food


BG_FB_Gala profilelogoby Cheryl Kollin

It’s hard to visualize $165 billion. That’s the value of food wasted in the U.S. annually. It is also hard to grasp the staggering amount of food — 246,000 tons that is wasted right here in Montgomery County every year. The enormity of food waste hit home for me watching farmers donate many bathtub-sized grey bins of their unsold, perfectly good vegetables and fruit at the end of a bustling Sunday at the Olney Farmers Market.

While there are many active food recovery programs in our community, 23% of food in Montgomery County is still being wasted, while 82,000 people do not know where their next meal will come from. A new initiative called Community Food Rescue aims to build a coordinated countywide system that fulfills the vision of the Montgomery County Council, County Executive Ike Leggett, and the on-going efforts of the Montgomery County Food Council’s Food Recovery Working Group.

Read more here. View our short introduction film. Follow us on Facebook.

Cheryl Kollin is program manager for Community Food Rescue.

Advertisements

BGnews_logoOcean rapidly warming

The length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, and an earlier start to the melt season is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation in some places to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness, according to a new study by National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA researchers.

Arctic sea ice has been in sharp decline during the last four decades. The sea ice cover is shrinking and thinning, making scientists think an ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer might be reached this century. The seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past seven years.

“The Arctic is warming and this is causing the melt season to last longer,” said Julienne Stroeve, a senior scientist at NSIDC, Boulder and lead author of the new study, which has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. “The lengthening of the melt season is allowing for more of the sun’s energy to get stored in the ocean and increase ice melt during the summer, overall weakening the sea ice cover.”

See NASA News article for full story.

Eat your fruits and vegetables

Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42% compared to eating less than one portion, reports a new University College London (UCL) study.

Researchers used the Health Survey for England to study the eating habits of 65,226 people representative of the English population between 2001 and 2013, and found that the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age. Eating seven or more portions reduces the specific risks of death by cancer and heart disease by 25% and 31% respectively. The research also showed that vegetables have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.

This is the first study to link fruit and vegetable consumption with all-cause, cancer and heart disease deaths in a nationally-representative population, the first to quantify health benefits per-portion, and the first to identify the types of fruit and vegetable with the most benefit.

See UCL News article for full story.

Events

  • Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup —  Saturday, April 5, 9 am – noon. Join Rock Creek Conservancy at one of more than 50 locations along the 33-mile length of Rock Creek for volunteer trash cleanups.
  • Master-Metered Condo Alliance Meeting — Monday, April 7, 4 – 5:30 pm at Bethesda Green. A representative from WSSC will discuss ways to reduce water consumption and get some control of water and sewer bills.
  • Demystifying Clean Green Energy — Thursday, April 10, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Silver Spring Civic Center, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD. GreenWheaton, Silver Spring Green, and Bethesda Green present an expert assessment on the current state of the clean energy industry.

 

BGnews_logo

World’s Largest Urban Greenhouse

Giant Food Stores signed a deal with BrightFarms to build the world’s largest urban greenhouse, expected to open this fall.  At 100,000 square feet, the greenhouse aims to deliver 1 million pounds of fresh produce throughout the year to about 30 Giant supermarkets in the Washington, DC,  metro area. Plans also include making the greenhouse available to schools as an educational tool on urban agriculture and sustainability.

In addition to building greenhouses attached to supermarkets, BrightFarms designs rooftop farms and is working on projects in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and St. Paul.

To read more, check out this article.

New Bike Lanes

As Bethesda proceeds through a new sector plan for future development, interested parties may want to take note of Alexandria’s plan to add new bike lanes. The Alexandria City Council voted unanimously recently to create bike lanes on a span of King Street from Janneys Lane to West Cedar Street, one of Alexandria’s busiest streets.  Many Alexandria residents objected to this plan, however, because it will cause the removal of more than two dozen parking spots and add to congestion. Those in favor of the bike lanes argue that more and more people are using bikes for commuting so creating a safe way for them is key to cities like Alexandria.

