Easy Energy Efficiency

Easy Energy Efficiency

A super-easy way to decrease your electricity bill is to switch all your incandescent lights to CFLs. Change 10 or more frequently used lights and chances are you will see an immediate impact on your bill.

Steps you can take to seriously reduce your energy use.

Many families could achieve the first 1,000 kwh/year of savings by washing clothes in cold water (770 kwh/yr); placing several major electronics, such as video and stereo systems, on a surge protector that can be switched off (47kwh/year); and brushing of their refrigerator’s condenser coils twice a year (392 kwh/year). Many families could get another 1,000 kwh/year reduction by replacing half of their incandescent lighting with compact fluorescents (440kwh/year), letting the dishes in the dishwasher air dry (404kwh/year), and enabling the “sleep” function on their computer and printer to go on after five minutes of non-use (259kwh/year).

Level 1:

Simple Things You Can Do Today

Take these actions and save up to 33 percent of your energy use!

Turn Off Lights You’re Not Using

Take the step: Make a pact with your family to be extra mindful about shutting off lights when they leave a room. A good rule of thumb is that there should be a maximum of one light on in your household per person at any given time. You can even put little reminders around your switchplates–For a switchplate reminder, download here from Co-op America. Or, install motion sensors (about $20 each) that turn the lights off after a room has remained empty for a certain amount of time.

Why: lluminating rooms that aren’t in use is a huge waste.

Schedule an Energy Audit

Take the step: Get an energy audit performed on your home.

Why: Get expert advice to help you identify ways you can use less electricity and plug energy leaks in your home. You’ll get the most cost-effective and useful steps that will help you reduce your energy use, lower your home’s global warming footprint, and lower your energy bills, too. Your local utility will probably provide an energy audit for free, but you may get a more comprehensive audit—allowing you to save even more money in the long run—by paying for a whole-house energy audit.

The big picture: Taking all of the most cost-effective strategies for energy efficiency can cut your energy use in half, save you 50 percent or more off your energy bills, and halve your household global warming emissions, too.

Let Your Dishwasher Breathe

Take the step: Skip the energy-intensive drying cycle on your dishwasher and choose the “air-dry” option, or open the door overnight for some zero-energy dish-drying action.

Why: The drying cycle uses up a lot of energy and money, while just letting dishes air-dry will accomplish the task for free.

Shift Your Load to Off-Peak Times

Electricity demand goes down at night and begins rising in the morning, peaking at mid-day before falling back down at nightfall again. Because power sources have to produce the electricity around the time of its use, without any capacity for long-term storage, it is our peak demand that determines the expansion of dirty coal-fired power plants and other polluting forms of energy generation. Someday, utilities may use smart meters to help us even things out, but until then, you can do your own private “load shifting” by trying, whenever possible, to wash laundry or run the dishwasher at nighttime and as far possible from mid-day. “Delay” settings on appliances sometimes make this easy to do—many dishwashers, for example, can be set after dinner to go on in four hours and wash the dishes while you sleep.

Bonus: Your utility company may shift to time-of-day metering in the future, so you’ll actually pay less when you use electricity at night.

Don’t Heat or Cool Empty Rooms

Take the step: If there is a room in your home that is largely unused, close the vents to save on heating and cooling costs. Always turn off room air conditioners as you leave a room. When you go on vacation, set the thermostat at least ten full degrees below (in winter) and above (in summer) where it’d be if you were home; no need to heat or cool a house when no one is home.

Why: Heating and cooling rooms no one is in wastes energy (and money!) and generate needless emissions.

Turn Off Your Electronics

Take the step: If you’re going to be away from your computer or other appliance for more than an hour, turn it off as you leave the room.

Why: Some people mistakenly think it takes a giant burst of energy to power up a television, computer, or game console, and so they leave these electronics on continuously. However, even on an “energy-saver” setting, a computer, game console, or television wastes much more energy when it’s on all day than if you really turn it off.

Eliminate “Phantom Load”

Take the step: Many electronics use electricity even when they’re turned off—so your best bet is to unplug electronic devices and appliances when they’re not in use. Or, plug your TV and accessories into one power strip and switch off the whole strip to eliminate this “phantom load.”

