The Power of One Voice

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.00.15 PMThe Power of One Voice (Week #3)

Raise your voice, not the sea level, not the temperature, and not your carbon footprint. Start a conversation about your favorite sustainability issue with someone – get engaged!

The Why:

I was in Middle School when I heard Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech live over our school room speakers. Forty years later we elected our first African-American President, Barack Obama. Mr. King spoke up and spoke out eloquently and in a non-violent way. His words changed my life.Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 1.47.59 PM

In celebration of Martin Luther King Day I thought it fitting for our third week to go on an engagement adventure. Inspired by Dr. King’s approach, we will choose an environmental, social, cultural or economic issue close to our hearts and learn how to take that issue to our politicians, the businesses we frequent or community leaders. Why? Because one person can make a difference.

The What:

“Finding your voice” Week. Come up with ONE sustainable issue you are passionate about and express your voice to one or more of the following (helpful links below):

• Write your Congressman an email or a real letter (link below). At least once in your lifetime you should visit your Congressman either in Washington DC or at his home office. I have never forgotten the experience of meeting Senator Hubert Humphrey and his personal tour of the Congressional Chambers where he described the joys and weighty responsibilities of his Office representing the Constitution .

• Attend a town meeting or council meeting and speak up.

• Speak to the owners of your local coffee shop or the businesses you frequent.

• Find your local community cable studio and start a sustainable show featuring local residents, business owners who initiate and maintain sustainable practices.

• Take your sustainable concern to your local newspaper/magazine/TV station. Write a letter to them (see links below) and follow-up in person.

• Attend this year’s National Conference and Global Forum: Energy and Climate Change, January 27-29, 2015 – Hear inspiring speakers from science, industry, academics, the EPA, Forest Service, NOAA, and DOE discuss and offer solutions towards are more sustainable future.

The How:

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Once you have found an environmental, economic, social or cultural issue you would like to bring to local, regional or national attention, do your research. Some of the links below have valuable suggestions that can be helpful to complete a substantive letter to your boss, local media station or local politician!

And don’t be shy, while in your local coffee shop, take your own “to go” cup and ask them to refill it. Let them know its your way of keeping those cups out of a landfill. As you order that sandwich from your local deli, ask them if they practice the 6 R’s; for example, do they compost and recycle? Let them know your wallet is behind sustainable businesses. If you are in a store, ask them what sustainable best practices they are proud of (sustainable lighting, fair wages, sustainable and & smart designed products, sustainable packaging, etc.)

And if you are business owners, you could encourage more sustainable practices by giving a discount to those who bring their own coffee mugs, bags, etc. Purchase your own mugs and bags to resell to your customers, encouraging them to develop more sustainable practices. Start an employee rewards program for winners of quarterly 6 R competitions, green auto purchases, etc. Become recognized as a local sustainability leader.

In other words, be aware of your impact and your surroundings, be present. By being compassionate, kind and mindful of our collective impact we can make suggestions for a more sustainable world and they will be heard. So make your little corner of the world better during this “Find your Voice” week. Get engaged.

The Deep Dive:

How to contact Congress, citizen’s directory here.

Contact your Governor via email here.

Citizen’s guide to town meetings here.

How to write a letter to Congress here & here or how to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper, magazine or blog here.

Great ideas on how to influence Congress as a citizen here.

Visit your regional EPA office here.

The Last Freegan Four R’s

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 2.02.44 PMThe Last Freegan Four R’s (Week #2)

Let’s look deeply into the remainder of the 6 R’s: Refuse, Repair, Repurpose/Reuse and Rethink. 

Refuse: this means not accepting things that are not the best option for the environment. For example, is the packaging really needed?

Repair: is the product easy to repair? This will extend its life.

Repurpose: could the product have another use? Could its parts be used in other products? Is this information clearly communicated on the product? This will extend the resource’s life.

Rethink: is there a better way to solve this consumptive problem that is less damaging to the environment? If we must purchase something is the manufacturer employing Cradle to Cradle design?

