Posts Tagged ‘trash free’

What Motivates You to Keep Your Neighborhood Trash Free?

June 30th, 2014

By Albert Arevalo, Community Outreach Liaison

Despite where we live in the District, litter is something that we find scattered in all corners of the city. The goal of the Regional Litter Prevention Campaign  is to educate the community and to change attitudes and behavior around the bad habit of littering. I spend my days in this District of Columbia talking to people about litter and getting them involved with the Litter Campaign. Meeting community members who invest time daily to pick up trash provides a strong motivation for me to keep fighting for a trash free watershed. Kitty Dawson was the first community member  I met who had a strong personal commitment to keeping her neighborhood trash free and can be found on most days picking up trash in Ward 5. I’ve asked Kitty to share what motivates her:

Looking out my living room window every morning gives me joy to see the lovely trees and birds.  However, the trash disturbs me and it makes my smile disappear.  I tell myself not to look at the trash so it won’t bother me, but that doesn’t work. I look around and wonder, ‘where is all the trash coming from, I just cleaned the street several hours ago?’


I care about the grass and I care about how my neighborhood looks, and I feel good picking up trash in my neighborhood.  Honestly I say to myself it is not worth it because although there are trash bags around for people to dump their trash the trash still end up on the street or below the trash bag.  But I continue because I care about my community so I will continue to pick up the trash in front of my building.  Hopefully one day there will be more individuals who care about their neighborhood and love to keep it free from trash.

One day while picking up trash and a young man came over to me and asked if he can give me free bags he introduced himself and told me he was part of a non profit organization and shared what the organization offer.  Like free trash bags and gloves or whatever you may need to keep your neighborhood trash free.  It was a pleasure meeting Albert Arevalo just knowing there are others for the cause brings me joy.

As our campaign grows and gains momentum, we wish to ease the load of those other “Kitty Dawson’s” who take great pride in their community. I encourage you to make your own personal commitment to end litter. Some simple actions you can take include:

Just as piece by piece, litter adds up and makes the places we go every day unsafe and unhealthy, so too can we build a healthy, trash-free Potomac Watershed with each individual action. Only by working together will we see a change, and only by working together can we make a difference.

Victory in Montgomery! For now

November 12th, 2013

Guest post by Julie Lawson, Trash Free Maryland Alliance

The Montgomery County Council has put a hold on a proposal to reduce the number of stores required to charge five cents for disposable plastic and paper checkout bags.

In a committee work session last Monday, Councilmember Roger Berliner said his amendment aimed to “strengthen” the law by exempting some businesses from it. The bill passed 2-1, with sponsors seeking to rush it to a full Council vote before the end of the year. On Wednesday, following a phone conversation withCounty Executive Ike LeggettBerliner changed course, agreeing to wait on further action until the County can conduct surveys and collect more data. He asked the Department of Environmental Protection to provide a report by Summer 2014.

The current law, in effect since January 2012, requires all retailers in the county to charge a five-cent fee for disposable plastic and paper checkout bags. Bill 10-13would carve out retailers that primarily sell goods other than food, as well as plastic bags used for takeout restaurant food. Only stores that earn more than 2% of their gross sales from food would continue to collect the fee.

At a hearing in June, environmental and citizen groups, and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, largely opposed the proposed amendment, while small chambers endorsed it. Opponents argued that the bill language was unclear and that non-food store bags also pollute county streams and neighborhoods. One question was the definition of “food.” Under the state sales tax code, “food” does not include alcohol, soda, or candy. This definition would exempt liquor stores and potentially many convenience stores from the law.

The lack of clarity on what stores would be exempted also troubled advocates–retailers do not currently report the breakdown of their sales to the County government, and even the Council attorney could only offer his best guess on whether stores like Target and CVS would be exempted. Advocates argued that the Council needed to provide a detailed list of the stores that would be exempted before taking action.

Hearing these comments, the committee did amend the bill to include alcohol in the definition of “food,” but delayed making a decision on soft drinks and candy.

In addition to collecting bag sales and public opinion data, the delay also affords DEP the opportunity to conduct more outreach, including distributing free reusable bags in low-income communities and educating county residents and businesses on the positive aspects of the law–significantly fewer bags being littered, revenue for pollution prevention projects, and cost savings for retailers.

2013 Potomac Watershed Trash Summit

October 28th, 2013

Guest post by Miriam Gennari, read more from her blog

The 8th Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit happened on October 18th, 2013 at the University of District of Columbia. The event commenced with the attendees taking field trips to different area locations for some exciting hands-on experiences.

