Ah, September 1st – when housing leases throughout Boston end, and renters flee to their next overpriced unit. Scrambling to clear out apartments at the last possible minute, many opt for this Machiavellian strategy: leave an apartment’s worth of shit on a street curb, where it magically transforms into someone else’s problem. Whatever gets you that security deposit back, amiright bro?
In this manner, the annual trash orgy known as Allston Christmas was born. Roughly one zillion tons of straight “stuff” materialize on the streets of Allston by August’s end. They perch curbside, waiting for the trash collector or trash picker – whoever comes first. If you’re looking to add stuff to your life, look no further. You really will not be able to help yourself. Have you ever heard the phrase, “I can’t believe someone would throw this away”? It was first uttered in 1667, on Pratt Street, by a Pilgrim. She was looking at a pile of shoe buckles, or whatever creepy crap they had to wear back then, and it made her want to pray for forgiveness.
Yes, lore of unimaginable finds make for an exciting atmosphere on Allston Christmas. Not to brag, but I’ve borne witness to a few. And I’ve got three words for you: turtle-shaped bong.
Unfortunately, like all holidays, Allston Christmas has a sinister side. It harbors deeply wounded moments of garbage chaos which no animal-shaped bong could heal. Even after accounting for pickers, the waste stream – no, hemorrhage – of Allston Christmas is alarming. Why is it a problem?
- Wasted resources: But seriously, have you seen Allston Christmas? Just do a Google search. Imagine 99.9% of what you see going straight to a landfill. This includes humans.
- Again, wasted resources: The “pick-able” (read: salvageable) stuff left curbside gets less appealing by the day. One thunderstorm is all it takes to downgrade electronics, books, clothing, and furniture from “amazing street find” to “melting garbage pile.”
- Litter: We’ve all seen piles of stuff explode and, over the course of a week, muddle into street pulp. Some litter will make its way into the sewer system and then, the ocean.
- Not a “slam dunk” for community vibes: Turns out, people don’t like to see their neighborhoods choked with futon mattresses and soiled Uggs.
There is a better way. When moving, all it takes to transcend “trash pod” status is a little preparation. In the process, you’ll share resources with people who can put them to use – via local nonprofits, charities, and education centers. You can make some money. You can achieve an Instagramable level of woke-iness. You can have a private moment of personal satisfaction – is that still a thing?
ZERO-WASTE GUIDE TO MOVING
Or: HOW A STUDENT COULD STOP BEING AN UNFORGIVABLE TRASH POD FOR ONE FUCKING DAY
1. Start a pile of unwanted items. Add any crap you don’t want to take to your next place.
2. Give yourself plenty of time. Start the crap pile a few weeks ahead of move-out day, so you can be real zen with the process.
3. Know what can be recycled, donated, or sold, and where. Refer to the big ass list, below, for local places to donate, sell, or recycle just about anything. The list is not exhaustive, but a good start.
4. Keep your donations organized. Determine which items you wish sell, donate, and recycle. Box items in separate, marked containers: for example, a box of non-perishables for the local food pantry; clothing for Urban Renewals; art supplies for the MassArt ReStore.
5. Coordinate with your old roommates. Organize donations in an agreed-upon common area. People can add to the pile, or subtract.
6. Coordinate with your new roommates. Don’t move a ten-pound microwave across town just to realize your new place already has two. Sort out common items with new roommates well in time for your move. This can include silverware, dishes, pots and pans, furniture, and appliances.
7. Make a plan for removing donations before the end of August, when second-hand stores become overwhelmed. What day will items be donated or recycled? Where will they be taken? How will they be transported – Zipcar, borrowed car, T, or otherwise? Oh, you own a car? Well, fuuuuuuuuuuuck y
8. Post it online. Use Craigslist, Freecycle, and social media to get the word out about all the treasure/crap you’re parting with. Even if you’re simply putting a piece of furniture on the curb, advertising it online will help find a taker.
9. Avoid bagging your donations in plastic garbage bags, which tear easily and just make more garbage. Pack items in a reusable bin or sack – milk crate, hamper, tote, pillowcase – which you can empty at the donation center and bring home. Pick up used boxes for free at packies or grocies. Avoid plastic packaging tape – try paper tape, or twine, or nothing at all. In a pinch, I’ve used yard waste bags, which are strong as hell and compostable/recyclable/reusable.
