Stir Crazy After All These Weeks

Is anyone else getting the itch to go back to work? Feeling stir crazy after all these weeks?

I know, it seems crazy right?

Working from home is a great convenience. But it feels like a limbo between retirement and work.

I’m still working and still getting paid. I know, I’m one of the lucky ones.

So many people are writing about how they are cleaning their house top to bottom or taking up Fender on their offer of free guitar lessons.

I’m freaking working here!

My days are just as long just sans the commute. By the end of the day I’m tired just like before.

There seems to be an expectation that we all have time to renew, rejuvenate or reinvent ourselves. I guess that’s what you do when you retire?

I’ve got work to do and people who rely on me to get it done.

I don’t have time for guitar lessons!

The Office

twitter lists,social mediaI don’t miss the morning foot race to get out the door before traffic gets crazy. But I miss the routine and my colleagues.

I work with a great team and we manage to have some fun throughout the day. It’s not all work all day.

When I get into the office around 7:30 I have my routine. By the time everyone else shows up, I’ve cleared my email and had a coffee or two. I’m ready to roll.

Bring on the day!

Working From Home

July 2020 Run Down, COVID HairWorking from home has it’s advantages, no doubt. I can roll out of bed 30 minutes before my work day officially begins, there’s no commute to tress me out and piss me off. And I can shower whenever I want.

In the office I have two large hi-res screens and all of my stuff is there. I have a great work space where I can stretch out. Sometimes having a print out of an email or a report is better than having it on screen. I only have two screens after all.

At home I have taken over the dinning room. I have my work laptop and an old Compaq 20″ LCD display. I still have two screens but both are smaller than what I use in the office.

I’m also sitting in a strait back dining room chair. It’s solid cherry which gets a little tough on the ass after five or six hours. No cushion, no recline and it doesn’t rock. I’m a rocker, what can I say?

I’ve discovered that my office eating and hydration habits  seem to be triggered by what goes on in the office.

Make a call, have a drink. If it was beer I’d be hammered by 10AM.

Every day is to today

While working from home has many advantages there are also disadvantages.

The days begin shortly after I wake up weather that’s 5AM or 8AM.

Sometimes I forget to eat lunch and sometimes I make a second pot of coffee.

I can check email on my phone and do so seven days a week. So essentially, I’m working seven days a week.

But I also get to deal with contractors coming to the house and getting my daughter to work and off the trains.

So while the days are 10 to 12 hours, I do get to do other things during the day.

But since I work everyday and get other stuff done every day, the weekend blends right into the week.

I guess this is kind of what it’s like to be retired. Every day is today. What do you want to do?

One of the lucky ones

I realize that I am one of the lucky ones. I have a job and I’m able to work from home.

There are plenty of people who have to go to a workplace every day. They get our food to us, teach our kids, staff our healthcare facilities etc.

You can’t put a bio lab in the basement either. Just not a good idea.

I’m lucky enough to be pulling down a check and have the luxury of feeling cooped up.

I’ve been running more consistently over the past few months. That has helped my state of mind and even provided some limited socializing

I am one of the lucky ones who get to feel stir crazy after all these weeks.

How are you dealing with the new reality?

Run well my Friends,

Andy

The COVID Clean out

When common items like tissues and paper towels began to dissapear from store shelves, I rummaged through our draws at home. It’s amazing what I found.

Back in March when all of the lock downs began and store shelves were going bare, I did a bit of a COVID clean out.

We all have half used tubes of sunscreen or hand sanitizer in places we would never expect. It’s not always in the bathroom draw or in a box in a closet with a nice label on it.

My COVID Clean out

What I Think about when I Work from Home, Corona Virus 2020. COVID 19When items like tissue, paper towels, sanitizer wipes and hand sanitizer were getting scarce, I did a COVID clean out.

In the winter I always stash one of those small packages of tissues in my winter coats.

In the winter you don’t even need a cold for your nose to start running. So it’s always handy to have a package in your coat pocket.

Sure enough, each winter coat had a package of tissues.

Kleenex, tissues, sanitizer wipesAt trade shows these little packets of tissues are a common hand out item. It’s a great idea since most of us will hold onto them.

These little packets are great to keep in your luggage or toilet kit, they are a convenient way to always have a tissue with you in the winter.

