rain barrel


Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

Part of our local watershed, Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

by Julie Clendenin

I spend a lot of time enjoying Rock Creek Park, which runs alongside my Kensington neighborhood. I drive through it every day on my way to work.  I run and walk regularly on the Beach Drive path. I have enjoyed the playgrounds and wetlands with my children and friends. I love it. Rock Creek is an oasis of natural beauty in the midst of our highways, lawns, houses, supermarkets, and sports fields. But sometimes, when the rains (and snows) are heavy, Beach Drive is closed due to high water, which reminds me that our suburban sprawl is a real threat to this precious natural wetland. We are slowly edging out the Potomac River’s natural filtration system of forests and wetlands.

Right now the water is running fast and the marshy grass along the creek’s banks is pocked with huge puddles. And all of our runoff — fertilizers, pet waste, de-icing chemicals, and other pollutants — is headed straight for the Potomac River (our main source of drinking water) and the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB), of the 14,650 square miles in the Potomac River watershed, 57.6% is forest; 31.8% is agricultural; 5% is water or wetlands (like Rock Creek Park); and just 4.8% developed land. While agriculture and development play important roles in our community, it’s important to understand their far-reaching affects on the local watershed. Everything we do on land has an impact on our river, which is the source for 90% of DC’s drinking water; in fact, 486 million gallons are taken out of the Potomac every day to provide drinking water for 5 million people in the DC metro area. We need to protect our river.

Recently, a number of water conservation groups organized a regional river clean up day. including the Alice Ferguson Foundation, which reports that more than 5,000 volunteers picked up over 1oo tons of trash. Here’s some of the things pulled out of the river banks:

  • 73,700 beverage containers
  • 7,800 cigarettes
  • 18,300 plastic bags
  • 510 tires

RWFFLogo_FullColor_EST2012All of this trash was rescued from the Potomac River watershed. How does that make you feel? Disgusted? Regretful?  Personally, I feel grateful to the many people who spent their weekend cleaning up after us. I also feel inspired by them, and I’m thinking that maybe you do to. The Reel Water Film Festival, Saturday, June 14 at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, is a great place to learn more about local water issues. Also, here are a few things, including some from Potomac Riverkeeper, that you can do to help protect the Potomac River:

  • Scoop pet waste and dispose of it properly
  • Plant a rain garden or use a rain barrel – Montgomery County residents are eligible for rebates of up to $2,500 through the RainScapes Rewards Rebate Program
  • Properly dispose of hazardous wastes like oil and paint
  • Use natural fertilizers and do not over-fertilize your lawn or use chemical pesticides
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle (don’t forget your reusable shopping bags)
  • Wash your car at an eco-friendly commercial car wash or use biodegradable soap
  • Safely dispose of unused drugs and other chemicals – DO NOT FLUSH THEM
  • Spend time enjoying  the river and show your friends and family why it’s important to protect it

Julie Clendenin grew up in Montgomery County and is happily raising her family here with her husband, Tom.  She enjoys having unlimited access to Rock Creek Park; tasty, cold water from her kitchen tap; and swimming in the ocean.

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by Dan Rudt

Hundreds Arrested at White House Tar Sands Action

On Saturday, August 20, a young woman from Wasilla, AK was the first person arrested at the Tar Sands Action protest in front of the White House. By Sunday August 28, the number of arrests was 381. The protesters are asking President Obama to deny approval of the 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline, if the President approves it, would transport 900,000 barrels per day of oil from the tar sands of Canada to refineries at the Gulf of Mexico. It would cross water aquifers and rivers, posing a risk to drinking water and groundwater used for irrigation throughout the Plains states. Mining oil from tar sands creates three times more carbon emissions than conventional oil extraction, so it also would speed up climate change. Protesters include citizens of the states in the pipeline’s path, Native Americans whose tribal lands would be directly impacted, and environmental activists from the DC area and around the country. The protests are scheduled to last through September 3. More information here and here.

Maryland Farmers Participate in State Cover Crop Program in Record Numbers

Governor O’Malley announced earlier this month that Maryland has approved a record 550,000 acres of winter grains to date in the Cover Crop Program. A record 1,767 farmers participated – 206 of whom were new to the program this year. This record acreage represents 155% of the Phase I Watershed Implementation Plan goals for cover crops.

