Bike to Work Day


by Susanna Parker BGnews_logo

Re-Inventing the Wheel for Studying Snakeheads 

Snakeheads, the invasive species that’s been the bane of the Potomac since 2004, have been granted a mild reprieve by local governmental agencies. While the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service still recommends that fisherman kill and report any snakeheads they capture, the Virginia Department of Game and Fisheries, along with its DC and Maryland counterparts, has begun a new monitoring program geared toward understanding the snakeheads’ impact on local ecology. The program, which covers four tributaries of the Potomac, sends out workers to capture, measure, tag, and release snakehead fish. John Odenkirk, biologist with the VA Dept. of Game & Fisheries, says that its been hard to determine whether the snakeheads actually have a negative impact on the Potomac watershed. He points out that the area is practically a fish factory, and has more than enough resources to feed the increasing number of new mouths. So while he does not advocate for the snakeheads, he finds it hard to strongly advocate against them without more conclusive data.

That’s where the monitoring program comes in. Because the snakeheads are native to Africa and Asia, many of the scholarly papers discussing their behaviors and life cycle are not written in English. Those few that have been translated are not peer-reviewed. Thus, there is little to no substantiated information about their impact on local water systems and ecological niches. The monitoring program relies on electrofishing to capture the snakeheads. This form of fishing involves electrified anodes whose currents shock, but do not kill, nearby fish, causing them to float to the surface and be easily netted. Typical of the snakeheads’ difficult nature, these fish do not succumb easily to the shock. Rather than float to the surface, snakeheads expel all the oxygen from their air bladders. While this gives off a tell-tale series of bubbles, the expulsion causes them to lose their buoyancy and sink to the bottom of the stream bed. Odenkirk says that this behavior means that he and members of the program have one shot to catch the fish before they’re no longer within reach.

Once the fish are captured, they are measured, tagged, and released. If the team catches a fish that has been previously captured, they record its growth. Odenkirk says that the team is gathering as much data as they can on the life cycle of the fish, including spawning cycles, spawns per year, average growth per year, and habitat differentiation between adolescent and adult snakeheads. The more information that Odenkirk and his team can gather, the better we will be able to understand the impact of this invasive species.

For more information on the snakehead monitoring program, please watch the video at The Washington Post.

Hurricane Sandy’s Impact Continues to be Felt

Though its been six months since the superstorm touched ground and devastated New Jersey and New York, Hurricane Sandy’s impacts are still being felt up and down the East Coast. A report released last week revealed that one of the major effects was the spillage of 11 billion gallons of sewage from East Coast treatment plants into streams, canals, and roadways. 90 percent of the spills occurred in New Jersey and New York, the states that were arguably hit hardest by the hurricane. Of the sewage, approximately 3.5 billion gallons was raw, untreated, and unfiltered. The remaining 7.5 billion gallons were partially treated.

Alysosn Kenward, researcher at Climate Central and author of the recently released report, states that the report has revealed “just how vulnerable the system is to floods, storms, and climate change,” and points out that, “our system isn’t designed to handle these kinds of storm surges and the sea-level rise associated with climate change.” According to Climate Central, the state of New York will need to spend about $2 billion to repair damages to the sewage treatment plants, while New Jersey plans to allocate $1 billion for repairs.

For more information, please read the full article on The Huffington Post.

Upcoming Bethesda Green Events 

  • Bethesda Green Education, Outreach, and Marketing Group Meeting, Wednesday May 8, 4 pm – 5:30 pm, 4825 Cordell Avenue

A team of volunteers, EOM supports all of Bethesda Green’s communication efforts. From recycling to energy efficiency, sustainability to green building/design, EOM expresses the organization’s various areas of expertise in a clear and concise manner via various media. New members are welcome to join; for information contact Bethesda Green’s Director of Communications Dave Heffernan at dvheffernan@bethesdagreen.org.

  • Bethesda Green’s Fourth Annual Solar & Green Home Expo, Saturday May 11, 10 am – 3 pm, 4825 Cordell Avenue

Join us for our 4th annual Solar & Green Home Expo, an information-packed showcase event featuring many green home expert services and solar providers. The goal of this event is to provide homeowners and other interested parties an opportunity to get the latest information about area services and incentives to green their homes. Local area green home businesses will display their services throughout the Bethesda Green office space while individual workshops related to greening your home will be conducted throughout the day. To learn more about his free community event, please visit the event page here.

