October 2013


By Alison Wentzell

New Road Rules Make DC Cycling SaferBGnews_logo

In the past year, the number of bicyclists on DC streets has risen 130%.  With so many more bikes on the roads, the District government has passed a new bill making it much safer for bikes.  The bill allows cyclists to cross intersections ahead of the light, so that they don’t feel so pushed by the people in cars.

The new legislation also puts more responsibility on the drivers.  Drivers failing to yield to cyclists will receive 3 points on their license as well as a $250 fine.  Drivers colliding with cyclists will have to pay $500 and get 6 points on their license.  However, many drivers claim that the rules aren’t fair and put too much responsibility on them without considering what the cyclists might be doing.

Check out the full article at WJLA.

Bethesda Firm Helps You Pick LED Light Bulbs

Since the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed in 2007, many people have been confused about what to do for light bulbs.  The law has resulted in many of the most popular incandescent light bulbs being taken off the shelf because they do not meet new energy efficiency standards.  Since then, consumers have become overwhelmed with the array of lighting options, that all vary in brightness, color, and environmental safety.

However, coming to the rescue is Bethesda Systems, an audio-visual company that offers a new service called LED Diet, which aims to cut down on electric bills by helping homeowners pick the light bulbs that best fit their needs. The people from Bethesda Systems, which sells fixtures and bulbs not typically found at hardware stores, will come to your house to test various options during both the day and night.

The company believe that what’s important is how the light looks in the room, not the brand.  These bulbs are generally more expensive than what you would get at the store; however, after the initial sticker price, an LED bulb can save $267 in energy costs over a comparable incandescent for the lifetime of the bulb, according to Bethesda Systems.

For more information, check out the Washington Post article.

Events

  • BG 101,  Oct 30, 4-5:30 PM, 4825 Cordell Ave, Second Floor, Bethesda, MD

Come out to Bethesda Green for an orientation about the organization and to learn about volunteer opportunities!

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

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Food_Day_2013_Facebook_logoFood Day is tomorrow, Thursday, October 24, 2013, a nationwide celebration.

Food Day is a grassroots movement to promote healthy, affordable, and sustainable food systems and policies.  It’s also about celebrating and eating real food. This means cutting back on sugar drinks, overly salted packaged foods, and fatty, factory-farmed meats in favor of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein.

Why is this important?

Let’s look at some alarming facts associated with poor diet and broken food systems.

Food consumption and addiction to sugarDonations_cropped

  • Food consumption is increasing on a global scale—from 2,250 calories per person per day in 1961 to 2,750 calories in 2007 to a projected 3,070 calories by 2050.
  • In 1900, the U.S. consumed about 5 pounds of sugar per person annually.  By 2000, that increased to about 150 pounds of sugar per person annually, with 61 pounds of that coming from high fructose corn syrup.
  • The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, while the average 14- 18-year-old consumes 32 teaspoons.

Obesity—Just one of the many medical conditions linked to our poor diet.

  • 1 out of every 3 people in the U.S. are either overweight or obese.
  • The percentage of American children aged 6-19 who are obese has tripled since 1980.
  • 47% of Americans will be obese by 2030.
  • Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancer. The annual medical cost for obesity is about $150 billion.

How about our broken food system?DSCN4590

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service estimates that 23.5 million people live in food deserts. More than half of them (13.5 million) are low-income. With no other options, people living in food deserts get most of their meals from fast food restaurants.
  • 1 in 6 people in America face hunger. Over 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunch each school day. Less than half of them get breakfast and only 10 percent have access to summer feeding sites.
  • 40% of food in the U.S. today goes uneaten.  This wasted food could feed more than 25 million Americans every year.  The U.S. now wastes 50% more food than in the 1970s.
  • 74% of farm subsidies goes to 10% of the largest farms, many of which pay little attention to protecting the environment.

SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE A CHANGE?

1. Shop at your local farmer’s markets and support local, sustainable agriculture. Here’s a list of well-known farmer’s markets within the Montgomery County area.

2. If limited resources affect your ability to purchase healthy foods, check out “Good Food on a Tight Budget.” It  has a list of reasonably-priced healthy foods grown and prepared using few pesticides, contaminants, and artificial ingredients.

3. Not sure how to prepare your healthy groceries? Food Day’s Eat Real Cookbook has lots of examples of easy, healthy meals you can cook at home. Better yet, cook with your kids and teach them the importance of healthy eating.

4. Try Meatless Mondays and learn more about why it’s a smart option and how you can do it.

5. Educate yourself about what you should eat.  Answer these questions and find out how your typical diet impacts your health, the environment, and animal welfare.

