Monday, September 3, 2018

Recycling - A next to last option

Petrecycling (2318529464).jpg

Though it may seem contrary to the title of this blog, today anyone serious about waste reduction should really focus on the "other" R's - "reduce" and "reuse" and also "re-earthing = composting" versus recycling.  Unbeknownst to many Americans, much of our plastic recycling has been going to Chinese markets for many years, and earlier this year, China said they'd had enough and put strict contamination limits on plastic recycling imports.  While there are still markets for some recyclables (Plastics 1 and 2,

cardboard, aluminum and metals), most "recyclable" plastics are now ending up in incinerators and landfills.  Yuk!

So, what's an environmentally conscious consumer to do?

Consider if you really need to purchase something or if you're purchasing because you think you need it, or because it's the trendiest newest trend. (I know that sounds lame, but maybe this exercise will be helpful).  Then, if "yes", you really do need it, shop for something that's used.  There are so many options out there, from Ebay, to Craig's List, to FreeCycle.  I just bought a standing desk in perfect condition for 1/2 price on Craig's List.  And, I bought a Columbia GoreTex jacket for $30.  And, if you're ready to pass some of your belongings along, consider offering it on Craig's List or FreeCycle.  I'm amazed at what people consider treasure! And, while buying second (or third) hand will save you some real money, the added real beauty of these "used" goods is that they usually come package free - so you won't have anything to put in that recycle bin.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Straws and Single Use Plastics are having a Very BAD Year.

Plastic straws and other single use plastics are not having a good year.  Cities across the US including Seattle, New York, and even Starbucks and American Airlines have announced that they're being phased out in favor of compostable options.

On Tuesday, July 10, DC made a first jump onto this bandwagon when Councilmember Jack Evans introduced a bill.  The "Sustainable Straws and Stirrers Amendment Act of 2018" would mandate that “ by January 1, 2019, no food service entity shall sell, use, or provide a straw or stirrer
with food or beverage unless the straw or stirrer is compostable.”.

So why are straws and stirrers getting such a bad wrap?  How can using - or not using - one straw make a difference?  According to, Americans alone use 500 million!!! straws per day.  And, they can't be recycled as they're too small.  Somehow, serving straws with a drink became common practice.  Restaurants absorbed the cost, few customers ever contemplated the health impacts of absorbing calories through tube of plastic and our streets, waterways, beaches, and oceans became clogged with this largely unneeded single-use product that when totaled, has become a major world waste stream.

So, don't wait for legislation to come into effect before starting to avoid straws.  Do it now.  If you must, consider a reusable bamboo or stainless option or even go for a paper model.  But, mostly, get that piece of plastic out of your body and out of your personal waste stream.  And, while you're at it, rethink all those other plastic waste streams that you create...and start thinking of ways to phase them out as well.  It's good for the planet, but it's also good for you!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Worm Composting - just do it

This is my worm bin that I bought 
on Craigs List.  But you can make your own! ,
I have worms.  A lot of them.  And they're in the hallway of my home.  Most dinner guests have no idea that they're in the company of hundreds (thousands?) of worms who are also enjoying a meal.   

Why do I vermicompost (compost with worms)?  

Frankly, because I'm amazed by what these small animals can digest and the amazing fertilizer they make.  They're a great conversation filler, and they're ideal for small spaces such as DC houses, condos, and apartments. 

My worms enjoy feeding on the 
Washington Post funny papers.
I was concerned about smells, but with a good mix of food scraps and browns  (newspaper, dried leaves and/or grass) even in these very hot days of summer there's no odor.  

And the compost that these squiggly invertebrates make is amazingly rich!  Just a tablespoon will give your houseplants a boost. (Guess what my friends and family are getting for Christmas?!) 

In the coming months, DC government will offering training and rebates to residents who want to compost and vermicompost.  Stay tuned!

And, by worm composting, you'll be keeping food waste out of the waste stream where it contributes to greenhouse gasses.  Every single action helps! 

