August 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Sustainability)
Tags: Recycle, reuse, Reuse Center, Sustainability, upcycle
Community Resources Support Creative and Practical Reuse
As humans have become more aware of our impact on the planet, we’ve also become more aware of the need to live in a way that is more sustainable than how we’ve lived in the past. Part of our search for sustainability includes being mindful of the things that we consume, their source, and the place(s) where they end up when we’re no longer using them. By recycling and reusing objects and materials, families can decrease their impact on the earth – and an added bonus of reuse is the potential to acquire items very inexpensively (or maybe even for free!).
Locally, there are a handful of community resources that support families in their pursuit of learning about reuse. Read the rest of this entry »
April 18, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Collaborative Consumption, Hilltown Families, History, Suggested Activity, Sustainability)
Tags: Bicycle, bicycle exchange, Bicycles, bike, Bike Riding, collaborative consumption, Massachusetts, New England, Transporation History, transportation, western massachusetts
The Surprising Social Impact of Bicycles
and Local Learning Opportunities
Did you know that before inventing the world’s first successful airplane, Orville and Wilbur Wright owned a bicycle shop? They repaired and rented out bicycles and eventually went on to build their own bicycles and invent small improvements to the machines. In addition to gaining practice in engineering skills, this business funded their aviation experiments.
Simpler and less expensive than cars, bicycles can be a fun tool for tinkering. The fact that the parts of a bicycle are exposed can help people understand the physics driving the machine. Plus, owning a bicycle can give you an immense sense of freedom. Bicycles obviously do not travel as fast as cars (depending on traffic flow!) and can’t take you as far, but at the same time they are affordable to more people and they are driven by human energy. Biking allows you to take a closer look at the world around you and get exercise in a fun way.
Read the rest of this entry »
March 28, 2016 at 11:59 am (Hilltown Families, Suggested Activity, Sustainability)
Tags: Clothes, Fashion, Mending, Recycling, Sewing, Sustainability, upcycle, Visible Mending
Visible Mending Activates Creativity and Gives New Life to Old Clothes
Favorite jeans are torn at the knees, treasured flannels have frayed at the elbows, the warmest of socks have split in the toes; what’s the fate of all of these once new, now well-loved garments? Rather than passing them on to a thrift store or adding them to a sewing scrap pile, families can give new life to their well-worn clothes by doing a bit of creative visible mending. Combining basic sewing skills, a bit of artistry, and the principles of leading a more sustainable lifestyle, visible mending is a perfect solution to the woes of well-worn clothing, and provides a simple means of upcycling goods. It’s even a great entry point for exploring sewing skills!
The concept of mending, of course, has been around for eons – dating back to a time when simply buying a replacement simply wasn’t an option. Today, mending remains important, and offers many a simple fix for the small tears and worn patches that clothes will inevitably experience. Visible mending, however, differs from regular mending in that it’s meant to be seen (hence its name), and gives new life to articles of clothing by not only fixing rips, tears, and the like, but by adding interesting (and perhaps artistic) details to clothing. Visible mending is not only practical, but can be exciting and engaging for creative folks. Read the rest of this entry »
July 22, 2015 at 3:00 pm (Food, Local Food, Science, Sustainability)
Tags: Fermentation, food chemistry, Local Food, pickling, reskilling, Sustainability, zymology
The Art & Science of Fermentation: Lessons in Local Food Preservation
There’s lots of space for learning about food science when you turn your kitchen into a fermentation station!
This time of year, it’s so easy to forget how badly we longed for crisp pickling cucumbers and fresh local tomatoes during the winter – sometimes, it all comes in at once, and it’s all we can do to keep the bounty of our gardens and farm shares from going to waste. Gardening is, of course, a great way to expose kids to cycles of growth and the joy of producing your own food, and the cooking that eventually follows. A solidly planted garden brings with it a myriad of other kitchen-based learning experiences (measuring math, recipe literacy, and lots of fine motor skill development for small folks). But what do you do when you’ve cooked all you can eat and your self-sufficient kiddos have already mastered the ins and outs of your kitchen? Start fermenting! Read the rest of this entry »
May 13, 2015 at 2:00 pm (Community Based Education, Cummington, Hampshire County, Hilltown Families, Sustainability)
Tags: community learning, folk school, self sufficiency, skillsharing
Classes & Workshops Drive Self-Sufficiency Through Skill Sharing
The primary purpose of the Taproot Commons folk school style workshops is to uplift community teaching talent, and inspire perpetual creativity toward a replenishing future. Taproot is invested in making life-long learning affordable, non-competitive, non-coercive, independent from outside funding, and to the purpose of interdependence. The focus is on re-skilling, melding old and new technologies, regenerative agriculture and forestry, deep understanding of local and natural history, true arts and crafts, and embracing alternative ways of knowing in this unremitting information age.
