By Alison Wentzell

BGnews_logoSolar Panels Make a Comeback at the White House

Fulfilling a promise made in 2010, the Obama Administration is installing solar panels at the White House as a sign of its commitment to renewable energy.  According to an article in the Washington Post, quoting a White House official, the installation is “a part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building.”   It’s nice to know that the President is catching the energy efficiency wave.

Solar panels were originally installed at the White House over 30 years ago by Jimmy Carter.  Ronald Reagan had them removed in 1986; George W. Bush had a solar photovoltaic system installed in 2003 to heat the White House swimming pool.

See the Washington Post article here about solar energy at the White House.

Virginia Mountain Lion Sighting: Real or Not Real

A mountain lion was allegedly spotted at Prince William Forest Park outside the dining hall by a young woman.  The woman frantically called the police and park rangers to report the sighting, but by the time officials arrived the animal was gone.

Based on the woman’s description of the animal, wildlife biologists and state officials believe that the animal was more likely to be a bobcat or a fox.  Many of the people who come to the park are not used to the outdoors, which, in return, can lead to over exaggerations or the mistaken identities of animals.  In 2006, Paul Peterson conducted a survey of all carnivorous animals in Prince William Forest Park and found evidence of black bears, bobcats, foxes, and coyotes; but no mountain lions.  In addition, the Eastern Puma—the type of mountain lion native to Virginia—has been declared extinct since 2011.

However, I wouldn’t be so quick to entirely rule out the possibility of a mountain lion at the park.  Peterson’s study was conducted over 5 years ago, and since then times have changed.  The changing of global temperatures and strain for natural resource leaves animals with two options: die off and become extinct, or adapt to the situation.  It is entirely possible that mountain lion species are relocating in search for the resources necessary for their survival.

In fact, a mountain lion was hit by a car in Connecticut in 2011.  It was the first one to be seen in the state in 100 years.  After scientists conducted DNA tests, they found that the animal had belonged to the mountain lions in the Black Hills of South Dakota and presumably walked all the way to Connecticut.

Check out Inside Nova’s article here.

Weekly Fun Rides Gaining Popularity in DC

In recent years, legislation in the DC metro area has made it easier for cyclists to get from point A to point B.  Even more recently, we are noticing a spike in the number of cyclists, and an overall increase in popularity.  We can thank programs such as Capital Bikeshare and many new bike shops for this surge in popularity.  But now, bike shops are taking it to the next level by organizing social bike rides.

Shops, such as BicycleSpace, have started sponsoring a plethora of weekly bike rides including “Seventh Street Social”, “Cupcake Rambles”, “City Explorers”, and moonlight rides on the full moon.  Although BicycleSpace isn’t the first shop to sponsor bike rides, they are one of the first to make the rides more casual and open to less hardcore cyclists.

Bike rides are a growing trend both in DC and big cities across America.  With any hope, biking will become such a popular trend that it will move out of the fad stage and become the social norm.  Also, the more demand we have for biking, the more likely we are to have safer bike lanes and fewer cars on the road.  This would significantly improve our nation’s health, since people would be more active and the amount of hazardous chemicals produced by cars would be greatly reduced.

For more information on these casual bike rides, read the Washington Post article here.


  •  Caleva Dirty Dinners: A Farm to Table Series, August 24, 6-9 PM, Calleva Farm, 19120 Martinsburg Road, Dickerson MD.

Come out to Calleva Farms and enjoy a delicious meal that has been grown and prepared on site.  Meals include wine, festive music, and non-alcoholic “mocktails.”  Make your reservation and find out more info at http://www.DirtyDinners.org.

  • BG 101, August 28, 4-5:30 PM, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814

Join Bethesda Green for our regular session of BG 101, where we will provide an orientation about our organization, history and upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

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.

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.

by Susanna Parker

Climate Change Could Cause Major Shift in Coral Reef Communities BGnews_logo

Climate change and the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may result in conditions less favorable to reef building stony corals. The buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has had the effect of increasing oceanic acidity worldwide. When carbon dioxide reacts with water, atmospheric carbon dioxide transforms to carbonic acid. That acid damages hard corals, which secrete calcium carbonate to form a protective outer shell. Softer corals, cousins to the reef building corals, lack the hard outer skeleton that is damaged when the water turns acidic. The changing conditions could lead to a change in the makeup of coral communities. When you combine the less favorable conditions with the softer corals’ ability for rapid colonization, softer corals may out-compete hard corals.

