Posts Tagged ‘renewable’

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Looking for Onsite Dining in DC Restaurants that Hold the Plastic? Check Out These Options

By: Susan Schorr

Restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19. In March, they were ordered to suspend table seating and limited to delivery and take-out. In June, when the Mayor determined the District had reached a sufficient decrease in COVID-19 cases, the Phase II restaurant reopening guidelines required restaurants to operate under strict restrictions for on-site dining. Many beloved establishments have either shut down completely or are hanging on with reduced staff and revenue streams.

It also seems likely that COVID-19 is unleashing a parallel pandemic of plastic pollution. Just think about all those delivery and take-out orders filled in disposable plastic containers! The Phase II guidelines gave eateries the option of serving onsite diners either on disposable or reusable food ware. Restaurants choosing to serve food or drink with disposables in DC were already required to use either recyclable or compostable containers by DC law. But since DC doesn’t have widespread composting, and contamination issues may prevent recyclable containers from being processed properly, restaurants using disposables may be adding to the mountain of trash.  

Fortunately, a number of restaurants across the District opted for reusable food ware for on-site dining. The DC Chapter of the Sierra Club celebrated these restaurants as part of the international #PlasticFreeJuly campaign this year, a month-long campaign that encourages everyone to reduce their plastic usage. 

We reached out to more than thirty restaurants in all Wards to ask about their reusable practices. Some, we found, were still offering only take-out and delivery, one is only open on weekends for on-site dining but using disposables, while many more were clearly so busy, operating with drastically reduced staff, that they weren’t able to chat with us. We did manage to connect with more than a dozen DC restaurants in Adams Morgan, Barracks Row, Chevy Chase, Columbia Heights, Downtown, Dupont Circle and Petworth to find out why they opted for reusables. We shared their moment-in-time responses on the Chapter’s Zero Waste twitter handle, @ZeroWasteDCSC.  Every single restaurant we spoke with — from Lincoln Restaurant to Lavagna– said that they opted for reusables because it saves them money. Serving on reusables means they don’t have to buy disposable plates, cups or utensils or find a place to store them. As Makan explained, going the reusables route has made sourcing much easier especially in these times of disrupted supply chains. That’s because, like Tequila & Mezcal, these restaurants already owned reusable plates, cups and utensils.

Room 11 and The Avenue added that opting for reusables is in keeping with their goal of maintaining a low environmental footprint. Lauriol Plaza said that customers prefer eating on real plates, a sentiment echoed by Duke’s Grocery explaining that reusables provide a more refined dining experience. Dupont Italian Kitchen noted that opting for reusables enabled them to rehire their dishwasher, creating employment during these challenging economic times. In addition to serving on reusables, The Green Zone also reuses liquor bottles to serve water and has replaced paper menus with QR order codes, while Blue 44 sanitizes reusable menus and condiment containers after use. Cinder BBQ and the Parthenon told us they also only provide disposable utensils on request for take-out orders. They realized that because of the pandemic most customers are working from home and don’t need disposable plastic utensils.

These local establishments deserve a lot of credit for taking an eco-friendly approach to reopening.  We’re also pleased that the District’s reopening guidelines provided them the opportunity to do so.

Still, there’s more to do. Our next story will focus on the move to reusable takeout container systems and on-going campaigns to convince delivery companies to limit disposable accessory food ware like napkins, utensils and condiment packets.

We hope that you will join the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club in supporting your local restaurants that are holding the plastic, and sharing ideas on what more they can do to stem the tide of plastic during the pandemic. We also invite you to join our Chapter’s Zero Waste Committee.

As a national organization, the Sierra Club’s work recognizes the impacts of plastics in the environment worldwide, especially in our oceans and waterways. It calls for the minimization and elimination of single-use plastics such as cutlery, cups, lids, straws, bags, beverage bottles, cigarette butts, and expanded polystyrene packaging. While biodegradable and compostable plastics and other materials are often presented as an easy alternative for single-use plastics, such substitution perpetuates wasteful production and throw-away practices. These substitute items may also contain toxic chemicals. Single-use plastics (including compostable plastics) must be phased out, and materials must be redesigned for durability and reusability without toxic chemicals.