True resiliency depends on having a wide breadth of knowledge – and lots of it. As such, community resiliency and sustainability depend not only on the knowledge and skills of individuals, but upon the knowledge and skills of a community as a whole. In Cummington, MA, Taproot Commons’ new folk school style workshops offer opportunities for community members to work towards accomplishing a goal of true community resiliency and interdependency.
Though this year marks the first of Taproot Commons’ folk school offerings, the course selection is a dream come true for aspiring homesteaders – yet is still accessible to those who are just beginning to dabble in self sufficiency. Thirty workshops have already been scheduled between now and October, and topics covered include everything from soapmaking and pressure canning to plein-air drawing and livestock buying and butchering. While some workshops offer educational opportunities that are centered around more common skills related to gardening, food preservation, and herbal medicine, others touch on much more obscure and tough-to-learn skills like saw sharpening, buying livestock, and making hay by scythe. Read the rest of this entry »
December 3, 2014 at 9:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: Crafting with Kids, Creative Free Play, DIY Crafts, Green Holiday, Green Living, MYO Crafts, natural materials, Parenting
Family Creative Free Play Pays Big Dividends in Crafting Memories for the Holidays
Carving out time to craft has proven to be an essential activity for me. It allows for creative free-form time amongst the schedules, the routine, and the prescribed. I love it when I get into a project alongside the kids. Sometimes it’s baking. Sometimes it’s seed saving and sorting. Sometimes it’s specific materials that inspire a project. I found myself enamored by this beautifully dyed wool roving at the Hartsbrook School holiday fair in Hadley, MA, last weekend and spoke with the vendor about all the ways we could work with the material as a family. I was inspired to try something new. I had never needle felted before and thought that it would be something at least my 10 year old could get into. What I didn’t realize was she was already doing this craft at her school. It’s true the material sat in our fabric closet for exactly a year before I actually put it to use, but I was reignited to the idea when a neighbor showed me some of the needle felting she was doing alongside her billowing basket of cookie cutters, and I jumped in. Read the rest of this entry »
November 5, 2014 at 9:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: buy local, community commerce, greening, local business
Greening Our Social Landscape
Our environment is more than the botany around us! When we admire our landscape we recognize that it also includes the views of markets, public spaces, and a bustling community of likeminded people engaged in businesses, and schools. All these things attract us as inhabitants. So when we think about preserving our environment by doing helpful things like recycling, river clean-ups, and using reusable bags, we can also consider efforts made in greening our social landscape as equally supportive.
We value face-to-face interactions. Getting our questions answered, being helped in person to find what we need, having conversations with real people about life, our kids growing up, and what’s going on around town. I want to introduce you to the concept of buy local first. If you live in the Pioneer Valley of Western MA you likely have heard this term, or even have picked up a copy of the Pioneer Valley Local First guide. It’s all about shopping local. You know why? Because when you make a purchase at a local business, significantly more money will recirculate into the community keeping it vibrant. There are 10 reasons (and really good ones, some that you might not even think of make a shift but they all do)! You can read them in more detail in Pioneer Valley Local First post, “Top 10 Reasons to Shop Local First!” If you’re more of a visual learner, you can click on this graphic to view more.
I wanted to highlight my favorite 3 and elaborate from my own experience: Read the rest of this entry »
November 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Community Based Education, Hampden County, Hilltown Families, Nature Based Education, Sustainability)
Tags: Clean Water, Community Based Education, Ecology, nature studies, River Ecology, STE(A)M, Sustainability, watersheds
The Art of Clean Water: A Family Celebration
What do storm drains have in common with art, watersheds, and poetry? They’ll all be a part of The Art of Clean Water celebration put on by Enchanted Circle Theater and their community partners on Saturday, November 8th from 10am-11:30am at the Holyoke Public Library! The celebration will feature an unveiling of new artwork inspired by Holyoke students on several of the storm drains in downtown Holyoke. The event will be focused on education and advocacy around water for youth and local families and will have activities and opportunities to learn for the whole family.
Bring your children to investigate microscopic critters with the Hitchcock Center, create trash art and poetry with the Connecticut River Watershed Council, and learn about rain gardens with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission… to name just a few highlights! Read the rest of this entry »
October 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Food, Jim McSweeney, Nature Based Education, Sustainability)
Tags: arborist, gardening, Hilltown Tree and Garden, root vegetables, roots, storage, Western Massachuestts
Roots, Putting Them Up
Red & white onions, pumpkins and delicata squash ready for storage.
If you did not (despite good intentions) plant carrots, beets, onions, garlic, etc… it’s not too late to enjoy them well into the winter. The majority of our locally grown root crops can be stored with ease for up to 8 months. The easiest ones I normally store are: winter squash, potatoes (sweet and regular), onions, garlic, carrots and beets.
Think about visiting a local farmer or farmers’ market and asking about their “seconds” (ones with blemishes) that they normally do not sell. You can often get storage crops really cheaply if you get it in bulk. With proper storage this will take you through the winter for all your veggie needs.
