Energy Diet

When All You Can Do Is Vote

All of us can be doing simple things to reduce our energy consumption, but as we’ve seen in so many examples on this diet (from Yogesh being unable to find parking at the metro to Boudour having no recycling access at her residence), there is only so much we can do by ourselves. We’re dependent on our landlords, our workplaces, our cities and our elected officials to enable change. I’m realizing yet another degree of this 360º diet: Making sure that I vote in local elections and communicating the need for environmental services to those who can make it happen.

San Francisco collects compost material as it does any other recycling, so composting as a city dweller was as easy as throwing things into the right bin when I lived there. Here in D.C., it’s not as straightforward.

At work, I can compost, because National Geographic provides bins. (They also will recycle batteries and other items — thank you Nat Geo!) At home, though, my building doesn’t provide the service, and the city of Washington does not collect compost. That means you have to do it yourself, or pay for a service. For most urban dwellers (including me), that is a bridge too far. I’ve even heard people with yards complain that composting attracts rats (yuck!), so they’ve had to abandon it.

The lack of compost collection is disappointing to me, because I’d estimate that about 30-40 percent of my trash is compostable. Continuing my unscientific guesstimation, I’d say the rest breaks down into 50 percent recyclable and 10-20 percent non-recyclable.

Recycling, too, is touch-and-go in my building. Like Mateja, my residence does not have enough recycling bins or collection for the volume that our building produces. Fortunately, it’s not so bad that I’m forced to throw it into the regular trash, but I have on occasion had to to walk back upstairs with a full bag of recyclables, keeping it in my apartment for another day or two until the bins are emptied.

I have been so successful at remembering my shopping tote and reducing my consumption of plastic bags that, for the first time in recent memory, I was actually stuck without garbage bags this weekend, as I’d run out of plastic ones to reuse. Looking at the prices for garbage bags, it struck me that it would be cheaper to continue paying the 5-cent tax at stores occasionally and reusing those bags for trash instead of buying trash bags. I could, of course, buy biodegradable trash bags instead, but I’d read (I don’t remember where) that “biodegradable” stuff doesn’t really biodegrade that well in landfill conditions. I can’t see a way around having some kind of plastic for my kitchen trash, so any ideas/thoughts on this are appreciated!


  1. clipton
    March 23, 2011, 11:06 am

    Although this is not my expertise, I’ll share a couple thoughts. One issue is false claims. This can occur with BPA in plastic bottles. Because there are no verifying entities to confirm BPA free bottles, manufacturers can make false claims. Biodegradable products at least have a standard. Products with a biodegradable products institute logo have passed some scrutiny. However it doesn’t stop some biodegradable claims from products without the logo. Motherjones had some info:


  2. boudour
    Abu Dhabi,UAE
    March 26, 2011, 2:08 am

    I believe that this is a celebration for all of us on our hard work; We Al Nowais family would love to share this hour with all of u.