Archive for the 'recycling' Category

Awesome Ladies Pushing Recycling Door To Door

Their apartment complexes didn’t have decent recycling programs, so they’re training residents themselves!  Rock on awesome ladies, you inspire and humble me.

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: 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.

Apartment Recycling Problem

This is the inadequate recycling facility of which I speak:

recycling bins

These four containers are all we have for about a dozen buildings. And as I mentioned before, these are at the back of the complex, out of sight and out of the way for 90% of the residents.  There are no posted reminders about recycling anywhere.  Oh, also, these containers are poorly labelled.  Alexandria has single stream recycling- stick anything the city picks up in one container- but the bins are labelled for separate items as well as single stream.

confusing recycling instructions

So who knows what to believe?  I dropped in my single stream bags, and I hope that works.  Here’s the goal- get the city ins distributed to every apartment.  How will I accomplish this?  Well, first I should read up on the city’s resident recycling policy, and figure out what laws might apply to large buldings.

I lived in this complex about a year ago, when the bins were first installed.  I had talked to the property manager about it, and she said we had to have a certain percent of waste recycled before we got bins, which seems weird and counter intuitive to me.  Like, if that is the case, it clearly shouldn’t be, and I have no idea why the laws are the way they are in the first place.  And either way with 5 or 6 huge dumpsters on the property, emptied every few days, and 4 lame hidden recycling bins, there is no way we could ever reach a minimum amount of recycling in the first place.  So, I’ll read up, pay the property manager another visit for some helpful suggestions and see where management is with the city and the program itself.  At the very least. I will exhort them to post more clearly and widely the recycling rules, the location of the bins, and reminders to use them.  It’s a start.

Progress: It’s Been A While

Hey there!  I moved.  It took a while, because there was also a wedding and a class project in there too.  But the composter is humming away on my new balcony, my herbs are sitting in the window of my new kitchen, and I’ve got my very own separate gas and electricity bills are coming in, so pretty soon I can follow EcoCheap’s excellent example, and switch to wind power!

So, good start- I’ll post photos of the seedlings, which I expect any minute now.  I have checked three times in the past day- nothing yet.

Oh, also!  Biking to work?  I can, as soon as I mentally prepare myself to carry the bike down two flights every morning, then up the same stairs each night.  I’ll be in the weight room tomorrow morning, working on that part.  I imagine this will build me more character than muscle, really.

But the eating-my vegetables thing has been going really well.  I cooked a big vegetarian meal for the folks who came by to help me move- cheaper than pizza.  After the move, I’ve been living off of, well, cheese and crackers, but I’ve cooked two or three other big meals too.  I’ll post the recipe for my most recent tomorrow- pierogies with onions and apples.  Actually, that pretty much is the recipe, but I’ll flesh it out a bit for you, I guess.

The most important thing is, I haven’t purchased meat in a couple weeks.  And I still eat it when I eat out, and when other people cook, but I’m not missing it in my own food prep.  You can thank me later, environment!  Just make my plants grow.

New goals:  definitely gardening, this month.  I might also start harassing my apartment complex to working on the truly pitiful recycling options here.  They have three normal garbage bins for the hundreds of people who live in this complex, and they’re hidden in the back.  Now, I’d like them to fix a few things in my apartment before I get annoying, but maybe I can convince them to at least get recycling depositories in each building, or maybe even bins in each apartment!

Gonna dream big.

Review: Practical Recycled Calendars

I get a wall calendar and an appointment book every year in one of those green-light, year-by-year-receding-before-us kind of dreams of organization.  I had a pretty date book I got from a seller at etsy for assignments last semester, but it only had date pages and was consequently driving me crazy flipping back and forth trying to remember what was going on.

I am picky about my calendars, since it’s hard enough for me to remember to use them in the first place, and if I don’t like them, they’re just going to get “lost” on a shelf for 11 months.  I require tabs, month pages, and daily spaces from my calendars, and they must be in either sober and dignified or totally awesome patterns.  Plus, now I try to buy sustainable, so…I figured etsy was as good as I was going to get for a while.

But! When I was at Staples near Bailey’s Crossroads, I found a display of At-A-Glance weekly and Monthly calendars, in a new recycled version.  They’re 100% post consumer recycled paper, and the cover and binding have 50% and 90% recycled material, and the ink is vegetable-based.  I got the weekly/monthy appointment book for me, and the monthly for the Gentleman Friend (understandably, he was thrilled, with the smallest “th” possible), but they’ve got other recycled configurations, too. 

Then! My wall calendar was from Barnes and Noble in Potomac Yard this year.  They have an in-house printing company called Silver Lining, which is a member of the Green Press Initiative, and they print on recycled paper using soy ink.  There were a few displays of different calendars from Silver Lining before the New Year, when I got mine, but now you’ve got to search their website for “Silver Lining” to see what’s still in stock.  They are on sale.

Um.  This all assumes that you still need or want a calendar this far into 2009.  Or prep for 2010?  Either way, here’s to procrastination and post-New Year’s sales!

