Posts Tagged 'Alexandria VA'

It’s Official

Today was officially the beginning of Spring, in the astronomical sense- the day and night are exactly equal today, so the Earth is going to start getting more sunlight than darkness and cause things to grow, finally. Except, if you’ve been outside the past couple of weeks, things are already growing- the trees were all just plotting something for a couple of weeks, and then bloop! Buds everywhere!


Spring is a fantastic time of year. Well, except for the part of it where it looks lovely out, then you walk to work and it’s actually still cold and windy and starts to rain without warning; stupid spring, just admit you’re sneaky winter, hiding under a pretty face. And then it’s time for the cherry blossoms on the mall (officially, March 29th-April 13th) and the metros are all crowded for two weeks. Except for those parts, spring is awesome.

For all its tantalizing niceness, it’s not such a great thing that we’re getting the season earlier and earlier every year. Discovery News reports on how the accelerating spring is damaging to migratory species, and disruptive to the seasonal life cycles of others. And for humans, a shorter winter may mean lower heating bills this month, but it will increase allergic reactions to pollen sooner, too. Data from all the way back to the 1400s shows a significant jump in the earliness of spring starting in the 1980s- on average, the green is coming 8 hours faster each year.

On the upside, that should give us a hint to go see the cherry blossoms in the next few days- so we don’t miss the peak blooms, and we do miss the rush.

tree with bag

Ah, the green is coming back! It sure is too bad that our improperly disposed-of plastic bags got there first. Bah.


Six Month Summary

As of March 5th, this blog was six months old. As of September, I’ve started packing my own lunches, biking to work (when I wasn’t riding the bus), made a shopping bag and “audited” my plastic use, tried out some resolutions to make my holiday season sustainable, culled my belongings, and attempted composting a few times- all in an effort to live better, whatever that means. Biking and culling were the biggest successes. I haven’t started a good composting culture yet, and I have still have an odd relationship with plastics.

The biggest change I’ve made, though, wasn’t due to a monthly goal at all. By moving to Old Town (necessitating the culling and negating the biking to work), I’ve decreased my footprints of all kinds (except the kind that I actually walk with). It’s allowed me to sleep more, get more exercise, and use stairs at home instead of the elevator. After the flurry of move-driving, my car sat unused for almost a week: barring some specific errands and classes, it’ll stay right where it is. Since it’s been sitting, the price of gas has gone up 15 cents a gallon. The closest grocery stores- Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Giant, MOM’s, and the farmer’s market- are all well stocked with organic and/or locally grown foods. Now I have to pay utilities separately, and I can have more direct control over how much energy I use- since I’ll know how much it is. And I have three house mates who are wonderful, and wonderfully tractable, and whom I’m secretly (not very secretly) hoping to inflame.

Inflame with sustainability, that is. Anyway. A while back, I took myself to task for not having defined what sustainability means. I’ve worked on that a bit, and I’ve come up with something round about but better than nothing.

One definition of sustainable living isn’t going to pertain to everyone- and it shouldn’t. Everyone’s got a different pet “green” issue- no plastic vs no cars vs global warming doesn’t exist because it’s cold out vs no nukes, etc. I’m not a zealous environmentalist. I don’t think this problem can be solved with one fix (no oil!). In order to live sustainably, I must first and foremost be an open environmentalist, willing to consider differing points of view, and informed enough to determine which makes sense. Next, I must live practically and thoughtfully, with a view to finances and the human, environmental, and moral costs of my actions. Under this all, though, I must be able to live- work and play and learn and all that stuff. So much of sustainability is seen as limiting- we can’t do this because of those whiny polar bears, we can’t eat that because of the toxic wastes. I think the emphasis should be on how much can we do, individually and as humanity, while still living within sensible boundaries- how much can I do with how little?

The unanswered question there is, how little is little enough? I’ll leave that hanging for now. I suspect it has something to do with “little enough so that everybody can use the same amount”, but given the different ways to measure that (carbon footprint? resource use?), and that merely by living in the US I’m using way more than my fair share, it’s intractable. The answer to climate change and sustainable living is not “move to a developing nation and start subsistence farming”.