As a side note, I've been terrible about posting to this blog, but I'm recommitting to it.  Our environment is under threat like never before - and we need it.  There are many simple and low cost ways to help save the world.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Greening the Laundry

Update: Unfortunately, after a couple of weeks of using the soap nuts, I found water backing up in the washer.  We suspect that the soap bubbles were causing a drainage block.  Interestingly, the washer would be dry when we emptied the clothes out of the washer, and then water would gradually back up over the next few days.  I'm still using soap nuts for handwashing and other uses.  One idea would be to further dilute the mixture and see if that would mitigate the problem. Hopefully you won't have this experience!  By to reduce my waste and exposure to chemicals with washing, I've subscribed to Dropp's for my laundry and dishwasher soaps (I don't receive any kickback from them for endorsing their product). Their soaps come in biodegradable packaging and , through their subscription service, arrives periodically at my doorstep in a nice cardboard box.  For these same convenience and reduced waste reasons, I also subscribe to toilet paper through Who Gives A Crap. I'm usually biking or walking to the grocery store, and with a subscription service that focuses on waste reduction, this is one less bulky thing that I need to carry.

One of the reasons I like to make my own food is because I like to know what I'm eating.  I'd also like to know what chemicals I'm being exposed to - like in the laundry.  I've long used powders, but while they do something to reduce waste and plastic, most still come in a plastic bag with a plastic scoop and lots of chemicals.  

I've started using soap nuts.  They're natural and organic.  They do have a high carbon footprint as they come from Nepal, but this brand uses their funds to help women in that country.  Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life took soap nuts a bit further and passed along this liquid recipe.  It's easier than pie, but you do need to keep it refrigerated...and labeled so someone doesn't mistake it for ice tea!  I'm using this in my HE washer and my clothes come out clean and industrial chemical free.  

And, while I use a clothes line, my boyfriend likes a dryer...and dryer sheets.  He agreed to try a homemade and less toxic version.  I cut up some used but clean fabric into 8"x*inch squares and keep them soaking in a large plastic used yogurt container with a mix of white vinegar and water.  I've added a bit of lavender to give it a nice smell - and voila, a natural dryer sheet. You can reuse them indefinitely. Give it a whirl. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Making Seitan - It's sooooo easy and inexpensive!

Seitan: It's not pretty but it's surprisingly good!
Am I the last person on earth to know about seitan? I first tasted it when I opted out of my friend's chili because it tasted like it had meat in it.  THAT was seitan.  Seitan is a high-protein vegetarian food made from cooked wheat gluten (which I found at Yes! Organic).  It's high in protein and low in cholesterol and fat. It can be used as a tofu substitute. You knead and add spices to it - and then let it simmer. It's now in my freezer. I followed this recipe on Epicurious - and found the comments to be very helpful. It was surprisingly easy to make and very inexpensive compared to the price you pay in any store.  I'm heading to the beach in a couple of weeks, and planning on cooking up a big pot of vegetarian chili. Seitan will be a key ingredient!  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Did You Know that Paint Recycling has come to DC?

That's right!  Thanks to a partnership between and the DC Department of Energy and Environment, you can now recycle paint in the District of Colombia! There are drop off sites at certain paint stores around town.  You can find the drop-off location nearest you at  Acceptable items include house paint and primers, stains, sealers, and clear coatings (e.g., shellac and varnish).  Containers should be no more than 5 gallons in size, and the paint must be in its original container and the container must have a label and a secured lid. 

Other items such as aerosols (spray cans), solvents, and products intended for industrial or non-architectural use are not acceptable. 

If it's still in usable condition, the paint will be recycled and used.  Otherwise, it will be disposed of properly!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Spring cometh - so start getting your garden ready now!

Spring will soon be upon us, so it's time to start thinking about your garden NOW!!!  Here are a couple of to-dos:

1) It's not too early to start thinking about what you want to plant and where.  Tomatoes take a lot out of the soil, so if you've grown them in the same spot for the last two years, it's best to find a new spot - or give them a rest for a year.  If you want to participate in a community garden, start sussing that out now.  Spaces fill up quickly!

2) if you're going to grow vegetables and spices from seed, start getting your goods together now.  You'll need a heating mat, containers, soil....and seeds.  Participating in a local seed exchange is a great way to get a wide variety of seeds, and find other like minded local folk who are interested in gardening.  Check out to find a seed swap near you!

No automatic alt text available.3) Start saving the cardboard inside TP and paper towel rolls.  Cut in 1/2s and 1/3rds, these provide excellent protection for young seedlings....and it helps contribute to zero waste.

