March 2013


by Susanna Parker

Climate Change Could Cause Major Shift in Coral Reef Communities BGnews_logo

Climate change and the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may result in conditions less favorable to reef building stony corals. The buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has had the effect of increasing oceanic acidity worldwide. When carbon dioxide reacts with water, atmospheric carbon dioxide transforms to carbonic acid. That acid damages hard corals, which secrete calcium carbonate to form a protective outer shell. Softer corals, cousins to the reef building corals, lack the hard outer skeleton that is damaged when the water turns acidic. The changing conditions could lead to a change in the makeup of coral communities. When you combine the less favorable conditions with the softer corals’ ability for rapid colonization, softer corals may out-compete hard corals.

Stony corals are an important member of the underwater ecosystem. Their protective outer layers help provide shelter and habitats for many reef organisms, such as clownfish. Though it covers less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, hard coral reefs support about 25 percent of all marine life. Soft corals do not provide the same shelter to marine organisms, and their dominance could result in a major shift in the underwater environment.

For more information about carbon dioxide and coral reefs, please read the full Huffington Post article.

Obama to Designate Five New National Monuments

Sources from several prominent environmental groups say that President Obama will designate five new national monuments, including one in Maryland commemorating Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railway. The other four monuments are the First State National Monument in Delaware and Pennsylvania, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, Washington state’s San Juan Islands National Monument, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio. The Antiquities Act, which allows the president to protect federal lands without congressional approval, was rarely invoked by President Obama during his first term. After an internal Interior Department list of potential monument sites became public, House Republicans threatened to repeal the act. Obama therefore kept his first four national monument designations to areas of cultural or historical significance.

Two of Obama’s new designations – San Juan Islands and Rio Grande del Norte – are ecologically valuable. Environmentalists have shown vocal support the president’s move, and local communities near all five monuments support additional federal protections. In Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley, and Democratic Senators Barbara Milkulski and Ben Cardin had all lobbied President Obama to establish a monument commemorating Harriet Tubman’s work. Brian O’Donnell, the executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, praised Obama’s actions, saying “…we are grateful for President Obama’s leadership in advancing conservation at a time when it’s desperately needed.”

For more information, please read the full Washington Post article here.

Upcoming Green Events

  • Bethesda Green Finance Workshop Series for Green Business, “Due Diligence: Evaluating a Potential Investment”, Thursday March 28, 8am – 10am, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Second Floor

The fourth installment in Bethesda Green’s Finance Workshop Series will address the substance and process of the due diligence investment evaluation. Advice will also be given on how entrepreneurs should conduct due diligence on the potential investor. Speakers include John May of New Vantage Partners, Mahesh Konduru of Potomac Energy Fund, and David Levine of Geostellar. For more information, and to RSVP, please visit Bethesda Green’s Program Page.

  • Non-Native Invasive Plant Removal Class, Wednesday April 3, 6:30pm – 9pm, 3030 12th Street NE

Join Rock Creek Conservancy and Casey Trees for an educational session on non-native invasive plants. Learn how to identify and control species of non-native invasive plants, including garlic mustard, mile-a-minute, and bush honeysuckle. Once you’ve learned all about invasive plants, you’ll be ready for the Rock Creek Clean-up on Saturday April 6th! For more information, and to RSVP, please visit here.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

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

Gov. O'Malley and Anthony Millin

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Bethesda Green board member Anthony Millin at the Annapolis Green Business Night, March 13.

by Jennifer Roe

The Maryland state capital was the place for local green organizations to gather Wednesday night, March 13.  The annual Annapolis Green Business Night, a networking event organized and hosted by Del. Tom Hucker, featured a presentation by Gov. Martin O’Malley.  The event was teeming with representatives from numerous green companies, including a few Bethesda Green Business Incubator Companies, such as John Jabara of Savenia Labs, Zack Kline of A.I.R. Lawn Care, and Peter Doo of Doo Consulting.

Bethesda Green board member Anthony Millin spoke on behalf of Bethesda Green and was joined by representatives from Annapolis Green and Silver Spring Green, discussing their mission and current programs. In addition to green business leaders, the event brought other community members such as students who are interested in learning more about Maryland green businesses.

Gov. O’Malley spoke about the importance of green job creation and congratulated the crowd for developing successful green businesses in the state.

Jennifer Roe is a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she received her Master’s in Environment and Development.  She is passionate about building a just and sustainable food system where every individual has the opportunity to lead a successful, healthy life.

by Susanna Parker

Maryland Senate Passes Offshore Wind BillBGnews_logo

The third time is the charm – after proposing offshore wind bills in 2011 and 2012, Governor Martin O’Malley’s Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 passed in the Maryland Senate on March 8. The vote, which had a large favorable margin in the Maryland House, passed in the Senate 30 to 15. The passage of this bill would allow Maryland to hire a private developer to build a series of turbines off the coast of Ocean City. The higher rate for offshore wind, and the cost of development, would require Maryland residential ratepayers to pay an additional $1.50 a month after the turbines are constructed. Maryland businesses would also pay a monthly surcharge of 1.5 percent. O’Malley has framed the monthly charge as a low but necessary cost in establishing an industry in Maryland that has both high potential for green energy but comes with multi-billion dollar start-up costs.

