Archives for July 2013

Energy Drinks

Henry David Abraham, M.D.

Henry David Abraham, M.D.

By Henry David Abraham, M.D. The story goes that coffee was discovered when a shepherd noticed his sheep dancing after they ate beans growing on a hillside. Humans have been using that bean ever since for alertness, inspiration, and energy. Caffeine is the world’s most popular drug. The US is the world’s greatest importer of coffee- nine pounds a year for each one of us. At birth caffeine is present in 75% of infants, and thanks to sodas and cocoa, in preschoolers, too. So when caffeinated “energy” drinks appeared in gas stations and supermarkets, consumers yawned, until now. Today brands like Monster Energy and Red Bull are household names and a $20 billion a year business. One third to one half of teens and young adults will try them. As the use of these drug vehicles has increased, so have reports of problems. Most people are familiar with the common problems of caffeine- jitters, insomnia, and anxiety. Energy drinks kick that list up a notch, to include seizures, strokes, and at least 13 possible deaths. There are now 20,000 emergency department visits a year related to energy drinks. Kids with preexisting medical conditions, especially those of the heart or brain, are particularly vulnerable. Recently, the makers of Monster Energy moved to sidestep the FDA requirement that they report any problems with their products by calling them “beverages.” This moves Monster to a different aisle in the supermarket and lets them sweep bad news under the rug. “But wait a minute, Dr. Abraham. Aren’t you just being a caffeine cop? How much caffeine is in an energy drink in the first place?” Answer: about one to three cups of coffee. How bad can that be? This year 18 experts on child nutrition said how bad in a letter to the FDA. They pointed out that a caffeine drink is different from a cup of tea or coffee in a number of important ways. Caffeine in coffee or tea is in a natural, botanical form, while the caffeine in energy drinks is added by the manufacturer. Another difference is that chemically concocted caffeine drinks contain a wild mix of Frankenchemicals: compounds not often mentioned in polite company that have little or no connection to normal human nutrition. Occasionally these chemicals do things to you. Guarana, one energy additive, for example, has one of the highest concentrations of caffeine in any plant, triple the caffeine in coffee. A third important difference is a matter of the use of energy drinks by children. There is no minimum legal age to buy them. If a child consumes a drug at a dose intended for an adult, this is an invitation to an overdose. The smaller the child, the greater the trouble. This among other thoughts led a committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics to say, “…caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents.” That brings me to the cultural differences between coffee, tea and energy drinks. Hot tea or coffee is sipped slowly. People meet for coffee. They serve coffee and tea at the book club. They drink tea together at the Chinese restaurant. The makers of energy drinks live on another planet. An ad for Monster Energy on Amazon says it all. The 16 oz. can of Monster “packs a vicious punch but has a smooth flavor you can really pound down.” Not exactly “meeting a friend for coffee.” This Brave New World of “beverages” may explain a recent study where Australian teens suffered cardiac and neurological toxicity after drinking three to eight bottles of energy drinks at a clip. From a public health point of view, the greatest harm from an energy drink is when it is mixed with alcohol. Being drunk is bad enough, but being wide-awake drunk is stepping on the accelerator with your eyes closed. Under no circumstance should an energy drink be thought of as a cure for alcohol intoxication. It’s not. Now before the proprietors of Starbucks and Peet’s take out a contract on me, let the record show that I am not a caffeine cop. Coffee is my favorite drug- er, drink. Of all the drugs I worry about, coffee is not even a warning blip on my radar. Its benefits vastly outweigh the risks. Its psychological and health effects are varied and proven. It reduces the risks of Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, heart disease, and type II diabetes. Should teens drink coffee? It depends. As kids enter the teen years their clocks for sleeping and waking, like daylight savings time, spring ahead an hour or two. That means when adults are getting sleepy, kids are getting ready to rock. That also means that the next morning, as the world awakens, teenagers are zombies. This also means for many teens early morning classes are cruel but usual punishment. Short of starting the school day later, a cup of tea or coffee may work wonders for the early morning zombie. It does for many of us. But it’s not for everyone. Steven Spielberg never drank a cup of coffee in his life. Voltaire drank 30 cups a day. They both turned out all right.

