sustainability


by Sophia Knoll

The Montgomery County Planning Department is considering EcoDistrict concepts — based on three core principles of sustainability: environmental, social and economic — as part of  a 20-year plan for downtown Bethesda.

At a June 18 public meeting, Tina Schneider with the planning team and Otto Condon of ZGF Architects discussed how the Bethesda community can go about changing Bethesda for the better.

First off, they said that we must look at buildings, streets, and communities as a network that can seamlessly work together. According to Condon, everything within an EcoDistrict must be used for either retail, housing, office space, or culture and more importantly must focus on water and energy efficiency to “revitalize cities from neighborhoods up.”

Condon also mentioned that districts are the building blocks of sustainable cities, which has led the Montgomery County Planning team to divide Bethesda into four main districts in designing our own EcoDistrict.

In the second part of the meeting, people worked in groups of eight looking over maps of Bethesda and brainstormed over various goals, deciding which of the eight “Performance Areas” (Community Identity, Health and Well Being, Equitable Development, Habitats and Ecosystems, Materials, Water, Energy, and Access and Mobility) they would like to see associated within each district.

People offered their suggestions and ideas for the planning committee, which will move forward in creating a plan for the Bethesda EcoDistrict and submit it later this year to the County Council for approval.

For anyone who cares about Bethesda, it is important to get involved and become part of the process. Offer your ideas (send an email to bethesdadowntownplan@montgomeryplanning.org) and help ensure Bethesda’s future as an efficient, vibrant, and  environmentally friendly community.

Sophia Knoll is a Bethesda Green intern and a rising high school senior at Georgetown Visitation.

As students go back to school to start their spring semester, finding a summer internship is definitely on their to-do list, and now is the time when employers are looking for talented students to fill their organizational needs. So each year Bethesda Green hosts Fields of Green Internship Fair to connect highly qualified students who are looking for opportunities in the environmental sector with DC metro area’s green employers. Getting ready for the event this year, we decided to share a series of profiles about some of the amazing interns who have worked with us recently.

Megan Clark PhotoMeet Megan Clark. She is a junior at American University, studying Public Communication with minors in Marketing and Psychology. She has held several positions in sustainability-related fields because she is interested in making the world a greener place.

How did you hear about Bethesda Green? I heard about Bethesda Green through a position I held at American University’s Office of Sustainability. They told us about the Fields of Green Internship Fair where I learned about the internship positions available at Bethesda Green.

The best thing about interning at Bethesda Green…was getting to know the people that work there and getting involved in a multitude of projects. Every day was different, and I liked that there was always something new to learn.

What have you been up to since your internship at Bethesda Green? I just got back from studying European Sustainable Development in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the fall semester, which was a great experience, but now I am looking forward to getting further involved on my campus again at AU.

I am most passionate about my friends and family. These are the people that love and support me. Wherever I find myself in my future, I know that they will be by my side.

One thing you do to protect the environment? I always bring reusable bags to the grocery store, and I have my own recycling bin in my room in my apartment. Incorporating sustainability into my daily life is a huge priority for me.

Future goals/plans? My future plans for this year are to get more involved in service opportunities on my campus and expand my network. As for beyond this year, I am looking forward to pursuing different career opportunities and really getting my feet wet working in different fields. I would also like to travel back to Europe at some point and visit the places I haven’t been to yet such as London, Paris, Rome and Vienna!

BGnews_logoPoolesville Builds Solar Array

The Town of Poolesville recently completed construction of a 1.1 megawatt solar array station, according to an article published in The Monocacy Monocle, which will cover electricity costs for the Town Hall, the water treatment plant, and five pump stations.  Joyce Breiner, executive director of Poolesville Green, said, “This achievement places Poolesville as a true action leader within the county and state, and sets an example for others to follow.”

State of Green Business 2014

The State of Green Business 2014, the seventh annual assessment of corporate sustainability trends and metrics released Feb. 21 by GreenBiz.com, paints a mixed picture.  The good news is the continuing evolution of corporate sustainability practices.  The bad news is that despite documented advancements, U.S. green house gas emissions for the five-year period between 2008 and 2012 were essentially unchanged.

Click here for more information and to get a free copy of the report.

A Bright Energy Future

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius weighed in on the state of U.S. energy production and anticipated future trends.  Without taking a political position on hot-button issues related to mining shale oil or extracting natural gas via fracking, he does point out that increased production in those areas has led to significant reductions in the use of coal and related carbon dioxide emissions.

The Ignatius column also touts the rapid increase in solar and wind energy production as part of the positive overall energy portfolio for the country.

See America’s Energy Boom column.