I think large environmental issues will only be solved through meaningful government and industry action, and only after we make some big technological innovations. I’m not holding my breath for government or industry help, though, and I’ll do my small part to vote with magic machines and my money (for all it’s still worth) in the meanwhile.

That’s what I’ve got. Muddled, but let me know what you think. I appreciate discourse, after all- that’s first!

Odds and Ends: I never did hang up that biodegradable plastic bag from Harris Teeter outdoors (I forget where I promised this, but I did, and someone asked a while ago, and I still haven’t done it). When I find one, I’ll hold onto it until I get some duct tape, and fulfill my promise. Also, remember that debate I was having with the conservative blogger? It’s been so long since she called environmentalists Nazis and cited the Heartland Institute as a more authoritative body than the IPCC on the question of climate change that you’ve probably forgotten- I had, hurrah for archives. I pointed out certain factual and logical inaccuracies, she responded with silence, so I’ll take the Godwin’s Law victory and let it lie.

Thanks for your time, and your comments, and I’m excited for the next parts.  Keep coming back, but, oh ho, you’ll have to, since I cleverly told you all about the last six months without revealing March’s goal!  Mua hahaha.  Ha.  I’ll let you know once I think of it, or by Wednesday.

Handmade update: Knit scarf, three inches done, one completed stripe.

Quick Politics Brief

I can take a deep breathe and come back to post regularly now, since I finally only have one apartment again, and most of my boxes are empty and their contents distributed. It’s been a long move, and I’m very glad it’s over. I’ll give you a summary along with the six-month review and March monthly goal I owe you, but not yet.

Tonight, you get a few links to stories from the past week I’ve been itching to put up for days. Guiding theme is legislative.

The EPA released their actual reason for denying a waiver to California and about 16 (or maybe 18, depending on which article you read) other states so that they may pass their own emissions laws, the same week as memos from the EPA’s staff opposing the decision were made public. The agency said in December that they’d deny the waiver, for reasons that would be forthcoming. After over two months, they’ve come up with

“While I find that the conditions related to global climate change in California are substantial, they are not sufficiently different from conditions in the nation as a whole to justify separate state standards,” Johnson [the EPA head] wrote.

The policy director for the National Resources Defense Council called that statement “both factually and legally wrong”. Johnson’s own EPA agrees with the NRDC.

“It is obvious to me that there is no legal or technical justification for denying this,” Margo Oge, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, warned in talking points prepared for a meeting with Johnson in October 2007.

While the EPA is taking their bold, defenseless move, the House has passed a bill with a much less certain future. A plan to shift funding to renewable energy resources, paid for by removing tax breaks given to oil and gas companies, passed the House Wednesday. No idea on when the Senate will get to it, but Bush has of course threatened a veto. After all, American oil companies (who are hitting year after year of record profits– not just records for them, but records for any American business ever- and record profits, not just record income, straight-up profits) are suffering badly, and may not survive much longer without those tax breaks. Limping along, suspended by a thread, suffocating under the weight of their own cash, etc. You know how it is. The NYT article on the House bill highlights Republican reasons for opposing it (besides the poor, poor oil companies) (ok, “poor” is a bad word choice), and what doesn’t boil down to “taxes==evil” goes along the lines of “energy prices are high enough, and this will increase our dependence on foreign energy supplies”. I’ll go ahead and call that laughable, considering how dependent on foreign oil resources we already are, and considering that the main gist of the bill is to shift energy production to sources that Americans control, on US soil. Let’s see how the Senate takes the idea before we get all excited, though.

And in a Wired piece, recycling at the Obama campaign! Not speeches (har-dee-har), no, but campaign materials themselves. For those of us who’ve been hankering after a teeshirt, you know that the Obama campaign is trying to fill such a huge demand for their merch that their orders are being delayed by weeks, and the ObamaCycle site is emerging as the most effective way to get posters where they’re needed fast. Considering the political litter all over our corner of Alexandria, I hope more campaigns pick up the idea. Of course, since total inundation seems to be the general goal of the posters, perhaps the best I can hope for is that all those signs end up in a recycling pile by November.

