Recycling Electronics

Recently I had to get a new phone as part of upgrading to a service that (if all goes according to plan) will help me keep better track of my online footprint; allow me to stop paying for more service than I need; and reduce my electricity consumption. In a nutshell, I discontinued my cable internet service and am going with a cellphone plan that offers unlimited data plus a limited amount of hotspot data. The modest 5-gig hotspot suits my needs well, since the main thing I use my laptop for is blogging, and not a lot of high-bandwidth activity such as watching videos and using Facebook (which I use heavily for my work). For higher-bandwidth activities, and in general, for as much online stuff as possible, I prefer to use my phone.

All of that is well and good, and in addition to having just the kind of service I want for about 30% less than I had been paying, I have already noticed about a half-kWh per day reduction in my electricity use. I’m happy!

At the phone service store where I signed up for the plan and got my new phone, they told me I could get cash for my old phone at WalMart. I looked into it, and found out that the program at WalMart is run via a kiosk service called ecoATM. “Sell your old cellphones and electronics for cash,” says the website. “EcoATM helps by providing instant cash for used devices that previously were personal clutter at home. The lifestyle end result is sustainable, simple, uncluttered, and beneficially enhanced.” You can type in the name and model of your phone and find out approximately how much cash you can get for it. They also offer a trade-in option. Along with cellphones they also recycle tablets and MP3 players.

OK, so that’s the cellphone. I also noticed I’ve got a bunch of cables and cords piled up. From where? Who knows. They just seem to show up and multiply. I thought the mysterious set of cables was from my cable internet service, but when I went to turn in my modem and other equipment, they said the cables weren’t theirs.

I have a TV remote also. (That was from a TV I inherited, that I ended up donating to a local veterans’ group because I did not end up using it. But I had forgotten I had the remote! Maybe the mysterious cables were associated with that TV also. Ah, the complexities of modern life!)

Doing a search just now, I found this article on, about the best places to recycle old cables and chargers. One place they mention is Best Buy. According to the CNET article, Best Buy is “One of the easiest ways to recycle any old electronics, including cables and chargers… . Every Best Buy location in the US has a kiosk for recycling just inside the door. According to their site, they accept ‘rechargeable batteries, wires, cords, cables and plastic bags,’ as well as a host of electronic devices. Check its website to see if Best Buy will accept what you’re trying to recycle.” I’ve got a Best Buy about 25 minutes by bicycle from my house, and it’s on the same route as the WalMart, so it looks like I’ve got a channel for recycling my mini-stockpile of electronic stuff.

In case you don’t have a Best Buy near you, another option mentioned in the article is a school or Scout troop, which might be able to use your old electronic stuff for science/technology projects.

I’ll let you know of other resources as I find them. May you be free of all those old cables, chargers, and devices that are cluttering up your drawer(s). Someone else can use them, and you can use the space. (At least I know I can!)

Health Bonanza, Part II: Meet Your Neighborhood Fruit Trees

In my last post, I mentioned wild edible plants as a free source of highly nutritious food (and sometimes also medicine).

Another major health bonanza is fruit trees. Wherever you live, you are likely to find at least a few fruit trees in your neighborhood. (This might not be true if you live in an HOA development; homeowners’ associations tend to favor strictly ornamental, rigidly manicured landscaping, dominated by turf-grass. But even in that type of neighborhood, unless it is a brand-new development you might have a fruit tree or two in walking distance.)

Sometimes you’ll see fruit trees in front yards, but even if they are in the backyard they might have branches overhanging the sidewalk. I call this “public fruit.” Laws in different places may vary, and I always recommend knocking on doors and asking permission before you pick fruit, even if it is overhanging the sidewalk. Anyway, even if your area has no ordinances against picking fruit that overhangs the sidewalk, knocking on doors and meeting your neighbors helps increase neighborhood safety and social cohesion. And it just plain makes for a happier world.

I once knocked on the door of a place that had an orange tree. “Take all you want! They taste awful!” the guy told me. I let him know that if he fertilized the tree he might get sweeter fruit, and that in the meantime I was going to make marmalade and would bring him some. It was fun making several jars of delicious marmalade from the “awful-tasting” oranges, and dropping off a jar at his door.

