HeartWork Organizing

Helping you find peace and purpose through organization and design

Earth Day Decorating April 17, 2012

Filed under: One Day Interior Redesigns — HeartWork Organizing @ 10:45 pm
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Tax day.  Earth day.  It’s a big week here.  I’m also just about to reveal my new website design.  If you receive these posts via email, you should keep seeing them as scheduled, about twice a week.  If, however, you read my stuff through Facebook or some other circuitous route, you might want to check back here in exactly one week to get the new link.  The blog and website will be merged, and I’ll finally have the capability to do some fun things like giveaways.  That’s good, because I have a TON of really nice giveaways cluttering up my office right now.

I’ll also be revealing my huge office makeover in the near future.  (Note to self: probably not a good idea to redesign my site and my office in the same week.)

But today, you’ll have to settle for this little reveal.  Last weekend I was honored to accompany the Habitat for Humanity ReStore manager, Makeda Yeru, to the Delaware County EnviroFair at Strath Haven High School.  Think of a ReStore as a thrift store for household items and construction odds and ends.

I wanted to show the great stuff that ends up there, some of it donated by my clients.  (Yes, the ReStore has a truck and helpful guys who will come pick up your donated furniture and working appliances. You can call them at 484-401-1650 to arrange a pickup.)  So we picked a few things:


I honestly didn’t spend a lot of time on this one, folks.  But I was so happy with the outcome,

and Makeda was, too.

Doesn’t she look comfy?

I really loved the paint treatment that my assistant, Jill, did on the little table.  And I also love the little brass lamp that we turned into an indoor/outdoor lantern.  Price these in stores and you’ll pay $30-$80, but you can make them yourself!

The plan was to take the slipcovered chair back to the store for display, but we almost sold it that day!  Did you notice the great slipcover from Surefit? We pulled back the foot-rest just a bit to remind you what it looked like before.

There were quite a few things to see at the fair.  I was happy to talk to the folks from The Energy Coop, where I belong and get a deal on both my heating oil and electricity.

The table next to use was doing a brisk business selling waterproof bags and even iPad cases made from juice pouches.  Get a little bling with your recycling!

There were plenty of things for the kids to do, and we got to hide the giraffe for the scavenger hunt.

My favorite part was getting to see a Nissan Leaf all electric car in person.  Actually, I ate lunch sitting right next to it and didn’t even realize it was running.  It’s not just quiet, it’s silent!   No gas.  No emissions.  No kidding.  It’s still a bit pricey, but if combustion engines were outlawed tomorrow, I’d happily run for a Leaf!

There were displays of farm co-ops and even something called the Philadelphia Cow Share, where you meat eaters can band together and each purchase 48 pounds of a cow that you help to responsibly raise as a co-op.  I would have taken a picture of my beautiful veggie wrap for lunch, but I ate it too quickly!

If there’s an environmental fair in your neck of the woods, definitely go.  You’ll get some good info, hear about products that might be hard to find otherwise, and find something that you can do to celebrate Earth Day.

(That’s it.  No more scheduled posts until next Tuesday.  Can’t wait to reveal the new site.)


Recycling Do’s and Don’t for Single Stream Recycling: From The Source March 6, 2012

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
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Before heading to the Waste Management Materials Handling Facility (pronounced merfs by those in the biz) in Northeast Philadelphia, I asked my peeps what they wanted to know about recycling rules. Your questions, and maybe a few you didn’t think to ask, are answered here, thanks to Patty Barthel at Waste Management.

Why can’t we put pizza boxes in for paper recycling?

If the box is super clean, break it down and throw it in. But if it’s greasy or stuck with cheese, it contaminates the rest of the paper in a batch to be recycled.

Must we separate plastic bottles from their caps?

HA! NO! This was actually the question everyone wanted to know. If you are concerned because the cap and bottle are different levels of plastic, worry no more. Apparently, plastics get baled together and sent to a plastics recycling plant, where they are crushed, ground, floated, and who knows what else. Then they are made into new plastic goods and  – surprise! – new fleece jackets you wear to the gym. So no, don’t separate your water bottle from its cap, and don’t throw the caps in the trash.

Must you separate the lids from glass jars?

I keep the lids on my recycles so my kitchen doesn’t smell. It turns out, that’s just fine. The glass usually breaks in the truck, and separates from the metal lid anyway. Glass going through the recycling plant is all tiny shards at the end of the line.

Are magazines recyclable?

Yes. Even paperback books can be recycled. Hardback book covers can not be recycled, but if you tear the covers off of books, you can send the pages to recycling.

Envelopes with plastic windows?

I have known people who stress over putting envelopes in recycling if it has a plastic window. This was a problem when recycling was a new industry, but now there are appropriate tolerances in the system that allow for this sort of thing.

Can shredded paper go into recycling?

YES! Go ahead and shred your old checks, but put the shreds into paper bags or directly in your bin, NOT in plastic bags, or it will go to the landfill. I saw one of these while I was there, headed out the back end of the plant.

If I’m not sure it’s recyclable and I put it in, what happens to it in the end?

“If you put it in the bin and we don’t need it, we’re going to throw it away,” says Patty. Makes sense. They are recyclers, not magicians, so about 10% of what comes in still goes out to the landfill.

How clean should food containers be?

Lightly rinse, then toss in the bin. Labels are no problem, either.

Can you recycle aluminum foil?

