Friday, December 31, 2010

Stop using plastic yogurt containers today

It is unbelievably easy to make your own yogurt. I made yogurt for the first time last week and now am wondering why I never tried before. There are directions all over the web. It is so easy:
  • Heat milk to 180-185 degrees (use a candy or meat thermometer).
  • Rinse a large glass jar (or a couple of jars) with boiling water.
  • Let milk cool to 110 degrees.
  • Stir in a couple of tablespoons of yogurt, pour into jar(s), and put on a lid.
  • Wrap the jar(s) with towels and place in unheated oven. (I actually turned on the oven to 200 degrees very briefly before putting the yogurt in.)
  • Let it sit for 7 hours (I actually started too late in the day, so I just let it sit until morning: 12 hours. If it went bad, you would quickly smell it.)
  • If it is thickened, then place it in the refrigerator.
We also use local milk, so it is tasty and has less of a carbon footprint. Very easy, and no more plastic containers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recycle your dead or nearly dead computer (and peripherals)

Dell and Goodwill have partnered to create Reconnect, a residential computer recycling program. You can drop off any brand of used computer equipment in any condition at participating Goodwill donation centers. (From the Hill, the closest one is on South Dakota Ave, but there are many all over town.) From their list, they take: computers, monitors, printers, scanners (even with broken glass), hard drives (erase sensitive data), keyboards, mice, speakers, cords and cables, ink and toner cartridges, software (include license key), Xbox, Zune, and Webcams in any condition. It's free, and you'll get a receipt for tax purposes. Lifehacker has a great list of other groups that recycle old computer stuff. There is no good reason to throw computer stuff in landfills. Someone can use them right now!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Take Recycling to a New Stage (or two)

Every couple of weeks, I take the plastic bags from my Washington Post newspaper over to my neighbor's house. He uses them when he walks his dog. My other neighbor heard about this and connected with someone a block away, who also wanted plastic bags for dog walking. Another neighbor suggested that we also hang a plastic bag dispenser on one of our light poles, so that others could get free, reused bags. (There was one regularly used on 7th and A St SE for years, which many of us kept clean until it was removed when the pole was painted.). The Yahoo group DC-Dog also seems to share plastic bags.

How can we easily share things with others rather than throwing them away? A few weeks ago (see below in an earlier post), a potter on the Hill asked for boxes and bubble wrap to ship her fragile art pieces. I assume that she has received a big pile of these! Someone else on the Hill asked for pumpkins for her new compost pile. What other items could we share with others and keep out of landfills? One can use neighborhood listservs or websites to connect with others interested in your pile of rubber bands, can of crayons, or stack of moving boxes. The new Hill East is a very busy listserv, but DCist lists others all over town.

You can sell or give things away through Craigslist and Freecycle. It might be even easier to set up a freecycle system at work or in your apartment building. World Wildlife Fund in DC has its Junk Mail system, which is an internal listserv where people can post items they want to give away or acquire. Someone asked for old hairbrushes for her horses. Another person posted a new bottle of nail polish. Employees can opt-in or opt-out of the system. It is run by one employee and monitored by another. Once it is set up, it has a life of its own. World Wildlife Fund employees have also organized regular clothes swaps and book exchanges (just an open shelf; uninteresting books are quickly recycled leaving the interesting ones).

You can also ask a store to collect items that either you or the store would recycle. A wine store might collect and recycle wine corks; a hardware store might collect Brita water filters; a Radio Shack might collect batteries. This is how the DC Recycler started.

Or share your tools, appliances, bikes, and other items with your neighbors through NeighborGoods, ShareSomeSugar, or your own neighborhood database. Join the thousands in the Maker Movement ("On a basic level, the movement is about reusing and repairing objects, rather than discarding them to buy more. On a deeper level, it's also a philosophical idea about what ownership really is.") or open a Share Exchange and create new jobs. These days it's easy to take recycling to a new stage and think about how recycling can be a resource to create a new economy, a sustainable job-creating one, rather than bailing out the current waste-creating, non-job-making one.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Can you help the DC Recycler?

Schneider's on the Hill is all set to collect corks. They have a collection box and a recycling company to work with. They just need to find a spot in the store to place the box. In the meantime, I collect corks and take them over to Whole Foods by Metro (I don't have a car and actually don't shop at Whole Foods). It would be so great if Schneider's collected corks since I and many other Hillies are customers there! When you go to Schneider's next, can you say something like, "I hear that you'll be collecting corks for recycling soon. When will this be? Thank you for doing this!" This would really help the DC Recycler out a lot. Thank you!

