Healthy Melrose Fair: May 2

Healthy Melrose Fair Logo 2015For the second consecutive year, Sustainable Melrose, a coalition of civic organizations that are working to make Melrose a more livable, environmentally sustainable, and healthy community, will be participating in the Healthy Melrose Fair, to be held on May 2 on the athletic field next to the Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School.

Several of the Sustainable Melrose groups will be organizing their presentations at the fair around a specific theme—the reduction of food waste. Estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency indicate that we may waste as much as 40% of the food we buy, whether it’s by purchasing too much, not using up food in time, or cooking too much and not eating the leftovers. Yet there are several ways to reduce food waste—by composting the food scrap generated in the kitchen, or by shopping smarter, or by planning meals that more effectively use up some food that would otherwise be tossed. Food packaging is also a big part of our kitchen waste, and there are ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle that material as well.

People attending the Healthy Melrose Fair will be able to learn more about composting and other ways to improve their food waste management from a number of the groups that are part of Sustainable Melrose. Members of these organizations will be able to provide a broad range of information that will take you from the grocery store to your kitchen and out into your yard.

Sally Frank’s Farmers’ Market will provide information on the soil cycle and instruction on how to make healthy soil. The group will also be giving away lettuce seedlings. Melrose Native will present a composting demonstration and will look beyond the compost bin to show what’s happening in your yard, identifying steps you can take to make it a healthier environment for your flowers and to provide habitat for native plants and birds.

Community Gardens will have demonstrations on composting and on how to make soup stock from kitchen scrap that might ordinarily be thrown away. The group will also be offering seed packets from its new seed library, presenting a poster showing what types of food scrap can be composted, and raffling a kitchen compost pail. At the Melrose Recycling Committee booth, visitors will be able to participate in a quiz focused on food waste and composting—and enter into a raffle to win a composting bin. The committee will also invite visitors to take a food waste challenge, to see if they can match or better the kitchen waste management practices of one of the committee members. And the Middle School’s Green Team will be displaying its hydroponic garden tower and presenting the results of recent efforts to reduce food waste at the Middle School cafeteria.

Other Sustainable Melrose organizations that will be hosting booths at the fair will be the following: The Unitarian Universalist Church’s Green Sanctuary Committee, which will be showing short films, such as “The Story of Stuff”; Friends of the Fells Middlesex Fells Reservation, which will be sponsoring a “letterbox” activity modeled on the program it offers in the Middlesex Fells Reservation; the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee; the Melrose Conservation Commission; and the Melrose Energy Commission.

Once again this year, the Healthy Melrose Fair will be a zero waste and net zero energy event. Mass Energy Consumers Alliance will green the fair by matching the electricity usage with 100% clean, local wind power. To learn more about Mass Energy’s 100% federally tax-deductible Green Power Programs and how they support the development of more clean energy projects in Massachusetts, please visit the Melrose Energy Commission booth.

Sustainable Melrose was formed in 2013 when several civic organizations saw an opportunity to share their special areas of knowledge, skills, and interests. By working together under the Sustainable Melrose umbrella, these organizations are striving to raise awareness of and support for our shared community responsibilities in environmental stewardship, social wellbeing, and economic prosperity over the long term. All of the Sustainable Melrose groups at the fair will be able to discuss their ongoing initiatives and will welcome any volunteers who would like to contribute. Come to the Healthy Melrose Fair on May 2 and learn how you can help to make Melrose a healthier, more livable, and prosperous place to be.


Environmental Justice Film Series Begins Apr. 25

The Melrose UU Church Green Sanctuary Committee and Sustainable Melrose have organized a spring Environmental Justice Film Series. All films are free and open to the public.

The first film in the series is Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds which illuminates what is at stake and what can be done to protect the source of nearly all our food: SEEDS. It will be held on Saturday April 25 from 2:00-5:00 pm at the Melrose Public Library. Seating is limited.

Following the film there will be a special presentation by Gosia Lozinska of the Melrose Community Garden Group, and tour of the new Seed Library. Learn more about how to plant, grow and harvest from seeds.

Seeds are of the world’s most precious resources is at risk. Seeds provide the basis for everything from fabric, to food to fuels. Seeds are as essential to life as the air we breathe or water we drink…but given far less attention. Approximately 90% of the fruit and vegetable varieties that existed 100 years ago no longer exist today. Seeds that were lovingly nurtured over decades have been lost forever. Maintaining seed biodiversity allows us to breed new varieties that are resistant to pests or thrive in temperature extremes.