Why: At least five percent of the average household’s monthly utility bill goes towards powering devices that are turned off. TVs, DVD players, computers, printers, and cell phone chargers are just some of the devices that leak power even when they aren’t on—in fact, a quarter of the energy used by your TV each year is consumed when the TV is off.

Eliminate Your Second Fridge, and Show the First One a Little Love

Take the step: If you’re paying to power a second refrigerator or freezer in your basement, try to make do with one fridge in the kitchen and unplug the extra one.
You can help your first fridge function more efficiently by placing jugs of water in any empty space inside (water retains cold better than air does), and by taking some time once every six months to pull the fridge away from the wall and scrub down the grime that accumulates on the coils. (One of our editors found that her fridge was so much more efficient post-scrub that she could set the thermostat higher for the same chill!)

Why: The refrigerator is often the biggest energy-using appliance in a home. A typical refrigerator uses more than 1,300 kWh a year and costs the average American household $120 a year in electricity.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water

Take the step: Turn the knob on your washing machine to “cold/cold” today, and leave it there. If you use a laundromat, post this flyer from the Center for a New
American Dream
 to spread the word about washing in cold.

Why: With modern washing machines and detergents, washing your clothes in cold water gets them just as clean as washing in hot water, but it uses half the energy. In situations where you
do need hot water—for example, to kill dust mites in bedding— choose cold water for the rinse cycle.

Give the Dryer a Rest

Take the step: Consider skipping the dryer and hanging your clothes to dry on a rack or a clothesline. (For support in line-drying your clothes and to help fight anti-clothesline ordinances in your neighborhood, join Project Laundry List.) You can avoid wrinkles by using your dryer for five minutes, then hanging clothes on the line. Please note that if you have pollen allergies, you’ll want to skip the outdoor clothesline and use an indoor drying rack instead.

Why: It takes a huge commitment of energy to run a dryer— all to do something that the air, given a little more time, will do for free. Many households spend more than $100 a year on the energy used by their dryer.

Level 2:

A Little More Time, A Lot More Savings

Take these actions and save up to 56 percent of your energy use!

Replace Your Light Bulbs

Take the step: Replace the incandescent light bulbs in your house, even if they haven’t yet burned out, with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

Why: You’ve been hearing about the wonders of CFLs for years now—they last ten times longer and use one-fourth as much energy as incandescent bulbs—but you might still have some old incandescent bulbs around your house. Incandescent bulbs are inefficient because they give off 90 percent of their energy in heat—while CFLs give off little heat. Don’t let the higher price of a CFL stop you—because CFLs use so little energy and last so much longer, a CFL bulb will save you $30 or more over its lifetime.

Please note that CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury. However, CFLs still result in fewer mercury emissions than incandescents. The average coal-fired plant spews about 13.6 mg of mercury to power an incandescent bulb, while it only emits 3.3 mg to power a CFL. Add that to the 5 mg of mercury the average CFL contains, and you still come out ahead. Be sure to dispose of CFLs properly: call your local solid waste authority for local options, or take them to your local hardware store (some may charge a small fee). CFLs must be recycled properly, please DO NOT place it in the trash.

Light-emitting diode, or LED, lights are also becoming more widely available for uses around the home. A mercury-free LED light lasts about 50 times longer than an incandescent bulb. You can now find LED reading lamps and LED Christmas lights. A strand of LED Christmas lights uses 90 percent less energy than incandescents.

The big picture: If each home in America replaced one bulb with an Energy Star CFL, it would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 800,000 cars.

Resources: The Energy Star program’s page on CFLs includes information about clean-up and disposal of broken CFLs, as well as energy-saving calculators and purchasing tips.

Plug Your Air Leaks

Take the step: Plug the energy leaks in your home. Call your utility for a free energy audit, or call an energy auditor in your area—they will be able to find the air leaks in your home and assess how you can fix them. A local contractor can help you plug those energy holes, or you can seal leaks around windows and doors yourself with weatherstripping or caulk available at your local hardware store.

Why: Investing in energy-efficient heating and cooling systems will only take you so far if your home is leaking out the cool or warm air you’re putting in it. The EPA estimates that properly sealing and insulating the “shell” of your home—its outer walls, ceiling, windows, and doors—is often the most cost-effective way to improve energy efficiency in your home. By properly sealing and insulating your home, you can save anywhere from 5 to 50 percent of your energy bill each year. Only 20 percent of homes built before 1980 are well-insulated, so if you own an older home, you should assess if you need more insulation.