Here is the way I store the my roots: Read the rest of this entry »
October 8, 2014 at 9:00 am (Collaborative Consumption, Community Based Education, Hilltown Families, Suggested Activity, Sustainability)
Tags: Community Based Education, Community Building, DIY, folk schooling, Recycling, skill sharing
Skillsharing & Folk Schooling Builds the Best Kind of Connections
Haberdashery Skillfair 2014
Have a great family pie recipe that you make from scratch? Made something fabulous from secondhand items? Come show off your homemade goodies and projects at The Haberdashery Skillfair, Saturday, October 25th from 12pm-9pm in Easthampton! There will be competitions for best pie, best upcycled item, best jam, and many more. So gather the family and come up with something great to bake, brew, or craft using local ingredients and materials. It could be the perfect opportunity to teach your children that traditional family recipe or crafting skill. If you don’t have something to enter in the contest, don’t worry! Come to the Skillfair and see what tasty and creative things your friends and neighbors have been making. You may even find inspiration for your next family crafting or culinary project. Read the rest of this entry »
October 1, 2014 at 9:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: Activisim, Climate Change, Parenting, people's climate march
Reflections on the People’s Climate March
NYC Sept 21st, 2014
I felt it was important to go to the Climate March because it was going to be historic—the largest climate rally in history, and people from all over the globe had an opportunity to share a collective stance. Indigenous groups joined with hundreds of thousands of people to be speaking with the same voice with a lot more presence. Singer Angelique Kidjo spoke with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now as she represented the women in Africa who are paying the price for climate change as it is directly affecting their crops and their livelihood right now. In some way I felt just as unheard as them. Al Gore and Bill McKibben stood strong leading the march though all fame aside there was an overall voice throughout of truly this being about ‘us the people.’
So what made my husband and I want to bring our children when the thought of taking 3 kids to the grocery store is daunting? Well, I guess it’s because we recognized that daily discomforts and mood shifts would be a part of our day with kids anyway, so we were ready for that. It was just something we were going to do. To have them not only experience a civil action for a cause they believe in, but also to let them know just how important our actions are. It’s a unique opportunity to broadcast the small ‘work’ we all do every day as individuals to minimize our impact. Read the rest of this entry »
August 6, 2014 at 9:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: activism, Climate Change, Environmentalism, Green Living, people's climate march
People’s Climate March
There is something important happening in September. It’s the People’s Climate March in NYC. They claim it will be the biggest climate rally in history. They also say it will be pet and family friendly, so I’m using encouraging Pioneer Valley locals to get to the march on September 21st, 2014. A local team of people are working on organizing charter bus transportation and carpooling to the march in NYC in September. You can travel round trip for $25 or less getting back the same day, so don’t let cost or time stand in the way. The atmosphere and tenor of the event is meant to be dignified, fun, impacting and empowering. This is not the place for terror and fright as it will certainly be permitted by NYC, peaceful and safe for all who come. Keep an ear out for fun, local, and creative activities leading up to the support of the rally.
Read the rest of this entry »
July 2, 2014 at 9:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: BPA, Environment, Environmentalism, green education, Green Living, Recycling
Lead by example and develop new habits in reusing materials
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. But do it from reusable water bottles.
I know this to be true about water bottles… They make you drink more water; especially when they’re new, and you’re a kid. It’s worth it to me for our kids to get excited about the purchase of a new one, especially now that summer is finally here. I often forget in those first weeks about switching gears into full-hydration mode, and making sure that everyone is drinking enough water. Without fail, getting a new containment method for liquids provides enough entertainment that even I have fun drinking more.
There are so many choices of BPA free plastic ones and gloriously colored stainless steel ones, you’ll be sure to find your muse. In the $15-30 sticker price, you might convince yourself you’ll be done buying them because they last forever, but they also get lost so easily. (Maybe they’re all where I left my reusable bags.) Then I think about all those moments when I want a cold drink when I’m out and about: an iced coffee, or chai, or a smoothie from the cafe. These are ALL moments we can hand our reusable container over the counter and have it filled up. Read the rest of this entry »
June 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: Climate Change, conversation, mothers out front, Parenting, Rosenburg Fund for Children
Kids and Climate
My kids are getting older and are more tuned into our conversations. Remember the days as a parent when you could talk ‘adult’ in the front seat about things that interested you and the kids paid no mind? Now at age 6 and 10 our two oldest are more aware and have context for the information they are absorbing, coupled with the fact that they want to understand what the adults are talking about. There’s no changing it; we are in complex times and as parents we are facing the challenge of how to digest this information and create a productive environment for our kids to thrive in.
