Articles from January 2015

No one likes a pill

IMG_20150127_202730237And that goes double when it comes to your pants! I recently experienced the pain and anguish of realizing that both my beloved pair of purple Nanette Lepore pants and my red BCBG pants were getting unattractively pilly. While I contemplated a sad future of black and brown trousers, I remembered my friend Kim had given me a fabric shaver a few years back. It saved the day on both counts!

Just a reminder that oftentimes your precious items may have a little life left in them when the proper tools are applied.

Goodwill’s E-Waste Dropoff Service

Goodwill_ewasteGoodwill has gotten some pretty bad press lately for things like paying its disabled employees far below minimum wage, a legal practice as per section 14C of the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of their status as an e-waste dropoff location. They accept computers, phones, and small appliances as well as printer and ink cartridges, empty or full. Here’s the complete list of items they accept. If your items have value, they’ll refurbish and resell the items. Check for a location near you.

While I strongly advise you to erase your hard drives before donating, Goodwill does clean all data as per Department of Defense standards, and all their technicians go through background checks, presumably so they’re less likely to get into any privacy-violating monkey business. Officially, though, they will not accept liability for your data.

I  dropped off my Evo Shift phone and some printer cartridges earlier in the week, and today, after a conversation with a Goodwill employee, returned with my busted toaster, electric toothbrush, and old sink hardware. At least at my location, in Santa Monica, California, they are pretty loose about what they’ll take, since they ship everything to their corporate location to deal with.

You can do some shopping while you’re there!


Going Solar…with Todd Kreisman

10422233_10153002354944557_5642750807133000150_nMy friend Todd Kreisman and his wife recently added solar panels to their Southern California home, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the process.

1. What made you decide to go solar?

We were approached by Zero Energy, who had representatives going door-to-door in our neighborhood and who told us we were qualified for subsidies through Energy Upgrade California.** In the last few months, we’ve had insulation put in our attic and walls, gotten weather stripping, more energy efficient shower head and other devices replaced, etc.

2. Do you own your panels or did you lease them? What are the terms?

The deal was $0 down and then we make a monthly payment so that eventually we’ll own them. The tricky thing is that it’s built into the cost of everything else they did, so I’m trying to figure out how much it was for just the panels… I think it was in the $5k range all together.

3. What were your average monthly summer and winter electrical bills when you were using conventional energy sources? How much of that cost do you anticipate being able to cover with the new panels?

DWP bills were getting pretty insane – in the $300-500 range per two month billing period. Hoping/expecting we can get that down to around $100-150.

4. Are you able to sell your extra energy back to your local provider?

Never heard anything about that mentioned, so assuming no.

5. Were there any surprises about the process that you didn’t anticipate?

Yes. We have a metal roof, and they couldn’t install the panels on top of them. Fortunately for us, the guy who came out originally goofed and said they could do it, so when it came time to install them, I ended up being put in contact with the (I think) CEO of Zero Energy who said it was their bad, and they were going to pay to have another company come out and re-tile that portion of the roof so that the panels could be installed. There were also some major delays in getting the work done (we initially signed up for these in September and they were finally installed this month.)

**Note that it appears that subsidies for solar panels appear to be exhausted. Will look into this further, but I know the state periodically funds these upgrades, companies like Zero Energy aggressively market to homeowners until the subsidies are gone, and then you typically have to wait for the next round.

Thanks, Todd! Would love to get an update in six months or so to see how your new bills compare.


If you live in one of four counties in northern California (Sonoma, Alameda, San Francisco, or Marin) and would find it useful to know about local food surpluses that may be available for you for free, I highly recommend CropMobster. This is a great service for food banks who distribute to the hungry public, provided you can handle the sudden influx of 200 pounds of ripe tomatoes! Sign up for alerts on social media to keep updated!

The same goes, obviously, if you might have half a ton of cucumbers of 100 chickens to give away.

They also list farm jobs, potential barter opportunities, and thematically-related events!

Non-profit wish lists

Seals_001My boyfriend and I visited the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, California, this weekend, where sick and injured seals and sea lions are treated and re-released into the ocean. In times of great stress, they’ve cared for 500 animals at a time — and that means they go through a lot of supplies. If you happen to have a significant amount of Karo (light corn) syrup, distilled water, duct tape, vitamins (C, B-1, and E), or kitchen supplies, like paper towels, laundry detergent, trash bags, and latex gloves, they would be glad to take them off your hands. They have an extensive wish list.

If you don’t have anything immediately on hand and you want to help them, you can donate through their Amazon wish list or send them cash. Money is always a better alternative than buying new supplies because it allows them to buy in bulk (and possibly at a discount) and gives them flexibility to address their most pressing supply needs.

Note that, like most small non-profits, the MMCC can always use office supply gift cards, toilet paper, coffee, and other standard office items. Check out your favorite non-profit’s wish list to see how you can help them out!

Unwanted Baby Stuff

Outfitting babies with everything they need can be dauntingly expensive for low-income parents. Luckily for those on the east coast, Room to Grow collects and distributes clothing, strollers, blankets, swings — and pretty much everything else a growing baby needs.

used-jogging-stroller-baby-trend-expedition-21560925Breast pumps, bottles, and a few other items are only accepted in new condition. And some things — diapers, formula and stuffed animals — are turned away for hygienic reasons.

There are dropoff locations in both New York (on West 21st Street) and Boston (corner of Berkeley Street and Columbus Avenue). So if your baby isn’t a baby anymore, pass on their stuff to a baby who can use it!