No-Nonsense-Final-Cover-640x1024Dr. Henry David Abraham is a psychiatrist in Lexington, MA. He is a co-founder of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War which was awa rded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. Material for this article was adapted from his most recent book, The No Nonsense Guide to Drugs and Alcohol, an e-book for teens and young adults. It is now available online at Amazon.com and BN.com.

Parenting Matters is a collaboration between the Lexington Human Services Department and The Colonial Times Magazine.

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Facilitating Healthy Adaptations to Grief and Loss

Kevin M. Kozin, MTS, LICSW

Kevin M. Kozin, MTS, LICSW

By Kevin M. Kozin, MTS, LICSW

When experiencing a loss, it can seem that everyone has some sage (and often misguided) advice they are ready to give you. For example, you may hear remarkably unhelpful things like: Get over it, Move on already, Time heals all wounds. While possibly well intentioned, these words imply that a loss is something that a person “gets over.” For many losses, we do not “get over” the loss. Instead, we need to find a way adapt to the loss. We cannot “get over” things like the loss of a child or a partner, but we can find new ways of relating to that experience and adapting to the new situation.

Speaking about a loss can be difficult. Sometimes, “I’m sorry for your loss” is the best statement you can provide. When you are asked difficult questions about a serious loss, it’s OK to say, “I don’t know.” You may be joining with them in the “not knowing” of what is going on for them, and it can help to feel connected. It is often more helpful to use words like “died” or “death” instead of “passed on.” Especially with younger people, it helps them to understand what really happened.

Dr. J. William Worden describes four “Tasks of Mourning” that one must go through to facilitate a healthy adaptation, and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes the “Five Stages of Grief” which help to conceptualize some of the key emotions that people experience.

Dr. Worden is clear that these are active tasks, not things that happen to us, but things that we must do, to facilitate a healthy adaptation to loss. I’ve adapted Dr. Worden’s tasks to include all losses, by using “lost attachment.”

1. To accept the reality of the loss

2. To process the pain of grief

3. To adjust to a world without the lost attachment

4. To find an enduring connection with the lost attachment while embarking on a new life.

These tasks look nice and tidy with a simple four point plan of action. However, they can be remarkably difficult. Dr. Kübler-Ross describes the “Five Stages of Grief” as:

• Denial

• Anger

• Bargaining

• Depression

• Acceptance

In grieving, it is useful to experience all of these stages of grief as we process a loss. Unlike Dr. Worden’s tasks, you may notice that these aren’t numbered, but in bullet points. Worden’s tasks are more linear. You accomplish one task and then move on to the next. Dr. Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief are more fluid emotional states, and we may experience any one of them, and then move to a different stage at any time. There isn’t any one stage that is most useful or even necessary. A useful guiding principle is that in moving through the stages, the main concern is getting “stuck” anywhere but acceptance (that’s the eventual goal). So, one can experience denial, then depression, then acceptance, and move back to denial. It’s useful to notice when we are in these stages, but not to judge ourselves for being in any one of them.

There isn’t a timeframe for when things should change or healing should occur. In fact, some people never work thorough their losses. That’s why it is important to address the tasks in a deliberate and meaningful way. Healing isn’t about the amount of time that it has been since the loss.

Various age groups tend to process grief and loss differently. Infants and toddlers may sense a change in routine and caregivers, and can experience separation anxiety and regression. Having consistent caregivers is very useful at this age. Children of three to six years often struggle with the concept of the body not-functioning and finality of a death or loss. They can be prone to magical thinking and also regression. Consistent limit setting, patience, and simple (concrete) explanations are most effective. For example, a burial can be frightening if not better understood, since they may not understand the finality of death and become concerned that their loved one can’t breathe underground.

