Cabin John: Spotlight
Cabin John has a long-standing commitment to protecting the environment, with creek and river clean-ups and periodic eco-drives being an integral part of our community. The long-standing presence of the Bethesda Coop in our community has increased awareness and understanding of environmental issues and the Cabin John Citizens Association (CJCA) also has a strong environmental ethic. However, the commitment to community-wide environmental initiatives reached a whole new level following the spring 2008 Scrap Metal Recycling Challenge between Cabin John and Carderock Springs.
Cabin John and the Metal Recycling Challenge
The two communities of over 1,300 homes competed to see who could recycle the most scrap metal in 7 weeks. The initiative was an enormous success -- over 17 tons of scrap metal was recycled, and, surprisingly, more than half of it was small household metals like old keys and broken scissors, things normally thrown away without a second thought.
The results of the Challenge were beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The County Council honored the Challenge with a proclamation in May 2008 which recognized “the environmental example set by the” effort. All segments of the community worked together to make it a success. The CJCA provided financial and general support, local businesses donated both money for purchasing yard signs and food for our final celebration, community youth canvassed every single home, and Boy and Girl Scout troops organized metal collections. Councilman Roger Berliner announced the winning community at the final celebration.
This initiative helped us realize how much we can do within the confines of our own community side-by-side with friends and neighbors, and the great satisfaction felt when one is able to give measurable results. Through feedback from residents, organizers realized that the initiative forced many of us to adopt small, permanent changes in the way we buy and use resources. The Challenge mobilized interest in Cabin John, as well as in neighboring communities, to pursue future initiatives.
The Formation of Green Neighbors
Following the Challenge, a group of residents from Cabin John and neighboring communities were motivated to start a community-based environmental group called Green Neighbors (GN). We realized that environmental problems such as global warming can be overwhelming, but we now could see that working within our own community was a manageable, effective way to work on them, and it was fun!
We define GN as “an evolving group of local residents who want to engage in community solutions to environmental problems, continue the greening of Cabin John and beyond, and have fun doing it!” Our initiatives are small, measurable, ongoing, and replicable, as well as able to engage all aspects of the community including youth and local businesses. We use our inter-community Green Page shared between local community newsletters, as well as our monthly Green Neighbors e-newsletter, for purposes of education, outreach, and communication.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Eight months after the Scrap Metal Recycling Challenge ended, residents of Cabin John and neighboring communities continue to actively recycle over 300 pounds of scrap metal per week at drop-off points in Cabin John and Carderock Springs. The metal is being collected and recycled by a few residents. Hundreds of neighbors have signed a petition asking the Montgomery County Solid Waste Division to do a trial of weekly scrap metal recycling collections at the Bethesda Co-op. The petition was mailed to the County on December 8th.
Green Neighbors’ New Initiative: Petroleum-based Plastic Ban
In November 2008, Green Neighbors from Cabin John and Carderock Springs held a meeting on our new initiative, which is to get all Cabin John businesses to replace petroleum-based plastic bags, food, and beverage containers with a better alternative – and have GN distribute cloth bags to community residents -- by Earth Day 2009.
Alarming statistics led to our adoption of this initiative. Eighty percent of the trash collected in coastal clean-ups is plastic. The persistence of petroleum-based plastics is particularly evident in the growing ‘Garbage Patch’ in the Pacific Ocean which is over twice the size of Texas and consists of 7 billion pounds of plastic garbage. Of the half million albatross chicks born each year on Midway Atoll, half die of starvation, largely due to being fed plastic ocean debris mistaken for food.
Alternatives to petroleum-based plastics include reusable, biomass plastic, and paper. GN is now researching this initiative and developing the case we will present to both residents and local businesses as to why we should take on this initiative and how we suggest implementing it. Our next meeting will be held on January 15th. Please contact us if you are interested in participating: GN.firstname.lastname@example.org.