Ultimately, the bike lanes proposal was approved with the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians in mind. Bicyclists will share the traffic lanes with motorized vehicles in the areas where parking is still allowed. New crosswalks and electronic speed indicators will also be installed for the safety pedestrians and bicyclists.

To find out more information, check out the Washington Post.

Events

  • Maryland Day, a weekend celebration of all things Maryland, March 21-23, explores historic sites, cultural activities, and natural resources around Annapolis. See the Annapolis Green Growing a Little Greener webpage for more details.
  • H2O SummitMarch 22, 9:30 am – 4 pm, Silver Spring Civic Center, 1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring, MD. Topics covered include: What is Stormwater and How Can You Help Prevent Pollution? and Volunteerism & Community Efforts to Improve the Environment. The morning session (9:30 to 1:00 pm) will have speakers and workshops. Attendance is limited, so register in advance. The afternoon session will be a Family H2O Fair hosted by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and will include kid’s crafts and environmental demos for families. An assortment of water related exhibitors will also be on hand located in the Great Hall. Registration is not required for the afternoon session.

BGnews_logoWhat is the future for Solar Energy?

GreenBiz.com recently published a solar industry forecast with a bright future — at least in the short term.  Solar energy has been growing and becoming more popular throughout the last five years but what does the future look like for it? The solar energy industry is moving extremely fast and, according to the GTM Research’s annual solar industry conference, the United States is expecting to install more solar capacity this year than Germany.

Solar energy is becoming popular because it is able to be sold to consumers through numerous channels, including traditional installers, car companies, environmental groups, home improvement stores, and home automation companies.  Solar energy is also becoming a favorite of institutional investors, which allows new companies such as SolarCity and Sungevity to innovate around financing.

Solar energy is the second largest source of new power generation and if it continues to grow, it is estimated that it could contribute nearly 10 percent of electricity generation in 15 years.

The challenge is that solar energy’s continued fast growth is not guaranteed. Future cuts in federal tax credits could slow down sales.

To read all of the details, check out this article.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — but first Avoid

This article published by Shareable asks: What would a zero waste world look like? One dimension is efficient recycling. But to truly get to zero waste, you’d need to go beyond recycling into reduce and reuse. In South Australia, they’re experimenting with how to take this one step further by adding “avoid” to the top of the waste management hierarchy.

Insects help our food system

Eating bugs certainly is not an accepted part of our cultural appetite.  But that all may be changing.  According to an article published by Worldwatch, insects are an important part of the future for our food. The prices of grains and meats that depend on these grain supplies to feed livestock will definitely rise. Insects, however, offer a great alternative because they are easy to raise, healthy, and much more efficient in processing. The only problem is that bugs are usually not a friendly or attractive topic.

Most people relate disgust to insects so the biggest hurdle would be introducing insects as an appetizing and healthy food. The easiest way to integrate insects in our diet is through processed food, where the texture and taste of the bugs are lost but the healthy and sustainable source of protein is preserved.

Who knows?  It may not be too long before raising bugs is a normal part of the U.S. food consumption economy.

Learn more at this article.

Opportunities in water technology innovations

According to 77 percent of the respondents to the 2013 CDP Global 500 Water Report, business opportunities exist in addressing water-related risks. Many companies identified new products and services as one of the opportunities. The commercialization of innovative water technologies can be challenging though. These reasons include a disconnect between the price and the value of water and a lack of funding for water infrastructure and technologies in the public sector. Despite the challenges, water technology innovation continues.

To find out more, check out this article.

Events

bggreennews_logo11Want To Do Something About Climate Change?
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is organizing a series of public events drawing attention to proposals to transport liquified natural gas thru Maryland. Click here for details.

County Leading the Charge in Electric Vehicles
According to the Gazette, “Businesses across the county have been working to make it more convenient for the growing number of electric vehicle drivers to find a place to plug in and charge up, with about 15 percent of Maryland’s electric car charging stations now in Montgomery County.” Click here to see article.