The packet on the left is from an event in Toronto I attended probably five years ago.

Hand Sanitizer

I wash my hands with soap and water often and I think pretty well.

In the winter this tends to dry out my skin and my knuckles crack and bleed every year. I’ve tried a variety of lotions but it’s just a matter of time.

Hand sanitizers with 60% plus alcohol don’t help with the dry skin problem. So I don’t use them very often.

As part of my COVID clean out I went through every draw in all the bathrooms and the kitchen.

COVID 19, hand sanitizerWhat you see here is only some of what I found.

We have a large pump bottle and I have several sprays and tubes from various trade shows that I somehow forgot to photograph.

I was surprised at how much stuff we had.  We didn’t have enough to get through a prolonged lock down or shortage, but definitely enough for a month or so.

All of us should take this as an opportunity to clean out those draws. You will surprised at what you will find and you may find items that you can use right now.

Stay healthy my Friends,

Andy

Tick Management and Control

Ticks have been a menace to humanity for millennia. As tick habitat has rebounded and we have moved further into this habitat the menace to our health has grown.

Last week I watched the webinar “Tick Management and Control” sponsored by the UMass Laboratory of Medical Zoology and UMass Extension.

The presenters were :

Dr. Stephen Rich, Professor of Microbiology and Director of the UMass Laboratory of Medical Zoology, and Dr. Kirby Stafford, Chief Scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and CT State Entomologist.

They discussed tick management strategies applicable to landscapes in the Northeast.

What I learned about Tick Management and Control

Management and control is really up to the individual and home owner. In Massachusetts there are mosquito control districts but no municipal or state-wide tick control organizations.

Many areas spray for mosquitoes but none or very few do anything about ticks.

Habitat Management and Control

The best way to control ticks around your home is to reduce habitat for ticks, deer and mice.

ticks, tall grassTicks like shaded areas that retain moisture. Low cut grass is not good tick habitat but the edge of the woods behind your house or a pile of leaves or yard waste are perfect.

Ticks can survive the winter under leaf litter and snow pack. So removing leaf and brush piles from your yard is important. Keeping areas around doors clear of debris and snow pack will help keep ticks away from your home.

The webinar discusses landscaping ideas to help reduce the tick population in your yard.

Keeping deer out of your yard is very helpful.  Deer host infected ticks but do not infect the ticks.

Each adult tick hosted by a deer can lay 2,000 eggs. So you can see that if you have several deer wandering around your yard and each deer drops off just a few ticks, you could have a major tick problem.

Excluding deer from your yard with deer fencing and reducing the amount of food available to them are the most acceptable ways to deal with deer.

Reducing herds through hunting is difficult in populated areas and is controversial to many people.

Treating deer is discussed in the webinar, but this requires a lot of work and can be expensive.

Excluding deer from your yard is the most effective method.

Mice actually carry the viruses that make us sick. Mice like those piles of yard waste, rock walls and other places where they can hide and nest.

Several treatments to kill ticks on mice are discussed, but they can be expensive and not very effective.

Reducing food and habitat are the best ways to control your mouse population.

Personal Protection and Behavior Change

Even if your yard is clear of ticks, the rest of the world is not. In one study the webinar cites, 47% of reported cases were from ticks picked up while playing.

This means kids at parks, in the back yard or even in woods and fields. It’s hard to keep kids out of tick habitat and that is why tick checks, clothes washing and awareness are so important.

The same study reported that 18% of cases were from yard work and 12% from gardening. A full 30% of cases were adults picking up ticks in their own yard.

Only 1% were reported from camping, 7% from hiking and 4% from walking the dog.

While the study may not be 100% accurate, it does illustrate that about half of tick borne diseases are picked up by children playing and about a third are picked up by adults in their own back yards.

Keeping your yard clear of debris and doing tick checks when you or your kids come inside can be very effective in reducing tick borne disease.

Read What Runners need to know about Tick and Mosquito Season.

The UMass webinar discussed pesticides but mostly for your yard.

The most effective pesticides for your yard must be applied by a professional. Studies of essential oils showed limited and inconsistent results.

You can buy permethrin to spray on clothes, or clothing infused with permethrin. This chemical is very effective at killing ticks but needs to be handled carefully.

