Friday, December 30, 2011

Tis the Season - to Freecycle


T'is the Season to Freecycle!


 With the holidays nearing their end ...and the new year coming on, it's a great time to purge and Freecycle!  Freecycle DC is a great place to find or advertise goods you want or want to get rid of.  You can opt out of the emails - or just get the daily journal if you want to minimize traffic. Craig's List DC also has a FreeSection.  But, even a walk around your neighborhood might render some great gems!  My dog and I found this grill on a morning walk.  One of the 5(!) burners was broken, so it was being thrown out! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Give Locally!

Day 12
So during this time of giving, don’t forget a gift – or your time to your favorite local charity.  With the economic downturn, contributions to most charities are down, and the smaller non-profits operating on shoe string budgets really feel the pinch.  DC has a wealth of charitable organizations that address a wide variety of causes:  Food&Friends provides and delivers cooked meals to people with life threatening diseases, Martha’s Table provides food, clothing and educational opportunities to at risk folks, Street Sense helps get homeless folks back on their feet; and the Washington Animal Rescue League and the Washington Humane Society find homes for rescued pets.  There are many more!  Help make DC a better place for all of us!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ditch (even more) Plastic!


Day 11
Plastic containers are petroleum based, and some contain Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and Bisphenol A (BPA) which are now being questioned for their impact both on the environment and human health.  Glass and stainless steel storage bowls are a great green storage option – and are great containers for taking lunch to work.  I’m amazed how many people still microwave in a plastic container.  Glass is microwavable and it’s a much better option than microwaving plastic.  Take one of these along with you on your next dine out, and forego the Styrofoam doggie bag.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Occupy DC businesses…buy it LOCALLY!!

DAY 10
Whatever you buy this holiday season, buy it locally and support DC owned businesses.  The City Paper has a great DC local shopping guide and the search engine Milo.com will help you buy things locally…though most of their businesses seem to be major retailers. Pay in cash, and the proprietors will appreciate you even more - as they'll avoid the credit card fee they have to pay on every transaction.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Make your own sparkling water!

DAY 9
Get some plastic bottles out of your…or someone else’s life by getting them a machine that makes fizzy water.  There are lots of brands out there these days..Soda Stream seems to be the most popular brand.  Buy one locally instead of on line! Hill's Kitchen is just one of many local stores that carries these!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

COMPOST IT!

Day 8
I’m on my soapbox again, but composting has cut my trash by more than ½.  I now only have trash to put out only once a month, and that’s not enough to fill a garbage bag.  A kitchen composter with a charcoal filter makes a great gift. If you can’t have a compost bin outside, consider buying a gift certificate to Compost Cab or FatWorm Compost who will pick up your goods weekly or more ( see far right side board of this blog for more compost options)!

Monday, December 12, 2011

iPad/iPhone covers - Cork it!

Day 7
So, you know that buying wine with REAL corks is the right thing to do…and you’ve been recycling your (real) wine corks 4eeeever…so what comes of it?  Walk the upcycle talk and buy one of these cork iPad/iPhone cork covers.  Uncommon Goods has a plethora ….no, better said – a cornucopia of great upcycled products!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

E-Tip Gloves

Day 6
Keep your hands warm AND use your touch screen!  E-tip gloves will allow you to use any touch screen - iPhone, iPad and Kindle.  Most models have an e-tip enabled thumb and index finger.  They're available from a wide variety of retailers including REI. Search for "A-gloves" and "E-tips".   Sweeeeet!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Pressure Cooker

Day 5
While not the most romantic of gifts, if you’re looking for an energy saving and practical gift for someone who likes to cook, you can’t go wrong with a pressure cooker.  See my November 26th posting touting the wonders of these devices:  soaked beans cook in 7 minutes, artichokes in 10 and carrots in 2.  It’s a great fast way to make winter soups or your own baby food.  They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes these days. And, it might even be a great conversation starter for you and your (future) mother-in-law!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Flannel Sheets !!

Day 4
They come in a wide variety of colors…and they’ll keep you toasty warm while allowing you to turn the thermostat waaaaaaaaaaaay down at night, saving you lots of $$$$...and cutting down on your carbon footprint.  Program your thermostat to warm up the house 15 minutes before you wake up..and you’ll never even notice the difference!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

GIVE YOUR TIME!