Events

  • Green Drinks Happy Hour in Wheaton — Thursday, January 23, 5 – 8 pm, Limerick Pub, 11301 Elkin St., Wheaton, MD 20902.
  • Climate Reality: Now the Truth is more than just Inconvenient — Friday, January 24, 7 – 8:30 pm, a discussion with University of Maryland Professor Sara Via at the Brightwell Crossing Model Home in Poolesville.
  • Maryland Showcase of Sustainability – Monday, January 27, 8 – 11 am, Weston Annapolis. This interactive and engaging event brings together change agents from across the state — including Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman and the team from Doo Consulting — who have created exciting and innovative programs in their communities, businesses or industries. Their work will be an inspiration to some, a beacon to others, and a call to action to the rest.  Click here for more info.

BGnews_logoMaryland Showcase of Sustainability

Monday, Jan. 27
8 – 11 am
Weston Annapolis

This interactive and engaging event brings together change agents from across the state — including Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman and the team from Doo Consulting — who have created exciting and innovative programs in their communities, businesses or industries. Their work will be an inspiration to some, a beacon to others, and a call to action to the rest.  Click here for more info.

Montgomery County Sustainability Network

Tonight (Tuesday), Jan. 14
6 pm
Dawson’s Market Rockville

The newly formed Montgomery County Sustainability Network invites everyone to its first meeting this evening (Jan. 14), 6 pm at Dawson’s Market in Rockville.  For more information, click here.

Good Green Fun

Wednesday, Jan. 15
5:30 – 7:30 pm
Urban Butcher, Silver Spring

Silver Spring Green Happy Hour features “Salad Grazing: Healthy Livestock, People, & Planet” with a Tesla S on display.  For more information, click here.

News from GreenWheaton

GreenWheaton’s recent newsletter features 10 Green Tips compiled by Sara H. Brosnan: Use Less Energy When Heating Your Home and Other Winter Tips

By Alison WentzellBGgreennews_logo1

The Planet’s Budget Crisis

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their fifth comprehensive report on climate change.  One of the most frightening observations the panel made was that we have almost maxed out our carbon budget.  The burning of fossil fuels and dumping of carbon pollution into our planet’s oceans and atmosphere has taken its toll on our greenhouse gas emissions.

The carbon budget was developed to prevent us from exceeding the amount of fossil fuel we can burn before exceeding the tipping point.  If we continue at our current rate, we would only be able to last another 15 years before having to stop burning fossil fuels altogether.

Scientists can no long ignore the drastic changes we have seen because of climate change.  With 95% of scientists agreeing that climate change is caused by human industrialization and pollution, climate change deniers are struggling to come up with reasons to prevent action.  Despite the grim news about our planet’s health, there is a silver lining.  The IPCC’s report could perpetuate more focus and spending on America’s environmental sector.  There is the potential to create new jobs in energy efficiency and clean energy, as well as in other areas of environmental concern.

See the Huffington Post column by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) for more on this topic.

Gas Exhaust Reduces Bees’ Ability to Find Flowers

Bees are a vital part in our ecosystems and are responsible for more than half of the food in your fridge.  However, bee populations are rapidly declining as concerns about food security rise at an increasing rate.  Scientists have mostly been studying the adverse effects of chemical pesticides on bees with the hopes that if we reduce or change pesticides we can get more bees to pollinate.  They have discovered that the chemicals have prevented bees from doing their job.

Unfortunately, bees are exposed to myriad pollutants and chemicals every day, many of which come from car exhaust.  Neuroscientist Tracey Newman, who worked on the study, explains, “We got into this because we were aware of the impacts of airborne pollutants on human health, so it didn’t seem so wild that there may be impacts that extended beyond human health.”

What she and her fellow scientists found was that the chemical odors given off by flowers got “lost” after reacting with exhaust fumes.  The loss of chemical odor from the flowers has hindered the bees ability to track the scents and procure nectar in the most efficient way.

Now the race to improve air quality no longer impacts human health, but bees’ health too.  If bees stop being able to gather nectar in the most efficient manner, then we also risk a severe reduction in food availability and biodiversity loss in ecosystems.

For more information, check out the BBC article here.

Events

Come meet Christy Nordstrom of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals and help create a local chapter of the organization.  This is a great opportunity for networking and opening conversations.

  • Pitch for Charity, October 10, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM, Washington Post Building,1150 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Come pitch your start-up at the CleanTech Southeast Open “Pitch for Charity” event.  If your pitch wins, $1000 will go towards the charity of your choice.  You only have 60 seconds, so make it smart, persuasive, and fast!

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on environmental politics, cultural aspects of the environment, and environmental conflict.

cardboard_box_clip_art_22876by Richard M. Goodman

When purchasing necessities or special gifts, deciding what items to buy based on its sustainable packaging can have a significant impact.

