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!  

 

 

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.

 

 

Volunteer for a Cleanup!

Here are some opportunities to help get rid of the litter that clogs our streams and pollutes our parks in Fairfax County:

 

Alice Ferguson Foundation has its 29th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup on Saturday, April 8. For more information go to http://fergusonfoundation.org/trash-free-potomac-watershed-initiative/potomac-river-watershed-cleanup/

 

 

 

Stream Cleanup at Old Lee Highway Bridge

Saturday, April 8, 2017

3:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Accotink Creek at Old Lee Highway Bridge

3251 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 

Park near the bridge, behind the Home Depot lot – https://goo.gl/8gWdSo

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Chain Bridge Rd

Saturday, April 8, 2017

12:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Accotink Creek at Chain Bridge Rd

10399 Layton Hall Drive, Fairfax, VA 

Park on Layton Hall Drive, and meet at the intersection with University Drive – https://goo.gl/iIb4Jx

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Fairfax Blvd Bridge

Saturday, April 8, 2017

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Accotink Creek at Fairfax Blvd Bridge

9904 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA

Park and meet in the Regency Furniture/P.J. Skidoos parking lot – https://goo.gl/5T460t

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Telegraph Road Bridge

Stream Cleanup at Accotink Gorge / Fullerton Rd Bridge

Saturday, April 15, 2017

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Accotink Gorge (Behind Springfield Costco)

7373 Boston Blvd, Springfield, VA (map)

Park and meet in the far corner of the Costco parking lot, by the tire shop – https://goo.gl/oyMonr

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

 Stream Cleanup at Pohick Square HOA

Saturday, April 22, 2017

9 a.m. – Noon

(Rain or shine)

Meet at Timarand Court in the Pohick Square HOA

For more information call –

Joyce Steed (571) 642-6000

 

Stream Cleanup at Barkley Drive Bridge

Saturday, April 22, 2017

12:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Accotink Creek at Barkley Drive

3299 Barkley Drive, Fairfax, VA

Park on Karen Drive, continue south on Barkley on foot 60 yards to Accotink Creek – https://goo.gl/MDnXyp

 

Stream Cleanup at Woodburn Road Bridge

Saturday, April 22, 2017

3:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Accotink Creek at Woodburn Road Bridge

3601 Woodburn Rd, Fairfax, VA

Parking available on Spicewood Drive – https://goo.gl/Y6QXc3

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Pickett Road

Saturday, April 22, 2017

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Thaiss Park / Accotink Creek at Pickett Road Bridge

3401 Pickett Road, Fairfax, VA 

Park in Thaiss Park. Meet at the CCT trailhead – https://goo.gl/BuudVG

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Wakefield Park (Braddock Road Bridge)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

3:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Wakefield Park (Braddock Road bridge)

8100 Braddock Road, Annandale, VA 

Enter Wakefield Park, park in the first ball-field parking lot on the left – https://goo.gl/OiQl3D

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Americana Park (Little River Turnpike)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

12:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Americana Park (Accotink Creek at Little River Turnpike)

4131 Accotink Pkwy, Annandale, VA

Park on King Arthur Road and meet near the bridge/ CCT trailhead – https://goo.gl/eit7nePark in Americana Park near the “Delayed Harvest Trout Waters” sign – https://goo.gl/ATpg7K

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at King Arthur Road Bridge

Saturday, April 29, 2017

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Accotink Creek at King Arthur Rd Bridge

3808 King Arthur Rd, Annandale, VA 

Park on King Arthur Road and meet near the bridge/ CCT trailhead – https://goo.gl/eit7ne

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

Plastic Clamshells in Fairfax County, VA: Try not to buy, DON’T RECYCLE, and reuse whenever possible.

They are everywhere: From packaging berries, grapes, tomatoes, and fresh herbs to restaurant leftovers and to-go meals.  And this type of plastic has been a real challenge to the recycling industry. In fact, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), as late as 2010, clamshells were not being recycled in significant amounts anywhere in the United States or Canada. Now however, according to the November 2016 issue of Plastics Recycling Update, recycling programs that include this material are available to more than 60 percent of the U.S. population. But not to Fairfax County residents.

Plastic clamshells are a type of blister packaging, but rather than have a backing of paperboard or thin foil, the clamshell folds onto itself and is made completely from thermoplastic, or plastic that has been heated into its current shape. In the
case of sold food items they may also have a paper label with information about the product.

