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Archives for December 2013

Stewardship plan for Pioneer property

NORTHFIELD — Former high school science teacher John Lepore spent 1,600 hours crafting a plan for the Pioneer Valley Regional School’s 90-acre property.

“It wasn’t work; it was fun,” Lepore told the School Committee when he presented a summary of the plan.

Lepore volunteered nearly a year’s worth of full-time work to put together the 132-page comprehensive plan, “Pioneering Stewardship: An Action Inspired Design.”

Lepore’s 132-page plan encompasses outdoor learning, student land stewardship, biodiversity and more. It was recently endorsed by the School Committee in a unanimous vote.

The district will seek grants, donations and other funding, to avoid asking the district’s four-member towns to pay for the plan through taxes.

The school’s grounds are the largest of any non-vocational public school in the state.

That’s a lot of room for proposals from a wetlands viewing platform and projects to support biodiversity to a team-building rope obstacle course and three outdoor classrooms, one that would overlook the school and the valley from the hilltop in the northwest.

Many of the plan’s aspects, like invasive plant removal and recovery, could be done by volunteers, or as a class project.

“Kids starting seventh grade could adopt a piece of land, and care for it for six years. They’d really be able to see the results, and they’ll become attached to that piece of property.”

Lepore hopes a student stewardship program would foster a connection with the environment, teaching students to care for the world around them, rather than just exist in it.

Student gardens could also be built and maintained without breaking the bank and they’d provide agricultural education and fresh food at once.

Other parts of the plan will take money, like putting in ground-mount solar-electric panels or incorporating “green” roofing into the building.

Some of those projects could be paid for with open space or land preservation grants. Lepore said many aspects of the plan would be eligible for money from the town’s Community Preservation Act funds, a third of which are set aside for open-space projects.

Lepore, who holds a master’s degree in sustainable landscaping from the Conway School of Landscape Design, consulted experts, school officials and Pioneer students in crafting the plan. It includes an in-depth analysis of the site, and explores possibilities for its use.

While it covers areas like biodiversity, ecological resilience, runoff control and food security, Lepore kept one thing in mind while he wrote every page.

“My number-one philosophy is to do what’s best for the kids,” he said.

Lepore sees a bevy of outdoor educational opportunities on the Pioneer property, but he said it’s going to take a while for students and teachers to get used to outdoor learning. The idea of taking a class outside can be daunting to some teachers, said Lepore.

“Kids don’t know how to be outside. To them, it’s recess; it’s a release,” said Lepore. “It takes time to get them to understand that we’re going into another community (of nature), and that they have to show respect and act responsibly. It’s a process, and it will require support and encouragement for the teachers.”

Once the students acclimate to their outdoor surroundings, they can start to take in the world around them, said Lepore.

A recent walk of the grounds showcased a few of the species those students could come across.

Rabbit tracks intersected with deer prints in the snow by the pond, and a young moose had passed close by. By the pond’s edge, a snow-slide carved by beavers’ bellies led down to the water, where a large beaver den pokes up from the middle of the pond. Overhead, a hornets’ nest lay dormant in a tree’s bare branches. Piles of acorn shells lay at the bottom of trees, implying that a squirrel had been dining above and many a tree was riddled with woodpecker holes.

Though animals thrive near the pond, so do invasive plants. In recent years, the pond area has been overtaken with Japanese stiltgrass, but volunteers have been eradicating the foreign plant. Lepore said that, after two years’ work, 90 percent of the stiltgrass has been removed.

There are a variety of invasive plants on the property. Though they can be removed, Lepore said it’s pointless to pull the weeds unless a restoration plan can be implemented. Otherwise, the plants will come back sooner than later.

Some of these species are just biding their time, waiting until conditions are right for them to take over. All along the woods’ edge, winged euonymus, or “burning bush,” grows and it could creep farther into the forest.

All it needs, said Lepore, is for some of the trees overhead to fall down, letting in light. That’s likely to happen, said Lepore, as many of those trees are toward the end of their lives. Once the canopy overhead opens up, they’ll spread like wildfire.