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Susan Schorr is a member of the Sierra Club Washington DC Chapter’s Zero Waste Committee where she leads single-use plastic initiatives, and is also a member of the National Reuse Network

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Ten Tips for Engaging your Community to Act on Climate

EarthBy Erin Twamley

Mother Earth has a fever, and our home is at stake.

We  hear this message day after day. In response, we do what we can to live better: we use efficient light bulbs; we recycle; we carry around  reusable mugs. And we worry about the future. We worry that our actions are not enough.

Many of us want to address climate change more directly. But one of the challenges is conveying to our communities that sense of urgency expressed in the blog post, “Why Should You Care About Community,” by Tamara Toles O’Laughlin.

Don’t get me wrong, the climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference  was #onegiantleap forward. A staggering 97% of the world’s carbon polluters signed the agreement and the Green Climate Fund will support the pledge by investing nearly 100 billion dollars toward drastic greenhouse gas reductions by 2030. But climate data from February 2016 show there are still enormous leaps to be made.

COP21

So what else can you do? Let this be your invitation to #takecharge and consider your role in creating a better planet. Because, as the Earth Day Network encourages, a billion individual acts of green can add up to a powerful change.

Here are 10 tips that you can use to encourage your community join the climate change movement:

  1. Use stories about local innovation to start a positive climate change conversation. 

Do you know where the Greenest School in the World” is located? In Washington DC! In 2015, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded this distinction to Dunbar High School for their use of renewable energy sources like solar, water conservation systems and geothermal to power the school.

Pro-tip: Learn which businesses, housing communities and restaurants are addressing climate change. Find out and share what local schools are doing – everyone loves to have conversations about youth and the future.

  1. Capture Images of #ActOnClimate. 

In addition to sharing snaps of your travel adventures, foodie pics and funny shots with your friends, you can use Instagram to send a message about the Earth, the environment or that picturesque day. Photos send a quick and powerful message.

Pro-tip: Use the hashtag #MotherEarth on Instagram.

#MotherEarth

#MotherEarth

  1. Read other perspectives. 

Climate change impacts communities around the world. But how it impacts yours is unique. Read articles, blogs and first-hand accounts of how people are being impacted today. Learn more about the predictions of climate change impacts from Norway to China. The consequences vary around the world, but we are a global community.

  1. Join the movement online. 

Join the global conversation! Use social media channels such as Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook to share blogs, articles, facts and stories with your network. Information can spread far and wide online.

Pro-tip: Use hashtags like: #ActOnClimate #COP21 #Renewables

  1. Be A Climate Mentor. 

Help engage youth to act on climate change. You can connect with a young family member, neighbor or a friend’s kid. Try to come up with ways to save energy, then do an electronics check together. Make sure to explain how our energy use impacts the planet, and make sure to keep your messages positive.

Pro-tip: head outside to enjoy the fresh air together instead of plugging in.
Earth Relay for Climate Action - Brunswick

  1. Get Creative. 

Many people  would love to learn about climate in a unique way. Are you a poet or a budding videographer? Use your talent to talk about climate change.

Pro-tip: The quickest way to go viral is with a video. For example, this poem from a science educator is taking off right now!

  1. Cut Your Waste. 

How much we consume and what we consume makes a big difference.  Did you know that over 10,000,000 clothing items end up in landfills each year? Cheap clothing is not sustainable. Give your clothes additional life by donating or regifting them to friends and siblings!

Pro-tip: Go the extra mile; check out a fellow EcoWomen blogger’s tips for reducing food waste.

  1. Buy Renewable. 

Have you checked with your electricity provider to see if renewable energy is available? Most people are surprised to learn that in most cases, wind and solar can be distributed to your home from your local utility company. The first step in switching to renewable is finding out how to make the change.

Pro-tipDC and Maryland residents have options!

