Saturday, May 30, 2015

Things Worth Knowing: How to Recycle What Doesn't Go In Your Toter

In New Haven, blue = Recycling
Those of you who have Single Stream Curbside Recycling know that the easiest way to keep your unwanted stuff in check is to make good use of your Toter. After all, how many yogurt containers (for storing leftovers), old newspapers (handy for window washing) and coffee cans (for sorting small metal parts and fasteners) do you really need?

What you can deposit in your recycling bin varies from place to place. But most municipalities accept clean paper, cardboard, metal cans, glass bottles, and a wide range of plastic.  

A more challenging problem is what to do with those items you can’t recycle curbside — spent CFL and batteries, unwanted electronics, mercury thermometers, paint that no longer fits into your home’s color scheme…

The website earth 911 is an excellent source of information on ways to recycle unwanted stuff. By entering what you are trying to recycle and your zip code, you will get a list of places in your area where you can take these items for responsible recycling. The answer even includes the distance from your location.

Big box stores accept a number of items, often with a daily limit. Best Buy accepts a wide range of articles, from CDs to appliances. Home Depot accepts both spent CFLs and fluorescent tubes, at least in Connecticut.

A snippet from an IKEA collection wall

IKEA has a convenient collection wall just inside the store for recycling spent CFLs, plastic bags, rechargeable batteries, cardboard, aluminum, and glass and plastic bottles. Reading the information posted above each bin will make you feel good about what you are doing.

In Connecticut we are fortunate enough to be able to recycle paint, both oil and latex, very easily. You can read more about this program here. And, during the warm weather months, HazWaste Central accepts chemicals, solvents, pesticides, alkaline batteries, mercury thermometers and lots of other stuff that does not belong in the trash.

If you are cleaning out your medicine cabinet, be sure to do so responsibly. Here are some tips.

It’s not always easy to be green, but these links should help you in your spring cleaning. Keep at it, for surely this is not something you want to be doing during those lazy days of summer.

I hope you find this a “Thing Worth Knowing.” Check for more stories like these as time goes by. [And search this blog for more posts in this vein.]

Happy Saturday.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sort… Box… Haul… Shred…

We are both orphans now — for a bit over a year. Seriously grown-up orphans, but orphans nonetheless.

I have learned that whether the death of a loved one is sudden and dramatic, or is the result of a long, slow, decline, it still takes you by surprise. And it leaves a hole in your heart that is never really filled.

These losses taught me something else as well. When a loved one dies, you will likely be left with a lot more than memories. There will be stuff, lots of it, to be dealt with and moved out very quickly. 

Unless you have a heart of stone and the willpower to call a company like 1-800-GotJunk? and pay to have them haul it away, it becomes your job to sort through the belongings and decide what to keep and what to donate. And, surprise, you may find some of your old, forgotten stuff in the mix, finally returned to its rightful owner.

These experiences can be overwhelming. They certainly put the fear into my husband and me. When you live in the same place for decades, stuff accumulates. And now we found ourselves with even more stuff.

How could anyone possibly discover our treasures amongst all this trash if something were to happen to us tomorrow? We wouldn’t wish this nightmare on anyone, let alone on our busy kids.

We started picking away — donating old books, recycling magazines, not renewing subscriptions, being more careful about making new purchases. But what we needed was an incentive to make a big dent in our accumulated detritus.

It came in the form of an invitation to participate in a Community Shredding Event, an opportunity to dispose of old documents securely by having them shredded in a mobile shredder right before your eyes. Usually there is a nominal fee or a request for a donation like canned goods or school supplies. In this case the fee is $10 a box, and HomeHaven, a local not for profit, will reap the benefit of anything beyond the cost of hiring the professional shredding service for the morning. [Google “Community Shredding Event” and your state to discover an event near you.]

We have been working on this project for days. The result? Seven bankers’ boxes like this one — full of papers, each weighing at least 30 pounds — as well as a recycling bin full of more stuff not requiring shredding! Kids — don’t let this happen to you! 

As Shred Day (today) drew near, things seemed to be working against us. We were suddenly carless. We woke to pounding rain followed by a threatening sky. But we were determined to get those boxes outta here. With the event about .5 miles away, we decided to put the boxes on dollies and roll them over.

Bundled up. Ready to roll.

We made it, and it feels good! There will be no stopping our great De-Cluttering of 2015!

All seven boxes dumped into one bin, ready for destruction.
Check back for updates and some useful links for responsible disposal of more unwanted stuff. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Meatless Monday: 5.4.15

Where has the time gone? In late March I published my 500th post, and since then I’ve only managed three more. It must seem I have become a slacker.

In reality, I was simply taking a much needed break. 

For part of the time I was on the West Coast, where I saw the sun—DAILY—and enjoyed the opportunity to ditch my coat, my hat, my boots, and even my socks for a few days! What was good for me was not good for drought-stricken California, however. There were no signs of a problem at the Mountain View Farmer’s Market, where strawberries were plentiful and huge, and a bargain, at least by East Coast standards. But we saw many dead street trees and countless scorched lawns, and the new water restrictions were definitely a hot topic in the media and around the dinner table.

The largest user of water in the state is agriculture. In February 2014 Mother Jones published a now famous story “It Takes How Much Water to Grown an Almond” complete with info graphics depicting how much water it takes to grow such popular crops as almonds, strawberries, and broccoli. The amounts are staggering. The almond has been taking much of the bad rap, but stories in NPR’s blog The Salt from April 12 and April 16 point out that there are many additional culprits, and many sides to the story.

What is indisputable are two things:
  • Agricultural crops require a tremendous amount of water.
  • Despite the drought, new crops are being planted in areas not planted before.

As consumers we need to respect the food we buy — to be mindful of the resources need to grow our food, of the farmers who raised it, and the energy consumed to get it to us.

More important than whether a food is local or has traveled a long distance, or whether it is organic or GMO, is whether we will actually use it if we bring it home. There is no excuse for wasting food or water.

What can we do?

We can start with some small steps.
  • Last year I compiled a number of suggestions for cutting down on food waste
  • Here is a tip for saving water that will also save you time, and perhaps even keep you healthier… Just before Earth Day I received an email from the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest urging me to save water by not re-washing pre-washed produce. I decided to check out whether the information was accurate and discovered this pdf on food safety prepared by the FDA. Sure enough the fact sheet states: “If the package indicates that the contents are pre-washed and ready-to-eat, you can use the produce without further washing.” The FDA goes on to recommend: “If you do choose to wash a product marked “pre-washed” or “ready-to-eat,” be sure to use safe handling practices to avoid any cross contamination.” Otherwise your rinsing might cause more harm than good.
  • And don’t forget that one-pot pasta dish from a few weeks back in which no water goes down the drain.

Now that I am back in the saddle again, look for me next Monday, or maybe even sooner.

Happy Meatless Monday!  Have a great week.

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”