While there’s a lot to learn from wildlife hikes and invasive plant management, outdoor classrooms would enable a variety of subjects to be taught outside. Each of three proposed classrooms would provide a covered seating and instruction area.

They could also provide lessons in lumbering and construction. Lepore’s plan points out a red-pine forest “in desperate need of management,” which could provide site-sourced lumber for the classrooms.

To see the summary and full editions of Lepore’s plan, visit

You can reach David Rainville at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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Indiana Man Beats Wife and Daughter of Former Boss to Death

u.s., crime, indiana, erb, wife and daughter

An Indiana man, Christian Haley, age 20, who was furious over being fired from his job, was arrested for fatally beating the wife and daughter of his former boss, Indiana State police have said.

Haley lived in Indianapolis and was arrested on Thursday for allegedly murdering Marylyn Erb, age 52 and Kelley Erb, age 23, the wife and daughter, respectively, of freelance contractor Todd Erb, reported Westfield, Indiana police.

The suspect now is facing two counts of felony murder and one count of robbery, along with charges of burglary and theft. Haley allegedly killed the two women inside their home located near the area of 161st Street and Oak Park Court in the suburbs of Westfield, Indianapolis.  The women died after suffering blunt trauma to their heads on Dec. 20. Haley then allegedly stole the credit cards of each female. The suspect reportedly used the cards for various purchases around the area, with the assistance of an unidentified male.

The police are reporting that Haley was fired from the landscaping company known as Sundown Gardens because of his poor attendance record back in June of this year. Allegedly, Haley was enraged by the decision and decided to rob the house of his former boss, Todd Erb, to enact revenge against the man.

While he was there, police investigators allege Haley killed both the wife and daughter of Erb.

One of Haley’s acquaintances supposedly noticed the murder victim’s credit cards being used inside in a store on Christmas Eve.

The alleged co-conspirator stated that Haley wanted to shoot Erb’s home up because he had fired him from the landscaping business.

The man explained to police that Haley admitted to him that he had murdered the two women but that Haley was laughing while he was telling the story, so the accomplice did not know if Haley was telling the truth or not.

Indiana State Police said that Marylyn and Kelley Erb were both struck with a cement block to the head.

Haley allegedly then stole earrings, an iPhone, a gold necklace and two Chase credit cards from the Erb household.

Police released store camera video footage of the purchase by the alleged suspect and co-conspirator. It was this footage that delivered an anonymous tip to officials to identify each person of interest. This led to Haley’s arrest, stated the police department.

Erb found his dead family when he returned home from work on Dec. 20 and he proceeded to call police. His wife and daughter were in the basement of their Indiana home in a pool of blood.

Westfield, Indiana Mayor Andy Cook stated on Thursday evening police were working tirelessly around the clock to try and solve such an irrational crime. He added that the small city prided itself on being named one of the finest places to live and also one of the safest towns in the U.S. The quick work of the police over the past few days shows the city’s intent to immediately capture a suspect trolling their streets, who may had the opportunity to hurt someone else.

Since Haley has been through his arraignment, his family has asked for privacy, due to the legal process.

The murders happened during what the city calls, an increase of break-ins and violence in the otherwise, quiet Indiana suburb. Officials point to the rise of gangs in the city as culprits of the increasing crime wave.

Marylyn and Kelley Erb were buried this past Friday, Dec. 27.

Christian Haley will remain in jail without bond.


By Kimberly Ruble


The N.Y. Daily News

Scallywag and Vagabond News

NWI Times News

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Boxborough Garden Club meets


The Boxborough Garden Club meets at the Sargent Memorial Library, 427 Massachusetts Ave., Boxborough, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 9 a.m. The garden club will welcome Andy Covell, owner of Bird House Ecological Landscaping, for a discussion of plants that hrive in the local climate during winter.

Coffee and visiting precedes the event.

The meeting is free and all are welcome. A brief business meeting is followed by the program.

