Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Greening 201: Ideas for a greener 2015 for the already converted

So, you compost, always have a reusable bag and cup with you, you buy local produce and products, sold your car and haven’t used a clothes dryer in years.  What’s next? How can you take your greening to the next level?  Here are a couple of ideas as you ponder into 2015.

Ditch the straw: About 500million straws are used in the US every day and many of these contain BPA. While it’s easy enough to say you won’t use straws, the trick is that many restaurants bring drinks (water, iced tea, margaritas, etc) to the table with the straw already in the drink.  Order your drink sans straw.  It will keep you on your toes.  Even the National Park Service thinks this is a good idea!

My current cork collection!
Start recycling one funky thing: While many goods can easily be recycled in bins, other items (CFLs, corks, batteries, jeans, etc) can be a challenge.  Commit to recycling one funky item.  Tell your friends, colleagues, neighbors, coffee shop, fellow gardeners etc about your project and tell them that you’ll also recycle this one item for them.  Embrace this and do it with joy…and maybe someone you know will start recycling some other funky item.

Don’t buy eggs in Styrofoam cartons.  Duh. I had to throw in something easy.  Why are Styrofoam egg cartons even made anymore?  Even my CSA won’t take them.

Look, Ma! No plastic bag!
Tell your neighbors not to put recyclables in a plastic bag! Plastic bags can REALLY mess up a recycling sorter and can shut it down for hours.  Recyclables can go right into the bin; they shouldn’t be bundled into a plastic bag.  If you have a lot of plastic bags to recycle, take them to a grocery store OR DC DDOE says to put all the bags together in one large bag.  (I know you know this, but I bet your neighbors don’t.)

Carry eating utensils in your bag/purse and a container/jar for leftovers when you go out to eat.  You’ll be able to avoid food waste and plastic/Styrofoam packaging.

Commit to establishing a garden plot this year!  If you don’t have room in your own backyard, try getting a plot at a community garden.  It’s not too early to contact them.  Here’s a partial list of DC Community Gardens and contact info.  If you’re not into gardening, join a CSA. Here’s a 2014 list of CSAs.  I’m sure much of the contact info is still the same.

Stop coloring your hair.  It will save you time, money, and you’ll be doing your part to keep many b-a-d bad chemicals out of the waste stream.

Join Freecycle DC.  I love this list serv.  I have passed along COUNTLESS items I would not have thought anyone would want, from used (but clean!) ziplock bags to mailing envelopes.  There’s some really good stuff on the list serv too!

Canoe or kayak the Anacostia.  The Anacostia is DC’s hidden gem.  You can rent canoes and kayaks, paddle boats and rowboats at Bladensburg Waterfront Park, and it’s easy enough to get there by bike or car.  You can see the beauty of this river despite all the trash.  It will remind you why we need to keep spreading the gospel of recycling. 

Go forth, and green.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

UnDecking the Halls: How to dispose of your Holiday Trees, Bling and More!

DC Department of Public Works will pick up (real) Christmas trees and holiday wreaths between December 28 and January 10 for composting. Remove ornaments, tinsel and other decorations and put the tree(s) and greenery where your trash and recycling are collected. Trees and greenery collected after January 10 will be collected with the trash as space permits in the truck. Here's a link to DPW's brochure on trash and leaf collection. And, if the leaf raking crew hasn't made it to your block yet, it's time to give DPW a call at 311.

Collect holiday (and other occasion) cards (in your neighborhood and at work) and send them to St. Jude's Ranch for Children.  See details for this program here.

Meanwhile, instead of throwing out unwanted but usable decorations, tinsel, lights, gifts you really don't want, ugly holiday sweaters, bows, ribbon, wrapping paper, etc, try listing it on FreeCycle DC.  Happy undecking!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

And a Few More Green Gift Ideas.......

I met the kind folks of Vino Dolce Candles last weekend at Eastern Market. Candles are handmade in DC from wine bottles recycled from local wine bars and restaurants, and filled with premium 100% soy wax made from U.S. farmers.  They're online, too!

Know a composter wannabe who doesn't have a place for a large bin?  How about a subscription to Compost Cab or FatWorm Compost?  A membership to WABA will give your cycle buddy a 10 percent discount at most local bike shops.

How about some greener toys?  Check out Green America's Green Holiday Gift Ideas for Children in the Winter Issue of their magazine.