We knew as parents we’d be met in their adolescence with difficult conversations about sex, drugs, violence, mental illness, and death… Can we add climate change to that ‘complex’ list? Read the rest of this entry »
May 7, 2014 at 9:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: Bike path, Bike Path Council, Bike Safety, biking, biking trips, transportation
Biking with Your Family
It just feels good to get out on a bike. It’s liberation, it’s exhilaration, it’s exercise, it’s transportation, and it’s free*! The little trips add up and if you can run your smaller errands by bike you’ll likely feel better, live longer, and save money. Now that you have a family, don’t let transporting children be the burden that puts you in the car. Taking them biking is fun and you can plan what type of biking system to use based on the length of the trip, the time constraints, or the weather. So really, it’s just about integrating it into your life and creating a new habit (or reviving an old one!).
We used to live in the Hilltowns and taking biking trips around where we lived was challenging, I won’t lie. The driveway was gravel (which is a hard surface for kids to get moving on) and we were surrounded by a lot of hills. These can be deterring factors. Finding a large paved lot or getting to a place that has less inclines can make it easier for everyone. If you’re schlepping from the Hilltowns into the Valley to do your grocery shopping you might as well bring your bikes to get around town and enjoy the paved paradise…I challenge you to watch how cars get stuck in traffic while your crew keeps in forward motion! Read the rest of this entry »
April 22, 2014 at 9:00 am (Suggested Activity, Sustainability)
Tags: Earth Day, Sustainability, Sustainability Festival
Amherst Sustainability Festival: April 26, 2014
The Amherst Farmers’ Market and Sustainability Festival takes place this Saturday, April 26th, on the Town Common. Pick up your starter plants and locally grown foods from the Market, and then head to the Common for a fabulous family-friendly festival featuring all things sustainable… including Hilltown Families! Stop by our tent where kids can plant seeds to take home with them while parents can learn about the mission of Hilltown Families.
With springtime comes an increase in our awareness of the natural world – as we plan our gardens and watch trees begin to leaf out, we’re reminded of how essential the earth is to us, and how important it is to live our lives in a way that ensures that our natural resources will be preserved for years to come. Celebrate springtime, sustainability, and all things green at the Amherst Sustainability Festival, an annual free community event that brings together local organizations and resources to promote local sustainability!
This year, the Amherst Sustainability Festival will be held on Saturday, April 26th, 2014, from 10am-4pm. Centered around the Amherst Town Common, the event includes booths from local sustainability-related organizations and vendors, live music and theater performances, demonstrations of skills and techniques, live animals to visit and learn about, local food, and lots of other exciting and educational events and activities for families. Early risers can begin their day of sustainability in the morning by visiting the Amherst Farmers’ Market, whose second market of the season will bring a wide variety of delicious, healthy, local foods to the Town Common from 7:30am-1:30pm.
Once you’ve stocked up on local foods, begin your festival adventure by watching Piti Theater Company’s performance of their original show, To Bee or Not to Bee. Read the rest of this entry »
April 22, 2014 at 8:00 am (Sustainability, Take Action)
Tags: Earth Day, Environment, National Crayon Recycling Program, Recycling, Trophy Recycling Program
Three Unique Recycling Programs
Unidentified keys, trophies from the early 80’s & broken crayons… these three things can clutter up your junk drawer, attics, and art supplies. Here are three unique recycling programs that recycle all three of these items for good causes. Gather items together with your kids, ask your neighbors if they have any to contribute too, then package up and ship off. These teaching moments can spark conversations with your kids about the importance of recycling and help others: Earth Day Feature: Unique Recycling Programs.
April 2, 2014 at 8:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Raw Honey: Learning, Eating & Appreciating
Our family eats honey regularly. The jar lives on our kitchen table. It’s used daily in tea, we pour it over yogurt, and spread it on toast. It’s something I enjoy and use often, something I place value on. When our friends had us over recently and offered to send us home with a frame of honey straight from their hive, I couldn’t say ‘no,’ though the impulse to negate such a generous offering was stirring. I am so glad I accepted. The 2-5lb weight of the frame was surely felt. It was densely full of honey, capped off by sweet smelling wax. How did the bee make two distinctly different substances from one tiny insect body (okay, many tiny insect bodies)? Read the rest of this entry »
March 24, 2014 at 6:00 am (Berkshire County, Ecology, Hilltown Families, Suggested Activity, Sustainability, Video)
Tags: Environmental Film Festival, Environmentalism, Film Festival
Project Native 4th Annual Environmental Film Festival
March 29 & 30, 2014
Great Barrington, MA
For the past three years, Project Native has hosted a successful day-long environmental film festival. This year they are expanding the festival to include an evening screening at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA, on Saturday, March 29th in addition to the festival on Sunday, March 30th at the Triplex Cinema.
The festival will kick off Saturday, March 29th at 7pm with a special screening of Revolution, an award-winning film by Rob Stewart, director of Sharkwater at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. Startling, beautiful, and provocative, Revolution has already won awards at international film festivals. Revolution is not just about the environment—it’s a film about hope and inspiration. It is an urgent call-to-action with an uplifting message that tells us it’s possible to alleviate the damage already done. While creating this film, Stewart met with experts in their fields to investigate the important issues affecting our lives. In an effort to uncover the secrets to a safer world, Stewart goes on an adventure filled with action and drama that will leave audiences around the world, at any age, inspired about how they can get involved in the fight to save our planet.
