7 things you won’t find in my house anymore

There used to be a time when I viewed these products as household staples. Over time, as I became aware of the environmental problems and the excessive and unnecessary amount of trash we create, I stop using them, and no, I don’t miss them. Life is easier, my house is sparkling clean and I feel much better about it

Paper Napkins: I used to have them at every meal. It never occurred to me that they require a vast number of trees to make. The paper industry is the third largest contributor to global warming. What I use instead: beautiful, colorful cloth napkins. I have a basket full of them; they add a splash of color to my kitchen.  My family uses them for 2-3 meals before laundering.

Plastic Food Wrap: Have you ever smelled that stuff? It stinks because is coated with chemicals that you definitely don’t want near your food. What I use instead: I mostly use Pyrex with covers or Mason jars to store food. Sometimes I cover my bowls with clean dishes and when I need a tight closure; I use aluminum foil, but very rarely.

Plastic Trash Bags: I know, I used to believe these were a necessity, but ever since I started composting and consciously shopping, my trash is so dry and tiny, my large garbage bags were way too big and wasteful. What I use instead: I line my small trash can with a paper bag and dispose it once every week or two. I don’t even need to bring my outdoor trash to the curbside every week. I can do it every other week along with my recycle bin. Life is easier and I save the city people time and energy.

Commercial Cleaners: if you look under my kitchen sink you will find: white vinegar, baking soda, unscented dishwashing detergent and Castile soap. That’s it. Well to be honest, I still have a left over Windex bottle that I use to clean my cars’ windows and a little left over bottle of Murphy Oil to wash my floors that I plan to replace with Castile soap. To polish my wooden tables I use olive oil, it works great.

Ziploc Bags: I used to purchase them for my son’s lunches to place his sandwiches or fruit. I don’t use them anymore for the same reason I don’t use plastic food wrap. What I use instead: I have a drawer where I keep all my used bags: from breads, beans, granola, cereals, etc. I simply use them the same way, some of them even have the zip closures.

Plastic Retail Bags: It’s so easy not to use these polluting items, especially since they are being banned one town at a time these days. Simply, bring your own reusable bags wherever you go, even if you are shopping for clothes. If you go to the grocery store, bring at least 6 large ones and always keep 1 or 2 in your handbag and car. There’s no excuse for single use. Every month or so toss them in your washer to refresh them.

Dryer Sheets: Honestly I only used these ones when I was living with roommates. Ever since I have my own household I have never used them. What I used instead: sun and wind energy: in the warm months we hang our clothes outside and in the winter months, we hang them down in the basement where we have installed some liners. In the rare occasion we need to use our dryer, we don’t use these silly sheets. I don’t even remember what they are for.

Reducing our Trash – A Visual Guide

One of the most daunting issues facing the world today is the mounting waste problem. Because we’re not seeing it, we think it’s not a problem, but it is. In Massachusetts we create so much trash that much of our waste is transported out-of-state sometimes as far as Ohio, at great cost to us, the rest is sent to landfills or incinerators in the State.

This visual guide shows alternatives I have implemented in my household to reduce the amount of stuff we send to the landfill.

Update Oct 2017: I am no longer using Preserve products due to the low quality/design of their products. Instead I am using regular toothbrushes and re-usable razors with disposable blades.

The Perfect Cup of Coffee

I was always a tea person until I met my husband, who taught me to love coffee. Now my morning routine is not complete without a large mug of steamy coffee. Recently, I started to wonder, what kind of coffee is the most environmentally sustainable and healthy. This question should be very easy to answer, but it isn’t. We all have our favorite brands and ways to drink our coffee. In the last years we have seen an explosion of choices mostly focused on “convenience”.

Personally, my favorite cup of coffee is the one I make at home, using organic, fair trade, dark coffee beans, filtered water, and brewed in a French Press. That way I can totally control the temperature of the water, the time it is in contact with the beans and I know for sure my coffee hasn’t been in contact with plastic. This is also a zero-waste process.

There are also other coffee makers that don’t contain plastic and they are mostly waste free: The Chemex, the Stovetop Espresso Maker, the Percolator, the Turkish coffee pot, among others. Personally, I have only have tried the Turkish pot, that makes a delicious strong coffee but I haven’t tried any of the other methods because they all look harder than my French Press Coffee Maker.

K-Cups taking large shelf space at a local grocery store

The worst way to make your coffee for your health and the environment is to use a K-Cup pod. The pods contain an undisclosed blend of plastics and an aluminum cover. Not only they create unnecessary trash, but you are heating plastic and aluminum which leaks into your coffee and probably messes up your health. K-Cups are not recyclable, and even if they say so, most municipalities don’t accept them.

