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

WORLD WETLANDS DAY: FEBRUARY 2, 2017

Marshes. Swamps. Bogs. Outdoor areas that conjure up images of mud, smells of decaying plants, and pools of seemingly stagnant water. Not the type of outdoor area most people usually seek when going for a hike. But wetlands have been unfairly characterized.

February 2, 2017 is World Wetlands Day, and here in Fairfax County we actually have two public wetland areas, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve and Huntley Meadows Park. Exploration of these two areas will quickly reveal that wetlands, the broad term used to describe land consisting of marshes or swamps also known as “saturated land,” have been given a bad rap.

The theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day is “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction.” The Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for worldwide cooperation on wetlands protection, calls wetlands “nature’s shock absorbers” for their ability to control flooding, buffer storms, filter pollutants and provide habitat. They are clearly a vital part of our ecosystem.

And precisely because of their wet nature (pardon the pun) they have an unusual diversity of life forms which makes exploring these areas especially rewarding.  According to the Defenders of Wildlife, more than one-third of the federally listed species on the Endangered Species Act rely directly, or indirectly, on wetlands for their survival.


Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve
is one of the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetlands in the Washington metropolitan area. Its 485 acres of tidal marsh, floodplain, and swamp forest can be explored by boat or on foot. Dyke Marsh is home to many species that can only survive in wetlands.  For more information, go to https:// www.nps.gov/gwmp/planyourvisit/dykemarsh.htm.

Huntley Meadows Park is 1,500 acres and claims to have some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area with a half-mile wetland boardwalk trail and an observation tower. For more information go to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/huntley-meadows-park/.

Like many of the natural areas in densely populated Fairfax County, litter is a persistent problem in both these wetlands. The Friends of Dyke Marsh works to protect its natural beauty in cooperation with the National Park Service. The Friends of Huntley Meadows works with the Fairfax County Park Authority to sustain this important wildlife area.  Find out how you can support the Friends
of Dyke Marsh at https://www.fodm.org/ or Huntley Meadows at http://www.friendsofhuntleymeadows.org/index.html#.

 

Celebrate World Wetlands Day and take the time to explore these vital wetland treasures here in Fairfax County!

 

 

 

VA Bagged Out

Virginia is definitely not keeping up with Mumbai, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, China, South Africa, Tanzania, Australia, Ireland, and Italy. Nor with Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, MD, California, and other localities across the United States. When it comes to cleaning up our plastic bag problem, we are behind.

A proposed bill to add a plastic bag tax in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (SB 925) was “passed by indefinitely,” i.e. defeated, on January 18, 2017, by the VA Senate Finance Committee. This bill would have imposed a five-cent per bag tax on plastic bags provided to customers by certain retailers in localities located wholly within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and directed revenues to be used to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan. The bill would have allowed every retailer that collects the tax to retain one cent of the five-cent tax. And, as studies of areas that have passed similar legislation show, would have reduced plastic bag litter in Virginia’s environmentally sensitive Chesapeake Bay Watershed region.

Meanwhile, neighboring localities have taken action. In 2009, Washington, D.C. imposed a 5 cent tax on plastic bags. Using the slogan “Skip the Bag, Save the River” the campaign helped people make the connection between plastic bag use and the huge litter problem D.C. was facing. According to a May 2015 article in The Washington Post, the nickels from the bag fee contributed about $10 million to the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund. While D.C. has struggled to scientifically measure the exact cleanup effects of the ban, in 2013 the Alice Ferguson Foundation surveyed 600 residents. The results of the survey showed that
District households, on average, estimated they had decreased bag use by 60 percent, from ten bags a week to four.

Legislation passed in January of 2012 requires retail establishments in Montgomery County, Maryland who provide customers a plastic or paper carryout bag at the point of sale to charge 5 cents per bag. The revenues from this charge are deposited into the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge (WQPC) fund. According to a July 2016 Washington Post article, Montgomery’s tax generated $10.4 million for pollution and stormwater control programs.  More importantly, traps at 15 stream sites in the county monitored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments showed a decline in the number of plastic bags collected, from 856 in 2011 to 777 in 2015. The figure from the first half of 2016 showed an even steeper drop, to 281.

