Archive for the 'activism' Category

Happy Belated Earth Day!

I spent mine being slightly less deathly ill, trying to work, at book club, and moving.  So, not so celebratory, though it was a good book club (We the Living, by Rand- we picked The Martian Chronicles by Bradbury for next month).

Fear not, though, there is a chance for those of us who couldn’t celebrate today to still do Earth Day in style.  This Sunday on the National Mall there’s a big Climate Rally- some sort of demonstration for climate legislation, plus speakers and music.  I am not entirely sure how this is going to catalyze change, but I’ll check it out, if only to bask in a sea of hopeful environmental thoughts for a day.

There more information and an RSVP here, if you’re interested.

Book Talk: Al Gore Looks More Normal In Person

Al Gore gave a talk at GWU tonight about his new book “Our Choice”.  A friend got me an extra ticket to go, because she is rather fabulous.   So, the full report: Gore’s looking pretty trim!  And he signed books too, so somebody’s got a Christmas present coming (I’m going to read it first, of course).  The book signing line was well regimented, with Gore just signing away and not talking too much- the only way to get hundreds of people through, I know, but it was pretty impersonal.  I didn’t really have anything to say, though, (“I’ve been to Tennessee!  You were cool on 30 Rock!  I compost sometimes!”) so no biggie.

The talk itself:  it was scienc-y.  First time I’ve heard a politician  (oh right he’s an activist now) refer to a photon like they could define it if pressed.  He explained the six substances causing climate change, talked a little about a lot of ways to change energy, discussed the shape of the new smart grid… and I think the smart grid is really interesting so I spaced out a bit there to think about that and try to imagine if I could work on that in Planning, but then the speech got stirring!  Gore’s warning of the impacts of climate change in an Inconvenient Truth have become a more coherent call to arms now.  The book itself is a well-illustrated summary of the science behind climate change and a survey of the methods we can use to fix the problem, but it’s main message is that we have the technology to solve the problem, but not the political will.  He (correctly, in my opinion) frames our reactions to climate change as the moral testing ground of our era.

The book just came out, and he was on The Daily Show last night explaining it to Jon Stewart.  He used some of the same phrases, so you’ll get the gist of what I saw in the extended interview at Hulu.

Speaking of political will, the Senate climate bill got through the Environmental etc. committee session yesterday, despite all the Republicans on the committee stalling it with demands to find facts they wouldn’t listen to, and walking out of all the committee sessions on it.  Took a fancy interpretation of the voting rules so of course Repubs are mad their bratty, irrational, obstructionist, and (oh my I should save some adjectives for describing Republicans the next time they pull such childish stunts) unprofessional behavior didn’t work out for them.  But is it really steamrolling the minority opposition if the minority a) aren’t there and b) have stated no coherent opposition besides “no”?  Not that the bill the Senate has is great, or even as good as the House’s. But they have a bill.

Al might approve.  Check out the book, the pictures I saw so far looked pretty good.  I’ll let you know how I like it when I finish it.

Vermicomposting with WormEco

The Naturemill unit seems to have bought it after the last move- I am not pleased with that thing.  Given that it’s full of half-rotten stuffs now, I’m not excited about investigating its inner workings to fix the problem.  So when I got an email from WormEco last week, inviting me to a vermicomposting workshop, the timing was fortunate.

Wormeco

Elvira Jakovac, the founder and owner, gathered a few groups of people in a local park Saturday to demonstrate vermicomposting.  Basically, get some worms, make them a lovely moist home, and shove in your food scraps for them to eat from time to time.  In a few months, remove their poo.  Voila!  It looks more like regular dirt than poo, which absolutely helps the squeamish.

Elvira has bins for purchase, with bedding and about a half pound of worms she has raised herself inside, so all you need to do is add the food, check to make sure the worms are happy, and remove the compost in about four months- then repeat.  She will not only start them for you, she has fantastic advice on how to keep the worms going so they’ll multiply to eat all the food you give them (if there isn’t enough to eat, they’ll stop multiplying- no worries about some horror movie of forever-multiplying worms).  On Saturday, we were regaled with a short history of vermicomposting (Europeans brought worms on boats by accident!), and the story of her own work in the field- she weighs a lot of worms.  She’s also got environmentally friendly plans on how to deal with bugs and critters, and household chores- her presentation was informative, and a pleasure to listen to.

WormEco is only a few months old, but I hope it’s got a long and prosperous life ahead.  Elvira is serious about getting her green-living message to not only Alexandria, but the world- she’s entered in a National Geographic competition that will reward a person starting a movement in their local communities with a nice chunk of money to make it happen- and she’s promised to walk from Alexandria to DC to accept the prize, if she wins, and would like to invite us all to walk with her.

