A Day at the Trash Museum

I Love Trash!

The Trash Musuem has educational kits for loan, including a worm composting bin. This kit includes material to discover how compost is made by vermicomposting worms. The kit is available for a month loan. Click on the photo to discover the other educational loan kits the Trash Museum has to offer. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Late autumn here in New England and the light is leaving us. The sun is down almost as soon as we have eaten our after school snack. Everyone in my house becomes slightly grumpy as the light fades and we spend less time outdoors. The boys know their screen time allowance goes up and I fight my own lack of energy to keep us out, about and moving.

We turn inside ourselves a bit: we craft, we bake, we bang on our instruments to make a joyful noise in the midst of the settled routine feeling we have this far into the school term. At times, the boys are grouchy, like Oscar the Grouch grouchy.  So, we went to the Trash Museum In Hartford, CT.

The Trash Museum is free to visitors and open Wednesday – Friday from noon-4pm. It is the perfect day trip for families with young kids at home, or for a mama like me who was struck with multiple half days and professionals days this Fall. The Trash Museum is a sweet low-key outing. Younger and older kids will have an opportunity to engage the available curriculum about recycling, composting and waste reducing. We arrived with some friends in a bit of a gaggle and the museum seemed well prepared to greet us -and mentioned they receive visits from preschools, elementary schools and homeschooling families.

My kids played a nice long round of I Spy in the dump sculpture. We then had a chance to talk about other ways of dealing with trash. They played in the recycling center, where they got to make the conveyor belt go themselves and had our first introduction to composting worms. One of the staff took time to sit down on the floor with the five children we brought. Anyone who was brave enough could hold the worms. She gave a positive, age-appropriate lesson on the values of composting. I think all five kids really appreciated the attention. There were many areas to explore. My littlest boy would have happily stood in the observation deck all day, where you can watch actual trucks and dudes with trucks compacting, trash, sending recycling down the conveyor belts. It was more like living in a Richard Scarry book than anything else we have ever experienced.

I know it may seem far afield from Western MA, but the Trash Museum is 6500 feet of education and fun. It was a great afternoon. The kids were warm, busy and very engaged. For all the caregivers, it is a straight shot down I-91 and there are multiple coffee shops between here and there.

I’d love to hear from all of you. Where do you take your kids in the winter months that is fun, free – nearly free – and they don’t moan and demand more television?


Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

13 Tips On How To GREEN Your Holiday

Reduce, Reuse and Plan Ahead: 13 Tips On How To GREEN Your Holiday

Photo credit: (ccl) Plastic_Bat

1. Wrapping paper is now recyclable!

All wrapping paper is recyclable except wrapping paper with foil, no ribbons or bows and no metallic inks or glitter. Recycle your wrapping paper at the landfill or transfer station 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, and you can bring Styrofoam packing peanuts to the UPS store for reuse. On the other hand, ribbons, bows, tinsel and photographs cannot be recycled. They go to the landfill.

2. Reduce and Reuse

Give Used Gifts
It’s greener to give used items than to give new green items. It takes a lot of energy and natural resources to make stuff. To be green, give a gift that used no additional energy to create. Antique shops and thrift stores are cheap and often have some really cool stuff. Re-gifts (gifts you received from last year, but never use) can be passed on to someone who will use and appreciate them. Give away the bike, appliance, or gadget that you never use. It will save you time, money and storage space. — If you’d like to stay at home, scour Craigslist for heavily discounted (or free) electronics, furniture, books, clothing, toys, or almost anything else, or Freecycle for free items.

Re-Use Paper for Wrapping Paper
Reuse old maps, magazines, and gift cards as wrapping, decoration or tags. The Sunday comics or brown paper packages tied up with string are fun, original, virtually cost-free and totally recyclable. — You can also use old shoeboxes, cloth napkins or gift bags from last year to add flair to your gift-wrapping projects.

3. Compost Christmas Trees at the Landfill

4. Buy Quantities of Food that You’ll Actually Eat!

Plan your holiday meals and parties carefully to reduce avoidable and costly waste. Package leftovers and distribute them to guests as they leave. COMPOST all food scraps and uneaten leftovers to keep them out of the landfill.

5. Buy or Borrow Re-Usable or Compostable Cutlery, Cups, Flatware and Napkins

Thrift shops and tag sales have an abundance of reusable plates, utensils and glasses, often at a low price that is comparable to buying disposable items. Buy a whole bunch and then keep them in storage for your next party. You can also call a neighbor and borrow additional place settings for a large party. — If you do use paper plates and napkins, know that they are compostable. Plant-based plastics and biodegradable cutlery and cups are also available.