“Our goal is to not only show the problems facing our world, but to also inspire action for positive change,” says Karen Lyness LeBlanc, Education & Outreach Coordinator for Project Native. Project Native is encouraging middle, high school and college students in the area to attend and bring their friends. This event is FREE, thanks to support from the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation. A panel discussion will follow the film.
Then on Sunday, March 30th, screening at the Triplex Cinema…
March 5, 2014 at 6:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: Diapers, Parenting, Sustainability, values
Your One Thing
Every day we are challenged to be authentic. Authentic to ourselves, to community, and to our loved ones through our speech or actions. There is a tendency to alter our opinions in hopes that they will match others, or in efforts to not offend, or sometimes its skewed to diffuse tension. The goal is to be expressing honestly and receiving feedback empathetically. I am about to tell a story that touched me so single pointedly around my authentic self and my values. I got a soaring feeling in my heart when it happened and I knew that it aligned with my intentions completely, though I hesitated to share it. I was concerned other people would feel guilty or ashamed if they didn’t care about this one thing to the same degree as I did. I wanted to avoid potentially hurting or alienating myself in the parenting community. What I realized in validating that assumption was that I wasn’t being authentic to myself and I was playing party to the ‘what if’s.’ If we are coveted or fear-based about what we truly are and how we express then we are teaching confusion of opinion and identity to our children.
So here it goes… Read the rest of this entry »
March 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Collaborative Consumption, Community Based Education, Sustainability)
Tags: collaborative consumption, Community Based Education, knowledge share, resiliency, Sustainability
Collaborative Consumption: Supporting Sustainability & Community-Based Education
Farmers’ Markets, both winter and summer, are a terrific opportunity to partake in collaborative consumption… farmers share their knowledge and families absorb the information, learning how to grow a better garden or how to better preserve their foods. The power of collaborative consumption not only supports sustainable efforts, but is a great source for community-based education too!
More and more, communities across western Massachusetts – and around the world! – are working together to create opportunities for pooling knowledge, sharing skills, and increasing each others’ access to useful resources. In creating systems and channels through which to access shared information and materials, communities are building resourceful, resilient foundations upon which to grow. And in addition to the community-sustaining benefits of such systems are a variety of community-based educational opportunities for kids to learn!
Commonly known as collaborative consumption, such practices work to shift emphasis from ownership of goods to access to them, a shift that would decrease the amount of resources necessary for a sustainable way of life. In addition to focusing on goods, communities that practice collaborative consumption often include systems through which to share skills and knowledge with each other, making them even more resilient.
In Western MA, collaborative consumption has manifested in many different ways. The Pittsfield Repair Cafe offers once-a-month events where volunteers share their time and expertise in fixing all manner of items, while Valley Time Trade uses time as a currency, allowing community members to pay for services by putting time and effort into a future endeavor. Projects like the Northfield Tool Lending Library and the Amherst Toy Lending Library allow communities to share sets of items big and small, allowing everyone to have access to tools, toys, and other things regardless of the cost associated with buying them… Read more about collaborative consumption in Western MA…
February 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: Gift Wrapping, Reducing Consumption, resiliency, Sustainability, sustainable holidays
Reducing the Consumption for a Family of Five
I was putting out the trash this week and it kind of hit me how little our family of 5 (with 3 children under the age of 10) had to throw out. I have to admit I saw it as an opportunity to share just how second nature it is for us to do the handful of extra things that make a big reduction in our weekly waste. My kids were curious why I was taking the pictures, as they always are, and I thought it was a great opportunity to have them take notice too on how little trash we send away and how much we take responsibility for. “It’s because we compost.” I told them, “And because we cloth diaper.” Imagine if all this extra stuff had to go in the barrel to be sent off to the dump?! We’d be filling two barrels!
With landfill issues coming to a head, conservation commissions are scrambling to do assessments of their towns and promote recycling and waste reduction. I have heard that in 2016 Massachusetts will be lifting the ban on incineration, except, they are just going to call it something different. To me, that’s a red flag. There seems to be more reactionary measures than preventative ones to our problems. Why not take a proactive approach? We don’t have to ‘do it all’ whatever that may be. For our family it really boils down to 6 things that we do with a little extra effort to reduce our trash. So I hope that these suggestions come not as a wall of guilt if you’re not already incorporating them, but as seeds of opportunity for change: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste…
January 1, 2014 at 6:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: curiosity, Gift Wrapping, gift wrapping alternative, nature awareness, Nature Based Learning, nature based play, nature-deficit disorder, resiliency, Sustainability, sustainable holidays, Wrapping Paper
Winter Nature Play
I am always amazed at how the kids tend to be the ones to notice the pulse of our natural world through their curiosity. It’s how discovery happens! We just have to bring them to the opportunity and they will certainly find it. — What are some of the ways your family stays connected to nature within the limits of winter?
