Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Latest Environmental News from Quincy, MA

An email from my dad ... if I'm The Green Miles, what should we call him? The Gray Grant?

Mildly interesting put-you-to-sleep story. The last couple of weeks the Norwegian maples have been dropping lots of brown leaves. Noticed this around the neighborhood, too. We were trying to figure out why, and in that day's science section there just happened to be an explanation. Turns out the Nor. maples were hit with some sort of mold last May. Which is the reason they're dropping leaves early in the season. The article said just remove all the leaves from the ground, so they won't re-infect the trees. So yesterday Donna raked our little yard and we dumped all the leaves in a trash can. This will obviously be an on-going project. They said no reason to worry about the trees unless this is the third year in a row they've been hit by mold, fungus, caterpillars or whatever. The third year of stress is when you call in a fungicide guy. And they all lived happily ever after. Good story, Miles? Miles? [aww, poor lug fell asleep already]

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ask The Green Miles

From blogger buddy Eric ...

Hey Miles,

I have an enviro question for you. ... What do I do with old batteries? I know you can recycle them, but I have no idea where or how. And is it just better to buy rechargeable batteries for everything to avoid the waste?


While batteries are not my area of expertise, I can definitely do some digging to try to find some answers.

Many batteries pose such a strong environmental hazard because they contain heavy metals. This is an especially strong concern in Arlington County, where our trash is incinerated. It's not cost-effective to recycle batteries, but they can be safely disposed to minimize environmental damage.

According to Earth911.org, the most environmentally-friendly way to go is to use rechargable batteries, but to then make sure you recycle THOSE batteries ...


Rechargeable batteries result in a longer life span and use fewer batteries. However rechargeable batteries still contain heavy metals such as nickel-cadmium. When disposing of rechargeable batteries, recycle if possible.
The use of rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries can reduce the number of batteries entering the waste stream, but may increase the amount of heavy metals entering the waste stream unless they are more effectively recycled. As of 1992, the percentage of cadmium in nickel-cadmium batteries was higher than the percentage of mercury in alkaline batteries, so substitution might only replace one heavy metal for another, and rechargeable batteries do use energy resources in recharging.
Rechargeable alkaline batteries are available along with rechargers.

Here are details from Arlington County on how to safely dispose of your batteries ...

Household Battery Disposal
Because Arlington's trash is incinerated at a waste-to-energy plant, residents are encouraged to keep most batteries types (except alkaline and carbon-zinc household varieties) out of the waste stream. Batteries can contain heavy metals that have to be removed from the emissions of the waste-to-energy plant. Rechargeable batteries, as well as lithium, siver-oxide, and mercury batteries should be deposited in special orange collection boxes located at most Arlington County Fire Stations or brought to the HHW drop-off site. These batteries enter the County's Household Hazardous Waste program, where they are either disposed of properly or recycled. Alkaline and carbon-zinc household batteries should be disposed of along with the regular trash.

Arlington County Fire Stations with Battery Recycling Containers:
Fire Station 1, 228-0101, 500 S. Glebe Road
Fire Station 2, 228-0102, 4805 Wilson Boulevard
Fire Station 4, 228-0104, 3121 N. 10th Street
Fire Station 5, 228-0105, 1750 S. Hayes Street
Fire Station 7, 228-0107, 3116 S. Abingdon Street
Fire Station 8, 228-0108, 4845 Lee Highway
Fire Station 9, 228-0109, 1900 S. Walter Reed Drive
Fire Station 10, 228-0110, 1559 Wilson Boulevard
Fire Stations 2, 5 and 8 have aluminum can collection trailers.

And finally, the most surprising thing I found ... we have organic food, organic wine, and even organic beer ... but are you ready for an organic battery?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Glaciers Heading North, Polar Bears (and Illegal Immigrants) Heading South

I've previously mentioned one of the more saddening aspects of global warming, polar bears drowning in the open sea due to a lack of Arctic ice.

Now there's more evidence of global warming's devastating Arctic impact. More polar bears are drowning, and the surviving ones are getting drastically thinner. And climate change is forcing a redrawing of maps:

"We know about three new islands this year that have been uncovered because the glaciers have retreated," said Rune Bergstrom, environmental adviser to the governor of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago about 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole. The largest is about 300 by 100 meters, he told Reuters.

But in one of the biggest journalistic stretches I've ever seen, apparently there's an upside to global warming:

For some, the unseasonal warmth is good news. It was 5 C (41 F) on Friday in Longyearbyen, the main village on Svalbard. "Last year the first snow fell here on September 11 and stayed all winter," said Bergstrom. "A lot of people here have boats to go out hunting in summer and go to cabins. So it's a good year for them -- the ice melted earlier and they can still use the boats," he said.
Your grandkids may never see a polar bear in the wild except on old videotapes ... but hey, we can get more use out of the boat. Great tradeoff.