If you’re interested, check out her website to learn about upcoming workshops ($10 a person) and you may also buy pre-made bins or fresh compost from her directly.

Full disclosure:  I was invited to the workshop free as a guest.  I liked the idea and Elvira enough that I will buy my own bin.  If i get my Naturemill running again, I’ll have compost races!

Oh man a bin of worms!

worm bin

Much less creepy than you thought.

Progress: Growth

In April, I was focusing on gardening, and negotiating with the apartment complex for unlame recycling facilities.  Now May is half over, and they’re both going very well.  My garden is growing, up and out.  Dad gave me tomatoes and a pepper, and Mom gave me a flower and some oregano this weekend, so my deck is pretty cluttered.  I’ll take a picture for you if it ever stops raining.

I’m growing spinach (and/or baby’s breath- I thought I planted both but everything looks the same, and this might be weird because I might have planted spinach with the morning glories), morning glories, peas the vegetable, sweet peas the flower, and I think that’s it.  Compared to last year, it was painless- I dumped some seeds in and forgot about them, it rained for two weeks, and now everything is green.  I’ve either gained garden perspective, or I’m more easily distracted.

Next steps:  Ascertain what I did plant, repot and stake the tomatoes.  Stick trays under the pots, since they’re peeing on the deck underneath me, and it’s just too soon to alienate my neighbors.

I was also bugging the office.  I determined they are violating a law!  I’m not sure I properly expressed how thrilling that day was for me.  Felt like a citizen hero, became David to Goliath, etc.  I did talk to the property manager about that last Friday, actually, and she said the city never enforces those laws so it’s cool for now.  It was a fascinating interview- I learned a lot about her personal life- but the management position is, the law isn’t enforced, and we residents are uncooperative, so they aren’t going to push it.  She wasn’t aware until I pointed it out that they were in violation, though, and she said she’d send out another notice.  Which is required anyway twice a year.  She did mention that, if more people recycle, they’ll save money on trash pick-up, since recycling pick-up is basically free, and the trash is changed by weight.  So, I see a two-fold path on this:  figuring out who enforces this for the city, and why they don’t, and cajoling the management to take some recycling baby steps.  Proper container labeling, for one.  No progress on the bike racks so far.

I’m going to follow up on the apartment agitation, so let’s count that as something for ‘half-May’.

For a legitimate new challenge, though, I’m going to work out my travel offset plans.  I finished my classes this Tuesday, so I can let myself read my guidebooks and do the fun research for New Zealand with a clear conscience now.  I’ve been vegetarian for a couple weeks now, as part of that project.  I did eat some pepperoni, and I had shrimp on Mother’s Day, but otherwise awesome.  Except for when I tried a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which is seriously gross and how did Elvis eat those?  That was a rough morning, gastronomically.  It sounded like such a delicious idea.  I’m pretty sure I’m getting enough protein- eggs, tofu, chickpeas, those are protein right?- and I’ve done a little online searching for recipes, which worked well.  Though they did lead me to the pb and banana combo.  Mixed bag, I guess.

More of that for the rest of the month, then, plus some research on carbon offset programs, and commenter bullmooser made a great point that some sort of activism to reduce emissions in the long term would be another great way to offset my carbon guilt.  Stay tuned.

Apartment Agitation: The Plot Thickens

My apartment complex might be in violation of a civil ordinance!

This morning I got an email from the property manager apologizing for the lateness of her reply to my email- apparently it went right to spam.  In brief, she agrees that the recycling program is small, but she has sent out a few notices to tenants and doesn’t think the larger management company will sponsor more recycling facilities, but she’ll check with them again and send out another notice, since she hasn’t in a while.  She reiterated that she’s contacting the parent management company about bike storage, and said she’d likely know more about the potential for that by the end of the week.

So, that’s an update with not much of an update.  I’m going to reply to her and suggest some more proactive, simple methods to encourage recycling than just sending out notices to tenants- like posting notices in the common areas of all the buildings, and recycling notices and location on all the dumpsters- but I decided to actually read the local recycling statues first, to see just how far I can expect to push these people.