Of all the times I’ve knocked on doors to ask permission to pick fruit (which is a lot), I can’t remember anyone ever having said no. One guy said, “Please take all you want! They mess up my yard!” I don’t remember what the fruit was; mulberries I believe.

Right now in Florida is one of my favorite times of year, because loquats are just getting ripe. I picked some of the delicious, bite-sized golden-orange ovoid globes  just this morning from a neighbor’s tree. The tree seems to thrive in a wide range of climates. It’s an evergreen with thick, attractive deep-green foliage. I once heard it referred to as “a useful tree that the ornamental-landscape industry latched onto by mistake.” 

Walk around your neighborhood at all different times of year, and you’ll soon get to know the different seasons for each fruit. It’s a perfect way to savor the beauty of the natural world; plug back in to seasonal rhythms that many of us have forgotten (or never learned in the first place); get yourself some fresh-picked peak-of-season goodness, and get to know your human neighbors as well.

Here’s to your health!

Suggested activities:

• Take a walk around your neighborhood and scout around for trees that have fruit on them. If you can’t identify something right away, look it up or ask someone. Knock on doors, say hi and ask permission to pick fruit; don’t be shy! Start doing this on a regular basis so you catch the fruits that ripen with each changing of the seasons. 

• If someone complains about their “messy” fruit tree, offer to sweep their sidewalk for them, rake up rotting fruit from their yard, etc. (But even the rotting fruit is still a source of food for wildlife, so if you do rake it up, try to put it somewhere where the birds, butterflies, and other creatures can still get at it.) Sometimes, once a resident finds out about the delicious, nutrient-packed free food growing in their yard, they stop minding the “mess” so much. 

• Start a club in your neighborhood for alerting each other to fruit-ripening times, and sharing fruit. Organize a fruit-drying or jam-making party. is a good app for plugging in to your neighborhood and finding likeminded folks.

• Draw up a “public fruit map” with your neighbors, showing the trees and the different ripening times; post it on your neighborhood’s website, on a bulletin board in your neighborhood meeting venue, etc. 

• Plant fruit trees in your yard. (Your local nursery will help you find the right varieties to plant, and will give you tips on caring for them.)

• If you have fruit trees in your yard, post online or put a sign in your yard when you have extra to share. When papaya trees sprouted in my yard and gave me a bumper crop, I put extras out on top of the Little Free Library in front of my apartment. Now when I walk around the neighborhood, I see trees that came from those papayas, or from the surplus seedlings which I also shared. I’m particularly happy to see the new trees flourishing because my papaya trees got destroyed in the hurricanes. Circle of life! All living things must eventually die, but they always leave new life behind them. Fruit trees give a sweet demonstration of this lesson. 

• Advanced activity: Look into setting up a community orchard at your school, church, or in a city park. Food forests (which may contain both fruit trees and vegetable plants) are sprouting up all over the place! Every time I turn around, I hear another story about an urban food forest. Read this article “In These Cities, Your Next Snack May Be Growing In a Public Park” to get inspired and form your own plan. “Fruit is free in these urban centers, thanks to food-bearing plants and trees growing right next to skyscrapers.” To get a sense of the concerns of those who may not be on board with the “public fruit forest” concept, check out OrchardPeople’s article “Should We Plant Community Orchards in Public Parks?” “The debate is raging from Toronto, Canada to Basel, Switzerland – should we plant fruit trees and community orchards in public parks? Enthusiastic residents and fans of urban agriculture say “yes!” but city authorities don’t always agree.”

And from Shareable, one more article for you, “Public Food Forests on the Rise“: “In Washington, an unruly seven-acre parcel of city land owned by Seattle Public Utilities was transformed into the Beacon Food Forest, the largest of its kind in the nation, where the community can learn about greywater systems, medicinal plants, pruning, and cooking. In addition, low-income families are able to gather herbs and other necessities for their meals, and surplus vegetables and fruit are donated to the local food bank.” Doesn’t that sound like something every city needs?