Covell’s website provides more information at

To learn more about this garden club program, please call Pam Collins, 978-263-3855.

Anyone with any level of interest in gardens are welcome at all garden club programs and may visit

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ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Tips for planting a live Christmas tree

December 29, 2013

ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Tips for planting a live Christmas tree


Weatherford Democrat
The Weatherford Democrat

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 08:56 AM CST

Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners.To submit a question, send it to For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit

Do you have any suggestions for planting a living Christmas tree?

After Christmas, it is best to plant the tree in your landscape as soon as possible.

The hole you dig for the tree should be large enough to allow three to four inches of soil on all sides of the root ball. If the plant was balled and wrapped in burlap, the burlap should be loosened and any wire should be removed before planting.

Settle the tree into the hole and make sure that the planting depth is correct. The soil line on the tree should be level with the surface soil around the hole. Planting the tree deeper or shallower than the original planting will affect the health of the tree.

Do not amend the soil that is used to fill the hole. Plant roots will tend to stay in that nice, rich soil instead of reaching out beyond the hole into the surrounding area. The plant growth will be stunted as a result. Fill the hole three-quarters full, water the tree well and then finish filling. Do not mound the soil up onto the trunk.

Once planted, there are a few things you can do to keep it healthy. Water it deeply and regularly, allowing the soil to dry a little between watering. Add a thick layer of mulch to reduce weeds and conserve moisture.

Keep weeds and grass away from the tree as they will compete with the roots for nutrients. Wait to fertilize the tree until June or July. Planted in your landscape, these trees can add beauty throughout the year and serve as an outdoor Christmas tree year after year.

When should I prune my oak tree?

Now through the end of January is the time to prune oak trees. Oak wilt is a disease that has devastated the population of oak trees in North Central Texas. Live oaks, Spanish oaks, water oaks, black jack oaks, Shumard red oaks and other members of the red oak family are particularly susceptible.

The most important management strategy is to avoid pruning oaks during the growing season when sap-feeding beetles are active. The coldest part of winter is the safest time to prune. This recommendation is critical in preventing the spread of the oak wilt.

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Expert offers tips to help with this year’s garden preparation – Scranton Times

The 2014 garden catalogs are beginning to arrive. Here are a few recommendations that will give you the best outcome. Many of these recommendations come from what I have learned from my own mistakes.

n When ordering perennial plants, get the best quality, most-mature plant offered. Here is an example of a mistake I made: I needed some asparagus crowns to finish out a row of asparagus. I bought one-year-old crowns because they cost a few dollars less than the 2-year-old crowns. As a result, the new plants were small the first year. It took three years before they were growing well enough that I felt I could start harvesting. If I had planted 2-year-old crowns, I would have been harvesting asparagus at least a year sooner.

n When ordering fruit trees, it is wise to order the best quality available and choose dwarf trees. If you plan to care for these trees with annual pruning, spraying, etc., a dwarf tree is much more gardener-friendly. If you don’t plan to care for the trees, then a semi-dwarf or standard tree is a good choice. If you are planting them for wildlife, then go with a standard tree.

n Select varieties of plants that will do well in Northeastern Pennsylvania. One year I planted a variety of cantaloupe that had a 94-day maturity. The plants grew well and produced a good crop. The problem was that they matured in late September. To learn which varieties do well here, talk to a gardening neighbor or ask a farmer at a local farmers’ market what variety they grow. Or go to the Penn State Extension publications website at, and type in “vegetable varieties.” There you will find a 20-page booklet on recommended vegetable varieties.

n If you are purchasing plants from a local nursery, be sure to plant early. Perennial plants that are potted will do much better if they are planted into your garden as soon as possible. Watch local nurseries – as soon as the plant is available, buy it and plant it.

n Finally, have the soil ready when the plants arrive. Have your soil pH in the correct range for the plant. Prepare the site by having all competing vegetation removed. If the plant needs a support structure, have it either in place before or soon after planting. A young tree will grow more quickly if it is supported that first year.

