Blog Archives

DC’s Simulated Recycling on the Kojo Show This Week

I was sorta depressed after my recycling story ran in Washington City Paper and it looked like the city government wasn’t going to do anything about all the “fake”recycling in DC. But the city council held a hearing this month + DPW is seeking changes to the recycling law. I was on the Kojo Nnamdi radio show this week talking about the issue.

Here’s a link to the segment.


2010 and Beyond!

Hello Greendistrict readers! Happy New Year to all!

It’s a good ten days into the new year and about time I return from extended holiday hiatus. I’m kicking off 2010 with a few adjustments to my blogging habits: nixing the daily Green Lines sustainability roundup, for starters. It’s just too time consuming to compile that stuff. Besides, truly compelling stories don’t appear everyday. Instead, I’m going to focus on writing more substantive blog posts and make the Green Lines roundup a weekly feature filled with the most noteworthy and new reporting of the previous seven days. To get started, here are a few stories that caught my eye:

CBS News reported on vulnerabilities in the nation’s food supply.

Finally someone wrote a story on the brewing battle over biodiesel made from trees – or lumber scraps, that is. The Washington Post had a piece today about complaints from the lumber industry that the congressionally induced boom in fuel made from “woody biomass” could put cabinet makers and other producers of “composite wood” products out of business.  The story, however, makes no mention of the growing environmental concerns. To learn why the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program is a bad idea from a sustainability standpoint you have to go elsewhere.

The greening of the U.S. House of Representatives: “The House saved almost 75,000 pounds of waste from landfills and cut nearly 400,000 pounds of carbon emissions last year through a new program to make the chamber’s offices more energy efficient,” according to Roll Call.

Mountaintop removal mining is causing vast and permanent environmental destruction, exposing people to serious health consequences such as birth defects, and should be banned, according to a new study discussed in this story in The Guardian.

“A federal jury awarded more than $100 million to 10 workers who claimed they were injured in 2007 when a toxic substance was released at BP’s Texas City plant,” The New York Times reports. Company officials reportedly expressed outrage though it’s hard to say why they were surprised since federal investigators came to the same conclusion as the jury. The company spends more on its “Beyond Petroleum” ad campaign depicting itself as a “green corporation” than it will be shelling out to the injured workers, which seems another reason to take the executive exclamations with a grain of salt.

The White House “regulatory czar” is pushing to nix the E.P.A.’s plans for tougher rules on coal ash, according to this story in the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s a scary piece on India‘s water mafias.

Los Angeles Times has a travel piece on the “endangered paradise” of the  Maldives islands, which is expected to be underwater if the world continues to dither on global warming.

Book Report: I just finished reading “Bitter Chocolate, The Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet” by Canadian journalist Carol Off. It’s a harrowing but fascinating and well-researched tale of human rights abuses in the cocoa fields where chocolate’s main ingredient is grown. But be warned: The stories of children working Ivory Coast in slave-like conditions  may dampen your appetite for chocolate, as it did mine – or at least for chocolate not stamped with a “fair trade” label.

Today’s Greenlines: Recycle a Coat, Save a Theater, Bag a Freebee + Cycling Movies

The venerable Takoma Theatre on 4th Street NW, near the same-named Metro station, may soon be dust. The Takoma Theatre Conservancy is raising alarms about the Jan. 22 Mayor’s Agent hearing on demolishing the place.

The District Department of the Environment is teaming up with area CVS/pharmacy outlets to distribute free reusable shopping bags ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline, when DC retailers begin charging customers 5 cents for every disposable bag. Click here for more information about where to pick up your freebee.

Andaman Islands, Creative Commons Attribution License

For those  feeling that – despite the obvious environmental boons – the bag ban is a big pain in the backside, consider this: even the tiny Indian Ocean territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are launching a plastic bag ban starting next week.

DC Streets Capitol Hill has a nice little roundup of news stories on road and transit projects stuffed into Congress’s pending jobs bill.

Recycle + Help a Needy Neighbor – There are a couple of coat drives this weekend that offer a worthy way to make space in your closets:

The organization Fathers Rock is collecting gently worn or new coats this Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM at the Metropolitan Police, Fourth District Station, 6001 Georgia Ave., NW. The coats will be given to families living in area shelters.

This offer is a little more specious, since donating a coat gets you a 20 percent discount off of new purchases – hardly incentive to reduce your carbon footprint. But ’tis the jolly shopping season …  so, here’s the skinny: To get your discount, bring a coat to donate to Urban Chic‘s Georgetown outlet. The coast will go to the Women’s Housing Coalition. Urban Chic, 1626 Wisconsin Ave. NW, b/t Reservoir Rd. & Q St. 
Thru Dec. 8. Thurs.-Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.

In a tribute to city fauna, Congress Height‘s The Advoc8te shot a deer … on video.

Lynn at Organic Mania is campaigning to send Diane McEachern, author of Big Green Purse, to the Copenhagen climate talks. Click here to learn more about the OM candidate.

City Fix DC alerted me to this news: This weekend, the Bicycle Film Festival comes to DC.

Old Jeans = New Home Insulation


Jeans image from Wikipedia

Looking to clean out your closet?  Here’s a novel recycling idea: Today from 6 to 10 PM the National Jean Company in Bethesda is collecting old jeans. The store will donate them to Habitat for Humanity, which – and this is the cool part – will use them as insulation in the homes they build.

You get something out of the deal too: National Jeans kicks in 20 percent off and you can even get a recommendation on the fit of those new jeans by J Brand’s chief stylist.