Between ages six to nine years, they begin to understand finality of death and may want details as to how someone died. They often have difficulty concentrating and worry about themselves and others, such as a caregiver or parent dying. It would be helpful to provide a space for talking about how the death/loss affects them personally. For ages ten to thirteen years, they may be able to understand that death is inevitable and happens to everyone. At this age, they may identify more with adults of their own gender and experience an array of feelings. They are often thinking about how death/loss affects relationships. For this age, it is helpful to encourage expression of feelings and foster open communication about death/loss.

Teens will often have the ability to confront and prepare for an impending loss. For teens and adults, they may not just be grieving for a current loss, but what might have been. They will often desire time with their peers. Some concerns is that the teen will be “parentified” and attempt to take on the role of the parent a parent during a major loss. Another possibility is that they may turn to risky behaviors. During this time, it is important to have open communication with the teen about their experience and to allow them the space to process their feelings, while offering support for when they are ready.

For all ages, be on the lookout for complicated bereavement, such as a grief response that is extended, amplified, delayed, distorted, absent, conflicted, chronic, or unresolved. This is when the grief response is interfering with psychological functioning, which can co-occur with adjustment disorders, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, PTSD, and suicidality. Some common indicators are sudden loss, conflicted relationships, pre-existing mental health issues, limited successful coping skills, financial or employment distress, or multiple stressors.

Never Worry Alone. In grief, one should not be alone in the process. Connectivity is a healing and protective factor. If you have concerns for another person, family, or yourself, you may benefit from working with a grief counselor. Below is a list of resources that may be useful in getting help or learning more about grief and loss. The way through grief and loss is together, not alone.

RESOURCES

The Children’s Room in Arlington – www.childrensroom.org

Offering a full array of bereavement services for families who have experienced early loss. Their website is full of helpful bereavement information.

Compassionate Friends – www.compassionatefriends.org

A national organization that helps families who experience the death of a child.

NASW Social Work Therapy Referral Service

www.therapymatcher.org or (800) 242-9794.

This is a free and confidential service from the National Association of Social Workers that connects people to psychotherapists on a range of issues – not just grief and loss.

 

Kevin M. Kozin, MTS, LICSW is a local psychotherapist and grief counselor in Lexington, MA and works with adolescents, adult, families, and couples. Mr. Kozin is highly active in the community in his work on the Board and Executive Committee of the National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts (NASW-MA) and serving as the Co-Chair the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee of NASW-MA. He holds master’s degrees in Social Work and Theology from Boston University and completed post-graduate training at the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis. Information on Mr. Kozin’s practice can be found at www.kozincounseling.com or by contacting him at (781) 325-1858.

 

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Parenting Matters~Sweet Dreams

 

Lisa Foo, PhD

Lisa Foo, PhD

By Lisa Foo, Ph.D

The top of many Mother’s Day wish lists is a good night’s sleep for the whole family. What a challenge with our many responsibilities, endless things to think about, and being kept up by other family members!

The average daily sleep requirement is about 14.5 hours for infants, 13 for toddlers, 12 for preschoolers, 10.5 for school-aged children, 9 for adolescents, and 8 for adults. Many of us need higher amounts to compensate for accumulated “debt.” Research has linked insufficient sleep with not only fatigue, but also weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. Decreased sleep can cause emotional and behavioral problems, including (ironically) child hyperactivity. Driving while drowsy is a major cause of car accidents and related injuries. Sleep serves an important role in learning, so late night cramming can interfere with remembering the information that was studied.

So what causes difficulties with falling asleep, waking during the night, or getting up too early in the morning? Everyone wakes briefly throughout the night when transitioning between deeper and lighter sleep, but most of us return to sleep easily and don’t even recall having been awake. Sometimes, however, our brains “click on” too much or have a hard time “clicking off” as we process stressful thoughts, making it hard to fall asleep or return to sleep.

