creatively, many new uses for common items and new possibilities for source reduction and recycling can be discovered.~ Here are some ideas to get you started:
* Turn a giant cardboard box into a children's playhouse
* Transform a plastic ice cream tub into a flower pot
* Give pet hampsters or gerbils paper towel and toilet paper cardboard tubes with which to play
* Use an egg carton to plant seedlings
* Select nontoxic inks and art supplies
* Place an order through the mail with a group of people in order to save money and reduce packaging waste
* Choose beverages such as water and milk in reusable containers
* Combine source reduction techniques.~ For example, try storing coffee bought in bulk in empty coffee cans.
07/06/05 Part of recycling involves educating others on source reduction, recycling practices, and comporting with others.~ Spread the word to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, local businesses, and decision-makers.~ Encourage them to learn more about solid waste issues and to work toward implementing and promoting earth-friendly practices.~ We all have the power to influence others.
* Write to companies to encourage them to reduce unnecessary packaging and the use of hazardous components in products.~ Also, let companies know when they've made positive changes.~ Many companies offer toll-free 800~numbers you can call to make comments.
* Encourage others to take advantage of the curbside recycling program in Belmont.
* Encourage to use of reusable, recycled, and recyclable materials in the workplace.
* Encourage the use of efficient, long-lasting equipment.
* Urge schools to provide environmental education and to teach about source reduction, recycling, and composting.
6/30/05 One of the biggest debates in solid waste has centered on claims that certain products such as some plastic bags, paper products, and other goods are biodegradable.~ You may have selected one product over a competitor’s product because it touts a "biodegradable" label (setting aside the fact that Belmont incinerates its solid waste rather that burying it in a landfill).~ But, are such products helpful in solving the sold waste dilemma?~ Do they really save landfill space?
In truth, biodegradation occurs very slowly in modern landfills.~ Sunlight can't penetrate, so photo degradation can't occur. Further, researchers have unearthed cabbages, carrots, and readable newspapers that have been in landfills for 30 years or more.~ It is unlikely that products marketed as biodegradable would achieve better results.~ Even if biodegradable products do perform exactly as they claim, they still use up resources that could be reclaimed through recycling.
Biodegradability of natural materials such as lawn trimmings and some foods does have a place in solid waste management, namely in composting.
So, before you reach the product with the biodegradable label look to see if it, or its competitor product, comes in reusable or recyclable packaging~and opt for the most recyclable product.
06/23/05 You can reduce the amount and toxicity of waste by using alternate methods or products without hazardous constituents to accomplish the same task.~ Here are a few ideas:
Drain cleaner: use a plunger or plumber's snake
Oven cleaner: Clean spills as soon as the oven cools using steel wool and baking soda; for tough stains, add salt (do NOT use this method in self-cleaning or continuous-cleaning ovens)
Glass cleaner: Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water.~ Spray on and use newspaper to wipe dry
Toilet bowl cleaner: Use a toilet brush and baking soda or vinegar (this will clean but not disinfect)
Furniture polish: Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint or mineral or vegetable oil, and wipe furniture
Rug deodorizer: For dry carpets, sprinkle liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. Repeat if needed.
Silver polish: Boil 2 to 3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a sheet of aluminum foil.~ Total submerge silver and boil for 2 to 3 minutes.~ Wipe away tarnish. Repeat if needed (do NOT use this method on antique silver knives as the blade will separate from the handle).~ An alternative is to use non-abrasive toothpaste
Plant sprays: Wipe leaves with mild soap and water; rinse
Mothballs: Use cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, or white peppercorns
Although the suggested mixtures have less hazardous ingredients than many commercial products, they should be used and stored with similar caution.
*Do NOT mix anything with a commercial cleaning product
*If you store a homemade mixture, make sure it is properly labeled and do not store it in a container that could be mistaken for food or beverage
*When making any of the mixtures, make only what is needed for the job at hand and mix in clean, reusable containers to avoid waste and the need to store excess
06/15/05 Participating in our local recycling program is only part of the recycling process.~ For recycling to succeed, recycled materials must be processed into new materials, and those products must be purchased and used.
* Look for items in packages and containers made of recycled materials.~ Many bottles, cans, paper wrappings, cereal boxes, and other cartons and packages are made from recycled materials.
* Use products with recycled content whenever you can.~ For instance, many paper, glass, metal, and plastic products contain recovered materials.~ Some examples are stationery, wrapping paper, computer paper, and many containers.~ Many of these items are available at grocery, drug, and other retail stores.~ Mail-order catalogues, stationers, and print shops also may stock these and other recycled items.
* When checking products for recycled content, look for a statement that recycled materials are used and, if possible, choose the item with the largest percentage of recycled content,~if known.~ You can call directory assistance at 1-800-555-1212 to obtain manufacturers' 800 numbers to find out how much recycled material their products contain.
* Encourage state and local government agencies, local businesses, and others to purchase recycled materials such as paper, re-refined oil, and retread tires.~ For the federal government, guidelines already exist that mandate the purchase of theses and other products.
06/09/05 Seldom-used items, like certain power tools and party goods, often collect dust, rust, take up valuable storage space, and ultimately end up in the trash.~ Consider renting or borrowing these items the next time they're needed.~ Infrequently used items also can be shared among neighbors, friends, and family.~ Borrowing, renting or sharing items saves both money and natural resources.
*Rent or borrow party decorations and supplies such as tables, chairs, centerpieces, linens, dishes, and silverware.
*Rent or borrow seldom-used audiovisual equipment.
*Rent or borrow tools such as ladders, chain saws, floor buffers, rug cleaners, and garden tillers.~ Neighbors can pool resources and form "banks" to share tools or other equipment used or needed infrequently.
*Before discarding old tools, camera equipment, or other goods, ask friends, relatives, neighbors, or community groups if they can use them.
*Share magazines with others to reduce the generation of waster paper.
06/03/05 If maintained and repaired properly, products such as long-wearing clothing, tires, and appliances are less like to wear out or break and will not have to be thrown out and replaced as frequently.~ Although durable products are sometimes more costly initially, their extended life span may offset the higher cost and even save money in the long term.