And in locales farther away, more drastic measures have been taking place. Proposition 67 banning plastic bags passed by referendum this past November in California. China, not the country one usually thinks of when considering progressive environmental measures, announced on January 24 that it will prohibit the production and distribution of ultra-thin bags beginning June 1, 2017.

Why this attention on plastic bags? According to Plastic Waste Solutions, globally we use a trillion bags a year.  That is approximately 10 million every 5 minutes. And only a small number of these end up recycled since they are not typically part of regular curbside recycling programs. Wildlife ingestion and entanglement, detrimental changes in water chemistry, and unsightly litter are all results of plastic bag use—and misuse. Production of the bags also causes pollution. While the majority of plastic bags in the United States are made from natural gas, there is air pollution associated with the emissions from extraction.

For an excellent description of China’s recent environmental wake up call and the devastating effects of plastic bag litter that has prompted government leaders worldwide—though not in Virginia— to enact legislation to control or ban the use of plastic bags, read http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5565.

 

Don’t Wish-Cycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting environmental sustainability means recognizing some of the limitations of what we can do at this time—and avoiding trying to recycle items that our area recycling program cannot yet support. The single stream recycling that we enjoy here in Fairfax County, enabling us to throw all recyclable items together, often leads to over confidence in what can and cannot be recycled. Including items that our recycling program is not able to accommodate, wish-cycling, can cause more harm than good.
Check out Earth 911’s description of the detrimental effects of wish-cycling:  http://tinyurl.com/jasz8r9

Get informed so you don’t make mistakes. Learn some FAQs about recycling in Fairfax County athttp://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/navbar/faqs/recycling-gen.htm and specifics about what can and cannot be recycled at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/trash/dispaccept-index.htm.  If you have private recycling, check with your hauler to find out what is—and is not— acceptable.

And things do change. For example, for many years, multi-layered cartons—milk, juice, soup, etc.—could not be included in Fairfax County recycling. This past summer, Fairfax County’s recyclers, American Recycling Center in Manassas, found a market for tetra pak, as these cartons are referred to in the industry,  and added them to the list of acceptable items.  Recycling cartons keeps more items out of the waste stream and, according to Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, “can generate revenue for a recycling program, offsetting some of the costs of collection.” http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/recycling/cartons-are-recyclable.htm

Tetra pak cartons are aseptic, free from micro-organisms, and are used for liquid food items so they can be stored for up to one year without refrigeration. This multilayered material is 75% paper, 20% polyethylene, and 5% aluminum. The paper part is what can be recycled relatively easily and is used to create recycled paper products and building materials. Although recycling of tetra pak is widespread in Europe, it has been very limited in the United States, with only 58% of U.S. households having access to carton recycling according to the Carbon Council.

Be an informed environmentalist and recycle properly! Be an environmental activist and encourage your recycling company to find ways to broaden what can be recycled!

DIY and Environmental Sustainability

There is a plethora of do-it yourself (DIY) ideas on the internet that promote environmental sustainability. From 100 Ways to Repurpose and Reuse Broken Household Items http://www.diyncrafts.com/6081/repurpose/100-ways-repurpose-reuse-broken-household-items to ideas on how to extend the useful life of old clothes, dilapidated furniture, and even used tires, broken tools, construction debris, and ripped wrapping paper. (See blogs dated 11/8/2016 and 12/22/2016 for the latter two.)

The term “upcycling” is often used to describe this repurposing of objects that have lost their initial usefulness. According to dictionary.com, the definition for upcycle is “to process (used goods or waste material) so as to produce something that is often better than the original” as in “I upcycled a stained tablecloth into curtains.”

