Living the “Three R’s”

Living the “Three R’s”

Southern Maryland is getting greener, and it isn’t just the onset of spring. Residents are recycling more, offering their everyday goods for reuse, and reducing their household waste.

Bill Nicholas is human resources director for the nonprofit Center for Life Enrichment (CLE), which serves an average of 300 disabled clients on a daily basis. The CLE operates three Vintage Values thrift stores in St. Mary’s County and one in Calvert County (301-373-8100; Nicholas is scouting for new locations because business is good and the profits are returned to the organization. The stores also put some of the clients to work.

CLE grossed about $1 million in 2011. “We sell everything we can. We get a lot of new items,” explained Nicholas. “We try to sell them cheaply so we can turn them over. Our stores have become very important as the economy shrinks and businesses close.” The thrift stores are regularly stocked with china, knick-knacks, small appliances, shoes and clothes.

One local consignment sale specializes in children’s items. Leprechaun Lilly’s, started by Mitzi McConville in 2005, has two annual sales in two buildings at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds. (The next one is March 30 and 31; visit for more information.)

“Our children grow up so fast and use their clothing and toys for such a short time. There’s still a lot of use left in them and it keeps things out of the landfillls,” McConville says. She plans to expand the for-profit operation into Calvert and Charles counties in the future.

Consignors pay an $8 registration fee, set their own prices for their items, and get paid 70 percent of the selling price. The first sale in 2005 had 46 consignors and 3,200 items; the last sale in October 2011 had 225 consignors and 24,000 items. “We really try to make it a quality event,” says McConville.    

One of the most visible examples of reuse and recycling are the ReStores operated by Patuxent Habitat for Humanity in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties (443-964-4387/301-737-6273; The stores opened in 2010 and 2007, respectively; the Charles County ReStore that recently closed was affiliated with a different Habitat organization. The goal of the ReStores is to resell items to earn money to build Habitat homes, but there is a side benefit.

“We want people to help the community and the environment by donating to and buying from the store,” says Pamela Shubert, executive director of Patuxent Habitat. Donations are tax-deductible.
The ReStore’s inventory ranges from quality furniture and appliances to golf clubs and vinyl records. The store is legendary for its brand-new donations from home improvement stores, like Pella windows and sliding glass doors that retail for over $1,000. Whether the donations are new or old, the prices are marked down within weeks of arrival.

“Turnover is the name of the game down there,” says Shubert, whose office is above the Lexington Park location. The St. Mary’s store grossed $311,000 in fiscal year 2011 while the Calvert store, not yet open a full year, grossed $22,000.

The Recycled Art Show is the ReStore’s signature annual fundraiser. This year it will be held on May 4 at Slack Winery in Ridge. Artists are encouraged to use items from the ReStore, and their works of art are auctioned off. Last year the event raised $5,000.

Habitat isn’t the only organization recycling appliances. The Southern Mary-land Electric Cooperative (SMECO) began collecting refrigerators and freezers from members – and paying them $50 a pop – two years ago (888-440-3311; www.smeco. coop). Refrigerators must be 10 to 27 cubic feet and in working condition. A limit of two appliances will be picked up at no charge from the billing account address and a check mailed within four weeks.

“We’ve had an exceptional response and we only expect to get busier,” says Jeff Shaw, the environmental and energy conservation manager for SMECO. The co-op received state approval in December to add room air conditioners to the rebate program, which is in line with a state-mandated program called “EmPOWER Mary-land” that has a goal to reduce power consumption by 15 percent by 2015.

The original goal with refrigerators and freezers was to recycle 2,700 units in the first two years; SMECO exceeded that goal by over 1,000 units. Over $180,500 in incentives have been paid out by the organization, says Shaw. SMECO may schedule collection events in the future.

“For most people the biggest incentive is to green themselves. They feel better about themselves,” explains Shaw.
Recycling saves money for local governments, as well, because garbage costs about $65 a ton to dispose of. Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties are required by the Maryland Recycling Act to recycle 15 percent of their waste. All three counties have programs in place to help meet that goal and Calvert is even exploring the use of kitchen scraps for composting. The three counties also collect things like textiles and cooking oil at their convenience or recycling centers.  

