The so-called backpack mail for parents of elementary and middle school students is being phased out in favor of an electronic system, following a successful pilot program, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
The system, called Peachjar, is specifically designed for schools. It sends electronic flyers to parents’ email inboxes, thus cutting costs and staff time that would otherwise be spent making paper copies and distributing them.
The new system is being rolled out to all elementary and middle schools “over the next few weeks,” Bellavia said.
Families can request that they keep receiving paper copies and paper flyers will be posted on school bulletin boards. Otherwise, there are a number of options for electronic delivery.
“Parents can access the flyers via weekly email notifications they receive, by checking the school’s website, or accessing flyers on the APS Mobile App,” said Bellavia. “Families like the Peachjar option because electronic copies stay online for at least 30 days, and are linked directly to the organization’s website where they can access more information or directly sign up for programs electronically, which is more convenient than keeping track of paper copies and following up on advertised services.”
The pilot program took place at six elementary schools and one middle school last fall and of the families surveyed about it, 86 percent said they wanted to keep the new system instead of returning to backpack mail, according to APS. Nonprofit organizations and PTAs also participate in backpack mail and APS received an enthusiastic response from them.
“More than 100 nonprofit organizations who participate in our backpack mail program were surveyed, and only one respondent indicated a desire to return to backpack mail,” said Bellavia. “APS, schools and PTAs can use the service for free, and nonprofit organizations pay a nominal fee that is less costly than making copies, to distribute their flyers electronically to families. Our PTAs are excited about the service because they can use it for free to distribute their flyers, saving time and the expense of printing paper copies.”
“This program supports the APS commitment to its core value of sustainability, and many families, community members and staff have urged APS to find a paperless (environmentally friendly) alternative to backpack mail,” Bellavia noted.
High schools do not have backpack mail and thus are not slated to get the new system. After the jump, a video about Peachjar.
Year-round yard waste collection is coming to Arlington
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a measure that will provide curbside collection of yard waste year round for Arlington households.
The new service is expected to divert up to 9,000 tons of compostable materials from trash collection and raise the county’s recycling rate, which is already the highest in the region.
While Arlington’s solid waste rate remains the lowest in the region, the yard waste collection will ultimately cost homeowners an extra $47 per year.
Critics have said that the extra cost will hurt already-burdened Arlington homeowners. Critics also say that the extra trucks required to haul the yard waste may produce more greenhouse gasses than are saved by not sending the yard waste with other trash to a waste-to-energy plant, as is current practice.
The county’s press release about year-round yard waste collection, after the jump.
If so, then the Arlington Farmers Market in Courthouse has just the fleshy bottom-feeder for you, starting tomorrow.
The weekly farmers market, which runs on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon in the parking lot at the intersection of N. Courthouse Road and 14th Street N., is adding blue catfish to its offerings.
In a press release, farmers market operator Community Foodworks says blue catfish tastes “delicious.” Knowing that eating it will help rid the Chesapeake Bay of an invasive pest will make it taste even better. Plus, for every pound of blue catfish bought at the farmers market, a portion will be donated to local anti-hunger groups.
The Arlington Farmers Market, located at Courthouse Plaza for over 35 years, is joining forces with Charlottesville-based fisherman Zac Culbertson, of Cold Country Salmon, and Maryland’s Wide Net Project to introduce residents to the joys of eating wild blue catfish as the best way to support local fishermen, eliminate invasive species and combat hunger.
Introduced to certain Virginia tributaries in the 1970s for recreational fishing, the blue catfish (ictalurus furcatus), North America’s largest, now outnumbers other fish 3-to-1 in bay tributaries. The Wide Net Project was founded to turn the plentiful, delicious fish into an affordable source of protein for both anti-hunger relief and paying customers. For every pound of catfish Arlington Farmers Market customers purchase, WNP will donate one portion to local anti-hunger organizations such as Miriam’s Kitchen and Martha’s Table.
As part of its mission to support regional food producers, Arlington Farmers Market recruited Culbertson, who runs a small acreage farm and travels to Bristol Bay, Alaska every summer to net salmon from a biologist-managed, sustainable fishery on the Ugashik River. Culbertson returns his “Beyond Sushi Grade” salmon, which is frozen immediately after catch, to Virginia where he produces salmon spread, salmon cakes, salmon animal treats, spices, and glazes.
Beginning November 7 at Arlington Farmers Market, Culbertson will sell Wide Net Project blue catfish, his wild salmon and salmon products and Virginia oysters from Seaford Oyster Company in Seaford, VA.
Photo by Flickr user rbairdpccam, via Chesapeake Bay Program
Residents in Arlington’s Penrose neighborhood are claiming that recent trimming by Dominion Power contractors injured trees that line the streets.