* Consider long-lasting appliances and electronic equipment with good warranties.~ Check reports for products with a record of high consumer satisfaction and low breakdown rates.~ Also, look for those products that are easily repaired.
* High-quality, long-lasting tires for cars, bicycles, and other vehicles are available.~ Using them reduces the rate at which tires are replaced and disposed of.~ Also, to extend tire life, check tire pressure once a month, follow the manufacturers' recommendations for upkeep, and rotate tires routinely.~ In addition, retread and remanufactured tires can reduce tire waste.
* Mend clothes instead of throwing them away.~ Where possible, repair worn boots, shoes, handbags, and briefcases.
* Whenever intended for use over a long period of time, choose furniture, luggage, sporting goods, toys, and tools that will stand up to vigorous use.
* Consider using low-energy fluorescent light bulbs rather than incandescent ones.~ They last longer, which means fewer bulbs thrown out, and cost less to replace over time.
05/26/05 Many products are designed to be used more than once.~ Reusable~products and containers often results in less waste which, in turn, helps reduce the cost of managing solid waste and conserves materials and resources.
* A sturdy mug or cup can be washed and used time and again
* Sturdy and washable utensils and tableware can be used at home, work, outdoor parties, and potlucks.
* At work, see if "recharged" cartridges for laser printers, copiers, and fax machines are available.~ They not only reduce waste but often save money.
* Cloth napkins, sponges, or dishcloths can be washed over and over.
* Look for items available in refillable containers.
* When possible, use rechargeable batteries to help reduce garbage and to keep toxic metals found in some batteries out of the waste stream.
* When using single-use items, remember to take only as much as you need, such as one napkin or one catsup package.
Reduce~~ Reuse~~ Recycle
05/19/05 In addition to reducing the amount of materials in the solid waste stream, reducing waste toxicity is another important part of source reduction.~ Toxicity reduction can be achieved by:
~ Take actions that use nonhazardous or less hazardous components to do the task at hand, like choosing reduced mercury batteries, or planting marigolds in the garden to ward off certain pests rather than using pesticides.~ In some cases toxicity reduction means using less hazardous chemicals to do a job and other times a physical method such as sandpaper, scouring pads, or good old elbow grease to achieve the same results.
~ Learn about alternative to household cleaning products containing hazardous substances.~
~ If you do need to use hazardous component products, use only the amount needed.~ Leftover materials can be shared with neighbors, donated to a charity, or, in the case of used motor oil, recycled,
~ For products containing hazardous components, read and follow all directions on product labels.
Reduce~~~ Reuse~~~ Recycle
05/12/05 Do recyclables really get recycled?~ It's a question many people ask and the answer is yes, especially paper.~
Recycling has hit the global marketplace.~ The economic boom in China is affecting everything from steel prices to recycled paper.~ The Chinese have built large, modern recycled paper mills.~ By 2010, China will account form 20 percent of the demand for the world's recycled paper but has only 4 percent of the world's forests according to a nationally recognized recycling expert.~ Locally and globally, paper is in demand.
Paper collected in Belmont gets sorted and baled at a facility in Charlestown and then goes overseas or to local mills, depending on the markets.~ In Massachusetts, local mills make "paperboard from recycled paper in Fitchburg, Natick, and Haverhill.~ Paperboard is used for cereal and cracker boxes.
The National Recycling Coalition reports that last yea the U.S. exported nearly 14 million tons of recovered paper, twice the amount exported 10 years ago.~ Recycling experts agree that more is needed to keep the mills from running on empty.~ The American Forest & Paper Association estimates that the current recycling efforts capture only half the total paper available in the waste stream in the form of junk mail, magazines, newspapers, shredded personal papers, phone books, etc.~ Offices have even greater potential to recycle paper.
The growing demand has increased the price paid for recycled paper and towns are indirectly seeing the benefit.~ Arlington and Andover share the revenue from the paper collected in the curbside recycling programs.~ As of April 1, 2005, towns in western Massachusetts~that contracted with the Springfield Material Recovery Facility are paid for every tone of delivered recyclables plus a revenue share that caries with the markets.
Recycling, particularly paper,~is smart for the local economy and for the global marketplace.~ A little effort makes a big difference at all levels.
Reduce~~ Reuse~~ Recycle
05/04/05 Have you noticed that the "paper or plastic" question that confounded grocery shoppers for years has been revised?~ Nowadays, the bagger is likely to say "is plastic OK?"~(And then proceeds to put the bananas in one plastic as she/he reaches for another for the six-pack of soda.~ The pasta sauce and ziti go in another bag and the laundry soap gets its own bag too) and with good reason,~Plastic bags cost one cent while paper grocery bags cost four cents.
Plastic bags are so cheap to produce, sturdy, plentiful, easy to carry and store that they represent 80 percent of the grocery and convenience store market bags.~ As a result, plastic bags are everywhere.~ They sit balled up and stuffed into another bag that hangs in a closet.~ They line kitchen trash bins.~ They clutter landfills, flap from trees, float in the breeze, clog roadside drains, drift on water, and end up in the stomachs of sea turtles and other water animals.~ According to calculations extrapolated from 2001 US EPA data on US plastic bag, sack and wrap consumption, between 500 billion and one trillion~plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.~ Many of them end up as litter and it takes months to hundreds of years for plastic bags to break down.~ As they decompose, tiny toxic bits seep into soils, lakes,
rivers, and oceans.
So, should you ask the bagger for paper bags?~ Maybe not.~ While paper bags may appear to be the better choice, the consume more energy to produce, generate more solid waste, account for more atmospheric emissions, and release far more waterborne wastes according to the Film and Bag Federation, a trade group within the Society of the Plastic Industry.
Given this information, the eco-friendly choice is reusable bags.~ For a selection of reusable in different sizes, visit [ http://reusablebags.com ]http://reusablebags.com
Remember: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle
04/28/05 Have you ever stopped to wonder how your lifestyle impacts the planet we're living on?~ The Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has developed a thirteen question quiz to help you calculate your impact.~ The quiz is divided into three sections -~food, transportation and housing - to assess your overall impact.~ The quiz is interesting, not only for the score your lifestyle generates but also as a starting point for rethinking your lifestyle.~ So take the quiz, rethink your lifestyle and start making eco-friendly changes.
