eco-friendly products

BG.GreenHome_logoby Jennifer Roe

Are you interested in greening your home?  Do you want to save money and create a healthier environment for your family?  If so, plan now to attend Bethesda Green’s 4th annual Solar & Green Home Expo, Saturday, May 11, 10 am – 3 pm.

The event will be held at the Bethesda Green offices, 4825 Cordell Avenue, 2nd floor above the Capital One Bank. All are invited to attend this FREE community event, explore and participate in workshops, and discuss practical ways to green your home.

Representatives from the Montgomery Department of Environmental Protection Energy and Pepco will answer questions about costs, benefits, tax credits, and other incentives.  Learn about the advantages of going solar in your home!

Local green businesses will showcase products and services that can help homeowners go green.  Participating companies and organizations include: Solar Energy World, Standard Solar, ecobeco, Growing SOUL, Savenia Labs, A.I.R. Lawn Care, Bethesda Systems, Energy Squad.  Click here to see a complete list.

Workshop topics will include:

  • Composting 101: In Your Home or Backyard
  • Deep Green Homes, Living in Harmony with Nature and not the Utility Company
  • Community Solar Power Purchasing: Solar Power for the other 80%
  • County, State and Federal Tax Benefits for Energy Efficiency and Solar Power
  • Efficiency Incentives: Pepco Rebate Programs for 2013

Learn more about the Solar & Green Home Expo and see a detailed program schedule here.

Speedy Signs:  Offering Eco Friendly Options for Your Business and Personal Sign Needs

By Lori Hill

If you’ve ever been in the Bethesda Green office, you may have noticed the big Bethesda Green sign in the conference room.  I’ve always assumed that everything in the Bethesda Green office is eco-friendly, and indeed, that sign is no different.  It was created by Dave Taghipour and the team at Speedy Signs in Wheaton, MD.

You might wonder, “How can a sign be eco-friendly?”  The materials used to make the sign are one component, but the business practices of the company making the signs also matter.  I produced special events for 16 years and signage was one component of just about every event.  I became more conscientious about the materials used to make signs when I realized that foam core and foam board are not going to biodegrade and corrugated plastic, a material I once used on a regular basis, will take a very long time to break down in a landfill.  So what materials should you use?

According to Taghipour, “In place of acrylic and other plastic materials, one can use 3form materials. Made from ecoresin, their co-polyester sheet material contains a significant amount of both pre- and post-consumer recycled content. Their products range from 25% to 77.5% pre-consumer recycled content, to 100% post-consumer recycled content. Utilizing 3form materials can contribute to LEED points. In place of conventional banner materials, one can use BIOflex™, the first biodegradable vinyl banner material.

“When exposed to conditions in a landfill (darkness, high heat and moisture), BIOflex™ attracts microbes that break down PVC and turn it into dust. One can also use EarthSmart™, a non-PVC banner material that is 100% biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable. In place of foam core, one can use BioBoard™, which contains approximately 63% post-consumer recycled content (cardboard) and is 100% recyclable.”

Recently, Bethesda Green had Speedy Signs make bike rack signs made of recycled aluminum and printed using bio solvent inks. Speedy Signs made these signs out of a plastic sheet containing approximately 30% recycled content, sandwiched between two sheets of recycled aluminum.

Speedy Signs works hard to minimize its footprint in an industry that is full of scraps, vinyl, and waste.  They start by purchasing eco-friendly materials when feasible (clients must be receptive and often be willing to pay a small premium), continue with consciously utilizing the materials to slash the amount of waste, and finish with recycling whatever scraps are left at the end. The post production vinyl scraps that are too small for their machines to use are absolutely perfect for creative use by artists and children, so they always look to give these items a second chance at utility before being so quick to scrap them.

Although they we were one of the original 20 companies to obtain Montgomery County Green Business Certification in April 2010, they engaged in green practices long before then. For example, they were among the first businesses in the Wheaton area to join a buying group to purchase wind power.  And even though the landlord at their previous location did not offer any recycling program, they have been recycling cardboard and other items by driving to the Derwood transfer station weekly since the company was founded.