DAY 3
Give some of your time. Homemade gift certificates for child or pet sitting, dog walks (hint, hint), housecleaning, cooking lessons, closet reorganizing, coffee dates, car washing, snow shoveling, language lessons, dinner, massages, a lift to the airport, bike maintenance, a trip to Value Village…you get the idea .. make great gifts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES

DAY 2
Rechargeable batteries have evolved considerably (and gone down in price). Available in AA and AAA sizes, they're a great stocking stuffer.  Rechargeable Hybrid Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries come fully charged and can hold a charge over many months.  A quick and unscientific web survey of best rechargeable batteries around found the Sanyo Eneloop to be a fave.  HYBRID is a word you should look for as these batteries can hold their charge over time (for low drain items like remotes and flashlights) but can take frequent use of high-drain devices like digital cameras.  This article provides a great overview of the best rechargeable batteries and chargers. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Announcing - 12 days of Green Gifting Ideas

The DCR is attempting a 12 days of Christmas, Hanukkah a/o Kwanzaa – a list of green and environmentally friendly gift options.  The 12 days may not be consecutive, but I hope to get in at least 12 options before the 25th.  And the 1st Day option…..drumroll, please…………………
Day 1    
GIVE!
Give to those in need.  Most of us have far too much stuff and our true needs are few.  Yet there are plenty out there in the US and around the world that are truly living from one day to the next.  Oxfam America, World Neighbors and Heifer International ..among others ..provide great and creative options that allow you to give anything from art supplies for a school, a share of a water buffalo, a hive of honey bees, alternative pesticide or HIV education to folks around the world.  If you get your order in early enough, each organization will send you a card representing your gift.  Do it!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Resurrecting the Pressure Cooker

If you grew up at a high altitude, you probably know all about pressure cookers. For the rest of us, they may be something you heard your Grandma talk about.  Pressure cookers are sealed vessels that won’t allow air or liquids to escape below a preset pressure. Because the boiling point of water increases as pressure increases, pressure cookers bring the liquid in the pot to rise to a higher temperature before boiling – and cook food …especially beans and grains that take a long time to cook a LOT faster. Soaked kidney beans will cook in less than 10 minutes in a pressure cooker. Brown rice will cook in 12-15 minutes and artichokes in 10.  You can even cook meat and chicken in them. Think of all the energy..and time you’re saving by cutting down on the cooking time!
Using a pressure cooker is not rocket science, but there are some things you need to know to avoid a mess or even getting hurt.  This YouTube video gives a great overview, (even if the woman might be one of the Stepford wives).  I also found this very comprehensive timetable for the length of time to cook various foods.  I found my pressure cooker (one of the old ones with a manual pressure release valve) at a garage sale.  I’ve seen them for sale at Value Village and several thrift stores.  There are new and improved models on the market these days that are more straightforward to use..but don’t shy away from learning how to use one of the old models.  It’s not that complicated, and your friends will think you’re a really sophisticated cook! 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rethinking the water filter

For the last few years, I've dutifully filtered all the water we drink in the house.  Recently, I noticed green algae in the bottom of my plastic filtered water pitcher.  Ewww.  While, I realized I could stop this by keeping the pitcher in my frig, it got me wondering if I really need to filter my water.  I'm antiplastic, and here I am filtering my water through a plastic filter and storing my drinking water in a plastic pitcher.  While some Whole Foods will recycle used Brita filters, not all stores do.  Preserve will also recycle them, but I have to go to the Post Office to mail them in. These filters are only good for 3 months and they generate a lot of plastic over time. Alas, was I on an off-ramp on my road to a plastic free - or at least plastic-less life??

The Brita vs. Kishu Experiment


About the same time, I started hearing about binchotan- a white charcoal made of oak trees found in Japan that is used to filter water.  So, I bought a water sampling kit, a stick of  Kishu and put it to the test against my Brita.   The results: there was no detectable difference in the water quality. Hmmmm.
Living in a house that was built in the 1880's, I'm most concerned about lead in my water.  As I know charcoal filters only have limited ability to filter out lead, I bought a lead test kit, and found that the water that was coming RIGHT OUT OF MY TAP was below the EPA action level of 15ppm.  Yay!

Then, I interviewed my neighbor Carl, who works on water quality at EPA about his drinking water consumption.
  • You work at EPA on water quality issues, right? YUP,specifically drinking water quality issues and overseeing regulation of drinking water systems and Underground Injection Control (UIC) wells.
  • Do you filter the DC water that comes out of the faucets at your house? NOPE, no filter on faucets.
  • Why or why not?  I believe what bad stuff is likely to pass thru the DC treatment thru the distribution system to the house will not make me immediately sick (i.e, no acute effects), the closest contaminant of most concern to me is lead and I flush the sitting water out of the faucet before  using, and the pathogens and other chronic contaminants that were in the source water have been removed before reaching my faucet.  I'd be more cautious if young kids or old folks lived in the house.
So, I'm not sure whether I need a water filter at all. I am convinced that I don't need to buy Brita filters anymore, so I'm putting my pitchers up on Freecycle DC.  I'm not sure if I'll keep buying the Kishu or not (it's got quite the carbon footprint if it's shipped here from Japan)...but for now it looks cool in the bottom of my glass water pitchers and in a few months, I'll just throw it in the compost bin.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

One of the 99%. How I Broke Up with My Mega Bank

So, I'm still on this theme...and I'm proud of myself as I really have broken up with my mega bank.  Here are the steps I followed:

