NYC is now recycling all rigid plastic!

Plastic Perils
I’m very excited about  the addition to NYC’s recycling program to include for the first time the recycling of all rigid plastics, including toys, hangers, shampoo bottles, coffee cups and food containers. The expansion of plastics recycling – which began April 24th – is part of the City’s Solid Waste Management Plan and is made possible, in part, through a partnership with SIMS Municipal Recycling whose recycling facilities are equipped to handle the broad range of plastic recycling. The recycling expansion will result in more than 50,000 additional tons of waste a year no longer ending up in landfills at a savings to City taxpayers of almost $600,000 each year in export costs, and for rigid plastics, it is recommended that New Yorkers should rinse and recycle it. The City will also expand the organics recycling pilot under way in public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan to residents in the Westerleigh neighborhood of Staten Island next month, to other neighborhoods this fall and to all City schools over the next two years. The food waste composting pilot cut the amount of garbage participating schools sent to landfills by up to 38 percent. Both programs are part of the City’s effort to make recycling easier for New Yorkers. Earlier this year, in his State of the City speech, Mayor Bloomberg promised an expansion of the recycling program, renewing the Administration’s commitment to doubling the City’s recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017.

This information came from the city. While this is a huge step forward in the city’s recycling program, I’m still shocked that we’re aiming towards a goal of 30% recycling.

I remember *years* ago going to San Francisco and noticing that they have baskets on their public trash cans where you could drop your recyclable drink bottles and cans. It made a tremendous amount of sense and I could never figure out why a great city like NYC couldn’t do something so simple. The city would never even need to pick up the recyclables, because the city’s homeless and impoverished would scoop them up for the $.05 deposit. Honestly this city’s best recyclers are our homeless!


How to make stock

I make a simple stock that is a combination of chicken and veggies. You can make yours all vegetarians very easily. I don’t go out and buy the ingredients for my stock. I kind of just, uh, stockpile them. Hee  hee. What I do is whenever I cut the ends off of carrots, or pull the stems off of parsley, I put the trimmings into a ziploc bag in my freezer. Bones from chicken, woody asparagus ends, whatever I’m cooking with goes in the bag.

When the gallon-sized bag is full, I put everything in a stock pot and cover with a couple of inches of water. I simmer for about an hour, or until the aroma makes my feet lift off the floor and I float towards the kitchen.

I scoop the big pieces out and then pour the stock through a mesh strainer. Voila! It’s much better than those cartons of chicken stock. And it’s already made with everything I like to eat.

Treecycle 2012

This past weekend we dropped our tree off at our local park to be chipped. It was encouraging to see how many trees were being dropped off by neighbors. The sanitation department had guys driving around in trucks picking up trees left on the sidewalks. We have a big cart that we use to haul our photo gear, which was perfect to cart our tree away. We were even able to add 2 more big trees and one Charlie Brown tree to the pile. My selfish goal was to take away the trees near our building so I wouldn’t have to see them. Did I mention how much abandoned trees bum me out?? I wish the city had a big enough budget to collect the trees. Maybe next year I will dedicate a day to carting trees.

Mulch Your Christmas Tree!

It’s that time of year again! The time where the streets are littered with old Christmas trees. I find this unutterably depressing. Something that caused so much joy and wonder is just tossed out with the garbage. But, I’m not asking you to mulch your tree to keep me from getting gloomy, there are plenty of more pressing ecological reasons why you should do it. Take some time to search your community to see what kind of programs there are for old Christmas trees.

In NYC we have mulchfest Jan. 7 & 8th. You can click on this link to see which parks near you are accepting trees. We have a cart that we use to bring our tree, and we try and pick up as many other trees we find on our way.

Many areas come up with creative uses for old trees such as New Orleans using them to restore coastlines and The Pacific Northwest Christmas tree association using them in lakes for aquatic habitat projects. You can read a NY Times article on the subject here. Rose over at OnThePondFarm feeds hers to her goats.

Halloween Repurposing

This summer my daughter was a flower girl at a friend’s wedding. The dress was pretty, but not something she would ever get to wear again. It’s the kid’s version of the bridesmaid dress.

I was happy when she decided to be a vampire, zombie flower girl for Halloween for a couple of reasons. It was her first scary costume. And we could turn the dress into this…

A friend who works in theatre helped us zombify it. All we had to buy were the accessories (teeth, basket, tights) and we were done. This dress is a wonderful addition to Lindsay’s dress-up bin, where I know it will get tons of use.

We haven’t sent photos to the friends who had the wedding…

Unexpected Gifts

I got a call the other day from my friend Victoria asking me if I would like a kumquat tree. I love calls like this! Among many other things, Victoria is an amazing food stylist. She has been working with a photographer who shoots out of his home in nearby Brooklyn. After their shoots they often have props that they can’t use or return. What is so great, is that Victoria thinks of me and asks me if I need…whatever it is. I’m so greedy, that I never say no.

Hopefully my little kumquat tree will survive the chilly ride in the messenger van! I also have 2 huge blueberry bushes in my backyard courtesy of Victoria. I know she’s happy that this stuff goes to good use, and of course I’m happy because I get to play with fun new things.

Last year Victoria’s son came over to pick blueberries with my daughter in our yard. It’s a funny urban/farming experience we bring to our children.