Eco-City Alexandria News

1) Recycle your christmas tree, if you can bear to take it down yet- just set it out, naked, in your curbside pickup area before 7am, January 17th (this Saturday morning).

2)  The city’s posted a list of their top ten biggest environmental accomplishments of 2008.

3) Tuesday (tomorrow), Alexandria’s Environmental Policy Comission will present their final draft of the first phase of the Environmental Action Plan for the city to the full Council.  Given their hard work and support from a few city council members, I’m betting it will be accepted.   You can find pdfs of the first phase and the EPC’s presentation to the council here.

4) On Wednesday January 28th, the city will hold a Green Building Forum from 7-9 in the Washington Masonic Memorial.  The draft proposal to be presented, along with an agenda and directions, can be found here.  If you haven’t been to the Masonic Memorial yet, it’s worth a trip for the building alone, and the possibility of finding the animatronic George Washington figure in the basement.  Yes, it talks.  Come along, I’m going, and I’m pretty sure EcoCheap is too!

5) OH SNAP Alexandria is having a restaurant week.  This is not necessarily Eco-City news, but shop local, eh?  From the list: Las Tapas is delicious; I was really looking forward to Bilbo Baggins but I found a bug in my appetizer the first time and never went back; Stardust is cute and tasty; and Pat Troy’s is way fun, but more for a big group of friends and $5 pints and sing-a-longs than a three course prix fixe.  Then again, I’ve only had the privilege of the late-night menu at Pat Troy’s, and that’s pretty hearty, so maybe I’m missing something.  And those are the only places I know and feel strongly about, so I have some sampling to do.

Green Design, In My Basement: Part 1

Moving is a gigantic hassle, but I really enjoy rearranging all my stuff.  I did a mostly good job keeping my last move as recycled and eco-friendly as possible (minus the trips back and forth with a pick-up truck, but that is the whole point of moving, I guess).  Here’s a tour of my new place, with green features:

The walls: My ceiling is low, and the lights are fluorescent, so I painted the walls to make the space more liveable.  Sherwin Williams has a store nearby, and their zero-VOC paint comes in a nice big range of colors. They have a really neat web tool where you can “paint” rooms in colors you like, trim and all, to test the combo- worth at least a half hour of play time. Plus, with a 20% discount that week, it was a good deal.  Typically their gallon cans of flat paint are $35, and there’s a 15% discount for signing up to be a “preferred customer”, which I understood to mean they send you coupons sometimes.  But the 20% was better, and so I got a can each of Osage Orange and Dill Green.

“VOC” is shorthand for volatile organic compound, which is a substance typically used by paint companies to dissolve pigments in their mixes.  VOCs are way toxic though– they’re the smell of paint drying, and why you should paint only in well-ventilated areas.  Inhale too much and you can get all sorts of damage to your central nervous system.  So, while zero VOC paint is a few bucks more expensive, and doesn’t come in the deepest colors offered (since other solvents can’t dissolve as much pigment as VOCs), it’s the way to go if you want to minimize indoor air pollution. It’s safe to paint during the day and sleep in the room that night, with this stuff. Even Sherwin Williams isn’t a chemical free, totally earth-friendly paint, though. I used it because I’m in a moldy basement, and the biocide aspect of the paint is appealing.  Plus, the store is close-by.  Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company sells a milk-based paint in a large range of colors, and it’s available at Woodcraft, down in Springfield.  It comes in a powder, you add water and mix it up, and it’s a lot harder to match colors across batches that way.  But still, it loves the planet, and is a safer alternative to chemical paints.

The curtains: I folded an old window hanging that had gotten sun-damaged, and hung it on extra picture wire behind a reed blind from Ikea (purchased 6 moves ago, languishing since that apartment).  I sewed a curtain for another window out of a fabric remnant and an ill-fitting thrifted skirt.  I could have donated it again, but it would have looked pretty bad on anyone, so I put it out of our misery.  It looks great as my curtain.

Another curtain was created from hanging all my scarves over a rod, and securing them with extra hair clips.  Inexpensive, keeps the scarves from getting obscured on the coat hooks, and looks pretty fantastic, what with all the color and texture.  It was the GF’s idea to do it- one of a couple great ideas he had for my room.  I shouldn’t have been so surprised about those, he’d done a great job setting up his own apartment.  Curtain rods were made possible by the donation of five long bamboo stalks from GF’s mother, because she has awesome ideas about moving-in gifts.  So far, we’ve cut curtain rods for the window, closet, and a strange recess in one corner that exposes the mechanical equipment.  I’ve got about 40 ft left, if anybody needs any.

The welcome mat: I now have an outside door, so I found a 100% recycled rubber doormat at Target.  Small victory in a Big Box.

Next time: Craigslist Shopping and New Appliance Guilt!

Window Shopping

My laptop has been sitting around, naked and unprotected from the dangers of her surroundings.  Alone most of the day, completely exposed to the ravages of…well, wayward photons.  I guess.   You see, I’m trying to rationalize my desire to buy an awesome laptop case.  I do need one.  One day, I’d like to be able to leave the house with her.