Many sleep difficulties improve through developing healthy sleep habits. Staying up late and sleeping in on weekends can cause chronic jet lag in which our bodies can’t tell when to feel sleepy. Maintaining a fairly consistent sleep schedule throughout the week can fix that. Relaxing evening activities and predictable bedtime routines signal the body that it is time to sleep. It’s helpful to turn off electronic screens (TV, computers, cell phones, etc.) 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, as they may keep our minds active and the lights that they emit signal the brain that it’s still daylight and time to be awake.

Regular exercise (not too close to bedtime) can improve sleep, as well as overall physical and emotional health. Utilizing deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and visual imagery can make it easier to fall asleep at bedtime and return to sleep after waking during the night. Noise, brightness, and temperature levels of the bedroom, as well as the comfort level of the bed and bedding, should be conducive to sleep. It’s helpful to avoid the bedroom during the day so that when you get into bed at night your mind associates that space with sleep and becomes drowsy, just as we often become hungry when entering a kitchen. When having prolonged awakenings during the night, try getting out of bed, going to another room with the lights dimmed, and doing something relaxing until you feel sleepy enough to return to bed.

Caffeine stays in the body for hours before being fully eliminated, so caffeinated coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks can be eliminated or reduced and consumed only in the morning. “Decaf” coffees usually still contain some caffeine, and if taken in large quantities or throughout the day, can still interfere with sleep. While alcohol can cause sleepiness, it can also disrupt nighttime sleep. Abusing other chemical substances can also cause sleep problems. Regular use of over-the-counter sleep aids is not recommended without consulting with a medical provider, as long term use can cause grogginess or memory problems, and they may also become less effective over time. Sleep medications should NOT be mixed with alcohol, as the result can be fatal.

It sometimes can be tricky to use these recommendations with a child who doesn’t see the importance of sleep. Children may also need parents to ease bedtime fears or set limits regarding bedtime or middle-of-the-night behavior. It may also be necessary to address any larger anxiety or behavior problems. If your teenager is not getting enough rest, you might choose to have electronic devices turned into you before bedtime so as to reduce the temptation to talk or text during the night. Infant and toddler sleep is especially challenging due to the complexities of naps, nighttime nutritional needs, and little ones’ limited comprehension abilities.

Difficulties sleeping or chronic daytime sleepiness can be symptoms of underlying medical conditions. Individuals with sleep apnea have difficulty breathing while sleeping, and so without even knowing it experience frequent brief awakenings to breathe. Being overweight increases the risk of apnea, though individuals at a healthy weight can also have this condition. Discomfort, pain, or heartburn can cause sleep difficulties and may be assisted by strategies such as relaxation, not eating or drinking close to bedtime, avoiding trigger foods, or receiving appropriate medication.

If you or a loved one experiences sleep difficulties that are interfering with emotional or physical functioning, please consider seeking help from a mental health or medical provider. We can help create a plan to make it easier to fall and stay asleep, and also screen for and treat underlying disorders. For example, psychotherapy might be useful to address depression or anxiety, or behavioral therapy could help train a young child to follow bedtime limits. Individuals with sleep apnea can often be helped by a device that helps them breath better at night, or with assistance losing excess weight that is contributing to the problem. Sometimes prescription medications for other conditions can interfere with sleep and so can be switched, reduced, or eliminated in consultation with your provider. If a member of your family experiences other problematic sleep-related behaviors (screaming or walking while still sleeping, bedwetting or frequent urges to toilet during the night, attacks of excessive sleepiness during the day, etc.), please make sure to have them professionally evaluated.

I’ll end with a confession – I have children, and some of this article was written in the late evenings after they went to bed. And my infant sometimes woke me up a few hours later. Life happens. However, instead of just telling myself “I’ll sleep after I finish everything on my list,” I try to prioritize tasks so that I finish the most important ones before stopping for bedtime. Our children follow the examples that we set. Parenting takes a lot of energy and patience, both of which are easier to provide when we are well rested. I wish us all the best on our quest for households full of sweet dreams.