Maryland joins several other states including New Jersey in establishing “carve-outs” for green energy in their state energy budgets. These carve-outs have driven growth in other states, and wind energy advocates hope that the bill will kick-start the offshore wind industry throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, is optimistic about the effect the bill will have on Maryland’s economy, stating that “it’s a driver of innovation that will create jobs, enhance our economy, improve public health, and protect the climate.” For more information on the bill, read the Washington Post article here.  Visit the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to find out how to thank your Senator for their vote.

New York Times Comes Out Against Keystone XL Pipeline

In an editorial published March 11, the New York Times urged President Obama to reject the pipeline that would funnel Canadian tar sand oil across the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. The Times editorial comes shortly after the State Department’s report stating that the pipeline would have little environmental impact because Canada would develop the tar sand oil with or without the pipeline, therefore building it or not would have no long-term effects. The Times, however, points out that rejecting the pipeline would require Canadians to “play a larger role in deciding whether a massive expansion of tar sands development is prudent.” The lack of a U.S. pipeline would force Canada to build one that spanned their own provinces, a project that has already been delayed due to concerns about the potential environmental impact.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would traverse 875 miles of the United States and transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The process of extracting, refining, and burning tar sands oil is a dirtier process than that for standard crude, yielding annual greenhouse gas emissions that are roughly 17 percent higher. Additionally, the tar sands and the boreal forest that holds them are major carbon sinks; by extracting the tar sands we both add carbon to the atmosphere and take away a method of removing it. The Times urges President Obama to reject the project, stating that “a president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that can only add to the problem.” Read the full editorial at the New York Times.

Upcoming Green Events

2_Bidder 70 E Flyer

  • Bidder 70, Friday, March 15, 7:30 pm, St. Columba’s Church, Washington DC

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was sent to jail at age 21 for bidding on, and winning, millions of dollars worth of land parcels under false pretenses at a Bureau of Land Management auction. His actions drew ire from gas and oil companies, and applause from environmentalists; Bidder 70 documents DeChristopher’s trial and conviction. Part of the DC Environmental Film Festival, Friday’s screening will be hosted by Ray Suarez and feature musical guests Magpie. Tickets are $7 at the door, seating is limited. For more information on the screening, please visit the event’s Facebook page.

  • Save a Birding Hot Spot! Sunday, March 17, 9 am – 11 am, 20500 Zion Road, Laytonsville, MD

Join the Montgomery County Sierra Club, the Montgomery Bird Club, and the Department of Environmental Protection to remove invasive plants from the Blue Mash Nature Trail. The area, a haven for birds and wildlife, has seen its bird diversity drop off due to non-native plants. Bring your clippers, saws, and loppers, and help restore a wildlife habitat. For more information and to RSVP, please visit here.

  • Recycling 101 – Make Recycling Your Business! Thursday, March 21, 9 am – 12 noon, Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD

Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services presents a workshop featuring information on implementing a successful recycling program in the workplace. Learn about Montgomery County’s recycling requirements, how to reduce waste, and where to buy products made from recyclable materials. The cost is $10 per person. For more information and to RSVP, please visit here.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

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.

by Susanna Parker

Orin Schepps, CEO of Consultance Accounting Services, is no stranger to community involvement. His company has a longstanding commitment to both corporate and personal social responsibility, supporting a variety of nonprofit organizations with missions that include promoting theater and cultural arts, protecting DC’s water supply, and Consultance Accounting Serviceshelping restore tree cover to communities around the world. In addition to providing pro-bono financial guidance and bookkeeping services to Bethesda Green and other groups, the firm donates 5 percent of its fees to qualified nonprofit organizations of their clients’ choosing.

Orin got involved with Bethesda Green after hearing about its mission and approached Executive Director Dave Feldman with his offer of help. The relationship has been meaningful on both sides, leading to new associations and further involvement in the local green business community. Consultance Accounting Services does more than just support green business – they have adopted green practices as well.

Despite handling 180,000 pieces of documentation, Consultance uses a paperless system for all their bookkeeping and accounting services, saving trees and conserving resources.  They do more than work in a paperless environment – all of Consultance’s services are offered remotely, allowing each employee to work from home, reducing gasoline usage and cutting emissions to the environment. Consultance Accounting Services also helps its clients to go green, assisting them in their changeover to paperless processing for their accounting and bookkeeping needs.

In addition to adopting more green practices in Consultance’s future, Orin has hopes that more firms in the accounting industry and other businesses in general will go paperless. He explains that, with technology that is readily available, paper files are needed less and less in today’s business world. With nearly 4 billion trees cut down annually, just for paper, imagine the positive impact on the environment if all businesses went paperless.