The quiz can be found at [ http://www.mec.ca ]www.mec.ca~ using the website search function, type in Eco-Footprint and search "articles"
04/22/05 The recent~run of (much deserved) good weather has many people working on their yards and while a~beautiful yard is very pleasing, how you achieve that beauty can negatively or positively affect the environment.~~So, before~starting your yard beautification project~give thought to~the~environmental impact of your choices.~~From which plants you chose~and where you locate them in your yard to what substances you apply to ward off pests and weeds to how much you water your lawn, your choices~impact the environment.~~The website~[ http://www.organiclawncaretips.com ]www.organiclawncaretips.com~is a wonderful resource for environmentally friendly~tips (too numerous to reprint here) on planning and caring for your yard.
04/14/05 It seems that spring is finally here (don't say that too loud:~it's been know to snow in May) and it's time to plan a summer vegetable garden.~ Growing your own vegetables lets you eat healthy, cut down on your trash production (store bought vegetables often come in plastic and Styrofoam packaging), and help the environment (fewer gas-using trips to the grocery store).~ Plus, by growing and eating your own vegetables, you can eliminate, or at least reduce, the amount of potentially harmful chemicals involved in the growing process.~ So, research which vegetables will grow in your soil and light conditions, then pull out the seed catalog or go to the garden center.
04/06/05 Yard waste pickup has started again so it's time for a review of what constitutes yard waste.
Grass clippings, weeds, leaves, flowers, wood chips, plants, hedge and shrub clippings, and twigs can be placed in trash cans clearly marked with a yard waste sticker (available from the Highway Dept) or biodegradable leaf bags.~ Remember that the size and weight limits for yard waste, as well as trash, are 30-gallons cans and 50 pounds.~ Plastic bags are NOT allowed.
Brush, defined as bushes, tree material and hedges greater than 1-inch in diameter but not greater than 6 inches, may be tied up into bundles. The bundles max out at 3-feet in length and 24-inches in diameter and must be tied with twine or rope, NOT metal.
Stumps and logs are the responsibility of the homeowner.~ The town's trash hauler CANNOT take stumps or logs greater than 6-inches in diameter from privately owned trees.~ Homeowners should contact a local landscaper or tree company to dispose of stumps and/or logs.
03/31/05 Product packaging is one of the largest components of the trash pile.~ It also offers one of the easiest ways to decrease the amount of trash produced by each household.~ Every time you shop be take note of the amount of, usually non-recyclable, packaging that surrounds the products you usually buy and opt for a lesser-packaged product.~ Some examples are:
*Kraft's Lunchable product line.~ Within the outer tray are several individually non-recyclable wrapped items.~ It's cheaper and better to make this yourself at home using reusable containers.
*Kool-Aid Bursts.~ A six-pack of plastic bottles, encased in a cardboard holder and plastic shrink-wrap.~ The traditional Kool-Aid is a single container to which you add sugar and water (in a reusable container).~ The traditional is cheaper and less wasteful.
*BanRoll-on deodorant.~ Comes in an unnecessary box.~ In fact, it can also be bought that way.~ Opt for the box-free one.
*Hood opaque milk bottles.~ Hood began selling milk in opaque white bottles as a marketing ploy.~ Colored plastic, including white, has to be separated from translucent milk jugs for recycling and colored plastic has fewer post-consumer uses making it less lucrative than translucent...
*Dentyne Ice Gum.~ Comes in a paperboard package and uses foil and plastic inside.
*any small packages of gum.~ Lots more packaging for a higher price.
Be observant when you shop and buy smart.
03/24/05 Packaging serves many purposes, primarily to protect and contain a product.~ Packaging also prevents tampering, provides information, and preserves hygienic integrity and freshness.~ Some packaging, however, is designed largely to enhance a product's attractiveness or prominence on the store shelf.~ Since packaging materials account for a large volume of the trash we generate, it provides a good opportunity for reducing waste. In addition, remember that as the amount of product in a container increases, the packaging waste per serving decreases.
*When choosing between two similar products, select the one with the least necessary packaging.
*Remember that wrenches, screwdrivers, nails, and other hardware are often available in loose bins.~ Likewise, at the grocery store, consider whether it is necessary to purchase items such as tomatoes, garlic, and mushrooms in prepackaged containers when they can be bought unpackaged.
*When appropriate, use products you already have on hand to do household chores.~ Using these products can save on the packaging associated with additional products.
*Consider large or economy-size products for household products that are used frequently.
When appropriate, use concentrated products.~ They often require less packaging and less energy to transport to the store, saving money as well as natural resources.
*Whenever possible, select grocery, hardware, and household items that are available in bulk, remembering that bulk items can be shared with friends or neighbors.
03/16/05 Americans generate over 200,000,000 tons of trash annually, in the form of paper, wrappings, bottles, boxes, cans, grass clippings, discarded furniture, clothing, phone books, and much, much more. Container and packaging waste accounts for approximately 60 million tons of trash each year, making packing the number one component of the nation's waste stream. Overflowing landfills are not the only unfortunate result. Every wasted package also represents the waste of water and energy, plus pollution and transportation costs involved in producing and discarding the package.
You can help alleviate mounting trash problems by making environmentally aware decisions about everyday actions, like shopping for groceries and household items. The next time you shop, invest time to look for better alternatives to your current buying habits, with the goal of committing to at least three specific changes.
Here are some possibilities:
* At the checkout, ask the clerk to not double-bag your groceries or, better yet, bring your own bags.
* For packaged items, choose the largest size that can be used before spoiling.
* Save money, cooking time, and the environment by preparing multiple portions at once, then store the leftovers in reusable containers.
* Switch to the largest and ultra concentrated versions of household products that are use frequently (e.g. shampoo, baking soda, pet foods, and cat litter).
* When offered single-use items at fast food restaurants, take only what is needed
* Check bulk bins before buying more than you need in prepackaged containers
* When choosing between two similar products, select the one with the least unnecessary packaging.
