March 2010

Earth Day

Apollo 17 photo of Earth

Our theme for April is “Celebrating the Earth,” because Earth Day is April 22–and this year it’s the 40th anniversary of the national environmental event.

Bethesda Green’s Ann Dorough has written an excellent article about how taking any action helps–be it personal, such as installing a rain barrel or helping with a stream clean-up, or political, such as lobbying your congressperson. Environmentally-minded home improvements, service projects and political advocacy are all important. At Bethesda Green, we provide information and education to point you toward opportunities to be “green” and environmentally friendly. (Case in point: Here’s a list of Earth Day events in Montgomery County.)

Of course there’s a full range of opinions about Earth Day and a broad spectrum of activities taking place around the world. We want to know what you think: Are personal actions and political advocacy equally important? What will you do during Earth Month to help the planet? Post your comments here!

Bethesda Green group in Annapolis bringing Honest Tea to the green business meet and greet.

Bethesda Green group in Annapolis bringing Honest Tea to the green business meet and greet.

A group of about 30 Bethesda Greeners traveled to Annapolis on Wednesday evening, March 24, to co-host a green business reception for state legislators.

Many of the entrepreneurs leading our incubator companies participated, including Barry Chenkin of Aquabarrel, Peter Wilson of Glen Eco Vapor Systems, Lynn Miller of 4GreenPs/, Mike Kennedy of the Maryland Energy and Sustainability Co-op and Jason Schwartz of BKind Vending. A score of BG volunteers came as well; our contingent made up about half of the crowd!

Del. Tom Hucker (Dem, District 20) helped to arrange the event, which took place in the Lowe House Office Building. Hucker, who represents part of Silver Spring and sits on the House of Delegates’ Environmental Matters Committee, told the gathering of green business people from across the state that he relies on green businesses to tell him what they need and to advise him on green issues. He urged more green businesses to get involved in the legislative process. “We’re very accessible,” he said.

State Delegate Tom Hucker and Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman

State Delegate Tom Hucker and Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman

A host of other legislators and government officials also gave brief remarks. Christian S. Johansson, Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development, noted that “the green economy is now,” and quipped that his work is all about jobs, green jobs.

Del. Maggie McIntosh (Dem., District 43), chair of the Environmental Matters Committee, said green jobs “are the kind of jobs we want to grow in Maryland.” In response to a question about the status of proposed large-scale wind energy projects in the state, she replied, “Sometimes it takes a while to work through local issues with respect to large wind projects.”

Del. Sue Hecht (Dem., District 3A), who sits on the Economic Matters Committee and is a member of the green caucus, noted that better, more equitable net-metering rules are going through this year, but that the PACE legislation “is almost on a deathwatch,” because the lien language has created big problems for the banks. (PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy loans, which are the basis of the Clean Energy Loans Bill. These loans are added to the property tax on your house and paid off over 10 or 15 years—thus making large-dollar energy improvements such as solar power more affordable. They also convey with the house.)

Sen. Brian Frosh (Dem., District 16) gave an honest assessment of the green business sector in Maryland: “It’s beautiful to see these industries grow up, but it’s taking way too long.”

Sen. Jamie Raskin (Dem., District 20) announced that the State Senate had just that day passed the Green Maryland Act, which will give preference in state purchasing to green products. Of course now the House has to pass it as well.

Fields of Green Internship Fair

Fields of Green Internship Fair

If you’re a young adult ages 17-24 who is looking for an internship in the environmental or “green living” fields, then don’t miss the inaugural Fields of Green Internship Fair taking place in Bethesda in late March.

You’ll be able to talk to representatives from 23 companies and organizations such as the Green Summer Job Corps, Green America, Clean Currents, Honest Tea, Bethesda Green and more! Be sure to bring copies of your résumé (see a complete list of what to bring).

Here are the details:

Fields of Green Internship Fair
Saturday, March 27 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (Get Directions)
Session 1: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Session 2: 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Pre-registration is required. To pre-register, go to the Fields of Green Web site at

On the Web site you’ll also find a list of available internships. The folks at Bethesda Green are updating the list regularly—and we’ll be keeping it live and active after the fair. So it will continue to be a great resource for those people who miss the Fair. (If your organization needs interns and would like to place a classified ad on this site, contact Rosalie at

Author Anca Novacovici will speak at the Fair about her book, ‘DC Metro Area Green Career & Jobs Guide,’ which will be on sale for $20.

The Fields of Green Internship Fair is a Bethesda Green initiative, sponsored by Reznick Group.

Bethesda Green assembled a stellar panel Tuesday evening, March 16, to discuss storm water management issues in the region.  While generally accepting that restoring local watersheds to the pristine condition of yesteryear is a daunting task indeed, incremental improvements can be accomplished if individual landowners adopt techniques to retain more storm water on their property rather than continuing to allow it to flow into the streams.

Moderated by Peter Ensign, Executive Director of DC Greenworks, the panel (Dan Kulpinski, publisher of;  Steve Dryden, co-chair of; Donna Evans, a Landscape Designer with American Plant; and Ann English, with Montgomery County’s RainScapes Program) provided an overview of the issues along with specific suggestions — such as installing rain gardens, rain barrels, permeable surfaces, and cisterns, along with planting more trees and deep-rooted native grasses — to stem the flow of water into the watersheds.

Dan Kulpinski, Steve Dryden, Donna Evans and Ann English (L-R) discussed regional stormwater management issues March 16 at Bethesda Green.

For the individual homeowner redoing their landscaping, the big take-away was to be sure to consider stormwater retention solutions in planning your project and check with County’s RainScapes Program about the cost-saving rebates they offer for various landscaping investments.