Never spray it on clothes that someone is wearing and never spray permethrin in an enclosed area like your home. I would be reluctant to expose my children to very much permethrin also.

Before you use this or any other pesticide read the labels thoroughly.

Reducing habitat and using personal protection seem to be the easiest, least expensive and safest things to do.

A tick invasion?

When I was a child I spent a lot of time in the woods and fields of Maine. We worried about black flies, horse flies and sometimes mosquitoes.

These insects were pests but we never worried about getting a disease from them. We never worried about ticks. I saw my first tick in 2019!

The webinar mentions a Swedish naturalist who visited America in the 1700’s. He wrote that the land was beautiful but when ever he sat down he was swarmed by ticks.

In the 1870’s the New York State Entomologist reported that he could not find any ticks during his research.

Dr. Stafford explains the difference was deforestation and over hunting of the deer population. Much land had been cleared for pasture, firewood and building materials into the late 1800’s.

Between loss of habitat and hunting the deer population had plummeted in New York.

I’ve read that at one point almost 90% of Massachusetts was deforested. Today something like 60-70% of Massachusetts is forested land.

With the return of deer habitat and the moist habitat in which ticks flourish, we have had a resurgence in the tick population.

Studies of tick specimens collected in Europe in the 1800’s show that some carried Lyme Disease.

Oldest case of Lyme DiseaseDr. Stafford also mentioned that the “Ice Man” who was discovered in the Alps and is estimated to be 5,000 years old showed signs of Lyme Disease.

A Yale School of Medicine study from 2013 shows that the Lyme Disease bacterium existed in North America as long as 60,000 years ago.

Humanity has been dealing with ticks and tick-borne disease for millennia. Lyme disease was only officially discovered in the 1976.

Over the years tick diseases probably killed or debilitated millions of humans, but no one knew what the actual cause was.

Here is the webinar if you would like more details on Tick management and control.

What I Think about when I Work from Home

I try to stay focused on work and taking care of my family, but the mind does wander at times.

This working from home thing isn’t exactly new. Working from home for weeks on end with no end in sight is a new thing.

As of this writing I am about three weeks into this and still trying to adjust. To keep some of my routine, I still shower and get dressed every morning.

I don’t wear business casual clothes, but I do put on pants! Since we are home all day and don’t want our gas bill to go through the roof, I usual wear a sweat shirt or a fleece.

I talk to my colleagues about once a day instead of every five minutes. I talk to someone in management about once a week usually on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

What I Think about when I Work from Home

We use the dishwasher a lot

I’ve been noticing that we run the dishwasher at least every other day. When I went to work every day I ate at least one meal from the cafeteria at work. Or I brought a single dish to work with my breakfast and maybe one for my lunch.

It seems that making and eating these same meals at home creates more dishes than eating them at work.

We try to use plates and coffee cups more than once. But still the dishwasher is filled up every other day. Maybe I notice it more because I’m setting 20 feet away when it runs?

There’s lots of traffic on my street

We live near the end of a cul-du-sac. I’ve set up my home office in our dining room in the front of the house.

I see people walking by and the neighbors walking their dogs several times a day. I wonder if they are out walking during normal times?

I can’t believe how many cars go by! Some neighbors go out several times each day. Where are they going during the Corona Virus Lock Down? Haven’t they heard of social distancing and stay the hell out of stores?

Then there are the unknown cars that come flying down our dead end street thinking it is a cut through. For some reason we don’t have a dead-end sign at the end of our street. Surprise!

Then there are all of the delivery vans. UPS, FedEx, Amazon and the USPS make several trips all the way to the end of my street.

Some go down just to turn around, but those folks at the end of the street get lots of deliveries.

What I Think about when I Work from Home, Corona Virus 2020I guess if you can’t go out and the shelves are bare when you do, you  order your toilet paper on line.

Feeling Disconnected

Most of The United States is under a “Stay at Home” advisory or order from the Governor.

This is a good idea, but I still need to go out for a run once in a while. And I need to go to the store.

I really want to drive my car down Route 93 at 85 MPH just to feel it. I’m tired of sitting.

When I go out for a run I see very few people. Last Saturday I went for a 15 mile run and waved or said hello to just about everyone. I guess they were practicing social distancing.

I saw this sign at a local park when I was out for a short run.

