April 2009


Earth Day officially comes tomorrow, but already Bethesda Green has appeared at a full calendar of activities surrounding this year’s Earth Day celebrations.  Over the weekend, Executive Director Dave Feldman told our story at a Team Obama Earth Day House Party and helped clean up Little Falls creek.  Meanwhile, I joined a number of groups promoting eco-friendly products and services at the Fitzgerald Auto Mall in Gaithersburg for a Consumer Expo.

Now an auto dealership may seem an unlikely place to celebrate Earth Day, but the Fitzgerald folks are true champions of the environment.  They recycle over 80 percent of their waste — far above the Montgomery County goal of 50 percent — representing over 4 million pounds of materials.

Part of the showcasing crew at the FitzMall event included Susan Susanke (Sustainable Energy Strategies, Inc.), Laurie McKee and Dave Heffernan (Bethesda Green), and Pio Scarano (Washington Gas Energy Services).

Part of the showcasing crew at the FitzMall event included Susan Susanke (Sustainable Energy Strategies, Inc.), Laurie McKee and Dave Heffernan (Bethesda Green), and Pio Scarano (Washington Gas Energy Services).

In particular, I want to thank Purchasing Manager Jerry Roberts, who makes it his mission to keep the auto dealer as green as possible. For more info, see their Environment Management System.  In an industry not associated with being eco-friendly, the company sets a standard other dealers should emulate.

Other highlights of our Earth Day celebrations include joining a Green Drinks networking meet-up to rally support for improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Bethesda Green Drinks gathers April 22, 5:30 – 8 p.m. at the Redwood restaurant.  And on Saturday, April 25, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., look for us at the Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services event, 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville, which will include tours of the county’s award-winning Recycling Center.

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RSVP now for this Sunday’s Team Obama Earth Day House Party with Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman scheduled as a featured speaker.

Sunday, April 19, 2009 2:00 PM in downtown Bethesda

For directions and to register for the House Party, please visit:

http://my.barackobama.com/page/event/detail/gptwcc

BG Board Members Elizabeth LeVaca (Calvert Group) and Scott Ritter (Chevy Chase Bank), with BG Executive Director Dave Feldman and Cindy Powers.

BG Board Members Elizabeth LeVaca (Calvert Group) and Scott Ritter (Chevy Chase Bank), with BG Executive Director Dave Feldman and Cindy Powers.

Bethesda Green had its first Happy Hour networking event March 25, which also served as a farewell party to Bethesda Green Environmental Program Coordinator Cindy Powers.  A group of Cindy’s friends, associates and family attended the informal gathering at the Harp & Fiddle pub across from the Bethesda Green offices.   We all toast Cindy for her work and dedication to Bethesda Green.

For more pics of the Happy Hour and the Go Green America Expo, go to the Bethesda Green Facebook photo page.

Cindy is now out west (last we heard, enjoying the charms of Portland, OR) to persue an advanced education in environmental design.  We wish her all the best and good luck in the future.

batteries1

Montgomery County okays discarding common household batteries in the trash -- one at a time please, not in a big pile like this.

Attending the April 4 recycling program, third in the Bethesda Goes Green! series on the environment sponsored by Friends of the Bethesda Library, I learned something surprising about recycling batteries in Montgomery County that, frankly, relieved my guilt.  It’s ok to pitch regular household batteries (AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt) in the trash, which I was doing discretely, hoping no one would notice and call me on doing a bad thing.

If you don’t believe me, go to the source: the county webpage titled “Batteries: Hazardous Waste or Not?” explains that “alkaline and heavy-duty (zinc carbon) batteries . . . found in general household use can be safely disposed of in the regular trash if they were purchased after mid-1996”  when manufacturers stopped using mercury as an ingrediant.

So, what we learned from Saskia Mooney, a regulatory analyst with Wiley Rein, speaking on behalf of the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), is that we need to recycle worn out rechargeable batteries commonly used for cell phones, computers, cameras, laptops, power tools, etc.  According to the County, “the battery types that continue to require special disposal are: rechargeable nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) and nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, small sealed and automotive lead acid batteries, and lithium, mercuric oxide, silver oxide batteries.”

RBRC sponsors a free recycling program for retailers and lists local drop-off locations that will accept used rechargeable batteries and cell phones.  In addition, Saskia donated a special box for recycling rechargeable batteries to Bethesda Green, so you can bring your old batteries to us for recycling.

On March 31, a day appropriately suitable for both solar and wind energy generation, a number of VIPs gathered for an outdoor press conference launching the region’s first Clean Energy Center.   Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett led a delegation in announcing the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC) siting at the University of Maryland’s Shady Grove campus.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett applauds Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's declaration launching the Clean Energy Center.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett applauds Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's declaration launching the Clean Energy Center.

“Today’s announcement marks yet another large step towards our goal of creating 100,000 green collar jobs by 2015,” said Gov. O’Malley.  “This Center will leverage greater opportunities for our workers and a cleaner, greener Maryland for our families.”

Bethesda Green wrote a letter in support of siting the MCEC at the Shady Grove campus, part of the efforts of numerous organizations cited by Executive Leggett.

According to its website, MCEC will promote clean energy economic development and jobs in the state; encourage deployment of clean energy technologies across Maryland; assist newly developed technologies with pilot projects; collect, analyze and disseminate industry data; and provide outreach and technical support to further the clean energy industry in Maryland.

Maryland Energy Administration Director Malcolm Woolf noted that, “The Maryland Clean Energy Center is an essential piece of Maryland’s clean energy future, as it will help create jobs, support clean energy businesses and strengthen our communities through continual clean energy advancements.”

Gov. O'Malley listens to clean energy issues raised by Clean Currents President Gary Skulnik.

Gov. O'Malley listens to clean energy issues raised by Clean Currents President Gary Skulnik.

After the formal festivities, people lingered in the courtyard for casual networking and discussions.   A good friend of ours, Clean Currents President Gary Skulnik, took the opportunity to chat with the governor about clean energy issues, mentioned here because I grabbed a photo of Gary and the Gov’s tete-a-tete.

If you’re like me, you struggle to sort through a host of action steps to conserve energy and natural resources, save money, and reduce carbon output.  Ranging from easy things such as turning off the lights when you leave a room to more baffling challenges such as convincing yourself about the charms of waterless, composting toilets, a great user-friendly resource to guide your decisions is now available.

Author Susan Hartsfield

Author Susan Hartsfield

Written by Susan Hartsfield and illustrated by Rajeev Athale, The Complete Guide to Energy Conservation for Smarties assembles numerous energy-saving recommendations into a fun, easy-to-read format organized into three main sections: 100+ free and easy ideas, small investments/big savings, and big investments/lifetime savings.

We have a copy of the guide at Bethesda Green and invite you to take a look and judge for yourself.   The book is available through Susan’s website, Barnes and Noble, or Authors Bookshop.  Also, a couple of the Whole Food stores have it in stock.

In addition to being an author, Susan’s building a business, Global Baskets, selling Fair Trade baskets made from elephant grass by Ghanaian women — all this in her spare time from her regular gig as a nurse practitioner.  Whew!