Upcoming Partner Events 

  • Bike to Work Day 2013, Friday May 17 6:30 am – 8:30 am, Reed Street (Corner of Woodmont Ave & Bethesda Ave)

Get your wheels turning at the 2013 Bike to Work Day! Presented by Bethesda Commuter Solutions, the Bethesda pit stop will feature DJ entertainment, state and local dignitaries, tons of raffle prizes and giveaways, bike maintenance checks, and plenty of food and drink to fuel your commute. The grand prize in the raffle will be a brand new bike from Griffin Cycle! To learn more about the event and to register, please visit Bethesda Transportation Solutions.

  • Run for the Animals! Saturday May 19, 8:30 am, Wheaton Regional Park

Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary is holding its 10th Annual Run for the Animals! The 5k run and 1 mile fun walk is a fundraiser dedicated to supporting the lifesaving work Poplar Spring does everyday. From the warm up, running and walking on the scenic trails, the dog and people raffles, the prizes, and the abundance of food, a good time will be had by all. Register online at http://poplarspring.kintera.org/

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

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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.

Bike to Work logo Just in time for Bike to Work Day, downtown Bethesda is moving to increase its bike parking spots by 50 percent. With the support of Honest Tea, Federal Realty Investment Trust and The Coca-Cola Company, Bethesda Green and Bethesda Urban Partnership are planning to unveil the first two of 10  new bike racks to be installed in the commercial district.

Hundreds of bike commuters will converge Friday morning, May 18, for Bike to Work Day at the Bethesda Pit Stop located at the corner of Woodmont & Bethesda Avenues between 6:30-8:30 am. The unveiling of the new bike racks is scheduled for 7 am.

Constructed of plastic lumber made from recycled beverage containers, including Honest Kids drink pouches, the new racks will add 100 bike parking spots in Bethesda.

Bike to Work Day encourages commuters to do their part to support increased bicycle commuting in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Managed throughout the area by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, you can join over 10,000 area commuters for a celebration of bicycling as a clean, fun and healthy way to get to work. By promoting biking as a commute option, traffic and parking congestion can be eased, thereby improving the quality of life enjoyed by the people of the region.

Highlights of the Bike to Work Day in Bethesda, managed by Bethesda Transportation Solutions, a division of Bethesda Urban Partnership, include breakfast, entertainment, dynamic speakers, and chances to win a bicycle and other prizes.

Register here for Bike to Work Day.

Bike to Work Day Rally at Freedom Plaza, 2009

Bike to Work Day Rally at Freedom Plaza, 2009

(Guest post by Rob Arner)

Did you know May is National Bike Month?  People will celebrate it with various activities around the nation, including Bike-to-Work Week from May 17-21. Bike-to-Work Day will take place Friday, May 21. (That morning, get breakfast, tune-ups and prizes at the Bethesda pit stop)

Living in Bethesda for over 40 years, I have become an avid cyclist.  There is no better way to get around.  It is quicker and cheaper, has no parking problems and I enjoy the exercise.  Also there are lots of other psychological benefits:  I get to slow down, get a feel of the community and lessen my environmental impact.  As an expert in used oil recycling, I also believe in another type of “re-cycling”; this is why biking is my thing.  Also I have documents showing the numerous water impacts cars have on the Little Falls and other area watersheds.

According to WorldWatch Institute, a short, four-mile round-trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air.  Also the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey found that 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle. Sixty percent of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively. Since “cold starts” create high levels of emissions, shorter car trips are more polluting on a per-mile basis than longer trips. (Learn more about why you should ride for the environment.)

Commuting by bike reflects the tenor of the times because of its health benefits and low environmental impact. Biking to work or using a bike to run errands prevents pollution, saves you gas or transit money, and benefits us all by reducing oil and gas use.  Biking also can be less stressful than hanging out in area traffic. Riding a bike can give you fresh air outside the gym and allow you to see more of the outside world. Also you may consider taking a bike to the subway or to the bus stop.

There are many wonderful ways you can explore neighborhoods and get a sense of our beloved Bethesda community pedaling around.  Increase everyone’s quality of life here:  Bicycle as much as you can!

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Cycling Links:

Bike to Work Day, May 21

Washington Area Bicyclist Association

Local Biking Maps

Bike Safety

Dollars and Sense: Calculating Money and Environmental Benefits of Bike Commuting (Sustainablog)