1) I found a Credit Union I could join. (See my previous post...or check out this credit union locator).  Community Banks are another option, and this locator tool is great for identifying local banks...that really are local and invest in your neighborhood. I joined and established a new account.
2) I ordered new checks and an ATM card IMMEDIATELY as I knew having these would help me move any automatic deposits from your old account to my new one.
3) I moved SOME of the money over from my old account ...but not all as I wanted to make sure that there were funds available for any automatic withdrawals that might hit before I'd had a chance to move all my accounts over. Even after making the change in accounts, it can take a few days or even a week before the changes take effect.
4) Then, I made a  list of all the automatic withdrawals that come out of my old bank account.  I did an initial list and then put it on the back burner for a day or two to make sure I had all accounts covered.  (Think mortgage, water, gas, electric, cable, phone...credit card...charible contributions...you may have more than you think.  In a worse case scenario, missing one payment won't mess up your credit rating...but if you get e-statements, pay attention and make sure no payments are being missed.)
5) I started moving accounts over. This can be a tedious process that requires yoga breaths and intermittent sojourns to the outdoors.  "You are doing the right thing" became my mantra. You can transfer many accounts on line..but some - like Washington Gas...still require the old voided check...and it took a while to get new checks for my new account.
6) I monitored automatic withdrawals from my new account.  When I saw that all major utilities and my mortgage were being deducted, I proudly walked into a local branch of my mega bank and announced that I wanted to close my account.  The bank employees (who I really like) asked why...and I told them that I didn't want to pay their fees.  Check out: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/citigroup_inc/index.html
7) I cut up my old card and sent it back to the mega bank headquarters explaining that I was closing my account and why. 

Green America has a great toolkit for breaking up with your mega bank.  Do it!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Credit Unions and Community Banks for DC Residents



Ahhh! That's better!
 
With mega banks increasing fees, joining a credit union or community bank is all the rage.  If you’re a member of the military or a government or university employee, you probably know all about credit unions.  For the rest of us, it’s not so clear. When I received a letter from my mega bank saying fees were going up, I started looking for other options.  Here are some ideas:
 
Credit Unions are owned and controlled by members and operated to promote thrift and provide credit and other financial services at competitive rates. You can find one through an online credit union locator. Alumni associations often have credit unions, but their ATMs may not be conveniently located.  In DC, Andrews FCU is open to non military folk. Anyone can join MCT credit union by donating $35 to the Montgomery County Humane Society.  If you live in DC, you can join Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union.  You can also join Pentagon Federal Credit Union with a $20 donation to the National Military Families Association.   They have branches around DC, but most are located in buildings requiring a security clearance – though ATMs are accessible to the rest of us.  They have great phone customer service, and you can talk to a real person from 7am-1am!

Another option are community banks which are locally owned and operated banking institutions.  A quick search on Community Bank Locator identified 6 or so community banks in DC including National Capitol Bank on Capitol Hill which was rated as one of the top 200 community banks (ranking 192) in the US in a study conducted by SNL Financial LC in 2009.  They have a walk up window with a real person on Saturdays from 10-1pm on Saturdays, and they let you bring your (well mannered) pet in the lobby.

But opening your account is only half of the job.  You still have to transfer all your automatic withdrawals over to your new bank.  Fortunately, this process has evolved over the years, and you can change your account information with most utilities/mortagages online without the laborious process of mailing in voided checks (Washington Gas unfortunately being the exception).  To be prudent, wait a month before closing out your mega-bank account.  Then, cut up your ATM card and send it back to them so they know what you think of those increased fees!  Green America also posted 6 Ways to Break Up with Your Bank.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why You Need a DC Library Card: the digitalbookmobile.com

Who knew that DC Public Libraries were so online!  If you have a card, you can go to the digitalbookmobile and download a wide variety of books, audio books, and music in formats compatible with iPhone, iPad, Android and Nook among others.  Last weekend, I downloaded a movie, and I'm currently on the waiting list for a bestseller novel.  I'll get an email when the book is ready for download, and it will automatically check it back in on the due date. Sweet!  You do have to download some software, but even I was able to figure out how to do it, and I'm no hipster or techie.  The on-line collection is growing all the time, and while Netflix and others are increasing their fees, this service is blissfully free!  If you don't have a card, you can apply for one on line or at any DC Public Library. And, you don't have to be a DC resident to get a card. Residents of the greater DC area are eligible, too.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Must Haves for Fall Bicycle Commuting


Not a fashion statement!

Fall is a GREAT time to commute to/from work by bike in DC - low humidity, crisp, blue skies, and a lot less sweat.  BUT, fall cycling requires some prep work. With just a few accoutrements - you can enjoy a safe and comfortable commute as we go into the season...and beyond.

1) A helmet! With shorter days and the way DC drivers drive, you've got to protect yourself. Even if you're on a Capital BikeShare bike, PLEASE use a helmet!   (Yes, your Mom asked me to write that, but she's right!)
 