The big picture: If one-fourth of US households weather-stripped and caulked their doors and windows, it would save enough energy in heating and cooling costs to prevent 8 million tons of CO2 from being emitted.

Resources: The Energy Star program’s Do-it-Yourself Guide to sealing and insulating your home includes step-by-step information on how to find and plug air leaks. Find nontoxic insulation made from recycled cotton; ask your local hardware store, or look in the “Building—Supplies/Kits” category of our National Green Pages™.

Reduce Your Water Use

Take the step: Reduce the water you’re using. Simple ways to save water include fixing any leaks around your house and replacing faucets and showerheads with low-flow alternatives.

Why: According to the EPA, American public water supply and treatment facilities consume enough electricity each year to power more than 5 million homes. So think of turning off your faucet when you don’t need it as you do turning out the lights when you leave a room. In fact, the energy used to transport and treat the water that runs out of your tap for five minutes would power a 60-watt light bulb for 14 hours. Additionally, water shortages are becoming a harsh reality for many communities—a recent government survey found that at least 36 states are anticipating water shortages by 2013.

The big picture: If just one out of every 100 American homes changes to water-efficient fixtures, we would avoid adding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere, says the EPA.

Resources: The EPA’s WaterSense program has information about installing low-flow water fixtures, low-water-use landscaping, and more.

Cut Waste Through Windows

Take the step: Plug window leaks: Make sure that the edges of your windows are properly sealed. Fill any gaps with caulk (find no-VOC caulk from AFM Safecoat) to stop air leaks.

Cover up in winter: By covering windows with heavy curtains or drapes, you can greatly cut down the heat loss. You can also purchase storm-window kits from your local hardware store. These kits come with plastic film and a special tape and will cost you about $3–$8 per window. Reflective “Low-E” films are also available, which reduce the amount of heat that escapes through windows while still letting light through.

Check out: How Does An Led Light Bulb Work

Curbside Composting in Minneapolis -it’s so easy!

Curbside Composting in Minneapolis -it's so easy!

The City of Minneapolis has approved a curbside collection of compostable items for all of the city! All of Linden Hills can sign up now by contacting Solid Waste & Recycling at [email protected].

Residents of single-family, duplexes, and fourplexes are now able to recycle their organics through the curbside collection program. You don’t need a backyard composter, all you need to have is a willingness to try something new. 32% of Minneapolis households are now participating. It’s so easy! The city drops off a wheeled green cart, you simply keep your organic material -food scraps and soiled paper – separate from your plastic and recycling and simply wheel that material to the curb on your regular garbage pick-up day. If you can take out the trash you can curbside compost! For ideas on how to set up your kitchen for composting, click here. For ideas for setting up your other recycling, click here.

Click on the video on the right to see why composting is so easy. Or view Hennepin County’s video about recycling organics in every room of your home. 

Sign up for curbside composting by clicking here.  To receive updates and tips from LHP&L, sign up for our mailing list (join here).

Click here to read about our favorite composter in Milwaukee.

Click here for info on Fruit flies and gnats.

Restaurants that Compost: Support those who support the earth!

Love what we’re doing? We could use your support (via financial donation or committee help). Click here for more information.



How does it work?
Once you sign up to participate in the pilot (see above), the city will deliver a 65-gallon green “organics” cart to your home. It looks very similar to the normal black-wheeled bin that you bring out to the curb before your garbage collector arrives. From then on, you will wheel both bins out to the curb on your regular collection day and the city will take your compostables (green cart), and your non-compostable garbage (black cart). Feel free to call the city and request they replace your large 94-gallon black cart with a smaller version (and save $3 per month) if space is an issue. You’ll probably find that there’s very little to put in your black cart anyway. Many people find they only need to put their black cart out every 2 weeks -one less chore on garbage night!

What IS compostable?

View the complete list of what is and isn’t compostable.

