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Au Revoir

As you may have already guessed, many things have combined to make me stop posting to this blog. (First school, now work.) Rather than fitfully posting a handful of times a year, I think I’ll officially call it. But there’s a lot of good content here that I’m going to leave up for posterity. Here are some of my favorite posts:

Transportation – I love looking at the transition here, from driving a hybrid car, to riding a bike, to renting out our car. Now I’m driving to work (boo!), but Jason’s riding a bike, so I guess it balances out.

Home Improvement – We made a lot of effort to learn about weatherization after we moved into a drafty apartment, and it was a lot of fun.

Water – From reducing wasted water to reducing wasted water filters.

Energy Use – If I’m going to make an effort to save energy, I like to know the best places to focus.

Recycling – From municipal recycling to people recycling.

Food – I have a hard time cooking real food regularly, but focusing on it for this blog helped me out a lot.

Personal Care – Some of the most personal — and successful — changes I’ve made.

Cleaning – How to clean your house (or have someone else do it) without using horrible chemicals or supporting unfair employment practices.

Vermicomposting – Probably one of the least impactful things I’ve done, but the most fun.

Education – The most difficult (and most fulfilling) thing I did in the last decade was going back to school. It took up so much of my time that I didn’t do a lot of outside writing, but here are a few posts about it, along with a great paper my niece did on land use of my parents’ property in Maine that I know we’re going to continue to refer to.

Reviews – Fun reading (and not-so-fun watching).

Thank you for reading my blog! I learned so much while I was writing it, and I loved the conversations we had through it.

Help Cambridge Win the Georgetown Energy Prize

Last month I attended the first meeting for block captains to help get the word out about Cambridge’s efforts to win the Georgetown Energy Prize. The prize is $5 million that Cambridge could win for city energy projects, but we’re in competition with cities all around the country — 49 of them. Each city conducts energy projects and outreach (both residential and commercial) in an attempt to reduce energy use citywide over two years. For the first year (2015), the city focused on municipal projects and business outreach. These tend to have longer timeframes than smaller residential projects. This year they’re turning their attention to residential outreach. At the end of 2016, cities will be judged on how much their energy use has been reduced (25% of the total score) and the methods they used to obtain that reduction (75% of the total score). This is why it’s so important for us all to get involved — engaging everyone in the city can help us win the prize as much as reducing energy can.

Here's our competition

Here’s our competition.

For people interested in reducing their home energy use, the first step is to have a Mass Save home energy assessment. Cambridge has partnered with Next Step Living to do outreach (sign up here), but you can also call the main Mass Save number (866-527-7283) or use another home performance contractor, if you prefer. Whichever you choose, during the 2-3 hour home energy assessment you’ll get no-cost instant savings measures installed, like LED light bulbs, faucet aerators, showerheads, and smart power strips. I think these are worth the time on their own, but you’ll also get recommendations for deeper measures, like insulation, air sealing, heating systems, etc. and information on rebates available for them. And don’t think this doesn’t apply to you if you’re a renter — get the instant savings measures installed, then present the report on other measures to your landlord to see if they want to make the investment.

Even if we don’t win the Georgetown Energy Prize in the end, our efforts will help save ourselves money and energy, and improve the comfort and value of our homes. It’s win-win.

How to Recycle a Refrigerator

A few weeks back we replaced our old refrigerator with a more energy efficient (and shinier) one. But what to do with the old one? Because it was still working, we could take advantage of the Mass Save refrigerator recycling program. It’s designed to ensure that inefficient refrigerators aren’t kept in service, but instead recycled responsibly, and offers a $50 incentive to do so.

refrigerator_recyclingUnfortunately, the experience wasn’t great for me. The first issue I had was with scheduling. The program has online scheduling, but only offers three options at a time. So I chose a pickup time and then scheduled my new fridge delivery around it. But that fell apart when my new fridge came with a dented compressor and we had to get a replacement. Suddenly the back-to-back schedule that we’d set up didn’t work, and the old fridge wasn’t picked up until a couple weeks after the new delivery. There also weren’t any weekend times available, so one of us had to stay home from work for the pickup. (Thanks, Jason!) And the worst part…the program doesn’t pick up from a third floor. We had to move the fridge to the driveway ourselves, which wasn’t fun without all the right equipment. All in all, it wasn’t the best way for me to recycle my refrigerator.

So I looked into others. These include:

  • Municipal recycling – My city, Cambridge, offers pick up and recycling of refrigerators. You have to pay $25 to apply for a permit and leave the refrigerator on the curb on the appropriate day with the doors removed.
  • Retailer recycling – The EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal program partners with retailers, as well as utility energy efficiency programs. (Mass Save is part of this, too.) Home Depot, Sears, and Best Buy are all retail partners. Since we bought our new refrigerator from Home Depot, that would probably have been the easiest. They charge $15, and offer delivery to/removal from the third floor.

In sum, if you live in a 1-2 story house, I’d still suggest giving Mass Save’s refrigerator recycling a try. If not, I’d go with one of the retailers partnered with the EPA or your local Department of Public Works. They’ll cost you a few bucks, but they’ll likely be easier, and you can still rest easy knowing your fridge was recycled properly.

Food Scrap Pickup in Cambridge

The last few weeks I’ve been helping get the word out about the new food scrap pickup program in Cambridge. A pilot program with just 500 residents was done last year, and this year they’re expanding it to about 5,000 residents on the Monday trash pickup route. I’m so excited that this includes me! The original pilot area ended one street over from my house, and I’ve been so jealous. As a consolation prize, the city has had a dropoff point a few blocks away at Danehy Park. I’ve been walking my food scraps down there (sometimes), but this is so much more convenient that I’m already being better about collecting them.

It's a lovely (tiny) bin.

It’s a lovely (tiny) bin.

Each building (with less than 13 units) has been given a small green bin to hold the scraps outdoors. It’s made of extra thick plastic and has a locking mechanism on the lid to deter rodent interest. We’ve also all been given a small, ventilated bin to collect the scraps indoors, along with a year’s supply of compostable bags to line it with (and coupons for more). They’re encouraging everyone to use the bags — tying them up and tossing them in the outdoor bins every couple of days — so it doesn’t get disgusting. I also keep my bin in my freezer, so the scraps don’t break down so quickly. The indoor bin also locks if you rotate the handle to the front, which makes you less likely to spill it.

A lot more things can be collected in this composting program than you can compost in your backyard. Because it’s composted at higher temperatures, even meat can be included, as well as soiled paper products. This means that even if you’re already composting yourself, this can still be useful.

The program’s already off to a great start, with more than 10 tons of food waste collected the first two weeks. If you’re on the Monday route and haven’t received your bins yet, or if you have questions about the program that aren’t answered by these FAQs, call 617-349-4815 or email And don’t be surprised if I show up at your door with a fluorescent yellow vest and big “volunteer” badge, trying to get the word out.

Saturday Green Links – 10/10

I couldn’t resist doing a links post, because I was so excited to find out that Blue Apron was recycling packaging. And that my old colleague Amanda had a blog!

That’s it for now, but I’m trying to restart regular posts, so if you come across anything interesting, send it my way.