03/10/2005 Plastics, metals and glass make up 23.5%, 40.3 million tons, of all trash annually in the U.S. While those figures are daunting, they can can be markedly educed by everyday actions. The first, and possibly, easiest way is through "source reduction" which a fancy term for the design, manufacture, purchase, or use of materials, both products and packaging, to reduse the amount or toxicity of trash generagted. One easy method of source reduction is the maintenance and repair of duarable products. If maintained and repaired properly, products such as long-werring clothing, tires, and appliances are less likely to wear out or break and will not have to be thrown out and replaced as frequently. Although durable products sometimes cost more initially, their
extended life span may offset the higher cost and even save money over the long term. Also, look for long-lasting appliances and electronic equipment with good warranties. Check reports for products with a record of high consumer satisfaction and low breakdown rates as well as products that can be easily repaired. Finally, keep appliances in good working order. Follow manufacturers' suggestions for proper operation and maitenance.
03/03/05 Make recycling part of your weekly supermarket trip. When filling your basket, think about the recycling options available to you.
* buy "loose" (unpackaged) items whenever possible.
* when loose items are not available, buy products in recyceable packaging (glass, paper, or plastic featuring the recycling triangle).
* avoid convenience foods that have two or three layers of packing.
* opt for goods with a high recycled content.
* use consumer power: ask local shops and supermarkets to stock recycled item
* bring your own bags, plastic or canvas, when you shop
02/24/05 There are lots of things you can do to reduce your trash. For one, you can make use of your mountain of plastic bags by:
*using them as bin liners
*placing them in the bottom of plant pots and hanging baskets (they act as great drainage systems)
*having your children use them to carry gym clothes to school
*scrunching them up to surround items whe you are packaging as an alternative to bubble wrap
*using them in the garden to hold grass cuttings and hedge trimmings before transfer to the compost bin
*using them when packing for a trip to keep wet/dirty clothes and shoes away from dry/clean items
*using them as "pooper scooper" recepticles when walking your dog
*re-using them for sandwiches and snacks rather than using plastic wrap
02/18/05 Spring is around the corner (or so we hope) and for many people that means home renewal projects including painting. Paint, as well as many household products, contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon-based chemicals that evaporate readily at room temperature. In the case of paint the VOCs are toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene. These substances are harmful to humans, animals and the environment. To avoid, as much as possible, these products look for lo- or no-VOC or "low-odor" labeling on paint cans. Also, use them in a well ventilated room. What is well ventilated? According to a study done by a painters' union, that means opening a window and placing a fan in a doorway at the far side of the room with the fan blowing toward the
painter. Any leftover non-layex paint must be discarded as hazardous paint. Cans containing completely dried latex paint can be disposed in the trash.
02/02/05 If you ever wondered if increased recycling is necessary, keep reading. In the regular Living Planet Report, the World Wide Fund for Nature, an environmental group, states that humans currently consume 20 percent more natural products than the earth can produce. Consumption of fossil fuels, such as coal, gas and oil increased by nearly 700 percent between 1961 and 2001. Put another way, if natural resources were money, humans would be in a ever-worsening deficit. So yes, increased recycling is necessary - very necessary.
01/27/05 Does the recent blizzard, and four or so feet of snow covering your back yard, have you dreaming about spring? While wiling away the winter hours by paging through the Burpee's catalogue don't just look at the flowers. Now is the time to start planning a vegetable garden. Home grown vegetables offer many eco-friendly benefits. First, you can avoid the use of chemical fertilizers which can be harmful to you directly when ingested and also indirectly, when they seep into the soil. Home grown vegetables also benefits the environment because you don't need to use you fuel-burning car to drive to the grocery store. And, finally, home growm vegetables don't come in non-recycleable packaging.
So, pick up the Burpee's catalogue and plan away.
12/17/04 It's Christmas morning. You've opened all the packages, the noise levels have receded to EPA-acceptable levels, the kids have wandered off to play with the last minute toy, which wasn't on their list (the toy that they just had to have and which you risked life and limb to obtain, sits ignored), and you're staring at a mountain of paper, ribbons, and boxes that surely violates a fire regulation. What to do? Of course, the easy non-environmental way would be to pull out a large non-biodegradeable trash bag, stuff everything in, tie it up, and put it in the trash. However, before you resort to that, you can take a small amount of time and seperate the medium to larger pieces of wrapping paper, smooth them out and save them for wrapping smaller packages
next year. The remaining wrapping paper scraps can be put in you mixed-paper recycling bag. The gift boxes can be saved and stored for future gifts, be it Valentine's Day, birthdays, Mothers' and Fathers' Day, or graduation. Finally the undamaged bows and larger pieces of ribbon can be stored away for next year, leaving only the non-reuseable ribbons for the trash (If you have pets in the house, remember to put the ribbons in the trash and tie it securely: ribbons can be deadly to pets). Think of your extra efforts as a way of saying "Merry Christmas" to our earth.
12/10/04 The holiday season is also the catalog season. If your household is like most you received, literally, hundreds of merchandise catalogs, some of which were of no interest to you. Before you discard catalogs in your mixed paper recycling, take steps to decrease or stop merchandise catalogs being mailed to you in the future by contacting companies that sell your address to mailing lists. Write to Direct Mailing Association, Mail Preference Service, P.O> Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735 and Stop Junk Mail Association, 3020 Broadway, #150, Sausalito, CA 94965 (you can save time and paper by calling them at 1-800-827-5549).
If it is specific catalogs you wish to stop, call the 800 number listed on the catalogue and asked to be deleted from the mailing list.
12/2/04 A big part of the tradition of the holidays is the mailing of greeting cards to let your friends know that you are thinking of them and update them on what is happening in your life. But, mailing greeting cards is costly in terms of the environment, financial outlay, and your time. What to do? Send your greeting by email. Most computer programs will let you add pictures and icons to personalize your greetings. Another option is to send free computer greeting cards ( [ http://www.yahoo.americangreetings.com/ ]www.yahoo.americangreetings.com is one example) which allow you to add a personal message.
