Working for a More Sustainable Mount Rainier Maryland

Category: Green & Health Living (The Message)

Don’t Throw Out The Trash… Can

When September ends every house will be getting a new 65 gallon rolling recycling cart and a new 45-gallon trash cart. Later, you won’t be able to use yellow bins for recycling or any old cans for trash unless you qualified to opt out or they work with the trash truck lift. So, what do you do with those old cans you can’t use anymore?

For social media - reusecansFor one, you can have them taken away as part of the rollout and there will be more from the City on that later. But, reuse is the greenest choice, so the Green Team has some options for you – just don’t forget to clean them out before reusing!

Let’s get creative, Mount Rainier. The Green Team will be giving away prizes for creative trash can reuse!


1. New Planter. Metal or plastic trash cans without a lid can be used as a planter both indoors or outdoors. Drill a hole in the bottom for proper drainage. Pro-tip: If you are not sure yet where you’d like to place your new trash can planter, fill the bottom with plastic bottles before you fill it with potting soil. Also, Larger trashcans make ideal containers for root vegetables, or any plant that has a long or deep root system, such as potatoes.

barrel2. Rain Barrel. A metal or plastic trash can be used to collect rain water, help provide free water for watering your garden, and prevent excess runoff in big storms. There are plenty of different ways to craft a trash can into a rain barrel. At this time, you cannot apply for a Rain Check Rebate if you use your trash can as a rain barrel. This tutorial from has a good rundown of you’ll need/how to repurpose your trashcan as a rain barrel:
mulch3. Yard waste/mulch container. Instead of purchasing bags upon bags at Home Depot or Lowe’s, why not use your now outdated trash can to store and put out yard waste on Mondays? Plastic cans might be easier to repurpose for this use. Another option: use it to collect free mulch from the County when they have their free mulch days every spring.
compost4. Compost bin. Turning a trash can into a compost bin is a great way to upcycle your trash can while also providing useful compost for your garden. You can use a metal or plastic trash can for this. A drill will likely be needed. This link can give you tips on how to create a compost bin in this fashion:
storage5. Storage. Need a bin to store things in? Whether it be outdoor tools, pet food, children’s toys, or even a clothes hamper, look no further than your current metal trash can! For tools, just clean it out and put them in. For pet food, clean it out and line it with a plastic bag or paper – or simply store the economy sized bags in it. For clothes hamper/children’s toy bin, clean it out, line it with cute fabric, decorate the outside and voila!
furniture6. Furniture. Another option is to turn your metal trash can into an artistic piece of furniture – an end table, a main table, or some other design. This one is a little trickier to do yourself, but some good places to look for inspiration could be Community Forklift, Tanglewood Works, and Pinterest!

Enter how you re-purposed your trash can: by December 31, 2018 to win.

NOTE: Make sure you wait until you don’t need your old cans for trash though before you re-purpose them!

Capital Bikeshare is Here


You may have noticed some shiny new red bikes at the Park and Ride on Perry and 35th Street.  That is one of the first five Capital Bikeshare Stations in Prince George’s County. It opened on May 18th and should be the first of three stations in Mount Rainier.

Capital Bikeshare, CaBi for short, allows you to rent bikes for short trips as long as you are headed somewhere in the DC area with a CaBi station.  CaBi is a great way to try out biking in the city, an affordable way to commute, and good exercise. Some employers even offer commuting benefits for CaBi users.

So you wanna ride – what do you do?   

  1. Join online at or buy a short-term pass at a kiosk.
  2. Find a bike nearby, and get a ride code or use your bike key to unlock it.
  3. Take as many short trips as you want while your pass or membership is active.
  4. Return your bike at any station and make sure it is locked up.

Some nearby CaBi stations you may want to head to:

  1. Brookland Metro Station
  2. Rhode Island Ave. Metro Station
  3. Downtown Hyattsville
  4. Woodbridge Library
  5. The Arboretum
  6. Any other station mapped here –
  7. And … in the future, the two stations planned for Kaywood and PG Pool

Get your ride on Mounties!



Welcome to #GREENisLIFE

Attention Greenies & Greenettes – March is headed out like a lamb and it’s officially showtime!

Another mild yet brutal winter season is over and the spring growing season is upon us!  A new beginning to reflect on those past failures, successes, or squandered opportunities, and dive into your 2018 gardening/farming/urban agriculture goals.  Green Thumb Diet starts NOW!