No. Foil isn’t desirable. Even foil pans, like the ones you carry to the church supper, aren’t very desirable. But if they are large enough and very clean, the system may still bale them with metals, so if it makes you feel better, throw them in.


Not here. But there are some great places to take your old PC, fax machine, TV, or phone. My favorite is Best Buy, because they are everywhere and take everything.  Whole Foods recently hosted electronics recycling events in my neck of the woods. Be on the lookout for other take-back events in your community.

Here’s a shocker: TOYS!

You know those gigantic colorful toys, like swimming pools, kitchens, and rocking toys? Once they’ve been enjoyed, passed down, and completely sun-faded, they too can be baled along with other rigid plastics, like buckets. However, toys that have lots of metals and electronics, like cars, won’t make the cut. It’s a good idea to think of this when you are making the initial purchase.

Some of those colorful blobs could be plastic toys heading for their next life.

Styrofoam and packing peanuts?

Sadly, no, even if it is marked with a “5”, styrofoam does not get recycled. At all. Ever. Stay away from it if at all possible. But if you ever become the proud owner of packing peanuts, you can drop them off at UPS Stores and many other places that pack and ship, and they’ll re-use them.

What about batteries, CFL lightbulbs, and needles/sharps?

Household batteries are one of the hardest things to recycle. CFL bulbs are so new, they are confusing.  And used needles should be handled properly, of course. Why should you care? It turns out that batteries have really nasty stuff in them. Those metals should really be recycled, not leached into our landfills. Waste Management has a nifty solution. Order a mail-order recycle pack at Think Green From Home, and ship your stuff once a year or so.

Hazmat  Recycling

Don’t send your hazmat stuff here or, God forbid, dump it in the trash.  Take your full paint buckets, household chemicals, and other hazmat to an approved facility or county drop off.  Even tires are considered hazmat, not recycling.


While I learned a lot on this trip, the industry is constantly changing. I hope the next time I take the trip, they are taking styrofoam and pizza boxes. Please be open to changes to your local recycling process over the next few years.

What else do you want to know about the recycling process?


Field Trip to My Trash March 1, 2012

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:30 pm
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Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

I recently took a trip to a recycling facility. Field trips were the best days when I was in school. Usually just the break in routine was enough to get me excited, but field trips were usually fun, too. This was all of that and good for you, too.  If you want your kids to have their own recycling adventure, you can check out this recycling curriculum, designed for elementary school-aged kids by a national recycler.

My township went to “single stream” recycling a couple of years ago. Homeowners get to throw all of their recycles into one bin, and they get sorted out at the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF). Apparently, that increases recycling rates by 50%.

recycling dos and don'ts

from Allied Waste/Republic Services, applies to Radnor Township

You can take your own Waste Management recycling tour via this video. My initial impression when I saw this was that the process moves super fast, just like our exuberant Waste Management PR host for the tour, Patty Barthel. It’s hard to find people so excited about trash! If you go in person, you’ll get to wear those super sexy hard hat, safety glasses, earplugs, and safety vest, just like I did. (Sorry, I’m not giving up that picture!)

My big aha moment was that recycled materials are not just trash to avoid, they are an industry. An industry! It produces jobs. It generates millions of dollars in raw materials. It is highly automated. It is continually evolving. Oh, yeah, and it keeps our stuff out of landfills.

This state-of-the-art facility is only a year old, built in November 2010, but I’m wondering why we don’t have one of these in every neighborhood.  This relatively small facility was very impressive. It processes over 20,000 tons of material each month: glass, metal, plastics, and paper.  I don’t really know what 20,000 tons looks like, but I do know what a Boeing 757 looks like, and this facility processes the weight of two hundred sixty-one Boeing 737’s each month.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Recycling is mandated by the state, but controlled by counties or municipalities in Pennsylvania. It turns out there are lots of MRFs in our region, but they don’t all operate exactly the same. You need to dig a little to know what to put into-and keep out of-your bin. Go to your township’s homepage, and there’s probably a link for Trash & Recycling. It’s worth checking out, because there are plenty of things that go through the line that shouldn’t. Patty said she’s seen these kooky things, among others, on the recycling line:

Bowling balls do not belong in recycling.

  • bowling balls
  • mattresses
  • garden hoses
  • asphalt
  • car batteries

When I was there, I saw these non-recycles on the line:

  • Barbies
  • bath towels
  • window blinds
  • a basketball and baseball
  • a full plastic bag holding carefully shredded paper
  • tires
  • an umbrella

An umbrella???? Seriously?

The entire facility is a series of conveyor belts that look a lot like the rides at Sesame Place. Patty called it an amusement park for your water bottle.

At the end of the ride, everything is baled and sold as a resource for new materials. There are bales of rigid plastic, other plastics, paper, and metals. Less than 10% of what comes in leaves as trash.

Single Stream recycling is highly automated through disk screens, optical sorters, magnets, and air flows in addition to the facility workers, but it only works when dissimilar materials are separated from each other. If you buy something that has a cardboard liner inside a plastic wrap, remove the cardboard from the wrapper, otherwise the whole thing ends up in the landfill.

Speaking of plastic bags, they don’t belong in curbside recycling at all. Shopping bags, dry cleaning wraps, and trash bags can be dropped off at many local grocery stores. They literally gum up the works. Don’t use plastic bags for your recycles, or they end up caught in the gears and screeners, like this.

What can you recycle at this facility? Do you need to wash, sort, or separate into your bins? In part two of this post, I’ll spill the beans.

Um, you compost beans. They don’t recycle well.