They are especially concerned with a White Oak tree on the corner of 8th Street S. and S. Veitch Street, which dates back to before the Civil War, said Terri Armao, chair of the Penrose Neighborhood Association’s Environmental Committee.
“They brutally attacked it yesterday,” Armao said. “I can’t even tell you what they did to it.”
Limbs were cut from the middle where the power line ran though, leaving a gap and causing the tree to look like a giant “V.” Residents had previously asked Dominion not to touch the tree because of its old age.
“I mean it is ridiculous. For a tree they weren’t supposed to touch, they touch a V out of it,” Armao said.
Margaret Alvord, a Penrose resident, attempted to stop the contractors from cutting into the tree, after receiving a call from a neighbor. The tree had been pruned three weeks ago and was still recovering, Alvord said.
“So I jumped up and went up the street in my car,” Alvord said. “I parked my car and they had already begun… and I asked them to stop. I said, ‘this tree is a very old tree.'”
The workers told her to go talk to the supervisor, and when she talked to him, he told her it was the workers’ job to clear the trees from the lines.
“He basically said its our job to clear the lines. And they have to go 10 feet from lines,” Alvord said.
Dominion workers trim trees in order to keep them off of the power lines, said Chuck Penn, a media specialist with Dominion. The trimmings help to keep the power on during storms.
“Our mandate is to provide safe and reliable service to our customers,” he said.
The company respects the resident’s love for the trees and try to balance keeping the trees and providing service, Penn said.
“I cannot overemphasize enough the empathy we bring to our pruning,” he said. “People love their trees and we respect that.”
All Dominion foresters are certified arborists, Penn said. Trees are trimmed every three to four years to maintain the power lines.
“It’s a delicate balance we don’t take lightly,” Penn said. “We respect our customers and our trees.”
The White Oak is important to the neighborhood for its environmental impacts as well as its age, Armao said. For instance, the tree provides shade for the elderly resident that lives in the house next to it.
White Oaks are also known for their support of different species. A White Oak produces acorns, which can be used by 180 other species, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.
“They’re one of those keystone trees,” Armao said.
Dominion does not have a policy for trees that have historic value, Penn said. The company does use the foresters when determining when a tree is a “danger” tree and needs to be trimmed.
Neighbors looked through the tree branches for squirrel and bird nests. They found squirrel nests but did not find any traces of live animals in the tree limbs.
Trees were also trimmed on S. Veitch Street and between S. Wayne and S. Adams, Alvord said.
“Our concern is that they are overly trimming trees we’d really like to save,” she said.
Tomorrow is Earth Day, and in honor of the 45th anniversary of the holiday dedicated to the environment, Arlington residents and workers can take part in several events around the county this week.
On the eve of Earth Day, this afternoon at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street), the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting an Earth Day scavenger hunt. From 3:00-5:00 p.m., teams will form to take pictures, find clues and solve puzzles, all with a goal of promoting sustainability. Registration is required for the event, and those interested can email to sign up.
Tomorrow, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District is providing its annual planting clinic. At the Plaza on 19th — the small public space at the corner of N. Moore and 19th Streets — from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the BID’s landscaping contractor will give demonstrations on how to plant your own garden and maintain it. Attendees will be able to take home a potted plant of their own, and one of Rosslyn’s food trucks will be on hand for the hungry planters.
On Saturday, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., George Mason University’s Arlington campus is throwing a “Go Gaga for Green” event. There will be a silent auction for rain barrels decorated by Arlington Public Schools students, a lip-sync battle, green-themed food and drink and a raffle. Tickets are $25 and free for APS families and staff. Proceeds will benefit the Arlington County Council of PTAs’ scholarship fund, GMU’s Early Identification Program, which funds first-generation college students and Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment’s Energy Masters Program.
For more environmentally themed events this week and in the future, you can visit Arlington’s website.
(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) Over the next week, Arlington residents have two chances to take one more step in spring cleaning: recycling household goods and electronics.
This Saturday, Arlington is hosting its biannual E-CARE recycling event at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road), allowing residents to dropoff hazardous household goods to be disposed of responsibly.
The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. According to Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services, these are the items residents can bring and have recycled:
- Automotive fluids
- Car care products
- Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)
- Corrosives (acids/caustics)
- Fire extinguishers
- Flammable solvents
- Fluorescent tubes
- Fuels/petroleum products
- Household cleaners
- Lawn and garden chemicals
- Paint products (25-can limit)
- Photographic chemicals
- Poisons (pesticides)
- Propane gas cylinders (small hand-held or larger)
- Swimming pool chemicals
Explosives and ammunition, medical wastes, asbestos, freon and radioactive materials are among the items Arlington won’t accept. Residents can also bring small metal items like pots and pans, computer monitors and old TVs, keyboards, scanners and phones to be recycled.