 2) Illuminate and reflect:  Just because DC streets are well lit and you don't need lights to see where you're going, once the sun even begins to set, your visibility as a cyclist - to cars, other cyclists, and pedestrians - catapults into near oblivion.  Help us ALL out and invest in lights whether you cycle on trails or roads, and put them on the front and back of your bike.  Battery powered front (white) bike lights don't last that long..and go through too many batteries.   A NiteRider rechargeable front light costs a bit, but after 5 years and daily use for 6 mos of the year, mine is still as bright as a car headlight when charged - which I do daily for about an hour. I use red, flashing battery powered lights on the back of my bike and on my backpack.  I've got stick-on reflectors on my bike, helmet, and backpack ...and I just invested in some bike string lighting that outlines the frame of my bike.  Buy a bike vest! Be seen!!

3) Gloves:  You'll need a good pair soon.  The way your hands wrap around the brakes really exposes your fingers and can make them immovable ..so you can't brake ..if they aren't protected.  Insulated gloves are best..and as the weather gets colder...put on a thin glove and put a heavier pair over those. Gloves don't have to be expensive...they just need to be insulated.  They can't be too bulky - or you won't be able to brake. In winter, slip in some charcoal hand warmers. Tooooooasty!

4) A medium sized plastic bag or plastic shower cap - just the thing for covering your bike seat when you stop for that warm cup of coffee when it starts to rain.

5) A woolish type scarf: The wind can really cut through to your neck on a ride.  A  neck warmer/scarf allows you to turtle in and keep at least part of your face and neck warmer.

6) A thin skull cap or head band will protect your ears from the cold and still allow you to wear your helmet.

7) Layering: An old pair of tights (or two) or longjohns under whatever pants/skirts you bike in will help keep your legs warm - even bike pants. In winter, ski pants and tights are great.

8) Shoe covers:  somehow the top of the  foot where it meets ankle gets miserably cold on morning commutes.  As the mornings get colder, shoe covers really help.  Be sure to get a size that will fit over the type of shoe you wear as many are designed to fit over clip in bike shoes.

REI and Bike Nashbar are good on-line sources for bike gear...and there are many more.  DC is blessed with lots of locally owned bike shops as well:  Capitol Hill Bikes, District Hardware, Revolution Cycles, just to name a few.  Mostly, have fun and enjoy the season!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dark Brown is my River - the poop on DC's rivers

I recently participated in the Nation's Triathlon....that turned into the Nation's Duathlon this year as e-Coli levels were so high in the Potomac after all the recent rain that the water was unsafe to swim in.  I've heard about this issue for years and I decided to do a bit more research on it. Here's what I've found out. 

According to DC Water, like many older communities, DC has a combined sewer system that serves about 1/3rd of the city - mostly downtown and the older sections. In dry weather, the system sends wastewater to the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant. When it rains, runoff water also enters the system, and if the conveyance capacity is exceeded, the excess flow - rain and raw sewage - spills into waterways - namely Rock Creek, the Anacostia and the Potomac. This discharge is called Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). There are 53 permitted CSO outfalls in the District. 
Yuk.
DC Water is currently engaged in implementing the Clean Rivers Project - for DC CSOs. The good news is that once fully operational, CSOs will be reduced by a projected 96 percent (98 percent on the Anacostia River).  The bad news is that the project isn’t scheduled for completion until 2025.
So, until that new system is functioning, there will still be raw sewage coming into DC waterways when we have heavy rains.  The tidal nature of the rivers allows the sewage to travel further upstream.  And it’s not just sewage that we have to worry about. A lot of pollutants enter the rivers from runoff upstream in the watershed...such as fertilizers from farmland and manure from pig, chicken, and dairy operations.  WAMU just did a great...if verbally graphic story on DC's sewer system that's worth listening to.

So, what can any one person do? Don't flush anything other than toilet paper down your toilet. Toilet paper decomposes fairly easily, but other things don't and risk making their way into the river. Reducing runoff will reduce the amount of water that gets thrown into the rivers.  While only a drop in the bucket, harvesting the water that comes off your house helps...and it will reduce your watering bill.  Having permeable yards and patio surfaces will also help (bricks or stone vs concrete or asphalt).  Reducing the use of chemical fertilizers will also help. There are some great organizations that are working on the Anacostia, the Potomac and the Bay in general…and they always have some great outdoor activities planned.  Check out:
The Alice Ferguson Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Potomac Conservancy, and the Potomac Riverkeeper, just to name a few.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How Green is My University???

