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!