Also note that the assembled panel is making plans to install a community rain garden in the next month or so at the Clara Barton Community Center on MacArthur Blvd.  If you’re interested in being part of the project, please contact Marney Bruce (

Jennifer Kaplan speaks at Bethesda Green.

Jennifer Kaplan speaks at Bethesda Green.

One author and two Pepco program representatives brought a big message for small businesses to Bethesda Green, Tuesday, March 9: Going green can save your business money, with a modest amount of effort.

Jennifer Kaplan discussed her book, ‘Greening Your Small Business,’ which came out last fall. Her top three tips: Use less, buy and source locally, and start small. In the use less category, she recommended turning off your company’s computers at night to save energy. Also, consider getting rid of your fax machine and instead sending and receiving faxes electronically (this saves paper and electricity).

Buying and sourcing locally means you’ll pay lower transportation costs for those items (and eliminate environmental impacts of long-distance transport). Buying locally also supports the local economy and has a cultural impact in your community—you get to know your suppliers, who are more likely to help you with custom orders.

As for starting small, Kaplan said businesses should consider doing the little things—such as buying recycled products and using less paper—that can add up when multiplied by the 29 million small businesses in America. Her book offers dozens more tips and examples of small businesses implementing green practices across the country.

Kaplan is an adjunct faculty of marketing at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., and founder of Greenhance LLC, a business consultancy that provides marketing and communication strategies to small businesses going green.

Speakers at our March 9 event.

(L to R) Pepco's Manuel Vera, author Jennifer Kaplan and Pepco Commercial Energy Savings program manager Nick Keller

The two other speakers, Nick Keller and Manuel Vera of Pepco’s Commercial & Industrial Energy Savings Program, discussed how small businesses can qualify for rebates for making energy efficiency improvements.

Keller noted that companies can save about 30 percent on their energy bills with very little effort. The program helps offset costs for energy efficient upgrades in three ways: providing rebates of certain dollar amounts for certain products, such as lighting; providing custom rebates for other energy-saving solutions companies come up with; and reimbursing energy efficiency training costs for building managers, up to $1,000 or 80 percent of the training.

In addition, the program has a network of trade contractor allies that are pre-approved to do energy efficiency work.

Companies seeking a custom rebate must get pre-approval from the program. Keller noted that the program’s funding comes from electricity bills; you’re paying for it, so might as well take advantage of it. To learn more, visit and click on “Energy Efficiency Programs.”

Some 20 people attended the lunchtime event and there was a lively Q&A after the presentations. Access Montgomery TV filmed the event; they’ll use some of the footage in the ‘Think Green’ TV show, which airs Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. on Channel 21 on RCN, Comcast and Verizon services.

Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman noted that Bethesda Green will be launching a program for small businesses in May, in partnership with the Bethesda Chamber of Commerce. Stay tuned for details.

Do you know ways small businesses can go green and save money? Have you implemented such actions at your small business? Post your comments here!

March 8, 2010 marks an important date in the growth of Bethesda Green.  Today, courtesy of Trevor Stone and a generous in-kind contribution from Jack Stone Signs, new street signs festoon the lamp posts outside our office.  The Landover, MD-based company also added a sign to the front door (see below) and another inside in the lobby area.

We’ve occupied the space above the Chevy Chase Bank branch for a little more than a year.  Then, in late summer,  Donohoe Construction Company led a team of subcontractors and suppliers that completed a major build out in October 2009 as we officially launched our Education Center and Green Business Incubator.

And, we’ve got more changes coming soon, to the interiors and the banners we display at events.  A sign may not seem like much, but we feel it’s an emblem of what we’ve accomplished, a symbol of permanence that we’re moving in the right direction with much more yet to come.  Thanks to everyone for making it happen.

We enjoyed a great Happy Hour March 4 at Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle, courtesy of proprietor Mac Tigue, who not only donated 15 percent of sales to Bethesda Green, but at the last minute also offered free dinner for two for raffling.

The featured speaker was BG Board Member and District 1 Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner who announced that the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) was coming in the next few months.  The HELP program offers homeowners a low-interest loan for energy-related home improvements, payable through property taxes.

Our group was in a lively mood, in keeping with the pre-St. Paddy’s theme, including a contingent from Capitol Office Solutions, a Xerox company and Bethesda Green sponsor, who were in town for a product show earlier in the day at our office.

Since launching our First Thursday Happy Hours last fall, the events typically attract at least 50 attendees, with a large percentage of newcomers interested in learning about upcoming events and activities and connecting with others in green businesses.

Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

Our theme for March is “Planting the Seeds of Sustainability,” and we’ve chosen to feature an article about reviving urban streams.

Our streams in the inner suburbs are in trouble; in general, they suffer from too much stormwater runoff, too many pollutants and too much trash. Sewage leaks also affect our streams. The Cabin John Creek watershed, for example, has poor water quality and its streams frequently contain fecal bacteria above levels considered safe for the public. The Rock Creek watershed also has a bacteria problem, while the Anacostia watershed suffers from too much sediment, nutrients (I think this means nitrogen and phosphorus), bacteria and trash.

What I learned while researching my article, “To Revive Urban Streams, Think Small,” (published in the winter issue of the Audubon Naturalist News) is that the inner suburbs are at a point where there are few, if any, large measures that can be taken to reduce stormwater flows. These areas are so developed and contain so many impervious surfaces, that rain water rushes into them in volumes that overwhelm the health of the stream. Montgomery County can’t build stormwater retention ponds and other remedies in many places downcounty, because there’s precious little land left.

The upshot is that private landowners — homeowners, businesses, places of worship — will have to take actions on their properties in order to start restoring the health of these streams. Visit the Bethesda Green site for a link to my article, which describes some ways landowners can help, then return here to post your comments. Will you take action to help the streams? Can we restore them in part or in whole?

–written by Dan Kulpinski