Celebrating Earth and Arbor Days

Every day is Earth Day at Clean Fairfax.   Clean Fairfax is out in the community at Clean Ups, and Stream Monitorings, and looking for innovative ways to remind people to use their own grocery bags every single day of the year.   And we are planning to celebrate Earth and Arbor Day a week later, in the form of SpringFest Fairfax. 

This year, SpringFest Fairfax is on Saturday, April 29th  and we are in our new location of Sully Historic Site, in Chantilly (just off 28)

Last year, over 3,000 children and adults attended this fun and educational celebration of our natural environment. This year we anticipate even more attendees and have added even more events.

The festival will include hands-on environmental workshops; games for all ages; Billy B; The Recycling Pirates Puppet Show; petting zoo; touch-a-truck; obstacle courses; wildlife shows; tree planting; live entertainment, plant sales, 16 food trucks, and more!

We will also be celebrating Fairfax County’s 275th Anniversary with a children’s poetry contest reading and the kick off to Fairfax County Farmers Market Season! We are excited to say that in the past SpringFest has been a Virginia Green event, one of a select few certified events in Northern Virginia, and we anticipate certification at our new location at Sully Historic Site. 

A short speaking program with elected officials is scheduled between 12 and 12:30 pm.  The full schedule of events, a map, and other information,  can be found on the SpringFest Fairfax site. 

SpringFest exhibitors and vendors are primarily non-profit organizations and county agencies as well as local small businesses working to keep Fairfax County clean, green, and healthy. Exhibitors and vendors will again pledge to be free from polystyrene, and we will have site-wide recycling of bottles, cans, and cardboard as well as Food Composting!

Volunteers are always needed to help work the event–it’s a great time to get your school hours in! Please register to volunteer by signing up here

SpringFest Fairfax is presented free to the public by Clean Fairfax in partnership with Fairfax County’s Park Authority.

Key sponsors of the event are Fairfax Water and Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Stohlman Subaru, Covanta, MOMs, Top Golf, and Delegate Ken Plum!

For the most up to date information about this Rain or Shine event, please follow us on Facebook at Clean Fairfax and SpringFest Fairfax

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Fast Food: More Than an Artery Clogger

We all know that the ingredients in most fast food do not usually support a healthy diet. However, there are other reasons to eliminate—or at least limit—your fast food intake.

Spring brings lots of volunteer litter cleanups. What do we find? Amidst the high volume of non-reusable plastic bottles and the abundance of plastic bags, fast food wrappers and containers constitute a sizeable proportion of the trash that is picked up out of our streams and park lands here in Fairfax County.

In addition, new studies show that fast food packaging can leach potentially dangerous chemicals into the food:

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/wellbeing/fast-food-packaging-found-to-be-just-as-nasty-as-fast-food?utm_source=rodalesorganiclife.com&utm_medium=Outbrain&utm_content=articlerightrail

But if you just can’t do without your “fix” of fast food, consider bringing your own reusable dish, cup, and cutlery to put food and drink into, if your fast food place will allow it. If it is not allowed, ask the fast food server to place burgers, sandwiches, etc. in a paper napkin and transfer the food into your own reusable container. Also, consider saving on plastic
and reducing trash output by skipping the straw and drink lid. If you can carry the items without a bag, ask for no bag.

Save your health—and the planet!

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The Case for Organics and Farmers Markets: Trump’s Chlorpyrifos Approval

 

President Trump has signed an order denying the petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) to ban chlorpyrifos (Lorsban), a pesticide that some say causes neurodevelopmental effects in children at exposure levels below EPA’s existing regulatory standard. The EPA claims that the “science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved.” The next reevaluation of the safety of this product is not scheduled until 2022.

Not willing to take the risk?  According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, when it comes to local produce, this will allow peanut growers in our area to continue to use this insecticide. The Environmental Working Group suggests that if you want to avoid feeding your family produce that may contain chlorpyrifos residue even after it has been thoroughly washed, choose organic versions for these fruits and vegetables:

  • Imported peaches from Chile (20 percent of samples tested positive)
  • Imported nectarines from Chile (13 percent of samples tested positive)
  • Imported bell peppers from Mexico (22 percent of samples tested positive)
  • Imported hot peppers from Mexico (15 percent samples tested positive)
  • Domestic and imported cilantro (27 percent of samples tested positive)

Unfortunately, chloropyrifos is not the only potentially toxic pesticide in use. There are a number of organophosphates, chemicals that are specifically designed to damage an enzyme in the body called acetylcholinesterase, that are responsible for 70% of pesticide use in the United States, according to PANNA.

