Choosing to Do Something in Arlington

Choosing to Do Something in Arlington

Arlington residents meet up to “go green.”


Allan Shnerson at the Westover Market Beer Garden at the initial GoGreen Meetup on May 14. Shnerson was a biology major in college and has always been passionate about enjoying and preserving our national parks and green spaces. He has been a volunteer with EcoAction Arlington for 20 years, and is a member of the Solid Waste Committee, working with a group of staff, citizens, and the head of the Solid Waste Division of Arlington to try to address the issue of solid waste reduction.

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 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:,, and to read the bottled water resolution, see:


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 (

  • 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