September 2013

by Alison Wentzell

Free Lending Libraries Help Create Neighborhood BondsBGnews_logo

The burgeoning global literary movement has spread to the District with the help of Philip Vahab, who created a small library on his front lawn.  The library is just a small wooden model of a house that he put on a post and filled with his wife’s old books.  Then he noticed that his mini-library became remarkably popular, so much so, that he started seeing visitors from other communities throughout the DC Metro area.

You’re probably wondering about the environmental aspect of these literary boxes.  Simply put, they could kick start a movement toward creating more sustainable communities.  Whether or not Vahab realizes it, he’s doing more than promoting community interaction and literacy.  The libraries allow people to get books that they might have otherwise bought from a bookstore and donate books that they might have just thrown out or left cluttering their shelves.  Also, since the lending libraries cater to neighborhoods, people can easily walk to the box in their area to pick out a new book rather than driving to a library or bookstore.

In addition, the libraries forge a community bond, which can promote overall sustainability.  People who have libraries on their lawns have noticed the formation of greater bonding with their community.  For example, neighbors are more inclined to share household items or form carpools.

For more information, check out the Washington Post article here.

Chevy Chase’s Western Grove Urban Park to be Urban Oasis

In 2001 Montgomery County purchased the newly named Western Grove Urban Park near the Friendship Heights Metro.  The project is expected to cost around $1 million to develop, with an annual operating budget of $55,000.  The lot is set to become a 1.9 acre “urban oasis” that will feature lighted brick paths, gardens, a natural play area, moveable furniture, and Wi-Fi access.  Designed to keep an open garden quality, it is the first of this kind of urban park in Montgomery County.

For more information check out the article on


  • BG 101, Sept. 25, 4-5:30 PM, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD

Join Bethesda Green for their regular orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events, and volunteer opportunities.

  • Bethesda Green Luncheon Speaker Series,  Sept. 26, 12-1:30 PM Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD

Learn about Montgomery County’s new Green Investor Incentive Program from presenter Peter Bang, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.  This FREE seminar discussion will address who is a qualified company or investor, amount of investment, and the application process.  Register here.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

Recent anti-pesticide laws enacted by local jurisdictions have moved members of the Montgomery County Council to examine the county’s current pesticide practices, both public and private facility management and lawn care/landscaping services, but not in farming or agricultural land uses.

DC’s Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act was passed unanimously in August 2012. It restricts non-essential “cosmetic” pesticides from all government-owned property and restricts the use of pesticides on private property around schools and child-occupied facilities and properties next to waterways.

In July 2013, Takoma Park, MD City Council passed unanimously “Safe Grow Act of 2013,” which restricts the use of certain pesticides on all city-owned and private property within the City.

Residents in DC and Takoma Park – Julie Taddeo and Catherine Cummings – brought their concerns to their respective council members about the health risks and exposure to pesticides, especially to young children, as there is a growing amount of research linking early exposure to synthetic pesticides and childhood leukemias and cancers. (See Policy Statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.)

In the Kentlands neighborhood in Gaithersburg, the community is considering alternatives to synthetic pesticides currently used in the common landscaped areas after concerned residents brought up health risks to exposure of these synthetic pesticides that are applied every fall and spring.  In 2011, the Kentlands Citizens Assembly voted to stop spraying pesticides in tot-lots due to residents’ concerns of pesticide exposure to children. The other concern is that the pesticides also run off into the local Muddy Branch stream and that local drinking water health suffers.

A pesticide is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “any substance or mixture of substances intended for: preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.”

Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal, who chairs the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, requested a discussion and presentation on September 9 at the Council’s Transportation, Energy and Environment Committee to inform the Council members about the county’s current practices, to hear testimony from Takoma Park and DC legislators, and to hear from people that are for and against local legislation.

So, what comes next?

Keith Levchenko, Senior Legislative Analyst for Montgomery County Council says that, “Currently, no legislation has been introduced at the County Council.  Council member Roger Berliner, Chairman of the T&E Committee, announced at the T&E discussion that he is considering introducing pesticide legislation.  If legislation is introduced, then a public hearing and committee discussion specific to the bill will be scheduled.”

Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin is the founder of Green Gaithersburg, a member of the newly formed Chesapeake Greens Collaborative, a coalition of environmentally friendly organizations that promotes sustainability and sound environmental practices in our communities.

By Alison WentzellBGgreennews_logo1

Savenia Labs Gets Ready to Premier WaterSavvy Database

Savenia Labs announced today that they have put together a database that compares the price of water across the United States.  What they have found is that water prices are drastically different across the country.  For example, in Atlanta, GA the average family will pay $2,600 per year for water; whereas in Wilmington, DE families will pay approximately $260 per year.