Lisa Foo, PhD, is a psychologist in private practice in Lexington. Dr. Foo is a Harvard graduate and Fulbright scholar who specializes in assisting individuals and families affected by health-related concerns. She previously worked as a senior psychologist and supervisor at a Level 1 trauma center. 33 Bedford Street, Suite 11; 612-237-8471; drlisafoo@gmail.com; www.drlisafoo.com .

 

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All Things Sustainable

Mark Sandeen, Chair Sustainable Lexington Committee

Mark Sandeen, Chair
Sustainable Lexington Committee

All Things SustainableQ: I’m planning to install solar power at home and I was wondering if I could use the solar power system to run my home during a power outage.

A: One of the wonderful things about solar power is how well it works with the utility grid. When your solar energy system produces more power than your home currently needs, you can pump that power out to the grid and your utility will give you a credit for the value of that electricity. When your home demands more energy than the solar energy system is generating, you can draw power from the grid to make up the difference.

Unfortunately when the utility power is out, your solar energy system still needs another energy source to act as a backup – a place to send electricity when the system is producing more power than you need and a place to pull extra power from when a cloud passes overhead. Your utility doesn’t want you to do that during a power outage. because it endangers line workers trying to restore power. So all solar installations must disconnect from the grid during a power outage.

One common backup strategy is to add batteries to your solar installation. Unfortunately the price of batteries hasn’t fallen as fast as the price of solar panels. That means a battery backup can easily add 30 – 40% to your overall cost of installation.

Another idea is to combine solar with a backup generator. This makes a lot of sense for buildings – like our schools and municipal buildings – that already have a backup generator installed. Properly designed backup generators disconnect from the grid during a power outage – operating like an island – and supplying all their own power. A well-designed solar energy system can easily integrate with your backup generator, letting the solar panels carry the load when the sun is strong and the backup generator picking up the slack during evening hours. The NY Times has an excellent article about a school that survived Hurricane Sandy by doing just that. http://bit.ly/solarbackup

Q: We’ve all been told that one of the first things we should do to lower our emissions is to replace our incandescent light bulbs. LED lights sound great, but have the costs come down enough to make them a viable alternative?

A: Yes, the price of LED bulbs has been dropping rapidly. LED light bulbs are the longest-lasting and most efficient mass-produced light sources to date. And now, they’re also among the most affordable, with some costing less than $10 per bulb.

They are a much better product than compact fluorescents. They turn on instantly. They are dimmable. They last 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb and 3 times longer than a CFL. They are more durable and contain no mercury. And best of all, they look great, providing warm natural light.

And LED bulbs save a lot of energy — from manufacture to disposal, an LED bulb uses 5 times less energy than an incandescent bulb and about 30% less energy than a CFL.

Plus LEDs can do things no incandescent or compact fluorescent bulb has ever done before. Some LED lights can be controlled over the internet or with your smartphone, allowing you to turn lights on and off remotely. You can set up presets like Home, Away, Night with schedules controlling light bulb groups and dimming levels, all with one touch. No more crawling behind the couch to plug in that timer before you leave on vacation.

 

Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

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A Personal Connection~Learning About Life Through Little League

Coaches

Little League Coaches

By Hank Manz

Even with some of the fields still brown and even with the nights still cold, it is now a very important time of year. Spring? Well, sure, but more important than that. I am speaking of something that surpasses everything else because it is time to start playing baseball.

I don’t mean just watching baseball. Sure, that can be important, too, but not as important as actually playing the game.

There are other sports that people might like, but there is nothing quite like a warm summer night, a well-oiled glove, a hat that fits perfectly, and a bunch of players who can’t hit my knuckleball. OK—that last is getting harder to come by, but even with three out of four, there is nothing with which to compare it.