P.S. Remember that plastic corks are not recyclable and not sustainable environmentally or socially (natural corks maintain a regional economy in the Mediterranean for something like 100,000 workers), so choose wine with natural corks (or twist tops but they aren't recyclable). World Wildlife Fund recommends natural corks. Save the cork forests! Save jobs!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to get a second recycling bin

We often find that we have so much more recycling than garbage. I got a message about this very issue from Alex up in the Tenleytown area:

I'm new to DC.

Our recycling bin seems to always fill up way faster than our
trash bin. It's one of those mini-supercans, or whatever....
much smaller than the trash can.

How do I get a bigger recycling bin /can? Or at least can I
get two of the small ones? Do I have to pay extra?


The DC Office of Recycling sent me this very helpful response:

The District provides 32 gallon blue carts, and your acquaintance can order a 2nd one, per available stock.

Rest assured our agency appreciates our community's interest in larger recycling receptacles. Both cost and uniformity of service (many homes cannot accommodate larger bins) will be factors in any future changes to the system.

District Residents in city-serviced homes (3 units or less), receiving curbside or alley way collection, can call The Mayor's Citywide Call Center, dialing 311 or 737-4404 (if not phoning from a 202 exchange).

There is no fee to receive an extra recycling bin at this time.

You can find this information on the Department of Public Works website.

Over here on Capitol Hill, we don't have much space for a bigger or second bin, so it might be great someday to have two recycling pick-ups per week and only one trash pick-up. We can always hope, no? Thanks to the DC Office of Recycling for this helpful information!

Update and Corrections on Recycling in DC

For reasons that are unclear to me, the DC Office of Recycling sent me on a tour of the PG County recycling center, rather than the facility that DC uses. So, now, I have to correct many of the statements I made several weeks ago. I am sorry about the confusion, but now we know the truth. Here's the low-down on recycling various items in DC:
  • Toilet paper rolls - yes
  • Ziploc(tm) bags and cellophane are NOT accepted at this time.
  • Aluminum pie trays, aluminum - yes, if clean.
  • Gift Boxes - assuming it's paperboard.
  • Tissue Paper - no, no paper towels, tissues, napkins, or gift wrap tissue.
  • Pizza boxes - no.
  • No service in our region processing commingled or single stream recyclables (bottles/cans/paper) currently takes expanded polystyrene (e.g. Styrofoam(r)) or clam shells, (e.g. transparent buffet/salad vessels and/or vacuum-molded, retail plastic display packaging) to my knowledge. Reusable food containers (e.g. Tupperware(r)) would be the ideal.
  • Garden Hoses - The DC Office of Recycling called to verify this, and two separate representative of Richie's Land Reclamation, LLP, claim they have no knowledge of any related policy. They suggest visiting reuse stores (ReStore, Loading Dock, Community Forklift).
  • Car Batteries - should go automobile parts retailers for credit.
  • Hazardous Waste - see the DPW website for restrictions (e.g. munitions go to Metro Police Dept.)
  • Needles - There is NO municipal collection.  Available options are either returning them via your own health-care provider, or encasing them in a well-sealed, well-labeled, rigid, plastic container before placing them with your solid waste.
  • In contrast to PG County, DC prefers residents to follow a "when it doubt, leave it out" policy.
Thanks to the DC Office of Recycling for this clarification!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bamboo Computer Mouse

About four months ago, the right button on my computer mouse stopped working. I had some idea that I wanted to buy a more environmentally friendly mouse, but I didn't know what that might mean. I wanted to get the cork mouse, since cork is a reusable and sustainable material and the cork mouse doesn't use any electricity or batteries! Yet, it seems unavailable to regular humans. So, I just got a bamboo mouse. Aside from its energy wasting blue light, the bamboo mouse is great, sturdy and smooth. They also sell bamboo keyboards. More products made from sustainable, environmentally friendly materials!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Recycle your bubble wrap, peanuts, foam, boxes!

Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2010 14:52:11 +0000
Subject: [newhilleast] Get rid of your bubble wrap, peanuts and other unwanted packaging

I'm a local potter who needs bubble wrap and other packaging for safely shipping my fragile pieces. If you have bubble wrap, peanuts, foam and/or small to medium-sized (10" to 20")sturdy boxes and would like to see them reused, you can drop them off at 558 14th Street SE. I can be reached at 546-7990.