Oops, I lied — I have one MORE article for you! This one is for you apartment-dwellers and others with limited space. HGTV on growing fruit trees in containers. “Although not all fruit trees thrive in containers for long periods of time, you can grow any fruit tree in a container for a few years and then transplant it. You can also choose a dwarf variety, which is well suited to living in a container.” One of the most popular fruit trees to grow in a pot is the Meyer lemon. By the way, in the course of searching this topic, I found lots of beautiful little container-adapted fruit tree varieties for sale, including a “Patio Peach Tree.” There are many, many websites, books, and other resources dedicated to balcony and patio gardening.

Another tip for you if you live in an apartment, trailer/RV park, or condo: See if management will let you grow some fruit trees and veggies in a common area. At the farmers market the other week I met a lovely woman who is doing that at her condo. She is constantly pushing people to please pick and eat the free fresh food. Her neighbors love her! Not only is she hooking people up with fresh food; she’s also promoting a healthy social climate at her condo. And according to many studies, social connection may be the biggest of all factors influencing our health.

Postscript (Wednesday, March 6, 2019): Just got a text from a neighbor/friend, saying “Come get some mulberries!” Sure enough, her tree was packed with fruit. Mulberries ripen in waves, and from the look of her tree, we’ll be enjoying many rounds of them! In no time, I filled a ziploc bag (from my little collection of other people’s plastic bags that I’ve diverted from the trash over the years because they had barely been used and were still clean) with the sweet purplish-black berries. Fresh-picked local fruit has spoiled me, but I don’t mind. I can work with that!

A Health Bonanza! Your Local Wild Edible Plants

In a previous post I mentioned health problems as one major culprit that can undermine people’s efforts to reduce their footprint and lead a simpler life. Of course, it’s just about inevitable that some health problems will require trips to the hospital or doctor’s office, and that costs a lot of money as well as consuming time, fossil fuel, and your own precious personal energy. It is what it is; there’s no use beating yourself up when your eco footprint increases for personal health reasons. 

That said, many health problems don’t require costly medical intervention. Rather, they can be cured, greatly eased, or even prevented altogether simply by improving one’s nutrition. And one of the best ways to improve nutrition is by tapping into a source that’s available free and close at hand: wild edible plants. 

In the United States, a lot of our “health” advice revolves around avoiding or resisting things. Stay away from carbs! Sugar is bad for you! Cut those calories! You absolutely must stay away from {fill in the blank}. Such a razor-edge approach can be exhausting and anxiety-inducing, as well as leading to backsliding. Besides which, the constant monitoring of one’s fork takes a lot of the joy out of living. (In the area of diet, we have certainly taken “taking the joy out of living” to a virtuoso level here in the United States, haven’t we! If you ask me, our rigid puritanical mentality is at least as damaging to our health as anything we are physically putting into our bodies. Maybe more!) Obviously if we find out that some food or substance is harming our health, we need to reduce or eliminate it from our diet. For example, diabetics have to limit their intake of simple carbohydrates even if they are on medication.

But, that basic bit of common sense aside, I always like to let people know how they can boost their health by adding beneficial ingredients to their diet. Many of us find it much easier to add something to our routine, than to subtract or cut something out entirely. 

One of the best things you can add to your diet is wild edible plants. If you want to boost your health while also putting money in your pocket, I strongly encourage you to learn your local wild edible plants. Many wild edibles (which our manicured-lawn culture tends to dismiss as “weeds”) have both culinary and medicinal uses. So by learning them, you’re augmenting your medicine cabinet as well as your pantry. 

It can be argued that you are performing a public service as well, since wild plants perform an array of free services for property owners and communities. As just a couple of examples, a carpet of wild vegetation provides food and habitat for pollinators and other beneficial wildlife; and reduces soil erosion, water runoff, and the leaching of excess nutrients into our waterways. 

The idea of foraging for food in the wild may seem intimidating if you’ve never tried it, but it’s actually quite easy to learn a few of your main local edibles in very short order. Some tips for getting started:

• Look up your local native plant society. I attended my local chapter meeting of Florida Native Plant Society and they were offering for sale a great little book on our local wild weeds. I bought it and got up to speed very quickly on some of the most common, and tasty, wild edibles in my area. 

