Fresh Veggie Alert — Local CSA Signups Start Soon!

Do you like fresh vegetables? Do you like to support local farmers? Sign up for a local CSA program! Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are simple: members pay a set weekly or monthly fee in advance for shares of a local farm’s produce, which is delivered to your door or a nearby pick-up location. It’s basically a more sustainable version of Blue Apron!

Below we’ve listed five local CSAs that serve Fairfax County. You can find additional CSAs using this interactive map of CSA programs in the DC Metro area that Washington Post put together. Note that it was created in 2015 so it may not be completely up-to-date.

4P Foods

Vegetables sourced from various local farms in the DMV. Sign up here.

Star Hollow Farm

Vegetables sourced from farm in Three Springs, PA (100 miles from DMV). Sign up here.

From The Farmer

Vegetables sourced from various local farms in the DMV. Includes easy to use app. Sign up here.

Shallowbrooke Farm

Vegetables sourced from farm in Boyce, VA. Sign up here.

Potomac Vegetable Farms

Vegetables sourced from farms in Vienna and Purcellville, VA. Sign up here.

0

Apps That Can Help You Eat Sustainably

There’s no getting around it: shopping for food in an ethical and sustainable manner is difficult. The information needed to do so can be hard to find, and is in many cases unknowable to a non-expert. Transparency is not a main prerogative for most products offered in groceries or restaurants. Far from it — products claiming to be organic or healthy are often that in name only.

Enter: HowGood, Happy Cow and Seafood Watch.

Continuing a recent series of posts on technology and sustainability (see earlier posts here and here), the Clean Fairfax blog will explore several mobile applications that can help you shop for food in a more sustainable manner!

HowGood

HowGood is a rating system and app that helps shoppers understand growing guidelines, processing practices and company conduct behind each product. Walk into any HowGood affiliated store (Giant Food is currently the only partner in Fairfax County — with more coming soon) and pay attention to the labels. Many products will have HowGood “Good” “Great” or “Best” ratings on their tags, relating to their overall sustainability scores. How are these ratings created? HowGood collects comprehensive information on products from the USDA, Fair Trade USA, Rainforest Alliance and 350 other sources, and rates according to 70 different indicators. Using your phone, you can also scan any barcode in the store and view a breakdown of a product’s rating, or better yet you can map out your entire grocery list using the app. The days of wondering if that box of granola is actually organic or sustainable are over!

Happy Cow

A go-to app for vegetarians and vegans, Happy Cow is Yelp for sustainable dining and grocery shopping. The concept is simple: vegetarians want to know which restaurants are truly amenable to their green lifestyles, and just as importantly, they want to know which restaurants have the best food. Download, search, enjoy. Enough said!

Seafood Watch

Much to the chagrin of conservation groups, it seems that anything goes out on the open seas. Unsustainable fishing practices are unfortunately still commonplace today, literally leading to classic cases of tragedy of the commons. In response to overfishing, Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch is taking a novel approach to this issue by helping consumers and businesses make better seafood choices for a healthy ocean. The Seafood Watch app keeps consumers informed about the latest recommendations on which fisheries are currently sustainable. More on Seafood Watch’s recommendations:

Buy “Best Choice” recommendations first, they’re well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife. You can also buy “Good Alternative” recommendations but be aware there are concerns with how they’re caught or farmed. Don’t buy “Avoid” recommendations because they’re overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment. — Seafood Watch

For example, Seafood Watch currently suggests that Virginians buy farmed Arctic Char and Tilapia, but urges residents to avoid imported Mahi Mahi and Bluefin Tuna. See a fish that sounds delicious on a menu or at the fishmonger? You can search specific fish on the app to see if it’s a sustainable choice.

Increasingly, there are less and less excuses not to shop for food in an ethical way. Step up!

0

Nature App Lets You “Capture Pokémon” In Real Life

Photo Courtesy of Pokemon Go

The kids are running around the neighborhood playing Pokémon Go with their phones again. It’s great that they’re out of the house getting exercise, but you wish that they could funnel their enthusiasm into something a bit more… constructive. Well, we’ve got a creative solution to your concerns!

iNaturalist is a phone app that essentially allows kids (and adults) to play a real-life version of Pokémon! In the most general sense, iNaturalist is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature. The app is simple: take a photo of any kind of flora or fauna with your phone, and the app will help identify the organism and geo-tag the information so scientists can better understand the local ecosystem.

This app is ideal for anyone interested in the environment. See a funky-looking spider on the jungle gym but have no clue what it is? Snap a pic, upload it to iNaturalist and the app will quickly identify that arachnid and save it to your profile! See a vibrant flower on your hike in Sky Meadows State Park? iNaturalist can help with that!