Well, thanks to the Sierra Club, you can now get some idea of how DC Area universities stack up against the others across the nation.  In their 5th annual survey, the Sierra Club sent out a 12-page questionnaire to 940 universities across the US with queries on purchasing practices, waste disposal, transport, energy etc.  Unfortunately, only 118 schools responded to the questionnaire.  Universities in DC scored fairly high – with American University ranking 26th and GW ranking 30ieth.  Maryland came in at 20ieth.  It seems Howard, Georgetown and George Mason were among the non responders. For a full listing of all schools that responded and the methodology used to rank them, check out the details on the online version of the Sierra Club Magazine.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Low Carbon Child-Raising..and taking green living to the next level

While I'm an avid recycler and freecycler, I'm always humbled by my friend Keya...who REALLY walks the talk...and is raising a baby while doing it. On her blog she's documenting the experience of raising a child on a low carbon diet...and has all sorts of advice on diapers, breast pumping tips for working moms, and other green living gems.  http://keyachatterjee.com/

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Christmas in August...or at least prepping for it

Penzey's is probably trembling!
My herb garden has been a huge success this year, and even I can't consume all those wonderful leaves...not even all the basil.  I know the bleak winter months are just around the corner...and I know how expensive herbs are when you buy them at the store...so I'm thinking..how hard can it be to dry my own?  Turns out, it's really very easy.  All you need is string, herbs, a dry spot, and time..and you're set.  I've got basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme drying in my laundry closet (it's dry there and the herbs won't absorb kitchen/cooking odors as they dry....and my laundry might absorb some of those great smells). It will take the leaves of each about 4 weeks to dry thoroughly..and then they'll be ready to be stored in jars.  I've been asking folks for baby food jars at work..and they're a great size for such things.  I know these herbs are organic...and I think they'll make great gifts. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Some Good News! More Cork Recycling, Free Compost, and Additional Hours for Recycling Hazardous Waste

I don't know about you, but after all the talk about the debt ceiling, the S&P downgrading, and other news of doom and gloom, I'm ready for some good news.  Here are a couple of positive ...albeit small things that I'm happy about:

  • Schneider's of Capitol Hill has started recycling (real) corks through ReCork!!! The previoius DCR lobbied Schneider's to do this for a long time...and her efforts have paid off!  See if you can get your local liquor/grocery store to join this effort.  There's a list of other groups that recycle cork on the right hand column of this blog. (and yes, buying wines with real cork is a good thing.  Cork is a renewable resource and employs many folks!).
  • The DC Government is offering free compost at the Fort Totten Transfer Station every Saturday between 8am-3pm.
  • DC is also expanding its hazardous waste collection hours.  In addition to their first Saturday of the month hours (from 8am-3pm), you can now dispose of hazardous waste and e-cycling at Fort Totten on every first Thursday of the month between 1-7pm. A list of what they'll take..and not is here!
  • Capital Bikeshare is piloting a project with DDOT to provide bike helmets to tourists who use the program while visiting the city. DDOT is also giving out 500 helmets to frequent (daily) Bikeshare users in an effort to encourage helmet use.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Another Great Blog.....

My Plastic-Free Life
There are a lot of folks out there promoting eco-living.  A friend pointed me to one that has a lot of great information - My Plastic-Free Life.  There are all sorts of reasons to not use plastic _ plastic can impact our own health, and it doesn't breakdown easily contributing to trash on land and in the ocean.  That said, if you've ever tried to minimize the amount of plastic you consume, you'll find it's very challenging.  This blog gives some practical solutions...and gives road test reports on plastic-free products!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Follow the 30 Day Eco Tune-Up

Hey folks, while the DC Recylcer has been a very lame blame blogger of late (my job keeps getting in the way!), one of my pals has started up a 30 Day Eco Tune-Up - an environmental impact diet whereby she promises to make one change everyday over 30 days ...and document it....to reduce her environmental impact on the world.  Check it out at http://30dayecotuneup.wordpress.com/.  The DC Recycler promises to be back soon with more ideas for greening and recycling in DC!

Friday, July 8, 2011

And what to do with tubes and tires that really can’t be reused.

Yvette from Bikes for the World was kind enough to provide some ideas about how to use tires and tubes that really aren’t reusable.  Here are some of her ideas as well as other uses I've found for old tubes:
    Photo courtesy Y.Hass
  • as a huge bungee cord (great for attaching canoes and kayaks to a car roof);
  • as big rubber bands;
  • on a bike rack on a car to hold the back wheel in place;
  • as padding between the car and bike to make keep the paint from getting scratched;
  • to hang banners and pictures at events; and
  • inside a tire to protect a new tube (that way if there is a slit in the tire glass will have to penetrate two layers of tube before hitting the new tube).
Jewelry can be made out of spokes, cogs and chains that can’t be used again. Yvettes sometimes sells these at Bikes for the World (BFW) events to defer costs for shipping the bikes.
 
As for tires…as long as it still has some tread on it and the side walls aren’t blown out BfW can take them(see listing in right hand column of this blog) .  According to Yvette, a tire can wear out quickly when a bike is stored outdoors. If you get a slit in a tire, you can place a dollar bill – or a piece of old tube to provide an extra barrier to stop the debris from damaging a tube.
 