For more information contact your local extension office. In Lackawanna County call 570-963-6842 or email Lackawanna

JOHN ESSLINGER is a horticulture extension educator for Penn State Extension.

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Grand designs on Ecohome garden

A green project is calling on garden designers to volunteer their time to help come up with some blooming lovely ideas for Harborough’s Ecohome.

The Sustainable Harborough group in partnership with Seven Locks Housing is asking for garden designers from the district for their expertise.

The Ecohome is a semi-detached house with extra insulation, state-of-the-art heating controls, solar panels, low-energy appliances and water-saving devices.

Its mission is to show people how they can reduce household emissions and reduce energy and water bills.

Now Sustainable Harborough wants to show how gardens can be used to grow food and encourage wildlife.

Spokesman Gavin Fletcher said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for a local garden designer to join us to design a garden which can be used for family life, encouraging wildlife and food growing as well as having parts which can be replicated by other residents hoping to achieve something similar.”

The garden is to be created in the new year with a team of volunteers and will be on display during special open days.

The Echome has been home since October to the Woolley family, who write an online blog about life in the home. Ayla Woolley (10) said: “The garden is my favourite part of my new home. I love wildlife and flowers and can’t wait to grow some fruit and veggies, although it isn’t wildlife friendly yet unless you like worms!”

Sustainable Harborough is keen to promote local businesses and any designer working on the project will be recognised for their contribution on its website.

Anyone interested in designing the Ecohome garden or becoming a volunteer gardener should contact Sustainable Harborough on 01858 466207 or email

For more information visit

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Get to the point with your garden design

Focal points are a garden’s visual resting spots. In the flashy riot and exuberance of a summer garden, they lead the eye through it all, gently imposing order on a view. At every season, a tall, carefully placed urn, a sparkling birdbath or a handsome specimen shrub doesn’t steal the glory from the rest of the garden — it enhances the scene by giving it direction.

“The most common mistake people make is, they try all these different varieties of plants, and their backyard ends up looking like a tossed salad,” says Mike Miller, a landscape architect at Ewseychik, Rice Miller in Longwood, Fla. “We use a broad, simple palette,” he says, “and create focal points.”

Finding a focal point and settling on an appropriate plant or architectural element to achieve the desired effect may take some thought and effort. Some designers actually give their clients a large, empty picture frame and ask them to walk around with it, defining the important views.

Taking pictures of your garden will also reveal the places that naturally attract your eye as well as spots that need to be screened from view. You’ll be able to forget about an annoying utility pole if you plant a screen of evergreens and place an arbor strategically in your line of sight.

Peggy Krapf, a garden designer in Toano, Va., near Williamsburg, works hard on the details in her client’s gardens. One suburban garden seemed to have all the right elements but simply did not feel welcoming.

“There were all these little bits,” she says. “They had nice plants and paths and a fountain, but they were like separate thoughts.” Visitors were not sure where the garden began or how to approach it, and the existing paths hurried them along without encouraging them to enjoy the experience along the way.

Krapf needed to unify the garden. She first suggested a proper garden gate. The 4-foot-high gate, flanked by evergreen shrubs, makes visitors pause a little before entering the garden, allowing them to take in the scene.

Krapf then placed a bench at the end of the path, creating a destination, and moved a few shrubs to make the fountain the focus of the view from the porch. In another client’s garden, she designed a curving stone bench to put in one corner. The bench draws visitors out to enjoy the flower beds up close and takes the sharp edge off the corner of the property.

In her own large country garden, Krapf put a garden bench at the end of an axis, about 50 feet from her front door. The bench occupies a space with raised flower beds on either side and invites her to sit there and admire her blooms.

From the bench, looking back toward the house, she created a sort of focal point in reverse, framing the view of her own front porch between an oversized urn and a columnar boxwood.

“We often use containers as focal points around a door or on a patio,” says Molly Moriarty, a garden designer and owner of Heart and Soil Design in Minneapolis. “We’re shooting color where we need it.” Pots full of flowers also lend structure to the whole setting.