  1. Act Local – Write! 

From the mayor to the city council, we can hold elected officials accountable. In 2015, Washington DC was recognized to be the home to more LEED and ENERGY STAR-certified buildings per capita than any other city in the country. Make known your support for green power in DC.

Pro-tip: reaching elected officials is easier than ever with email and Twitter!

  1. GlühlampeFind your Lumens! 

Instead of looking for “Watts,” determine your desired light bulb brightness  by “Lumens.” It is a new way to help consumers determine the right amount of light for each place in the home. Learn the new vocabulary and change your light bulb shopping habit. Watch this video to learn more.

Note: This article is an adaptation of an original post for children by Erin Twamley, originally published by Nomad Press and STEM Magazine //187V .

Erin Twamley is an energy educator, author and English Kindergarten teacher in Seoul, South Korea. Her books with co-author Joshua Sneideman, Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth and Renewable Energy: Discover the Fuel of the Future? aim to positively engage youth in learning about renewable energy and addressing climate change.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Glimpsing into the Emerging Market of Home Energy Storage

By Sarah Peters

At last December’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21), the USA set ambitious goals to cut carbon emissions and to invest in clean energy. One of the ways that we will reach those goals is through renewable energy technology. And already, we can see industry and policy pushing forward.

Meeting the current challenge

When I say “renewable energy” you probably imagine this:

renewables

Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are inconsistent; on sunny or windy days, they produce more energy than the grid demands. The primary challenge is how to store that extra energy efficiently for use during windless nights and sunless days.

Currently, the most common and cheapest way to store energy is pumped hydro. Here is how it works:

Water is pumped from a low elevation reservoir to a high elevation reservoir during peak energy production. When renewable sources are not meeting the energy demand, water falls from the higher reservoir, spinning a turbine to generate electricity.

PumpedHydro

Although pumped hydro stands at 99% of global bulk energy storage, it is clearly impractical for residential use.

Innovating a better battery

When I think of renewable energy, I think about this: TeslaPowerWall

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are one option for storing energy in the home. In the past, this option was impractical due to high cost.

However, in recent years lithium-ion batteries have become more attractive as prices fall, which has driven further private sector innovation. A Deutsche Bank report estimates that lithium-ion battery prices could fall by 20-30% a year, becoming cost-competitive with traditional batteries by 2022.

This has heated up international competition to build the best home energy storage options.

Using the infrastructure that we already have

Electric water heaters are essentially pre-installed thermal batteries that are sitting idle in homes across the U.S. – the Brattle Group

waterheaterAnother potential form of energy storage harnesses the storage potential of a common household appliance – the water heater. Using water heater tanks as thermal energy batteries can reduce communities’ environmental footprints and electricity costs by storing excess energy for use during higher-priced peak periods.

An energy cooperative began testing this concept in February, launched in Minnesota by Great River Energy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA).

“When the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, large capacity water heaters can make immediate use of that energy to heat water to high temperatures. The water heaters can be shut down when renewables are scarce and wholesale costs are high,” explains Gary Connett of Great River Energy.

By controlling the water heaters of 65,000 participants, Great River Energy has managed to store a gigawatt-hour of energy every night.

With political will, there is a way

Adopting home energy storage will only happen where it makes economic sense. Chances are, the leaders will be in regions with supportive policies.

One such policy is called net metering, which is a billing policy where utility companies pay residential and commercial customers for the excess renewable energy generated at home. Early adopters include Germany, Australia, as well as a few U.S. States: California, Oregon and New York.

Daily_net_metering

As renewable grid-connected resources mature, it is likely that more governments, regulators and utilities will enact their own incentives for energy storage. The momentum is growing.

Moving forward in this emerging market, a combination of economic and political forces will determine where and how residential energy storage flourishes.

Sarah Peters graduated from Gettysburg College in 2010 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. She has written articles and blog posts for the Wilderness Society, Maryland Sierra Club, and DC EcoWomen. She volunteers for the Wilderness Society while seeking her next career opportunity.