What I Think about when I Work from Home, Medford Park Closure

We received a message from the Mayor about parks being closed. When you see a sign and tape across the entrance, it makes it real.

For anyone with kids it must be difficult telling them that they can’t go to the park down the street. After a few days in the house kids start to bounce off the walls.

Our kids are grown so we don’t have to worry about these things. But when they were young we went to the park a lot. They particularly loved the swings.

Shopping Under Quarantine

We’re not under quarantine or isolation, but it sure feels like it.

When I go out it sure feels like something is going on. All the drive throughs have long lines. The parking lots are nearly empty.

On one of my recent ventures outside I stopped by McDonald’s for lunch. It’s been a while.

The drive through line was all the way back to the parking lot entrance. I noticed that a few people were parked and then I saw someone walk out with food. The lobby was open!

I pulled into a spot and went in. The seating areas were all taped off like a crime scene. The bathrooms were closed.

They had one person on the register for walk ins and she had a plastic panel in front of her. It was odd. She felt a little odd also and we had a few laughs.

There was one couple in front of me and a guy came in after me. Without being asked, we all kept our distance.

McDonald's, Corona Virus

As I sat in my car and ate, a few other people went into the lobby.

When I went in I had gloves on and carefully took them off in the car. But what if the bag had Corona on it?

I sprayed some sanitizer on my hands and rubbed it in. If you miss a spot and touch your food or face it could be trouble.

I really felt like I was taking my chances. Just crazy.

But I was helping those folks at McDonald’s keep on working. Every little bit helps.

Liquor Store Run

The last thing I want is to be stuck at home without refreshments.

Even with all of this time on my hands, I’m still only good for one or two beers a day. I must be getting old. I’m getting a little extra sleep but I still feel tired after a beer or two.

When this all began I went to Home Depot to get some items to help keep me occupied and stopped by Total Wine since it’s next door.

I was there before the liquor store opened, so I waited in my car. Some folks couldn’t wait.

Total Wine, Corona Virus

I was really amused by this. I mean, I was there before the store opened also, but I stopped at Home Depot first. Was this their main destination?

Who waits in line for a packey to open? Were they worried the store would be closed by The Governor? Maybe they had other stops on their itinerary and had to squeeze this one in?

When they did open the doors the manager was there to make sure we kept a 6 foot distance as best he could.

Since it was early, the store wasn’t crowded and keeping away from people wasn’t too difficult.

At the check out they had tape on the floor to keep us safely separated. And the manager was there directing us to the next open cashier. We couldn’t line up at the register.

Fortunately, the shelves were well stocked!

I’ve seen the tape on the floor at Stop and Shop also, but it still felt weird.

Some of the Things I think About

So those are some of the things I think about while working from home.

Of course I think about work, both the task at hand and work it self.

How will the world be changed after this? When will “after this” happen?

What the hell will the new normal be? I guess there will be more hand sanitizer around?

Maybe the restrooms at my office will have signs saying “All Employees must wash their hands before returning to work”? Should have been a no brainer anyway, but not everyone got it.

Maybe we will get reminders at work about washing our hands and general hygiene?

I try not to think about how this will effect the economy. Some of the numbers are freakin scary. Up to 30% unemployment? An economy only 80% of what it was before? The pie shrinks and some loose their slice.

So while I’m working from home, I try to spend most of my time thinking about the task at hand. I need to keep my slice of the shrunken pie.

Thinking about what may happen to some people is just too depressing.

What do you think about while you are working from home?

Andy

How to Work From Home

We all know how to work from home. But how do you do it for weeks or months? How do you manage kids, work and a bit of time to decompress and keep up with events?

Are your friends stressing about working from home? Here is some advice on how to do it. Click To TweetI’ve worked from home on many occasions.

Usually it’s due to a storm, an appointment or I have a contractor dropping by the house.

So I know how to work from home, but this time it’s different.

When you work from home for a day, a dip in productivity is to be expected. Usually there is something else going on and you don’t have access to everything you have in the office.

But, it’s only one day. That’s easy enough to make up.

Right now we’re not sure how many days we’ll have to work from home.

How do we maintain a level of productivity that allows the businesses we work for to be successful?

How to Work From Home

There are no two ways about this, it’s going to be a challenge. This is especially true if you have children at home.

