Green Picnic Challenge

By Francine Steininger

Washington, DC has been getting serious about reducing waste as part of its Sustainable DC 2.0/Zero Waste DC initiatives, and this year we in Burleith will embrace the opportunity to be part of that effort by introducing the Green Picnic Challenge.

We plan to tackle the waste reduction challenge from several angles:

  • Using compostable silverware, cups, and plates;

  • Clearly separating waste streams into recycle, waste, and compost (the latter of which will be handled by Veteran Compost; see their fact sheet for specifics);

  • Providing signage to explain what type of waste goes where;

  • Encouraging people to only put on their plates what they intend to eat;

  • Encouraging everyone to bring their own reusable water bottles or cups that can be refilled from our coolers; and

  • Letting you know ahead of time (via the Burleith Bell, this post, Facebook, and Twitter) what we plan to do so you can come prepared with your own water bottle/cup and be knowledgeable about where to throw your waste items when you finish eating.


After the picnic, we’ll report out how we did so we’ll have a benchmark to surpass next year. Please be part of our effort.

By the way, Julie Lawson, director of the Mayor's Office of the Clean City, will be at the picnic to informally connect with residents keen to learn about her office's work and how Burleith can address composting, recycling, and waste and litter reduction.

Prepare for the Picnic

  • Bring a reusable water bottle or cup

  • Take only the food you’ll eat—everyone should be in the clean plate club

  • Be mindful when disposing of trash—read the signs, or ask someone to help


But wait there’s more!

While many of us are still confused about recycling specifics and what really happens to everything we put in our blue and green bins, DC does have a lot of great information and opportunities for us citizens to reduce the flow of trash to landfills. While waste reduction, reuse, and recycling is not all quite effortless yet, for those of us who are willing to make some effort, it is possible to make a significant reduction in our contribution to landfill waste with the help of DC’s excellent resources.

We encourage you to visit the Zero Waste DC website to find out how, what, and where to recycle. It may not yet always be convenient to take advantage of all the opportunities to recycle in DC, but every small effort counts. For example, online you can read a thorough guide to what can be thrown into the recycle bin and what should be put in the waste bin or recycled in another way. Items that should be left out (like electronics, metals, plastic bags) can be taken to special recycling stations for those who are really enthusiastic about recycling. Most supermarkets (including our Safeway) have plastic bag recycle bins in their stores. Zero Waste DC’s “What Goes Where” button on its home page helps you find out where to take specialty items. The website even has a video game where you can practice determining what goes where. Reducing waste can and should be a family activity—make it fun!

A few recycling reminders for our blue bins

  • Don’t put plastic bags in your recycling; it clogs up the system. A great trick I use? Put them in your reusable grocery bags to help remember to take them to Safeway where there are plastic recycling bins upstairs at the parking level and at the top of the escalator.

  • Rinse out and dry (air dry is fine) containers before dumping in recycle bin.

  • Don’t put your recycles into a bag (unless it’s paper); leave loose.

And for those of you wondering if recycling is really worth it, WAMU did a deep dive into DC’s trash and recycling program with “Does Your Recycling Actually Get Recycled? Yes. Maybe. It Depends.” It’s worth a listen.