July 2013

by Richard M. Goodman

A recent article published by the Printing Industries of America: The Magazine on combating the effects of greenwashing on the printing industry offered general advertising guidelines drawn from other sources that are worth sharing here.

The Federal Trade Commission has had a set of  “green guides” since 1992 used to decide if an environmental claim made in the media may be deceptive.  It continually updates these guides to meet current knowledge.  The most recent updates in October 2012 incorporate the following:

A proponent cannot make a general environmental claim like “environmentally friendly” unless it includes a specific benefit which can be substantiated.  Claims of “reduced carbon footprint” likewise must refer to a specific and scientifically based and properly measured and documented study. If a company promotes a particular “seal of approval” it must describe what the criteria for obtaining such a seal are.  Terms such as non-toxic, ozone safe must also be specific  as to the nature of the benefit, whether to the environment or humans.  Recycled content refers only to materials recovered or diverted from the waste stream during manufacture or after consumer use, as post consumer waste.  Actual content must be spelled out as, for example, made from 50% post consumer waste recycled materials.  Made from renewable materials is also a claim that needs clarification.  For further details see this link.

The qualifications described above are meant to ensure that a particular advertiser does not commit one of these seven sins of greenwashing, as identified by UL Environment, a part of Underwriters Laboratories:

  1. The sin of the hidden tradeoff — highlighting one aspect but ignoring others.  For example, noting that a particular paper stock  is made from recycled fibers, but omitting that the process to make the paper  emits greater greenhouse emissions.
  2. The sin of claims without proof — for example a toilet tissue manufacturer claims greater use of post consumer wastes but has no proof.
  3. The sin of  vagueness — using the term “natural,” for example, when toxins like arsenic, lead or formaldehyde are natural substances.
  4. The sin of worshipping false labels — implying endorsement by reliable third parties when no such endorsement has ever been made.
  5. The sin of irrelevance — saying a product is “CFC free” when in fact the use of CFCs are forbidden by law.
  6. The sin of the lesser of two evils — hailing a vehicle as a fuel efficient SUV when it gets significant poorer mileage than the average vehicle.
  7. The sin of outright fibbing — claiming certifications, like “energy star,” when not true.

We should all be extra vigilant when we see any promotion of sustainability in any setting, whether in the media, on the internet, on a storefront or even in casual conversation with someone who has an axe to grind.

This topic is excerpted from Printing Industries of America: The Magazine.

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

BG_FCF_farmtour_logo.finalby Jennifer Roe

Learning more about our food system, you may ask, “How can I help?”  One way is to visit farms and connect with local farmers. You also may consider participating in a farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

A CSA is a food distribution system that connects community members directly with their local farmers through buying shares or regularly supplied produce boxes. This system benefits both the producers by increasing their customer base as well as consumers by having regular access to fresh, healthy food.  Here is a great resource that provides a list of CSA’s in Maryland that can be sorted by county to find the one closest to you.

In order for alternative systems such as local food stores to gain support, it is important to identify the benefits. Supporters believe local markets provide fresh, higher quality foods.  Processed foods that you find at supermarkets tend to be richer in saturated and trans-fatty acids, salt and sugars, which can lead to diet-related diseases.

By replacing some of these purchases with local, fresh produce, you can make a difference in your family’s health. Changing the food you purchase is the first step towards changing your consumption habits. By advocating for local food, supporters are promoting eating seasonal, unprocessed foods that benefit environmental and human health.

Local food systems also help small, local farms that compete with large, corporate agriculture. As a result, rural communities benefit as it builds more resilient rural economies. Additionally, small farmers are more likely to be diversified and less controlled by large institutions; therefore they have more room to adopt alternative, sustainable methods that are more beneficial to the environment.

You can see examples of this for yourself at the 3rd annual Bethesda Green Farm Tour.  Find out where your food comes from, how agricultural production impacts our environment and what you can do to help.

Reserve your spot on the Farm Tour here.

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 Terri Lukas

It’s a hot day.  A walk to the Bethesda library should take 20 minutes, but in the heat, it will be at least 30.  It will feel good to reach my air-conditioned destination.  But as it turns out,  I don’t have to wait to feel the cool blast of air conditioning.  I feel it right out in the open, on the street, as I pass one establishment after another: a small tea shop, a sports clothing store, an Asian restaurant … the list goes on. 

So I ask myself: what is going on?  This is Bethesda: highly educated, connected, progressive.  If nowhere else, surely here people understand the basics about what it takes to find fossil fuels needed to meet our increasing demand for energy: deep sea drilling, fracking, troops to secure foreign sources.  Then there is the issue of a warming planet. . .

How can people spend thousands on high efficiency air conditioners, windows and doors, yet appear not to notice the weather-blind, open-door practices of stores and restaurants?

I have no answers; do you?

Terri Lukas works in public health and is an active conservationist. She lives with her husband in Chevy Chase West.

BG_FCF_farmtour_logo.finalby Jennifer Roe

Bethesda Green’s 3rd annual Farm Tour is almost here! This is a great opportunity to learn about the importance of connecting with local farms and building a local, healthy, sustainable food system in our region.

So, what is a food system? It is defined by all the steps necessary to produce and feed a population — from agricultural rearing, growing, and harvesting; to processing, packaging, transporting, distributing, marketing, preparing, consuming and disposing of food.

Over recent decades, food systems have become dominated by large corporations and monocropping. They have become increasingly resource intensive and global as food products travel further distances to meet consumer demand. As a result, the environment feels more pressure in terms of habitat loss/change, climate change, resource depletion, water pollution and toxic emissions.  Our current food production system is extremely inefficient, wasting a high percentage of natural resources and polluting our ecosystems.