The designers of iNaturalist have created an app that can inspire a love of nature that could last a lifetime. Download it today and take your kid out to catch real-life Pokémon!

New Program Coordinator is Member of the Notorious Litterati

Clean Fairfax Council would like to welcome its newest team member, Sam Raasch! Sam is a northern Virginian, born and raised, and a graduate of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University. He is passionate about science communication and engaging the public in conservation efforts. Before landing at Clean Fairfax, Sam worked in various natural resource conservation roles at Virginia Tech, New York University, World Resources Institute and the US Forest Service.

 

But more importantly, Sam is an associate of the infamous Litterati. What’s the Litterati, you may ask? Why, it’s a mobile app that uses crowdsourcing to identify, map, and collect the litter we pick up as a community. It’s a simple but formidable concept that can change the way litter reduction is researched and resolved.

Partial Litterati Map of Fairfax County

Partial Litterati Map of Fairfax County

Any time Sam sees a piece of trash, he opens the Litterati app, snaps a quick photo, and the app applies a GPS coordinate, classifies the type of trash and uploads it to a map. Why is this useful? First and foremost, Sam finally has an easy, effective way to alert authorities about local litter hotspots, and consequently, local authorities better understand their municipality’s waste management needs. Furthermore, the data can be used to put pressure on businesses that are not focused on sustainability! Perhaps Sam’s favorite taco shop gives far too many hot sauce packets per order and the packets are ending up in the local stream. Sam’s a nice guy but he might be forced to use his finely tuned Litterati skills of persuasion to show them, using the app, that their sauce packets are ending up in the wrong places!

 

Litterati is one of the most recent efforts to crowd-source data collection for science, but we’ve seen several other great examples of technology that inspires conservation. The app iNaturalist, essentially a real-life version of Pokemon Go, allows citizens to take photos of local flora and fauna and share the data with scientists. In 2012, 150 tons of plastic pellets spilled from a container ship directly off the shores of Hong Kong during a severe typhoon. A citizen then created a geo-tagging app to track the various locations of the spill, and residents used the app to begin the cleanup effort.

If you’re interested in being part of litter reduction in Fairfax County but don’t have the time to organize a stream cleanup, download Litterati (https://www.litterati.org/)! Help our county clean itself, one photo at a time.

P.S. — Litterati is currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to continue improving the app.

Glass Recycling: Fairfax County Offers a Local Option

While much of our attention has been on the environmental toll of single-use plastics, glass recycling is also an important part of the solid waste management picture. As the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services points out, glass is produced by sand, the most consumed natural resource after air and water.

Recycling glass reduces the need to buy or mine more gravel and sand.

Recycling glass in Fairfax County where we have single-stream recycling, meaning that all recyclables can go into one bin, should be a “no brainer.” There is, however, more to glass recycling than meets the eye.  There are two options for what to do with glass that both residential and commercial establishments can consider.

The first option is to recycle the glass into the curbside recycle bin. A few words of caution here: While all colors of bottles and jars are accepted, and metal lids and paper labels can be left on, windows, mirrors, and glass and pottery dishes cannot be put in the regular recycle bin. Windows and mirrors should be taken to the I-66 Transfer Station or I-95 Landfill Complex for disposal.  Contrary to popular belief, broken glass can be put into the recycling bin.

There is a second option for recycling glass that keeps this resource local: Fairfax County is hoping to encourage glass recycling with a new pilot program designed to turn glass into gravel and sand that can be used locally. Source- or color-separated glass can be brought to the I-66 Transfer Station or the I-95 Landfill Complex where special machinery has been installed. The end products can be used in landscaping, construction projects, and even remanufactured into new glass.

Commercial establishments currently are required only to recycle their cardboard. Consider the number of bottles thrown away by a typical restaurant that serves alcohol— think beer, wine, and liquor bottles. By partnering with the County, glass becomes a valuable local resource.

America Recycles Day is November 15. Do the right thing: recycle your glass and encourage your local restaurants to do the same!

Cardboard Recycling: It’s Eco-Friendly—and Easy

We’ve all been there: We get home from work and see cardboard boxes amassed in front of our door, often with the familiar “smiling” arrow pointing from the A to the Z in “Amazon.” Some are enormous and others more brick-sized. We vaguely recall the late night shopping binge a few days back.

Or we are cleaning up that pile of empty pizza boxes left from last night’s party. Or that cereal box left with three remaining flakes on the breakfast table. Or pondering the giant box left over from the new appliance delivery. And, of course, if you have moved recently, a herd of empty boxes awaits you.

So what can you do with all that cardboard?

