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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.

Replacing My Refrigerator — With or Without Energy Star

There aren’t a lot more opportunities for making my home more energy efficient, but one thing that stands out is replacing my refrigerator. It’s from 1999, and any fridge that old or older was made before federal efficiency standards were increased, so the energy saved by a new refrigerator makes replacing one that old cost-effective. According to the Energy Star refrigerator calculator, my old Frigidaire FRT18SJG uses 833 kWh/year, roughly $127/year. Comparable refrigerators today use about half that.

In looking for a new refrigerator, I immediately looked for which models earned a $50 rebate from Mass Save. Unfortunately, those are only the 17 models rated Energy Star Most Efficient. Looking more closely, I realized that there are some serious flaws in Energy Star’s rating system for refrigerators. Because they split the fridges into categories based on their configuration (top freezer, bottom freezer, french doors) and only grant the label to fridges 9-10% more efficient than others in their own category, configurations that use the most energy (generally french door bottom freezers with through-the-door ice makers) have a larger spread and are more likely to get the label than others. And the thing that can make the most difference in energy use–the size of the refrigerator–is ignored. So I decided to ignore the Energy Star label entirely and just look at the kWh use.

Another important factor was my space limitations. Unless I wanted to remove the cupboard above or the wall next to it, the new fridge could only be an inch or two bigger than the old one. And an 18 cubic foot refrigerator was surprisingly hard to find. There’s been a creep upwards in terms of refrigerator size over the years, so that the most common size I found in stores was 24 cubic feet. Jason also had a preference for a bottom freezer. That and size were our major parameters.


We finally settled on a Kitchenaid KRBX109EWH. (A GE Artistry ABE20EGHWS was our second choice.) Its annual energy use is 469 kWh/year, a savings of 364 kWh/year over our old one. (By comparison, the EnergyStar Most Efficient refrigerators ranged from 448 to 637 kWy/year.)

It’s being delivered next week, and we’re very excited. I’ll let you know how we like it once we actually start using it. And keep an eye out for our experience recycling our old fridge through Mass Save.

What’s the Best LED Light Bulb?

LED bulbs are great. They use a little less energy than CFLs (about 1/6th of what incandescents use) and last longer (around 20 years). And people tend to prefer them to CFLs, because they don’t contain mercury or have a discernible flicker.

Earlier this year we put out an RFP for a lighting distributor at work, and while we were discussing which light bulbs to choose for the program I felt woefully underinformed. I only had one in my own house (the result of a home energy assessment). So I got five different kinds and tested them  out. There are LEDs for almost any type of bulb you can think of, but all of these bulbs are dimmable replacements for 60-watt incandescents—the most common kind in my house. They were, from best to worst:

l_7157Phillips 11-Watt A19 LED – This was amazing. Its design was the prettiest—slimmer than an incandescent, smaller and lighter than the other bulbs. It dims well and has a warm light. Its directions say it shouldn’t be used in completely enclosed fixtures, because the heat will shorten its lifespan, but I ended up using it in my enclosed fixtures anyway, because I liked it the best. If you live in Massachusetts, your local utility buys down the cost of this bulb to make it more affordable—just $7.50.

51dGBqOxv0L._SL1000_Phillips 10-Watt A19 LED – This bulb won the U.S. Department of Energy’s L Prize, which encouraged lighting companies to design an affordable LED replacement for 60-watt incandescents. It’s weird looking, but cool. It has the warmest light, uses less power, and has a longer lifespan than the 11-watt. Like the 11-watt it’s dimmable and isn’t designed to be used in enclosed fixtures. I’m not sure this is available anymore, since the 11-watt is Phillips’ newer, more affordable version.

s_8388TCP LED Dim A Lamp – This is completely unobjectionable. Of all the bulbs, it’s shaped the most like an incandescent. It’s not as warm a light as the two Phillips, but much better than any CFLs that I’ve seen. Like the first two, it’s dimmable and isn’t designed to be used in enclosed fixtures. This is another bulb where your local utility buys down the cost (to $6.25), and it’s most likely the kind you’ll get during a home energy assessment.

71yDWOycm8L._SL1500_Rambus A19 LED – This bulb’s light is as warm as the TCP’s. Of all the bulbs, it diffused light best into the corners of the room.It’s also dimmable. However it’s big, heavy, and weird looking and the ceramic base of it got hot quickly. But this is because the base disperses the heat better than the first three, so it’s designed to be used in an enclosed fixture. It costs around $20.

71xth4u5t+L._SL1500_Bright Value LED A Lamp – Like the Rambus, this is designed for an enclosed fixture, so it’s also big, heavy, and weird looking. However, although it was advertised as dimmable, it wasn’t any more dimmable than a CFL, flickering and going out halfway. It costs around $15.

It can be confusing to figure out what bulb to get if you’re used to thinking of them in terms of watts (or how much energy they use). With all the different kinds of light bulbs out there, it makes more sense to think of them in terms of lumens (or how much light they give off). 800 lumens is the equivalent of the old 60-watt light bulbs—and it actually seems brighter than that to me.

Do you have LED bulbs that you prefer? Let me know which ones and why!