The problem with recycling this plastic in Fairfax County is twofold: First of all, while many of these clamshells are made of PET, polyethylene terephthalate, or #1 plastic, which IS normally recycled in Fairfax County, the tec
hnology is set up to recycle bottle shaped PET, not the pie-shaped, square-, or rectangular-shaped clamshell. Secondly, some clamshells are made from polystyrene, or #6 plastic which is not recycled in the County.  So the second problem is that at the materials recovery facility (MRF), the optical sorting has difficulty distinguishing between the different plastics.

So, what is the environmentally conscious Fairfax Count
y consumer to do until Fairfax County recycling programs can handle this type of container? For one thing, try purchasing produce that does not come in a clamshell. Also, consider bringing a reusable container to restaurants where you anticipate you will be taking ho
me leftovers.

If you do end up with clamshells, here are some innovative ideas for how to reuse this type of plastic:  https://repurposeful.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/repurposing-repeat-offendors-plastic-fruit-containers/

Make the Red Holiday Greener

Beauty Products. Chocolate. Flowers. Cards.

Valentine’s Day is an epic day of giving. Consider making some green choices by purchasing gifts that are ethically produced and eco-friendly. Check out some ideas here:

http://www.treehugger.com/culture/how-celebrate-green-valentines-day.html


According to the National Retail Federation’s Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey reported in 2016, fifty percent of consumers surveyed said they planned to buy candy, spen
ding a total of $1.7 billion. Check out Green America’s Scorecard on chocolate:

http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/fairtrade/whatyoucando/chocolateScorecard.cfm

Use your consumer power wisely on Valentine’s Day!

 

Sustainable Shopping: Get Organized!


My grocery store trips have usually been rushed affairs, and I rarely have taken notice of other customers’ purchases or shopping practices. Recently, however, Clean Fairfax was
designated as Whole Foods’ recipient for a Nickels for Nonprofits campaign (through January 15), whereby shoppers could donate the five cents returned to them for each reusable tote bag to Clean Fairfax. As part of this campaign, I set up a table to distribute both reusable tote bags and reusable produce bags for two hours at each of the five Whole Foods in Fairfax County.

What I found surprised me. My assumption was that most Whole Foods customers, already a select group of grocery shoppers leaning heavily towards the more environmentally aware, would have their own reusable tote bags. I expected to hand out more reusable produce bags, small washable net bags to replace the plastic bags used for produce and bulk items, since these are less known than the totes.

Instead, very few customers actually brought reusable totes, though many admitted to having a cache of these at home or in the car. Also, of the several hundred people I interacted with, only a handful had ever heard of the reusable produce bags let alone owned any— and none had brought them to the store to do their shopping.

I have recently begun paying more attention when I shop at Shoppers, Giant, and Safeway, more typical grocery stores. The majority of customers are still going for the plastic bags—and the research shows that most of those are not recycled. According to Worldwatch Institute, every year, Americans reportedly throw away 100 billion plastic grocery bags, which can clog drains, crowd landfills, and create a litter problem.

There is no reason why the reusable totes—and smaller net produce bags— cannot also be used not only at the grocery store but also when making purchases at drugstores, clothing stores, shoe stores, etc. It just has to become a habit.

 As indicated in a previous blog, reusable bags are only of value when they are used a lot. TreeHugger, a sustainability website, sums it up as follows:

“What ultimately matters is if you actually use your reusable bags, or if you collect them dutifully from vendors and at conferences but then forget them at home every time you go to the store. If you can commit to using your canvas bag 171 times, or something like a Chicobag eleven times or more, then you have made a good decision. If you can’t commit to this, chose plastic over paper bags, reuse the bags at the store, repurpose them as trash can liners, and recycle the rest at your local grocery store.” 

 Earth911 has posted “5 Ways to Create a Waste-Free Grocery Shopping Trip.” Their suggestions include using reusable tote AND produce bags, bringing jars/containers for bulk items, purchasing items with minimal packaging, and, perhaps most important of all, developing an organization system that helps you remember your bags and containers when going to the grocery store.

You can read the full post here:

http://earth911.com/home-garden/waste-free-grocery-shopping/?utm_source=New+Earth911+List+-+2015&utm_campaign=2d48a23f07-Tuesday+Emails+1.24.16+-+ISRI+SPONSOR&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e8b4dc609-2d48a23f07-167852373