The concept of trash free adventures sounded interesting. Like many of the attendees, I found myself torn between four equally enthralling topics including composting, community outreach as well as a trip along the Potomac to do some trash trapping.

I chose to arrive early to the newly remodeled UDC campus just off of the Van Ness Metro Stop on Connecticut Avenue NW to take a tour of the campus.

The University is one of the few land grant universities to be located in an urban area. So from the perspective of the densely populated concrete jungle that is Washington, DC, the University’s staff at the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Science(CAUSE) explores issues like climate change and pollution from a unique position.

Their perspective is not only on the global challenges to the entire Earth, but also includes issues “down the pike” that, as the population of metro Washington, DC continues growing, will have impacts at the University itself and its close neighbors.

The University offer to host this year’s Trash Summit served as an example of the sense of community that inspires the organizers of the event, the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

I found work accomplished by Dr. Tolessa Deksisska at the UDC’s Water Resources Management Laboratory to be fascinating. At the lab, water is tested for many contaminants. This is the Doctor’s specialty. For those who are unaware, the Washington Aqueduct is where Washington, DC’s water and Arlington County’s water originates. Attendees had lots of questions and, rather than cause a stir, let me just say that Dr. Deksisska informed us that citizens should judge the safety of our water by our own tolerance and sensitivity. OUCH!

The Plenary session began with a panel discussion. Government staff discussed the various successes experienced as well as the challenges still faced. While I cannot summarize the entire discussion, the impression I took away from the discussion was that persons in government have a job to do and they do what they are told. We citizens must be more vocal about the importance of our area’s water resources because there are so many competing agendas and with the state of affairs in our nation’s capital, a water issue is hard to diffuse, but in tight budget times cannot be easily flushed away. Vocal citizens can play a part in pushing the issue to the forefront and making it a top priority. Having had this impression, I must add, in fairness, that since it began its work in 1998, the success so far of the Alice Ferguson Foundation is nothing short of amazing. The Foundation’s efforts have resulted in the removal of 6.5 million pounds of trash from neighborhoods and waterways served.

After the general discussion ended, the approach turned narrower with the Framework for a Trash Free Watershed. The foundation asked guests to focus on five distinctive areas: Education, Regulation, Policy, Market-Based Approaches and Enforcement.

In the session I attended on Policy, big news!! In the upcoming session, a member of DC’s Council plans to introduce a ban on single-use polystyrene! One thing I tried to help clear up is the difference between single-use and bulk polystyrene. There were some concerns that if Vincent Gray were not mayor, would the whole plan decay like a disgraced banana decomposing on concrete? After these concerns were aired, the staff for DDOE assured everyone that the “plan for the ban” was embedded in the overall mission of DC so it would remain even if there were a leadership change at the top. Big News!!

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I just want to thank Lori Argulles, Executive Director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation for a fantastic event. I also want to thank Clara Elias and the rest of her team for what I know was one of the most sustainable events I have ever attended. Good thing, becuae the future of our community is depending on us.

Overcoming Obstacles at Burrville Elementary

August 12th, 2013

By Everette Bradford

On Thursday, June 6, 2013, roughly 350 students at Burrville Elementary School in Washington, DC worked to complete a schoolyard cleanup. Although April was cleanup month, this cleanup was especially important to me because this has been a very challenging year for the Trash Free Schools Project at Burrville Elementary.

In the 2011-2012 school year, Burrville Elementary School signed the Trash Free Schools Pledge to become a Trash Free School. The 4th and 5th grade students were very motivated to engulf upon actions to improve the quality of the school and the surrounding Deanwood neighborhoods in Washington, DC. In many regards, the students were successful and earned an above average grade on their Trash Free Schools Report Card for the work they completed in their first year of the Trash Free Schools project. Here at AFF, we thought that the momentum would carry over into the 2012-2013 school year; however, it did not. The school was restructured and the Green Team leaders from the previous year left the school.

IMG_0521[1]Suddenly the world had come to an end! After some discussion with Mrs. Roper, Burrville’s Principal, we learned that she really liked the project and was pleased with the educational opportunities afforded to the students through their participation.  Mrs. Roper gathered another group of teachers to take control of the project and I soon learned that the new Green Team Leaders were Pre-K and 1st grade teachers.