6. Get involved in local food banks and homeless shelters. What about organizing a food drive? You and your kids can also donate your time and make a difference to people in your community.

7. Tell your friends and family about eating real food and encourage them to get involved in their community.  Start by sharing this post with them!

Attend a local Food Day event

Sources:

1. http://www.foodday.org/

2.http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/wasted-food-ip.pdf

3. http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf

4. http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-food-deserts

5. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/go-to-the-atlas.aspx#.UmbVKBA-e4Q

6. http://www.who.int/topics/food_additives/en/

savenia 2

Bethesda Green is proud to announce that Savenia Labs Founder John Jabara was named Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year by the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC), an award that recognizes an individual that brings new technologies, products or services to the market in Maryland.

 

Founded in 2009 in the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, Savenia Labs has revolutionized shopping with its innovative energy ratings labels that inform consumers about the lifetime energy costs and environmental impacts of various household appliances.

 

“Congratulations to John and the Savenia team for bringing these breakthrough energy and environmental impact ratings to Maryland and beyond,” said Bethesda Green Incubator Manager Robert Snyder.

 

“It is an honor to receive this award, and I would like to thank all the people that have helped get Savenia Labs Energy Ratings into the hands of consumers so quickly across the region,” said Jabara. Participating retailers and enterprise customers can download energy rating labels on site, customized by zip code for energy costs and environmental impacts.

 

The full press release is here.

By Alison Wentzell

Cheverly Students Participate in Bike to School Day BGgreennews_logo1

Every year Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary School in Cheverly puts on Fall Bike to School Day.  Bike to School Day was set up as part of a program run through the National Center for Safe Routes to School, with the hopes of reducing traffic and pollution.  This year 90 students rode from Legion Park to the school alongside a police escort.  The day is to encourage children to walk and bike to school to promote healthier lifestyles.  As it is, approximately 50 students walk or bike to school each day, and the school hopes that this number will increase.

Check out the full article on the Gazette here.

Thumbs up to the DC Circulator

A recent study conducted by Howard University’s Transit Research Center concluded that the DC Circulator is as popular as ever!  Created a decade ago, the public transportation system has been keeping riders happy, as it links people from neighborhoods to mass transit stations.  The team surveyed approximately 1,800 riders who use the system on a regular basis, and found that 9 out of 10 riders were satisfied with the service.  More than 80% of the respondents use the system to commute between home and work and use it as an alternative to other options. The study found that 57% of DC Circulator riders own their own vehicles,, showing that the system promotes the use of mass transit in the DC area.

For more information, check out the full article in the Washington Post.

Events

  • Save a Birding Hot Spot, Sunday, Oct. 20, 9 – 11 am, 20500 Zion Road, Laytonsville, MD

Join The Montgomery County Sierra Club, Montgomery Bird Club, and Department of Environmental Protection to remove invasive plants from the Blue Mash Nature Trail, and protect bird and other wildlife species from invasive non-native plants.  Tools are limited so please bring clippers, saws, and loopers, if you can!  For more information click here.  If your interested please RSVP to mimi.abdu@maryland.sierraclub.org or call 301-919-6060.

  • Paper Shredding and Electronic Recycling Event, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 5 -7 pm, 3015 University Blvd, Kensington, MD 20895

Come out to the Signal Financial Federal Credit Union parking lot for a paper shredding and electronic recycling event organized by GreenWheaton!  Bring all unwanted paper and document to be securely shredded and recycled.  You can also bring any unwanted electronics to be recycled by ECO City Junk.  If you’re interested in volunteering for this event, contact GreenWheaton at info@greenwheaton.org.

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

By Alison WentzellBGgreennews_logo1

The Planet’s Budget Crisis

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their fifth comprehensive report on climate change.  One of the most frightening observations the panel made was that we have almost maxed out our carbon budget.  The burning of fossil fuels and dumping of carbon pollution into our planet’s oceans and atmosphere has taken its toll on our greenhouse gas emissions.

The carbon budget was developed to prevent us from exceeding the amount of fossil fuel we can burn before exceeding the tipping point.  If we continue at our current rate, we would only be able to last another 15 years before having to stop burning fossil fuels altogether.

Scientists can no long ignore the drastic changes we have seen because of climate change.  With 95% of scientists agreeing that climate change is caused by human industrialization and pollution, climate change deniers are struggling to come up with reasons to prevent action.  Despite the grim news about our planet’s health, there is a silver lining.  The IPCC’s report could perpetuate more focus and spending on America’s environmental sector.  There is the potential to create new jobs in energy efficiency and clean energy, as well as in other areas of environmental concern.

