It’s Easy Being Green: Red, White, Blue, and Green
SOURCE: Flickr/James D. Schwartz
The District of Columbia is home to our country’s most powerful energy regulatory bodies. From the Department of Energy to the Environmental Protection Agency, the policies that will make the nation greener and cleaner are first imagined in the city’s many hallowed halls, only to die a slow and unceremonious death in Congress.
The district itself, however, is making great strides in becoming one truly green city, regardless of cues from the federal government. Its residents are sharing bikes, eating locally grown fruits and vegetables, and working in some of the greenest buildings in the country.
Here are just a few of the initiatives Washington, D.C. is undertaking in a quest for a cleaner future.
The bag tax
Deemed controversial by some, the district implemented a 5-cent bag tax for paper and plastic bags given out by retail food establishments and liquor stores in January of 2010. Just three months after the tax went into effect, the number of bags given out dropped from a monthly average of 22.5 million bags to around 3 million bags.
The law encourages shoppers to use reusable bags that create less waste, and the revenue from the tax is being used to clean up the Anacostia River, recently named one of the most polluted rivers in the country. The tax raised $2 million for cleanup efforts in its first year.
D.C. joined the ranks of such cities as Paris, Barcelona, and Montreal last fall when it rolled out a bikesharing program called Capital Bikeshare. The program features 1,100 bikes stationed at 110 docks around D.C. and Arlington, Virginia, and it offers users one-day, five-day, one-month, and one-year memberships. Members can check out and return bikes to any station, which makes them a great alternative for commuting, running errands, or simply taking a bike ride around town—all without emitting harmful pollutants.
Washington, D.C. isn’t just home to monuments. It’s also home to some of the most impressive green buildings in the country.
The city leads the country in LEED-certified buildings per capita. It boasts among its many green architectural gems gleaming office buildings powered by wind energy, American University’s School of International Service and its number of record-setting environmentally conscious features, and even museums with roofs that maximize natural lighting, such as the one at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
D.C.’s baseball stadium, Nationals Park, was also the first LEED-certified major professional sports stadium in the country. The stadium was even erected on a former brownfield that once contained contaminated soil.
Washingtonians are big fans of eating locally. Nearly every neighborhood from Dupont Circle to Bloomingdale to Mt. Pleasant has its own seasonal market, and locations such as Eastern Market offer locally grown fruits and veggies year round. There’s even a farmers market at the White House from May to October.
For those district residents who can’t make it out to one of the many markets around town, there are a number of farm-to-door delivery services such as Arganica that offer everything from fruits and veggies to meats, cheeses, and grains from local farmers and artisans—and even let you select your own groceries for each week’s delivery.
D.C. is setting a great example for cities nationwide on how to embrace policies for a greener, cleaner town—with or without support from its leaders on Capitol Hill.
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