Save the dates for the other films in the series!

  • Saturday, May 2 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The Story of Stuff at the Healthy Melrose Fair at the Melrose Athletic Complex
  • Saturday, May 16 7-9 p.m. Oil and Water at Melrose UU Church
  • Saturday, June 20 6-9 p.m. Truck Farm at Melrose Public Library

Film Series Poster

Take George’s Waste Reduction Challenge!  

This past winter, George Stubbs, a member of the Melrose Recycling Committee, decided he would like to get a better idea of how much waste his household was generating on a weekly basis, so he started taking measurements of that waste. As he saw it, the data he generated would provide a set of benchmarks that could direct his household’s future efforts to reduce that waste, as well as provide other committee members—and residents of Melrose—with targets and goals that they can use when taking on their own waste reduction efforts.

George took particular aim at food waste, which our society is rapidly recognizing as a major component of our overall household waste—a component that is not recycled at the rates we currently recycle cans, bottles, plastic, paper, and cardboard (for more information on food waste, see this blog post: Reducing food waste: Lots you can do in the kitchen). George and his wife Sally were especially eager to find out what types and volumes of waste they were producing in the kitchen, both food and food packaging, so that they could take the next steps towards shopping smarter at the grocery store and better using or repurposing the food that they were buying.

The result is “George’s Waste Reduction Challenge”—a series of metrics that Melrose residents can use to guide their own efforts at reducing waste. The Melrose Recycling Committee invites city residents to take up the challenge in their own households, and it’s offering recognition on this website for those who can beat George and Sally’s numbers!

Over a period of ten weeks, on a weekly basis, George measured, by weight, the amount of food waste the household was composting, the amount of non-compostable organic waste that he and Sally were generating, and the amount of overall kitchen waste generated, including food packaging that consisted of non-recyclable items. Just for the fun of it, George also added in the rest of the household waste (from the bathrooms, bedrooms, etc.) to see what they were putting out on the curb for trash pickup each week—and made an interesting discovery.

Now, George and Sally already recycle quite a bit of material. They usually fill up a single recycling bin each week with plastic items, bottles, and cans, and top that off with a shopping bag (paper, of course!) full of newspapers and magazines (and they’re as happy as the rest of us that recyclables are now picked up once a week!). They also fill a couple of tubs with junk mail, paperboard (e.g., cereal boxes), and cardboard, and bring the tubs down to the DPW yard whenever they fill up. (That’s just how they do it. A lot of those materials can be placed on the curb with the other recyclables.)

So what did George and Sally find? Here are the weekly numbers that George compiled:

  • Composted materials: about 4 lbs. per week, or 1.2 lbs. per person.
  • Non-compostable food waste (bone, fat, etc.): a little over 1 lb. per week, or .5 lbs. per person.
  • Total kitchen waste (non-compostable food + non-recycled packaging, etc.): about 8 lbs. per week, or 2.4 lbs. per person.
  • Total household waste put out on curb (kitchen + rest of house): about 3 lbs. per week, or 3.15 lbs. per person.

compost pailAs George and Sally discovered, kitchen-related waste accounted for the lion’s share of the total household waste put in a garbage bag and set out on the curb each week. In fact, the numbers above don’t tell the full story. One week, George included two cans of dried latex paint, about one-third full each, into the garbage, which put the total amount of waste set out on the curb that week at about 12 lbs. For at least three weeks, the amount of total household waste set out was as low as 4.2 lbs.! It was obvious that, if the Stubbs household is going to reduce its waste, the kitchen is where George and Sally will be focusing their efforts.

So, now its your turn! To take the challenge, use this The Waste Reduction Challenge Form and e-mail the results along with a picture of you and your family to You will be recognized on our website and be entered into a raffle. To compare your results to George’s, click here to view his spreadsheet.

Keep in mind that George and Sally are “empty-nesters.” You might find that, if your household has children, it’s harder to match or exceed the per-person numbers they came up with. Children do, after all, eat a lot, and buying food for a household of, say, four people, expands the variety of items on your shelves and in your refrigerator, which also expands the volume of packaging you might be throwing away. But don’t be discouraged. Get your children involved. We bet they’ll come up with interesting ideas for reducing waste—and of course, a little friendly competition can be a real motivator!

To learn more about George’s Waste Reduction Challenge, visit the Melrose Recycling Committee’s booth at the Healthy Melrose Fair on May 2 at the Melrose Athletic Complex next to the Melrose Veteran’s Memorial Middle School. George challenge 2