I grew up in the 1950’s and twice a year I witnessed a Scandinavian tradition in my neighborhood. You could walk down the street and see everyone involved in all kinds of cleaning chores; window washing, roof repairs, gutter cleaning, garage cleaning, etc. Dads, Moms and children; everyone had a chore.

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For “stuff” the rule was, if you haven’t touched it since the last cleaning and cannot find another use for it, it has to go to someone who can.

I loved it because we had a garage sale right after and got to barter, trade, raise money for our favorite school projects and charities and meet all the new neighbors and some very interesting strangers. The “stuff” stories and conversations, shared food and laughter were always welcome. I continue that tradition in my own family to this day.

As a single mother, when my daughter was a child, we owned a loft building in South Boston and I recycled 70% of my “stuff” into my art surfaces. My daughter will remember we used to go “dumpster divingScreen Shot 2015-01-15 at 2.38.53 PMevery weekend where commercial enterprises such as the Boston Children’s museum and 50 other companies in the area yielded treasures beyond our wildest dreams. Yes, we were freegan‘s back in the 70’s, go figure.

So if you do not have a tradition, I encourage you to create one. It’s an incredible educational vehicle for the family. Watch the story of “Stuff” and the story of “Broke” . They are worth a family viewing (20 minutes each) to understand how consumptive habits and your “stuff” choices are connected across that quintuple bottom line. You will learn how each of our choices effect environments, cultures, people and profits everywhere in the world.

The What:

Take an inventory of your “stuff”. Have the family go through their rooms and gather anything they have not used, worn or not needed in the last calendar year. Just before or after the holiday’s is a great time to do this every year. Go through your toolboxes, garden sheds, and attics and gather the family’s pile in the living room, basement or garage.

The How:

Divide the pile into the following four groups and create your own family solutions to learn about how there really is no “trash”. Every resource we “consume” has a full life cycle and this week’s exercise is to help your “stuff” get to its next cycle.

  1. Freecycle one item through the Did you know Craig’s List isn’t just for selling your “stuff”? List one item under the category “free stuff”.
  2. This is the opposite of the above. Choose an item during the week that you need and would purchase NEW and either ask for it on or “barter” for it on Craig’s List.
  3. Get in touch with your creative side and choose an item to repurposedowncycle, or up-cycle; some examples are here(22 clever repurposed furniture ideas), here(up cycling), here(101 ways t repurpose broken household items) and here(41 ways to reuse broken things).
  4. Engage someone in your community. Find a local neighbor, person, family, new business in need for one of your items, or a talent or service you can provide free to them for 4 hours. Learn more about the economic, cultural and social needs of the community you live in; sign up to volunteer 4-8 hours a month to a local charitable organization, look herehere or here.

Remember: Everything is food for something else.

The Deep Dive:

How to freecycle here.

Find out what a Freegan is and why they are so passionate about sustainable lifestyles at Freegan info.

List your items for barter or recycling at one of these networks:

Freecycle site for the Ipswich, MA community here.

Win a free TerraBluTeams T-shirt!  Send pics to and after-of your most creative up cycle, down cycle or repurposed item!

If this is your first time here, learn more about the 52 week, 2015 TerraBluTeam challenge and exercise structure here.

Please fell free to comment and let us know how you are doing or if you find any tips and tricks we should know about! Virtual engagement policy here.

The Waste-stream Audit

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.51.39 AMThe Waste Stream Audit (Week #1)

The What:

Who likes an audit? No one, but I promise, this one will be fun and revealing. We will start 2015 with a benchmarking and waste management awareness exercise. This week, we’ll concentrate on two of the “6 R’s”, Reduce and Recycle. If you already do it, take it to the next level! Since we did this year long challenge in 2012, there is so much more we can recycle! After twenty years of this myself, I have learned I can always do better!

After this waste-stream audit, keep your data. You can gauge where you are now and see your progress throughout the year as you change your personal economy, reduce your GHG emissions and your carbon footprint and gain social/cultural/environmental responsibility with your personal strategies. My suggestion? Get a Moleskine and record your sustainable journey, you will want to look back on it!!