See the Huffington Post column by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) for more on this topic.

Gas Exhaust Reduces Bees’ Ability to Find Flowers

Bees are a vital part in our ecosystems and are responsible for more than half of the food in your fridge.  However, bee populations are rapidly declining as concerns about food security rise at an increasing rate.  Scientists have mostly been studying the adverse effects of chemical pesticides on bees with the hopes that if we reduce or change pesticides we can get more bees to pollinate.  They have discovered that the chemicals have prevented bees from doing their job.

Unfortunately, bees are exposed to myriad pollutants and chemicals every day, many of which come from car exhaust.  Neuroscientist Tracey Newman, who worked on the study, explains, “We got into this because we were aware of the impacts of airborne pollutants on human health, so it didn’t seem so wild that there may be impacts that extended beyond human health.”

What she and her fellow scientists found was that the chemical odors given off by flowers got “lost” after reacting with exhaust fumes.  The loss of chemical odor from the flowers has hindered the bees ability to track the scents and procure nectar in the most efficient way.

Now the race to improve air quality no longer impacts human health, but bees’ health too.  If bees stop being able to gather nectar in the most efficient manner, then we also risk a severe reduction in food availability and biodiversity loss in ecosystems.

For more information, check out the BBC article here.

Events

Come meet Christy Nordstrom of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals and help create a local chapter of the organization.  This is a great opportunity for networking and opening conversations.

  • Pitch for Charity, October 10, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM, Washington Post Building,1150 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Come pitch your start-up at the CleanTech Southeast Open “Pitch for Charity” event.  If your pitch wins, $1000 will go towards the charity of your choice.  You only have 60 seconds, so make it smart, persuasive, and fast!

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

USG Building IIIby Jon Akpapunam

The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) was among the recipients of the inaugural Bethesda Magazine Green Awards presented at the Bethesda Green Gala in 2010. We’re revisiting previous Green Champions, with a new cohort scheduled to be presented Thursday, Oct. 3, at the 2013 Gala (more info here or purchase tickets through Oct. 2 at this site).

The Camille Kendall Academic Center on the USG campus received LEED Gold certification in 2007.  At the time it was the largest academic building in the state of Maryland to receive such an honor.  This amazing achievement inspired a fresh perspective on environmental stewardship in the Shady Grove community.

“More sustainably and dynamically” seems to be the answer developing each day on campus.  Jessica Nardi, Director of Administration, said that the USG administration began analyzing the way in which all aspects of the university — procurement, planning and housekeeping, for example  — operated on a daily basis.

USG_Plants and FlowersNo matter how large or small the operation — from waste management to the type of salt used during the winter season to melt ice — USG began making decisions by taking environmental impact into consideration.  Some of their current green initiatives include campus wide recycling, energy and water conservation efforts, use of local produce, and environmental education.  Jessica described their effort to serve the USG community as a “living laboratory,” an opportunity to experiment with and implement certain green efforts.

An example of this can be seen in their work with Savenia Labs, an independent testing laboratory and information services company that provides energy and environmental impact ratings on popular appliances and electrical products and one of the Bethesda Green incubator companies.  USG and Savenia Labs partnered to create a display to show members of the community the importance of also procuring small appliances with better energy ratings and sustainable life cycles.

All of this progress, however, would not be possible without the commitment and optimism of the student body. USG administration should be acknowledged for outlining and assembling the vehicle for effective action, but the students are indeed in the driver’s seat.  Jessica characterized USG students as “dedicated and hardworking” individuals.  So, she is never surprised to see their constant contributions (green-focused class gifts, carpooling, green tours, for example) to the sustainability mantra of USG.  Likewise, it is inspiring to those of us outside the USG community to see both the holistic approach and shared responsibility evident on campus.

USG_Building III aUSG is currently in a period of growth with a future that seems even brighter and greener. They have plans to construct a new parking garage in the next two years — a highly energy-efficient structure via a green construction process that’s also equipped with rainwater capture. Plans are also under way to construct a new Platinum LEED-certified 200,000 sq. ft. building in the next four years.

USG has done something that is not always easy — they made a change.  The Camille Kendall Academic Center marked a new standard of academic buildings on campus and ignited the other amazing efforts taking place today.  Conveniently (and remarkably) enough, one action, one project, or one idea is all it takes to ignite change. We see what one building project did for USG.  If we all decide to make that one change, the possibilities for a more sustainable future are endless.

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.