June 2009: Green Scene

June 2009: Green Scene

Bring your own bag

The way things are going, the question “paper or plastic?” is really on its way out. We’ve all heard the stats (Americans use 380 billion plastic bags every year; each ton of paper thrown away represents 17 trees) and we all know the solution: reusable bags.

Still need a reason to ditch plastic bags? Here’s one: a nickel off your bill.

With the collaboration of local nonprofit (and ABODE columnist!) Better World Betty and the Shop Charlottesville initiative, a team launched by the Charlottesville Office of Economic Development in partnership with local merchants, local businesses are offering reusable shopping bags made of recyclable plastic material. You buy them for a small 99-cent fee instead of accepting the usual fare. Then, of course, you reuse. 

So far, about 1,600 bags have been sold throughout the spring season. One participating business, Earlysville’s All Good Groceries, sold out rather quickly. “We’ve been out for the past six months, but we encourage people to continue bringing them; we encourage it for the environment,” said manager Shelby Cooney. “It’s for unselfish purposes.”

So kick the habit and B.Y.O. bag! Participating businesses include Nature’s Child, Giant, Harris Teeter and Whole Foods.—Caroline Edgeton

Tanks, but…

Was your home built 30 or 40 years ago? Got an underground heating-oil tank? You might have a problem. “Lots of folks in Albemarle County own homes built in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the tanks were put in at that time. They’re leaking as we speak,” says Todd Pitsenberger with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to make sure your tank is not polluting soil or groundwater. One local company that does testing and remediation is Pollard Environmental: oiltanks.net or (804) 377-8383.—Erika Howsare

Recycling with the stars

You may already consider yourself a recycling expert, so this month two local pros, Sonny Beale of UVA Recycling and Bruce Edmonds of the McIntire facility, help answer recycling conundrums of a subtler kind.

DON’Ts: Avoid recycling the packaging from reams of paper, Sonny Beale reports. It is woven with protective plastic and damages recycling pulp machines. The same goes for the paper backing on sticker labels for nametags and mailings, as well as wax-coated paper cups and milk cartons. Tissues and paper towels cannot be recycled for sanitary reasons .

DOs: Turns out you don’t need to cut out the plastic window from your mail  envelopes. “Just toss it in with your other junk mail and office paper,” Bruce says. Also, gift-wrapping paper (including tissue wrapping paper) is recyclable in the paper bin. Avid recyclers will be glad to know that Blue Ridge Packing Store on Preston reuses those annoying sheets of Styrofoam that large electronics or appliances are packed in, as well as air bags.  Empty spray paint cans and other aerosol cans are recycled with the metal cans after removing the plastic top. And speaking of lids: The plastic ones join the 1s and 2s and metal jar tops join the steel bin.

Finally, how clean does the peanut butter jar have to be? “Pretty clean,“ Bruce advises. Which means? “One good rinse is enough; a dishwasher cycle is not necessary.” This comes from the head manager of a facility that boasts zero contamination. Trust it and recycle onward, green warriors!—Better World Betty

Get a charge outta this

Toxic charge: Batteries must be recycled properly to avoid pollution.

Batteries are ubiquitous in our lives these days, powering all the same stuff they did for our grandparents (flashlights) and a whole bunch of other, more modern gadgets (phones, Flip cameras). Having power is cool and all, but keep the following points in mind so your batteries don’t become an eco-liability:

Batteries are toxic. They’re full of heavy metals like lead and nickel, and alkaline batteries contain potassium hydroxide, which can badly burn your skin. Bottom line: We don’t want this stuff leaching into groundwater.

Therefore, it’s best to recycle them. Better World Betty and earth911.org are two great sources for info on where to recycle batteries locally. This is one thing that chain stores, like Radio Shack and Staples, are good for.

Using rechargeables is preferred. And you can get solar-powered chargers! They’re slower than the plug-in variety, but so very virtuous. Blue Ridge Mountain Sports sells one made by Solio.—E.H.

Condition your condition

If you’re tired of cranking up the heat when it’s cold outside, but you’re daunted by the investment needed to weatherize your house, check this out:  On April 23, Congressman Tom Perriello announced an $8.8 million program for helping locals improve the efficiency of their homes.

Congressman Tom Perriello has made $8.8 million in grants available for weatherizing local homes.

Thanks to federal funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more than 1,000 Fifth District low-income families—especially those with disabled members, elderly individuals and children—can bump up their homes’ comfort factor through better insulation.

Most people know that insulation, higher quality windows and storm doors, and other measures can significantly reduce their monthly energy cost. But the up-front price of these home improvements can be too big a burden for some households. With this plan, weatherization assistance totaling over $2 million is available for an estimated 382 local homes.

Think you’re eligible? Contact Rebecca Rush at the Community Energy Conservation Program at 293-3777.—C.E.







Shirt so good

Here’s an easy way to support the local green scene. Pick up a T-shirt from ABODE columnist Better World Betty, who’s always up to various planet-friendly schemes for Charlottesville and Albemarle. Betty is essentially a source of information and encouragement, answering such questions for locals as “Where am I supposed to take these old paint cans?”, “What’s the hottest Earth Day party in town?”, and “Why should I care?”

The shirts are free with a $15 donation, and you can get them at Nature’s Child, a kids’ gear store on the Downtown Mall. (Betty is very into shopping local.)

And the shirts’ color scheme is reminiscent of ice cream! Dig it.—E.H.


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