11/25/04 A large part of the holiday celebrations involes brightly colored wrapped gifts. Unfortunately, much of the at gift wrapping gets used once and ends up in the trash. It's easy to be environmentally friendly while enjoying the gift wrapping tradition. Rather than buy colorful ( and expensive!) wrapping paper, be creative and wrap gifts in the bright slick advertising flyers included in the newspapers. The Sunday comics make good wrapping paper too, especially for children's gifts. For mailed gifts, the Postal Service sells colorful seasonally-appropriate mail enclosures (padded mailers and boxes) that eliminate the need for a time-consuming extra layer of wrapping inside the the mailing enclosure: just put a "To" and "From" label on the outside
and you're ready for mailing and gift-giving.
11/17/04 The holiday season is fast approaching and most people are contemplating gift purchases. Before you start your shopping, think about giving gifts that won't eventually end up in the trash.
Gift certificates for restaurant meals (there are many great restaurants in Belmont) make great presents. You can give theatre tickets or a museum membership. Anyone on your list living on a tight budget is sure to appreciate a grocery store gift certificate. For the gardener on your list flower bulbs or packets of seeds make a great gift idea. A basket of cheeses and wine makes a good gift. How about a basket of paperback books for the reader on your list. (As a bonus, after they read the books they can donate them to the library for its annual sale). Someone on your list has a sweet tooth? Give a basket filled with chocolates. If you have a particular talent, use it as a gift: give certificates for skating lessons, music lessons, or cooking lessons. Let your talent be your guide. You say you don't have any talents
suitable for giving as a gift? Then give someone your time: a certificate redeemable for cleaning the garage or the basement, shoveling the driveway or mowing the grass may well be appreciated far more than another sweater.
11/09/04 Fall is here and the leaves are falling. Before you simply rake your leaves up, bag them, and put them at the curb for pick-up, consider alternate ways of leaf disposal. First, if you own (or can borrow) a mulching lawnmower, mow the fallen leaves into a fine mulch and leave the mulch on your lawn. Your lawn gets a natural fertilizer and you don't have buy yard waste bags. Second, Add raked leaves to your compost pile now and save some of the leaves to add throughout the year. Mulched leaves work best for this. Third, you can bring your leaves to the Transfer Station at 1130 Concord Avenue. Call the highway department for hours of operation.
11/01/04 The final (for now, at least) installment of composting tips is what to do when the pile temperature is too high, i.e., above 150 degrees F.
Excessive pile temperature is indicative of insufficient areation or insufficient ventillation. It can also be a sign of an overabundance of green (nitrogen-rich) materials.
The solution is to aerate the pile by stirring it up and/or reduce the pile size to 1 cubic yard. If excess green material is the culprit, add brown (carbon-rich) material to balance out the green and return the pile to the 75% carbon/25% nitrogen ideal mix.
The recent series of tips on composting failed to address the problem of incorrect pile temperature.
Low pile temperature (below 90 degrees F) indicates insufficient aeration, insufficient moisture, lack of green (notrogen-rich) materials, cold weather, small pile size (less than 1 cubic yard), or completed composting process. Assess your pile to determine the best way to deal with it. If the composting process is finished, remove the compost product and use in your garden on your plants. For insufficient aeration or insufficient moisture, turn the pile more frequently or add small amounts of water, respectively. For inadequate green material, mix in additional green material and small amounts of water. In cold weather, insulate the pile with 4 to 5 inches of straw or hay. Finally, if the pile is less than 1 cubic yard, increase its size with proper amounts of green (25%) and brown (75%) materials
SAVE THE DATE
Be sure to~set aside time on~Saturday, October 23~to attend~the environmental fair being held at Belmont High School.~ Information on recycling and composting will be available along with people to answer any questions you have.~ Compost bins will be available for purchase and drop-off bins for cell phones and batteries will be available.~ You can also trade in~your old~mercury-containing thermometer for a digital one. Children can play with~a 42-foot inflatable whale and learn about ecosystems. Admission is free.
Before making a purchasing decision, consult expert sources such as Consumer Reports, Consumerview.com, or productopia.com and evaluate the repair history of the product.~ And don't forget to maintain the products you buy so they can last as long as possible.
Be "trash-conscious" when you shop.~ Whenever you are shopping, be it~for a car or a coffeemaker, it's always tempting to go for the less expensive item.~ But if a low price is an indication of inferior quality, that bargain item will be bound for the trash sooner rather than later.
The last two "tips" provided reasons to compost and the basic ingredients of successful composting.~~This week's tip addresses the need to add water and oxygen to the compost pile.
Water:~ The organisms that make compost need a warm, moist (not wet) environment.~ Some materials, such as food remains and fresh grass clippings, have high water content and will add moisture to the pile.~ Water can be slowly added with a pitcher if the compost material is dry and flaky.~ Too much water or wet material will cool the pile and can cause organisms to become inactive or dormant.
Oxygen:~ Composting can be accomplished with or without oxygen in the pile.~ Aerobic composting involves a well-aerated pile.~ Decomposition occurs more quickly than anaerobic decomposition and, with proper pile maintenance, will generate very little odor.~ Turn the pile approximately every four to five days or when new material is added.~ Anaerobic composting (limited oxygen flow) is preferred by some people because it is a slower process that requires less frequent management.~ It can, however, generate acrid odors.
The next step in the "tips" on composting is determining the compost pile location.~ In identifying a suitable location for your outdoor compost pile, there are a few general rules to follow:
1. Select a convenient location that allows for easy access.
2. Locate the pile on level, well-drained ground away from coniferous (cone-bearing) trees to avoid an overabundance of evergreen needles.~ Evergreen needles are acidic but they can be mixed in small quantities with leaves and other materials before being incorporated into the pile.
3. Locating the pile by a windbreak (e.g., wall, tree) can help prevent drying breezes from robbing the pile's moisture.~ It can also provide shade from intense sunlight.
4. Avoid building the pile against wooden structures (e.g., fences, sheds).~ Compost can rot some types of wood.
5. Decide if you want to use a compost bin.~ It can keep the material in a confined area to retain heat and moisture, deter pests, and help to reduce the effects of wind and weather.~ Many commercially available~bins are designed to make aerating or turning the pile easier, and they can be aesthetically pleasing.~ The Belmont Highway Department sells two types of bins at reduced cost.