Containers can be a challenge through the winter in cold climates, but Moriarty fills them with twigs, evergreen branches, dried vines and seed heads. They bristle with texture and look especially pretty in the snow. When spring comes, she replants with cold-tolerant flowers such as pansies and with ornamental kale and cabbages.

Shifting light and shadows will affect the way you experience an arbor. You can enjoy the blooms and perfume of roses or other climbing plants in summer and the tracery of vines in the winter.

A birdbath will attract different complements of visitors at various times of year. A specimen tree planted as a focal point will change through the seasons, too: A crabapple, redbud or another hardy flowering tree might be covered with blooms in spring and with berries or decorative seedpods in the fall and winter.

Even small gardens have room for more than one focal point, but it is best not to let them compete with one another. If you can see three focal points at once, the garden is already out of focus.

And make sure the focal points you choose are in scale and in character with your garden. In general, sculpture, flowerpots or plants used as focal points should be large enough to command attention. Bold strokes are more effective than subtle touches.

An armillary sphere or sundial on a plinth should sit well above the flowers around it or stand all by itself. When your focal point stands out proudly, the rest of the garden seems to come to attention, too.

Trees to consider

Just follow the lines in your garden and you’ll discover where the focal points should be, says Robert Whitman, landscape architect at Gould Evans, a planning and design firm with offices in Kansas City.

“There are always places where your eye is drawn, and it’s good to try to take advantage of that with something special that makes it worth the view,” Whitman says.

Whitman, who worked with local arborists and nursery experts to compile a “Great Trees” list for Kansas City, says trees can be an excellent choice for a focal point.

Trees such as a weeping Norway spruce or a Japanese umbrella pine — not often seen in local gardens — are worthy of a place where they can be appreciated, Whitman says. A weeping redbud, a tricolor beech or a variegated Kousa dogwood would also be a good candidate. Your choice will depend on your tastes and the scale of the garden. The soil, the exposure and the tree’s mature size and habit should all be taken into consideration.

Whitman’s list of evergreen trees for our area, available online, includes more than two dozen choices for specimen evergreens, all of which would make excellent focal points, he says.

Whatever you choose, don’t clutter up your views of it, Whitman says. Keeping the foreground simple increases the impact.

Lists of “Great Trees for the Kansas City Region” and “Evergreen Trees for the Kansas City Region” are both available on Gould Evans’ website.

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Rome: Stray off the typical tourist path


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Saturday, December 28, 2013 8:05 PM EST

Rome: Stray off the typical tourist path

The Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy, is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and is near Rome. (Richard Sennott/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

Stand within the Colosseum’s massive bowl, and you can practically hear the roar of the ancient crowd. But to capture the sounds of today’s Rome, it’s best to get away from the flurry of tourists and settle into a quaint trattoria like Da Tonino, where everyone within its rustic walls chatters away in Italian.

No sign outside announces the restaurant; my wife and I dined there courtesy of a local’s tip. And that cloaked quality was precisely its appeal.

Hidden gems — ignored by the guidebooks, well off the tourist path — await in nearly every nook of this wondrous city. Of course visitors should crane their necks at the Vatican, sip espresso at an open-air bar in Piazza Navona and climb the Spanish Steps. But in a place with a history so long and rich that it is dubbed “the Eternal City,” only one approach seems plausible: Peel away the layers, savoring each one, to get a deeper sense of the place.

In our journey to do just that, we hoofed everywhere, from an underappreciated villa with some of the world’s foremost fountains to a neighborhood bakery with marzipan confections — and places beyond. Our feet are still recuperating, but our souls are soaked with indelible memories.

Cul De Sac

Cork dorks should head posthaste to Cul de Sac (Piazza di Pasquino 73; ), to sample scores of wines they can’t get elsewhere (start with a glass of the cesanese, although it’s impossible to order poorly here). But this locals-laden enoteca has way more to offer: a locavore menu with eight kinds of pâté, sundry salumi and cheese and homemade pasta, friendly service (a waiter actually asked an indecisive customer how much she wanted to spend on wine) and a fabulous vibe inside and out.