The wide variation in pricing is due to diverse pricing strategies around the country, and they’re not exactly what you’d expect.  Water companies figure water bills based on either a fixed price or a price based off of a household’s water usage, but there are also administrative fees, sewer rates, block rates, and pricing tiers.  Savenia Labs has found that a majority of what we pay on our water bills isn’t actually for water, but rather sewer and administrative fees.  Most surprisingly, though, is that the pricing logic regions use for water doesn’t always make sense.  They found that water was relatively cheap in the Southwest, despite the arid environment, but in regions that are plentiful with water, it is expensive.  The difference being sewer costs.

Savenia Labs hopes that WaterSavvy-DB will inform residents across the nation about the price of water and will help them to purchase the most water and price efficient appliances for their region.  Catherine Norman of Johns Hopkins University praises the WaterSavvy-DB by saying, “Savenia WaterSavvy-DB empowers buyers to make smart choices that support conservation in their communities and helps raise awareness of local water costs.”  Savenia Labs plans to utilize the database to illuminate the hidden costs and environmental impacts of common appliances.

For more information and a sample of the WaterSavvy-DB, check out their blog.

Startup Maryland

The new organization, Startup Maryland has reached enormous success since its launch from the Startup America Partnership.  Their main concentrations are connection, celebration, coaching, and capital.  With all of these four initiatives they hope to help startup businesses ground themselves in today’s economy.  In addition, Startup MD strives to strengthen Maryland’s economy while fostering an economic climate in which companies can leverage the state’s Unfair Advantage.  Unfair Advantage refers to the fact that Maryland provides resources to entrepreneurs that have fueled startup innovations for decades, which no other state has been able to match.

Earlier this year Startup Maryland received even more validation to their success when they were invited to the White House to highlight how their efforts developed over the past year.  Since their inception they have become one of the top 5 startups per capita, and have worked with over 500 startup businesses.  Their successes boost Maryland’s local economy by providing easily accessible resources for startup businesses that might otherwise not succeed.

For more about Startup Maryland, check out their website.


  • Pitch Across Maryland, September 18, 10 am – 1 pm, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD

Join Bethesda Green as we host the second annual Pitch Across Maryland Bus Tour.  This event is open to all entrepreneurs seeking the opportunity to make pitches, and connect with potential investors.  For more information email Robert Snyder at and register at

  • Food and Water Watch’s Perdue Fair Share Campaign Kick-Off Meeting, September 18, 7-9 pm, Heffner Center, 42 Oswego Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912

Come out and show support for the Poultry Fair Share Act, which would end Big Chicken’s free ride on pollution in the Bay and make them pay to clean it up.  This first meeting will provide further information about the campaign and what you can do to help.

  • Montgomery County Food Council General Council Meeting, September 18, 7-9 pm, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD

Learn 10 Easy Steps to Greening a Restaurant, which can help any business where food is packaged and consumed!

  • PARK(ing) Day, September 20, 10am-2pm, 7900 Norfolk Ave, Bethesda, MD,

PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists convert metered parking sports to temporary parks to raise awareness about the need for more urban open space and to spark conversations about how public space is created and allocated.  To learn more visit

  • DC Green Festival, September 21-22, 10a-5pm, Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Come out to the showcase green event of the year, and say hello to Bethesda Green!

  • Norwood Park Day, September 21, 1-4 pm, Norwood Park, 4700 Norwood Drive, Chevy Chase, MD

Volunteer from 1 to 3 to help clean up Norwood Park and stay for the Little Falls Ramblers concert.  Make sure to bring clippers, loppers and gloves!  Free Food will be provided!

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

Pepco offers a suite of programs to help you save energy and money. These programs support Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s EmPOWER Maryland initiative to reduce energy consumption in the state 15 percent by 2015. Not only will you save, you’ll be doing your part to make Maryland a cleaner and greener place to live.

For homeowners, the Quick Home Energy Check-up is a great way to get started. An energy professional will complete a high-level assessment of your home and install energy-saving products such as CFLs and low-flow shower heads, making it easy for you to save right away.

Or, receive up to $750 in rebates when you upgrade to more efficient cooling and heating equipment and have your duct system evaluated  to seal any leaks, fix holes or be properly connected, which improves your home’s comfort and indoor air quality. Both services are provided by Pepco’s participating contractors.