Sometimes it’s just better to get a new tire or tube. Unless the tire is  in shreds or the tube valve is busted, drop it off at one of the bike shops that donates to BfW (again, see listing in right hand column of this blog).  The quality of the tires and tubes that we have in the US …even with a patch or four …..are often better what what’s available in developing countries. Check the BfW website for a list of upcoming dates and drop off sites for your bikes and accessories.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I < 3 Capital Bikeshare



As someone who has 3 bikes (none with a motor) I’m not an obvious target audience for the Capital Bikeshare program.  Nevertheless, I’m a huge fan.  Here’s why…and why you might consider joining the program.

  • There are currently 110 bikeshare stations around DC and Arlington...and more are on the way! Here's a map!
  • The bikes are great to ride when you need to need to look good at your end destination.  The chains are covered, so you’re not going to get grease on your slacks cuff.  The seats are up right…and there’s no crossbar, so skirts and dresses don’t hike up as easily.  The pedals are flat…so they’re easy to ride – even in heels.
  • I usually ride a bike to work, but when I go out afterwards with coworkers, I want to walk with them.  On those days, it’s great to hop a bikeshare bike to work, go out with my friends after work, and then hop a bikeshare home from where ever we end up.
  • I don’t have to lug around a lock. (I do lug around my helmet). :)
  • There's a cool app that you can easily download to your smartphone that will tell you where stations are located. This is great as there are new ones popping up all the time.
  • The website has a great Capital Bikeshare 101 video.....even in EspaƱol, pues!
  • If there’s not a bike when you want to pick up a bike, you can hit the “options” button at the kiosk to find where the nearest stations are…along with a real time status of how many bikes and free docks are available.
  • It’s great when visitors come to town and you need that extra bike…but just for a couple of days. There are all sorts of memberships – ranging from 24 hours, to 5 days, to 30 days to a year...and the first 30 minutes are free!  You don't have to have a membership key for a 24 hour or 5 day membership.  Just walk up to any kiosk with your credit card handy and you can be biking in 2 minutes!
  • The bikes are easily adjustable…and the seat stem is designed to adapt to a wide range of heights.
  • The bikes are retro and HEAVY in that hippsta kinda way.  They aren’t designed for any speedster!  AND, they have that nifty bag holder right on the front of the bike!
  • There’s a light built in to the bike..and your pedaling generates power for the light.  This is great for those late night rides home.
  • If there’s free docking station at your preferred kiosk, just put in your key or credit card at the kiosk, and you’ll be given an extra 15 minutes and a real time update of nearby stations and the number of bikes and docking stations available.
  • There’s now a nifty dashboard that will provide all of us biker geeks with all sorts of stats on ridership.
  • Finally, consider joining just to support this great asset to our city!  Go bikes...and ride safely!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

RE......

Hopefully, you've been able to take advantage of some of the great cycling events here in the city over the last couple of days.  The weather was perfect for Friday's Bike to Work day and Sunday's Bike DC...which was more like Bike Very Northern Virginia...was a great success as well.  But...how do you recycle the cycle...and all those accessories when the time comes to do so?   As an avid cyclist, I've finally found some good local outlets...that all contribute to the same great cause.  City Bikes in Adams Morgan, Bike Rack @ Q & 14th NW, and Bicycle Space at Eye and 4th NW will take your old bikes and donate them to Bikes for the World (BfW) located out in Arlington. All of these shops as well as Capitol Hill Bikes and City Bikes Cap Hill- both on 8th St. SE will take your reusable tubes (eg, no busted valves) tires, tools, seats, wheels, parts and donate them to BfW.  (Apparently, even our spent tires, tubes and parts are better quality that what a lot of folks can buy in developing countries). There are a couple of bike shops out in NoVa that contribute to this great cause....and there must be some shops in Maryland that do the same.  Apparently, Montgomery County's Shady Grove Transfer Station has a dedicated BfW space that's fenced off..and in 2010 some 1400 bikes and parts were culled from regular trash, pulled out of the waste stream and sent off to developing countries to be reused.   Hmmm..could Fort Totten do the same???

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New DC Policy for Recycling Bins!

Treat me nicely!
I'm a precious commodity!
Citing budget cuts and a high demand for recycling bins, trash cans and super cans, the DC government announced that as of April 25, 2011, they'll begin charging residents for replacement bins.  The 32 gallon bins will cost $45 while the Supercans used in areas where trash is picked up only once a week will cost $62.50.  Senior citizens will have to pay the same price as all other residents. Supercans are still being repaired by DPW free of charge. You can call 311 or 737-4404 to have your recycling or trash bin or Supercan disposed of or repaired . Further details, including a link to a website that will tell you the day of the week the recycle bins on your street or alley are picked up can be found here!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In Praise of the Humble Clothes Line

Now that Spring is finally here to stay, it’s great to open up the house and let all that fresh air in.  It’s also a great time to come home to a good old fashion clothes line for your laundry.  There are many advantages to using a clothes line: getting rid of all that hot air that a dryer generates in your house; reducing costs (estimates say that the average US household spends $150 or more a year just on drying clothes in a dryer); reducing your energy usage (Project Laundry List estimates that US households can attribute anywhere between 10-25% of their electric bill to an electric clothes dryer), and the fact that clothes will last longer (and your jeans won’t be as tight) when they’re line dried.  And they smell good.  If the towels and jeans feel too scratchy, just throw them dry in the dryer for about 2 minutes (vs 60!) and…..voila!