• Do a search on “weed walks” — there is probably an expert in your area

• Take a walk around your neighborhood or a local park, notice different weeds growing in the verges, right of way, edges of woods, sprouting up out of yards or between sidewalk cracks. You’ll start noticing certain plants repeatedly, and you’ll come to see them as friends (even the ones that aren’t edible to humans are often staple foods for bees, butterflies, or birds). Weeds tend to be edge-dwellers and denizens of the marginal. Tap into the wisdom of elderly neighbors and other long-term residents to find out which plants are edible.

• Buy or check out a general book on edible weeds, even if you can’t find a book for your specific region. Many weeds grow throughout a large part of North America (and I imagine the same is true of other continents as well), so there are some books that will be useful across a wide geographic area. 

• Be sure to research cooking instructions and other preparation tips. Some very delicious and nutritious wild edibles are not edible, are actually dangerous to eat, unless cooked.

• Check your local historic museum or historic society; they often have information on which plants were foraged by early settlers or indigenous populations in your area.  

Note, as part of my process of learning wild edibles, I have always used face-to-face, in-person information, and not just relied on books, the internet, etc. Safety first! Never try a plant unless you get the straight scoop from a person who knows their stuff. 

Besides the safety aspect, a great advantage of connecting with wild-plant experts in person is that you tap into a community of people who can form a “power bloc” to influence local policy toward sustainable practices. For example, a group of wild-plant foragers can show up at local government meetings to speak out against herbicide-spraying, excessive mowing and pruning, and other harmful landscaping practices.

Today out in my yard I was delighted to find what looks like wild plantain! It’s a delicious vegetable and also has medicinal properties: It aids digestion. I had long spotted it around the neighborhood, and harvested the broad leaves from empty lots, but this is the first time seeing a possible specimen in my own yard. I’m keeping an eye on the small plant to see if that’s really what it is. 

Wild plantain is one example of a wild edible that grows in a wide area of North America. Other widespread edibles on my continent include dandelion, miner’s lettuce, bastard cabbage, lamb’s quarters, wood sorrel, chickweed.

While cultivating tomatoes or other “supermarket” vegetables in a garden can be very rewarding for both the health and the pocketbook, not all of us have green thumbs. My cultivation successes have been relatively modest and hard-won. Far better I am at spotting the lush wild edible, the broad-leafed green, the piquant flower, the spicy stalk, that has sprouted up for free, obtaining its own water and nutrients and growing without coddling. Sometimes I refer to wild edible plants as “my favorite fast food” because it’s so easy to grab a handful from my yard and pop them in my mouth as I head out on my errands. Another name I have for wild edibles is “trail snacks”.

According to many sources, wild plants are not only more robust but are actually nutritionally richer than the cultivated varieties. What a win-win! The lazy among us shall inherit the earth, or at least a nice serving of free wild vegetables. 

Sustainability starts in our own backyards (and kitchens) and ripples out. Being healthy and happy is a great way to influence people. Everyone likes to imitate success!

As more of us come to appreciate the value of wild edibles, and allow them to flourish in our yards or in the spaces between the flowers in the pots on our apartment balconies (they have a way of finding their way in there!), the effect will ideally ripple out to our approach to managing parks and other public spaces, and we’ll become less heavy-handed with the mowers, the poisons, the weed-whackers, and those noisy and ultimately pointless leaf-blowers. Our reward will be not only food, but a more physically and emotionally restful landscape: softer and greener road edges, creek-sides, and median strips.

Deepening our relationship with nature by observing and harvesting local wild plants not only can improve our physical health; it’s also an excellent way to enhance our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Being outdoors, hearing the songs of birds, savoring the seasonal perfumes of flowers and grasses, feeling the temperature and humidity variations that fluctuate not only throughout the year but within the span of a day. Many of us believe that emotional and spiritual wellbeing is a cornerstone of physical health, so you’re getting a triple return by knowing your wild edibles. 

I’m not a plant expert, which is why I deliberately refrain from showing photos or mentioning specifics. For details, consult your local experts. I’ve also gathered some resources for you to use as a starting point in your learning process. Note, these are offered for your exploration only, and I’m not in any way claiming to provide the definitive word on plants. Do your research, and then enjoy the abundance of delicious wild edibles growing for free all around you. Bon appetit!  And here’s to your health.