In this spirit of the season, the Mount Rainier Green Team has been brewing, or *composting*, some pretty exciting projects around our town’s impressively robust local agriculture scene.

Back in December for the first episode of our newly launched Q&A Video Series #GREENisLIFE, we sat down with urban farmer mastermind Brian Massey, and chatted on food policy, the role quality food plays in educating our youth, and the ins and outs of his fully sustainable, off-the-grid urban homestead here in town where he raises his family.  You can watch the video on our new youtube channel:

But #GREENisLIFE was way too big of a concept to limit to the video series – so we are also proud to announce a Green Team #GREENisLIFE Live workshop series!  This workshop series will take place in conjunction with the M-NCPPC Mt. Rainier Nature Center at the 2018 Spring Greening Fair & Expo on Saturday April 14th from 12:30-5:00 pm (

2018 Spring Greening Fair & Expo

Mark Your Calendar!  On April 14 from 12-5pm, the Mount Rainier Nature Center and the Mount Rainier Green Team will be hosting the 2018 Spring Greening Fair and Expo.

The event will be full of vendors with sustainable goods and information to put you in the know about green issues. This family friendly event will feature games and fun for kids. And this year there will be something new: exciting workshops on how how to live more sustainably and maybe even save yourself money by living green.

New vendors and groups are still signing up every day, but here is who we already expect.


  • Community Forklift
  • Designed Naturally
  • The Pennington Candle Co
  • Silk Reincarnations
  • Pollinator Master Gardeners Liz and Jerry
  • Ancestral Knowledge
  • Junk2Jems
  • Recycled Bag Lady
Events for Kids

  • Alpaca Joy
  • Ray Lockamy Farm
  • Clearwater Nature Center Birds of Prey
  • Blue Sky Puppet Theater
  • Park Rangers

  • Groundswell – Solar
  • CBTrust – Rain Barrels
  • Judy’s Composting

  • Anacostia Watershed Society
  • Chesapeake Children’s Museum
  • MD Dept of the Environment
  • Prince George’s Audubon Society
  • WSSC


For more information contact


Who Needs Air Conditioning Anyway?

Many homes in Mount Rainier were built in the early 1900’s before air conditioning really existed. This month we’ll learn how one resident, Jodi-beth, and her family still lives comfortably without the AC – saving money while also being green.

First her family insulated their small attic space, the walls, and the basement and sealed up leaks in the foundation. You want to keep the cool air inside. An energy audit, like we talked about in January, is helpful to figuring out where you need insulation.

Then they make sure to keep the blinds closed on sunny days which limits the sun’s heat. You can even find blinds or curtains designed to reflect the sun’s light in the summer to add the effect.

They also installed a whole house fan in an upstairs window, which they turn on at night once the outside temperature is cooler than the inside temperature. In the morning they turn it off in the early morning and close all the windows to keep the cooler air in the house through all of the day. You might not have even realized that many houses in town were designed to use a staircase in the center of the house to assist helping the hot air flow through an upstairs window.

Finally, they installed a heat pump water heater in the basement. It heats water year round by taking the heat out of the air to heat water and then blows out cold air. It serves as an air conditioner in the insulated basement – and all for the cost of heating water.

But is it worth it? It indeed is. In the hot of summer they would only have an electric bill of about $75 per month if they didn’t have solar panels lowering their bill even more. And even if you don’t think you can give up the AC cold turkey, you can do all of these things anyway to lower the amount the AC needs to work when it is on.

Bandalong, What’s That?

bandalong-pictureAs the weather warms up many of us will wind up near the Anacostia River or one of its tributaries.  You may notice that there is often lots of trash in it. There is no way we can have a swimmable, fishable, drinkable river if we can’t stop it from being trashed.  That is why in 2010 under the Clean Water Act, EPA, Maryland and Washington, DC established a limit on trash in the Anacostia. The limit, called a TMDL, was set to bring trash levels to zero.  That’s no trash what so ever.

Our local governments have been doing a lot to solve this problem.  Prince George’s County and Washington, DC have both banned styrofoam, and DC has also taxed plastic bags, but that only gets you so far.  Trash still finds it way into the river.

Of course most Mounties aren’t litterbugs, but that doesn’t mean all trash gets thrown out properly and some of that litter gets washed into the rivers during big rain storms.

That is where the Bandalong Litter TrapTM comes in.  The Bandalong is a type of floating trash trap that gets installed on a stream and catches the trash.  Since the Bandalong floats and trash floats it can collect the trash while fish can still get under it.