In our last "Tip" we gave you reasons to compost.~ So, how do you get started?~ First, you need a compost bin.~ Two types/sizes of bins are available for purchase at the Belmont Highway Department.~ Once you get your compost bin home you need to decide where to put it in the yard.~ A sunny spot, not abutting any structures, such as a garage, is best.~ That's it:~ You're ready to start.
Successful composting mixtures include materials that contribute carbon and nitrogen.~ The best proportion of materials is 75% (by volume)"brown" organic materials with 25% "green" organic materials.~~Carbon-rich components~are often~referred to as the "brown" material while nitrogen-rich materials are "green."~ ~These ingredients plus water, oxygen, heat, and composter organisms (both microscopic and macroscopic) make compost happen. Carbon-rich materials include dead leaves, woody materials, and dried brown grass or straw.~ Nitrogen-rich materials include fresh grass clippings, fruit and vegetable remains, and livestock (NOT domestic pet) manure.
Pre-cycling" is the step before recycling. It is the process of making a conscious choice to purchase or use products or services that have a less harmful effect on the environment.
With the onset of warm weather, you can practice pre-cycling while shopping for food. Part of what you pay for when you buy packaged food is the packaging.
While some packaging is necessary for shelf-life and sanitation reasons, many products are accompanied by excessive packaging and the packaging may not be recyclable to boot!! Rather than pay for excessive packaging take advantage of farm stands for you fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only is farm stand produce not packaged in plastic and Styrofoam, it is grown locally so no shipping is involved. That means that polluting fuel wasn't used to bring it to you.
Staples, in a cooperative effort with EPA's Plug-In To eCycling campaign and the Product Stewardship Institute is launching a (6) week electronic (E-Waste) recycling pilot in select Staples stores throughout New England.
The pilot began Sunday May 30th and will conclude Sunday July 11th. The purpose of the project is to encourage local customers to recycle their computers, monitors and business machines at their Woburn, Natick, Saugus,
Danvers, Needham, Burlington, Brighton Massachusetts stores.
The objectives of the pilot are to help create a solution to address the mounting problems associated with E-waste, determine the costs associated with offering such programs on an ongoing basis and leverage Staples reverse logistics model recycling services that Staples "makes it easy to make a difference"
Materials and equipment eligible for the pilot include products that Staples sell for example: CPUs, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, faxes and desk top copiers. NO TVs, stereos etc. will be accepted. At each Store Manager's discretion each store may limiting each customer to (1) computer system per store per day. Loosely defined a system would include a CPU, monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer and scanner. All equipment will be recycled through ENVIROCYCLE from Hallstead, PA. There is NO COST to the customer for this service during this (6) week pilot in the above store locations only.
Staples will continue to encourage customers to continue to recycle their other electronics and associated items at Staples everyday. Customers can recycle the following at over 1400 stores in North America: inkjet cartridges, toner cartridges, cellular phones, PDAs, pagers, chargers, digital cameras and rechargeable batteries
The onset of warm weather offers a great opportunity to eat healthy and, cut down on your trash production and help the environment all at the same time by growing your own vegetables.
By growing your own vegetables you can control, if not eliminate, the amount of potentially harmful chemicals added to the soil they grow in. In addition, home-grown vegetables eliminate the packaging, often not recyclable, that goes with store-bought vegetables.
Home centers and hardware stores are fully stocked with an assortment of chemicals formulated to rid our homes and gardens of insects and pests. While those chemicals may be good for their intended task, they are harmful to
humans, animals and the environment. There are non-toxic solutions to insect and pest woes.
*To repel ants, squirt them with 1 teaspoonful of dishwashing soap; or place chili powder, talk, chalk, Borax, chili pepper seeds, dried bay leaves or lemon peels at the point of entry; or place lemon juice in the ant holes.
*To repel flies, place well watered pots of basil around the house; or use flypaper.
*To repel mosquitoes, burn citronella candles; or place basil plants around the house.
Recycling Tip of the Week
Pesticides and lawn chemicals may have unforeseen impacts on human health and can move through the soil into drinking water supplies, ponds, streams and rivers. Children and pets are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of pesticides because of their size. Birds and other wildlife suffer injury and even death from long term exposure to traces of pesticides in the environment.
You can have a beautiful yard without using chemicals that may harm children, pets and the environment. The state Department of Environmental Protection is presenting free Healthy Lawns and Landscapes workshops. Learn how to create healthy soil (which reduces or eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on lawns, gardens and landscapes) by using compost, mulch and other practices. The workshop will be tailored to the topics of interest to the audience, such as health effects of pesticides, how to create healthy soil for lawns and landscapes, simple steps to healthy lawns, other healthy choices (flowers, shrubs, trees, vegetables), alternatives to pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and resources for more information.
The workshop locations nearest to Belmont ate Shrewsbury on May 4, from 7 to
9PM (Selectman’s room, Shrewsbury Town Hall, 100 Maple Ave., Shrewsbury.
Contact Nancy Allen, 508-841-8512), Concord on May 6, from 7 to 9PM (Concord
Municipal Light Plant, 1175 Elm St. (Route 2A), Concord. Contact Joanne
Bisseta, 978-318-3259), and Lowell on May 12, from 6:30 to 8:30PM (Pollard
Memorial Library, 401 Merrimack Street, Lowell. Contact Tina Klein,
All attendees will receive a gift from a local garden center and a chance to win a compost bin. Refreshments will be served.
Recycling Tip of the Week
most commercial household cleaners contain toxic chemicals, toxic for humans and animals and toxic for the environment. Here are some environmentally-friendly alternatives.
*Baking soda cleans and deodorizes, softens water and acts as a scouring powder.
*Washing soda works as a germ remover ands laundry soap booster.
*Vinegar cuts grease and deodorizes.
*Lemon juice cuts stains and freshens smells.
*Vegetable oil-based liquid soap cleans almost any surface and acts as a laundry booster.
To use: mix 4 tablespoonfuls baking soda in 1 quart of warm water.
Mix 1 teaspoonful vegetable oil-based liquid soap with a squeeze of lemon in 1 quart of warm water.
Mix 1/8 cup of washing soda with 1 tablespoonful vegetable oil-based liquid soap and 1/4 cup of vinegar in 2 gallons of hot water.
