Posts Tagged ‘greenhouse gas’

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By Maggie Dewane, US Communications Manager at the Marine Stewardship Council

A friend recently asked for advice on composting in a city. I was a little embarrassed to tell her that I had no advice to give! My mom composted in our family’s backyard when I was a kid, but since moving out of the house and having only lived in apartments and cities, I assumed it couldn’t be done (easily) without a backyard. Realizing I must have assumed wrongly, I set out to investigate and here’s what I learned.

What is compost?

Compost is organic matter (mostly food scraps, leaves, twigs, etc.) that has been allowed to decompose and can then be used as nutrient-rich garden soil. The process of composting requires keeping the organic matter in an enclosed space (sometimes in a bin or a partitioned-off section of yard) and then, with proper management, supports the material so it may break down naturally, effectively becoming repurposed or reused existing, albeit discarded, material. There are many resources to teach you how to compost.

Why is it good?

Americans produce an average of 5 pounds of waste per day, around 30 percent of that is compostable food waste. By composting the material that would’ve otherwise been discarded, you’re keeping waste from landfills that can be reused in a positive and eco-friendly way! For example, if you’re an avid gardener, it will save money on fertilizer costs. If you live in a city, you’ll be part of growing contingency of cities that collect compost and reuse it for specific projects or outsource it to communities that want or need the soil for agriculture. Whether in your backyard or in a city, compost reduces the amount of methane gas emitting from our landfills, which is a greenhouse gas contributing to the overall warming of our planet.

How is composting normally done?

There are a variety of composting techniques from compost tumblers to vermicomposting (using worms that eat the material and break it down into soil, also requires the most effort  and maintenance) to pick up services and drop off locations, which are useful for city-dwellers like myself.

A useful rule of thumb when composting is, “If it grows, it goes [into the compost pile].”

Specifically:

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Plants (dead flowers, weeds, grass, etc.)
  • Eggs and eggshells
  • Breads and grains
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Uncoated paper cups and plates (meaning they don’t feel waxy to the touch)

Less desirable compost items include dairy and meat products. While these items will decompose, they may invite unwanted creatures or molds into your space.

Composting in a city

First, get yourself a bin (Planet Natural has some options at the bottom of their page here) to keep your compost in – one that you can tuck into a cabinet or under your sink. If you stick to the above list of compostable items, the bin won’t smell awful, but a lid will be useful to contain any wafting as well as any unwanted pests commonly found in cities.

One neat bin option I’ve found is GreenLid (available on Amazon). The bin comes with a sleek reusable lid while the bin itself is made from recycled cardboard and can be thrown directly into a compost pile or reused if it’s relatively clean.

For city dwellers, the next step is to find out if your municipality offers a compost pick-up service.

See if your city or town picks up compost bins here.

If your city doesn’t, here are some alternative options:

  • Find out if your apartment complex or building has a rooftop or community garden. If so, it probably has a compost pile. If not, suggest starting one!
  • Sign up for Share Waste. It connects people who want to compost but can’t (because of their living situation or if they’re on vacation) with people who have compost bins.
  • Utilize your local farmers market. A lot of weekend farmers markets have compost tents. Take a walk through your local market to see if it has one (and buy some fresh, local produce while you’re there!).
  • Contact your city council and ask them to consider implementing a program that would collect compostable material from residents.

Like most efforts to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle, composting takes time and research, but it has benefits that can serve you, your community, and the planet, so why not give it a try!

Here’s more information from the US Environmental Protection Agency on composting.

Maggie Dewane is the US Communications Manager at the Marine Stewardship Council. Previously, she was the Press and Communications Officer to the Environmental Investigation Agency. She also worked for the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the United States Senate. She has a Bachelor’s from Seton Hall University and a Master’s from Columbia University. Her hobbies include painting, writing, traveling, soccer and camping and hiking with her dog Argos. 

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on DC’s Ambitious New Renewable Energy Law: 7 Things You Need to Know

By Lauren Meling, digital strategist and DC EcoWomen member

A lot of frightening environmental news have made headlines lately. But, just before the end of 2018, there was a big positive story that made headlines around the country and happened here in our area. As a DC EcoWoman or supporter, you may have heard that DC’s going to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2032. There’s actually a lot more to this story than just the applaudable headline. Here are seven of the most interesting takeaways.

  1.  It’s the most ambitious clean energy transition in the country

The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 mandates DC energy providers to source 100 percent renewable energy by 2032, and replaces a previous target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2032. And before you ask — nuclear energy is not considered a renewable energy in this rule.

Unlike some other cities, DC is legally required to meet the mandate. It is not a voluntary ambition. The law will require its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to be 100 percent renewable by 2032. It means DC will be one of the first large cities to join the 100 percent renewable club, which already includes several smaller cities and towns, and will beat larger areas like California or Hawaii by several years.