6. Minimize Packaging and Vote With Your Dollar

If you buy new gifts, send a message to manufacturers by choosing items with minimal packaging.

7. Consumable Gifts

Gifts that are consumable such as baked goods, coffee, cheese or wine have minimal, recyclable packaging and are immediately enjoyed, appreciated, and won’t go to waste. Buy gift certificates to locally owned stores. Check out www.pvlocalfirst.org, they offer a directory of local businesses in the valley. [The Hilltown CDC offers a directory of businesses in the hilltowns too.]

8. Shift Away from Material Gift-Giving

Material gifts require resource extraction, transportation, manufacture, distribution, purchase and eventual disposal. Check out the Story of Stuff to learn about the hidden environmental costs associated with of all of our material stuff. Gifts that are immaterial will last forever. Offer time and services to loved ones such as babysitting, household chores, or a night out.

9. Donate Charitable Gifts in Someone’s Name

Consider directing your money to a service-oriented cause, charity or organization. Kiva.org offers micro-loans to third-world citizens so that they can start a business that will sustain them and their family. These loans of about $50 dollars can help make a huge difference in the lives of the worlds’ less fortunate people and they are repaid 98.4% of the time. After it is repaid, they can either be redeemed or revolved back into another loan…it’s up to you.

Heifer International (www.heifer.org) provides livestock, bees, and other beneficial gifts that can offer ongoing nutrition and income to the world’s poor one family at a time. The gifts are inexpensive, and can be given in someone else’s name. Reminder: charitable donations are tax-deductible.

10. Be Thoughtful About Your Transportation and Travel Plans

Reduce your carbon emissions by doing all of your shopping at once, rather than in multiple trips. Carpool with family and reduce air travel by taking a train or driving to your holiday destination. Keep your car tuned up, and tires properly inflated to optimize your car’s fuel efficiency.

11. Pool Resources

Get together, organize and connect with your family to buy one meaningful, durable, fantastic gift for someone. Many hands make light work, and small contributions can add up quickly to get a few great gifts for everyone.

12. Eliminate Junk Mail and Unwanted Catalogues

There are many ways to eliminate unwanted catalogs and junk mail that waste energy, resources and paper. Check out www.obviously.com/junkmail or sign up for www.stopjunk.com with pre-addressed cards that will reduce your junk mail easily.

13. Give gifts that encourage a green lifestyle.

Last but not least, there are plenty of things to buy that encourage an earth-friendly lifestyle; Earth Machines (available at your local DPW) make composting easy and accessible. Travel mugs, canvas bags, solar chargers, plants or gardening tools are all good options too.

Pedal People Put the Cycling in Recycling

Pedal People Put the Cycling in Recycling
by Laura Kaliebe for YES! Magazine

Pedal People co-founders Alex Jarrett and Ruty Woodring. Photo courtesty of Pedal People, Derek Goodwin

Pedal People co-founders Alex Jarrett and Ruthy Woodring. Photo courtesy of Pedal People (Derek Goodwin)

Alex Jarrett, 33, has never owned a car. Around town, he gets almost everywhere he needs to go by the power of his own two feet—walking or biking. So it seems only natural that Jarrett’s business, which he started with Ruthy Woodring in 2002, is bicycle-based.

Jarrett and Woodring are the founders of Pedal People Cooperative Inc., which they describe as “a human-powered delivery and hauling service” for the Northampton, Mass. area. In all types of weather, Pedal People’s staff of 12 can be found hauling up to 300 pounds of trash, recycling and compost on trailers hitched to the back of their bikes. The business also offers a compost service, a yard care service, grocery and diaper delivery, and even a pedicab service for special events.

Unlike many cities, Northampton has no municipal curbside pickup for trash and recycling. Residents haul their trash and recycling to the transfer center or contract with a private service. Jarrett and Woodring saw this as an opportunity to begin a bicycle-based business. Jarrett had been using his bicycle trailer, which is made by the company Bikes at Work Inc., to bring his own recycling to the transfer center. “Ruthy and I thought, ‘Let’s give this a shot. This sounds like a crazy idea, but let’s see if we can haul other people’s [trash and recycling] and if they’ll pay us for it.’”  Read the rest of this entry »

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