Healthier Food in Schools
Seeking to find out why and how school food should be made more healthy, Real Food for Kids-Montgomery and Montgomery Victory Gardens recently hosted a community forum to get some answers. Click here for the Gazette’s coverage of the event. 

MD’s New Lawn Fertilizer Law Kicks in this Week
Maryland’s newly enacted Lawn Fertilizer Law prohibits the use of fertilizer products containing nitrogen or phosphorus during cold weather months. Click here for details.

Mow, Don’t Rake Leaves
While there’s still a few weeks left before the trees shed all their leaves, consider mowing your leaves into a healthy mulch for your yard. More 

Events

  • Bethesda Central Farm Market — Open Sundays, 9 am – 1 pm at the Bethesda Elementary School parking lot on Arlington Road, at the corner of Wilson Lane and Old Georgetown Road.
  • Support DC Greenworks — Wednesday, Nov. 20, 5 – 10 pm, 20 percent of sales at Le Grenier Restaurant, 502 H St. NE, Washington, DC 20002 will support DC Greenworks’ stormwater mitigation and green job training services in the District. More
  • Poultry Fair Share Town Hall Forum — Organized by Food & Water Watch, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 6 – 7 pm,  6810 Eastern Ave NW, Takoma Park, DC. More detail here
  • Greening Your Retail Business — Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2 – 4 pm, All Eco Center, 2662 University Blvd, Wheaton, MD. Free seminar organized by GreenWheaton.  More 

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/

by Alison Wentzell

Montgomery County Interest in School Gardens GrowsBGnews_logo

Montgomery County fosters 202 different schools, 35 of which have gardens where students can observe, ask questions, and take control of their health as part of a local food and advocacy project, according to an article in the Washington Post.  But, interest in gardens is growing throughout the entire school district.

The Montgomery County school district mandates that students pass three different sciences in order to graduate.  Historically, horticulture has been an easy class to pass and draws in students that don’t have much interest in other science fields.  Elizabeth Levien, who teaches at Blair High School in Silver Spring, is excited to see that the students taking horticulture are now excited by the gardens and their class.

Students’ interest in horticulture classes is also growing in Clarksburg, Damascus, and Springbrook high schools.  Teachers from these schools are working together to make gardens a part of the horticulture curriculum throughout the district.  They have already structured a three-year program allowing students to become certified horticulturists.  But students enrolled in the program aren’t the only ones showing interest in the gardens.  Teacher Jill Couts from Sherwood High School has approximately 30 students who go to the green house each week that aren’t even in the program.

Montgomery Victory Gardens’ project director Gordon Clark is ecstatic about the impact gardens are having on schools.  He’s now working with other PTAs and schools in the district to give them the knowledge and resources to help them get started on their own gardens.

For more information, read the Washington Post article here.

North Dakota Flare Ups, Crude Oil Transportation, and the Rise of Solar Energy

Between an 18,000 square mile flare up, the increase in shipping crude oil by rail, and a third growing phase for solar energy; saying there’s a lot going on in the energy sector is a bit of an understatement.  One third of the natural gas produced in the Bakken shale in North Dakota is being burned off in the air.  The effects of the burning are so big they can be seen from space and produces the carbon equivalent of an extra 1 million cars.  Even though oil drillers are burning $1 billion worth every year, low prices, the remote location, and cost of developing pipelines prevent the gas from being utilized.

In fact, leaders in the oil industry are becoming wary of pipeline projects all together, and more shipments are being made by railroad.  However, the Obama administration’s efforts to boost safety standards are making it a bit more difficult to ship crude oil.  To fight this, the oil industry and U.S. railroads are fighting these efforts by pointing out the technical challenges and economic costs.

While the United States is still focusing on natural gas and crude oil, other countries are investing more in solar energy.  In a recent study the Deutsche Bank found that solar energy is entering a third growing phase.  Even oil producing countries are increasing their investment in solar energy, finally allowing it to become a competitive source of energy rather than just an alternative.  The solar energy industry can now start the process of weaning itself off of subsidies and become a self-sustaining industry.

For more information, read the Wall Street Journal article 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.

Next Page »