Recycling Tip of the Week
Used vehicle batteries contain both lead and sulfuric acid. They are toxic to humans, animals and the environment as well as posing fire and safety hazards. However, nearly 99 percent of a vehicle battery can be recycled and used again without removing new lead or other natural resources from the environment. Unfortunately, each year some five million vehicle batteries are not recycled. Some are illegally disposed of in landfills and water sources or are sitting, forgotten, on someone's property where they can contaminate soil and ground water, explode in a fire or become a cause of lead poisoning to humans and animals.
In honor of Earth Day, AAA of Southern New England is holding the Great Battery Roundup with collection points in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The collection point nearest Belmont is Sullivan Tire located on the southeast side of Watertown Square.
AAA requests that consumers wear gloves and safety glasses when handling batteries, keep them upright and place them in a cardboard box or plastic container when transporting them for recycling. If the battery case is cracked or leaking, be especially careful to chose a leak-proof container. Also, do not smoke near or expose batteries to an open flame and make certain they do not shift or tip over in a moving vehicle.
Recycling Tip of the Week
The Burpee catalogues are arriving in the mail and, despite the recent snow, people are thinking of warm weather and gardening. So, here are some gardening tips for alternatives to environmentally harmful chemicals used in gardening.
-To deter snails and slugs, put Vaseline around a garden pot.
-Add rosemary to boiling water to make a pesticide for plants. This works
great for ants and other pests.
-Plant mint around your kitchen window to keep flies away.
-Burn citrus-scented candles to keep away mosquitoes.
-Pull weeds rather than applying harsh chemicals.
Recycling Tip of the Week
would you like to purchase a composting bin and learn about natural gardening cleaning and building options? You can do that plus turn in your old cell phone, button batteries, mercury thermometer, mercury thermostat, printer
cartridges or old eyeglasses, learn more about energy conservation, learn about local energy efficient transportation choices from 9:30AM to 2PM on April 4th at the environmental fair at Temple Beth El. Stop by to pick up literature and ask questions.
Recycling Tip of the Week
Buying in bulk helps the environment (less packaging, fewer gas-using trips to the store) and saves money (larger packages are more economical). Buying bath soap in bulk offers a further advantage: unwrap the bars before storing (storing in a closet helps the closet smell nice too). Fresh soap contains a lot of moisture, making it disappear much faster with use. But a nicely dried-out bar of soap will last twice as long. That means more soap for you and less soapy suds for the environment.
Recycling Tip of the Week
If the recent mild weather has you thinking of spring cleaning you should also start thinking of how to dispose of no-longer-needed household items. Take advantage of the numerous charitable organizations that take donations. For
men's, women's children's and infant's clothing and small working appliances and electronics as well as small household items (bedding, draperies, toys, etc)., contact Am Vets (617-562-0730) for pick-up; the Salvation Army (328 Mass Ave, Cambridge, 617-354-9159) for drop-off collection; Morgan Memorial Goodwill (1-888-828-4483) for drop-off collection; or Vietnam Veterans of America (1-800-775-VETS) for pick-up collection.
For books, you can drop them off any time of the year at the Belmont Public Library on Concord Ave. Donated books are sold at the library's annual fall book sale.
Recycling Tip of the Week
You can reduce your production of trash and set a good example for your children by using reusable plastic containers instead of plastic bags for sandwiches, cookies, grapes, etc. in your children’s' lunches as well as your
own. Also, resist the temptation to buy foods in single-serving containers particularly if the containers are not recyclable.
Recycling Tip of the Week
why recycle? Because;
* recycling one tin can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours;
* recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours;
* one 20-year old tree makes 785 paper bags;
* packaging accounts for more than 30 percent of your garbage;
* for $11.00 spent on groceries, $1.00 is paying for packaging;
* it takes seventeen trees to make one ton of paper;
* eleven percent of America's trash is food waste and nine percent is compost able;
* recycling one ton of paper saves three cubic YARDS of landfill space;
* recycling aluminum can reduce energy use by 95 percent with similar reductions in water and air pollution;
* producing recycled paper takes half the energy and creates half the air and water pollution than producing virgin paper (directly from trees).
Recycling Tip of the Week
a large part our collective trash these days is made up of empty printer cartridges and used cell phones. These items don't need to end up in the trash heap. Cartridges for Kids ([ http://www.cartidgesforkids.com ]www.cartidgesforkids.com and 1-800-845-8851)
pays cash for used cell phones and empty inkjet, laser, fax and copier cartridges and collect these items all year. Along with your personal cell phones and cartridges, you can bring in those of your employer!! Contact Cartridges for Kids today to keep millions of pounds out of the trash heap.
Recycling Tip of the Week
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only about eleven percent of all personal computers are recycled. There are ways to greatly increase that number. Tec Change, a nonprofit based in Roxbury, accepts donations of all laptop and desktop computers, laser printers, 17-inch monitors and networking gear (Visit [ http://www.tecschange.org ]www.tecschange.org to learn more). The donated equipment is fixed and passed along to other nonprofits and to organizations conducting human-rights monitoring worldwide. Tec Change also teaches a computer repair course using donated equipment.
The World Computer Exchange is a nonprofit that ships container-loads of computers to Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The group maintains a drop-off site in Hull. Visit [ http://www.worldcomputerexchange.org ]www.worldcomputerexchange.org for
In addition, there are local nonprofits such as Youth Build Boston ([ http://www.ybboston.org) ]www.ybboston.org) and Young Tech Entrepreneurs ([ http://www.yte.org) ]www.yte.org) are actively looking for donations of working computers from individuals and businesses.
Finally, individual manufacturers (Dell, Compaq and Apple) all support recycling programs. Usually you must pay shipping costs, typically $7.50 to $30) but may receive a discount on your next computer if you recycle your old
Recycling Tip of the Week
Digital devices are extremely toxic when they end up in the solid waste and less than 1 percent of the total number of cell phones "retired" in a single year are recycled. But, there are ways to recycle unneeded cell phones.
Old cell phones can be dropped off at any Staples store in the U.S. The useable discarded phones are then often shipped off to other countries/continents, particularly South America, India, or Eastern Europe and a small donation (anywhere from $2 to $25) are made to the Sierra Club. Cell phones which have no value on the secondary market (about half of those donated) are recycled by a Georgia company called Collective Good.