The argument for consuming organic produce is compelling. Consider buying organics and seeking out fresh LOCAL produce at area Farmers Markets.  You can just ask the farmer what is used to manage pests and make an informed consumer choice.

For more information about Fairfax County Farmers Markets and organic produce check out  https://ourstoriesandperspectives.com/2016/07/27/fairfax-county-farmers-markets/.   A listing of all area Farmers Markets can be found at www.cleanfairfax.org — Programs.

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Bye-Bye Protected Bay

I noted in my 1/11/17 blog (We are Closer to the Ocean Than You Think— http://wp.me/pBXWQ-WC ) that while we are a few hours away from the nearest beach in Northern Virginia, our streams and rivers here in the Potomac Watershed all go to the Chesapeake Bay. Now our Bay is in jeopardy!

President Trump plans to completely eliminate funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and the District of Columbia) that has improved water quality in the Bay over the years.  In 2014, the partners signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which established specific goals, outcomes, management strategies, and work plans to guide the restoration of the Bay, its tributaries and the lands around them. The EPA has used the $73 million a year program—of which Virginia got $9.3 million last year—for such projects as the upgrading of deteriorating sewer facilities and the building of fences and dams to capture sedimentation and farm runoff.

According to the State of the Bay 2016 report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to “saving the Bay through education, advocacy, litigation, and restoration,” there has been a modest reduction in water pollution and increased abundance of blue crabs, oysters and other fisheries in the last few years. The Foundation attributes the improvement in part to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) plan, the largest cleanup plan ever developed by the EPA. This plan sets limits on nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution to meet water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal rivers.

However the Chesapeake Bay Foundation still gives the Bay a rating of only C- as there continue to be problems with overall health of the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Program website agrees: “The Bay’s health has slowly improved in some areas. However, the ecosystem remains in poor condition. The Bay continues to have polluted water, degraded habitats, and low populations of many fish and shellfish species.”
This is no time to be backing off protection for the Chesapeake Bay!  

 

 

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Trump and the Environment

We are just past President Trump’s first fifty days. While the press has focused mostly on the President’s appointees for government positions, immigration issues, and health insurance, changes that affect the environment seem to have taken a back seat.

Earth 911 has done an excellent job keeping us on top of this administration’s impact on environmental issues so far:

http://earth911.com/business-policy/trump-50-days-in/?utm_source=New+Earth911+List+-+2015&utm_campaign=c3932a5fe7-Tuesday+Emails+3.14.17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e8b4dc609-c3932a5fe7-167852373

Whatever your political bent, the environment is something that affects us all! Stay informed and inform others. Take action on the issues that concern you.

 

Invasives = Plant “Litter”

Happy Spring! Start planning your non-invasive plantings now….

Like litter, invasive plants negatively impact the environment. Invasive plants, particularly ground cover like ivy and clematis, often have very little root structure and therefore when they cover large areas, fail to prevent erosion. Sediment then gets into our streams and creates poor water quality which impacts wildlife

Also, as their name suggests, invasive plants tend to “take over” areas. Invasive plants cause declines in native plants, including trees. They also can reduce both food and shelter for native animals, contributing to a decline in biodiversity. In fact, invasive plants are cited as a factor in Endangered Species Act listings!

 

Consider joining a local effort to remove invasive plants through Fairfax County’s Invasive Management Area (IMA) Volunteer Program:  http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/resource-management/ima/
Convinced that natives are the way to go? Here are some upcoming native plant sales in the Northern Virginia area:  http://vnps.org/spring-2017-plant-sales/

Beyond “Bring Your Own Bag”

While we here at Clean Fairfax have been promoting the use of both reusable tote bags for grocery shopping as well as the use of reusable produce bags (see blog postings February 7, 2017; Jan 30, 2017; and, September 20, 2017) there is a way to take sustainable shopping to the next level: Consider shopping in stores where bulk items are available— and bringing your own containers.

The article at the website below outlines some excellent ways to shop “litterless” in the bulk aisle. While the link to the stores that sell bulk and allow customer containers does not mention any in northern VA, in fact, all area MOM’s Organic Markets do encourage customers to bring their own containers, but recommend that they get the containers weighed at the cashier prior to filling them. Also, Clean Fairfax is currently working with several Whole Foods in Fairfax County to develop a system that makes it possible for customers to bring in their own containers.

Check with your local food store to make sure it does allow you to bring your own container for bulk items. If not, consider advocating for it to do so!

http://www.litterless.co/journal/howtobulkaisle

 

Spring into Composting

As we head towards Spring, this is an excellent time to consider composting: The warmer weather tends to break down organic materials more quickly, and you don’t need to brave the cold to get to an outdoor bin.  Also, if you start now, you should end up with some excellent quality soil for your summer garden!