I love the adage, ‘there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.’ especially this time of year when the winter winds and flakes can make you feel like it’s not worth the fight to get bundled. What’s your strategy for getting the kids geared up before the inner heat you’ve created sends your minds to a boiling point!? Sometimes I don’t get the process down so wisely. I feel like if our coat area was set up more like a firehouse station, we might gear up and get out…it’s always a back and forth with finding gloves, the hat, and which door the snow pants are hanging up at. Keeping myself from getting overheated helps me have more patience in that process. Luckily we have a screened in porch so I can send the bundled baby and big kids out once they have their gear on, and they can wait there until I get winterized.
It was really about commitment the other day when the idea to go outside in the falling snow came over the living room where free play was happening. There was no pressure of schedule to follow, we didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time. We knew that the need for physical activity was necessary and that being outside was always welcomed and enjoyed once we got there. Somehow we kept the momentum going even with the resistance voiced by the happily engaged big kids. I think that’s where the commitment came in. We had a vision and we didn’t waver. We wanted to go for a walk in the trails at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton. There were plenty of easy trails and a lookout tower that we could climb. It would be fun… Read the rest of this entry »
December 25, 2013 at 10:00 am (Sustainability)
Tags: Christmas, Environment, gift wrap, Recycling, sustainablity, Wrapping Paper
It’s a Wrap! Time to Recycle!
Gift wrap IS recyclable! Reuse what you can and toss the ripped up stuff into your paper recycling bin (Do not include gift wrap with metallic ink, glitter, or foil). When opening gifts, use a brown paper bag to capture gift wrap, tissue paper, greeting cards, envelopes and boxes.
Unwrapping gifts this morning? Have a mini-mountain of wrapping paper, or pieces strewn across your living room? Did you know that all wrapping paper is recyclable (except wrapping paper with foil)? Recycle your wrapping paper this year with your other paper.
Also, keep in mind that all cardboard gift boxes, tissue paper, gift cards and paper shopping bags are recyclable (just no foil or glitter), and you might be able to bring Styrofoam packing peanuts to the UPS store for reuse.
On the other hand, ribbons, bows and tinsel cannot be recycled are not. Next year (or for any other special gift giving occasion), try making your own gift bows from old magazine pages. Check out this tutorial from How About Orange.
Read the rest of this entry »
December 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: Gift Wrapping, gift wrapping alternative, resiliency, Sustainability, sustainable holidays, Wrapping Paper
Reusable & Creative Wrapping Alternatives
Alright, it’s here. We have turned the corner into winter and holiday season is upon us. There is excitement and anticipation and joy ahead (as well as a healthy dose of anxiety and stress). I usually reflect on the previous year’s gift giving and how to come up with original ideas this year that save us money, time, and just feel good. This year I’m focusing on hand-made because I know it feels good for me to get creative. I purchased materials I was excited about (felt fabric) and could create a myriad of projects from (french press cozies, pencil holders, bookmarks, ornaments, pot holders, etc). I also realized that some of the things I make regularly anyway are enjoyed by others and to celebrate that. Are you known for your cooking or baking? Do people love the photos you take? The other year we cut out family pictures and put them into old bottle caps and covered them with epoxy resin, and put a circular magnet on the back as keepsakes. Spending less on tangible things and focusing more on giving hand-made helps us tap back into the idea that it’s about the gesture and not the grandeur.
Wrapping paper is often just used once and then thrown away. I wanted to share some sweet, easy, and achievable ideas I have seen as alternatives to traditional gift wrap… Read what ideas Angie shares this month…
May 1, 2013 at 7:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Hampshire County, Sustainability)
Tags: Pioneer Valley, Public Transit Bus, Public Transportation, Sustainability
No Seat Belts
We take advantage of the bus on weekends sometimes just for fun. With hands off the wheel we can engage more, help more, and communicate without worry of the road. Plus, ask any young child if they’d like to ride the bus and to them it’s an adventure! (Photo credit: Angie Gregory)
My nine year old rides the public transit bus to school, with no adult chaperone. Just with some classmates, typically some war vets, and sometimes a doughnut in hand, this is how she experiences the responsibility of being on time. As well as the reward of it: the once a week ‘doughnut day’ is our incentive for getting out of the house on time (or early rather). It helps the kids move through the morning routine without too much derailing. Sure, there might be some bribing (read incentivizing) going on here, but there’s a lot more to our story.
We made the choice to send our child to a charter school. We garden and grow some of the food we eat, and think a lot about where the rest of our food comes from and what’s in it. We’re in the mindset of being purposeful with our decisions. We think a lot about giving our kids the most ‘optimal’ environment to thrive. It’s our natural inclination as parents. We all have this drive, right? As parents we’ve thought that riding the city bus can provide valuable real world experiences.