Tucked into a prototypically quaint but preternaturally quiet piazza a block west of the Piazza Navona, Cul de Sac’s outdoor tables are filled by 7 p.m., which is still happy hour for Romans. The booths inside rest under shelves of bottles reaching to the 12-foot-high ceiling, with the nets in between to keep any errant bottles from conking customers on the head.

-Jewish Ghetto

At a couple of entrances to the Jewish Ghetto, you must pass through turnstiles (no coins needed) that we dubbed “pedestrian roundabouts.” Sadly, the Jews who were forced to live in this flood plain near the Tiber River in the 16th century (after two millenniums of being a free community), had to come in and out through locked gates in massive walls.

The walls came down in the late 19th century, and a stately, imposing synagogue (Lungotevere Dè Cenci) went up on the neighborhood’s edge. The old ghetto now has a few Jewish merchants and restaurants serving Roman Jewish specialties. Don’t miss the fried artichokes at Giggetto (Vie del Portico d’Ottavia 21; ), and walk off your meal on tree-lined riverside Longotevere de Cenci.

Villa d’Este

Villa d’Este’s array of eye-popping frescoes are almost worth the 20-mile trek from Rome to Tivoli by themselves. The grandiose fountains in the “back yard” more than cinch the deal.

Installed by one Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, the son of Lucrezia Borgia, these 25 acres of waterworks (Piazza Trento, Tivoli; ) use ancient Roman hydraulic- engineering principles and range from the simple to the massive, from an endless row of smaller jet streams to a multifaceted “nymphaeum.” These spigots aside, the gardens include lovely landscaping and some gravity-defying trees. Similar landscapes are depicted inside, spread through a suite of art-filled rooms that, were they housed in Rome, would be anything but “hidden.”


Taking a hungry kid to Pasticceria Dagnino (Via V. Emanuele Orlando 75; ) would easily make the shortlist of Worst Ideas Ever. Popping in as an even slightly ravenous adult isn’t such a grand notion, either. The almost unending assortment of mouthwatering sweets at this Sicilian-style bakery includes ice cream and cake, cookies and cannoli.

But what marks it as Sicilian is a boundless batch of that island’s cassata cakes and marzipan crafted into brightly colored, exquisitely detailed fruits. Drool alert! You can skip all that eye candy by sitting and ordering at a table in the tony gallery near the Termini station, but why would you? Bonus points for the best cappuccino by far we had during our two weeks in Italy.

-‘Monumental Cemetery’

Most of us have found ourselves in a museum gawking at some oddity and thinking (or saying) “Is this art? Really?” That’s certainly the rote response at the catacombs in the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Via Vittorio Veneto 27; ), where thousands of bones have been fashioned into light fixtures, hourglasses, arches and even flowers in rooms with names such as “The Crypt of Pelvises.” The Catholic Church’s Capucin sect, which has a history of an often-cultish relationship with the dead, crafted these “works of art” with the remains of 4,000 of their flock. Appreciating, or at least understanding, this attitude is enhanced mightily by a fabulous museum above the crypt, leading to a plaque that advises “What you are now, we used to be. What we are now, you shall be.” OK, then.


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Leaving scene of accident – Casper Star


On Sunday night, Dec. 22, around 10:30 p.m. someone driving a red SUV ended up in our yard, thereby damaging some landscaping and hitting a tree. While there was no damage to the tree, and minor damage to the landscaping in our yard, it is important to know that whoever had the accident, immediately fled the scene after retrieving the vehicle license plate out of our yard so that we could not identify the vehicle or driver.

Ending up in our yard and hitting the tree was definitely an accident. Whether it was caused by driving too fast for conditions, the curve of the street, or icy road conditions, it does not matter. But what does matter is that the individual driving the vehicle, as well as the passenger, felt the need to flee the scene leaving various car parts in our yard. So, if your son or daughter drives a red SUV and it has recently incurred front end damage, please alert the police department. When the accident happened, we were concerned that someone was hurt. However, when the vehicle fled the scene, it became apparent that maybe there was more to hide than just getting into an accident.