Motion, Sickness

The bulk of my move is finished. It was a bit of a nightmare, since I caught some sort of plague last Wednesday, only it wasn’t the quick violent death plague, it was the lingering hacking plague of delirious pain. As I recall, several of my excellent friends actually moved all my stuff- I remember is waving my arms in an attempt to help, and coughing. Then buying them pizza, and trying not to cough on it. But now I’m here, and my Black Death has subsided to a dull headache and scratchy throat, and I can begin my new practically carfree city life of small footprint living!

Except Alexandria won’t let me park my car for good until I get a parking pass, so I had to drive to work today, and I have to drive out to McLean tomorrow and prove I am being paid to work so I can sign my lease so I can prove I live in Alexandria (still) so I can park my car on the street. Then! Then I can live the carfree life!

I haven’t done the green “coming out” to my roommates yet. I think they suspect something- they’ve been warned I am bringing over my composter, so they have to have some idea. But I waited until I was alone to fish a bottle out of the trash to recycle today, and I assume it’s only a matter of time before I get all uppity about running a half load of dishes/laundry and not using drying racks or something.

I like my housemates very much, and I think this is an interesting fact about their living situation prior to my arrival: Between the three of them, they own 1 spoon, and 1 copy of Rock Band. Or at least, I’ve only found 1 spoon in two days of hunting. They’re all well-adjusted young professionals otherwise. I suppose if I bring my composter and silverware over at the same time, I could just sneak in the former and bide my time about it, since they’ll be so happy about being able to eat soup all at the same time finally?

I’m moving!

In actual reality, not here online. This is part of my January plan to Reduce. Well, it’s part of that, and a whole lot more. The plan was to clean out my clutter, but it got me to thinking.

I live alone in a 1-bedroom apartment, with a relatively large bedroom, normal bathroom, smallish kitchen (though it’ll fit at least 7 people during a party), generous living room, balcony, and a library. Yes, a library- it was the dining room, but it works better lined with books, and who needs dining rooms? My rent isn’t bad, especially for the space I have and the location, and recycling is possible, though in this apartment complex the system is abysmal- exciting trash chutes by every elevator, but only three recycling bins for the entire complex, which is about 7 3-5 story apartment buildings.

Still. I can live in less space, and I want to live in less space. I expand to fill my space, so the only way for me to seriously reduce clutter is to have less space- the stuff I clean out of my apartment now will just be replaced soon, unless I flee. I could just have a stuff embargo- not get anything until this apartment is Spartan. But then I’d just be paying for empty space, and I am certainly not a modernist. No, I want to fill my space efficiently, but I want to fill less space. (For less money).

In looking around for a new home, it became apparent that I would need housemates. After a brief personal crisis (but what if they drink my orange juice or make sounds?), I accepted this idea. And I found a place!

Not only is my new place smaller, I’ll still have my own room and bathroom, exclusive use of three closets (storage space is crucial, different post), and a shared living room and big kitchen and a deck. That’s not the best part, though. I’ll be within easy walking distance of my work, two Metro stops, a weekly farmer’s market, several grocery stores, and Old Town Alexandria- in fact, the house is right on the edge of Old Town. Plus, since it’s in a cityish place, it’s actually difficult for me to drive- the time spent finding parking will make walking more efficient. How sustainable is that!?

Yes, that is actually what my brain excitement has boiled down to. It’s not just a cheaper, cool new place with some old friends- excitement enough, but I bask in how much more sustainable my lifestyle will be when I move. The way I feel about this is akin to not eating store cookies because of the packaging- the perspective is skewed from the way I used to weight decisions, and the way I see most people weight decisions. It’s new to me, but it’s a settling perspective, I’m getting more comfortable with it, and I like the decisions that it’s leading me into. Is this a drug- like runners run because they get endorphin waves- am I on a sustainability high?

I do hope somebody starts making cookies in recyclable packaging.

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