Ask Betty: Your burning recycling and energy questions answered

Future solar cooker? Better World Betty offers tips on how to recycle—or repurpose—
your household items. File photo. Future solar cooker? Better World Betty offers tips on how to recycle—or repurpose— your household items. File photo.

Teri Kent runs Charlottesville’s Better World Betty, a non-profit organization and online resource for locals looking to shrink their impact on the environment. Every month, Betty—Kent’s ’50s-housewife-meets-earth-goddess alter ego —answers the most burning eco-questions from our readers about energy use, water, waste and recycling, transportation, and green buying.

What can we do with an old satellite dish? Can it be reused or recycled?

These are the bane of roofers and people who don’t like to landfill! Currently, Dish Network offers no recycling choice for its customers. So beyond writing the company a letter encouraging better corporate responsibility, I would post on recycling website as some techno-savvy folks may be able to use your dish as another type of receiver.

Also, I have noticed on various web forums that some say satellite dishes make great solar cookers if you sand them out and place reflective film inside.

We have just bought two new beds for our kids (they are getting too big!). We have two older twin mattresses that we hate to just toss out. Do you have suggestions as to where or how to recycle them?

Though a well-run facility can recycle 95 percent of the materials from a single mattress, I found no mattress recycling facility in this area. My Betty brain and research did dig up the following local solutions.

Ask family, friends, neighbors, or fellow employees if they or someone they know needs a good mattress, or call local places of worship or nonprofits: PACEM, an organization for the homeless; FOCUS women’s shelter; the International Rescue Committee (973-1234, ext. 114); or the Salvation Army (979-5230 or 1-800-728-7825 to schedule a pick-up, as long as there are no stains or tears).

Richmond shelter organization Caritas also runs a furniture bank that takes mattresses and distributes them and other essentials to needy families.

Finally, there is one local mattress company that offers mattress recycling: Savvy Rest. If you buy a mattress from them, they will take back your old mattress and recycle it at the nearest facility in South Carolina, Nine Lives Recycling.

Want to know more about how a mattress gets broken down and recycled? Check out the website of California company DR3 Recycling (

This summer I decided to raise my thermostat to 75 degrees and use overhead fans to save on AC costs. I’ve been cracking my bedroom windows upstairs to let in fresh air. My question: Is letting in outside air bad for my home energy efficiency?

Yes, it is compromising your energy efficiency. According to the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP), one of the keys to energy efficiency is taking control of the airflow of your home. The more you can do that, the more you can control the temperature, humidity, air quality, and costs.

If you want fresh air on summer nights, LEAP suggests keeping the windows slightly cracked from 11pm to 7am, because during the night,  the temperature difference between outside and the inside is 5 to 10 degrees (depending on overnight lows) compared to a 15- to 20-degree or higher difference in the daytime. Remember, energy efficiency is not about being perfect—it’s about continuously finding the little things you can do that add up to make a difference.