Bethesda Green Business Incubator


RCC logoby Nic Wells

I wouldn’t consider driving a pastime. Driving drains me, and radio stations never seem to live up to their “no commercial” arrangements. Driving doesn’t do Mother Nature any favors, either. But, as I drove through Northwest DC to get to work this morning, I rolled down my windows and, quite frankly, enjoyed my ride for once.

I cruised down streets filled with shades of green, so many that even Crayola’s 96 Crayons cartons couldn’t compare. I know I’m not the only one who is impressed. National Geographic’s  “Nine Cities That Love Their Trees” recognizes the District’s 36% tree cover – much of which belongs to our very own national park, Rock Creek Park, and its constituent parks scattered throughout the city.

Now, you don’t have to be a treehugger to appreciate what Rock Creek Park has to offer. Its trees provide shade that is desperately sought by profusely sweaty people like myself on those humid summer days. Civil War buffs can troop through Fort Stevens and Fort DeRussy to trace the footsteps of long-gone soldiers.  Whatever your reason for visiting, you are guaranteed to find something of interest in Rock Creek Park.

Unfortunately, Rock Creek Park is not as lucky as its visitors. In recent years, its natural and cultural resources have taken a beating. Non-native invasive species like English ivy threaten the ecosystem’s fragile balance, and historical landmarks and access routes have deteriorated. Luckily, Rock Creek Conservancy  is working to change this.

With the 125th anniversary of the park approaching in 2015, Rock Creek Conservancy is developing exciting yearlong plans to celebrate the occasion, some of which include engaging with neighbors in local communities that use the Park and its resources. Rock Creek Conservancy will host two Saturday morning meetings: one on June 21 in the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and the other on June 28 in the Chevy Chase Library from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm.

The meetings will include four “topic tables” relating to Access, Historic Buildings & Designed Landscapes and Civil War Defenses, Programming and Recreation, and the Environment. The meetings will provide platforms for local residents to offer ideas and are designed to give residents the opportunity to play a vital role in the Park’s future.

If you’re allergic to driving like I am, these meetings can help secure a future with scenic drives through Northwest DC. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Nic Wells, a McLean native, interns for Rock Creek Conservancy, part of the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, and studies Geography and Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Incubator Spotlight is a continuing series of features about companies in the Bethesda Green Business Incubator.

Gator ron logoGator Ron’s Zesty Sauces & Mixes offers six unique, delicious products; two versions each of Divine Bloody Mary Mix, Angel Wing Sauce & Heavenly BBQ Sauce.  All products are made with all natural ingredients, and are gluten, dairy, and fat free, contain no GMOs or HVPs, are Kosher, vegan, low in calories and carbs and high in flavor & versatility; there are numerous recipes on our website for easy, healthy appetizers, entrées, side dishes and beverages using our products.

The unique recipes for these sauces and mixes were created by “Gator” Ron Griffith, who died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in November 2011; we are manufacturing and selling his products to raise money for ALS research. Constance Griffith, Ron’s wife, is Founder & President of Gator Ron’s Zesty Sauces & Mixes; Debra Kaufmann is Co-Founder & Vice President, Public Relations & Communications.  A percentage of all proceeds are donated to the Robert Packard Center at Johns Hopkins.

In the 18 months since we first received our manufactured products, we are delighted to say that Gator Ron’s Zesty Sauces & Mixes are now in more than 100 locations in the Baltimore/Washington metro area, including several stores and restaurants on the Eastern Shore.  We are also with a distributor in Ontario, Canada for placement in gourmet and gift shops, and our Bloody Mary Mix is in numerous liquor stores in Delaware and Pennsylvania, as well as all Montgomery County and Worcester County Liquor Stores.  We have online sales through our website, Abe’s Market, Open Sky and Amazon.

Gator Ron’s is currently in local programs with Whole Foods and MOM’s Organic Market, and will be placing some of our products in local Giant Food Stores in the fall, and we are in discussions with potential distributors, which would help us really grow the business.  We are also hoping to find investors to help fund this upcoming growth – and even plan to apply to Shark Tank!  We are very excited and believe that 2014 has the possibility of becoming a huge year for Gator Ron’s!

Please help us “take a bite out of ALS” by purchasing Gator Ron’s Zesty Sauces & Mixes – we hope to become the Paul Newman’s for ALS.

As students go back to school to start their spring semester, finding a summer internship is definitely on their to-do list, and now is the time when employers are looking for talented students to fill their organizational needs. So each year Bethesda Green hosts Fields of Green Internship Fair to connect highly qualified students who are looking for opportunities in the environmental sector with DC metro area’s green employers. Getting ready for the event this year, we decided to share a series of profiles about some of the amazing interns who have worked with us recently.

Susanna Parker PhotoMeet Susanna Parker. She is the Social Media and Production Manager for Mark Leisher Productions, a visual communications company based in Bethesda. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Management at the University of Maryland.