According to the Sustainability Packaging Coalition, the two most relevant sustainable packaging principles to the average consumer include:

  • Sustainable packaging optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials.
  • Sustainable packaging is physically designed to optimize materials and energy.

Let’s look at how to implement these two principles.  The recycling industry incurs big expense in their sorting operations to remove undesirable or toxic materials from the recycle stream.  If the packaging industry can create packaging that is easily sorted and not likely to introduce potential contaminants, then it makes the recycling industry’s job easier and ultimately reduces their costs. Proper on-package messaging from the packaging industry can help consumers help recyclers, which in the end helps the packaging industry.  Consumers should insist on greened packaging.

Paper-based packaging such as boxes, containers, cartons, sacks and bags are part of our everyday lives. Unlike other packaging options, paper-based packaging is made from trees – a renewable source that is sustainably grown, managed and harvested specifically for the paper industry – or from recovered fiber, allowing reuse of its products. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, paper-based packaging is recovered more than any other packaging material. Paper and paperboard represent more than 70 percent of all packaging recovered for recycling in the U.S. and, in 2011, 91 percent of old corrugated containers were recovered for recycling.

Another consideration involves the use of compostable materials for packaging. This can best be satisfied if the earth’s biosphere effectively recovers the nutritive value of the basic biological materials and no toxic or dangerous substances are released through any stage of the package’s lifecycle. It should be noted that the conditions for effective biological degradation do not exist in landfills and the release of problematic substances is a further concern. Managed composting and anaerobic digestion with energy recovery are examples of sustainable systems.

In summary, we should observe the following considerations when looking into the packaging of consumer goods:

  • Avoid overly packaged goods.
  • Look for packaging materials that are fully recyclable, including plastics with the recycle labels, aluminum, cardboard and paper.
  • Look for compostable materials and either use them in your own or neighborhood composts or put them into the recycling system.
  • Read the labels to be sure you are removing any potentially toxic materials from the recycling streams.

If we as consumers follow these guidelines we can help promote the use of sustainable packaging and help create a positive reinforcement to manufacturers to increase the use of these materials

Richard M. Goodman, PhD, is a chemical scientist and consultant focusing on how surface science concepts can solve real world problems.  The periodic column considers aspects of sustainability from a scientific perspective. See Goodman’s profile with Association of Consulting Chemists and Chemical Engineers (ACC&CE) at www.chemconsult.org

BreezBee® Wind Panel

BreezBee® Wind Panels (Photo by Altenera Technology)

by Dan Kulpinski

Wind does more than make turbines spin: It also causes objects to vibrate. What if the energy in those vibrations could be tapped to generate electricity, using a method that is silent and has no moving parts?

Altenera Technology, a Bethesda Green incubator company, is developing a new device to do just that. Their modular BreezBee® Wind Panel prototype holds many “reeds” that vibrate in the wind. By utilizing a magnetic field, the device transforms the vibrational energy into an electric current.

The reeds can be assembled in panels of any shape and size, which can be connected together like Legos. The panels are light and have no moving parts — both big plusses in cities.

“It’s really the first, practical wind solution that’s good for residential locations because it doesn’t have rotating parts,” said Chase McCarthy, chief business development officer. “You can use sites that never would have been considered for wind before with this wind panel, because it’s small, light and silent.”

Because tall buildings create unusual wind patterns, there’s plenty of opportunity for small-scale wind power in urban areas. “You have very turbulent wind conditions in cities,” said McCarthy.

Altenera’s wind panels could go atop roofs, or form a kind of webbing in the framework of municipal sites such as bridges and water towers, or be used in mobile arrays for military or other purposes.

Chief Technology Officer Morris Kaplan proved the concept when he built a reed-like power source for sensors in remote, hard-to-access industrial equipment. Since beginning work on the technology, he’s filed two patents for Altenera and registered the BreezBee® trademark.

Solar house with BreezBee® Wind Panels

Solar house with BreezBee® Wind Panels. (Image by Altenera Technology)

“Although we’re competing with small turbines, our model is really closer to solar’s,” said Kaplan, who is an internationally recognized researcher in the modeling, design and fabrication of various mechanical and electro-optical components. “We use the same infrastructure and same electronics as solar. We think of the panel as a missing link between utility wind farms and the residential, solar panel market.”

In fact, the wind panels complement solar panels and could be easily installed by solar power companies at the same time they put solar on a roof.

As a start-up company, Altenera seeks to put some financial wind in its sails. “We’re building early-stage prototypes and looking for funding to take it to the final stage,” said McCarthy.

Dan Kulpinski is a freelance writer who covers environmental science and sustainability topics.

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