Working with Children

Teenagers will get board but they have social media, TV and even a phone to talk with their friends.

You should get more quality work time from them and they should understand what is going on. In several states the governor is pretty clear about staying home and how dire the situation appears.

If you have youngsters, you will have your hands full. You know that and it probably freaks you out a bit.

How the hell are you going to do this?

It won’t be easy and you won’t be your old productive self. Any boss worth their salt will understand this and cut you some slack. It’s a two-way street.

You will need to be as organized and disciplined as possible. 

No one wants to park their kids in front of the TV all day and young kids can only entertain themselves for so long. You need a plan.

As a parent you are the entertainer in chief.

You may have home work for the kids or a good book collection for them. Still, you need to manage homework time and probably read those books.

If you have a back yard I would advise to get your kids outside each day. Maybe an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. In my city the parks are closed, so you need a yard to go outside and play.

This outside time allows your kids to have fun and get some fresh air. Here in New England we are big believers in fresh air. Even in the middle of the winter my mother would often tell us to go outside.

The play time and fresh air will help your kids burn off some of that endless energy and help them burn off some of the stress we all feel.

Depending on how old they are, you may have to be outside the entire time with them. But you may be able to get in a quick call or two. Maybe even answer an email.

If your yard is safe and your kids are older, you might be able to do the dishes or do some cleaning while they are outside.

With kids outside I think it would be difficult to dig into a work project. You always need to keep an eye and an ear open when the kids are outside.

This physical activity is vital to your productivity.

It can be challenging to get kids to take a nap. Getting them outside to burn off some energy and stress is your best bet to get an hour or two of quiet time.

Time Management

Kids or no kids, you have to manage your time.

Morning Commute Crosswalk With no commute or need to get dressed or make lunch, it’s easy to loose track of time.

As a parent, you need the time before your kids get up to get as much work done as possible. When they take their naps you need to use that precious time to get things done.

If you live by your self or don’t have kids at home, I think it’s even easier for time to slip away. At least kids get up in the morning and force you to maintain some of your regular routine.

It’s easy to get distracted at home. There are chores to do, your family, the TV, the fridge. And who doesn’t want to go outside for a walk or run when it’s a nice day?

If you are home with your spouse and the kids, take turns working and taking care of the kids. You have to tag team on this.

Each of you needs quiet and alone time to focus on work. This isn’t mean or anti social. Each of you needs to contribute as much as you can to your organization and your organization is relying on you.

It would be selfish to expect your spouse to neglect their job while you work away all day.

Getting out of bed at a regular time and getting dressed for work will help you get into the right frame of mind. If you can shower without waking the kids or your spouse, that is always a good idea!

If your kids see you dressed for work, they are more likely to understand that this is not an extended stay cation.

Sleep Management

It’s important to go to bed at your normal time. This helps maintain part of your routine and some sense of order.

Getting your normal hours of sleep helps you stay healthy.  You also need your rest to take care of your kids and be productive in your job.

I certainly enjoy the opportunity to sleep in a bit on the weekends. Without your commute and the need to get the kids to school, you should be able to get some extra sleep in the morning.

You can use this time to your advantage. The entire family can get some extra sleep, just not as much for you.

With kids, this quiet time in the morning is  your golden hour. Grab some coffee and your laptop and get to work.

The kids will be coming for you soon!

When I go into the office, I find the early hours of the day to be my most productive. I can get through a ton of email and get on top of requests and issues.

So get some extra sleep but make sure you get up well before the kids.

A Quiet Place all Your Own

Work From Home OfficeAfter figuring out how to take care of the kids, this is probably the most important thing.

You really need a place where you can set up your computer, phone and papers.

Some people can work on a smart phone. Some people have a work laptop and a cell phone.

My company is fairly sophisticated. We can forward our phones to our laptops and use a headset or we can forward calls to our cell phones.

All of us also use two screens in the office. On a normal work from home day I just have my laptop.

Over the weekend I found an old LCD display in the basement. I thought I had two. Now I have my laptop and a 1990’s 17″ display. It’s better than 15.4″ of real estate.

We can also access all of our applications, tools and data from home or anywhere in the world.

Even with all of this, I have paper! I have a note book and things I’ve printed out for reference.

WomI’ve taken over the dinning room and my wife has the kitchen. We’re only about ten feet away from each other so simultaneous conference calls should be fun!