4) Mark the Rooting DC event on your calendar!  This year's event will be held on Saturday, February, 18 from 9am to 4pm at Wilson High School at 3950 Chesapeake St NW and very near the Tenleytown Metro. They offer wonderful workshops and resources on gardening and greening in DC.

Be green.  Live local. Persevere!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Creative (and less waste) Wrapping!

As a "zero waster" wanna-be, I like to be creative in my wrapping. I receive maps and colorful advertising in the mail over the course of the year, and I save these and use them for wrapping.  I add some of my own (humble) artwork to make it mine. The comics pages from the post also provide interesting wrapping fodder.  I also receive a plethora of address labels - more than I could use in a lifetime - every year.  (Could someone pleeeeaazzzzzzzzzze tell the non profits to move on from this wasteful habit?).  Anyhow and on the bright side, those little address labels make ideal wrapping tape. They're just the right size!  So happy upcycling wrapping!   ...and happy holidays to one and all!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to School - and Greening the Kitchen: some ideas

Stasher: A reusable alternative to ziplocks!
I get tired of all the ziplock bags that end up in my kitchen.  Then, I found these nifty stasher reusables: They come in various sizes..and in various colors/designs.  Reusable, dishwasher safe and waterproof!  Check them out!  Available on their website and on Amazon, too!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Have You Heard: CCAN is promoting a carbon fee for DC!

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is promoting a carbon fee to promote clean energy and provide better air quality in DC. Under such a system, Companies that buy and sell fossil fuels in the District would pay a fee on each ton of heat-trapping pollution they cause. The price would rise steadily over time and would reflect the damage these emissions inflict on DC residents' health, air and water, and climate.  All of the money raised would be returned in equal amounts—through a quarterly “dividend”—to every D.C. resident thereby putting more money into the pockets of DC families and helping to ensure that low-income and middle class residents are benefit in the transition to clean energy. 

Which DC?
Photo Credit CPlume (above)
and Rolling Stone (below)
A far-fetched idea? Boulder, Colorado enacted a carbon fee in 2006 and the Canadian province of Alberta passed one last year. Carbon fee proposals are currently under consideration in statehouses from New York to Oregon.  Meanwhile, under the DC Government adopted Sustainable DC Plan, the District has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2032. A carbon fee might just get us there!  

For more information on CCAN's proposed carbon fee and to sign the petition in support of a carbon fee, check out the CCAN website!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

What's the Best Thing you Can do to Help the Recycling Effort?

Skip the Bag; Set Your Recyclables Free!
What's the best thing you can do to help the recycling effort????  It's so easy..and it will save you money! Just STOP placing your recyclables in plastic bags!  Plastic bags wreak havoc on recycling machines. One single bag can get caught in the gears and shut down an entire processing plant for hours.  

The DC Department of Public Works asks that you place your recyclables directly into the bin - no plastic bags needed.  If you have bags to recycle, take them to your local grocery store and place them in their bins.

Set your recycling free!  Skip the bag!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

IT'S EARTH MONTH!!! So many things to do!

It's April, it's Spring, it's Earth Month and there are so many (many!) outdoor activities planned!  I've found that this website does a great job of tracking Earth Day activities and updating them regularly. 

But, there are so many great outdoor and green activities planned around DC that don't make this list.  Here are just a few:

There are some great classes offered at the National Arboretum.  I'm going to one this Saturday on tomato grafting!
And, while you're at it, why not do your own Earth Month and Earth Day adventure.  Rent a kayak or canoe at the KeyBridge Boathouse to explore the Potomac or at the Ball Park Boathouse to explore the Anacostia. Maybe you'll even see one of the bald eagles!!  Give up straws, reduce your plastic footprint, make some of your own food, ride your bike!  There are plenty of ways to celebrate this great month! 

Get outside and take it all in!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Un-Decking the Halls!

DC Department of Public Works will pick up Christmas trees and wreaths from Dec 26 through January 8 for composting! PLEASE DO NOT BAG YOUR TREE, and kindly remove all ornaments. Trees will be pick up after January 8, but may not be composted! Just leave the trees near your trash bins!

Meanwhile, you can send your holiday cards to St. Jude's Ranch for Children which will upcycle these into new creations!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The DC Recycler's 2015 Green Holiday Gift Guide

Need some green gift ideas about now?  Here are just a few to ponder!