We hope that the individuals involved in this accident were not injured in any way, and it is unfortunate that they were not able to report the accident and take responsibility for their actions.

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Clearing Up After the Holidays

Created: 12/26/2013 2:37 PM

By: Networx

Photo: Allie Towers Rice/FlickrThe holidays tend to generate large volumes of waste as you raise the roof with your celebrations. You’ve got wrappings; old tech and other discards replaced by shiny new presents; trees and greenery swags; ugly and unwanted presents (come on, you know you got at least one); extra food; and so much more. It can seem a little overwhelming to stagger out on Boxing Day and attempt to figure out what to do with all this junk, and we’ve got you covered.

*Packages, wrapping, and more.

If you managed to restrain yourself while unwrapping, you may have a tidy array of wrapping paper to reuse next year. Tip: roll it up to minimize creasing so it will be in good shape. You can save all your ribbons, and bows, too. If you were a little more zesty during the unwrapping process, that wrapping paper is compostable, and can also be recycled. (Next year, consider using burlap, cotton, silk, and other organic materials for ribbons, as they can be reused or composted much more easily.)

Got boxes? We wouldn’t be surprised. It’s a good idea to keep the packaging for items you might need to return (but you probably already know that), and if you got any fragile items, you might want to put their original boxes in storage so you can re-use them when you move. Other boxes can be broken down and recycled, or you can check out our epic list of things to do with cardboard boxes.

*Out with the old, in with the new.

Many people get new gadgets for Christmas, which leaves them with laptops, phones, tablets, and more that they no longer want to use. You have a couple of great options for these. One is to wipe and resell them to people interested in used electronics; Craigslist can be a great resource for finding new homes for old tech. You can also donate them to organizations that specifically request them (for example, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence works with a cell phone recycling program). If you know of less fortunate people in the community who might benefit from having personal computers or tablets, like high school students who are struggling to keep up with their peers, they can be good candidates for a gently-worn older item.

You can also submit your old tech directly to recycling firms. Make sure to check their supply line and confirm that they dispose of items ethically. Ask where their e-waste is recycled (if it’s shipped overseas, it may be contributing to pollution and workers could be laboring in unsafe conditions). Thanks to fees charged with the purchase of new technology, you can also drop your technology off for free at any regional e-waste collection center. Take care to wipe your hard drives to remove any and all personal data first!

*What to do with all these greens?

Trees, wreaths, swags, mantel decorations, what do you do when they start withering and shedding everywhere? Many cities have a municipal recycling day set aside for the collection of trees and associated debris. You can also contact a tree recycling center directly, or ask around to see if a local charity is collecting trees for chipping and recycling. We have more ideas for recycling old trees here, and many of them apply to other greenery items as well!

*Unwanted presents

Hoo boy. We feel you on this one. Useful items can potentially go to charity and resale shops, as long as you’re confident the offending gift-giver won’t stumble upon them (and won’t demand to see them later). You can also get creative about potential uses: did you get an ugly sweater made from great yarn? Unravel it, and use the yarn for your own knitting project. Gruesome plate? It might make a great plant saucer (and you can hide a multitide of sins in the depths of your San Francisco landscaping). Hideous clock? You could replace the clock face with something more interesting.

*Extra food

Extra food in packages can totally go to the food bank (which also appreciates donations of things like personal care items including sanitary napkins, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and so forth). Leftovers can be frozen for future consumption (tip: consider freezing in small batches so you can thaw a few servings at a time) or stored in the fridge for up to a week. Consider reusing your leftovers in creative ways: turn that Christmas turkey into turkey tacos, for example, so you’re not eating endless servings of increasingly dry and boring turkey.

*Extra family

You’re on your own with this one!

Katie Marks writes for

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