If you are thinking about a new appliance, be sure to choose an ENERGY STAR® certified one and get up to $150 in rebates from Pepco.

Or, choose to save automatically with Energy Wise Rewards™. Residential and commercial customers alike can sign up and choose a web-programmable thermostat – a $150 value – or an outdoor switch, both professionally installed at no charge. Then, receive up to $160 off your bill in your first year of participating. For a few hours on Peak Savings Days, Pepco will automatically cycle off and on your central air conditioner or heat pump compressor while your fan continues to circulate already cooled air. You have two opportunities to opt out of a Peak Savings Day each year.

Next summer, look for a phone call, text message or email from Pepco the day before a Peak Savings Day, alerting you to voluntarily reduce your electricity use. With the Peak Energy Savings Credit program you will receive a $1.25 credit off your bill for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) you reduce below your baseline.

Residents of multi-family apartment buildings and condominiums, don’t fret! You can also benefit from rebates for appliance purchases, get a Quick Home Energy Check-up, and participate in the Peak Energy Savings Credit and Energy Wise Rewards programs.

There are even programs for commercial customers, small business and nonprofits through the Commercial and Industrial (C&I) Energy Saving Programs. Participating organizations have saved more than $16 million in energy costs since 2009, which goes straight to your bottom line. Plus, your customers know you’re making a difference in Maryland’s environment.

Learn more about Pepco’s Home Energy Saving Programs and the C&I Energy Saving Programs to start saving energy and money today.

Bullis pic1by Jon Akpapunam

Sustainable.  Steward.  School. 

What do these three words have in common?  Well, for one, they all begin with the letter “s”—but they also accurately describe Bullis School, located in Potomac, MD.

Bullis School made a commitment to environmental stewardship and education several years ago—and as an independent, college preparatory school, the decision to embed environmental consciousness within the school community was solely a decision of their own.

All of this seemed to jumpstart in 2005 with the Green Cup Challenge, a recycling challenge in which middle school classes participated pioneered by teacher, Rita Gerharz.  Clearly inspiration was drawn from this, as many other efforts followed shortly after.  In 2009, the school implemented an 11kW solar photovoltaic system (consisting of 540 panels) on the roof of their Blair Family Center for the Arts, with all remaining electrical needs fulfilled through the purchase of 100% wind power.  The Bullis Community Garden grows 30 different types of crops, providing food for the school’s dining hall and space for classroom use.  It does so without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.  Also, as a Buddy Bison School, environmental education is incorporated throughout the curriculum and the partnership with the National Park Trust.

bullis pic2Second grade teacher, Carolyn Cohen, won the first Buddy National Teacher Award for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship from the National Park Trust.  Bullis was also ranked fourth in the country for its renewable energy use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership, awarded membership to the 2011 Green Power Leadership Club, and received a Green Award from Bethesda Magazine in 2011.

Efforts have not ceased, however, with recognition in the last couple of years.  Students at Bullis continue to be environmentally aware and interested.  “Young people enjoy making a difference and leaving an impact,” explains Susie Zimmerman, the school’s Communications Director.  She attributes some of the school’s success in this regard to the early exposure provided to students.  Environmental education is incorporated into the curriculum starting in the second grade.

Susie stresses the importance and effectiveness of engaging students in hands-on experience that will connect students to the natural world and allow them to make a difference.  These experiences culminate in environmental stewardship becoming second nature—a part of everyday life.“

“Bullis seeks to prepare all students to become caring citizens who further demonstrate life-long proficiency in 21st century skills related to critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, and resourcefulness,” the curriculum mission states.  Critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, and resourcefulness are all vital skills necessary to lessen environmental impacts for a more sustainable future.

A school—teaching sustainability, acting as an environmental steward—that is Bullis.

A recent graduate of Denison University, Jon Akpapunam is an intern at both Clean Currents and the City Parks Alliance. He is passionate about both learning and developing new perspectives and strategies to create a more sustainable future.

Gala13_ArtDeco_logo v22013 BETHESDA GREEN GALA

Bethesda Green celebrates 5 years of promoting sustainable living with a fabulous Gala at the historic Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Thursday, October 3. This event brings people from DC metro area who share the vision of a more green and sustainable community.  See more info about the Gala.

Highlights of the evening include honoring the 2013 Bethesda Magazine Green Award winners — businesses, organizations, communities and individuals who are providing green services or promoting and living a green lifestyle.

Buy Gala Tickets Now

Gala13_ArtDeco_logo v2Bethesda Green celebrates 5 years of promoting sustainable living with a fabulous Gala Thursday, October 3, at the historic Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. This event gathers people from the DC metro area who share the vision of a more green and sustainable community.