Food scraps, including fruit and vegetable peelings, meat, leftovers, etc. Paper products that you’re not currently recycling -(continue to recycle newspaper, office paper, cardboard, corrugated card in your usual manner) that is, tissues, paper towels, egg cartons, pop boxes, a paper that’s touched food e.g. paper plates, pizza boxes; waxed containers such as milk cartons, and packaging from fridge and freezer products. By participating in the composting program, you’ll find there should be no paper in your trash at all. Other items that are biodegradable include coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, lint from your dryer, vacuum bags, old potted plants, and unusable old (non-synthetic) clothes. Note, that yard waste will not be collected with the organics at this time. You can find a comprehensive, A-Z list of what is and isn’t compostable here. 

What is NOT compostable?
There should be very little in your regular black trash cart apart from plastics (plastic wrap, plastic packaging, nonrecyclable plastic bags) and broken glass, ceramics, rubber, leather, non-recyclable metal (this includes foil-lined items like candy bar wrappers and chip packets), diapers and pet feces.  Keep yard waste out as usual. Minneapolis recycles all plastics 1-7, plus waxed cardboard-like milk and OJ cartons, plus aseptic packagings like juice boxes and foil-lined soup boxes.

My kitchen is so tiny. How should I set up my home for composting?
Click here for several different ways to set up your trash system -1,400 people can’t be wrong – they thought it would be tricky and then discovered the truth – it’s SO EASY!!!

What are the benefits of composting?
Click here.

How can I get some compost back for my garden?
Just as aluminum can recyclers and plastic bottle recyclers don’t give us free cans of pop or bottles of water, the companies that create compost are looking to make a living and create a valued resource, not give away their product for free. We will have some free compost to give away at the Linden Hills Festival, but if you want more than a pail full, you can order bulk compost here.


The videos from Hennepin County below explain the three options for recycling organics – organics composting, food-to-people, and food-to-animals.

Videos in English

For a full listing A through Z, of what is and isn’t compostable, please click here.


  • Line a mini kitchen bin or paper bags with shredded paper used paper towels, napkins, used paper plates, or a sheet of newspaper to help absorb liquid or moisture that escapes from wet food scraps.
  • Wrap food scraps like meat, fish, poultry, cooking grease, sauces, soups, etc., in used paper products like used paper towels before placing them in the mini kitchen bin.
  • During warm months, you can freeze food scraps like shellfish or fish until collection day.
  • Clean out your fridge, freezer, or cupboards of expired food products just before your collection day instead of after your collection day.
  • Keep your green cart outside in a shady, convenient, well-ventilated area.
  • During the winter, move the green cart closer to your house to allow for easier access.
  • Keep air vents located at the bottom of the green cart clear to allow for air circulation.
  • During warm months, place your green cart curbside each week on your scheduled collection day even if your cart is not full.
  • Rub the inside of your green cart lid with vinegar and/or sprinkle a small amount of rock salt, baking soda or lime inside your cart to control fruit flies and prevent pests.

All my neighbors have carts but I didn’t sign up right away. Is it too late to sign up?
No, you can still sign up, just email us using the signup link in red above.

What about yard waste?
At this point, yard waste will NOT be collected. Yes, this IS different than what we’d originally heard, but at this stage, please continue your regular yard waste routine. We hope that yard waste will be allowed at a later date.

Where is our organics material being taken? Will it be burned?
The organics will be taken to a commercial composting facility to be turned into compost. It will NOT be burned. The trash from your black cart will continue to go to the HERC incinerator and be burned, as is done currently with all our garbage. The material in the green cart is diverted from this regular process, which is much better for the environment. The organics will be taken here to be turned into compost.

Has this been done before?
Hennepin County has sponsored pilot organics collections in Minnetonka, Wayzata, and Orono. It has also been city-wide and ongoing in Hutchinson MN. In fact, until the 1950s, organics were collected throughout Minneapolis-St Paul. Linden Hills will be the first Minneapolis neighborhood to re-start collecting.

Do I have to buy compostable “bio bags” instead of regular garbage bags? Where can I buy biodegradable bags?
No, you don’t have to use bio bags. Plastic bags, including regular trash bags, are NOT accepted. However, you can wrap your compostables in several sheets of newspaper and then throw them in paper bags if you prefer. Or you can use a milk container or ice cream container and stuff those with food scraps and toss them in a paper bag or directly in the cart if they’re sealed well and won’t spill. You could also line your cart with a giant paper bag (lawn and yard size) from a hardware store which is about 30 cents per bag and then seal it up each week before garbage day. See “implementation” below or kitchen setup ideas for more ideas.