What ever space you can claim as your own is vital.

We may be in this for a while and you need a place where you can set up and leave your stuff there if possible.

Working from Home Recap

If you have kids, you have to figure that part out first. If you are a single parent try to work something out with you manager or company.

We are all in this together. If your manager knows you have kids and still demands eight hours of highly productive time, you may want to start looking around.

Time management and maintaining a routine are important. You need to spend as much time doing productive work as possible.

You also have to make sure you don’t slip into a twelve-hour work day. Your productivity is not going to be 100% and you may feel you need to extend your day to compensate.

But we don’t know how long this situation will last. Can you imagine eight or twelve weeks of twelve-hour days? You need some time every day to decompress and spend time with your family or call them.

We’re going to be isolated enough, so manage your work and personal time.

Even if you can only get the kitchen table, find a way to own it. People can eat elsewhere. Use a shopping or tote bag to collect your papers and work material if you do have to give up your work space.

A designated work space and a designated work time are crucial to maintaining your productivity.

For those of us with older kids or no kids, this will be a challenging time. There are so many things to be worried about.

If you have young kids work something out with your boss right away. There needs to be an understanding and expectations need to be established and possibly revisited.

Maintaining some of your normal routine helps with your productivity. Maintaining some structure to your schedule will also help your kids cope

This is new territory for all of us.

Stay Healthy my Friends,

Andy

How to Avoid Recycling

Too busy to recycle? Skeptical of the whole recycling thing? Here are a few handy tips to help you avoid recycling.

Most Americans recycle but many still prefer to avoid recycling.

For some people it takes too much effort, recycling isn’t available in their area or they have some aversion to the whole idea.

An EPA fact sheet1 released in 2016 shows that 34.6% of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) was recycled or composted in 2014.

While this is up from single digits as late as 1980, it still means that almost two-thirds of our MSW is land-filled or incinerated. This report does not address how much of our trash ends up in the environment.

It would be great if we could recycle 100% of our MSW, but even 50% seems a lofty goal.

We have seen in the news how several countries that used to accept our plastic for recycling no longer do so.

In Massachusetts the only glass recycling facility recently shut down due to lack of demand. With more microbreweries using cans instead of bottles, no one needs all of that glass.

It seems that the only option is to avoid recycling. If the trash isn’t there we don’t have to deal with it. What could be easier?

How to Avoid Recycling

How do we create less trash, or MSW, in our daily lives?

How do we create less trash without putting much effort into it?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers or that the following ideas will change the world overnight. But if each person can avoid some recycling, these small changes will add up.

How to avoid recycling at work

If my workplace is typical or average, I’d say most people are avoiding recycling already.

I work in Cambridge, MA also know as “The Republic of Cambridge.” While the citizens of Cambridge may be good recyclers, I’m dubious of the efforts of the people who own the building I work in.

Let me note that our building is “LEED Certified”2

While the building owners have clearly labeled some barrels for trash and some for recycling, that seems to be all that they do.

Most of my colleagues can’t tell the difference between the clearly labeled recycle and trash barrels. I see trash in the recycle bin and recyclables in the trash daily.

The people I work with are highly intelligent. If the building owners made some effort at education I have no doubt that my colleagues would catch on quickly.

I see the same thing at races. Most races recycle nothing. When they do have separate barrels,  most runners can’t tell the difference. Or don’t care.

Runners recycle,recycle anything

A few years ago one race hired a company to provide barrels for trash, recycle and compost.

Even with someone stationed at each “trash” location people still asked questions. Others tossed their banana peels into the recycle bin and wandered off.

Much like the people I work with, the runner demographic tends to be college educated and earn above median incomes. People who should know better.

So, what can we do at work?

The first thing is to actually use the correct barrels to dispose of your trash. Very little effort is required to make this change. That’s not avoiding recycling, but it is common sense.

Second, bring your own utensils.

cup, glass and utensils; recyclingMy company actually gave all employees a ceramic coffee mug several years ago, but still people use paper cups.

You can bring your own coffee mug to work. Most of us have more than we can use at home.

If you work 200 days a year and have two cups of coffee a day, that is 400 cups a year. Most of us drink more coffee than that, so our impact may be even greater.