National Jean Company, 7301 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, 301-907-0295

Today’s Sustainability News

Some upscale vinegars – particularly high-priced balsamics – tip the scale on lead content too, this report finds.

California‘s green efforts – from using recycled paper to fighting global warming – found to be more talk than walk by this new investigative report.

Mother Jones
says California‘s Century as the country’s so-called Salad Bowl is about to be over. Instead, the central valley could become the next Dust Bowl.

MoJo’s Blue Marble blog has a post about how the author was “bambloozled” into buying sheets advertised as eco-friendly bamboo when they were really made out of icky rayon with bamboo content. The Federal Trade Commission was also unamused. It slapped the hand of the manufacturer, a company called Bamboosa, last month. Read all about it.

Do you know that it took cyanide to make the gold wedding band, gold earrings or watch you’re wearing? That’s right, the stuff spies carry around in case they get caught by the enemy and need to die really quickly. Well, gold mines around the world use cyanide to separate the gold from the rest of the mine rubble. It’s all safe enough, mining companies say, that is – until the cyanide seeps into the ground and drinking water suppliers. Here’s a story about the devastating effects it can have when it does.

Clorox has announced that it’s taking the chlorine out of its bleach. But the move isn’t motivated by the company’s self-proclaimed environmental ethos. Read what really appears to be fueling the change.

Morning Coffee: Local Edition

There’s plenty of DC sustainability-like news today, so let’s get right to it!

The Hill is Home has a post about neighborhood opposition to a proposed Shell gas station in the vicinity of 14th Street and Maryland Avenue, NE and complaints about a group of boisterous squatters who call the neighborhood home.

The Hill also has a story on CXS and it’s plans to tear up Virginia Avenue southest of the Capitol as part of a multistate construction project by the railroad company. The post and lots of links with more information can be found here.

Washington Business Journal reports that the Allegro apartments in the trendy new 14th Street corridor known best for its Target store, is facing foreclosure.

The Shaw Dog Park, meanwhile, is thriving. It celebrated its first anniversary with a party for the humans who own the dogs. Proceeds will be plowed back into park maintenance, according to the park’s very own website.

National Zoo goers got a little more of a nature experience than they bargained for when a baby deer wandered out of Rock Creek Park and into the clutches of a couple of lions. The deer was “fatally wounded” and had to be euthanized, according to the WaPo story.  You can watch the YouTube footage here. But don’t worry. There’s no blood and guts, the filmmaker apparently stopped shooting before the lions moved in for the kill.

If the deer’s fate has gotten you down, perhaps this Washington Post story will cheer you up. It’s  on the scientific debate over why leaves turn blazing fall colors this time of year.

DC Streets has the scoop on all sorts of transportation-related legislation wending its way through Congress.

Donna C. at We Love DC posts her thoughts about my Washington City Paper story  reporting that private haulers are known to toss out the recycling with the trash.

Today’s Sustainability News Roundup

Given the wave of bedbug sightings in DC and elsewhere recently, this new research is a relief. Environmental Health News is reporting that “good housekeeping” habits are more effective than fumigation in keeping the bedbug population at bay.

Californian regulators are considering a proposal for pay-by-the-mile auto insurance. If adopted, California would be the second state, after Texas, to give motorists a chance to insure themselves for only the miles they drive. Besides offering a new way of looking at auto insurance, the plan, called the MileMeter, drives home (so to speak) the connection between mileage and air pollution, not to mention global warming.

Spiegel Online International provides some insights on how climate change fighters could save the planet on the cheap.

Kmart, Target and Toys R Us will pay nearly half a million dollars to settle a California lawsuit over sale of toys containing excessive amounts of lead.

Nanoparticles found in many body lotions and cosmetics damage DNA, according to new research.

USA Today has a story on bad behavior by farmers growing genetically engineered corn.

Owens Corning is starting a shingle recycling program.

LEED, the country’s preeminent green building rating system, has seen rapid growth this year, even as the conventional environmentally evasive construction industry has faltered.

Traces of BPA, the controversial plastic often used to coat the insides of cans, can leach into the food inside those cans. Yuk!

Is Your Recycling Being Tossed with the Trash?

Good Morning folks!


Trash and Recycling waiting for a ride.

It’s a particularly fine, crisp autumn morning here in D.C. and I’m feeling fine. How about you?

My mood can be attributed at least in part to the fact that a story I spent months on hits news stands today.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for you or anything but, in a nutshell, here’s the scoop: Some private haulers in DC only pretend to recycle your carefully separated newspapers, cardboard and bottles. Instead, they often dump it into their trucks along with the trash, then cart it off to landfills or transfer stations that supply the dumps. That’s what I found after spending months tailing garbage trucks and staking out dumpsters behind apartment complexes, condos and commercial establishments all over the District of Columbia.

What’s perhaps even more surprising, the city hasn’t issued a single ticket for this offense in years. Here’s a quote from Nancee Lyons, a DPW spokesperson, that didn’t make it into today’s Washington City Paper story, an online version of which can be found here.

“Currently we have no authority to write citations unless they are at a DC trash transfer station,” Lyons says.

In other words, inspectors, who see a hauler scofflawing the recycling on a DC street can’t do a thing about it. That seems to make a mockery of the city’s recycling law, particularly considering how often this happens.

Have you ever seen trash guys throwing out recycling and trash together in the same truck? Please share your stories in the comments section.