Cover crops are one of the most cost-effective means of helping to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The crops are planted in the fall after the autumn harvest to help farmers control soil erosion and reduce the amount of nutrients washing into the bay over the winter. Maryland’s Cover Crop Program provides farmers with grants to plant cover crops on their fields.

An impressive 81% of eligible farmland in Montgomery County was enrolled in the program this year.

Parents and Teachers, This is for You: America’s Home Energy Education Challenge

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and administered by the National Science Teachers Association, the America’s Home Energy Education Challenge is a nationwide student contest (for grades 3-8) designed to educate children about energy and the benefits of energy efficiency. Parents can find out more and schools may register to participate here.

Howard County Pilot Program to Recycle Food Scraps

The Baltimore Sun reports Howard County will conduct a pilot program in September in Elkridge and Ellicott City in which residents will be asked to recycle their food scraps. The Sun says the food scraps will be picked up in 35-gallon containers provided by the county, and will be delivered to Recycled Green in Woodbine, for composting. Officials hope to go countywide with the program by 2012.

Three Maryland Renewable Energy Firms on List of Fastest Growing U.S. Companies

According to the Baltimore Business Journal, seventeen Maryland companies made the Inc. Magazine 2011 list of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies. Of those seventeen, three are renewable energy companies. In order of growth they are Greenspring Energy of Timonium, and Standard Solar and Clean Currents, both based in Rockville.

Upcoming Green Events

A Special Bethesda Green Happy Hour with Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Thursday, September 8, 5:00 – 8:00 pm. Food Wine & Co., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814. Come learn about Maryland’s greatest renewable energy resource: offshore wind power. And learn what you can do to make it a reality. RSVP.

  • Hear from CCAN Director Mike Tidwell about efforts to build offshore wind farms and bring good jobs and clean power to Maryland.
  • Enjoy complimentary appetizers courtesy of Food Wine & Co.
  • Raffle for restaurant gift card
  • Donation: $10

Fertile Ground: Local Sustainable Farm Tour and Lunch, Saturday, September 10, 12:30 – 3:00 pm. Rocklands Farm, 14525 Montevideo Rd., Poolesville, MD 20837. This is the second in the series On the Farm; Around the Table, connecting farmers, food and community in three meals.  You’ve read about it in Omnivore’s Dilemma, now experience what sustainable farming is all about. Greg Glen and Shawn Eubank of Rocklands Farm proudly show you their chicken mobiles, grass-fed beef, and organic vegetable operations. Lunch at the farm prior to the tour. Complimentary bus transportation leaving Bethesda Green promptly at 11:30 am and expected to return by 4 pm.  Please send a note to food@bethesdagreen.org if you’re interested in bus transportation. More information here.

Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Activity in Germantown, Sunday, September 11, 1:00 – 5:00 pm. Volunteer to help Button Farm Living History Center reduce their pollution runoff by installing Aquabarrel rain barrels that collect rain water and help reduce debris, chemicals and other pollutants that enter our streams and rivers. Button Farm sits on a bluff overlooking Great Seneca Creek – that feeds into the Potomac River. More information and registration here.

Sustainability: Definitions and Implementation, Montgomery County Civic Federation meeting, Monday, September 12, 7:45 pm. County Council Building – 1st Floor Auditorium, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville. Speakers: Jennifer Bitting, Environmental Engineer, Dept. of Homeland Security; Doug Weisburger, Sustainability Programs, Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection; Eric Coffman, Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection, Councilmember Roger Berliner, Chair, County Council Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment. More information.

Savor Local Flavor: Four Course Dinner and Discussion with Chef Tony, Monday, September 19, 7:00 – 10:00 pm. Chef Tony’s, 4926 St. Elmo Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814. This is the third in the series On the Farm; Around the Table, connecting farmers, food and community in three meals. More information here.

U.S. Dep’t. of Energy Solar Decathlon,  Friday, September 23 – Sunday, October 2, West Potomac Park, National Mall, Washington, D.C.  Competing collegiate teams (including University of Maryland) exhibit cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses designed, built and operated by the students.  This free event includes tours of the solar homes, consumer workshops and award ceremonies for the winning teams.

20th Annual Tour des Trees, Sunday, October 2 – Saturday, October 8. The seven day, 500 mile ride takes participants from Virginia Beach through Williamsburg, Richmond, Charlottsville, along the Shenandoahs and over to Harper’s Ferry before winding back down the shores of the Potomac to DC and the National Arboretum. The annual ride raises funds for tree research and scholarships.

