living a greener life

Sesame Street’s Kermit the Frog used to sing, “It’s Not That Easy Bein’ Green.” Whereas he was singing about being a frog, when Earth Day (April 22) rolls around, that song always comes to mind. 

As a long-time professional organizer deeply concerned about climate change, there are many ways to be environmentally conscious. It can be as simple as recycling paper, cans and bottles to a bolder gesture like installing solar panels on your home. Any effort you make is a step in the right direction.

I encourage my clients to be green when decluttering their homes. For items that are no longer needed or wanted, but still usable and in good shape, below are some ways to avoid landfills:

My first suggestion is to use a charity that offers a pick-up service from your home such as Vietnam Veterans of America or The Green Drop. These charities accept most household items and clothing as long as it can be moved by one person. To donate larger household items such as furniture, contact Furniture Sharehouse or the Benefit Shop. What if you want to drop off your donations? Good Will and The Green Drop accept most smaller household items and clothing at their locations. Always check each charity’s website to view its accepted items list, as they change from time to time depending on supply and demand.*

There are smaller charitable organizations scattered throughout Westchester County that welcome drop-off donations and many are affiliated with houses of worship. You can also find charities that service a specific population. Midnight Run in Dobbs Ferry collects coats, clothing and blankets for the homeless and Humane Society of Westchesterin New Rochelle is always grateful to receive usable towels, sheets, and dog or cat food. If you have medical supplies (walkers, shower chairs, crutches, unopened over-the-counter drugs, personal care items, etc.), AFYA Foundation in Yonkers collects and sends these provisions all over the world to help communities in desperate need of medical supplies.

If you prefer, you can sell your unwanted items through consignment stores, tag sales, or listing them online. Online platforms such as NEXTDOOR, FACEBOOK GROUPS, FREECYCLE, CRAIG’S LIST, and BUY NOTHING GROUPS offer a place to post items to give away, sell, and to request. When a neighbor had her first grandchild visiting, she posted a list of items she needed on Nextdoor and local neighbors gave/loaned her a gate, high chair, and portable crib. My husband and I have given away several items through these platforms, including a working older dryer which we listed on Freecycle; a grateful family came to retrieve it. Last month, we posted a metal file cabinet on the local Facebook Buy Nothing Group, and the cabinet was picked up that same day!

One of the best kept secrets in Westchester County is the Household Material Recovery Facility in Valhalla. The H-MRF accepts household hazardous waste and other items worthy of special handling from county residents. This free service** takes old electronics, hazardous household chemicals, mercury thermometers, pesticides, tires, and propane tanks, to name just a few items! They also offer a free shredding service while you wait.

If you haven’t yet made an effort to live a greener life, here are a few simple organizing ideas to get you started: get a shopping bag for paper recycling and another one for shredding and keep them where you open your mail; find a box to hold hazardous household chemicals and medicines until they can be disposed of responsibly; keep an empty shopping bag in your closet or the laundry room to collect clothes ready to be donated. And, of course, bring reusable shopping bags to the grocery store.

By the end of his song, Kermit came to appreciate the value of “bein’ green.” I hope as your spring-cleaning urges take hold, I have offered some easy ways to be environmentally greener, too.

* COVID may have temporarily interfered with usual practices, so please check with the resources in this article before donating.
**Except Somers, North Salem, Lewisboro, Pound Ridge, Bedford, North Castle and New Castle, which all charge for the service.

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