But isn’t there some stigma around public transit? We’ve all absorbed the less than stellar conversations between some public transit riders. And now my daughter is among these regulars. She’s been riding this bus route since she was a kindergartener. Didn’t a mom in NYC receive backlash because she sent her similarly aged child onto the subway to commute on his own? Am I in neglect, or putting my child in danger?
I’ve been inspired by my daughter’s un-phased character. She’s not greasing profanities or languishing in any noticeable way. In fact she’s building friendships on the bus, learning about how to get around, recognizing other buses around town (kind of like the car complex we experience when we own a Subaru and we start seeing them everywhere), feeling empowered, and being rewarded with responsibility.
We take advantage of the bus on weekends sometimes just for fun. With hands off the wheel we can engage more, help more, and communicate without worry of the road. Plus, ask any young child if they’d like to ride the bus and to them it’s an adventure. The bus money is a novelty, the driver a chuffer, the steps like floors of a building, the freedom to choose your own seat, big windows….no seatbelts!
We don’t necessarily live right on the bus line. You don’t need to even live in a city in order to ride. We have to get to the stop by car most mornings. However, spring has brought out our bikes again and yesterday we enjoyed a side-by-side ride into town to catch the bus. First her bus arrives, and then mine right after. Life isn’t without coordination and planning and now that these rhythms have become habit we’ve worked through the humps of ‘I have to walk too far after the bus drops us off’ or ‘There was a man on the bus sitting near me that smelled like peppers. And then another man got on the bus, and he smelled like peppers.’
I can’t guarantee there won’t be some kind of altercation or disturbance, but it’s not like the bus is without boundaries. There are other eyes, ears, and helpers (community) on the bus to diffuse and report. That’s the trust I have in us as people and the effort I place in my own heart to do the same. Oh, and did I happen to mention the 45 minutes of driving time it saves us in the mornings…equating to rewards on gas, money, and inevitably our natural resources.
It might not seem like much, but this extra effort to be resourceful has enriched our lives in other unforeseen ways. When we participate in our community we’re building familiarity, safety, and ownership where they didn’t exist before, and raising kids to be engaged in the place they live.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture
and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.
April 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Suggested Activity, Sustainability)
Tags: Earth Day, Recycling, Sustainability
Reuse & Recycling Rally Offers 3 Ways to Practice the 3 R’s!
Northampton Reuse & Recycling Rally happens Saturday, April 20th from 9am-12noon at Smith Vocational High School. Find new-to-you toys for the kids at the community tag sale, shred confidential papers, donate old baby equipment, recycle well-loved pants with holes in the knees and t-shirts with juice box stains for the textile drive, and bring by those hotel shampoos and conditioners from your family winter vacation to Florida to donate to the Hampshire County Interfaith Emergency Shelter. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
The Northampton Department of Public Works is sponsoring another reuse & recycling rally on Saturday, April 20th, 2013 at the Smith Vocational High School from 9am-12pm, in cooperation with the City’s ReUse Committee, the Salvation Army & ProShred of Wilbraham. This is the third in a series of events in 2013 to promote waste reduction, reuse and recycling of unusual materials. Once again, it’ll be a three ring circus: a community tag sale and donation drop off, a shredding event for confidential papers and a textile drive to keep usable goods out of the landfill.
COMMUNITY TAG SALE & DONATION DROP OFF
The Community Tag Sale is a flea market with a twist. Fifty-four sellers will load up their trunks and sell stuff from the back of their vehicles in the Vocational School’s back lot at 80 Locust Street (Route 9, Northampton, MA). Each will be given two parking spaces- one to park in and the other for sales (note: pre-registration is required for vendors through the Northampton DPW. Yard sale devotees will be delighted with bargains at this huge multi-family tag sale!
The Salvation Army will be on site to accept donations of small household goods, including but not limited to kitchen ware, fireplace sets, lamps, wall decorations, board games, books, DVD’s/CD’s, tools, sporting goods, luggage, radios, umbrellas… practically anything in good condition except mattresses, upholstered furniture, and baby equipment.
Voluntary donations for the Hampshire County Interfaith Emergency Shelter will be gratefully accepted in exchange for this service (hotel-sized shampoos, conditioners & hand soaps, men’s and women’s socks & underwear, small deodorants, toothbrushes & small toothpastes, razors & shaving cream, combs & brushes, women’s hygiene products, gloves & mittens, etc.
The Salvation Army will also be accepting clothing, shoes, accessories and textiles. Textiles that are unsuitable for reuse or resale will be reprocessed into polishing cloths for industrial use, fibers for insulation, soundproofing, carpet padding and building materials. Acceptable textiles can be worn, torn, stained or missing buttons- but they must be clean and dry.
Concurrently, a free regional shredding event for confidential papers will be offered to residents and small businesses. ProShred’s mobile shredding unit will provide confidential destruction of documents on site. Participants can deliver up to two recycling bins to be safely recycled, and pre-registration is not required.