I was a very small kid with no arm, but one summer in Police Athletic League baseball I ran into a coach who had a couple of the fingers on his throwing hand in a recent war. All he could throw was a knuckleball which was perfect for a player who would never be able to throw faster than 65 mph, even in college.

That knuckleball, along with an ability to scratch out singles with men on base, and a Vern Law signature model glove earned me a spot on several teams over the years. More than 50 years later I still have the glove. Oh, there have been love affairs with flashier models now and again, but I have always returned to that Law Trap-Eze glove. I once buried an almost new glove at a field in Cambridge after committing five errors including one that lost the game for my team.

The non-wood bats gave me a boost about the time my hitting was starting to really sag, but my first home run would not come until I was just past my 40th birthday when the perfect pitch and the best swing ever came together in my first round-tripper. It broke a window in a passing T-bus, but the driver just shrugged it off as did the police officer whose cruiser windshield I cracked when I fouled one off later in the game.

So it was inevitable that one day I would take my then only eligible child to Little League registration. After signing up we waited for the coach to call to tell us what team she was going to be on, but instead a smooth-talking league organizer came by to tell me that an awful lot of kids were going to be disappointed if I couldn’t sign up as a manager, the baseball equivalent of a head coach. It seems they were short of volunteers and really needed someone with my experience, etc., etc. Later, when I became a league organizer, I would use that line more times than I care to count.

I stuck with Little League, eventually joined the board of directors, and ended up as a league organizer. But I also stuck with coaching.

That somehow led to running for Town Meeting although I still do not fully understand exactly how that came about. And that led to running for Selectman.

I finally gave up Little League, but then concentrated on youth hockey and Boy Scouts. About four years into the transition I realized that what I had learned as a Little League organizer fit right into both hockey and Scouts. Hmmmmm.

One day, a light dawned. What I had learned in Little League also fit into town government and a lot of other endeavors. Everything I had learned about life appears to have been learned in Little League. Wow!

One of the first things I learned was that you can make all the rules you want, but if they fail to pass by a huge majority, nobody will follow them.

Use all your players. The day will come when you will be thankful that you spent all your time on that kid who just couldn’t seem to catch the ball because he will make a brilliant catch late in a tournament game which will more than make up for all the ones he dropped.

While we are on that subject, you will spend 75% of your time coaching 25% of your players. If you are a good coach, it will be the lowest 25% and not the highest 25%. The highest 25% are probably better players than you were anyway.

Of course you shouldn’t cheat, but don’t even cut corners. You may be following the letter of the law, but someday the fact that you didn’t pay attention to the spirit of the rules will come back to haunt you.

Try not to relive your past glories through your team. Most of the kids are just looking to have some fun while they figure out that they don’t really want to play ball for their life work. To be honest, your past glories probably weren’t perfect, either. No need for your players to know that.

Keep in mind that there will be failures. With a lifetime batting average of .210 that means I failed close to 4 out of every 5 times at bat. You are surprised I know my lifetime batting average? It doesn’t hurt to keep track so long as you don’t beat anybody else over the head with it.

Winning it all can be exciting, but pizza after you have spent the season in the cellar, but then knocked off the #1 seed in the tournament tastes really good … even when you get knocked out by the #12 seed two nights later. Live for the moment and don’t always concentrate on the big picture.

Try to see the humor in what is going on. My Little League team once won a game when the opposing coach yelled at his pitcher “Just throw strikes.” The pitcher looked over at me and smiled, then started to laugh so hard that he couldn’t get anything even close to the plate. That pitcher is now 28 years old and we both still chuckle about that game. I mean what did his coach think he was trying to do?

Don’t take advantage. It is, after all, only a game. With three players on base, the opposing catcher was hit so hard by a pitch that he fell down in front of the plate screaming. Technically, the team at bat could have sent all the runners home and won the game, but both coaches immediately called time and instructed the spectators to stop yelling. As one coach put it “Winning by stepping over a screaming child is not my style.”