  • Shop Online but offbeat. Have you found The Grommet?  They have a plethora of unique and quirky gifts.  Check out their Sustainable Living line. Uncommon Goods also has some fun stuff. 
  • Buy more conventional, but still green. Bambeco is Baltimore based and they're all about sustainability.  They give a lot of money to help restore the bay, and OK, they're my friends. Check them out.
  • Buy local.  Indulge your favorite chef or gamer with a gift certificate from Hill's Kitchen or Labyrinth
  • Gift a class.  The Hill Center on Capitol Hill has a wide array of classes - including an urban foraging class and a vegan cooking class. 
  • Kayak and paddleboard the Potomac: The Key Bridge Boat House has 2016 season tickets on sale now.  You'll be set to go when they open in April.
  • How about an amazing helmet or backpack for your favorite cyclist from Torch Apparel?! 
  • Give some homemade food.  If you have 15 jars of strawberry jam, or salsa, or jalapenos, that you made this summer (ummm, like me), share that bounty!  Or, make a batch of granola and bag it as gifts. You can find my favorite recipe here!  There's still time to get some great labels at
  • Live the cliche, make potholders!  Those potholder frames have evolved and are larger and much more practical.  You can pick up a loom and loops at Sullivan's Toy Store on Wisconsin Avenue. If you want more loop colors, check out
  • And for that person who has absolutely everything, share the love. Gift a donation in their name to a local non-profit! There are so many great groups to choose from such as Sierra Club DC, the Anacostia Watershed Society, the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the list goes on, and on.  
Mostly, have yourself and yours a merry and very GREEN holiday season!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Reduce your Catalog Footprint!

Tis the season - for too many catalogs. While I rarely buy out of catalogs, my mailbox is brimming with them.  Here are a couple of options for culling the catalogs you receive.

PaperKarma is a free smartphone app.  You register your address(es) and name(s) and take pictures of the business logo and address of the unwanted catalog and/or junk mail, and upload this. within the app. Then, you're done! PaperKarma contacts the business and unsubscribes you from their mailings.  The first three cancellations are free and after that you can continue the service for $1.99/mth or $9.99 per year for an unlimited number of un-subscriptions.

Catalog Choice is currently web-based though they're developing an app.  Their services are free. You establish a free account and type in the addresses of the catalogs and junk mail you don't want to receive. They're a non-profit that was recently acquired by the Story of Stuff project.

Go On Line:  If you go to the company's website, you can often find an "unsubscribe" option.  This can work for catalogs and for junk email.

Call:  Most catalogs still include a phone number for orders.  Call and ask to speak to customer service - or just tell the person who answers that you no longer want to receive the catalog.

Catalogs are printed months in advance, so it may take 6-8 weeks to get OFF any mailing list.  While you may not save a tree this year, you will in the long haul.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Time to Freeze the Herbs!

Alas, it's oh so sad to see the summer end...but so it is.  It's time to harvest the rest of the herbs and freeze them for winter soups.  It's easy enough to do - the hardest part may be finding an ice tray.  Muffin tins will work in a pinch!  Just harvest your basil, oregano, thyme and such separately, chop and spoon a tablespoon or so into ice trays with a bit of water.  Store in plastic bags once frozen (and label as it's easy enough to forget what's what).  Then when it's soup making time, just pop a cube in.  You can also make pesto and freeze it or you can dry them. You'll be able to enjoy a bit of summer all year!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Green Micro Beads

In my forthcoming novel, "Confessions of an Environmentalist" one chapter will be dedicated to micro beads.  I'm kidding about the book, but I will confess that part of me was sad to learn that I was going to have to boycott any soap or scrub that contained micro beads.  I like(d) the scrub they gave me that left my skin feeling smooth and clean. 

But now I know, IT'S GOING TO BE OK.  I've found "sugar scrubs". I made my own in all of 5 minutes.  1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, some lavender extract and TA-DA, I've got my own scrub that moisturizes to boot.  I'm a happy (and smooth skinned) camper.

The web is teaming with variations of the recipe.  Make it in smaller quantities as it's oil based and won't last forever.  For the shower, consider putting it in a stainless steel or yes, even plastic container to avoid any breakage. 