DC is able to meet this accelerated timeline because it does not produce much energy within its borders. It relies on electricity generated elsewhere and transmitted in the PJM electrical grid.

  1. Utilities were on board

In a statement, Pepco Holdings called it “an important step toward advancing the cause of clean energy for the benefit of every ward in the District of Columbia.”

Surprised? I wouldn’t blame you. But what’s unique about this law is that utilities will be financially penalized for missing incremental renewable energy targets — fines which will go toward supporting renewable energy development. As GGW puts it:

The burden falls on utility companies to meet benchmarks for renewable electricity—or pay a price. Every year, the city sets renewable energy standards for companies to hit that increase incrementally until they reach 100 percent in 2032. What happens if companies don’t meet those standards? The city requires electricity suppliers to make compliance payments into D.C.’s Renewable Energy Development Fund (REDF).

An important note: If you don’t want to wait until 2032, or if you live outside the District, you can purchase clean energy credits through a provider like Arcadia, Clean Choice, or others. Learn more (PDF)

  1. Solar production will rise to 10 percent by 2045

As of 2015, solar energy only produced about 1 percent of DC’s electricity. That’s not surprising considering the urbanized environment only encompasses 68 square miles. While there’s little potential for large-scale solar farms, there’s still enormous possibility for rooftop solar on buildings, large and small, across the District.

DC already provides subsidized rooftop solar through its Solar for All program. The new law will provide energy bill assistance to support low- and moderate-income residents. Thirty percent of the additional revenue collected will be put aside for programs like weatherization and bill assistance for low-income households, as well as job training in energy efficiency fields. At least $3 million annually will also be allocated toward energy efficiency upgrades in affordable housing buildings. Win-win-win!

  1. Transportation is going renewable, too

Transportation is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in DC (22 percent). Other cities/areas have passed similar laws but gave themselves longer timelines, and/or did not include transportation. What’s particularly exciting about DC’s new law is that by 2045, all public transportation and privately-owned vehicle fleets in DC will not produce GHG emissions. “Privately-owned fleet vehicles” means that if you’re transporting over 50 passengers, it’s got to be zero-emissions.

While ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber are not included, they are required to create a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan. Private vehicles, meanwhile, are not covered.

  1. Even existing buildings are included

DC already ranks first for leadership in energy and environmental design… or rather, it would, if it were a state. Buildings, however, are still the largest single source of GHG emissions in the city (74 percent). Major cities have made headlines after encouraging new buildings to include green roofs or rooftop solar. What’s different about DC’s law is that it includes provisions for existing buildings to increase their energy efficiency, rather than placing the impetus on new construction.

In fact, there’s a fantastic resource called Benchmark DC, which displays the energy and water usage and ‘grade’ of major buildings in the District.

  1. It funds DC’s green bank

The new law also helps fund DC’s green financing bank, an important, if not headline-grabbing, way to support renewable energy and other sustainable initiatives. An additional assessment on dirty energy sources like natural gas will fund the green bank with $15 million per year in 2020 and 2021, and $10 million per year for the next 4 years. These funds will go towards financing programs for energy efficiency or renewable energy projects to lower energy costs. This includes anything from roof repairs, insulation, installing new windows, to solar panels for homes.

  1. It’s all part of a bigger picture to address climate change in our backyard

The vision of Sustainable DC 2.0 is to make DC the healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the United States in just 20 years. The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 is just one part of the overall Sustainable DC 2.0 vision, which also has plans of action for nature, transportation, food waste, climate resilience, energy, water, and more, including the recent ban on plastic straws and foam takeout containers.

Some questions still remain

While everything listed above is a positive development, several questions still remain. What exactly will Lyft and Uber do to reduce GHG emissions, and how will they be held accountable? Where does WMATA fit into this — will the Metro also need to be powered by renewables, as it encompasses operations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia and is governed by the WMATA board and not the city council? What will become of the Capitol Power Plant? For some great insight, check out Greater Greater Washington’s recap.

To end on a positive note, an analysis based on a previous version of the bill estimated it would result in a 50 percent reduction of GHGs. A new analysis has not yet been released, but if it’s anywhere close to that, we are on track to meet the recommended reduction in GHGs that climate scientists have recently called for by 2030. To take a closer look at the plan, visit Clean Energy DC’s interactive microsite.

Are you excited about this development, or do you have concerns? Comment below to discuss this topic.

Lauren Meling has dedicated her career to finding what exactly it takes to make people take action online to serve a cause. She uses her digital strategy experience and skillset combining email marketing, social media, search engine marketing, website optimization, and content creation to engage online communities in meaningful action to confront some of the most challenging crises humanity faces today. She may not be a superhero, but she plays one on the internet.