You can also click on [ http://www.collectivegood.com ]www.collectivegood.com and select the charity to benefit from your donation. Be warned that if you chose this method you are responsible for mailing your cell phone to Collective Good.
Within Massachusetts businesses can donate old cell phones (as well as empty toner and inkjet cartridges) through the Recycling Donation Center ([ http://www.recyclingdonation.com) ]www.recyclingdonation.com), a Stoughton firm which allows businesses to
select a charity to benefit from their donations.
Finally, click on to [ http://www.wirelessrecycling.com ]www.wirelessrecycling.com, to find out where you can drop off or ship your old cell phones.
Recycling Tip of the Week
The holiday season is also the catalogue season. If your household is like most, you received, literally, hundreds of merchandise catalogues some of which were of no interest to you. Before you discard catalogues in your
mixed paper recycling, take steps to decrease or stop merchandise catalogues from being mailed to you in the future by contacting companies that sell your address to mailing lists. Write to Direct Mailing Association, Mail
Preference Service, and P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735. Also, contact Stop Junk Mail Association, 3020 Bridge way, #150, Sausalito, CA 94965 (you can save time and paper by calling them at 1-800-827-5549). If there are particular catalogues you wish to stop, call the 800 number listed in the specific catalogue and ask to be deleted from that company's mailing list.
Recycling Tip of the Week
the holidays are over and the decorations are coming down. Before you put your holiday cards in the recycling bag (NOT in the trash!!), take a minute to separate the decorative fronts of the cards and send them to St. Jude's
Ranch, a home for abused, abandoned and neglected children. The recycle used holiday and other occasional cards into "new" cards by removing the fronts and gluing them onto pre-printed card stock. The children receive money for each appropriate card made, which is divided between their savings and college funds. The cards are sold in packs of ten and the most requested cards are for angels and teddy bears. Send card fronts only to: St. Jude's Ranch for Children, 100 St. Jude's Street, Boulder City, NV 89005-1618. To order recycled cards visit their website at [ http://www.stjudesranch.org ]www.stjudesranch.org
Recycling Tip of the Week
wrapping up the Holidays
surveying the landscape once the gifts have been opened, the floor beneath the tree is littered with paper, ribbons, boxes, bows, and other incidentals of the unwrapping process. You may find yourself wondering what to do with
all that is left unwanted. The easy choice is to stuff it all in a black plastic bag and set it out with the trash, but there are other options.
So much effort goes into buying stuff, but comparatively little thought goes into to disposing of what is left over, first the bags and packaging and wrapping, and later the items themselves after they are through with their
useful life. Here are some alternative ideas on how to handle your holiday waste.
Wrappings: Save pieces of wrapping paper that are large enough to use again. Unwrapping gifts carefully so as not to rip the paper slows everyone down and can be an opportunity to make the festivities last a little longer. Put paper
in a bag or box and store them with your holiday ornaments until next year. Save ribbons and bows to use again too. Wrapping paper that is too small to bother saving can be recycled in Belmont's municipal recycling program.
Papers that cause a problem at the recycling facility are metallic and Mylar papers, those with glitter and sparkle, and cellophanes. If a few of these papers get in by accident it is not a catastrophe, but try to sort them out.
Ribbons, string, and bows should also not be recycled.
Boxes: Gift boxes can be saved and used again for birthdays, graduations and Mothers'/Fathers' Day gifts. If you are unable to save all of them, recycle the NON-CORRUGATED boxes in paper bags along with your newspapers,
catalogues, magazines and mixed paper.
Recycling Tip of the Week
The holiday season is filled with celebration and a marked increase in trash.
This holiday rather than buying a tree that gets displayed for a few weeks and then thrown away; consider buying a live tree that can be planted in your yard in spring, or buying one of the new very lifelike artificial trees. Not
only do artificial trees not end up in the trash, they tap into our petroleum supply once, not burning up gas on every trip to the tree lot. They're also pesticide-free.
Recycling Tip of the Week
the holidays are fast approaching. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash, producing an additional 5 million tons of garbage. You can reduce those numbers by wrapping presents in recycled paper, old calendars, the Sunday newspaper comics, colorful circular ads or children’s'
artwork. Decorate with raffia bows, evergreen snippets, or labels made from old holiday cards. According to statistics developed by the Sierra Club, if every family wrapped just three presents this way, it would save enough
ribbon to tie a bow around the earth, and enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
The holiday season is one of abundance and much of that abundance ends up in the trash. Here are some tips for reducing your contribution to that additional trash. Instead of material gifts, consider gifts of your time or expertise: IOUs for chores, babysitting, snow shoveling; teaching a skill such as baking, knitting, sewing or a sport; or offering your skills in building or repairing something. If you buy material gifts, look for durable and reusable gifts rather
that fad items. Look for gifts with an environmental message such as nature books, thermos bottles, canvas tote bags, a batter recharge, bicycles, in-line skates, ice skates or skis. Choose solar-powered instead of battery-powered products or, better yet, ones that require no power at all. Environmentally friendly gifts include homemade cookies, a plant or a tree. Gifts that create no waste include movie tickets and restaurant gift certificates. Gifts that get "used up" include soaps, candles and seeds for next year's garden. Finally, if you do go shopping, remember to bring along your own tote bags or shopping bags.
Recycling Tip of the Week 2003/10/08 Wed PM 07:28:08 EDT
Do you have something - furniture, sports equipment, medical equipment, etc. -you would like to sell or give away but don't have the time and/or energy for a yard sale? Rather than putting the item in the trash, place a free
classified ad in the Belmont Shopper. The Shopper is mailed to each Belmont household once a month. An ad form is included in each edition of the paper or you can call 781-643-9344 for details.
Recycling Tip of the Week
the holidays are fast upon us and they present great opportunities to decrease your trash production and increase reuse/recycling. One significant way to decrease your contribution to trash is by foregoing annual greeting
cards. Instead, send electronic greetings to friends and family. There are many creative programs available for making electronic "cards." Electronic greetings allow all members of your family to add news and comments and can be programmed to be sent on selected dates and times.