May 2012


Expo Offers Visitors Latest Info on Solar and Green Home Services

Bethesda Green’s 3rd Annual Solar & Green Home Expo, Saturday, June 9, 10 am – 4 pm, offers visitors an information-packed showcase event featuring many green home expert services and solar providers. The spotlight on solar will include purchasing and investment opportunities, and incentives for home installation. Local area green home businesses will display their services while individual workshops related to greening your home will be conducted throughout the day.

The goal of this event at Bethesda Green —  4825 Cordell Avenue, second floor above the Capital One Bank — is to provide homeowners and other interested parties an opportunity to get the latest information about area services and incentives to green their homes.  This is a free event for the community.

Companies and organizations participating in the Solar & Green Home Expo include: Solar Energy World, Standard Solar, Solar City, ecobeco, Green Savings Coop, Amicus Green Building Center, Clean Currents, Karmalades, Live Green, The Compost Crew, Savenia Labs, Complete Home Solutions, A.I.R. Lawn Care, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, STIHL, Kenergy Solar, Astrum Solar, The Cleaning Corps, Bethesda Systems and Garden Gate Landscaping.

Check our website for more info.

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by Peter Doo

How do you drive an entire industry to build “green,” sustainable buildings? The US Green Building Council (USGBC), with its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, set the standard for building green. Through LEED, a green building can be rewarded an official certification. This certification incentivizes building owners, designers and contractors to look beyond energy savings to make a building that helps and does not harm its users, site, community and the earth.

Now USGBC is setting a new bar for the industry with LEED 2012.

LEED has often been criticized for not producing the results that it touts. While some of this criticism is justified, the USGBC has consistently responded with new requirements and updates (energy reporting for example) to address many of those criticisms. Meanwhile, the larger and undeniable impact of LEED has been in the transformation of the marketplace of products and services to make true sustainability more accessible to everyone. LEED 2012 promises to keep us all moving in that direction.

Some cities, counties and states have mandated LEED for new buildings in their jurisdictions. Projects pursuing certification under LEED 2012 will definitely find it more challenging to achieve the same ratings they received under the prior systems, LEED v2.2 and LEED 2009. Municipalities will have to determine whether they keep their mandate and escalate their sustainability goals with LEED 2012, or whether they relax or eliminate their mandate altogether.

What are some of the changes in the new LEED 2012? Several of the available credits in the Materials & Resources category, for example, require the disclosure and/or avoidance of chemical toxins in building products and materials. While this is likely to be an area of some controversy if adopted, this is where the next market transformative impact of LEED is likely to be.

On the energy efficiency side, the new referenced standard is ASHRAE 2010. This represents a significant increase in energy efficiency targets that project teams should be aware of.

What other changes are coming? How will it affect the industry as a whole and the Mid-Atlantic region in particular? And how do building owners and professionals navigate this shift? These questions and more will be addressed at a special event on Tuesday, June 12th in Bethesda, Maryland, “Anticipating the Changes and Challenges of LEED 2012,” a Natural Capital Series event. For more information and to register, go to http://naturalcapitalLEED2012.eventbrite.com.

Peter Doo, FAIA, President of Doo Consulting, LLC is a sustainability consultant with over 30 years of experience in building design and construction. Peter is a LEED AP and founder of the USGBC Maryland Chapter. Doo Consulting provides services to guide, coordinate and administrate the LEED certification process for all LEED rating systems. For more information, visit www.dooconsulting.net.

Bike to Work logo Just in time for Bike to Work Day, downtown Bethesda is moving to increase its bike parking spots by 50 percent. With the support of Honest Tea, Federal Realty Investment Trust and The Coca-Cola Company, Bethesda Green and Bethesda Urban Partnership are planning to unveil the first two of 10  new bike racks to be installed in the commercial district.

Hundreds of bike commuters will converge Friday morning, May 18, for Bike to Work Day at the Bethesda Pit Stop located at the corner of Woodmont & Bethesda Avenues between 6:30-8:30 am. The unveiling of the new bike racks is scheduled for 7 am.

Constructed of plastic lumber made from recycled beverage containers, including Honest Kids drink pouches, the new racks will add 100 bike parking spots in Bethesda.

Bike to Work Day encourages commuters to do their part to support increased bicycle commuting in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Managed throughout the area by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, you can join over 10,000 area commuters for a celebration of bicycling as a clean, fun and healthy way to get to work. By promoting biking as a commute option, traffic and parking congestion can be eased, thereby improving the quality of life enjoyed by the people of the region.

Highlights of the Bike to Work Day in Bethesda, managed by Bethesda Transportation Solutions, a division of Bethesda Urban Partnership, include breakfast, entertainment, dynamic speakers, and chances to win a bicycle and other prizes.

Register here for Bike to Work Day.

Facts on Sustainability of Household Cleaners

by Richard M. Goodman

The current issue of Consumer Reports  includes an article titled, “Is your home making you sick?”  Within this article is a separate box on “household cleaners. ”  The issues highlighted include the topics of  contaminants, fragrances, especially the question as to whether some ingredients react together or with, for example, ozone to form formaldehyde or other carcinogenic materials.  Let’s investigate further the comments found in this article to uncover the science it contains.