 

Why bother? Composting reduces the amount of garbage you create and therefore the amount of landfill space filled, or in the case of Fairfax County, the amount of ash waste produced by incineration. By not purchasing compost or fertilizer for your garden, composting not only saves you money, but it also saves fossil fuels since many commercial methods of producing compost and fertilizer use machinery that runs on oil/gas. Composting also saves your garbage disposal from overworking. And you are creating rich soil to add back to the earth!

What can be composted in a residential setting? Just about any non-meat food scraps or organic yard waste. Here are some exceptions from Eartheasy, Solutions for Sustainable Living: perennial weeds (they can be spread with the compost) or diseased plants; pet manures if you will use the compost on food crops; banana peels, peach peels and orange rinds since these may contain pesticide residue; and, black walnut leaves (leaves create a chemical toxic to many plants called juglone, and though it breaks down fairly quickly in compost, may not be work the risk).

 

How do you get the materials to compost? If you have an outdoor area available to you, there are several options. You can purchase a composting tumbler or a bin. Purchased composters will be accompanied by directions. If you build your own bin, or fence an area to be your compost pile, or just start a pile, you will need to stir it up periodically and keep it moist.

 

Rodale’s Organic Life suggests the following for starting a compost pile more scientifically:

Start by spreading a layer that is several inches thick of coarse, dry brown stuff, like straw or cornstalks or leaves, where you want to build the pile. 2. Top that with several inches of green stuff. Continue layering green stuff and brown stuff with a little soil mixed in until the pile is 3 feet high. For more info, go to www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/how-compost

 

What is the apartment-dweller with no access to outdoor space to do? Fortunately, there are some excellent technologies that make composting possible even for people living in apartments.   http://earth911.com/home-garden/bokashi-composting/?utm_source=New+Earth911+List+-+2015&utm_campaign=877c6ea77f-Tuesday+Emails+2.13.17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e8b4dc609-877c6ea77f-167852373

 

Early March is a great time to “get back to the earth”—literally!

 

 

 

Pay-As-You-Throw

 

I heard the trucks early Thursday morning and realized belatedly that we had forgotten to put the trash and recycling bins out the previous night. Later, concerned that we would have overflowing bins as we waited until the following week for pick-up, I peered into the bins and realized that, in fact, my recycling bin was half full, but my trash can was almost empty. It occurred to me then that if we were paying for trash services the way that we pay for electricity, water, and natural gas, i.e. paying for what we use, we would be saving a lot of money with our household’s judicious use of the trash can.

The pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) concept is not new. A 2002 report, Municipal Experience with Pay as You Throw Policies: Findings from a National Survey, found that cities that implemented PAYT programs on average realized a 44% decrease in waste generation and a 75-100% increase in recycling. According to a June, 2016, Coalition for Resource Recovery article, PAYT is in approximately 7,000 municipalities in the United States.

PAYT programs vary in how they keep the measurement of solid waste from becoming a logistical nightmare.  In proportional pricing, residents are charged per-unit amount, i.e. per bag within a trash receptacle. Variable-rate pricing charges the residents based on the size of their chosen container, regardless of the number of bags inside for any given pick-up. Multi-tiered pricing starts with a flat-fee for base-level service, and then additional fees are added depending on the amount of waste thrown away. For more details on these pricing systems go to https://archive.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/tools/payt/web/html/top13.html

The EPA offers three reasons to support PAYT: 

Environmental Sustainability:  The increase in recycling and decrease in trash generation leads to fewer natural resources being extracted and fewer greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacture, distribution, use, and disposal of products.

Economic Sustainability:  Residents can take control of their trash bills, waste haulers can lower their tipping fees, and the program may actually generate revenue to cover solid waste costs.

Equity:  One of the most important advantages of having a PAYT program for solid waste is that it is fair: the more you recycle and compost—and help the environment—the less you pay.

So, why hasn’t Fairfax County jumped on the PAYT bandwagon?

Right now, the cost of solid waste management is usually not noticed as part of the property tax bill, in the case of the 44,000 households in Fairfax County that have county hauling. The inflated cost private haulers charge to account for full trash cans in the rest of the county is also often not recognized. PAYT would draw attention to these costs. Also, the changeover needed to either track the number of bags or issue new containers of variable size is often cited as too expensive.

Without a citizen demand for change, there is no incentive for haulers to move to a PAYT structure. It is therefore up to us to continue to recycle and compost as much as possible without an expectation of monetary savings, but rather with the knowledge that we are supporting environmental stewardship and sustainability.