I’m hoping that my need to protect my investment justifies the amount of time I spent looking for laptop cases today.  Recycled material, fair trade, sustainable fibers, and proper laptop padding are apparently all quite compatible.  I have at least four favorites.  There’s a vertical bag made from recycled mosquito netting at Peaceful Valley, in green and red.  It’s big enough for a 15.4 laptop, but it doesn’t say how the laptop pocket is padded.  But hey, if it’s not padded, maybe I could put it in this slim red leather case with fake purple fur lining from bronwenhandcrafted, at etsy.  Man, with that wrapping, I could stick her in anything and she’d be safe! Or at least fabulous.

But if it’s not a red leather and purple fur day, I could use this inexpensive, recycled plastic bag from Verdant Computing.  It comes in black, sky blue and orangish, and it looks way useful and unassuming.  Like, if useful and unassuming is your thing.  And one I keep going back to is this reclaimed plastic case that’s made from fused waste materials in India, and fairly traded.  The company that makes them, Conserve, has some really gorgeous bags, but the laptop cases come in less exciting color combinations right now.

As much as I liked them all, I don’t like any of them enough to commit right now.  And I’m hoping that, after this weekend, it won’t matter.  I have the sewing machine all set up, and some extra strong canvas and soft fleece, so I could make my own, and that’d be pretty awesome!  Or I could knit a case for it with some of my yarn stash.  Or maybe I should stop looking through etsy and getting ideas about what can be done with my extra fabric and yarn.  But I’m envisioning a canvas case with two shoulder straps and a carrying handle, a medium-sized top flap, an internal divider…

I need a case for real though, so if inspiration hasn’t made my hands swift and seams tight this weekend, I need to buckle down and pick something.  I’m leaning to the mosquito net thing right now.

Hippie Hamlet sums it up:  To buy, or DIY?

Getting Rid Of A Computer

First post from my linuxed-up laptop! It’s a great little machine, and I’m happy with my choice.

After opening the box, I realized I’d forgotten to mention another pretty important rating system for eco-friendly electronics. Energy Star is a DOE/EPA initiative to label the most energy efficient appliances, gadgets, homes, building materials, and a bunch of other things. Only products that use a significantly smaller proportion of energy than other similar devices being sold will qualify for the Energy Star seal. Look for their blue logo on anything you’re thinking of purchasing (unless it’s like a banana or whatever, they don’t do food). You can look up the model you want or already have- here’s mine. Energy Star has a much more comprehensive database than EPEAT does now, since it’s an older program.

But enough with ratings. On to the disposal.

I now have a CRT monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and a CPU that I don’t need- and that are taking up a huge amount of space on my desk. They’re all old, but functional. Instead of getting rid of them, or even sending them to a safe electronic waste program, I’d like to donate them to be reused, refurbished, or at least raided for useful parts.

First I need to clean them up- take off all the lovely decorations (4 years of I voted! stickers), and also clean off my data securely (just in case some joker gets hold of my 11th grade English essays). Even deleting your important data won’t remove it securely from your hard drive- that just erases the computers memory of where it is. So if you’ve got anything on there you don’t want found-and you do, if you’ve ever recorded your social security number or any bank or medical information on it- try out something like Utimaco’s free, private-use only encryption software, which offers a secure-delete options for your files- it’ll write over the actual data 100 times, to make it very hard to recover.

The GF has already called the CPU- he wants to add it to his own computer parts empire. I’ll donate the monitor, and hopefully the rest, to Goodwill. They fix up the computers as part of a job-training program, and donate them to places in the community, and that I can get behind. Free Geek does a similar thing in Oregon, and lists affiliates in a few other states. EBay sponsors a program called Rethink that lists potential places to donate, and responsible ways to recycle your useless electronics. Some donation programs take broken electronics to dismember and reuse, or refurbish, so check out their policies before you give up on your broken items. Finally, for information on what happens to improperly recycled electronics, and the hazardous situations they’re creating in foreign countries, check out Basel Action Network’s information. Sobering, and they include links to various recycling groups that responsibly dispose of your stuff, once it’s far beyond gone.

If your stuff isn’t in a good shape to donate, your local government has a hazardous waste disposal area, or it should. For residents of Alexandria, you can take your electronic trash to 3600 Wheeler Ave, Mondays from 7:30 to 3:30. Take proof of residency, and be sure to clean off your hard drives- they won’t do that for you. Check out the Earth911 search bar for local waste disposal, too. It includes business take-back programs and special recycling days that are close to you. And since I know plenty of you have Dells, Dell will take back all of their electronic equipment to be safely disposed of, for free– and they’ll pick up any other kind of computer stuff to dispose of for you, for a small fee. Huzzah for corporate responsibility! Enough to make me think for a minute about maybe buying a Dell. Not that I need one now.


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virescent.blog (at ) gmail.com

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