Stony corals are an important member of the underwater ecosystem. Their protective outer layers help provide shelter and habitats for many reef organisms, such as clownfish. Though it covers less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, hard coral reefs support about 25 percent of all marine life. Soft corals do not provide the same shelter to marine organisms, and their dominance could result in a major shift in the underwater environment.

For more information about carbon dioxide and coral reefs, please read the full Huffington Post article.

Obama to Designate Five New National Monuments

Sources from several prominent environmental groups say that President Obama will designate five new national monuments, including one in Maryland commemorating Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railway. The other four monuments are the First State National Monument in Delaware and Pennsylvania, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, Washington state’s San Juan Islands National Monument, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio. The Antiquities Act, which allows the president to protect federal lands without congressional approval, was rarely invoked by President Obama during his first term. After an internal Interior Department list of potential monument sites became public, House Republicans threatened to repeal the act. Obama therefore kept his first four national monument designations to areas of cultural or historical significance.

Two of Obama’s new designations – San Juan Islands and Rio Grande del Norte – are ecologically valuable. Environmentalists have shown vocal support the president’s move, and local communities near all five monuments support additional federal protections. In Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley, and Democratic Senators Barbara Milkulski and Ben Cardin had all lobbied President Obama to establish a monument commemorating Harriet Tubman’s work. Brian O’Donnell, the executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, praised Obama’s actions, saying “…we are grateful for President Obama’s leadership in advancing conservation at a time when it’s desperately needed.”

For more information, please read the full Washington Post article here.

Upcoming Green Events

  • Bethesda Green Finance Workshop Series for Green Business, “Due Diligence: Evaluating a Potential Investment”, Thursday March 28, 8am – 10am, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Second Floor

The fourth installment in Bethesda Green’s Finance Workshop Series will address the substance and process of the due diligence investment evaluation. Advice will also be given on how entrepreneurs should conduct due diligence on the potential investor. Speakers include John May of New Vantage Partners, Mahesh Konduru of Potomac Energy Fund, and David Levine of Geostellar. For more information, and to RSVP, please visit Bethesda Green’s Program Page.

  • Non-Native Invasive Plant Removal Class, Wednesday April 3, 6:30pm – 9pm, 3030 12th Street NE

Join Rock Creek Conservancy and Casey Trees for an educational session on non-native invasive plants. Learn how to identify and control species of non-native invasive plants, including garlic mustard, mile-a-minute, and bush honeysuckle. Once you’ve learned all about invasive plants, you’ll be ready for the Rock Creek Clean-up on Saturday April 6th! For more information, and to RSVP, please visit here.

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.

by Susanna Parker

President Obama Nominates EPA AdministratorBGnews_logo

President Barack Obama has officially nominated Gina McCarthy to serve as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy, former assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, would replace current head Lisa Jackson, who announced her resignation in December. Despite a strong record and endorsements from a variety of environmental organizations, McCarthy is likely to face opposition from congressional Republicans, who have opposed EPA regulations in recent years. However, among the industries regulated by the EPA, the Washington Post reported that coal was the only likely dissident to McCarthy’s nomination.

If McCarthy is confirmed, she will face a variety of pressing issues, including regulating America’s natural gas industry, hydraulic fracking, and the upcoming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. Environmental organizations are hopeful of McCarthy’s positions on these matters. Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said that McCarthy’s appointment would be a “slam dunk for public health and the environment.”

For more information, check out the full article on The Huffington Post.

District Gas Leaks the Answer to Key Policy Question?

As natural gas production expands in the United States, the question most asked is whether the benefits outweigh the dangers. According to a recent Washington Post article, scientists involved with the Environmental Defense Fund are embarking upon a two-year, $10 million effort to measure methane emissions along the nation’s supply chain. This includes measuring methane leaks from city pipelines, beginning with Boston and the District of Columbia. Methane is the main component of natural gas and is 25 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Unlike carbon dioxide, methane dissipates from the atmosphere within a few decades; however, it continues to drive global warming. The amount of methane that leaks along the nation’s natural gas supply chain could offset the advantages that natural gas has over coal.

Representatives of the Environmental Defense Fund stress the importance of obtaining accurate data before policy is set. The EDF has recruited industry experts and academics to track the stages of natural gas production, from extraction to transmission, and plan to release an initial report this May. Possibly more important than the stages of production is the data on leakage in city pipelines. According to recent studies, the District has over 3,000 leaks throughout its infrastructure. Boston University professor Nathan Phillips, head of the pipeline leak study in DC, said that the leaks represent a waste of resources, and argued that gas exploration would not have to expand so rapidly if we could conserve our current supply. For more information on the studies, please read the full Washington Post article here.