Next Wednesday, April 22 — on the 45th anniversary of Earth Day — the Crystal City Business Improvement District will hold a recycling event of their own, more focused on electronics and office supplies.
The annual Power Purge and Shred is from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. next Wednesday at 1900 Crystal Drive. Unwanted documents and electronics will be recycled and, if you so choose, the former will be shredded and destroyed. There’s also a “hard drive crusher” on site, allowing you to “watch your data storage device be rendered useless,” the BID says on its website.
The Purge and Shred will accept batteries, old electronics — including monitors and microwaves — and will accept old, incandescent light bulbs. In exchange for the old lightbulbs, the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy will give recyclers a new LED bulb.
Crystal City’s Power Purge has recycled nearly 140 tons of electronics since the event’s inception. This year, the event will also include a photo contest, with a free class at the nearby TechShop as the prize.
Both sites will be accepting old bikes and donating them to Bikes for the World, which takes old, used bikes and repairs them, giving the new and improved bicycles to impoverished people overseas.
Image via Arlington County. Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
Arlington County officials promoted the Community Energy Plan approved last year in an online video released this week.
The plan, adopted in June 2013 after 15 months of community meetings, was designed to improve energy use through 2050 and set a national standard, County Board Chair Jay Fisette says in the eight- minute clip.
“A community energy plan is the next chapter of Arlington’s sustainability story,” Fisette says.
Officials explain how the county has reduced energy use in public buildings, including in the Central Library, where upgrades to lighting and other technology have cut usage by 25 percent since 2007.
Businesses and homeowners need to do their part, as the private sector accounts for 96 percent of the county’s energy use, said Community Energy Coordinator Rich Dooley.
“We’re looking at potential financial incentive programs for commercial building owners to try to get them to do more energy efficiency and renewable energy projects,” Dooley says.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will lead an effort to clean up the shoreline at Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary near Crystal City tomorrow (Thursday).
The Department of the Interior oversees the National Park Service, which is in the middle of a process of environmental and access enhancements to the sanctuary and to Gravelly Point Park, across the George Washington Parkway from the sanctuary. To help out with that project, Jewell and volunteers from AmeriCorps and the Student Conservation Association will plant “native wetland species,” remove invasive plants and clean up trash from the sanctuary’s shoreline.
The program will start at 11:30 a.m. and the cleanup efforts will go until 4:00 p.m. The cleanup is meant to not only help with the ecosystem of Roaches Run, but also to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as part of the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance.
“The day is going to be commemorating 9/11 and recognizing the importance of giving back to the community through hands-on service work,” SCA events manager Lori Robertson told ARLnow.com. “Because it’s so close to such an urban area and really close to the parkway, [Roaches Run] has been neglected over time. [The NPS] is trying to rehab and restore its health.”
The event is also part of Jewell and Interior’s youth initiative. About a third of the Interior Department’s staff will be eligible to retire within the next five years, according to Jewell. As a result, the department is looking to recruit young people who can be the nation’s future stewards of public lands.
“I’ve had the privilege of being out on many service projects in the outdoors with young people,” Jewell says in a video about the initiative. “One thing that strikes me is, when they get their hands dirty working on the land, when they make a difference and they build a segment of trail, they never look at that place in the same way.”
Photo via Google Maps
There will be six “pit stops” in Arlington tomorrow — five during the morning commute and one in the afternoon — that have music, free food and beverages, giveaways and bicycle vendors. According to BikeArlington, more than 10,000 people participated in the event last year.
“Arlington County celebrates biking every day,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “The County is a great place to get around by bike with more than one hundred miles of multi-use trails, on-street bike lanes and designated bike routes. Even if you don’t own a bike, Capital Bikeshare is a convenient option with 69 stations in Arlington and more throughout the region.”
The event will be held rain or shine, but those biking might want to pack a poncho just in case: the National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for this afternoon into tomorrow morning, and forecasts are calling for a 100 percent chance of rain.
Below are the times and locations for Arlington’s pit stops tomorrow. You can register to participate online:
- Rosslyn (Rosslyn Gateway Park, 1300 Lee Highway — 6:30-9:00 a.m.)
- Ballston (FreshBikes Bike Shop, 3924 Wilson Blvd — 6:30-9:00 a.m.)
- Crystal City (Crystal City Water Park, 1750 Crystal Drive — 7:00-9:00 a.m.)
- Columbia Pike Penrose Square (2503 Columbia Pike — 6:30-9:00 a.m.)
- East Falls Church Metro Station – Morning (2001 N. Sycamore Street — 6:30-9:30 a.m.)
- East Falls Church – Afternoon (Tri360 Bike Shop: W&OD Trail at Washington Blvd and Lee Highway — 4:00- 7:00 p.m.)