Update: I think that this little tree isn’t in fact a kumquat. I think it’s a calamondin based on looking through a gardening catalog. Their description is apt: It produces an abundance of round bright orange 1-1/2″ fruit. The fruit is easy to peel and has few seeds. The orange colored pulp is juicy and sour (this is an understatement!). It can be used as a flavoring or as a juice like a lemon or a lime. When sweetened with sugar it makes a delicious marmalade.


Don’t dump your Christmas tree out on the street! Give it new life by bringing it to one of many city parks this weekend to be chipped. Here’s the NYC site that shows which parks are participating in the different boros. Many sites offer free mulch as well.

If you don’t live in NYC, check with your local government or sanitation department to see if they have a similar program. And if you are lucky enough to have a good-sized yard, just chop the tree up yourself and leave in an unused area. The animals and plants will love you for it. Here’s a link to a woman who keeps goats, who’s neighbor drop their trees off for her goats to munch on.

Just remember, remove all lights, tinsel and other stuff that isn’t part of the tree. I always think this is a super-obvious thing to say, but a couple of days ago I saw a tree on the curb with all the lights still on it. What the heck? You had such a bad Christmas you can’t imagine ever stringing your lights again? Or just a gross example of our disposable society?

Renew Clothing

My daughter Lindsay has the idea that my husband and I can repair anything. She gives Neil her toys and I get her clothing. We usually are able to fix her things in a way that works for her. Cute patches on knees of jeans, etc. Neil jokes about starting a company called “Made in China, Repaired in Brooklyn.” I like that Lindsay likes us to repair items, rather than tossing them out.

I just read Lyanda’s The Tangled Nest  post about patching a favorite pair of pants. Lyanda is the author of a lovely book called Crow Planet, which I will write about soon. (It’s been in my reading list on the sidebar here for ages) She calls me her East coast soul sister and I think she’s right. In her blog post, she asks people to write about things they have creatively rescued. Many posts were about people taking old large-sized clothing to turn into new small-sized garments. It made me think of a blog that was devoted to just that. And I can’t think of the blasted name of that blog. They asked people to take a pledge not to buy new clothing, and instead bring new life to their existing wardrobe. They had great ideas for converting t-shirts and other things into pretty hip new garments. Somebody please help me with the name of this blog.

So while I was searching for the blog online, I came across this article in NYU News about Project Design, which is a program designed to teach low-income women how to reclaim used/vintage clothing. They teach the young women how to design, sew, etc. Take a peek at the article. It is a really nice idea.

What to do with your old Christmas Tree


After my sister-in-law told us that her 3 year-old son wanted to sleep under his Christmas tree, my husband and I remembered our daughter’s love of our Christmas tree when she was about the same age. When our tree was dry and brittle, we started to break the news to Lindsay that we were going to take it down. She was really upset and kept hugging the tree, which of course just added to the already alarming loss of needles. Every year we take our tree to a local park, where they have a chipping program called Mulchfest. We brought our tree there, much to Lindsay’s skepticism to “be with it’s friends”. She bid it a tearful farewell and fortunately didn’t notice the crew feeding trees into the huge chipper.


I always find it a little sad to see Christmas trees tossed out with the trash. The fact that they were once a treasured part of the holiday and are now tossed out on the street with the garbage bags always startles me. Plus it’s hard to wrap my head around all that organic matter going to a landfill with old batteries, diapers, etc. So, let’s try and come up with some great uses for old Christmas trees to prevent them from going into landfills. TREECYCLE!

  • Find out if your community has a tree collection or chipping program. Here in NYC we have mulchfest this coming Sat. 1/9 from 10am-2pm. You can look at this site to find a park in your area that will take your tree. And while you are dragging your tree down the street, why not stop and grab one or two others that are just lying on the sidewalk waiting for trash pick up? A lot of these programs allow you to bring some wood chips home with you for your garden.
  • If you don’t have a mulching/chipping program in your community, do it yourself. Prune branches off your tree and lay them down in your garden beds. Pine branches can look nice arranged around a tree on a city sidewalk. You can add them to your compost pile, although pine needles can take a while to break down.
  • You can prune branches and make small bundles. These are great to help start fires in your fireplace.
  • If you have the land, drag your tree out into a woodsy area to be used as a wildlife refuge for birds and small animals.
  • If you have a pond, weigh your tree down and put it in the water. It becomes a nice home for fish.
  • If you live near a beach, see if your community uses old Christmas trees in an effort to restore dunes like Bradley Beach in New Jersey.
  • You can save the needles and make potpourri or sachets.

If you have a great use for an old Christmas tree, please post!

Hankies vs. Facial Tissues


Last year in preparation for a very sad event, I bought a package of cloth hankies. Since then they have become a staple with me as my nose runs from October through May. I like how soft they are on my beleaguered nose, I like that I’m not cutting down trees to wipe my nose, and I like saying hankie way better than facial tissue. Seriously, what focus group came up with that name? It sounds as ridiculous as “ladies lounge”.

Here are some pictures of adorable vintage cloth hankies. They are easily found in almost any vintage clothing shop for very low prices. Why not try and save a few trees (actually 163,000 if every household used one less box of virgin fiber tissues) and smile when you blow your nose into a hankie that says “Thank you”? These hankies are from an online shop called Betsy Vintage. They are pricey, but so cute!