Highlights of the evening include honoring 2013 Bethesda Magazine Green Award winners and recognizing businesses, organizations, communities and individuals who are providing green services or promoting and living a green lifestyle.  Click here for more details about the Gala.

Early Bird tickets (20% discount) available through Friday, Sept. 13.

Buy Your Tickets Now!

Photo Credit:  Diane Lill

Photo Credit: Diane Lill

by Jon Akpapunam

Have you seen kids excited for a salad party? Kids who participated in GreenKids’ Salad Science program are.

Salad Science is just one of the fun programs offered by GreenKids program at Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS). Students grow their own salad greens and learn about plant parts and nutrition over a six-week period.  At the end of the program, students partake in a salad party—with toppings provided by Whole Foods Market—to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Such programming enables GreenKids to leave its mark on students and is a big reason the program received a 2012 Bethesda Magazine Green award.

GreenKids is a grant-funded educational outreach program that establishes two-year partnerships with participating schools.  It offers free resources and field experiences—with the ultimate goal of receiving Maryland Green School Certification from the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education.

ANS Deputy Director Lisa Alexander started the program as a pilot in 2005, eager to assist her child’s school, Rock Creek Forest, become a Green School.  The pilot program led to new knowledge and exciting possibilities for environmental education.

Since 2005, GreenKids has raised more than $1 million to directly support the environmental science literacy of Montgomery County and Loudon County Public School students and teachers. The program has engaged more than 28,000 students with hands-on lessons.

Photo Credit: James Kegley

Photo Credit: James Kegley

GreenKids brings nature to students and teachers

The goal of GreenKids is to connect students with the natural world and instill in them the understanding “that there is more to life than just you,” said Diane Lill, Director of the GreenKids program. Through lessons focused on composting, gardening, recycling, watershed education, energy conservation, and habitat restoration, this program allows students  to learn more about the role they play in our world.  Enthusiastic students learn about natural resources and the process of growing their own food.

The program also supports some wonderful (and sometimes under-appreciated) teachers with professional development and works with teachers to make these programs an enduring part of the curriculum.

Through fun activities and outdoor trips, GreenKids provides students and teachers with great knowledge that will last them a lifetime.  “What do you remember from elementary school?” Diane asks, “Awesome field trip, outdoor activities, or perhaps an amazing teacher?”—all of which GreenKids encapsulates.

Photo Credit: Balance Photography

Photo Credit: Balance Photography

Diane’s work for GreenKids came full circle at the 2012 Bethesda Green Gala.  During her speech, Diane thanked the teachers that took her outside as a young student.  Following her speech, two Gala attendees inquired about her outdoor experiences as a child. To her amazement, she realized that they were teachers from both her Outdoor Environmental Education and C&O Canal experiences and was encouraged that they are still involved in the green movement.  “One field trip can have an amazing experience on someone’s life,” she explained.  It is obvious her experiences as a child had a lasting impact; perhaps her current students will contribute to the green movement in years to come as well.

A recent graduate of Denison University, Jon Akpapunam is an intern at both Clean Currents and the City Parks Alliance. He is passionate about both learning and developing new perspectives and strategies to create a more sustainable future.


Bethesda Green celebrates 5 years of promoting sustainable living with a fabulous Gala at the historic Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. This event brings people from DC metro area who share the vision of a more green and sustainable community.

Highlights of the evening include honoring 2013 Green Award winners and recognizing businesses, organizations, communities and individuals who are providing green services or promoting and living a green lifestyle.


BRT photoby Kelly Blynn

As we’re all well aware, our area suffers some of the worst congestion in the nation. According to the Census, we waste 20 more minutes every day in traffic, away from family and home, than any other region in the country. Congestion makes our air pollution among the worst in the country; and an ever-increasing threat to the health and well-being of children and the elderly. The major challenge is that our current transportation infrastructure simply cannot handle the current and projected number of cars on the road. In the coming years, Montgomery County will add more than 200,000 new residents, and the same number of jobs.

That’s why Montgomery County has looked to plans for a Rapid Transit System, based on successful bus rapid transit systems from around the nation. The best way to describe the Rapid Transit System is a high quality transit system that operates like Metrorail on rubber tires.