How did you hear about Bethesda Green? I heard of Bethesda Green through a family friend, Cheryl Newman. Cheryl worked for Honest Tea and had been involved with Bethesda Green for several years. She introduced me to BG Program Manager Sharon D’Emidio and I joined Bethesda Green as an intern.

The best thing about interning at Bethesda Green was the experience and connections that I gained. I was never assigned menial tasks, but given important projects that were interesting to work on and were a great addition to my resume.

What have you been up to since your internship at Bethesda Green?  As an intern with BG, I regularly wrote for the Bethesda Green blog. I came to the attention of Mark Leisher, whose production company is in the BG Incubator. He and his partner asked me to come on part-time as a content writer. I gradually transitioned to full-time and just celebrated my one-year anniversary as an employee of Mark Leisher Productions.

I am most passionate about educating people on current issues. Whether that’s watershed protection, the Keystone XL pipeline, or colony collapse disorder, people need to know how humans impact the environment around them, and what they can do to help.

One thing you do to protect the environment? I compost with worms in our apartment. It took some experimentation, and I had to fight off fruit flies for a while, but my husband and I have drastically reduced our food waste. Plus, we have to take out the trash far less!

Future goals/plans? I’m looking forward to continuing in my role at Mark Leisher Productions and learning more about video production. My husband and I are about to start house-hunting and hope to purchase a home by mid-June. We’re also planning a few vacations, including to Florida, North Carolina, and (hopefully) Mexico.

BGnews_logoMaryland Showcase of Sustainability

Monday, Jan. 27
8 – 11 am
Weston Annapolis

This interactive and engaging event brings together change agents from across the state — including Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman and the team from Doo Consulting — who have created exciting and innovative programs in their communities, businesses or industries. Their work will be an inspiration to some, a beacon to others, and a call to action to the rest.  Click here for more info.

Montgomery County Sustainability Network

Tonight (Tuesday), Jan. 14
6 pm
Dawson’s Market Rockville

The newly formed Montgomery County Sustainability Network invites everyone to its first meeting this evening (Jan. 14), 6 pm at Dawson’s Market in Rockville.  For more information, click here.

Good Green Fun

Wednesday, Jan. 15
5:30 – 7:30 pm
Urban Butcher, Silver Spring

Silver Spring Green Happy Hour features “Salad Grazing: Healthy Livestock, People, & Planet” with a Tesla S on display.  For more information, click here.

News from GreenWheaton

GreenWheaton’s recent newsletter features 10 Green Tips compiled by Sara H. Brosnan: Use Less Energy When Heating Your Home and Other Winter Tips

savenia_Hor_w_arrow_TM_NEWA Bethesda Green Business Incubator company, Savenia Labs recently launched its new Home Ratings service.  We spoke to Savenia Founder John Jabara about the new offering.

So tell us a little about this new service your company has come out with.

Sure, Savenia tells home buyers, for the first time, the lifetime value of what’s in a home before they buy it. We’re talking about energy efficient appliances, lighting, water heaters, solar panels. These things saved you money when you lived in the home – what are these savings worth to the new buyer? That hasn’t been calculated before – and that’s what we do.  Home sellers and home buyers want to know how much it costs to run a home, not to mention the environmental impact.  This is what we capture on our Savenia Home Rating Label.

So, it’s a little like a BlueBook report for a car.

Exactly, and people forget that BlueBook is not only good for the buyer – but also the seller – because a seller with a car with premium features can get a premium price. But before BlueBook, you could tell people that the car was valuable because it had extra features, but it was hard to quantify. Same for Savenia. Home owners make efficiency improvements to their home all the time, efficient appliances, LED lighting, but when they go to sell their home, they and their Realtors have found it difficult to quantify and explain this in dollars and cents.  Savenia steps in with a simple way to clarify the lifetime value of what’s in the house.

OK, I think I get it. So how does it work. Where does Savenia get the data.

Savenia is a subscription service for home sellers, they send the data about what’s in the home to Savenia, and we can use our huge proprietary energy efficiency databases to crunch the numbers and tell them what these items are worth, how much energy they use, how much they cost to run, and how all that compares to other homes with the same types of products.

How do you make sure you get accurate data?

Great question.  The short answer is that we verify everything. Savenia uses 3 systems to verify and manage the data that users put in our system. We have 2 verification processes, where first we get subscribers to sign a contract regarding the quality of the data they put into the system, but also we do unannounced checks on homes to make sure the data is accurate. Then, for maximum transparency, we color code and disclose data sources on all our Home Rating Labels for quick reference in words and in color; light green labels are subscriber provider data, and dark green labels are independently verified.

So the Realtor puts the data in, and this results in a rating – how does that work?

Right. The Realtor puts in the data, and the system tells them which home systems qualify for a Savenia Rating, either a Bronze, Silver or Gold. Let’s say we have a home where the appliances qualify for a Silver, but the lighting only qualifies for a Bronze. The Realtor has the opportunity to make some changes, for example swap out the lighting for more efficient bulbs and get them a Bronze, Silver or Gold for the lighting.

Why don’t you just get your system to force a whole home rating – good and bad.

