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by Betsy Reinstein DeweySolar City logo

I have a confession to make: I don’t have solar panels on my house.

I can make a million excuses (well at least 3 or 4), but the bottom line is that I just haven’t made it a priority. Do I feel guilty about this? Clearly. But that is about to change.

Recently I met some young people whose passion for accessing power from the sun brought them to Montgomery County to work for Solar City, the largest provider of rooftop solar systems in the country. They are on a mission to bring solar power to as many homes in our area as possible. Rather than selling the panels to customers, with their new program, Solar City will pay for the panels as well as all the costs of the installation, maintenance and support. So I can go solar at no cost to me. In fact my monthly utility bills will go down. Better yet, I don’t have to do any of the legwork. It’s hassle-free!

It took them about 2 minutes to show me my house on Google maps (their first step to see if you’re a good candidate) and then to tell me approximately how much I’ll save on my monthly electric bills. How it works is that the power that is generated goes into the grid and is “owned” by Solar City, since they will own the panels on my roof. I get to buy back the electricity I need at a set rate, which is actually lower than what I’m currently paying.

If you’re considering solar panels, take note: Solar City will donate $250 to Bethesda Green for every no-obligation site survey, whether or not you decide to proceed with installation — a green win-win-win.

So I set up a date for an engineer to come to my house to do a site survey. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical, because it all seemed too good to be true, but there really is no catch. Everything about the visit was pleasant, professional, quick and easy. He took measurements, photos and made assessments of my roof, and was able to give me an idea of how much solar my house would likely produce. Then he took this information back to the company so they can produce a custom design for my home. I’m looking forward to seeing the design they recommend. But here’s the best part. Whether or not I decide to contract with Solar City, they have agreed to make a donation of $250 to Bethesda Green for my site survey and for every site survey that comes through a Bethesda Green referral.

There’s no hard sell and no obligation. So if you decide to have your roof checked out, you’ll not only be doing something good for the planet, you’ll also be responsible for a donation of $250 to Bethesda Green. To me, this sounds like a green win-win-win.

If you’re interested in learning more or setting up an appointment, contact Danielle Kruse at dkruse@solarcity.com and be sure to mention Bethesda Green!

Betsy Reinstein Dewey is the Bethesda Green Development Officer.

LED_Logo_wTagby Sharon D’Emidio

I recently bought some new lamps for my home and realized deciding what kind of bulb to use is like trying to pick a health insurance plan. Do I buy CFLs or LEDs? Does the light bulb need to support a dimmer? What is a comparable CFL or LED to a traditional 60 watt bulb?  How many lumens do I need? And by the way, what is a lumen?

As a working mother of two very young children, I started to have nightmares of dragging them to the hardware store with rows of light bulbs in front of me and not having the time to think through which one I should purchase. So, I hit the trusty internet to do some advanced shopping research. The only problem is, there is too much information. Why does this process have to be so confusing? Can’t someone just tell me which bulbs would be the right fit for my home and lighting needs?

Here are a few things I knew I wanted in the bulbs that I was planning to purchase:

  1. When I turn the light on – I want it to actually go on.  I have several CFLs in my home lighting fixtures that have a delay when you first put them on. When they do finally click on they are dim and take another minute or so to brighten.  I hate this feature and wanted to buy bulbs that would turn on to their full brightness immediately.
  2. I like bright, white light, not yellow light.  How do I know which bulbs will be bright white? How many lumens is the right number for the room I am putting the lamps in?
  3. Do I need a bulb that can dim? I have a few recessed lights in my living room and the CFL bulbs I have in there won’t allow any dimming so we always have them up at the highest setting, even though there is a delay to get them to go on and they take a minute to warm up to their full brightness (see number 1 above).

Before getting too stressed about making the right decision, I learned about a new program called the LED Diet  offered by Bethesda Systems, a Bethesda Green sponsor. The program helps navigate the challenging new world of light bulb choices on the market.  The best part about the program is that they come to YOUR house with a truck full of LED (highest performing, most energy efficient and longest lasting) lighting options.

The Bethesda Systems technician did a walk-through of each room and discussed the pros and cons of my current lighting. Not only did I wind up replacing several bulbs in my home, the technician also solved a long-standing kitchen light issue that would have cost me hundreds of dollars to fix if I stuck with my traditional lighting and had an electrician come out to the house.  Instead, he replaced an old light fixture with an LED version that is much brighter and energy efficient.

I couldn’t believe how easy and convenient the service was. With one lighting fixture in particular, the LED equivalent didn’t solve the issue so we decided that, until the LED technology catches up with this particular type of lighting, I will stick with what I currently have in place.  There were no sale gimmicks or requirements to purchase any products. We simply walked through my house trying out different bulbs until I got the right kind of feel.  At the end of our visit, the technician was able to tell me the cost savings of switching from my previous bulbs to the new LEDs.