Make some for your non enviro friends and wean them off the beads.  Be green.

I realize I don't blog that often these days, but I'm often on Twitter at DC_Recycler. I hope to see you there!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Recycling Worries: how to keep your recyclables out of the landfill!

The bin dilemma
You may have heard all the concerns about recycling of late.  The Washington Post, Diane Rehm and MarketPlace have all done stories on the issue and how contamination of the waste stream and low oil prices are wreaking havoc on the industry.  So, what is a good recycler to do to ensure that your goods don't end up in a landfill?  Here are a couple of ideas:

1) DON'T place your recyclables in a plastic bag.  Plastic bags really mess up the sorter machines.  Just dump your recyclables directly into that big blue bin - no bag needed!
2) Only recycle goods listed on THIS LIST. Otherwise, put it in the trash ....OR....
3) Join DC's Freecycle Network. Anyone living or working in DC can join.  This website is a true testimony to the idea that "one person's trash is anothers treasure"!
4) Compost it!  Food waste is a major issue in recycling streams.  If you can't start a compost in your own yard, see if another neighbor or your local community garden will take it....OR treat yourself to a FatWorm Compost, Compost Cab or (support local vets through a) Veteran Compost subscription!
5) Participate in a Terracycle Brigade Terracycle will pay the postage for the items you send in.  I'm participating in the Personal Care and Beauty Brigade this summer, asking my friends and neighbors to drop off old lipsticks, chapsticks, shampoo bottles and such.  
5) Donate your old doors, windows, sinks, tools, flooring, extra tile, etc, etc, etc to Community Forklift!
6) Reduce your consumption.  It's a great time of year to experiment with making your own food and hygiene products...and reduce your consumption of plastics.  
  • Keep a reusable water bottle in your purse, backpack, briefcase.  
  • Bring reusable containers with you for your restaurant meal leftovers.
  • Bring your own plastic bags to the grocery store/farmers market for your fruits and vegetables. 
  • When you order drinks, specify "No Straw Please!".  
  • When ordering online, specify "No plastic or styrofoam packing!".
7) Buy products made from recycled goods.  Terracycle now has an Etsy store. They also have an "Upcycled, Recycled, and Repurposed" category for shopping. Shop at Community Forklift for tools, doors, sinks, etc, etc!

I'd love to hear your ideas for ensuring that waste stays out of landfills. Send them to me at dcrecyclerdc@gmail!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Recycling Old Glory - With Respect

Flags fly in all sorts of weather, and they eventually breakdown, fray and fade.  While burning flags is a recognized method of proper flag disposal, burning American flags made of nylon (a petroleum product) creates hazardous gases and wastes resources.  Advanced Disposal is offering free US flag recycling is offering free recycling services for US nylon flags through September 11, 2015. You can drop off flags at any of their facilities or mail your flag to them at:

Carroll County Transfer Station
1400 Baltimore Blvd.
Westminister, MD 21157

American Flag Recycling also recyclesAmerican flags and ask for a small donation to cover the costs. And, If you're curious about the dos and don'ts of flag disposal, check out the Veterans of Foreign Wars website at

Monday, May 25, 2015

Dehydrating: Drying it out!

 The season's bounty of fruits is just beginning...but the season is ever fleeting and before you know it, the local strawberries and blueberries will be gone for another year.  This year, I've decided to preserve a bit of the riches and try dehydrating to preserve these goodies in some form for a later day, maybe just to snack on or sprinkle over my granola.

If you buy in bulk, most local farmers will give you a big discount on the price.  It's a bit tedious to slice the fruit into thin slices, but then, a couple of hours in a dehydrator and you've got some delicious dried fruit on your hands.  I even dried some not so local mangoes that were on sale at WholeFoods.Four quarts of strawberries sliced filled up the five strays of the dehydrator and took about 2 hours to dry.  They then all fit into the jar in the picture!    Even though I blanched the blueberries until their peel/skin split, it still took about 12 hours for them to dry. I don't think I'll do that again.  The mango tood about 3 hours.

While I should have bought the dehydrator at a local shop, I opted to buy a slightly scratched new dehydrator at a discount on Amazon. What I'm not so sure about is the energy efficiency of the dehydrator, but for now I'm enjoying it immensely!