2011 Bethesda Green Gala, Wednesday, October 5, 6:00 – 10:00 pm, Round House Theatre. The gala recognizes Bethesda Magazine’s Green Award winners for their inspiring work in the environmental community.  Mark your calendar now. More information here.

Green News & Events, Week of July 18 – 24, 2011

by Dan Rudt

Solar Installation Completed at Bethesda Synagogue, Adat Shalom – With 180 new, American-made solar panels on its roof, Adat Shalom expects to generate 50,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. A project originated and developed by Kenergy Solar, the array was installed by Baltimore-based S.H. Silverblatt Electric, a Maryland Women-Owned Business Entity (WBE). Altus Power Management owns the solar system and is responsible for financing, operating and maintaining it. The synagogue incurred no construction costs, and will buy the generated power from Altus for the next 20 years for less than it would pay for power from the grid. Federal and state grants helped make the project possible. More information here and here.

Residential Clean Energy Grant Applications Are Growing Steadily – but not evenly. Grant applications filed with the Maryland Energy Administration for residential solar installations far outstrip those for wind installations, which lag behind geothermal as well. It appears local zoning ordinances overwhelmingly approve of rooftop solar. Most Maryland cities, towns and counties, on the other hand, have yet to decide their position on wind turbines; some have banned them from their jurisdictions. Barbara Pash, at baltimore.citybizlist.com, reports on the numbers and trends of the past few years.

Maryland Offshore Wind Farm May Be Half What O’Malley WantedThe (Ocean City) Dispatch reports that a Federal Environmental Assessment recommends reducing the area available for an offshore wind farm off the Maryland coast from around 206 square miles to ninety-four. The proposal to downsize was made after the U.S. Coast Guard expressed concern about the possible danger that the larger size wind farm might pose to coastal ship travel.

Hybrid Vehicle Scorecard Issued by Union of Concerned Scientists – The UCS compared thirty-four hybrid vehicles in two categories: luxury and non-luxury models. The scorecards compare the vehicles on four different measures: fuel efficiency, pollution relative to each car’s comparable non-hybrid model, cost-effectiveness, and the degree to which upgrade features are forced on the buyer as standard equipment. Topping the list of luxury models are the Lexus CT 200h and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Among non-luxury models, the Toyota Prius stands head and shoulders above the rest. The scorecard is available here. Good information in the press release here.

Upcoming Green Events

Forest and Tree Conservation – Forest Conservation Advisory Committee, Tuesday, July 19, 7:00 – 9:00 pm. This meeting of the Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection is open to the public. See the DEP Calendar of Events for address and contact information.

Conservation Landscaping Training, Saturday, July 23, 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Learn how to select, install and maintain native plants at Croydon Creek Nature Center in Rockville. To register, call the RainScapes Coordinator at 240-314-8877 or e-mail rainscapes@rockvillemd.gov.

Activist Workshop Sponsored by Environment America, Saturday, July 23, 1:00 – 4:00 pm. The workshop will cover the best techniques for organizing your neighbors to take action, and the best ways to persuade your local media to cover an issue you care about. Central Arlington Library, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201. RSVP.

22nd Annual Farm Tour & Harvest Sale, Saturday & Sunday, July 23 & 24, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Celebrate Montgomery County’s agricultural heritage at a dozen local farms. Purchase fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, and plants – and the kids can pet the farm animals. Hooray!

Rain Barrel Information Session, Sunday, July 24, 1:00 – 3:00 pm. This free information session at Twinbrook Community Recreation Center, 12920 Twinbrook Parkway, Rockville, teaches how to select, install and maintain a rain barrel and how this storm water management technique helps protect city watersheds. To register, contact Amanda Matheny at amatheny@rockvillemd.gov or 240-314-8877.

Aquabarrel is offering rebates of up to $25 for its EarthMinded™ RainStation™ rain barrel to members of the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op and the Maryland Energy and Sustainability Co-op.

Orders placed today (Friday, August 20) may be picked up tomorrow (Saturday, August 21) at the The Takoma Park Co-op, 201 Ethan Allen Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Tel: 301-891-2667.

Aquabarrel and the Maryland Energy and Sustainability Co-op are members of the Bethesda Green Business Incubator.