Further Reading:

62 Edible Wild Plants You Didn’t Know You Can Eat

Survival Skills: 14 Wild Medicinal Plants

How To Grow Comfrey: Care, Types, and Growing Tips (from Happy DIY Home): Comfrey grows wild throughout almost all of the USA (and is native to Asia and Europe). But it’s also a popular cultivar plant in permaculture and organic gardening. It grows profusely, and is a great “chop and drop” plant for mulch. And it serves as a supplemental food for chickens, that beloved bird of permaculturists. Also, being a nutrient accumulator with a long taproot, it’s a good plant to cultivate near fruit trees or other plants you’re trying to nourish. Comfrey historically has medicinal and edible uses, but most sources I consult nowadays are not recommending ingestion by mouth because it has been linked to liver failure, cancer, and other problems. I am nonetheless including this article here because comfrey is such a useful plant for land restoration and for cultivating other plants we use as food and medicine. (Thank you to Happy DIY Home for sharing this article with me, and for offering to share my blog with your many readers. By the way, readers, check out Happy DIY Home’s sister site, Jen Reviews, which offers practical info on home and health, including this article on how to get rid of 13 common house bugs without using toxic chemicals.)

• Many experts assert that wild edibles are more nutritious than supermarket veggies. Here’s an article on 10 wild foods that are more nutritious than store-bought produce.

• And finally: My two top go-to sites on wild edibles: 1) (Green Deane); and 2) (Andy Firk). These are both specific to Florida but are well worth bookmarking even if you live elsewhere. I also suggest you search websites for your home region; there are wild-edible experts just about everywhere.

Factors that can undermine your low-footprint efforts

Over the years, I’ve noticed several factors that can obstruct even the most determined effort to reduce one’s footprint. A few examples:

  • Debt
  • Health issues (either mental or physical)
  • Relationship troubles
  • A job that’s making you miserable
  • Family members who aren’t interested in this path, or are even outright opposed
  • Housemates, same

What would you add to this list?

I say “CAN” obstruct. With creativity and planning, and support from likeminded people, you can get around the obstacles or even turn them into assets. I share some tips in my book, and also on this blog. And will continue to do so.

Coming up soon, posts on finances and health as they relate to low-footprint living.

Work Smart, Not Hard

“Pelicans are lazy,” my friend observed as we sat by the shore.

“Lazy?!” I answered. “How so? They fly their hearts out!”

“But they never flap their wings,” she pointed out.

While it’s not accurate to say pelicans NEVER flap their wings, they certainly are able to glide long distances thanks to their big wingspans, aerodynamic bodies, and deep pelican knowhow of wind and water; weather and micro-climate (“Oh, those tall condo buildings along the beach! At least humans did one thing right,” I can picture pelicans feeling as they take advantage of the air currents produced by the human-built environment.)

Let’s put it this way: Pelicans don’t flap their wings unless they really have to. And neither should we. Work smart, not hard! Husband your energies wisely; deploy them to maximum best effect. 

OK, obviously we don’t have magnificent pelican wings. But we have our own human versions of wings — talents, skills, built-in physical and mental features — and our many human versions of unproductive wing-flapping. Work smart, not hard. Husband your energies like the diamonds and gold that they are. 

What great things we can accomplish for ourselves and for the planet; how much better can we create, by being very deliberate with our energies and attention.

Further Reading:

Staying Grounded in a Big City or Busy World (Be wise with your energies and attentions – yet another jewel of an essay by Madisyn Taylor of the Daily OM. )

(Sorry for just pasting links; the Link function of the new version of WordPress is a bit tricky and I am taking awhile to master it)

Offsetting My Travel Footprint

In a recent post I mentioned my intentions to offset my travel footprint, which was unusually high (for me) over the past couple of years. I flew in airplanes for the first time since 2010, and I took three solo car trips (by rental vehicle) to Virginia. Ordinarily these days, I avoid flying and solo long-distance car travel. (I don’t own a car and rarely accept rides even locally unless someone is already going my way.) However, all of the trips I mention above were in connection to family circumstances, and I would not have been willing to forgo them. So I decided I would purchase carbon offsets.