There is so much more, but I will leave you with this thought. We all know healthy snacks are good for you, but while players may like them, nobody really adores them so now and then break out the licorice ropes and Hershey bars. The players will sing your praises and who knows—the resulting sugar high may win you a game.

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Managing Resources & Making a Profit

By E. Ashley Rooney with Photos by D. Peter Lund

 

The new culvert paid for by the Lexington Composting Facility.  The spoils or the material dredged from the former culvert is now being transformed at the facility. Courtesy of D. Peter Lund

The new culvert paid for by the Lexington Composting Facility. The spoils or the material dredged from the former culvert is now being transformed at the facility. Courtesy of D. Peter Lund

Once upon a time, the Town of Lexington had a dump on Lincoln Street. Today, it has a recycling facility, which transforms waste into valuable products that are sold throughout the region. As a result, the Lexington Composting Facility not only makes a profit, it diverts materials from the waste stream. Robert Beaudoin, Superintendent of Environmental Services, projects that for this fiscal year the facility may exceed $500,000 in total revenues.

Businesses, contractors, and other towns come to purchase compost and other products at the 60 Hartwell Road facility. Our yard waste now resides as beautiful loam in Lincoln, Cambridge, in the reconstructed Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, and even Foxboro Stadium! Lexington residents and contractors dump leaves, grass and soil at the facility, which then transforms the material into high-demand products. The contractors pay; we can use it for free.

Although nonresidents pay to purchase the compost, topsoil, and super loam in bulk and pay to dump yard waste, Lexington residents can take for free the wood chips deposited from the tree service companies or the compost that is screened at 2.5 inches (in other words there are small lumps and bumps in it). During the holiday season, you will see residents looking through the brush pile for holly branches and pine boughs. A local Lexington sculptor finds wood to carve there. The Lexington Field and Garden Club uses loam from the facility to pot plants for its annual sale.

Robert Beaudoin, Superintendent of Environmental Services, points out that Lexington is not only managing its resources, it is taking waste products in, transforming, and selling them. Lexington Public Works Director, William (Bill) Hadley, was recently named to the National Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year list. He said, “Over the past five years, Robert and Kerry Weaver, crew chief at the facility, have dramatically improved the overall management of materials at the site and have enhanced the services. Because of these enhancements, revenues have increased allowing us to replace a failed culvert, purchase a Cat Loader, and hire a new employee.  This was all done with no money from the tax levy.”

The town has developed a major profit-making facility, and those involved in operating it are still seeking new uses.

INCREASING USE OF ORGANICS

Crew captain Kerry Weaver is turning over the leaves and grass left by Lexington residents with a front-end loader. Courtesy of D. Peter Lund.

Crew captain Kerry Weaver is turning over the leaves and grass left by Lexington residents with a front-end loader. Courtesy of D. Peter Lund.

Within the Commonwealth, more than one million tons of food waste and other organic material are disposed of every year by food processors, large institutions, and residences. Approximately 100,000 tons of organics are recycled or composted each year, but the state has set a goal of diverting an additional 350,000 tons per year by 2020. This material, which comprises about 25 percent of the state’s solid waste, consumes valuable space in our landfills and creates greenhouse gases. A cutting-edge green technology is anaerobic digestion (AD), which can convert organic materials into clean renewable energy and valuable fertilizer.

Currently, there are six AD facilities now in use in Massachusetts and a few AD units used by commercial food processors. The Hartwell facility is considering the possibility of an anaerobic digester. The selectmen will hold public hearings on the subject later this summer.

USING THE SITE CREATIVELY

Massachusetts’ households generate a great deal of toxic waste every year in the form of common cleaners, paint products, automotive materials, mercury-containing devices such as fluorescent lights and thermostats, and numerous other items. Much of this waste could end up in landfills or contaminate surface water. To address this problem, the facility holds eight household hazardous waste collections – many mo