Alexandria has a link from the main recycling page to the Recycling Guidelines for Condos, Apartments, and Homeowners Associations.  In turn, they link to the Ordinance, Article H of Title 5 (pdf).  The pertinent section of that is this:

(b) The responsible party of any property management company or homeowners association,
business, federal, state, or local government agency, or multiple-family dwelling shall notify, in
writing, its tenants, employees and/or clients, as applicable, that recycling participation is
mandatory. Written notification (i.e., letter, newsletter, email notice, etc.) shall be provided
within fifteen (15) days to all new tenants and employees and no less frequently than bi-annually
thereafter to all existing tenants and employees. The written notification shall set forth the
requirements of this article and include at a minimum:
1. Source separation of recyclable materials from the waste stream is mandatory
for all tenants and employees;

2. What materials will be recycled;
3. How the recyclables are to be prepared;
4. Any set-out requirements;
5. Location of the recycling containers;
6. Prohibitions against contamination of source separated recyclable material;
7. The collection schedule for recyclable material
8. Name and telephone number of a representative of the business or multiple family
dwelling whom the tenant or employee should contact with any
questions.(c) The responsible party shall include the City’s Commercial Recycling Specialist or such
other City representative(s) as may be designated by the City on their notification distribution
list.
(d) The responsible party of any property management company or homeowners association,
business, federal, state, or local government agency, or multiple-family dwelling shall ensure that
all recycling signs and instructions are displayed prominently in public areas and directional
signs are used to direct tenants to the recycling collection area
.

I’ve bolded what I feel are the important parts.

I should note that I wasn’t informed that recycling was mandatory within 15 days of move-in, and there are no directional notices, signs, or instructions for recycling posted anywhere.

Later in the ordinance, they say not doing that is a class 4 civil violation.  They also tell you what department to contact if you find a violation.

I’m printing this out and taking it to the office in the morning, to give my well-meaning property manager a better reason to get a move on.

Also finding this out makes me feel pretty powerful as a citizen, and almost makes me feel better for not voting in the City Council elections yesterday.  Actually, no, it makes me feel worse, because now I have a good reason to appreciate the efforts of the local government.  Argh.

Apartment Agitation: Lost Emails?

So I sent that email about getting bike racks and better recycling facilities a couple weeks ago, and then checked with the office a couple days later.  The office lady said she didn’t get it, and the manager probably didn’t either.  So I sent the email again last week, and still no reply.  I’ve double-checked the emails, and they’re the ones on the card I was given, and the domain they answered when I was applying for the apartment, soooo.  Hrm.

So no direct response, but this morning we got a message under our doors about “balcony inspections” wherein they make sure our balconies are respectable, and mentioned that they are “asking corporate” about getting bike racks for the complex.  Until then, we are welcome to keep them in our apartments (gee, thanks!) or in a maintenance facility storage room open M-F, from 9am to 3pm (what?).

So, the bike’s still on the balcony, which works because it’s raining all the time anyway, and I’m gonna hook up my printer to make some paper copies of the letter tonight and hand them in in person tomorrow.

Apartment Agitation: Recycling and Bike Racks

I sent this email to the property manager and one of the associates this morning.

Hello,

I am a resident in the #### building.  I lived here about a year ago, also, in the #### building.

When I lived here last, we had just gotten the recycling bins at the end of the complex, and I asked about getting more convenient bins for each apartment building, so that we could recycle more items.  Are there any plans in place to widen the recycling program here at -the complex-?  If not, why not?  Is there anything I can do to help enlarge the program?  Additionally, I have noticed that the bins have contradictory labels- they’re labeled with the single-stream recycling stickers for Alexandria, but they also have separate “Newspapers Only” and “Cans Only” labels that make recycling here a guessing-game.  What exactly is the recycling policy here at -the complex-?  Has it been clearly stated to each resident?  I received no instructions for it when I moved back in, and wouldn’t have even known we had a recycling option if I hadn’t lived here before and specifically asked about it.

Also, I bike to work, and I’d like to know if there are any areas that I could store my bike in the complex.  I live on the third floor, and carrying my bike up and down the two flights twice a day probably builds character, but it would be very convenient if there were a bike rack somewhere on the ground floor.  There is an area under the stairs in this building that’s unused, and the bikes in a rack there wouldn’t be in anyone’s way.  Bike storage on the ground floor would also prevent cyclists from carrying the dirt and mud of the local trails higher into the buildings.

Let me know if there’s anything I can do to get either of these initiatives started.

Best,
Me
Address
Phone Number

I actually included where I live, though.  I’ll let you know what I hear back- now I’m off to report a leak and animal noises behind the vent, and casually mention that I sent an email with demands.


Email Me @

virescent.blog (at ) gmail.com

Blog Stats

  • 46,883 hits

Unless otherwise indicated, all content and photos posted on this site are generated by me. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.