If you are going to switch to compostable bags, which makes things very clean and easy, they can be purchased at Clancey’s Meat Market, Linden Hills Co-op, Settergren’s Hardware (all at 43rd and Upton), and Lunds at 50th/France; as well as Target Edina, St Louis Park, and Nicollet Mall.

I have cut back on plastic and paper grocery bags by using canvas bags.  But I find my husband grabbing piles of clean paper bags to sort the recycling every week.  Now it sounds like I may also need to use some paper bags for composting because those larger biodegradable bags are pretty expensive. I have ended our newspaper subscriptions because my husband is the only avid newspaper reader and he reads the paper online.  So in an effort to save trees, I convinced him to stop the subscriptions.  So I don’t “naturally” have much paper in my home to wrap composting in. Any ideas? Karen

Good points. I think it’s going to take us all some time to figure out the system that works best for us. I’m not sure if you get much junk mail and you could use that -eg Rainbow, Jerry’s, and Cub flyers, or if you shred your bills and could use shredded paper in the bottom of a cardboard box, or maybe use waxed milk containers or ice cream containers? Otherwise, you could put one of the 33-gallon sizes in your wheeled cart and have a countertop option in the kitchen that you empty in the cart each day; or use the 13-gallon size in your kitchen and see if you can just use one a week rather than several per week – by only putting the food scraps and small paper products like paper towels/tissues/cotton swabs, etc in there. Place fridge and freezer packaging, pizza boxes, etc directly in the cart.  I’m sure you’re not the only one experiencing this, so I think it will be really helpful for others if you can share what you find works for you. Please keep us posted!

I was planning on using paper bags but then read that the collection company required the bags to be sealed.  The bio bags are so expensive that I’d much rather use the paper bags (although I’m not sure how I’m supposed to seal them). Kendra

I wrap my items in newsprint and then put them in paper bags. You can “seal” the paper bags by just rolling the top over (you have to leave the room) or with masking tape/painter’s tape (these are paper-based tape, not plastic tape, so they can be composted).

Can I use the Star Tribune “Oxy Degradable bags”? Erick, Elliott

The bags used by the Star Tribune do not meet the ASTM D6400 standard for compostability and are not BPI certified.  Therefore, they are not accepted by our local organics composting sites.

The plastic used in the Star Tribune bags is called oxo-degradable; some call them oxo-biodegradable.  Basically, the plastic is conventional polyethylene with an additive that causes the plastic to break into smaller pieces over time.  The more additive that is used, the quicker the breakdown occurs. As you will see in the press release below from the manufacturer of the bags, they do not describe their bag as biodegradable or compostable.  In fact, the press release states that these bags can be recycled with other plastic bags “because they are conventional plastic with an additive.”


John James
Hennepin County Dept. of Environmental Services

Do I HAVE to use Biodegradable bags?  Matt
They are certain things that you can throw directly in the cart -e.g. pizza boxes, fridge and freezer cardboard, paper towels – anything that is not going to rot or is likely to stick to the edges of the cart. Any wet food waste should be contained in some way -in addition to bio bags you can use paper grocery sacks, or sometimes we open milk cartons and use those, or use waxed ice cream containers. You can also wrap wet food scraps in the newspaper. The idea is to stop the food waste from sticking to the sides of your cart, which makes it difficult for the garbage person to get your cart emptied, and results in odor issues for you. Hope this helps!


How should I prepare my kitchen for the organics collection?
The organics cart from the city can be kept outdoors, wherever you keep your regular black trash cart. You may want to consider switching to a smaller black cart after a few weeks of the pilot if you find yourself having very little non-recyclable waste. (You will save $2 per month). As far as in the kitchen, there are a number of options.

1. Convert your usual kitchen trash can to biodegradable only (using a compostable bag, or paper bag, not regular trash bags. If you use paper bags, wrap the wet organics in three sheets of newspaper before tossing it in the paper bag so it doesn’t fall apart when you lift it!), and place all the plastic/nonrecyclable metal, etc elsewhere in a smaller receptacle;

2. Consider a pull-out “trash drawer” for trash with multiple compartments so you can have the organics in one compartment, recyclable paper in another, and non-recyclables in the third to fit your needs. Make sure the organics compartment has a biodegradable liner or paper bag liner as all material that goes in the green cart needs to be bagged in some way (this excludes paper products such as pizza boxes, and other food soiled-cardboard which can be placed in the cart without sticking to the sides.