What about compostable K-Cups? Unfortunately, these are not better. Each K-Cup comes individually wrapped in foil, creating more unnecessary trash, and they need to go to an industrial composting facility in order to break down.

What about traditional electric coffee makers? Environmentally speaking, these are better than K-Cups. After making your coffee, simply add the coffee grounds with the filter to your compost pile. Because they are wet, they will decompose fairly quickly.

Community Composting Facility Opens in Framingham

I am very happy to announce that our Community Composting facility is now open! Everyone is welcome to bring their food scraps to this facility at no cost. Just follow the guidelines below.

This project is possible thanks to the partnership between Framingham Compost Crew, a project of Transition Framingham, and One Earth Collaborative, a project of Open Spirit. The goal is to keep “food scraps” out of landfills and turn it into “black gold”. Food doesn’t belong in the trash. This new soil will help maintain the newly constructed Edible Forest Garden recently built on the grounds of Open Spirit and Edwards Church.

Not throwing food scraps in the garbage is one of the most important things we can do not to contribute to the warming of our planet. The decomposition of food scraps in landfills create methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in our atmosphere and contributes to global warming. It is more potent than carbon dioxide and one of the most dangerous to the environment

The bins are located inside the playground, in the corner by the cemetery side,  across from The Open Spirit parking lot. The address is 39 Edwards St. Framingham, MA 01701.

Please follow these guidelines when bringing your food scraps:

Accepted:

Raw or cooked fruits and vegetables

Raw or cooked grains: rice, cookies, cake, pasta, bread, popcorn, etc.

Nuts and eggshells

Spices and dried herbs

Tea bags, coffee grounds, coffee filters

Grass clipping, dry leaves, ash, sawdust

Shredded newspapers and paper bags

Food soiled paper towels and napkins

Not Accepted:

Plastic bags

Meat and dairy products

Diseased or poisonous plants

Oil and grease

Pet waste

Composting Tip:
Put a piece of newspaper or old paper bag at the bottom of your inside compost bin. When you go to dump it outside everything will slide out much easier than without this aid.

How I Ended My Paper Towel Addiction

587ddd40c8320c76b6d4b39ec6c960bbWhen I started composting and reducing disposables, I noticed that one of the most prevalent items in our trash, were paper towels. I even switched to using paper towels made with 100% recycled content and bleached without chlorine, but still I was not feeling great about using so much paper. It took me a long time to start looking for alternatives because, I have to admit it, paper towels are very convenient. How did my mother and grandmother manage to cook three meals a day from scratch and raise 2 kids at the same time without paper towels? I have no idea.

So, one day when I was shopping at Trader Joe’s, I saw these reusable cloths that come in fancy colors. I was skeptical but decided to give them a try. After two months of using them, I am happy to tell you that my life hasn’t become more complicated, my kitchen is still sparkling clean and I am saving money. I haven’t replaced all my paper towel needs because I have a cat that makes messes so I still use my paper for that. But for most other things, these reusable towels do a great job. I even cleaned the interior of my cars with these towels and tossed them in the laundry machine afterwards.

I found my solution at Trader Joe’s but I am sure most stores carry paper towel alternatives. Let me know what you find and like.

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know You Can Compost

IMG_4440Most people know they can compost fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, egg shells and leaves. But what about the fur that collects in the brush when you groom your cat? The following items will certainly decompose in your compost pile:

  1. Human hair and pet fur
  2. Feathers
  3. Nail clippings
  4. Flowers from floral arrangements
  5. Dead houseplants and their soil (No sick plants)
  6. Used matches
  7. Pencil shavings
  8. Toothpicks
  9. Paper cupcake or muffin cups
  10. Wine corks (Made from real cork, not plastic)

Reduce Junk Mail

I have been trying for months to eliminate junk mail, but it is virtually impossible. What is possible, though, is to considerably reduce the amount of junk and unsolicited mail you get in your mailbox.

There is this fabulous non-profit organization called Catalog Choice. To use their free service, start “saving” all your junk mail. Then once a week (or as often as you wish) sit at the computer with your junk mail and go to www.catalogchoice.com. Enter all the information they request and they will do the rest. They will contact the companies that you choose and will tell them to remove your name from their mailing list. Sometimes you will have to contact the companies directly, but Catalog Choice will make things as easy as possible for you and will walk you through every step. After a few months of doing this, I have seen a considerable reduction in the junk mail I receive, which goes directly into my recycle bin.

Update: In addition to Catalog Choice, DMA choice can also help with unsolicited mail: https://dmachoice.thedma.org.