Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Earth Day: Saturday April 22nd

Earth Day should be Earth/Environmental Month, with a full set of activities focused on building environmental awareness.

1. (From email) Mayor Bowser to Deliver Free Statehood-Themed Pollinator Plant Seeds In Recognition of Earth Day: Initiative Will Span 17 Metro Stations Across All 8 Wards

(WASHINGTON, DC) – On Friday, April 21 at 8:30 a.m., Mayor Muriel Bowser will deliver free statehood-themed pollinator plant seeds at the Columbia Heights metro station in recognition of Earth Day. In addition to Mayor Bowser, Administration officials will visit 17 metro stations covering all eight wards delivering free seeds which will enhance the survival of native pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

The plant seeds will bloom into red Eastern Columbine and white Calico Aster flowers, emblemizing the stars and bars of the DC flag in support of the Bowser Administration’s efforts to make Washington, DC the nation’s 51st state. Each packet contains enough seeds to cover a 6-by-6-foot area.

Administration officials will be located at the following metro stations:

WARD 1: Columbia Heights (GR/YL) and Shaw-Howard (GR/YL)
WARD 2: Foggy Bottom-GWU (SV/BL/OR) and Dupont Circle (RE)
WARD 3: Cleveland Park (RE) and Tenleytown-AU (RE)
WARD 4: Takoma (RE) and Georgia Avenue-Petworth (GR/YL)
WARD 5: Brookland-CUA (RE) and Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood (RE)
WARD 6: Eastern Market (SV/BL/OR), Potomac Avenue (SV/BL/OR), and Waterfront (GR)
WARD 7: Benning Road (SV/BL) and Minnesota Avenue (OR)
WARD 8: Anacostia (GR) and Congress Heights (GR)

2. For Earth Day, DC is launching weekly compost drop off at Farmers Markets across the city, starting with Eastern Market, this Saturday, on Earth Day. (It's modeled after a program that the Greenmarkets in NYC have been doing for years and something I've recommended for awhile in writings and testimonies, e.g., "Urban composting redux" from 2013 and "More on zero waste practice and DC," 2015.)

-- Food Waste Drop-Off, DC Department of Public Works
-- Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 & 2016 Solid Waste Diversion Progress Report, DC Department of Public Works

3. DC released its Sustainable DC Plan a few years ago, and this week they released the progress report for FY2017. Mayor Bowser, DPW Director Christopher Shorter, and other agency representatives will talk about it at a presentation from Noon - 1 PM (not very long) at Eastern Market's North Hall, on Saturday.

-- Sustainable DC Plan Progress Webpage

4. Not on Earth Day or during Earth Month, Montgomery County's Green Fest is May 5th. I think such an expo should be a basic offering during Earth Month for cities of a decent size and/or counties.

5. The Master Gardener program of Montgomery County, Maryland's Agriculture Extension Program, has a deep and wide exhibiting information program, called "plant clinics," throughout the county through the summer and into the fall. It's a model for other communities.

There needs to be more of this type of programming made available within cities, using Farmer's Markets, Festivals, and other events as a delivery mechanism.

6. DC Office of Planning wants to add a Resilience Element to the DC Comprehensive Plan.

I'll be arguing for the creation of a Rivers and Watersheds Element in the Comprehensive Plan amendment cycle.

7. A few weeks ago the New York Times had an opinion piece by researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Transportation Studies about how the most important environmental action people could take would be to have a more environmentally friendly automobile ("What You Can Do About Climate Change"). From the article:
What can you — just one concerned person — do about global warming?

It may feel like a more urgent problem these days, with proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and each year warmer than the previous one.

You could drive a few miles fewer a year. Reduce your speed. Turn down your thermostat in winter. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. Reduce your meat consumption. Any one of those actions would help.

But none would come close to doing as much as driving a fuel-efficient vehicle. If vehicles averaged 31 miles per gallon, according to our research, the United States could reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 5 percent.
Interestingly, from the standpoint of our nation being gasoholics, they didn't consider sustainable mobility options--walking, biking, transit.  That being said, there was a great graphic (above) with the article on environmentally-conscious choices we can make.

8.  While the advantage of urban living is that in cities people tend to live in smaller places and drive less compared to suburban settings, therefore using less energy, according to the new book by Richard Florida, The New Urban Crisis, the current back to the city movement is marked by people choosing to live in larger houses, and adoption of a more car-centric mobility paradigm.  That's not good.

9.  The anti-food waste nonprofit ReFED reports that there is a "boom" in the increase in the number of businesses producing food items from food that had been wasted ("The hot new trend in food is literal garbage," Washington Post).

-- ReFED’s Food Waste Innovator Database

10. The Seattle Times has an article, "Why tens of thousands could turn out Saturday for Seattle's March for Science," on how there will be a march for science-based decision-making as a part of Earth Day activities in that city.