Prince George’s County Department of the Environment in partnership with Anacostia Riverkeeper through a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust will be installing the first trap in Prince George’s County under the bridge under 31st Street by Richardson Park.  The bandalong will likely be installed this spring and there will be an event to kick off the clean up so stay tuned. The trap will be inspected and cleaned out regularly but the Green Team is also interested in finding residents to help clean it up once or twice a year, email if interested in helping.

Keep Warm and Spend Less

As temperatures drop over the winter, there is one thing that keeps going up and up and up: heating costs.  Whether you use electric, oil, or gas to heat your home, staying warm over the winter means bills can increase. And with our hundred-plus year homes in Mount Rainier, much of that heat leaks out and goes to waste.

But there are small things each household can do to reduce that waste and save money. The easiest step is is to make sure you have a programmable thermostat.  A basic programmable thermostat allows you to set different temperatures for morning or daytime or evenings. This should save you 10% on your monthly bills and only costs about $50.  That means you’ll save more than the cost of the thermostat in just one winter.

Next up are retrofits. First off you should get an energy audit to learn what weatherization your home could benefit from.  We recommend finding an auditor that does not also retrofit so you get an independent opinion. After you get your audit you will know whether you need insulation, sealing, new windows, etc. and what kind of energy and financial savings you could expect.

Energy retrofits can be pricey up front but you will make the investment back from the savings in your energy bills in 5-10 years.  The upfront costs can be daunting especially if you have a tight budget, but that is all of the more reason to save on heating and there are resources to help.

The City of Mount Rainier participates in Maryland Energy Administration‘s EmPOWER Maryland program (url: through the Prince George’s County Municipal Collaboration. Mount Rainier residents may be eligible for home weatherization and retrofits FREE to them, based on the household income. For more information, contact Alison Miller at (301) 908-4079 or James Flynn at

Another potential resource is the BeSMART program from the Dept. of Housing and Community Development (phone: (301) 429-7402, web:, which provides loan and incentive programs to help homeowners make their homes more efficient.

There and many opportunities for assistance with energy efficiency to help both keep warm and save money this winter.

How To Stop Phone Book Deliveries

indexA few months ago I came home to a soggy phone book in a plastic bag thrown into the bushes near my porch steps. I was surprised to receive a phone book since I don’t even have a landline. If you are like me, I threw the book straight into the recycling bin. Most of us remember a time when phone books were extremely useful before the internet. It is how we found friends’ or businesses’ phone numbers. But today most of us look up numbers online and have friends’ numbers saved in our phones.

So why do we still get phone books? Apparently companies have fought regulations to phase out phone books, specifically the yellow pages, because they contain ads that make these companies money.

According to the nonprofit, in order to print the over 500 million phone books every year distributed in the US companies use over:

  • 19 million trees;
  • 1.6 billion pounds of paper;
  • 7.2 million barrels of oil; and
  • 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

Yuck! Thats a lot of resources to make something that often just gets thrown out.

In the end, municipalities pay millions of dollars to trash or recycle stacks of books. Several municipalities and states are fighting phone book deliveries but currently almost every household gets a phone book each year.

There is good news though. You can opt out by visiting

It is simple to do and will help the environment.


In the meantime, if you get an unwanted phone book delivered at your house, please remember to remove the plastic bag and then put your phone book in the recycling bin. Plastic bags cannot be recycled in Mount Rainier’s curbside recycling.


The “Stryofoam” Ban

indexJust three days before we celebrated America’s independence, PG County initiated our freedom from a lesser know menace: expanded polystyrene (EPS), more well known by a certain brand name, styrofoam.

EPS is often used in cups to serve hot beverages, carry out food, or package goods for transport (in peanut form). But it’s not economical to recycle EPS so it end up in landfills where it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade. Even worse, styrofoam often just winds up as litter on our city streets and parks, where it is an eyesore and a great water-collecting mosquito breeding ground. Wherever EPS goes, it leaches into our water system and can poison fish, birds, sea turtles, etc.

The new rule means that businesses, particularly restaurants, cannot legally provide EPS to customers. The exceptions are when food is prepared off site,  prepackaged, or raw meat. PG County has started a massive outreach to business but not everyone may have gotten the memo. That’s where you come in. If you order take out in PG County and still get styrofoam containers, there are several things you can do:

  1. Tell the business about the ban. They just might not know.
  2. Call PG County 311, visit, or use the CountyClick311 app to submit a complaint.
  3. If all else fails, order elsewhere.


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