Upcoming Green Events

  • The Sky is the Limit, First Thursday Happy Hour, Thursday, March 7, 5 – 8 pm, BlackFinn American Saloon, 4901 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda

Join us on the second floor of BlackFinn to celebrate our 5th anniversary! Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman will speak and provide an opportunity for you to share your thoughts on our next five years. In addition, there will be casual conversation, networking, complimentary appetizers, Happy Hour drink prices, and a raffle to win a $50 BlackFinn gift card. $5 at the door, to RSVP please visit the Bethesda Green Meetup.

  • Fracking Moratorium Rally in Annapolis, Wednesday, March 13, 10 am – noon, Lawyer’s Mall, 100 State Circle, Annapolis

Join Chesapeake Climate Action Network and involved Maryland citizens in the biggest fracking rally Annapolis has ever seen! Critical deadlines for passing the moratorium on fracking are fast approaching, but the chair of the Senate committee said that the moratorium bill will not get a vote this year. Major fracking bills were buried by this same committee over the past two years, but we’ve learned that grassroots pressure can alter the course of bills in Annapolis. Stand together, and show the State House that just as we deserve protection from the risks of fracking, we deserve a vote on it as well. For more information, and to RSVP, please visit the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

  • Annapolis Green Business Night, Wednesday, March 13, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Lowe House Office Building Rooms 170/180, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis

Join Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Delegate Tom Hucker, Annapolis Green, and Bethesda Green for our Annual Green Business Night in Annapolis! Meet legislators, representatives from state agencies, environmental allies, and green business representatives. Network with green allies, learn about business opportunities, and hear updates on bills to advance geothermal and solar energies. The event is free, but please RSVP to secure your name tag, parking information, directions, and the event program.

  • H2O Summit: Keeping Clean Water, Saturday, March 16, 10 am – 4 pm, Activity Center of Bohrer Park, Gaithersburg

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission present the “H2O Summit” — an educational festival about clean water in Montgomery County. The morning session will feature panels and discussions on important watershed topics such as stormwater education, water quality improvement, and stream health, while the afternoon festival will be full of exhibitors, children’s activities, and hands-on family friendly activities. The event is free, but space is limited, so be sure to RSVP today!

  • The Anacostia River, Sunday, March 17, 1:45 pm, National Museum of American History

Part of the DC Environmental Film Festival, this series of short films is presented in conjunction with the Anacostia Community Museum and their exhibition, “Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement.” The films include stories of urban wildlife found along the Anacostia River, the importance of changing the way we view the restoration of the river, and a variety of shorts from the Riverstories Series. The event is free; no registration is required. For more information, please visit the event page here.

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.

“Green and the Economy — Make it work for you,” the new message topping the Bethesda Green website, is a particularly timely theme, given the political emphasis evident from President Obama’s State of the Union address.

We offer a unique take on the question, Is Economics a Green Issue?  Much more so than you might suspect, according to Susan Belchamber, who submits a thoughful feature essay for your consideration.

Belchamber explores the interrelationships among “four forms of capital”:

  • Financial — cash, stocks, bonds, intellectual property
  • Physical — buildings, roads, infrastructure, ports, bridges
  • Social — community/family, social networks, quality of life
  • Natural — clean water & air, biodiversity, renewable resources

Read the article then come back and submit a comment.

RSVP now for this Sunday’s Team Obama Earth Day House Party with Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman scheduled as a featured speaker.

Sunday, April 19, 2009 2:00 PM in downtown Bethesda

For directions and to register for the House Party, please visit:


The front page of today’s Washington Post caught my eye.  Opposite the lead story about swelling deficits, was a feature photo of the White green-shovelHouse pastry chef shoveling ceremonial dirt at a kick-off event launching the creation of a new vegetable garden on the South Lawn.  Both the story in the Style section and a preview article in Friday’s paper tout the benefits of home gardening and healthful eating.

Reinvigorating the simple pleasures of home-grown fruits and vegetables is also part of the Bethesda Green mission.  Just this month, we launched the Sustainable Food Working Group, chaired by Rana Koll-Mandel from Edible Chesapeake Magazine.  The working group, which includes Master Gardeners and local farmers, meets the first Tuesday every month.  

Among an ambitous set of goals outlined by the working group is educating the public about Montgomery County’s Agricultural Land Preservation Programs.  Like all Bethesda Green Working Groups, anyone is welcome to attend monthly meetings or get involved in some capacity.  Check our Calendar for more details.

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