Mayor Vincent Gray is on the verge of unleashing an ambitious 20-year sustainability plan that aims to make Washington, DC the greenest and most innovative city in the U.S. The crux of the plan is to transform the way that District residents conceive of and use urban space, in order to make DC a happier and healthier place to live. Some of the proposed changes include making the city’s rivers fishable and swimmable, parking reduction, improved public transit and bike lanes, and improved waste and recycling policies.
While I applaud such measures, I cannot help but worry that the plan does not go far enough. I humbly offer the following amendments to Gray’s sustainability plan to achieve maximum greenness in the District of Columbia.
Champion river commuting
If the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers will indeed be swimmable, residents should be encouraged to transition toward an aquatic commute. Swimming to work cuts fuel emissions and saves money. It also encourages healthy lifestyles and decreases stress. Swim commuters must be conscious of boats, however – cutting off a boat when it has the right of way, or weaving between boats during rush hour will lead people to complain that “insane, privileged jerk swimmers ought to get out of the river.” For residents convinced that their boxy knitwear looks better dry, Fun Noodles and inner tubes can help keep them afloat.
Simplify food production and preparation
Community gardens, CSA baskets and farmers’ markets can increase resident access to organic produce. However, with the proper resources and training, DC residents can combine their desires to live sustainably and prepare sustenance creatively. By applying hundreds of kilojoules of heat to oxygen and hydrogen molecules, anyone can create the exothermic chemical reaction necessary to create their own water! Similarly, DC residents can produce their own salt by spooning water from the Atlantic Ocean into a dish and waiting until the water evaporates and leaves behind a salty film. Planning this activity is crucial, however, as walking or biking from the District to the Atlantic Ocean is time-consuming.
Develop innovative energy reduction models
Gray’s plan calls for a 50% energy reduction within 20 years. We can do even better. Instead of electricity, buildings can be powered by Environmental Studies interns running on rotating conveyer belts. Instead of microwaving leftovers for dinner, residents should make an effort to warm their food in the sun over the course of the day. Residents can also considerably decrease their carbon monoxide production by making a concerted effort to breathe less.
The DC sustainability plan intends to dramatically decrease the amount of waste generated by residents, and to strengthen existing recycling programs. Residents can help the government do this by altering their own patterns of usage. When buying a product sold in bulk, one can easily save a bag simply by cupping the food in their hands. By getting proper nutrients and staying healthy, citizens can develop strong immune systems that will decrease the likelihood of food poisoning, thus incentivizing them to eat more spoiled food and reduce food waste. Allowing garbage to simply go into a landfill is an inappropriate use of valuable space that could be converted to green space. Landfills that already exist need not languish and stagnate – these areas can easily be re-branded as play areas for children and dogs.
Remember, these are just a few steps toward true environmental sustainability in Washington, DC. Any little step makes a big impact. Something as simple as aggressively shaming a motorist, dominating conversations by asserting your hatred of processed food, or mass-emailing your friends links to every piece the New York Times runs on wind power could make a difference.
-A “reducing her carbon footprint by wearing painfully small shoes” Natalie