Did you know that according to the EPA, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash and recycled and composted almost 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.5 percent recycling rate. On average, we recycled and composted 1.51 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.38 pounds per person per day.

That still leaves 64 million tons of trash or 30.66 lbs. a week per person that ends up in a landfill. Although we are all at different places in our consumptive habits, we can reduce that by 75% if you follow our sustainable lifestyle challenge throughout 2015.

First we can reduce, reduce, reduce. Think every time you consume, Do you I really need this? And if I do, what is the life of this resource? Can I reuse, repurpose, compost or repair it easily?  When I am done with this resource, can it be given to another to use/enjoy? For those who really want to go down the ethical consumption rabbit hole, check out the ASMC (Acquisition Sourcing Moral Compass), I developed in 2012.

Are there ways you could be reducing or recycling your waste-stream by using your own shopping containers, or buying local at a CSA, purchasing only the food and goods that you need that are (or their packaging is) more earth friendly?

Could you lessen your contribution to the local landfill by composting for your garden or initiating a composting program as we have here in many North Shore communities? At our home we have two different ways of composting materials which has reduced our waste-stream by 8 lbs. or 6 kg a week for a family of two. (We will have an entire post on composting soon).

Can you leverage your influence with your local grocery store to carry organic products from local/regional manufacturers whose packaging is biodegradable? Can you initiate more sustainable practices at your workplace?

Secondly, we can recycle, recycle, recycle. Most communities throughout the US now have one container for all recyclables except batteries, electronics and styrofoam, which usually are collected on specific annual or monthly days or can be dropped off at your recycling center.

Soon, cities and rural areas will begin charging us by the pound for our waste, so let’s make sure we have the recycling basics down!

Here are the helpful EPA links below: BatteriesCFL’s (common Fluorescent lightbulbs), Food WasteGlassHazardous WastePaperPlastic (this includes the SPI resin identification coding), TiresUsed OilUsed electronic devicesOther common recyclable materials


Now that you have recycled all that holiday trash and you’ve returned to your typical lifestyle, we want you to collect all your trash in your home and from your car.

Yes, that’s right, let’s take a good long look at all your trash! If you have children, they love to get involved in this exercise which can be a wonderful teaching moment!

First, weigh and measure the whole amount to gain awareness of how much waste you bring into your life with the choices you make every day.

Second, some of you may need a pair of disposable vinyl gloves for this project, go through it and separate it into 3 categories: recyclable material, compostable material and the rest (which you may have to specialty recycle or it ends up in a landfill).

Third, weigh and measure each category pile you’ve made. This time next year, we will compare this data. In the meantime, now that you are aware, you can begin to learn how to reduce your waste by making smarter consumption choices and employing a few new sustainable practices and tips that you will gain from this blog challenge throughout the year. In the weeks to come we will have the opportunity to learn, laugh, become more sustainable, meet new people, get out into nature and connect with a global population at some exciting related events.

Consider this 52 week challenge as a constructive way of designing a more enriching, more connected, healthier sustainable lifestyle in a world of quickly diminishing resources dealing with the effects of climate change.

We encourage you to tell your friends so they can follow us and the challenge too!

Please let us know how you are doing and share your thoughts in the comment area. (See that little dialog bubble up on the right?)

The Deep Dive:

The original official 20 minute video version of the Story of Stuff

A delightful brand new 18 page treatise on “stuff” by designer, Chris Thomas, the adult version of the “Story of Stuff”, You Have Too Much Shit

TED talks about recycling here. (10 minutes)

Educational recycling video (4.5 minutes) for kids here.

Misconceptions about plastic recycling here.

Plastic bag recycling here.

Outsmart your waste here.

Find out about Massachusetts composting workshops and programs here.

Learn more about your State’s composting regulations here.

Learn more about composting from the EPA here.

Art pictured above by Nick Demarco

If this is your first time here, learn more about the 52 week, 2015 TerraBluTeam challenge and exercise structure here.