This summer, the Montgomery County Planning Board passed a draft plan for a 79-mile system, entitled the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, and this fall that same plan will go to the County Council for consideration. Now is the time to learn more about this plan, and get involved.  Luckily, there’s a new video to get up to speed about the basics of the project:

Clearly, we must do something to find a better way to get to and from home, work, and school. Building new roads is too costly, too harmful to our neighborhoods, and won’t solve the problem. Investing in transit is the best option we have to provide high-quality, affordable transportation options, clean up our air, and improve our quality of life.

To get more involved in this project, sign up to testify at the upcoming public hearings on September 24 and 26, or visit for upcoming educational events.

Kelly Blynn is the Campaign Manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Next Generation of Transit Campaign. A former international campaigner at the climate change organization, she believes in thinking globally while acting locally, and she is now working hard to organize with communities for sustainable and equitable transportation in the Washington, DC region.

BGnews_logoBy Alison Wentzell

Public Hunting Not a Part of Park Service’s Deer Control Plan

Recently there has been a huge spike in the deer population in Virginia and Maryland civil war parks.  The increase in the number of deer has caused new problems for Park Service officials, and they are unsure what to do about them.  Recent surveys have found that there is an estimated 82 deer per square mile in the parks.  However, the areas can only support about 20 deer per square mile.  In addition, the deer affect the cultural landscapes, which presents the officials with a huge dilemma.  Tourists flock to the parks every year to experience them the way they were 150 years ago, but high deer population is changing the appearance of the park at a rate faster than the officials can fix.

Local hunting advocates are pushing the government to allow deer hunting in these parks.  Organizations have arranged for deer “harvests” across the country, including DC.  Hunters killed 20 deer during the span of 3 days at Rock Creek Park back in March.  They even donated the collected venison to food pantries.  However, the organization of this event caused uproar among the local community including protests and an unsuccessful lawsuit.

In spite of the gun community’s vocalization of their support for hunting in these parks, Park Service officials aren’t budging.  They refuse to allow hunting in the parks.  Not to mention, congressional legislation does not even allow Park Services to consider the option of hunting as a means for deer population control.  And with good reason, these parks are open to the public and are visited by thousands of tourists each season.  In my opinion, it seems that the addition of guns adds a tremendous safety concern for all of these people, no matter how regulated they are.  It will also give officials the added challenge of implementing hunting regulations.

For more information, check out the Washington Post article here.

Biking to Work Promotes Healthy Lifestyle

More and more frequently we hear stories promoting a biking lifestyle.  And for good reason.  When it comes down to it, bikes have many advantages over cars.  But an article in this week’s Gazette puts a different spin on the increasingly popular trend.  This story focuses on two local doctors who work for the NIH Heart Center at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.  Keith Horvath, director of cardiothoracic surgery, and Brad Dick, and interventionalist radiologist, started biking to work five years ago and believe others should do the same.

Horvath takes the phrase “practice what you preach” to heart.  He says that part of his job is promoting a healthy lifestyle, and biking has done that for him.  He claims that the hardest part about exercising is finding the time to do it.  Now he uses his morning commute not only as his exercise for the day, but to relax, plan out his day, and prepare for surgery.

Radiologist Brad Dick also bikes to work, and can’t help but notice the stress people have on their morning commute.  Unlike the people he passes over on the Beltway, Dick never has to deal with traffic because you can always get around it on a bike.  Dick also mentions, “The less gas we use as a society the more healthy we are.”  So, while Dick and Horvath ride their bikes to work every day, they’re not only benefiting from it themselves, but they are also making you healthier by reducing gas usage and traffic congestion.

For the full article, check out the Gazette.


  • Bethesda Green Happy Hour, Sept. 5, 5-8 pm, The Courtyard by Marriott Chevy Chase, 5220 Wisconsin Avenue

Join Bethesda Green for its First Thursday Happy Hour at The Courtyard and have a chance to win a raffle, get discounts on wine, beer, and cocktails, and delicious appetizers.  Also, meet the people protecting the local watershed—Friends of Cabin John Creek, Little Falls Watershed Alliance and Rock Creek Conservancy.  There is a $10 entrance fee with the proceeds shared among the local watershed groups.  RSVP via Meetup.

  • Red Wiggler Annual Harvest Celebration, Sept. 7, 4-8:30 pm, Red Wiggler Community Farm, 23400 Ridge Road, Germantown, MD

Come out and honor the work of the season and savor the delicious flavors of the fields.  Dishes are prepared by local chefs and consist of ingredients that have been grown right on the farm.  There will be live music and a Silent Auction full of items and services for your home, garden, and family.  Tickets cost $75 for adults and $40 for children.  All proceeds help programs at the Red Wiggler Farm.  To find out more information, check out the Bethesda Green Calendar.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.