As it became clear that glass recycling in Arlington was changing (and glass had not been recycled for some time) Meg Jarvis asked if fellow residents on the NextDoor listserv would be interested in getting together to talk about “going green” — to share ideas about what could they do to improve solid waste reduction, prevent plastic and chemical pollution, and give families a better chance to thwart climate change.
She was surprised at how many people felt the same way and joined an informal “meet up” at Westover Beer Garden on a Tuesday evening to compare notes with like-minded people.
One of the biggest issues, the group agreed, was educating residents about what could be done to slow climate change and plastic pollution. They learned that among their budding group was a woman who already composted and kept her garbage to a small sack, and another who was an advocate of Loop, a sustainable take on e-commerce that gives shopping online a zero waste redesign. Utilizing reusable containers, Loop changes the way people shop, and it can come to Arlington if enough people sign up. A third woman was a green home designer. Allan Shnerson and others had been volunteers for EcoAction Arlington or R4, but some had just grown up in families that composted and wasted less.
Starting with families and children is one of Shnerson and Jarvis’s goals. Building good habits early and volunteering at schools to teach children the 4Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot) is crucial to changing how people recycle, they said. Shnerson is concerned Arlington residents don’t know enough about the initiatives that have been taken by Arlington County, and which need to be supported and expanded, in his view.
The resolution on the prohibition of the purchase of plastic water bottles by the Arlington County Government, for instance, was passed by the Arlington County Board on June 16, 2009. The resolution goes into some detail about the use of plastic water bottles having grown 12 percent since 1997 and that approximately 2 million tons of #1 plastic bottles are not recycled, equating to nearly 18 million barrels of crude oil in lost energy value. It refers to plastic water bottles as a prime source of litter and pollution in the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers “causing great concern about the environmental impacts of bottled water plastics that may take thousands of years to degrade, while their components seep into our water supplies;” and it reminds residents that Arlington County is in the business of producing safe, healthy tap water that meets and exceeds all state and federal standards, while bottled water is largely unregulated.
But, Shnerson notes, while the county government doesn’t purchase water bottles, what about the libraries and schools which do allow plastic water bottles to be sold in vending machines in their buildings? Or the fundraising events that offer plastic water bottles to participants?
The group will be meeting regularly to come up with ideas for better management of waste and to assess how Arlington is moving forward. If Arlington residents have found a good solution that works, submit those ideas at www.connectionnewspapers.com to be included in this series. Joining EcoAction Arlington or R4 Action Group is another way to participate, or look for the next meeting of the GoGreen meetup on NextDoor. For more, see:
www.EcoActionArlington.com, www.R4ActionGroup.com, www.StrawFreeArlington.com and to read the bottled water resolution, see: https://countyboard.arlingtonva.us/1455-2/
This is a 4-part series on what residents can do to lessen their impact on the environment and what Arlington County is doing or could do to improve the community’s solid waste profile.
“You can either wake up in the morning and say I am going to do something…or…you can do nothing.” — Allan Shnerson, Solid Waste Committee member
Take the Quiz
Are you doing the minimum to reduce waste?
Consider the following 10 statements:
I never purchase single use plastic water bottles.
I use beeswax wraps or foil instead of saran wrap.
I use net bags when I buy produce.
I use my own grocery bag when I shop.
I buy beer and soda in cans not bottles.
I don’t use plastic straws.
I don’t eat meat on Mondays.
I know and follow the county’s recycling guidelines.
I have room to spare in my black bin each week.
I have a reusable coffee/tea mug.
Food Shopping and Eating
Choosing to do something:
Ditch the plastic straw. Tell your server not to put a straw in your water or drink. Use a bamboo straw or metal straw; join the StrawFreeArlington campaign.
Carry your own wood or bamboo cutlery when out.
Use cloth of bamboo/rayon towels instead of paper towels.
Use tin foil (aluminum foil) — it’s recyclable
Bring glass or plastic containers when you shop
Pack lunch for your children or yourself
Buy in bulk where feasible; bring your own containers
Use reusable cloth bags for produce not plastic
Let the shopkeeper know you can’t buy it if it’s in plastic
Ask the butcher to wrap your meat and fish in paper
Reuse or don’t use plastic bottles and fast food containers
Buy a reusable water bottle
Use tap water: it’s tested more thoroughly, not stored in plastic, and is cheaper
Make your own sparkling water - it’s cheaper and fun
Bring a reusable travel mug or thermos for coffee
Bring your own shopping bags or use a backpack
Shift to a vegetable-centric diet
Eat less red meat
Try meatless Mondays (https://meatlessmonday.com)
Place the cloth grocery bags on the front or garage door so you won’t forget them
Wash plastic party ware if you entertain; don’t throw it out
Buy champagne glasses at the Salvation Army rather than flimsy plastic ones
Use beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap: it works and it’s washable.
Shop in the farmers markets or butcher shops
Ask for cardboard not styrofoam