Consultance Accounting Services offers accounting, bookkeeping, comptroller, and CFO services for businesses and nonprofit organizations. Visit their website at http://consultancellc.com

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Susanna Parker

President Obama Nominates EPA AdministratorBGnews_logo

President Barack Obama has officially nominated Gina McCarthy to serve as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy, former assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, would replace current head Lisa Jackson, who announced her resignation in December. Despite a strong record and endorsements from a variety of environmental organizations, McCarthy is likely to face opposition from congressional Republicans, who have opposed EPA regulations in recent years. However, among the industries regulated by the EPA, the Washington Post reported that coal was the only likely dissident to McCarthy’s nomination.

If McCarthy is confirmed, she will face a variety of pressing issues, including regulating America’s natural gas industry, hydraulic fracking, and the upcoming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. Environmental organizations are hopeful of McCarthy’s positions on these matters. Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said that McCarthy’s appointment would be a “slam dunk for public health and the environment.”

For more information, check out the full article on The Huffington Post.

District Gas Leaks the Answer to Key Policy Question?

As natural gas production expands in the United States, the question most asked is whether the benefits outweigh the dangers. According to a recent Washington Post article, scientists involved with the Environmental Defense Fund are embarking upon a two-year, $10 million effort to measure methane emissions along the nation’s supply chain. This includes measuring methane leaks from city pipelines, beginning with Boston and the District of Columbia. Methane is the main component of natural gas and is 25 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Unlike carbon dioxide, methane dissipates from the atmosphere within a few decades; however, it continues to drive global warming. The amount of methane that leaks along the nation’s natural gas supply chain could offset the advantages that natural gas has over coal.

Representatives of the Environmental Defense Fund stress the importance of obtaining accurate data before policy is set. The EDF has recruited industry experts and academics to track the stages of natural gas production, from extraction to transmission, and plan to release an initial report this May. Possibly more important than the stages of production is the data on leakage in city pipelines. According to recent studies, the District has over 3,000 leaks throughout its infrastructure. Boston University professor Nathan Phillips, head of the pipeline leak study in DC, said that the leaks represent a waste of resources, and argued that gas exploration would not have to expand so rapidly if we could conserve our current supply. For more information on the studies, please read the full Washington Post article here.

Upcoming Green Events

  • The Sky is the Limit, First Thursday Happy Hour, Thursday, March 7, 5 – 8 pm, BlackFinn American Saloon, 4901 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda

Join us on the second floor of BlackFinn to celebrate our 5th anniversary! Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman will speak and provide an opportunity for you to share your thoughts on our next five years. In addition, there will be casual conversation, networking, complimentary appetizers, Happy Hour drink prices, and a raffle to win a $50 BlackFinn gift card. $5 at the door, to RSVP please visit the Bethesda Green Meetup.

  • Fracking Moratorium Rally in Annapolis, Wednesday, March 13, 10 am – noon, Lawyer’s Mall, 100 State Circle, Annapolis

Join Chesapeake Climate Action Network and involved Maryland citizens in the biggest fracking rally Annapolis has ever seen! Critical deadlines for passing the moratorium on fracking are fast approaching, but the chair of the Senate committee said that the moratorium bill will not get a vote this year. Major fracking bills were buried by this same committee over the past two years, but we’ve learned that grassroots pressure can alter the course of bills in Annapolis. Stand together, and show the State House that just as we deserve protection from the risks of fracking, we deserve a vote on it as well. For more information, and to RSVP, please visit the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

  • Annapolis Green Business Night, Wednesday, March 13, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Lowe House Office Building Rooms 170/180, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis

Join Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Delegate Tom Hucker, Annapolis Green, and Bethesda Green for our Annual Green Business Night in Annapolis! Meet legislators, representatives from state agencies, environmental allies, and green business representatives. Network with green allies, learn about business opportunities, and hear updates on bills to advance geothermal and solar energies. The event is free, but please RSVP to secure your name tag, parking information, directions, and the event program.

  • H2O Summit: Keeping Clean Water, Saturday, March 16, 10 am – 4 pm, Activity Center of Bohrer Park, Gaithersburg

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission present the “H2O Summit” — an educational festival about clean water in Montgomery County. The morning session will feature panels and discussions on important watershed topics such as stormwater education, water quality improvement, and stream health, while the afternoon festival will be full of exhibitors, children’s activities, and hands-on family friendly activities. The event is free, but space is limited, so be sure to RSVP today!

  • The Anacostia River, Sunday, March 17, 1:45 pm, National Museum of American History

Part of the DC Environmental Film Festival, this series of short films is presented in conjunction with the Anacostia Community Museum and their exhibition, “Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement.” The films include stories of urban wildlife found along the Anacostia River, the importance of changing the way we view the restoration of the river, and a variety of shorts from the Riverstories Series. The event is free; no registration is required. For more information, please visit the event page here.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.