In many of our Trash Free elementary schools, we work with 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade teachers to get school-wide buy-in from a ‘top down’ approach. With Burrville Elementary the situation does not met the normal measure, which makes this school unique. This school will work to ensure the entire school is brought into the Trash Free Schools Project from a ‘bottom up’ approach with the Pre-K and 1st grade teachers leading the project.  At Burrville Elementary, we will reach students from the time they are three years of age until they are ten years of age. This opportunity will serve as a pilot to cultivate future environmental stewards and expose them to the dynamics of leading environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyles at such young ages. The 1st grade students are well on their way, as they have already managed to cultivate plots of land that they have used for growing fresh vegetable and herbs!

I am very optimistic that this year’s Green Team will carry over into next school year and that they will have the tools necessary to tackle the trash problems in the Deanwood neighborhood. Students and teachers alike are already looking forward to various projects next year which include:

  • Expanding the Green Team to include more teachers and parent participants;
  • Creating a school wide composting plan;
  • And expanding the school’s vegetable and herb garden.

Fungus Among Us: Discover the new Trash Free Schools Resource Center

May 24th, 2013

HBF_rottingLog_noReleaseNecessaryOne of my favorite memories from 5th grade science class is “Fungus Among Us.” “Fungus Among Us” was an experiment where each student got two zip-lock bags, put several different types of trash in each one, and placed them in two different environments. I placed mine in a dark cupboard and the other on the counter, though other students put theirs in the window, in the fridge, and other out-of-the-way places. Over the next several months we periodically checked on the bags and took observations as they began to grow all sorts of fascinating things. At the end of the quarter we took stock of what decomposed and what did not. I remember staring at the glass marbles in my bags and yelling, probably a bit too loud, “Wow – they look brand new!” It really got me thinking about what I threw away, because where is away? Some things simply take forever to decompose like glass and the plastic zip-lock bags we used.

TFSWebsite (2)It is these kinds of experiences that the Trash Free Schools Project works to provide students with in our new online Resource Center. The Resource Center is designed to serve as the hub for perspective and enrolled schools to find activities, lesson plans, how-to guides, and other tools to help them organize, educate, and take action on trash. It allows us share curriculum plans such as newer versions of “Fungus Among Us” to teachers while also providing them with service learning opportunities to complement them. As a middle schooler, I would have been so excited to put my new-found knowledge to use with a compost bin or a school-wide recycling program.

So take a peek at our new and improved Trash Free School website and explore our Resource Center. While some of the resources are restricted to participating schools, there is still a lot of great information available to download like our new Guidebook. Please let us know if you would like to become a Trash Free School. Once you have signed up you will gain access to the full set of resources. If you are interested in volunteering, we are also looking for mentors to support our current schools in their efforts to Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

FeedingThePigs_HBFAs these cool spring weekends come to a close, I invite you to try “Fungus Among Us” for yourself. Don’t forget to do it in a well-ventilated place and take a closer look with a magnifying glass if you can. You can even document your progress in the comment section below with notes and photos of your experiment. You never know what you might discover or what kind of inspiration it will ignite.

Enter Video Contest for a Chance to Win $1,000

May 2nd, 2013

By Lina Scott, Communications Intern

Are You Ready to Be the Next Watershed Celebrity?

We can’t wait to see the submissions for our contest, but we also know it can be hard to plan a video. If you’re still looking for ideas, you may find it helpful to check out some PSAs from the past that have dealt with litter prevention.

PSAs, or public service announcements, have been used widely throughout the past century in both print and video format. They were heavily used during World War I and II to promote support for the war effort. Since then, they have been used to promote all kinds of messages that are considered beneficial for the public. They have played a key role in the modern environmental movement, especially in the many anti-litter campaigns.

Please enjoy this selection of PSAs from the past 50 years. They demonstrate the huge variety of styles and techniques that you can use in your own video, and they also give us a fun glimpse into different eras. How will your video represent 2013, and how do you think the messaging will change in the future?

Donald Duck’s “The Litterbug” – 1961
This short film isn’t a PSA, but I like it and think it’s worth seeing. It has lovely old animation and a very catchy tune, and ends with the singing animals typical of Disney. I like the framing of the Litterbug as a pest, though the producers’ opinion of DDT and other chemical pesticides is rather dated!

Susan Spotless – 1960s
This is a cute video that looks at litter from a very specific social perspective – that of the idealized mid-century American family. Preventing litter is about national pride and about maintaining the countryside for families’ recreational use, ideas that still resonate today, though within a different social context.