Because  of this wonderful program, Bethesda Green has partnered with Bethesda Systems and the LED Diet to offer the program with a free at-home consultation (the consultation usually costs $29.99 with no obligation to buy anything).  So, simply by going to the LED Diet website and signing up for a free consultation (enter promo code BethesdaGreen14 when signing up), Bethesda Systems will come to your house and walk you through the options. It’s that simple and so worth it!  Honestly, I don’t know why anyone would bother stressing out about heading to the hardware store to buy a light bulb ever again.

Sharon D’Emidio is the Program Manager at Bethesda Green.


Water systemby Jennifer Roe

Susan Bierly, president of IMC Water Coolers, is proud to be associated with Bethesda Green by providing the office with a bottle-less water cooler. Staff and visitors not only enjoy high-quality, refreshing water but appreciate that the water system aligns with Bethesda Green’s values. The IMC Water Cooler eliminates the need for plastic bottles, reducing environmental impact. IMC is a 25-year-old company that, according to Susan, “takes pride in serving the Washington DC market.” They provide a full line of filtered water coolers, home filtration systems (sink, ice, bar, shower, etc.), BRITA Hydration Stations and Mobile Water Refill Stations.

IMC has been providing a bottle-less water cooler system to Bethesda Green ever since Susan met with Executive Director Dave Feldman and rediscovered that they had worked together years ago.  It was then that Susan decided IMC would donate the cooler and the service in support of the Bethesda Green mission to build a more sustainable community.

Headshot Susan

Susan Bierly, president of IMC Water Coolers

Using bottle-less water systems “creates a domino effect,” Susan explains. By reducing the number of water bottles, the fuel, water and wasted resources that go into manufacturing plastic bottles is greatly reduced, allowing consumers who purchase IMC Water Coolers to have a smaller footprint on the planet. In addition, the coolers have a Sleep Mode® where the cooler will reduce the amount of energy it is using by 30% anytime it senses darkness. According to Susan, a study showed that over a 10-year period, 60-70% of energy was saved with an IMC system compared to a traditional water cooler. Therefore, these coolers help protect earth’s natural resources and help save energy.

In the future, Susan would like to see further development of energy efficient products. She hopes that marketing and branding of IMC continues to increase consumer awareness on the high-quality of filtered tap water, encouraging people to reduce consumption of bottled water.  IMC is passionate about educating the public on how drinking filtered tap water can have economic advantages for companies and individuals while protecting the earth. As people continue to reach for plastic water bottles, we are using more oil and natural resources than we can afford, therefore if businesses and homes reduce their consumption of bottled water by switching to filtered tap water systems such as IMC, it would make a big difference, one water cooler at a time.

To learn more about IMC Water Cooler services for your home or office, visit their website at www.imcwater.com.

Jennifer Roe is a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she received her Master’s in Environment and Development.  She is passionate about building a just and sustainable food system where every individual has the opportunity to lead a successful, healthy life.

by Susanna Parker

Orin Schepps, CEO of Consultance Accounting Services, is no stranger to community involvement. His company has a longstanding commitment to both corporate and personal social responsibility, supporting a variety of nonprofit organizations with missions that include promoting theater and cultural arts, protecting DC’s water supply, and Consultance Accounting Serviceshelping restore tree cover to communities around the world. In addition to providing pro-bono financial guidance and bookkeeping services to Bethesda Green and other groups, the firm donates 5 percent of its fees to qualified nonprofit organizations of their clients’ choosing.

Orin got involved with Bethesda Green after hearing about its mission and approached Executive Director Dave Feldman with his offer of help. The relationship has been meaningful on both sides, leading to new associations and further involvement in the local green business community. Consultance Accounting Services does more than just support green business – they have adopted green practices as well.

Despite handling 180,000 pieces of documentation, Consultance uses a paperless system for all their bookkeeping and accounting services, saving trees and conserving resources.  They do more than work in a paperless environment – all of Consultance’s services are offered remotely, allowing each employee to work from home, reducing gasoline usage and cutting emissions to the environment. Consultance Accounting Services also helps its clients to go green, assisting them in their changeover to paperless processing for their accounting and bookkeeping needs.

In addition to adopting more green practices in Consultance’s future, Orin has hopes that more firms in the accounting industry and other businesses in general will go paperless. He explains that, with technology that is readily available, paper files are needed less and less in today’s business world. With nearly 4 billion trees cut down annually, just for paper, imagine the positive impact on the environment if all businesses went paperless.

Consultance Accounting Services offers accounting, bookkeeping, comptroller, and CFO services for businesses and nonprofit organizations. Visit their website at http://consultancellc.com

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.