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Gang together for greener lawns, don’t toss those caps…


By Melissa Macdonald

Strength in numbers for greener lawn care.

About a year and a half ago, one of my neighbors (three cheers, Richard Murphy!) was musing that with the number of people in our neighborhood who’ve begun to use lawn services, maybe some of us could band together to see if an organic lawn service company would give us a group rate.

It made perfect sense, especially in the current economy: getting a bunch of customers in a concentrated area would save a lawn company on both gas and advertising, and cut down on time employees spend on the road instead of doing lawns, as well. And perhaps such a discount would get a few people who might not otherwise consider going organic over the perceived-costs hurdle.

This discussion took place in November, so the time wasn’t quite ripe for further research just then. But his idea stuck with me, and finally, I got around to finding out a little more.

At the recent unveiling, as it were, of Sandy Pond’s green areas-as-demonstration project for organic lawn management, I got to speak with the consultant who is helping Ayer’s Parks and Rec Department in its efforts to go greener. John Coppinger, of the Coppinger Company, Inc., in North Chelmsford, is accredited by the Northeast Organic Farming Association as an organic lawn care provider.

The Coppinger Company has an organic lawn care division, The Green Guy. The following are among the services listed on The Green Guy’s website (

* Corn gluten hydrosylate pre-emergent crabgrass control

* Organic compost based microbe brews (teas with beneficial microbes, humates, kelp, trace minerals)

* Organic grub control (crabshell extract)

* Slice-seeding

* Lawn aeration

* Organic compost top-dressing

* Core sampling/soil compaction test

* pH testing and soil amendments

So, now that I was face-to-face with an organic lawn care provider, I had to ask…would he consider offering a discounted rate for a group of neighbors interested in his services?

Turns out he would, for as few as four houses in reasonably close proximity to each other — and they don’t have to be adjacent properties, he said. I believe he said the discount would be on the order of 10 percent, though I’m going on memory for that detail, so if you decide to contact him, you’ll want to confirm the percentage. Anyway, as you see, it always pays to ask!

The Coppinger Co. is one option for organic lawn care, but if you’re reading this and you’ve got a handful of neighbors interested in using a little neighborly purchasing power, I’d suggest asking the organic lawn service of your choice about a multicustomer discount.

Put a lid on it!

If you’ve been removing caps from your plastic bottles as you’re recycling, it appears you can now stop. Ann Dorfman, vice president of MassRecycle and a longtime recycling professional and consultant, recently posed the “caps OK or not?” question to two of the big area recycling firms and found that they not only allow lids, but even welcome them.

An EL Harvey representative told Dorfman that it’s fine to leave caps on plastic bottles, and that they get recycled as long as they stay on their bottles. The Harvey rep also pointed out that the ones that come off often get “lost” in the process of sorting and baling, in which case they end up as trash. Harvey does not have a separate process to collect caps, per se, the rep noted.

Casella’s representative replied: “We do accept them, and as long as all the liquid is out of the bottles, we would prefer them to be on the bottles to be able to capture more of a percentage to go back to the plastic mill recyclers” who turn recycled plastics into new products.

Dorfman weighed in on the topic, as well. “With all the light-weighting of bottles in recent years, the caps can make up as much as 25 percent of the weight of the container, so throwing them away is throwing away a lot of valuable materials.”

She added, “Leaving the lid on when you return your deposit bottle using a reverse vending machine is perfectly OK and guarantees the lid won’t get lost in the process.” She suggested flattening the capped bottles before recycling them to help ensure that lids stay on through the baling process and make it safely to the remanufacturer.

Thanks go to the Ayer Recycling Committee’s Laurie Sabol for passing this one on to me.

NRWA wants your observations and photos

Your observations of life along the Nashua River can help NRWA assess what’s happening on and around the water. NRWA is especially interested in reports of trash, erosion, and invasive species, which help them keep track of conditions and look for chances to make a difference. NRWA also welcomes news of bald eagle, river otter and other wildlife sightings.

If you have an observation to share or question to ask, please e-mail Kathryn Nelson, NRWA water monitoring coordinator, at and include the date and location, and if possible, a digital photo.

NRWA is also putting out a call for photos of the watershed. The organization is always on the hunt for fresh images of rivers and streams, landscapes, and local flora and fauna, as well as historical shots of NRWA, to use on its website, in newsletters, press releases, and other communications materials.

For digital photographers, NRWA requests high-resolution images (for easier printing). The group is also happy to scan hard copy photographs if that’s what you have. If you have a watershed photo you’d like to share, please contact Wynne Treanor-Kvenvold, NRWA communications manager, at 978-448-0299, or e-mail her at You can e-mail photos to her, pop a disk of images in the mail, or stop by the River Resource Center in Groton with hard copies or your thumb drive.

If you’re e-mailing or mailing images, please identify where you took the picture, an approximate date, and your name (so they can credit you).

Melissa Macdonald is an Ayer resident who publishes a blog called Green Ayer News at

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