The Charles County residential recycling program, funded through an annual environmental service fee of $74, offers residents four transfer stations and seven oil and anti-freeze drop-off centers ( Curbside collection is provided to about 33,581 homes located in the more densely populated areas of the county. The blue recycle bins are collected every two weeks, and yard waste is picked up weekly from April to December.
“Recycling is a matter of habit. Once you begin it becomes second-nature,” says Lowry Phelps, the superintendent of environmental resources for Charles County. “It’s important to the environment. It takes less energy to recycle and we create less pollution.”

Charles county practices single-stream recycling, which means glass, paper, aluminum, plastic and like items can be mixed together. In addition, worthy objects diverted from the landfill are brought to the Re-Use Barn Project at the Hughesville Bargain Barn to be sold. The profits are used for the county’s disaster victims, shelters and scholarships.

Calvert County residents are allowed two recycling bins per household, but there’s no curbside pick-up, so residents take their bins to convenience centers. (Chesapeake Beach and North Beach are separate municipalities that contract for curbside recycling pick-up.) Instead of single stream recycling, Calvert residents put paper products in one bin and mix bottles, cans and other products in the second. The county has six convenience centers and the Appeal Landfill (

“It’s easy and makes materials more valuable to the recovery facilities. We get a better rate of return in terms of money,” says Bill Teter, Calvert County’s recycling coordinator. The recycling program is paid for with a solid waste fee of $113 per property.

Teter encourages residents to recycle everything they can. “I know a lot of people think it’s trash and throw it away, but those of us in the industry think of it as a commodity. There are a lot of materials that we don’t think of as having much of a life cycle. But there is a life after you use it,” says Teter.

St. Mary’s County began single- stream recycling in 2006, 12 years after initiating its recycling program, and is getting a better response than when items were required to be separated, says George Erichsen, the director of the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation Building Services Division. “We make it easier for residents to recycle at home. We have seen an increase of 25 percent to 40 percent. It’s a good thing,” he says.

There is no curbside pick-up – except in the Town of Leonardtown, which contracts separately for it – so residents take their recyclables to one of the six convenience centers or the St. Andrews Landfill ( The recycling program is funded through the county’s Enterprise Fund, a fee on resident tax bills for solid waste.
Erichsen says 80 percent to 90 percent of household refuse can be recycled, adding, “We’re always encouraging folks to do more. Instead of making it mandatory, the ball is in their court.”

So remember the “three R’s” when you launch your own spring cleaning project, whether you are tackling the yard, the garage or the closets: reduce, reuse and recycle. Everyone will benefit.  ✦

Below is a sampling of some additional locations for buying, selling and consigning.

Calvert County
Big Top Kids Consignment Shop
Sunderland; 410-257-5091 Children’s items.

Cherry Pickers Consignment
Owings; 443-964-4970
Upscale retail home furnishings and more.

SMILE Thrift Shop
Lusby; 410-326-0009;
Clothing and household items.

St. Leonard; 410-562-6516;
Thrift shop.

Charles County
Hug Bug Boutique
La Plata; 240-776-4655;
Children’s boutique and consignment.

Robin’s Consignment Boutique
Waldorf; 301-632-6800. Vintage and used clothing.

The Plaid Umbrella
Waldorf; 240-468-3806 apparel, accessories and home furnishings.

St. Mary’s County
Colleen’s Dream
Leonardtown; 301-475-8899
Vintage clothing and jewelry.

Hooks-N-Hangers 2
Charlotte Hall; 301-274-3711. Thrift shop.
Hug Bug Boutique
Hollywood; 301-690-2013; Children’s boutique.

Just Between Kids
Mechanicsville; 301-290-5212 Gently used toys and infants’, kids’, children’s and maternity clothing.

La Posh Consign and Boutique
Leonardtown; Fine resale boutique.

The Vintage source
Compton; 240-925-1060;
Architectural finds, antiques and vintage furnishings.

Upcycled warehouse
Callaway; 919-219-9234. Vintage finds and furniture.
This is certainly not an extensive list, but a source to get you started. Check out and for online marketplaces, and our wonderful antique shops.

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