3. If you don’t have a lot of food waste you might consider a countertop compost container, however, these won’t fit fridge and freezer packaging and will need to be emptied more frequently.

In all cases, just be sure to wrap your food scraps in newspaper or place them in a compostable bag, so they don’t stick or freeze to the sides of the outdoor cart. See some options below courtesy of the website www.thisoldhouse.com. This type of sectioned drawer can be found at places like the Container Store; Storganize, Home Depot, etc.

For real-world examples of how people are implementing their systems, click here. (Please forward us your ideas by clicking here.)

Q. How can I become better informed?
A. Talk to your Compost Captain (most blocks have one or more) or attend an upcoming meeting. Sign up with the “join our mailing list” button on the home page and pick “General Interest” as your group.

Q. Currently Minneapolis tacitly encourages residents to throw out everything by only offering a $2 discount if a resident switches from the large garbage cart to the small one. Meanwhile, the solid waste base fee is about $25 for everyone. A better incentive would be to lower the solid waste base fee to say $15, charge $15 for the large garbage cart, and only $5 for the small cart. The green organics bin would be free. This scheme would encourage residents to use the green organics bin and the small cart. Can LHP&L help convince the city to do this? Jon.
A. A great idea – we can certainly forward it to the city for their consideration. I think they’ll be more interested in looking at it once they have some data from the pilot. Thanks for being so thoughtful about the program.


Q. The Star Tribune bags say they’re biodegradable. That means we can compost them, right? Elliot.
A. Unfortunately not. The producer is taking advantage of a loophole in legislative language. The bags biodegrade into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, they never break down completely in an organic way. So we can’t use them in the compost pilot. 

Q. I read on the Organics Collection page that waxed milk cartons can be composted. Does this include those “Tetra-Paks” that appear to be of the same material and usually hold soy or rice milk, kid’s juices, etc? What about the plastic cap or top to some of these, not a problem? Thanks. Jon.
A. Unfortunately, juice boxes, soy milk, chai tea, etc – all the tetra packs are foil-lined so we can’t compost them. However, milk cartons, cream, OJ, and other non-foil-lined wax cartons are fine. If you get the milk or orange juice cartons with the plastic caps, ideally remove them if possible.

Q. I have been thinking about the new system and have some questions about what is compostable—Tubes of toothpaste?Make-up?Foam containers from meat?Foam containers from eggs?Bones?Drug containers – plastic not currently recyclable?Synthetic clothes? Fleece products?Aerosol cans? I wonder if you put up a simple list on the website and just add to it as questions come up.   With the following categories:  Compostable, Noncompostable, Currently noncompostable???? Heartsher

I think the simple answer is when in doubt keep it out and if it’s plastic, never ever put it in. So toothpaste is compostable, but the tube is not. Make-up would be, but the plastic container it’s in is not. Styrofoam for meat, eggs, coffee, etc is not. Plastic drug containers, synthetics, and fleece (made from plastic bottles) are plastic and therefore not compostable -cotton clothing and wool or cotton socks would be. Cans (metal) are not compostable. There is a section on the website already (here) that lists specifics on what is (anything that came from a plant except rubber or animal other than leather) and what isn’t (metal, plastic, ceramic, rubber, leather) but I will add your questions to the FAQ section as I think it’s a big learning experience for all of us. There are lots of things like dryer lint, pet hair, sawdust, etc that are compostable that you wouldn’t immediately think of, so I’ll add those, too.

Q. Hello! Can pet HAIR be composted? Ours shed a lot, so all of that hair now is going into the garbage can. Thanks and I hope the program is a fantastic success so that it can be expanded to the Fulton neighborhood! Nancy
A. Yes, pet hair is accepted, so groom away!

Q. What is a box board? Should it be composted or recycled? Joanne
A. Boxboard is the sort of cardboard that pasta or toothpaste or pancake mix comes in -so it’s food packaging that goes in the cupboard/pantry as opposed to the cardboard that goes in the fridge and freezer. Boxboard should be flattened and then recycled. Fridge and freezer packaging (plus pop boxes, or 6 pack carriers) have a chemical strengthener added so they stay together when wet. The chemical means they can’t be recycled but they CAN be composted, so put them in your organics cart. They can go in unbagged if you like, as they won’t stick to the sides.