Need a gift for the foodie in your life?  DC's own Hill's Kitchen has a great selection of cooking goods including cutting boards and retro 100 percent cotton kitchen towels for every state...including (duh!) the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, this week's WaPo has a great article on DC Supper Clubs.  If you can't buy a ticket, make a gift certificate so you can dine sometime during the year. Or, how about a gift certificate for a beer tour through DC's ever growing number of local breweries!

Go even more retro AND support your local potter by buying a butter bell. Invented or perhaps "devined" in the late 19th century, butter bell consists of a base that holds water, and a cup (bell) that holds packed butter and serves as a lid. Butter (not oilier margarines) placed into the base, where water creates an airtight seal that keeps the air (and thus oxygen) away from the butter. Refrigeration isn't needed and your butter is ready to spread.

Finally, at least for now, Kaluah is usually a huge hit as we move deeper into the cold days of winter, and it's is easy as pie to make.  (try not to think about how much sugar you're using). Here's a recipe that I found.

I hope you're enjoying the holiday season!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

And on to the 2015 Green Gift Guide....

Let's go back to some of the basics this year.....

A drying rack will let you reuse some of those many (many) ziplocks and other plastic bags you have on hand.  Buy one
or make your own!

Remember these?  You can still buy potholder looms at your local hobby/toy store and now the looms come in larger sizes!  They're quick to make and ever appreciated!

What about some body lights for your favorite jogger/cyclist.  Check for LED models.  You can't have too many of them and they come in colors besides pink!

Check back soon.  I'll be posting more green gift ideas in the coming days!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ugly Side of Thanksgiving: how to minimize food waste

Turkey Day 2014 is almost here, and it's a great day to spend with friends and family. There will also be a lot of leftovers. Food waste is becoming a bigger issue these days as we learn that some 40% of edible good food ends up in landfills. How can you minimize food waste?  EndFoodWasteNow has some great ideas.  Here are a few more:
  • Prepare only the amount of food you'll need.
  • Have your guests bring a along some containers so they can take leftovers home.
  • Have a leftover meal with friends over the weekend.
  • Make soups and freeze it for later in the winter.
  • Make soup stock from the turkey carcass and freeze.
  • There are some 7000 homeless living in DC and DC Central Kitchen, Martha's Table, Capital Area Foodbank, and Food & Friends are just some of the DC organizations providing meals for homeless everyday.  While they won't accept half a pie or turkey, they will accept unopened packages or cans. 
  • Leftover Swap is an app that allows you to post and seek leftover food though it seems to have a limited number of users at this point.
  • Post leftover offers on a local listserv or email among friends.
  • As a (next to) last resort, compost what you can. Check out CompostCab and FatWorm Compost for pickup services if you don't have a compost..or can't find a neighbor who does.
Want learn more about food waste and how it impacts people and the planet?  Check out Tristram Stuart's TED Talk.  Want to get involved in the Food Waste Movement?  Check out EndFoodWasteNow and the Food Recovery Network. GW, American and U. Maryland all have chapters. Follow   Get involved!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tis the Season - To PLANT THINGS

Now, before it gets too cold, is the ideal time to plant bulbs and even trees so they can settle in over the winter and come forth in all their glory in the Spring!  

In addition to daffodils and tulips, plant cloves of garlic so you'll have your own stash of scapes and bulbs ready to harvest in the summer. Just take a bulb apart, keeping the papery coating on each clove.  Soak in baking soda and seaweed for a couple of hours.  Right, seaweed.  I just plant mine about 2# deep, rooty side down.  Worried about squirrels?  Pick up some dried blood at your local garden/hardware store and sprinkle some around the bulbs.  The squirrels will never touch them. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

In Praise of the Humble Mason Jar!

Manufactured to preserve jellies, pickles, and your grandma's homegrown tomatoes and with roots going back to Napoleon (really!), this humble jar has a myriad of uses and is now available in a multitude of shapes and sizes, all at a very reasonable cost and available (most likely) at your local hardware store.  While the lids can only be used once in canning, they can be reused to store anything else, hot or cold, including your lunch or a cup of iced coffee, etc, etc!  The jars can be reused for years - and your favorite canner will be grateful to have them back to refill again with the season's bounty.  They make a great set of inexpensive drinking glasses or pack food servings in them for your next picnic.  And for more on the joys of canning, check out this story.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Where to Buy Local NOW!

From the "better late than never" category,  I just found this great online map of DC area Farmers Markets from the Washington Post.  If your favorite market isn't listed, send in a note and they'll add it in.

There's also an interactive map of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) in the DC Area that you can search by pickup point.  Most CSAs are lining up clients for the fall season about now, so it's a good time to contact them.

While Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in DC are flying and trucking in high carbon produce (even tomatoes and peaches) from Mexico and California to sell,  there's a wealth of really good local food to be found now!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Good News for DC: Hazardous Waste Disposal Goes Weekly

On April 5, 2014, DC began offering weekly electronic and hazardous waste drop at the Fort Totten Transfer Station.  The station,located at 4900 John F. McCormack Drive is open for electronic and hazardous waste disposal every Saturday from 8am until 3pm.  They are also open every first Thursday of the month from 1-5pm.  DOCUMENT SHREDDING is only offered on the first Saturday of the month. Click here for a long list of acceptable electronic/hazardous waste.  They will also accept up to four tires.  They will not accept ammunition or explosives (drop these off at a police station), air conditioners, microwaves, wooden TV cabinets or consoles (call 311 for bulk pick up).  For any unwanted medications, DO NOT FLUSH THESE, rather, mix with dirt and/or old coffee grounds/cat litter and place in the trash.  For any questions, call the Fort Totten Transfer Station at (202) 737-4404.  Finally, BE SURE TO BRING ID WITH YOU THAT IDENTIFIES YOU AS A DC RESIDENT!  Happy weekly electronic and hazardous waste recycling!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hey DC, Need a Composting Bin?

Upcycle a Recycling Bin for Composting!
DC is full of surprises, and this year, DC residents were (ummm, pleasantly) surprised to learn that homeowners are receiving new ...and larger recycling and trash bins.  While good news, it also means that there are now a LOT ..and I mean A LOT of unwanted recycling and trash bins that are heading to the landfill. So, what's the solution? Why not make a compost bin out of your old recycling or trash container???!! It's REALLY EASY to do this! Just drill some holes in the bottom and sides of your old bin. You can do this with a hammer and nail if you don't have a drill. Label the bin(s) as "Compost". Start filling with a health mix of biodegradables (food waste, leaves, newspapers, and a tad of water now and then). Stir occasionally with an old broom handle and in a couple of months you'll have some quality compost.  Keep both old bins around to let some compost mature while you start a new batch.  

If you didn't receive a new bin, ask around.  Chances are good that one of your neighbors or a friend in another Ward still has an old bin on hand. Composting + recycling will drastically cut down the amount of trash that you send to the landfill.  Check out this link for some Composting 101 tips. Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tis the Season: Plant those seeds now

It seems that Spring is finally here in DC.  It's a great time to get those vegetable and flower seeds planted inside the house so they can be transplanted outdoors once they're strong enough to tolerate the rain and sun.  Ask your friends and neighbors to save some of their plastic pots for you.  Be sure the pots have holes in the bottom and a nice mix of soil and potting soil to help ensure good drainage.  Consider starting a seed co-op where you plant dill seeds and swap your plants for the basil seeds your friend planted.  It's all good fun and will make the harvest even sweeter! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Check Out the DC Environmental Film Festival!!!

DC's 22nd Annual Environmental Film Fest begins this week (March 18th) and runs through the end of the month.  There are some great films this year - and several focus on the DC area. 
 Unfortunately, most of the DC focused films seems to all be showing at the same time and at various venues around time.  

On Friday, March 21st at 6pm at the Carnegie Institution for Science (1530 P St NW) Mayor Vincent Gray will introduce a series of short films as a part of the Sustainable DC Initiative including "Green Roofs in the District of Colombia", "Earthecho Expedition: What happens when we build cities", and "Rebalanacing" .Reservations are required (this is the link)!  Meanwhile, "Fishing the Anacostia" will be showing at 6h30 along with My Brooklyn over at the Anacostia Community Museum at 1901 Fort Place SE by the Anacostia Metro. No reservations are necessary.  Finally, "Tiny: A story about living small" will be showing at 7pm at The Hill Center on Capitol Hill (Eastern Market Metro).  This movie focuses on the tiny house movement and will include a discussion with the founders of Boneyard Studios, DC's tiny house community.  You'll need to RSVP at rsvp@hillcenterdc.org

There are over 200 great films, and most of them are free!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A New Coalition for DC’s Other River: United for a Healthy Anacostia

This month, environmental, community, business and religious groups across the DC Area have banned together to form a new coalition – United for a Healthy Anacostia River (UHAR) to improve conditions on the Anacostia River. While there’s less litter along the River’s streambanks these days, there are still dangerous chemicals in the riverbed and at certain places along the river bank that put humans and aquatic life at risk.  The Coalition is launching a social media campaign to awareness about conditions in the Anacostia The Coalition’s first effort is an online petition addressed to Mayor Gray and members of the DC Council, requesting:

1.      All of the PCBs, PAHs and other toxic chemicals in the tidal Anacostia River, including sites along the shore and legacy toxics in the riverbed sediments must be cleaned up
2.      Planning must be completed and the actual cleanup of the river bottom underway by midway through the next mayor's term (January 2017) 

Please sign UHAR’s petition for a cleaner Anacostia. As the weather warms, plan to participate in a river cleanup on April 5th, or take a bike or canoe trip along the Anacostia or visit Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens to see for yourself how beautiful this often forgotten river is!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Clean Currents is Closing…but Clean Energy Options are Still Available for DC Residents

We're so very sad to see you go!
Clean Currents, which has offered wind energy options to DC, Maryland and Pennslyvania   electricity customers since 2005, is going out of business. Their DC customers will begin receiving non wind energy Pepco (which is currently using over 40 percent coal and less than 6 percent renewable) for their electricity needs.  According to a Clean Currents statement, the polar vortex is to blame for the business's demise as the extreme cold weather resulted in soaring wholesale electricity prices. A Washington Post story says that the company stopped producing energy this past weekend and will lay off its 19 employees in the coming weeks.

Fortunately, there are other clean energy options out there for DC residents that you can sign up for NOW.  GreenLivingDC has a great short article on this topic and posted these options on their website following Clean Currents’ closure.
  •  Ethical Electric – current rate for 100% wind with a 3 month contract is 10.84¢/kWh, 12 month fixed rate is 12.54¢/kWh
  •  WGES – current rate for 100% wind with a 1 year contract is 11.50¢/kWh
  •  Viridian – current rate for 100% wind with a 6 month contract is 11.29¢/kWh, or 11.59¢/kWh for a 24 month fixed-rate contract.
Meanwhile, Groundswell is doing a bulk clean energy purchase in the Spring. Bulk purchases can save you money by reducing the cost of your kWh. According to Groundswell, their fall bulk purchase was 16 percent lower than what homeowners would have been able to negotiate on their own. Whatever option you do, please continue to invest in clean energy!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

WooHoo!! We're Getting Larger Recycling Bins!!!!

A soon-to-be relic! (The small recycling bin - not the dog!)

According to a January 23rd, DC Department of Environment Press Release, DC residents will be receiving larger (supercan) recycling bins and new garbage cans as of February 2014.  Residents have long complained that the current recycling bins just can accommodate all of their recyclables and this has led to a build up of materials in alleys and on the streets. It's been more than 10 years since the current supercans were distributed.  The larger recycling bins will help DC attain its target of diverting 80 percent of the waste stream through recycling, composting, and waste conversion.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How To Start a Recycling Program

Maybe...just maybe one of your 2014 resolutions was to be greener and to recycler more. We'll January is well underway, so it's time to put that commitment into action.  So how do you do it? Most folks who read this blog are already doing a lot of household recycling, upcycling and freecycling, so what's next? Why not expand your efforts - to your neighborhood, workplace or school.  Even if your workplace/school already has a recycling program, there's always room for expansion as more and more products have a viable recycled value.  Here are a few ideas:
  • Start your own mini recycling program at work for batteries, corks, Brita filters or such.  To do this, just send an email to colleagues/neighbors/students telling them that you'll be recycling these items and let them know where and
    My Office Door
    when to drop them off.  Leave a dedicated box on your front porch or in your office, workplace kitchen, etc for these items.  I have a bag on my office door for recycling energy bar wrappers, Brita filters and corks. (wrappers are sent to Terracycle, while Brita filters and corks are recycled at WholeFoods).
  • Recruit others to commit to recycling other goods to create a "recycling circle" and spread the fun.
  • Meet with the Facilities staff at your office/school to urge them to create/expand their recycling services.  The days of only recycling paper are so 1990s.  My workplace recycles all plastics, foil, paper and composts!  It's doable!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Great New Tool to Help You go Solar in DC!

If one of your 2014 resolutions is to go solar, DC now has a tool to help you assess how much a system might cost you for your house. MapDwell allows you to estimate the cost of a solar system on your house by simply inputting your address. It's REALLY easy to use..and will provide you estimates for the total cost of the system, your estimated Fed rebate, SREC income and the number of years it should take you to pay off the system.  Thank you DDOE for making going solar in DC even easier!