Archive for the 'Alexandria VA' Category

Spring has Sprung

Cold and soggy, but it’s here.  Behold!

My Failure Trumped By Our Success

So I’ve messed up the every other day thing technically twice now, but this weekend was most egregious.  In my defense, the weather was so mind-blowingly gorgeous Saturday that I could not possibly sit inside long enough to blog.  Instead I picnic-ed up and art-ed out, then had a party.  And today, I had to sleep and start moving.  Yes, I am moving again,  but it’ll be great:  I’m moving in with my friends, Biking Person/EcoCheap and his wife, and we will live a happy green life together for several months until I have to move again.  I’m excited to blog about our household environmental efforts- they have a real compost pile, and a rain barrel! Think I’ll be able to convince them to try my AC-less summer?  (Actually I’m not sure I could convince me to do that again).

But I was not moving all day.  I spent tonight at the Capitol building, waiting to hear news on passing the health care reform.   The crowds of protestors were small (maybe a hundred?  but I am terrible at crowd estimation, and it was dark and they milled around), and supporters even smaller, but a friend and I found some nice people with a radio playing the CSPAN coverage and we listened to the speeches and chatted through the vote and rejoiced at the passage!  and caught the metro home.  It was a wonderful day, and I am sure you will excuse my posting lateness in your excitement at our first national efforts to protect our right to health care.

Photo is of our group gathered around the radio, waiting for the voting outcome.

Doesn’t the Capital look gorgeous tonight?

All purposeful for once.

Environmental Film Festival

There is one.  It’s going on starting tonight or possibly last week at places all around DC.  Website is here, and the list of movies (over 150 of them!) is here.  They have a lot on food this year, plus some on Bhutan and water and dirt, and some are documentaries and some have characters and plots and elements of fiction.  You can search what’s playing by day, and so many play each day that if you have an evening to kill you will likely find something interesting.  I’m rather interested in “Last Call For Planet Earth“, which appears to be a series of interviews with architects and planners about how their work relates to the environment.  It’s playing the same day as the Kite Festival on the Mall.  Which is also going on the same time as the Cherry Festival.  DC is going to be crowded, but as long as I get to see hundreds of kites in a blue sky, I don’t care.

Tidbits

To tide you over ’til Thanksgiving.

Read up on how Italy already has a headstart on their Smartgrid.  Yeah, the same country that can’t take out the garbage.  They’re already saving millions though.  So much to ponder in this situation.

The Economist’s green.view advises fat cat money grubbing sell their own mother if they can get enough leverage bankers redeem their image by investing in rainforests.  So the next foreclosure crisis we’ll have pythons and pirahna defaulting on their mortgages?  Think it through, Economist.

Know how Alexandria’s wastewater plant is on Glebe?  This article is from NYC, but it applies here too:  when we get too much rain for the system to handle, we dump untreated sewage and other runoff into the Potomac.  As if two days of dreary damp weren’t bad enough- as if realizing I need to replace my windshield wipers on the Beltway in traffic wasn’t bad enough- this is plenty bad.

BBC reports on US research correlating conflict in Africa with climate.  Controlling for other factors like governance and population, conflict in the region escalates as temperature goes up.  This has a lot to do with food supplies, as well.  I’d like to see similar research for different regions of the world.

And check this by your local foodbank, but a reporter for the NYT suggests that you reconsider your volunteer  meal-serving plans this holiday season and do something more helpful for them instead.  If you’re stumped, donating some more perishables can’t hurt.

I’ll be back to give Thanks before the holiday, but until then, safe travels!

People in the Streets

I was in New York City for a couple days last weekend visiting friends and roaming- as I do- and there’s something (else) cool going on in midtown.  The city has blocked off half of some streets (definitely Broadway, and maybe some of 7th Ave, but I might have been going rogue on my street sign reading skills there) and turned them into pedestrian avenues, with huge bike lanes.  I read about the city starting this in Times Square this summer, and it was great to see them keeping up with it.  Seems they’ve expanded the original zones, too- they extended up to about 59th, from what I noticed.  The weather was weirdly nice last weekend, and there were people strolling and reading and eating at the tables they’ve set out for public use in these former traffic lanes. Huge planters and green and red dots painted on the road mark off the new pedestrian zones.  It was nice to see people encroaching on traffic instead of traffic encroaching on people.

At night, somewhere near Times Square:

IMG_4497

And I forget where the next day:

IMG_4667

We could do this here in Alexandria- King Street would be a great place to have a long pedestrian mall.  There are plenty of side streets to pick up the extra traffic.  Close off 10 or 15 blocks to cars like they do during art festivals there- keep open crossing at Rt 1 and Washington, sure- and let people wander around all those shops and restaurants for a few weeks at Christmas, and see how everybody likes it?

Yes, Virginia

There is an election today.  You should vote in it, too!

Hey, remember that election a year ago?  That was a great election, hey?  This one might not turn out so well, but get to the polls and we will do what we can.

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.

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.

Phoenix Bikes Show Thursday

I posted about this, but I buried it, and it deserves a headline.  Getcher tickets for $30 online or at the door, and be at the Dome Theatre on Wilson Blvd. in Arlington from 7-9 this Thursday.  There’s food, drinks, bike-power smoothies, helmet tattoos, and a presentation honoring impressive cyclists in the area.  In my head this is based on thigh girth and BMI indexes, but online it sounds more like people who support local cycling, so take it as you will.

Proceeds benefit the Phoenix Bikes education and repair programs, worthy causes indeed.


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