Some environmental purists, however, claim that upcycling requires the materials to go back up the supply chain rather than just make the chain a bit longer. They claim that for something to be considered truly upcycled, rather than recycled, it must be a process that can be repeated over and over without the material ending up in the landfill.  For example, they point to soda cans which can be melted down and made into brand new cans. and in the process save over 90% of the energy required to make new ones from scratch. This cycle can continue in perpetuity, reducing energy consumption and effectively removing certain materials from the waste stream. Newsprint can also work this way. Plastic bottles, on the other hand, are usually recycled into carpets, or toys, or winter fleeces which will eventually become trash.

Whether do-it-yourself projects are really recycling rather than upcycling can be debated. However, indisputably, DIY projects can be amazingly ingenious ways to turn potential problems into nifty solutions.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5rhVIwhIs5sbERVY0pwY0E2dVU/view?usp=sha

We Are Closer to the Ocean Than You Think

In Fairfax County, VA, the nearest ocean beach is several hours away by car.  Why should we concern ourselves with marine litter problems?

Fairfax County is part of the Potomac Watershed, and therefore all streams lead to the Potomac River which goes to the Chesapeake Bay and then out to the Atlantic Ocean. Streams and rivers, by definition, flow. The litter that blows or is washed off driveways, parking lots, roads, yards, rooftops, and other hard surfaces often ends up in the myriad of streams that crisscross our county, and therefore potentially can drift to the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, according to the most recent EPA white paper on pollution from plastics, while ocean dumping remains a problem, plastic debris originates primarily from land-based activities including landfills and littering.

Other interesting findings from the December 2016 EPA publication entitled “State of the Science White Paper: A Summary of Literature on the Chemical Toxicity of Plastic Pollutants to Aquatic Life and Aquatic-Dependent Wildlife” indicate that the amount of plastic debris, which includes plastic bags and microbeads, has risen greatly in marine environments over the last number of years and now accounts for 60%-80% of marine litter. Microbeads are tiny particles of plastic, barely visible to the naked eye, that have been added to many personal care cosmetic products. These flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system and cannot be filtered out effectively by wastewater treatment plants, thus ending up in our streams, and eventually,  the ocean.

The effect of ocean litter goes beyond the negative aesthetics of having a trashy ocean. Aquatic animals can become entangled in plastic debris, or fatally ill from the chemicals when plastic is ingested.  The whole ocean ecosystem is put at risk.

Yes, our actions here in Fairfax County DO affect the ocean. Reducing the use of plastics, particularly plastic bags, and buying personal care products that do not contain microbeads are some first steps. Ensuring that we dispose of trash appropriately and do not allow litter to end up in our streams is another important step. Finally, cleaning existing litter out of streams also prevents greater environmental impact. Consider planning a cleanup of a “trashy” stream near you for this coming spring.

One more way to help: Adidas is making sneakers made from 3-D printed recycled ocean waste, and though they are rather expensive, this is definitely a cool “reclaim” idea. Check it out at http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/4/13518784/this-adidas-sneaker-made-from-recycled-ocean-waste-is-going-on-sale-this-month

For more information about the problem of plastics in our marine environments go to https://www.epa.gov/wqc/aquatic-life-ambient-water-quality-criteria#plastics

The Trees That Keep on Giving

Like down and out divas past their prime, unadorned Christmas trees line the streets the first two weeks of January.  Without lights, decorations, or stands these trees are a reminder that—at least until Valentine’s Day—the winter holiday season is over.

 

Fortunately, here in Fairfax County, these trees get to serve a second purpose. From January 1-16, if you receive trash and recycling service directly from the county, your tree will be picked up from the curb and it will not count as one of your allotted five special collections per fiscal year (July 1 –June 30). The tree, like the rest of your household waste, will then go to the waste-to-energy facility where it will be safely burned to help generate power.

 

While most private haulers also pick up your trees to send to the waste-to-energy plant (contact your private hauler to find out), if your private hauler sends out a truck just for the trees, i.e. a “dedicated” truckload of trees, these trees will be ground up to create mulch.

 

In Fairfax County, your Christmas tree keeps on giving. For more information, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/recycling.