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 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

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!

Friday, March 18, 2011

...and on to Composting...and what if you can't have a composter.

My Countertop Compost bin
My recent post on community gardening got me thinking about composting.  I <3 composting as it's reduced my contribution to the landfill significantly over the past few years.  It's still a mystery to me how all that organic matter can break down into such a small amount of stuff. I have a 5 gallon composting container on my counter.  It has a charcoal filter that absorbs smells.  (You can store scraps in any kind of container, the advantage of a bin is the charcoal filter). Once that's full, I empty it into my compost barrel that I keep out in the alley.  It's been there for years.  It's a closed container, and no, I've never seen a rodent around it (there's too much other low hanging fruit out there). My neighbors occasionally contribute to it.  I don't put any meat products in there...but paper towels, yard waste, banana peels, coffee filters all get thrown in.  Every couple of weeks or so, I'll pick up a bag of coffee grounds from the local coffee shop and throw that in along with a bucket of water.  The acid from the coffee seems to help break down the goods faster.  In the summer, I add more water. I stir my compost every couple of weeks (and am awed by the diversity of organisms I find breaking down my stuff), and in the spring and fall, I take out that rich, dark compost and throw it on my yard.   If I didn't use it on my own yard, I'm sure if I posted it on FreeCycle DC, someone would want it. 

But I know that a lot of folks live in apartments. What to do?  There are a couple of interesting options I've found.  COMPOST CAB says for $8 per week, they will supply you with a bin, pick it up and replace it with a new clean one.  They'll even bring compost back to you if you want it.  Fat Worm Compost seems to provide a similar service. You might stop by your community garden and see if you can drop off your scraps in their compost bin. My workplace has contracted a company to compost our (many) coffee grounds and tea bags.  It's great to get this organic material out of our landfills and back into our soil.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Community gardening is in the air!

Map of Community Gardens in DC
It's amazing how a switch to daylight savings time changes things my routine.  While I now have to drag myself out of bed in the dark in the morning (again - but only for a little while) it's great to have natural light later in the day.  Tonight's dog walk got me thinking about community gardening in I found a couple of resources I thought I'd share from DC's Field to Fork network.  The site includes this map (from 2009) and what seems to be a fairly complete listing of DC community gardens by neighborhood (from 2010) along with contact information to get a plot. Emailing your community list serv is another good way to learn of other community gardens in your neighborhood.  Community gardening is a great way to get to know your neighbors and to get rid of all that compost that you've got stirred up!  And there's nothing like the taste of those home grown tomatoes in July!!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Big Thanks!! Johanna for creating this blog. I look forward to taking it on and sharing creative ways to recycle in Washington, DC!