The first stop is to see if you can reuse the cardboard for shipping or storage, to line garden beds and prevent weeds, or even to create a fun playhouse for your child or pet. Or, this time of year, cardboard boxes make great costumes that can often be recycled afterwards.

If it can’t be reused, you can do your part to support environmental sustainability and put it in the recycling bin. According to Earth911, recycling cardboard uses only 75% of the energy used to make new cardboard. It also lessens the emission of sulfur dioxide produced when making pulp from trees. Finally, it saves trees—about 17 trees for every ton. (EPA)

Proper Cardboard Recycling:

Any type of cardboard can be recycled: cereal boxes, packaging boxes, frozen food boxes, egg cartons, shoe boxes, pizza boxes that are fairly clean (see below), milk cartons (rinsed out), and even the cardboard backing on plastic “blister” packs

Collapse the box:  Boxes that aren’t fully flattened are much more difficult to transport and present problems for mechanisms in the cardboard recycling process.

Don’t worry about the tape: It is helpful if you can remove the tape, but according to Recycle Works, the recycling process of corrugated boxes involves churning it up with water to make a slurry. In this process, tape and paper labels will rise to the top and be skimmed off before the final product is sent to final buyers.

Only recycle cardboard that is clean: A small amount of food residue is acceptable, but large amounts of grease or cheese left in a pizza box, for example, can cause problems at the processing center.

Another option is to avoid cardboard in the first place and use a reusable. For example, the average move uses about 60 cardboard boxes. Companies that provide reusable moving boxes in this area include Bungobox and Lend a Box.  For an interesting take on the value of reusable moving boxes, check out http://coastalvanlines.com/reusable-moving-boxes-alternative-cardboard-moving-boxes/

Recycling cardboard is a great way to go green without much effort!

America Recycles Day is November 15 this year. Do your part!

When Clean is Not Healthy

Despite this year’s extension of summer weather into mid-October, we all know that we will soon be closing up our windows and sealing our homes from the cold. Unfortunately, we will also be sealing IN the toxins from our chemical cleaners.

Keeping our drains running freely, our furniture clear of dust, and our ovens, bathrooms, and kitchens gleaming, comes at a cost. Our household cleaners have a range of potential hazards: The Organics Consumers Association points to acute or immediate dangers such as skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, or chemical burns, and potential chronic or long-term effects such as respiratory impairment and even cancer.

Corrosive chemicals that are used to clean drains or magically lift burnt food off of oven interiors often result in a burn if there is any skin contact. In addition, the Organics Consumers Association explains that combining products that contain chlorine and ammonia or ammonia and lye, as in the case of some oven cleaners, produces chloramine gas. Chlorine combined with acids, commonly used in toilet bowl cleaners, forms chlorine gas. While low concentrations of these gases produce only mild respiratory tract irritation, the New England Journal of Medicine has stated that exposures in higher concentrations may cause corrosive effects and cellular injury. So even  if you do not have skin contact, just breathing the gases from the cleaners can cause respiratory difficulties.

Fragrances added to cleaners can also cause problem, particularly among asthmatic or respiratory-impaired individuals. Unfortunately, fragrance makers are not required to list the individual ingredients of a fragrance, and have traditionally insisted that their recipes are “trade secrets.” In an effort to be transparent, the International Fragrance Association published a general list of the materials that have been used in fragrance compounds. There were 3,999 items! Procter & Gamble is breaking with tradition and aiming for full disclosure of the chemical ingredients in its products by 2019. Read more at http://www.ewg.org/release/procter-gamble-raises-bar-fragrance-ingredient-transparency#.Wd_VmGhSy70

Using a random sample of 1,136 adults to conduct a nationally representative population survey in the United States, a University of Melbourne study published in Science News in 2016 found the following:  When exposed to fragranced products, 34.7% of Americans suffer adverse health effects, such as breathing difficulties, headaches, dizziness, rashes, congestion, seizures, nausea, and a range of other physical problems. For half of these individuals, effects are potentially disabling, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

So, short of letting your pipes clog, the furniture get dusty, your oven crusty, and your bath and toilet covered in an unsavory layer of scum, what are the alternatives?  Fortunately there are two main choices:  First of all, you can purchase non-toxic cleaners. For a list of these, check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners#.Wd_YgGhSy70

A second choice is for the DIY folks. Amass the following ingredients and then follow some basic recipes (scroll to the bottom of https://greatist.com/health/27-chemical-free-products-diy-spring-cleaning) to create your own non-toxic cleaners: Baking Soda, castile soap, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, essential oils, borax.

In the next few weeks, as you close up your windows and block out the cold, be sure to engage in healthy cleaning practices.