Q. Full vacuum bags are OK.  Does that include the HEPA cloth bags?  How about loose sweepings from a carpet sweeper?Joanne.
A. Carpet sweepings are fine, plus dustpan and brush gunk and the icky stuff from the bottom of the sink. Are the HEPA cloth bags reusable? The contents would be fine. If they are made from cotton they’d be fine, if it’s synthetic, don’t put them in. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself “is this something a worm or bug would eat? So anything natural that decomposes, yes, anything plastic or synthetic, no.

Q. Can cardboard ice cream containers be composted? Thank you. Carolyn
A. Yes! Any waxy cardboard like that or any cardboard from the fridge or freezer can be composted.

Q. What about the plastic pour spout on my milk and orange juice cartons? Must I cut these out before I put them in the organics collection cart?  Also, how do I tie the compostable bag. Shall I use something other than a wire tie or rubber band to secure the bag? Are the soy, almond milk paper box containers recyclable? Wendy.

Hi Wendy, If possible, it would be great if you cut out the plastic spout. However, if it is just too much hassle, it will be screened out when the machines sift it through a screen at the end of the composting process. ie all the food and paper scraps have degraded down to dirt and then they sift through a 1/4 inch screen for any glass, plastic, etc that may have inadvertently gotten into the organics stream.

I normally try to leave enough space that I can tie the top of the bio bag into a knot, taking two edges and doing a granny knot. However, you could also tape it shut with masking/painter’s tape (paper-based, not plastic-based sticky tape).

Soy milk containers like juice boxes normally have a foil and plastic lining inside which means they are NOT compostable. Eureka recycling recycles them in St Paul, but currently, in Minneapolis, they are not recyclable.  Feel free to ask more questions, I’m always happy to help!


Q. Is the only type of collection container truly a 65-gallon receptacle?? In my opinion, this needs to be reconsidered. There are only two of us at our home.  More than half of the time we do not fill our black trash containers more than 50%. Where are we supposed to keep another BIG trash bin?  Remember – this is ‘Cottage City’.  Some of us have small houses, yards, and garages-.-Concerned, The Ainsworths.

Hi – the suggestion from the city is to switch (at no cost) to a small black trash cart which saves you $3 per month. Then the green cart would be used for most of your garbage (all but plastic, metal, rubber, ceramic, and glass) – you may find that you hardly use the black cart at all. In which case, if you have a kind neighbor, maybe they’d let you use their black cart and you’d just use the green cart.  You’re welcome to attend our compost captain event on October 2 (2720 W 43rd St, #300; 7pm)to have additional questions and concerns answered. Susan Young from the Dept of Solid Waste and Recycling will be in attendance to respond to residents.

Why is the green cart so big?

This is a pilot program, so one of the variables being tested is cart size. The carts were ordered under the assumption that we’d be collecting yard waste with kitchen waste, and we still hope to be able to do that in the future. Better to be too big and have the ability to add in yard waste later, than be too small and need to order replacement carts. These carts are expensive!

Q. I am concerned about one size not fitting all.  As it’s only me, I do faithfully recycle, but it takes three or four recycling days to collect enough plastic, glass, and cans to put out a green plastic box worth emptying. I don’t subscribe to magazines or newspapers, or end up with much cardboard. I mulch my yard waste, and compost it. In short, if the cart for said items is as large as the standard dark green trash can, I am going to find myself being very annoyed smashing it into my garage, knowing it is going to be empty for months.

A. Very valid points! And good for you for being so thoughtful about your waste. I wonder if you have any neighbors in a similar position that you could just share one cart between you. You say you’re composting your yard waste, but are you currently composting food waste?  With this program, in addition to food waste, we can take pizza boxes, packing from fridge and freezer products (the cardboard that has chemicals in it to make it stronger), tissues, napkins, paper plates, etc. You may find that you’re using the organics cart more than your regular cart. Are you currently using the large (94 gallon)black wheeled bin or the small 22 gallon? There should be so little in your regular trash you should be able to move to the smaller black cart (and save yourself $2 per month). In other communities the organics recycling is weekly and they have moved from weekly garbage pick up to every two weeks.

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