Washington, DC goes green-ish

While Congress has turned anti-science and anti-environmental, the district itself, however, is making small strides in becoming a greener city. Its residents are sharing bikes, eating locally grown fruits and vegetables, and working in some of the greenest buildings in the country.

This CAP cross-post describes a few of the initiatives Washington, D.C. is undertaking in a quest for a cleaner future.

The bag tax

Deemed controversial by some, the district implemented a 5-cent bag tax for paper and plastic bags given out by retail food establishments and liquor stores in January of 2010. Just three months after the tax went into effect, the number of bags given out dropped from a monthly average of 22.5 million bags to around 3 million bags.

The law encourages shoppers to use reusable bags that create less waste, and the revenue from the tax is being used to clean up the Anacostia River, recently named one of the most polluted rivers in the country. The tax raised $2 million for cleanup efforts in its first year.


Capital Bikeshare, D.C. joined the ranks of such cities as Paris, Barcelona, and Montreal last fall when it rolled out a bikesharing program called Capital Bikeshare. The program features 1,100 bikes stationed at 110 docks around D.C. and Arlington, Virginia, and it offers users one-day, five-day, one-month, and one-year memberships. Members can check out and return bikes to any station, which makes them a great alternative for commuting, running errands, or simply taking a bike ride around town””all without emitting harmful pollutants.  [SOURCE: Flickr/James D. Schwartz]

Green buildings

Washington, D.C. isn’t just home to monuments. It’s also home to some of the most impressive green buildings in the country.

The city leads the country in LEED-certified buildings per capita. It boasts among its many green architectural gems gleaming office buildings powered by wind energy, American University’s School of International Service and its number of record-setting environmentally conscious features, and even museums with roofs that maximize natural lighting, such as the one at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

D.C.’s baseball stadium, Nationals Park, was also the first LEED-certified major professional sports stadium in the country. The stadium was even erected on a former brownfield that once contained contaminated soil.

Eating local

Washingtonians are big fans of eating locally. Nearly every neighborhood from Dupont Circle to Bloomingdale to Mt. Pleasant has its own seasonal market, and locations such as Eastern Market offer locally grown fruits and veggies year round. There’s even a farmers market at the White House from May to October.

For those district residents who can’t make it out to one of the many markets around town, there are a number of farm-to-door delivery services such as Arganica that offer everything from fruits and veggies to meats, cheeses, and grains from local farmers and artisans””and even let you select your own groceries for each week’s delivery.

D.C. is setting a great example for cities nationwide on how to embrace policies for a greener, cleaner town””with or without support from its leaders on Capitol Hill.

– A CAP cross-post.

4 Responses to Washington, DC goes green-ish

  1. Derek Morr says:

    Don’t forget that Google Transit now includes Metro directions – Google and WMATA have been working on this for a few years.

  2. Ben says:

    In those first three months of the bag tax, did customers buy the same volume of goods? And on bike sharing, what about helmets?

  3. Richard says:

    Hi Ben – I imagine that the same volume of goods were bought. People have just taken to carrying reusable bags to the grocery. A neighboring county in MD has just enacted a similar 5 cent bag tax. In regards to helmets, they are not required by law, but they suggest that you use one for safety. What’s nice is that the city now has LOTS of bike lanes.

  4. San Francisco is also really doing its part. We all are required to compost. A large number of people use reusable bags. Even in the coffee industry, so many coffee roasters are using compostable coffee bags. While San Francisco is not as ahead as Portland using bikes in our daily transportation, many people are.