Other company green initiatives include:

  • Conserving paper by conducting 90%+ of their promotions through the Internet
  • Conserving water by using dual flush toilets and utilizing automatic faucets
  • Conserving energy by using flat panel monitors on every computer in the store and turning off unused equipment
  • Conserving resources and building with reclaimed wood from barns, fences and old structures along with bamboo and cork
  • Encouraging employees to carpool or take public transit, offering incentives
  • Using natural biodegradable cleaning materials throughout the business
  • Using e-mail, rather than paper, whenever possible for all correspondence
  • Using natural lighting instead of artificial lighting throughout showroom
  • Telecommute whenever possible, reducing gas usage and emissions
  • Providing employees with access to kitchenware, reducing the need for disposable cutlery
  • Providing customers with a station of Energy Star information

Taghipour, who also owns  All-Eco Center, which sells sustainable building materials, was involved with launching GreenWheaton.

Lori Hill is a sustainable lifestyle consultant and former green event producer.  Visit her blog  for more green lifestyle tips.

Expo Offers Visitors Latest Info on Solar and Green Home Services

Bethesda Green’s 3rd Annual Solar & Green Home Expo, Saturday, June 9, 10 am – 4 pm, offers visitors an information-packed showcase event featuring many green home expert services and solar providers. The spotlight on solar will include purchasing and investment opportunities, and incentives for home installation. Local area green home businesses will display their services while individual workshops related to greening your home will be conducted throughout the day.

The goal of this event at Bethesda Green —  4825 Cordell Avenue, second floor above the Capital One Bank — is to provide homeowners and other interested parties an opportunity to get the latest information about area services and incentives to green their homes.  This is a free event for the community.

Companies and organizations participating in the Solar & Green Home Expo include: Solar Energy World, Standard Solar, Solar City, ecobeco, Green Savings Coop, Amicus Green Building Center, Clean Currents, Karmalades, Live Green, The Compost Crew, Savenia Labs, Complete Home Solutions, A.I.R. Lawn Care, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, STIHL, Kenergy Solar, Astrum Solar, The Cleaning Corps, Bethesda Systems and Garden Gate Landscaping.

Check our website for more info.

Facts on Sustainability of Household Cleaners

by Richard M. Goodman

The current issue of Consumer Reports  includes an article titled, “Is your home making you sick?”  Within this article is a separate box on “household cleaners. ”  The issues highlighted include the topics of  contaminants, fragrances, especially the question as to whether some ingredients react together or with, for example, ozone to form formaldehyde or other carcinogenic materials.  Let’s investigate further the comments found in this article to uncover the science it contains.

Toxicity relates directly to the testing of chemicals.  Every industrial chemical must provide a material safety data sheet for its transport and handling.  You can determine the overall safety of a component  by a simple computer search for the chemical name (read it off the contents of the bottle) and the letters MSDS.  Some examples: 7th generation cleaners contain myristyl glucoside, sodium gluconate among other ingredients.  When you click on the relevant MSDS sheets, you will find that for both of these ingredients there are no exposure limits and toxicity is below reportable limits, i.e. completely safe.

When the component is a fragrance, then it may no longer be a single chemical substance.  In fact, many are complex mixtures of natural substances.  On the other hand, fragrances are almost always less than 1% of the weight of the ingredients (the EPA limit for unlisted chemicals); further, some of the pure components may be less than 1% of the fragrance total.  Thus, though one of these components of a fragrance is for example a terpene with known toxic effects, it is in such small concentrations (parts per million) as to be below any threshold for toxicity.

Ironically, some recommendations for a substitute “green’’ cleaning component list white vinegar.  However, this contains ~5% acetic acid.  According to its MSDS, acetic acid is actually considered a slightly stronger hazard because it is highly irritating to the eyes and if directly ingested is actually a serious intestinal irritant.  However, since we normally handle and consume vinegar we discount the objective fact of its relative toxicity as a chemical.  Another example is the ammonia (ammonium hydroxide) used in most window cleaners.  Ammonia is a relatively dangerous chemical.  In commerce to industrial laboratories, ammonium hydroxide is shipped in special containers and lab technicians are instructed do open these with great care while wearing gloves, respirators and face shields.  Often homeowners clean glass surfaces with no protection whatsoever.

This leads to the key message of this article.  We should not panic or overreact merely because one reads that a “chemical” is hazardous, or toxic or may react to form carcinogens.  The more familiar we are, the more we downgrade the risks while often discounting the effects of dose, concentration and how a product is used.