Green is the New Orange and Black: Make your Halloween More Eco-Friendly

October is here and the stores are already displaying their Halloween wares. This year, consider greening up your Halloween.

Decorations:

Use natural items like small gourds and pumpkins, or upcycle old decorations by checking out what local second-hand shops have to offer.

Costumes:

Reuse is the green way to go. Consider buying second-hand items at a thrift store to make a costume. Alternatively, swap costumes.  While you can always swap with family and friends, you may want to broaden the choices and have a costume swap event at your school, community center, workplace, or playground. National Costume Swap day is officially Saturday, October 14.

Treats:

Uncomfortable handing out unhealthy candy, much of which is produced with questionable labor practices? Green America offers some excellent alternatives. Although you might pay a bit more per piece, limiting trick or treaters to one piece each can keep the costs manageable—and give you the peace of mind that you are providing a healthier/more sustainable option. Many kids also enjoy non-edible treats, so check out the suggestions for “treasures” at the end.

Bite-sized Chocolates
These sustainably sourced chocolate companies offer mini pieces perfect for trick-or-treaters, using all-natural, fair trade, and/or organic ingredients:
Alter-Eco Chocolate Minis

Coco-Zen Chocolate Squares

Divine Chocolate Medallions

Endangered Species Chocolate Organic Bites

Equal Exchange Organic Chocolate Minis

Unreal Candy

Healthier Handouts
Cascadian Farm Chewy Granola Bars: Organic bars.
Glee Gum: All-natural, Fair Trade chewing gum.
Honest Tea Honest Kids Juice Pouches:  Organic fruit juice.
Larabar Mini Multipack: Kid-sized fruit and nut bars.
Plum Organics Kids Yo’ Drops: Fruit bars and snacks
Surf Sweets: Organic gummy bears and jelly beans.

Treasures
Crayon Rocks: US-made, soy-based, rock-shaped crayons.
Greenline Paper Company: Pencils made from recycled money or cast-off blue jeans.
Naturally Playful: Nontoxic colored highlighter pencils.
Education and More: Fair Trade friendship bracelets.

FOR MORE IDEAS:  GreenHalloween.org is a resource to green your Halloween. The website includes a guide to hosting your own Green Halloween party, toolkits for holding a community event or Costume Swap, treat and treasure ideas for trick-or-treaters, homemade costume hints, DIY face paint instructions, arts and crafts ideas, energy conservation tips, downloadable posters, kids’ activities, and more!

 

 

Food: It’s a Terrible Thing to Waste!

Clean your plate: children in India/Africa are starving! Many of us heard this injunction growing up. Insufficient food is a huge problem in many countries, but even here in Fairfax County 44,000 residents receive help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) because they are unable on their own to get enough food to eat.

Some individuals, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. try to close the loop and donate “extra” food to those in need, but Sustainable America estimates that 40% of food in the United States is wasted.  For more information on eating out without wasting food:  http://www.sustainableamerica.org/blog/eating-out-without-wasting-food/

Leftover food that cannot be used by others is an environmental opportunity. This past spring, Fairfax County’s Solid Waste Management Program announced its launch of a pilot composting program “to encourage the growth of local companies that collect food waste (also called organic waste) from homes, events, businesses, etc., and turn it into compost. The compost can then be used as a high-quality soil amendment in residential backyards, farms, and landscaping projects.”

What makes this type of large-scale composting appealing is that items that normally would not go in a smaller household composting operation such as bones and meat and paper products can be included.

To date, two composting companies, Compost Crew and Veterans, have registered with the program. The County has reviewed these companies’ equipment and operations, thus providing some assurance to potential customers that they are operating in a safe and sustainable way.

To participate in this pilot program, contact Compost Crew at http://compostcrew.com/signup/ or Veterans at https://www.veterancompost.com/our-services/

Bottom line: Try not to waste food, but if you do have organic scraps, put them to good use!

Clean Fairfax Presents…

Is your organization planning speakers and events for the year? Consider having Clean Fairfax come share ideas about environmental stewardship and urban sustainability: WHAT WE CAN BE DOING INDIVIDUALLY AND COLLECTIVELY TO KEEP FAIRFAX COUNTY CLEAN AND GREEN.

Clean Fairfax presentations are interactive and can run anywhere from a 20 minute introductory session to a two hour hands-on workshop. Content can be adjusted for children or adults.

Our table exhibits show some of the environmental problems we face here in Fairfax County and how reusables can make a difference.

Contact cfc@cleanfairfax.org for more information.

Remember: You can have a bigger positive environmental impact by working with your

  • HOA
  • School
  • Scouting group
  • House of worship
  • Social organization
  • Club
  • Business
  • Non-profit organization
  • Etc.