If 500 people in my building did this, we would save 200,000 cups a year. And that’s only two cups per day.

You can bring a drinking glass to work.

Besides coffee, most of us have several glasses of water at work, or we grab a bottle of something out of the vending machine.

If 500 people switched to a re-usable glass, we could avoid recycling 200,000 cups and plastic bottles each year. Probably more than that.

Plastic utensils. Most of us use a plastic fork or spoon at least once a day at work. Some people use a plastic spoon each time they get a cup of coffee. Some people use a plastic straw or wooden stir stick.

Either way, all of these items end up in the trash after a few seconds of use.

If on average each person uses 4 plastic utensils per day, 200 days a year and 500 people switched to real silverware we could avoid recycling:

4x200x500 = 400,000 single use plastic utensils annually.

Here is the simple solution for work: bring your own drinking glass, coffee mug and eating utensils.

Individually these may seem like small changes, and they are. But they require no special effort and over time they will make a difference.

The next time you go to the grocery store look for a 400 pack of paper coffee cups, plastic cups and a box of 400 eating utensils. These are not small packages.

Things we can do at home

The vast majority of our waste is created at home. Think of all of the food packaging you throw away every day, and packaging of all kinds. How many single use items do you throw away everyday at home?

It’s difficult to reduce the amount of packaging we bring home. That’s how our food and other items are sold to us.

I for one do not want to bring home meat in a paper bag. Prices would go up if we had the butcher wrap our purchase in paper like they did in the old days. And the food probably would not stay fresh as long either.

The only way to avoid recycling here is to buy less or look for products that use less packaging.

A friend commented that his wife saves the plastic bags you get in the fruit and veggie section of the grocery store. She puts the food away and puts those plastic bags back into her re-usable shopping bags.

This got me thinking that we could avoid those bags all together by just putting the food into the shopping bags.

Some grocery stores provide hand held scanners. As you select your items you scan them and put them in your bag. This way you don’t have to unpack you fruit and veggies at check out.

Re-usable bags seem to be the easiest way to avoid recycling here. I recently listened to an NPR broadcast where the guest said you need to use those nylon shopping bags 20,000 times to make their carbon foot print equivalent to the foot print of those throw away bags.

But I’m talking about reducing your recycling burden. Carbon foot print is another article.

Composting If you have space in your yard, composting is easy and sanitary. You can find all kinds of information on how to compost on the internet, so I won’t go into that.

Some argue that it is better to use a commercial composting facility as they collect the methane produced by compost. If your town has a commercial composting facility or collects gas from the land fill, that’s great.

In Eastern Massachusetts, all of our trash goes to an incinerator.

Gardening Again, if you have space gardening can be fun and help you avoid recycling. If the food comes out of the ground in your back yard, there isn’t any packaging to recycle. You can use your compost to build up the soil in your garden, so you don’t have to worry about disposing of your compost.

You can even use some household items in the garden. Seedlings can be started in yogurt cups.

Glassware Most of us have more glasses and mugs than we can possibly use. If you are starting out and need these items go to a yard sale. You can pick up glasses for a five or ten cents.

We use some jelly jars for water glasses. They look fancy and then we don’t have to recycle them.

Take-out Containers Americans are eating out and ordering in more than ever. Most take-out containers end up in the trash. Most cannot be recycled or have no economic value to the recycling company.

So what to do? When we get sturdy plastic containers we use them to store left overs. They are food-grade containers so why not use them to store food?

We also use them to collect our composting materials. Compost can make your Tupperware containers groady over time. If a take out container gets groady, no big deal.

They may not last as long as Tupperware, but we get multiple uses out of them before we throw them away and we avoid buying more containers.

How do you Avoid Recycling?

So here are a few of my ideas on how to avoid recycling. This may seem tongue in cheek but it really is part of the solution.

Part of the solution is to reuse items. Even better is to refuse plastic bottles, bags and other packaging if you can.

Recycling has gone from a way for cities and towns to off-set the cost of MSW collection to an additional cost of MSW disposal.

Do you recycle? Are you good at not contaminating the recycle bin?

Do you have any ideas that you’d like to share?

Recycle well my Friends,

Andy

1 https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-11/documents/2014_smmfactsheet_508.pdf

2 https://www.everbluetraining.com/what-is-leed