Identifying tips and practices for a more sustainable future



Washington, DC Department of Public Works Advances Sustainability

Washington, DC – The Washington, DC Department of Public Works (DPW) is leading many initiatives aimed at making the District’s neighborhoods safe, attractive and sustainable. Following passage of the city council’s Sustainable Solid Waste Management Amendment Act of 2014, DPW gained an Office of Waste Diversion (OWD) responsible for ensuring that DC meets a goal of diverting 80 percent of waste away from landfills and incineration. The target date for that goal will be determined through a zero-waste plan mandated by the legislation.

“The 80 percent goal is doable, but it will require significant leaps forward,” says DC DPW Director Chris Shorter. “For example, we want to move into curbside composting, but we need to identify a place to process the compost–either in the District and/or beyond. We’re also very interested in Pay/Save As You Throw models that have proven very successful in other cities whereby residents can save money as they produce less trash.”

Meanwhile DPW and OWD are taking steps toward increasing waste diversion, including hosting an organic waste summit in May 2016 and organizing a “Feeding the 5,000” event which attracted 6,750 residents and visitors who were educated about the issue of food waste while feasting on delicious food that would have otherwise ended up as waste. A Mayor’s List of Recyclables details 70 recyclable products that have been standardized across the residential and commercial sectors. This spring, DPW-sponsored composting drop-off sites are being established in each of the District’s eight wards and associated with farmers’ markets.

“DC’s population is growing by some 900 residents per month,” says Shorter. “For DPW, this means that we need to continue to provide all of our services to more people with approximately the same amount of money. I work with 1,400 incredibly dedicated employees. We’re all committed to providing equity to the District, so that all parts of the city look the same and have the same level of services. It’s a real pleasure to help DPW fulfill that commitment.”

In addition to waste diversion, as well as beautification efforts such as MuralsDC, DC Clean Alleys and the Great Graffiti Wipeout, DPW has a comprehensive winter maintenance plan that includes a more environmentally friendly approach to deicing roads. DPW mixes beet juice with salt to help the salt stick to the road, reducing runoff and the amount of salt that needs to be applied. DPW is also employing web-tech tracking of all snow plows–city or contractor owned–which allows the agency to determine their location, how much salt they’re using, and road conditions in real time. This same communication technology is now being applied to garbage and recycling trucks.

Tommy Wells, director of the DC Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), says that Director Shorter, who was appointed in 2015, has brought fresh energy and innovative thinking to DPW. “He’s looking at historic challenges through a new lens, including working with DOEE to identify areas that can be designated and planted as meadows rather than being mowed. His leadership has put DPW at the forefront of sustainable waste management, an integral element of the District’s ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions and increase resilience in the face of climate change.”

News article: Chris Shorter Brings Green Energy to DPW

For additional information:
Nancee Lyons, DC Department of Public Works,

For resources and tools related to sustainability, visit the Center for Sustainability (C4S) site and C4S Toolkit.