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

Green Manufacturing of Chemical Products

by Richard M. Goodman

Many lay persons think that all synthetic chemicals are inherently bad.  They also think that natural chemicals are inherently good.  Well, the reality is much more nuanced.  After all, evolution has led to many natural plants, for example, developing toxic substances to ward off their destruction by insects and microbes.  Also, natural products are often complex mixtures of chemical entities so that the interesting chemical species is diluted by many other chemicals, which are at best inert, at worst counter- productive.  Purification from the natural product can be costly and introduce solvents or other species not beneficial.

On the contrary, synthesis can lead to the desired material without toxic or even impurities or diluents.  The secret is what the chemical industry calls “Manufacture by Green Chemistry.”  The concept is based on 12 principles first formulated 14 years ago.  They are:

  1. Prevention
  2. Atom economy
  3. Less hazardous chemical syntheses
  4. Designing safer chemicals
  5. Safer solvents and auxiliaries
  6. Design for energy efficiency
  7. Use of renewable feed-stocks
  8. Reduce derivatives
  9. Catalysis
  10. Design for degradation
  11. Real-time analysis for pollution prevention
  12. Inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention

Some of the terms are obvious, I’ll define the others.

Atom economy means: Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product, i.e. not by products or impurities.

Catalysis means:  Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents, that is, as in nature the right catalyst can cause the desired reaction without any excess chemical material.

Design for degradation means:  Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.

This primer hopefully shows how the proper use of chemistry principles can lead to a greener environment.

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

This Saturday, our friends at the Amicus Green Building Center in Kensington, MD (in the West Howard Antiques District) will be hosting its first “Shopping Green and Local Holiday Fair,” to allow people to holiday shop for green, healthy, and locally produced offerings. Amicus will have lots of home goods and tools for eco-cooks and energy geeks; gift wrap and stationary (how about note paper made from recycled beer grain!); eco-travel options; adventure tours; Capital Bikeshare memberships; and other surprises.

As a bonus, AmEx card members who register their card online (here: and spend $25 will get a $25 statement credit from AmEx.

When: Sat, Nov 26 from 10:30 – 4:30
Where: Amicus Green Building Center, 4080A Howard Ave, Kensington, MD (1 block off Connecticut Ave, 2 miles north of the Beltway)
Why: Shop for beautiful goods with great causes and help our local economy

by Jeanette Perthel

The ARTpreneurs Showcase and Business Plan Competition – organized and supported by Arts on the Block and Montgomery College – culminates an innovative six-week program for young people ages 16-25.  Working in teams and guided by mentors from the business and arts worlds, the youths learn the basics of starting an eco-friendly arts enterprise through developing a product, creating a business plan, and initiating a successful market launch.

ARTpreneurs and their mentors at the July 27 Showcase and Business Plan Competition.

Five different groups participated in the competition June 27, 2011, showcasing the creativity and business skills they learned through the program.  Products were put on display, and the teams made their sales pitches to visitors and potential customers.  In addition, each team presented and defended their business plan to a panel of judges.

The ARTpreneur teams included Mavi, who sold cute, unique headbands, hair clips, and hats made of magazines or recycled plastic bags; Tell Me Your Wish, who made decorative star-like displays by punching holes and stringing lights through old cat food tin cans; Wired World Wide, who made jewelry from recyclable bottle caps and beads; p.RE.tty Recyclables, who did origami using pages from fashion magazines to make handbags and bracelets; and Handle With Care, who made bags and wallets out of recycled plastic bags, duct tape and police caution tape to give their products an edgy, youthful flare.

Each product was fun, innovative, and ingenious.

The teams presented business plans that covered their costs, marketing strategies, competitive advantage, time management, sales projection, profits, start-up investment, and how the business would give back to the community.

Each team’s presentation was well done, and the judges had a tough decision to make. In the end, first place and the people’s choice prizes went to Handle With Care, second went to Tell Me Your Wish, and third place went to Wired World Wide.

Congratulations to the prize winners! However, the ARTpreneurs workshop is about more than a competition; it’s about the learning experience and the feeling of accomplishment among all of the young participants.

More photos from the event can be seen here.

A Bethesda Green intern, Jeanette Perthel graduated from Churchill High School and is attending Towson University this fall.