And while finding that polar bear picture just now, I noticed this story about global warming's impact in Alaska:
Portage Glacier has retreated so far, it no longer can be seen from the multimillion-dollar visitors center built for it in 1986. Tourists have to cross a lake to see the glacial ice that looks sky blue on a cloudy day.
Off the topic, but a must-read ... see what happens when Republican state and federal officials crack down on illegal immigrants in one Georgia town. Here's a hint ... it doesn't revert to 1950s Pleasantville. More like 1890s ghost town.

Monday, September 11, 2006

ACE Pickup & Drinkup a Big Success!

Saturday's Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment Pickup & Drinkup was held in conjunction with Clean Virginia Waterways and the International Coastal Cleanup, and Single Volunteers of DC and Arlington County's Community Role Models program provided volunteers.

About 40 people came out for the Pickup, held at Four Mile Run in Barcroft Park. The volunteers cleanup up items as mundane as
cigarette butts, styrofoam pieces, and beverage containers, and as exotic as a bondage outfit, a steering wheel (column still attached), and a portable toilet door.

Once the stream cleanup was finished, volunteers headed to the Drinkup in Shirlington at The Energy Club, which donated free food and drinks to thank participants for their hard work on a warm late-summer day. All told, volunteers collected hundreds of pounds of trash, and donated hundreds of dollars for environmental programs right here in Arlington!

You can see photos of the event on Backfence or in the
ACE Yahoo Group. Hope to see you at the next ACE event, the Organic Beer Tasting on September 21st!

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is (Or Is It The Other Way Around?)

Tonight I stopped by the DHS building in Clarendon to pick up some things for Saturday's Pickup & Drinkup. If you're not familiar with the location, it's one of Arlington's best-kept secrets. There's an underground parking garage that's free after 5pm and on weekends, a lifesaver in an area with very little street parking.

Coincidentally, I pulled up right in front of the
Lazy Sundae truck. After Lazy Sundae closed in July, I felt like Clarendon had lost a big piece of its charm, so it was nice to see an old-fashioned ice cream truck in the neighborhood.

Ordinarily, I would strongly object to a $4 ice cream cone. And I was already drinking a Diet Pepsi, and despite it being
Laverne's favorite drink, dairy & cola do not generally mix.

But despite my recent bout with unemployment, I decided to set aside my excuses and back up my blogging by supporting a local business. So I plunked down my $4 ($3 for the cone and $1 to the "college fund" tip jar -- at least the kid in the truck was studying between orders) for a small cinnamon raisin oatmeal cookie cone. It may not have been what I was in the mood for, but damn was it good.

My environmental rationale? Buying local conserves transportation fuel.

OK, so I'm an ice cream addict. But if you're walking past 3033 Wilson, good intentions are a much better excuse to snag a cone.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

More Trouble for the Potomac River

As if the Potomac's
polluted water wasn't disgusting enough already, apparently the river is now laden with "intersex" fish ...

[The intersex fish] have been discovered in the Potomac River and its tributaries across the Capitol Region, raising questions about how contaminants are affecting millions of people who drink tap water there.

"I don't know, and I don't think anybody knows, the answer to that question right now: Is the effect in the fish transferable to humans?" said Thomas Jacobus, general
manager of the Washington Aqueduct, which filters river water for residents to drink in the District of Columbia, Arlington, Va., and Falls Church, Va.

So far, there is no evidence that tap water from the Potomac is unsafe to drink, according to Jacobus and officials at other area utilities.

Well, that's reassuring.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Weekend odds & ends

The Gristmill takes a look at a new brand of organic cigarettes, and what it means for the environmental movement. And a reminder that even if they are organic, they'll still kill you.

And here's an interesting environmental mailbag in Newsweek.

Friday, September 1, 2006

The Tipping Point for Compact Fluorescents

Fast Company magazine has an article on how Wal-Mart wants to sell at least one compact fluorescent light bulb to each of its 100 million customers ...

Last year, conversations started in Wal-Mart around the potential of swirls to save customers money on utility bills. "Somebody asked, 'What difference would it make if we changed the bulbs in the ceiling-fan display to CFLs?'" says Kerby. A typical Wal-Mart has 10 models of ceiling fans on display, each with four bulbs. Forty bulbs per store, 3,230 stores.

"Someone went off and did the math," says Kerby. "They told me we could save $6 million in electric bills by changing the incandescents to CFLs in more than 3,000 Wal-Marts. I couldn't believe it. I didn't know I was paying $6 million to light those fixtures. I said, that can't be right, go back and do the math again." The numbers came out the same the second time: savings of $6 million a year. "That, for me, was an 'I got it' moment."