In his blog post “Taking Responsibility for My Flights,” Rob Greenfield mentions that he aims for the “Gold Standard” of carbon offset projects, which is the highest standard on the market. So I figured I’d do that too. I searched around, and the website I liked best was, which allowed me to first calculate the impact of my travel, and then purchase carbon offsets on the same site. (The number you see in the graphic above represents two years’ worth of my travel.)

You can check out the calculator at

This calculator is really handy because it allows you to set a time period, such as a year. And you can input each separate type of transportation: plane, personal car, bus, taxi, and so on. (You can also use the calculator to compute the carbon footprint of your household energy use and miscellaneous activities.) Although I set the time period to a year, I input all my travel for a two-year period, so the graphic above actually shows two years’ worth of my travel.

Another thing I like about the carbon footprint calculator I found is the crisp, easy-to-understand graphic that displays your “footprint” in relation to the U.S. average and the worldwide target.

I padded the numbers on the generous side to be more confident that I was doing enough. Also, I chose the most rigorous standard of offset projects, the Gold Standard recommended by Rob Greenfield. So how much did it cost me to offset my two-year period of extraordinarily high travel volume? About $31!

Some things I noticed: Although air travel is supposed to be the worst form of travel, environmentally speaking, I noticed that my approximately 4,000 miles of air travel had a lower footprint than my approximately 7,000 miles of car travel over the two-year period. Almost all my car travel was long-distance, but I did accept some rides locally and use taxis/Uber a couple of times. (I padded my estimate to cover that mileage with plenty to spare in case there was a ride or two I forgot.) Car ownership has a high footprint, because there is always the temptation to use that vehicle that sits in your driveway. By not owning a car, I end up naturally having a much lower footprint than average, without even trying that hard. I do end up forgoing some activities when the weather is cold or rainy. Then again, if I really want to do something, I will tough it out and get on the bicycle or bus.

Rob writes that he spent about $2,000 to offset around 199,000 miles of air travel. I was offsetting about 4,000 miles of air travel and 7,000 miles of car travel.

Give the Carbon Footprint calculator a try! And let me know how it goes for you.

Valentine’s Day Thoughts

Happy Valentine’s Day to you. The holiday devoted to love. A few thoughts for you today:

• Love takes so many forms. Our culture tends to elevate romantic love over other forms of love (and hey, I’m as much of a fan of romantic love as anyone else), but there is so, so much more, and we shortchange ourselves by elevating one form of love over others. Love for friends, family, pets, adopted family members, Mother Earth and the great cosmos and all of creation. Love for good honest hard work that’s making a difference. Love for the many ordinary yet breathtakingly beautiful moments that make up a day of life. Love is ALL GOOD! And it really is what makes the world go round.

• When we get too single-mindedly focused on “finding the right person,” we neglect the important task of cultivating other kinds of love and connection. Friendships, family relationships, neighborhood ties, connections with animals and nature. A robust social web made up of many different kinds of relationships helps people conserve resources (because friends and allies tend to share resources), and also helps create safer communities.

• Over the years I’ve noticed that many of my favorite “love songs” (that are intended to be about romantic love) can just as well be sung and listened to as devotional songs. And I really enjoy them that way as well as the originally intended way!

• I read a quote awhile back, something to the effect that “If you have no partner, then all of creation is your partner.” I actually think that’s true of us all, even those who DO have a partner. I love the idea that each and every one of us is living in partnership with all of creation. If you like this kind of thinking, you may also enjoy the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, Persian ecstatic Sufi mystic poets of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, respectively.

• What does love have to do with low-footprint living? Well, aside from the fact that people with some kind of affectionate connection tend to share resources, which lowers our collective footprint, there’s also the fact that people who feel loved and emotionally secure are less likely to engage in impulse buying, binge drinking, hoarding, and other self-sabotaging behaviors. Whenever we’re able to get beyond using material stuff to fill an emotional void, it’s good for us and for the planet. (Note: It’s fine to enjoy material things. We just need to know the difference between taking pleasure in them and using them to fill an emotional void.)

Further Reading:

Who Was St. Valentine and What Is the True Meaning Behind February 14? (article in The Telegraph)

Poets United: A Community for Poets Who Blog (the piece on Rumi and Hafiz linked above comes from this blog)