That approach has been tried all over the country, and unless the government mandates it, it is very difficult to get everyone on board in practice. And the reason is simple – people don’t upgrade their entire home at one time. They do it in sections. They remodel a kitchen. They replace an air conditioner. When they go to sell their home, they should be able to highlight the upgrades they made, without having to highlight the things that have not been upgraded. Buyers should use home inspections and auditors to dig deeper on these things. The Savenia system is not meant to replace a professional auditor or home inspector.

So how is your system different from other rating systems out there.

There is nothing out there in the market like the Savenia Home Rating System. If you’re a home seller and you’ve recently remodeled, and probably spent some money on this, there aren’t that many options that are quick and easy to communicate to buyers the cost saving benefits they get when they buy a home. You can always get a home energy audit or an inspection, and we recommend these pre-close, but some people don’t want to spend the money or the time to do this upfront. That’s where Savenia comes in.

Very interesting John. Thanks for that explanation. With so many people doing these efficiency improvements, this seems like a great way for them to explain the benefits and maybe even get some of their money back when they sell the house. How does someone get a Savenia Rating on their home.

Savenia Home is a subscription service for professional home sellers, builders and buyers…but we all reap the rewards. Right now Savenia availability is limited to a select group of professionals in the region, one of the largest custom home builders Sandy Spring Builders and one of the largest Realtors, Jane Fairweather are using the system.  Savenia Home Ratings are also guiding the historic renovation project at The Button Farmhouse in Seneca Creek State Park. And next year we will be able to add a second group of subscribers, again limited, as we plan to expand across the DC metro region. Realtors, builders and renovators should contact us at our website to grab a slot for 2014, and we can lock them in for this next phase.

You can get more information on Savenia Home Ratings at www.saveniahome.com. And you can also get many of the Savenia rated products that go behind this system at Ace Hardware stores across the region.

BGnews_logoBethesda Downtown 20-Year Plan Launched

A large, overflowing crowd gathered Monday evening, Nov. 4, at the County Regional Services Center, providing opinions to the Montgomery County Planning Board about what works and doesn’t work in downtown Bethesda.

With a focus on listening to residents, the event was the first step in launching a new Sector Plan for Bethesda that will culminate in about a year with a proposal for the approval of the County Council, providing a fresh look at how Bethesda might evolve over the next 20 years.

The new plan will revisit the 1994 Sector Plan’s recommendations, including issues related to walking, biking and environmental quality.  There will be plenty of opportunities for residents to weigh in, including this evening, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 7 -9 pm at Imagination Stage.

Click here for more information.

Advocates Aim to Stop Fracked Natural Gas Shipments in Maryland

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is sounding the alarm about a proposal to build a liquified natural gas export facility in Cove Point, Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay, fed from a web of pipelines throughout the state that would deliver fracked natural gas to the facility.

crossroads-tour-logo-emailCCAN Executive Director Mike Tidwell wrote in a recent Washington Post Op-Ed column that if allowed to go forward, the “Cove Point facility would become the biggest cause of global-warming pollution in Maryland.”

CCAN and other organizations are planning a series of town hall meetings across the state for people to learn more about the issue.  Locally, a meeting is scheduled Thursday, Nov. 7, 7:30 – 9 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center.  Click here for more information.

BG Incubator Companies in the News

Energy Dynamics, one of the Bethesda Green Business Incubator companies, is competing along with a number of other start-ups across the nation to have an opportunity to pitch its product before Silicon Valley and Energy Sector investors.

The company designs and manufactures devices that capture and store wasted energy in the electrical system and then recycles it on demand.  The devices maximize the efficiency of electrical system utilization at commercial, industrial and residential facilities, yielding savings of between 6-12% on energy bills.

Energy Dynamics is asking for a vote of support to pitch its product.  Go here to vote.

Pictured left to right: Robert Dixon, Head of Industry Affairs, Siemens Industry, Inc.; Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner; John Jabara, Founder of Savenia Labs; Howard County Executive Ken Ulman; and Eric Coffman, Senior Energy Planner, Montgomery County.

Pictured left to right: Robert Dixon, Head of Industry Affairs, Siemens Industry, Inc.; Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner; John Jabara, Founder of Savenia Labs; Howard County Executive Ken Ulman; and Eric Coffman, Senior Energy Planner, Montgomery County.

John Jabara, Founder of Savenia Labs, a startup company in the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, received the Maryland Clean Energy Center Entrepreneur of the Year award at the annual MCEC summit this October.

Since 2009, a team of scientists and researchers working with Savenia Labs perfected its 10-step process of independently testing popular appliances to determine each model’s energy usage. Today, Savenia Labs Energy Rating labels can be found in local stores to aide consumers.

Events

  • First Thursday Happy Hour — Celebrate Autumn, Sustainability and Trees with Bethesda Green and Trees for the Future.  Enjoy casual conversation and social networking, Thursday, Nov. 7, 5-8 pm @ Jaleo, 7271 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814.  RSVP via Meetup.
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.

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