According to a recent report authored by Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Dana Gunders, “Waste: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill,” food production from farm to table uses 10% of the total U.S. energy budget, 50% of our land, and 80% of the freshwater we consume.  From these statistics, it is clear that agricultural production has a huge impact on our planet.

So let’s learn about one part of our food system and understand why we need to preserve local farms that are implementing sustainable agricultural practices.  Reserve your spot here.  By the end of the day, we hope you will better understand our current food system and be inspire to support local, sustainable agriculture whenever possible.

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.

MLP staff: Shane Yaeger, Tiffany Jones, Mark Leisher, and Susanna Parker.

MLP staff: Shane Yaeger, Tiffany Jones, Mark Leisher, and Susanna Parker.

A lot has happened with Mark Leisher Productions (MLP) over the past two years. The most exciting development for the Bethesda Green Incubator company is the addition of three new team members — Videographer and Editor Shane Yaeger, Production Manager Tiffany Jones, and Social Media Manager Susanna Parker. Shane traveled with Mark to document The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary tour last summer, a working relationship that went so smoothly that Mark asked Shane to come on as a partner in the company. Tiffany and Mark met a year ago, when they worked together on the Reel Water Film Festival.  Tiffany joined the team in March, supporting client communications and expanding the MLP brand. Mark first saw Susanna’s work for the Bethesda Green blog, where she was a weekly contributor. He realized that, as a growing company, they would need someone dedicated to social media and brand management, increasing awareness of current and upcoming projects.

Mark Leisher Productions has kept busy, creating commercial and marketing videos for a variety of local companies, co-sponsoring the 2nd Annual Reel Water Film Festival, and developing two feature films: a documentary about the Underground Railroad and a psychological horror film. Additionally, MLP has begun offering brand management and social media marketing services to clients, creating engaging videos and marketing them to increase their reach and impact.

Through it all, Mark has remained dedicated to increasing awareness of sustainability and the green community. MLP continues to co-sponsor the Reel Water Film Festival, works with Active Nature to encourage river stewardship in the paddling community, and supports fellow Bethesda Green Incubator companies by helping them create and market promotional videos. MLP has also worked with Lori Hill of Sister Eden to develop her brand as “Your Guide to Living the Green Life.” The team has created videos, managed social media relations, and developed content for the Sister Eden blog.  The future is bright for Mark Leisher Productions, working to make the video process fun, engaging, and simple.

GreenCondos_logo.webby Alan Cohen

There’s good news for condo associations in Maryland that are looking to save money while improving their environmental performance. Through a state-mandated surcharge, all utility customers are already paying to fund “EmPOWER Maryland,” a voter-approved initiative to cut statewide energy consumption by 15%. Why is that good news? Because three “EmPOWER Maryland” energy efficiency programs can help mass-metered condo associations cut costs while modernizing their homes and communities. Each program is either partially or even entirely funded by this state initiative, and one even pays you to save energy! Let’s now take a brief look at each opportunity:

  1. Quick Home Energy Check-ups (QHECs) – A Quick Home Energy Check-up (QHEC) is a fast, easy way for residents to reduce energy consumption and costs, and is already fully funded, so you receive the service at no additional cost. During a QHEC, a trained energy technician will assess your home’s current energy use, recommend energy-saving improvements, and install up to $150 worth of basic energy-saving devices, which may include efficient light bulbs, showerheads, and “smart” power strips. To take part, your board will need to approve community-wide participation, plus provide some basic information on your community and access to residents’ homes. For details, please go to QHEC-Pepco.
  2. Pepco’s Walk-Through Energy Assessment (WTEA) Program for Small Business – Through the same suite of programs, some Pepco  multifamily communities – including condo associations – are also entitled to rebates of up to 80% on the installed cost of common-area lighting, HVAC, and building exterior upgrades. You begin the process by selecting a Pepco trade ally specifically approved to deliver the small business program, booking a time for your audit and providing your energy auditor with copies of recent common-area lighting bills. Next, trained energy engineers perform a brief audit of your common areas, which can include high-consuming areas such as pools, fitness centers, stairwells and parking garages.  This audit is usually at no cost, and includes a number of free “direct install” measures that will begin saving you energy immediately. Next, with your approval, your energy auditor will install cutting-edge LED lighting upgrades and other improvements, which can normally be financed to be cash-flow positive from the first month. For more information, please visit Small Business Program – Multi-Family_Pepco.
  3. Energy Wise Rewards – Under this innovative program, Pepco will give you bill credits in exchange for installing a programmable thermostat or outdoor switch at your property and “cycling” it during peak-use times to cut overall energy demand – reducing the need for new power plants. Each condo association and unit owner who decides to participate gets bill credits, plus a per-unit cash bonus if the association itself installs the equipment. The program begins with a free analysis to determine whether your condos’ HVAC systems are compatible with the Energy Wise equipment, and to calculate the size of your cash rebate. For details, please go to Energy Wise Rewards-Business_Pepco.

Alan Cohen is a writer specializing in environmental technology and clean energy. He works with Zerodraft Maryland, a full-service energy management company.

MCEC logoEach year the Maryland Clean Energy Center recognizes a few individuals and organizations who have done outstanding work to advance clean energy and energy efficiency in Maryland for their leadership, partnership, advocacy, and overall championship of the sector. Nominations will be reviewed and winners will be chosen by an Awards Committee. Awardees will be announced at a luncheon during the Maryland Clean Energy Summit to be held October 16, 2013.

Click here for more information about the nomination process and award categories.

Next Page »