Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The “wearing o’ the green” is a popular way to celebrate the day, but few people probably know that the song and its lyrics actually date back to the Irish Rebellion of 1798, against British rule. While everyone may be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone also can be “green” during the other 364 days (365 days this year). Here’s how…
• Recycle, recycle, recycle. Fairfax County’s Solid Waste Management division oversees the recycling and disposal of more than 4000 tons of waste per day. Only about 10 percent of county residents receive fee-paid trash collection from Fairfax County; the majority of trash hauling services are privately owned and operated, and set their own fees. The county’s waste-to-energy plant (the large smokestack you can see from I-95 at Lorton) incinerates municipal waste, and generates 80 megawatts of electricity for re-use.
• Household hazardous waste (motor oil, oil paints, antifreeze, electronics) is accepted at the I-95 plant, as well as the I-66 transfer station, daily now. Log on to www.fairfaxcounty,gov/dpwes/trash to learn more. Proper disposal is easy, and protects our environment.
• Wise water use means shorter showers, less lawn watering, fuller laundry loads, and more care when you flush. Expired or unused medications should not be flushed in our water systems. Mix old prescriptions with wet coffee grounds or kitty litter, bag or cap them carefully, and dispose of them in your regular household trash. Better yet, look for a prescription take-back event in your community to deposit old and unused medications safely.
• Get a rain barrel to catch runoff from roofs and downspouts to use in the garden or during dry spells for your foundation plantings. Decorating your own rain barrel also provides a bit of whimsy for your home and yard, and can be a family activity.
• Install CFL or LED bulbs in your lighting fixtures. Costs are coming down for these bulbs, and the long-term benefit will save energy, as well as overall costs. And think of the time and effort saved changing the bulbs in your stairwell. One CFL can last 10 years or more. A CFL I installed in our stairwell in 2000 finally gave out in 2012!
• Keep a close eye on your thermostat. A degree or two up or down can make a big difference in your monthly energy bill. Granted, as winter creeps toward spring, it is difficult to accommodate an 80 degree day followed by 40 degree days, and back up to 80 during the same week. Find your comfort level, set it, and avoid the temptation to adjust too often.
You probably have many more green ideas that can be implemented on St. Patrick’s Day, or any day. It takes very little effort to go green, and the rewards are both tangible and intangible. Lower bills are great, but doing something good for the environment can be even more satisfying.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.