For more information contact Karen at 413-587-1059 or at email@example.com, find them Facebook (“Northampton ReUse”) or go to the DPW’s website at www.northamptonma.gov/dpw/Recycling/reuse.
March 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm (Hampshire County, Suggested Activity, Sustainability)
Tags: Kid's Swap Meet, Northampton, Northampton Reuse Committee, Pioneer Valley, Recycling, Sustainability, upcycle, western massachusetts
Northampton’s Free Kid’s Stuff Exchange
Smith Vocational High School Cafeteria
Saturday March 9 from 8am-12pm
Upcycle Artist, MaryLynne Boisvert, will lead an art activity for families to create fun, wearable garments form upcycled clothing.
The Northampton DPW’s ReUse Committee is sponsoring a free “Kid’s Stuff Exchange” at Smith Vocational High School this coming Saturday March 9th, 2013. Pre-registration is required to participate from 8-11am, opening up to the general public from 11am-12noon.
This swap meet will allow local families to exchange clothing, toys, books and sporting goods in good condition at no cost. Participants might find almost anything for kids ages 0-12 except baby gear (car seats, strollers, cribs), stuff with parts missing (puzzles, games), items with possible cutting/choking/lead hazards or over-sized items (play structures). From 11am-12noon, the general public is welcome to come and take whatever they can use. At noon, any remaining items will be donated to the Salvation Army.
Kids will be welcome. Childcare will not be provided, but representatives from the Artisans of WMASS, Northampton’s Early Childhood Program, and other local reuse & craft artists will offer free “make & take” art activities for ages 4+ (with adult) at the Kid’s Stuff Exchange from 9am–12Noon:
- Lou Leelyn: Transform plastic trash into flowers & accessories
- Aviva Sieber & daughter Tali: Create sculptures from household recyclables
- Jenny Lisa Kass: Melt old crayons into fun, new shapes
- Zoe Ma: Make personal creations from First Night buttons
- MaryLynne Boisvert: Create fun, wearable garments from up-cycled clothing
Space is limited, and participants will receive more information when they register. Signing up is easy! Just provide a full name, mailing address, daytime phone number and email address by phone: 413-587-1059; or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. No dealers, please. More info is available on Facebook www.facebook.com/NorthamptonReUse and on the DPW’s website www.northamptonma.gov/dpw/Recycling/reuse.
January 9, 2013 at 9:57 am (Berkshire County, Collaborative Consumption, Suggested Activity, Sustainability, Volunteer Opportunity)
Tags: Berkshire County, Berkshires, Collaboration, collaborative consumption, Community Development, Pittsfield, Pittsfield Resilience Circle, Recycling, Repair Café, Sustainability, western massachusetts
Pittsfield Resilience Circle Host a Repair Café
Saturday, January 19th, 2013
Janet Henderson writes:
The Repair Café concept was formulated in 2009 in the Netherlands by journalist and publicist Martine Postma and sustainability accelerator Peter van Vliet. Since January 2011, the Repair Café Foundation has provided support to local groups in the Netherlands and other countries wishing to start their own Repair Cafe (repaircafe.org). [Image: First Repair Café held in Brussels.]
What do you do with a broken toaster? Or with a bike that needs repair? Or with a pair of pants when a seam rips? Or a partially dysfunctional umbrella? Throw it away? Certainly not!
The Pittsfield Resilience Circle is organizing the Berkshires’ first ever Repair Café. It will be held in Pittsfield on Saturday, Jan. 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the St. Stephen’s Church basement at 67 East St. The event is entirely free.
[The Repair Café] involves people in the community giving to other people in the community, making needed repairs of all kinds. Various repair persons will be available to fix small appliances, clothing and other fabric items, bicycles, toys, small furniture items, computers, and so on. Anyone with a broken item in need of repair may bring it to the Repair Café between 1 and 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 19th. We will fix as many articles as we can during that time. We’re also offering free refreshments for those waiting in line.
The Pittsfield Resilience Circle could use more volunteers for the Repair Cafe. Persons with experience in any kind of repair craft or who would like to provide general help, please call Tom Harter at 413-212-8589 or email Janet Henderson at email@example.com. The Repair Café is looking for more sponsors (those who donate $20 or more). We are thankful for our sponsors, including the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT), who is contributing both money and time!
By holding a Repair Café, the Pittsfield Resilience Circle wants to help reduce waste, promote repair skills, teach us all to be more self-sufficient, have fun, come together in a non-consumerist way, forge bonds of friendship through mutual dependency, and make Pittsfield a better place to live.
ABOUT RESILIENCE CIRCLES
Members of the Pittsfield Resilience Circle meet twice a month to learn together and become better friends through doing things for and with each other. The Resilience Circle is based on information available at localcircles.org. The group also has an informal Gift Circle. Information about Gift Circles can be found on the OpenCollaboration’s Blog.
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