10. Remember that moving is hell. Use this knowledge to dissuade yourself from accumulating crap. Less stuff means less to clean, less to manage, less to move! When you need something new, be scrupulous. Search for products that are high-quality, built to last, and mendable. Like them enough to want to keep them for a long time. Buy second-hand, which saves money and resources. Seek products made from recyclable or compostable materials wherever possible – such as metal, glass, and natural fibers. Avoid buying new plastic items, which are cheaply made, nearly impossible to fix when they break, and destined for the landfill.
Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner. Accepts: books.
Buffalo Exchange, Davis Square. Accepts: clothing, shoes, and accessories for women and men.
Castanet, Newbury Street. Accepts: upscale, gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories for women and men.
Rodney’s Used Books, Central Square. Accepts: books (for store credit only)
Throw a yard sale!
Big Brother Big Sister Foundation, Boston. Pick-up available. Accepts: most gently used items, except furniture. Full list of acceptable and unaccepted items here.
Boomerang’s, Central Square & Jamaica Plain. Accepts: clothing, accessories, furniture, housewares, electronics. Full list of acceptable and unacceptable items here.
Caspar Shelter, Cambridge. Accepts: hard and softcover books in good condition, and some other gently used items – see the Wish List here.
The Garment District, Kendall Square. Accepts: clothing, shoes, purses.
Global Thrift, Waltham Center. Accepts: clothing, accessories, furniture, housewares, electronics. Full list of acceptable and unacceptable items, call (781)-891-5577.
Goodwill, various locations. Accepts donations of most items for resale, reuse, or recycling, including ripped clothes (given new life as rags), broken christmas tree lights (the copper wire is recycled), old glasses, single shoes . . . See this list of 9 things you didn’t know you could donate to Goodwill. Full list of acceptable and unacceptable donations here, or check with your local store.
Harvest Co-op, Central Square. Accepts: non-perishable food items.
MassArt ReStore, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The ReStore is a free, public store that carries used and unusual art making supplies. Accepts: “most objects that won’t mold or explode.”
More Than Words, Waltham. Pick-up available, as well as drop-boxes throughout Boston. Accepts: Books, CDs, DVDs, video games. Full list of accepted and unacceptable items here.
Nike Reuse-a-Shoe Program, Nike stores. Accepts: used athletic shoes. Bring worn-out athletic shoes of any brand at a drop-off point (located in most Nike stores) and they will be recycled into courts and playgrounds.
Purple Heart Pickup. Accepts: clothing, accessories, household items, kitchenware, games/toys, small appliances, electronics, sporting goods, books/CDs/videos, small furniture. Full list of acceptable items here.
Salvation Army, various locations. Accepts: clothing, accessories, household items, kitchenware, games/toys, small appliances, electronics, sporting goods, books/CDs/videos, furniture – but this varies by store. Call your local store to check.
Urban Renewals, Allston. Accepts: clothing, accessories, furniture, housewares, electronics, books, toys.
Vietnam Veterans of America. Will pick up your items! Schedule a pick-up online at the link provided. Accepts: clothing (they especially need clothing), accessories, shoes, bedding, linens, housewares, glassware, toys, games, bikes, tools, small appliances, small electronics. No furniture or mattresses. Full list of acceptable items here.
Curbside recycling is a thing! Every town has a recycling guide online – Google it for details on what can and can not be recycled.
City of Somerville Curbside Textile Recycling Program – for Somerville residents
Get Rid of it Right, via The Works Cambridge. Not sure what to do with that near-empty can of industrial paint thinner? This website will tell you how to recycle or dispose of any item safely.
Where to drop off compost, by town, and what they accept:
Cambridge (remember – Cambridge has curbside composting for residents with city trash/recycling pickup in buildings with up to 12 units)
Some Whole Foods Markets will still accept compost – check the parking lot at your local WFM
POST IT ONLINE
Thank you Daniel Lloyd-Miller for the inspiration and help with this post!