Crying Indian – 1971
This is one of the most famous litter prevention PSAs, and it was launched in 1971 on the second Earth Day. The dramatic music and the visual of the canoe moving through a pollution-coated city had a large impact in the 70s.

Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute – 1980s
This one seems a little strange to me, but that might be due to the use of a big owl costume, when today we would normally see special effects or animation. Nevertheless, it’s a reminder that there are ways to make a fun video while on a limited budget.

Don’t Mess with Texas – 2000s
The Don’t Mess with Texas campaign has been running since 1985, and has produced a number of PSAs. This one from 2000 features Texan star Matthew McConaughey. It received limited air time due to “violence” but I think it’s fun to see an environmental campaign incorporating some modern Hollywood flair.

More recently produced, this PSA’s use of a Texas Confederate Air Force bomber takes an even more aggressive stance against litter. It definitely succeeds in getting your attention!

Storm Water Sam – 2012
Lastly, here is our very own video about littering. An animated PSA, it shows that you can make a meaningful video without finding any actors.

Are you ready to get started? Hopefully these videos have given you some ideas, and shown how much variety there can be even when sharing the same kind of message.

Good luck!

How to Win a Paddle and Save the World at the Same Time

March 5th, 2013

By Leandra Darden, Naturalist Associate, Alice Ferguson Foundation

As one of the newest members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation I had the privilege of attending my first Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Educators (MAEOE) conference with other members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation family. At the conference we were able to meet with our peers and learn about all of the exciting things that other Maryland educators and schools have been able to offer students in the last year. The Alice Ferguson Foundation was no exception, sharing with our peers our exciting Trash Free Schools program that helps guide schools to being more environmentally conscience as well as premiering our ideas for integrating education with the building of our new living buildings. We were excited to get some feedback as to the best way to get the students to understand and talk about energy and water consumption as they monitor their water and energy throughout their overnight trip to our farm. We were able to converse with people who have a better understanding of other green buildings as well as people who have great ideas about how to visually stimulate students into conversations and understanding. It was a great opportunity to learn from and share our ideas with our fellow outdoor educators.

But the MAEOE conference also gave us the opportunity to win the coveted canoe paddle.

Every MAEOE conference there is a challenge and this year it was to make an outfit made out of trash. People then voted on their favorite outfit and the winners became one the proud owners of a ceremonial, decorative canoe paddle. It was decided to bring the amazing poncho and bag made out of Capri Sun wrappers, since it is so colorful and fun. There was some tough competition, including a skirt made out entirely of cds, and dress made out of dog food bags. In the end, the fun Capri Sun colors, combined with our clever campaign of its functionality won out and we joined the illustrious few who have been able to call the paddle their own. By creating these garments we were able to keep some trash out of the landfill and reuse for a fun new purpose.

There are always new and exciting ways to reuse what we would normally perceive as trash. With a little repurposing, vision, and creativity something we were going to throw away could now be something we are going to give away. That is one way we can all save the world.

Getting the Most Out of a Field Study to Hard Bargain Farm

January 9th, 2013

By Becky Williams

In my role as Naturalist/Educator for Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, I look forward to my visits to school classrooms both before and after the students come to the Farm for a two day field study.

As I arrive at the school office, I hear, “the lady is here from the Farm” or “the kids are really excited about coming to the Farm!”   I am often carrying a large bag of “trash” for the Trash Timeline activity in which we discuss how long it takes for common items of “trash” to decompose.  The activity helps introduce students to concepts they will learn at the farm, including decomposition and the energy cycle.  The activity also prepares students for their challenge to bring a Trash Free Lunch on their trip; often, this concept is new to the students, yet they embrace the challenge.

As I begin to learn what the students already know and what they need to know for their trip, I am struck by their excitement and willingness to explore a new setting, gather eggs, hike for 2 hours and have a campfire.  Often I work with the groups at the farm and am able to reflect back on the previsit, as we share these experiences.

When I return for the post visit after their field study, I am able to reinforce what they’ve learned through our Food Chain/Energy Cycle activity that expands their interest in concepts learned at the Farm. This lesson develops a feeling of empowerment and responsibility in their roles in their environment.

As a former teacher, I believe these classroom visits (before and after the field study) both augment and reinforce the learning and teaching potential of the field study.  I encourage teachers to take advantage of these outreach opportunities!

For more information and how you can participate in Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center Outreach please contact Sara Campbell at [email protected].