Fortunately, Congress has yet to regulate DC’s use of clothes lines, and they come in all sorts of styles.  I have a collapsible drying rack with lots of bars that I use inside and outside,  weather depending.  You can buy a couple of pulleys, hooks and some rope at your local hardware store and easily rig your own clothes line up in no time.  And those retro retractable models are still out there which are perfect for our small yards that need to adapt to multiple uses (my local hardware store on the Hill carries them).  I have one of those clothes lines that you find in hotels rigged up above my bathtub which is great for year round laundry.  Give the dryer a break and put the sun to work!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Just in Time for Earth Day....

In celebration of Earth Day 2011, Washington Gas Energy Services offers DC Residents an opportunity to go green for free....or at least for a discount! Through April 30, if you buy 100% carbon offsets for your natural gas, they'll give you one month free!  Similarly, when you opt for 50% wind energy, WGES will provide you with an additional 50% for free.  You won't even have to install turbines on your roof...it just means that the portion of electricity that you use for your home will come into DC off the wind grid vs off of fossil fuel (coal) grid.  Through deregulation of the gas and electric industry, DC residents can now select to receive their utilities from several providers.  So, for example, if you opt to purchase wind energy through WGES, you'll still receive one monthly utility bill from PEPCO that includes the cost of your WGES wind energy..and a (small) amount that goes to PEPCO for maintaining/reading your meter and power lines. It's worth checking out!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Drop - or two in the Bucket: DC's Rain Barrel Rebate Program

"Abe", my rain barrel

OK, back to my gardening theme. DC Greenworks is a non profit organization that provides training, tools, and technologies that utilize, advance, and protect the environment.  They provide several environmental services..and incentives for taking environmental measures such as purchasing and installing RAIN BARRELS, increasing the permeable area in your yard and providing green collar job training. 

Their rain barrel program is great!  There are several "approved" models that you can chose from.  Once you purchase the barrel and install it (Aquabarrel delivered it to my house!), you can apply for a rebate.  I live in a rowhouse, and my slightly sloping roof drains off the back of my house.  All of this water did drain directly into a storm drain.  Now, with my 80 gallon "Abe" (I bought one made out of recycled plastic), I'm harvesting most of that water to use in my garden.  I was really surprised to just how much water comes off my relatively small roof. Once Abe is full, the barrel is designed so that any overflow goes into the storm drain like it used to do.  In the winter, I'll need to empty the barrel and block off the flow of water into it (by turning a knob), so that the water doesn't freeze inside the barrel and damage it.  Right now I've got my hose hooked up to it and I'm watering away!  I could even wash my car with this.  My dog is eyeing me as I write, hoping I don't get any bright ideas about making her a grey water mascot for those summer baths.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

DC Greenworks reimbursed me for 1/2 of the price of the rain barrel.  I didn't want to wait for them to come by and install it (for a very reasonable $30), so I had some contractors do it.  That wasn't a good idea. They'd never installed one before, and it took them a long time and cost me quite a bit of money.  The barrels aren't that difficult to install, but it does take some noodling.  Some local vendors like Aquabarrel also do installation, though I'm not sure how much they charge.

Working with the DC Greenworks folks was great, and I love the idea of saving money on my watering bill and reducing (a tiny bit) of that runoff into the Anacostia.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Power of a Nickel - DC's Bag Tax

ReUse those plastic bags you
do have.  Here, an IKEA bag
dispenser is attached to a
light post w/ long zipties. 
"Biodegradable" dog poop bags
don't decompose in landfills
and they're expensive!
WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show had a segment on DC's 5cent bag tax on Monday, March 28, 2011.  DC Councilmember Tommy Wells sponsored the 5 cent bag tax that's levied on paper and plastic bags taken by a consumer at check-out. While initial estimates indicated that DC would generate some $4Million annually in revenue from the bag tax that would go to Anacostia Clean-up, the actual amount has been much lower as people have changed their behavior and reduced their use of plastic bags.  The impact of the bag tax was immediate. In December 2009 before the tax was levied, DC Residents were using some 22.5 million bags per month.  In January 2010, with the tax in place, only some 3 million bags were used. Tax revenue from the bag tax has been averaging about $200,000 per month.