That is one of many such marches across the globe, including a big science march in DC

11.  In the same vein as Montgomery County but on a much bigger scale, the Dallas-Fort Worth region sponsors an "Earth Day Texas" event drawing tens of thousands of attendees ("Earth Day Texas organizers want investors to see the green in clean" and "Earth Day Texas event in Dallas will bring together experts to tackle plastics," Dallas Morning News).

12. I forgot to mention two interesting "local" recycling ventures, that are examples of small scale eco-industry development, one in St. Louis, the other in Sacramento.

Both I learned about through shows on PBS. On the "Create" HDTV and cable channel, broadcast in the DC area by Maryland Public Television, the Growing a Greener World show ran a program (Episode 113) on an initiative by the Missouri Botanical Gardens to recycle plastic plant pots, which aren't recyclable in the normal waste stream ("Dealing with Plastic Pots, Packaging and more").  A nearby St. Louis firm, called Plastic Lumber Company, uses the plastic beads produced from the recycled pots to make plastic lumber.

The children's show Curiosity Quest, recently repeated an earlier episode  on recycling paint. The Acrylatex Company in Sacramento recycles paint which is used for graffiti abatement applications. They recycle everything.  Liquid paint, the cans, and the "hockey pucks" -- dried paint in paint cans -- they make that into "ornamental stones" for landscaping.

If solid waste were handled at the regional scale, rather than by jurisdiction, it would be easier to set up similar kinds of operations more widely, and collectively this could have significant impact, organized by metropolitan region, but at a national scale.



At 9:09 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Interesting that Bowser is continuing the "Sustainable" theme which is a net positive for the city. However, read the city paper article on the contract that runs that.

The NYTIMES on MPG is interesting. If anything, it shows were are approaching marginal gains on efficiency. At some point around 2004, Harpers did one of their lists on that which is we could get every pickup truck in the US to have a 1 MPG increase we'd shave off 5% of the emissions.

(the jump from 9 to 10, or 11 to 13, is far more than the gain from 25 to 50.)

The current rules forcing more SUV/CUV (CAFE) are also counterproductive. In areas with expensive gasoline, you see more sedan usage.

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

1. the proposed budget for next year zeroes out monies for cleaning the Anacostia River.

I still have my reservations about the big picture about sustainability in DC. E.g., we can have a resilience element but still spend $150 million on an unnecessary high school. Nothing is sustainable about that.

... and US attitudes towards sustainable practice so lag Europe, so it's hard to get people to change.

A big focus on behavior and attitude change is required.

But there are ways that DC can model those changes. So maybe things willhappen.

(I do think that like VG, MB realizes it's a good thing, because when she is at national meetings of her peers, they are all talking about it...)

2. but yes, MPG requirements really matter. And so does allowing urban areas to shift mobility paradigms away from car-centricity. Or to fund bike and pedestrian improvements.

Or to raise gas taxes, not only to fund infrastructure, but to get people to make better choices in terms of land use and mobility.

e.g., if gas was $7/gallon like in Europe, it would be easier to develop transit systems, more people would bike, etc.

Now transit and biking is just "a nice thing to do" in the context of transportation policy that privileges and continually extends automobility.

So it's no wonder it can't compete except in those rare places of density and compactness and grid and heavy rail + walking where it is particularly efficient.

... I can't remember where I was riding yesterday or the day before, but I was looking at a block of traffic as I was riding by--it was Florida Ave. between 5th and 7th Streets. Every car had only one occupant.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Umm, I was looking at Ireland's motor tax schedule (don't know enough about cars there to figure out costs by type of car) and they have 8 different classifications.

I understand your point about 11 to 13 vs. 25 to 50, but people "should" be buying sedans, not SUVs, and if registration fees (motor taxes) were much higher for vehicles with "bad" MPG, that would also trigger different behaviors.

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

hadn't seen the article. Of course, it sadly isn't a surprise.

cf. the difference in how New York State created a independent energy authority.

NYSERDA isn't exactly the same as the SEU, but you could combine the functions.

And I'd hire a group of people from a best practice municipal utility, like SPU in Seattle, the various "Electric Power Boards" that function in the TVA service area (e.g., Chattanooga), etc., not someone like Mr. Trabue, who yes, is super well connected.

The point is to build a business, capacity, system, not fund a contractor.

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why people think they need a living room on wheels while living in a city is hard to fathom. Probably these are folks who come from apart of the USA where cars are normal and essential unlike DC where cars are really optional and not a necessity at all. In fact- I go w/o getting into a car for weeks at a time. It has gotten easier and easier in DC to live w/o a car in the past 15 years or so- and many ideas that people once thought of as radical are now acceptable. One of them- sit up step thru bicycles- there was a time when on blogs I was ridiculed mercilessly by the male bike racer elitists for advocating "girls bikes" and not wanting to practice vehicular cycling- now this is being seen more and more as idiocy and as obsolete. The bike share bikes are all sit up bikes with step thru frames and they have proven far more popular than any of the wash cycle bloggers would ever have dreamed back in 2005. This to me is real progress even if never use the bike share and have my bicycles...


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