Toxicity relates directly to the testing of chemicals.  Every industrial chemical must provide a material safety data sheet for its transport and handling.  You can determine the overall safety of a component  by a simple computer search for the chemical name (read it off the contents of the bottle) and the letters MSDS.  Some examples: 7th generation cleaners contain myristyl glucoside, sodium gluconate among other ingredients.  When you click on the relevant MSDS sheets, you will find that for both of these ingredients there are no exposure limits and toxicity is below reportable limits, i.e. completely safe.

When the component is a fragrance, then it may no longer be a single chemical substance.  In fact, many are complex mixtures of natural substances.  On the other hand, fragrances are almost always less than 1% of the weight of the ingredients (the EPA limit for unlisted chemicals); further, some of the pure components may be less than 1% of the fragrance total.  Thus, though one of these components of a fragrance is for example a terpene with known toxic effects, it is in such small concentrations (parts per million) as to be below any threshold for toxicity.

Ironically, some recommendations for a substitute “green’’ cleaning component list white vinegar.  However, this contains ~5% acetic acid.  According to its MSDS, acetic acid is actually considered a slightly stronger hazard because it is highly irritating to the eyes and if directly ingested is actually a serious intestinal irritant.  However, since we normally handle and consume vinegar we discount the objective fact of its relative toxicity as a chemical.  Another example is the ammonia (ammonium hydroxide) used in most window cleaners.  Ammonia is a relatively dangerous chemical.  In commerce to industrial laboratories, ammonium hydroxide is shipped in special containers and lab technicians are instructed do open these with great care while wearing gloves, respirators and face shields.  Often homeowners clean glass surfaces with no protection whatsoever.

This leads to the key message of this article.  We should not panic or overreact merely because one reads that a “chemical” is hazardous, or toxic or may react to form carcinogens.  The more familiar we are, the more we downgrade the risks while often discounting the effects of dose, concentration and how a product is used.

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.

Green Manufacturing of Chemical Products

by Richard M. Goodman

Many lay persons think that all synthetic chemicals are inherently bad.  They also think that natural chemicals are inherently good.  Well, the reality is much more nuanced.  After all, evolution has led to many natural plants, for example, developing toxic substances to ward off their destruction by insects and microbes.  Also, natural products are often complex mixtures of chemical entities so that the interesting chemical species is diluted by many other chemicals, which are at best inert, at worst counter- productive.  Purification from the natural product can be costly and introduce solvents or other species not beneficial.

On the contrary, synthesis can lead to the desired material without toxic or even impurities or diluents.  The secret is what the chemical industry calls “Manufacture by Green Chemistry.”  The concept is based on 12 principles first formulated 14 years ago.  They are:

  1. Prevention
  2. Atom economy
  3. Less hazardous chemical syntheses
  4. Designing safer chemicals
  5. Safer solvents and auxiliaries
  6. Design for energy efficiency
  7. Use of renewable feed-stocks
  8. Reduce derivatives
  9. Catalysis
  10. Design for degradation
  11. Real-time analysis for pollution prevention
  12. Inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention

Some of the terms are obvious, I’ll define the others.

Atom economy means: Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product, i.e. not by products or impurities.

Catalysis means:  Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents, that is, as in nature the right catalyst can cause the desired reaction without any excess chemical material.

Design for degradation means:  Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.

This primer hopefully shows how the proper use of chemistry principles can lead to a greener environment.

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.

Science & Sustainability

by Richard M. Goodman

How many times has someone said that substituting electronic communications for paper-based communications is good because you can “save a tree?”  At first this seems to be a no-brainer; how can distributing information electronically not be better than using a piece of paper?  That’s where the concept of sustainability comes in.  Sustainability preaches that we leave earth’s resources in better shape after we are done than before or at least at an even position.

It is true that paper companies plant more trees than they harvest.  (For the record, we are not talking about destruction of virgin forests but the more likely harvesting of young growth trees strictly for paper stock.)  It is also true that we can recycle a significant amount of the paper we use.  On the other side we discard electronics at an alarming rate; lifetimes of 2 years or less are common for many devices. The discarded electronics often contain toxic or limited resources.  Also, what about the source of power for the devices and the Internet?  It is almost always sourced from coal or other cheap but dirty fuels.

Now I don’t want to get into a detailed debate, however, it turns out that the comparison between printing information and transmitting by electronic media is not always in favor of electronics.  I belong to a working group that is part of the International Standards Organization (ISO), a global initiative to provide useful standards for virtually every industry.  One of the recent endeavors has been to exactly address the question of electronic vs. paper for all communications.  The conclusion from the initial study: “Users of this international standard should acknowledge that the CFPs (carbon footprints) developed according to requirements from different communication programs may not be comparable.”  In short, it’s not clear when comparing diverse technologies, which has the best carbon footprint or environmental friendliness – reinforcing the notion that green is the new gray.

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.