A report on the website plasticbaglaws.org notes that in DC, there was a drop in bag use from 270 million bags in 2009 to 55 million in 2010 resulting in an 80% reduction in bag use translating to less trash and litter.  In 2010, The Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF), a non-profit that focuses on the Potomac River watershed, commissioned a survey of 600 D.C. residents and 51 business owners and found that since the fee was enacted, 75% of customers are using fewer bags while 78% of business owners are experiencing either zero or positive effect on their business. Other positive results included less noticeable litter around stores and costs savings from not having to purchase as many bags. Meanwhile, a Washington Examiner article in an interview with AFF staff noting that during their annual Potomac River Clean-Up last April, AFF picked up some 21,600 plastic bags a 50% reduction from 2009. Sweet!

AFF's next Potomac River Clean-Up is on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at a wide variety of locations!  Check it out!  It's really a lot of fun!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Prepping for a Trip to DC Residential Hazardous Waste Drop-Off – what you can take and what you need to get inside


Sample of goods you can
dispose of at Fort Totten
every 1st Saturday.
Next Saturday, April 2, 2011, is the first Saturday of the month, so it’s a good time to start rounding up goods for a trip to DC’s Fort Totten Transfer Station for their monthly Hazardous Waste Disposal Program.  There’s a fair amount of incorrect information floating out there ..so I thought I’d take a stab a setting the record straight.

Where to go?  The monthly event is held at the Fort Totten Transfer Station, 4900 John F. McCormack Road, NE, between and .  I’ve never had to wait in line to get in more than 10 minutes…but I’ve heard stories of hour long waits.  Best to go early, I reckon.   There’s still information floating around out there that you can also go to the Benning Road Transfer Station..and that you can go every Saturday.  That information is incorrect.  

Who can go?  This gets dicey.  According to the person I spoke with, you need to have two forms of ID with your DC address on them – like a DC Drivers License and a utility bill.  You can only drop off goods at Fort Totten if you live in a residence has DC serviced garbage collection.  That means if you live in an apartment that has a contracted service for waste disposal, you can’t drop off goods at Fort Totten.  "But what if your address is an apartment, but it’s serviced by DC?  How could you prove that?"  I couldn’t get a clear answer.

What about your car?  Apparently, you need to have your car registration with you as well.  I asked, "But what if I don't have a car , and I borrow my friend’s car who lives in Maryland, but I show you my DC IDs.  Can I get in?"  The answer wasn’t clear.

What you can take? Once you get in, you drive to a series of stops depending on what you’re getting rid of. They take all sorts of electronics, paper to be shreded, non latex paint, poisons, pesticides, batteries, etc, etc.  There’s a list of what they will and won’t take as you scroll down on this link.  The website says that they provide free compost to DC residents.  If anyone can report back on this, I'd be grateful!

Other ideas:  When I know I’m heading up to Fort Totten, I send out an email to my neighbors early in the week and offer to take their disposables along as well.  And, why not make an event out of it and explore another part of DC while you’re at it?  Googling “coffee shops near Fort Totten, Washington, DC” gave me a long list of places.  Qualia looked very interesting. 

So, good luck on your Fort Totten outing next weekend!  I hope the stars align, and the ID and car registration gods smile favorably upon you! Send a note about your adventure to dcrecyclerdc@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SO, what is a CSA and why should you care…and join one?

Wikepedia defines Community-supported agriculture (CSA), as "a community of individuals who pledge support to (a most often local) farming operation where the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production (eg, too much/little rain, bug infestations, etc). CSAs usually consist of a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruit..and.. sometimes include dairy products and meat” (and even flowers and bread). This bundle of goods is called a “share”. There are some 3000-4000 CSAs in the US today.  Here is an interesting video showing how the CSA movement has grown and spread across the US from 1984-2010.

Back in 2009, the Washington Post did a story on CSAs.  The article includes a very comprehensive list of CSAs around DC, along with pricing and delivery options in/around town.  While I’m sure things have changed a bit since the story, it’s still a great reference point for finding a CSA in DC. 

CSAs usually involve a several month contract with a farm.  Many CSAs offer various share size options. If you’re going to be out of town for a week or so during your contract period, send out an email to friends/colleagues offering it for $X …and it’ll likely be snatched right up. You can also do your own bit of CSA exchanging once you get to know the community of shareholders.  I’m not a big fan of celery…but I’ll take all the fresh basil I can get.  I can usually find someone to swap with me.  Some farms offer a variety of delivery locations. On the Hill, there’s a CSA pick up spot on someone’s front porch, and there’s a stream of people stopping by to pick up bags of fresh veggies on Thursday afternoons on their way home from work.  

I’m a fan of CSAs as they provide me with fresh, local, and organic agriculture for five months of the year.  I’ve learned a lot by participating in one over the years…like that those really tasty local tomatoes aren’t going to be in my June share…but I’ll get tons later in the summer..and beet greens can be pretty tasty.  CSAs aren’t for everyone.  Buying local and organic can be pricey…and you get what’s ripe …when it’s ripe, and in June you're going to get mostly greens.   You’re never going to get an avocado in a local DC area CSA…and you’ll probably want to suplement your weekly share with other vegetables.  If you get too many tomatoes or basil, pass them along to me!