Bike to Work Day is a part of National Bike Month, and, in honor of the month, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association is offering free classes this weekend, hoping to educate those less confident in their cycling abilities so they become bike commuters. The classes will be held at the Arlington Central Library parking deck (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Also announced this month: Capital Bikeshare is now selling daily, monthly and annual memberships at Arlington Commuter Stores, and those buying memberships can use their keys the same day.
The Board on Tuesday passed a request to advertise a plan to have the county begin conducting year-round yard waste collection starting July 1. Each household’s annual Solid Waste Rate would increase by $13.28 per year, bringing the total to $307.04 annually, to pay for the change.
As part of the change, the county will give each household a new cart for the yard waste. The carts are expected to be rolled out in August or September.
“Residents will be able to place their grass, leaves or small brush — known as organics — in the new containers and then place it curbside for collection alongside their refuse and household recycling carts,” the county said in its press release. “The new carts will be green in color to help distinguish their function and will be accompanied by composting educational material from the County.”
The county expects the change to year-round yard waste to save about 9,000 tons of waste that will now be composted, increasing the county’s recycling rate by 13 percent. The Board first indicated it was considering this shift when it surveyed residents about composting last summer.
“Recycling yard waste year-round is an important program that promises to make a difference for our environment,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “Eliminating organics from the waste stream will move us toward setting and achieving a zero waste goal for future generations.”
Arlington’s air again received an “F” grade for smog from the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report, with days of high ozone pollution increasing over last year.
ALA’s last report in 2013 said that Arlington experienced an annual average of less than 10 days of smog that were “unhealthy for sensitive populations.” In the most recent study period, that number jumped to 11.2 days per year. A weighted average of four days is considered a passing grade.
However, the Lung Association says that Arlington received an “A” in its particle pollution grade, registering no 24-hour periods of unhealthy levels of particle pollution. Last year it received a “B” grade.
The D.C. area was the 8th-most polluted metropolitan area in the country, according to this year’s report, up from 9th last year and 14th in 2011. Los Angeles was again the most smog-filled metropolitan area.
Images via ALA
From 10:00 to 10:30 p.m., the students in Woodlawn’s Earth Force Group want everyone to dim or turn off unnecessary lights, and draw their shades or curtains to prevent light pollution. The half hour of observance coincides with Earth Day today, Arlington’s Green Expo on Saturday, International Dark Sky Week and, according to sixth-grader Samara Cathirell, “the peak migration of birds over our region.”
“Studies have linked various cancers to over-exposure to artificial lighting, including breast and prostate cancer,” said the Earth Force press release credited to Samara. “Some amphibians have been shown to come out later to feed and are missing their prey opportunities. Millions of birds die each year by flying into tall artificially lit buildings. Algae continues to grow excessively at night under the artificial lights polluting streams, and nitric oxides and C02 (a greenhouse gas) and SO2 are building up contributing to pollution.”
During the period of observance, residents are asked to go outside and enjoy what the Earth Force group hopes will be a starry night sky.
Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette will be a speaker this Thursday at the showing of a film that examines the impact that plastic bags and other plastic products have on the environment.
The film, called “Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?” will be presented at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. The event is hosted by Tap In Arlington, a grassroots organization campaigning against single-use plastic water bottles.
Fisette launched a “personal crusade” against plastic bottles last year, is a supporter of Tap In and debated a bottled water industry executive in January. Fisette will speak alongside the film’s director and star, Jeb Berrier.
In promotional material, the film is described as “touching and often flat-out-funny” and Berrier is said to be an “everyman… who is admittedly not a tree hugger.”
Tickets for the event are $10 at the door, or $5 for students and seniors.
New bio-retention basins have been built next to the classroom trailers — or “relocatables,” in Arlington parlance — at Abingdon and Nottingham elementary schools and at Washington-Lee High School.
A new video produced by Arlington Public Schools (above) explains how the basins work and why they’re necessary.
Updated Sept. 5 at 9:00 a.m.
Drivers of electric cars will soon be able to charge up in Clarendon.
The parking lot of the Walgreens Pharmacy at 2825 Wilson Blvd is the site of Arlington’s newest electric car charging station, and it will be operational in about a month.
The station has multiple charging ports for all types of electric cars, including one that charges some cars in 20 minutes. Those interested in using the chargers can buy a monthly subscription from eVgo, the company that owns the ports and is installing about 50 of them around the Washington area in the next several years.
A two-hour charger can be used for a $5-per-month subscription, while the 20-minute charger subscription starts at $20 per month.
There are already electric car charging stations at the Hilton Crystal City and Rosslyn Gateway buildings (part of a competing charger network), stations in Shirlington and at Pentagon Row, and stations in Vornado properties in Crystal City. The Clarendon station is eVgo’s first in the county.