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by Nic Wells

After his first wife died in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson secretly courted Edith Bolling Galt on regular strolls with her in Rock Creek Park. In 2008, police discovered a man from Chevy Chase growing marijuana in the Park, and in March 2013, someone sacrificed a goat and chickens in a part of the Park near Piney Branch Parkway.

These three dissimilar events share one common feature:  Rock Creek Park.

While such anecdotes may or may not be good conversation starters, stories that impress, they are indicative of what geographers call a sense of place, a combination of experiences and certain attributes that makes a place distinctive. Without a doubt, Washingtonians have that sense of place with Rock Creek Park.

Because Rock Creek Park includes the main stem and many diverse units scattered throughout neighborhoods in Northwest and Northeast,  Rock Creek Conservancy’s community engagement meetings this summer and fall seek to explore and understand locals’ senses of place of the Park.

We’ve held two meetings so far – one in Mt. Pleasant, the other in Chevy Chase. The turnouts at both were fantastic, with people asking questions and chatting about the Park over coffee, tea and delicious treats provided by local businesses. If you happened to miss these, there will be more community meetings in September and October, so stay tuned! Until then, explore the Park and develop your sense of place of place in Rock Creek Park like the charmer, the stoner and the butcher did, but unlike them, please keep it PG.

You also might want to check out a recent issue the Washington Post Magazine, which featured a great cover story about Rock Creek Park. Give it a read, and then get yourself to the Park!

Nic Wells, a McLean native, interns for Rock Creek Conservancy, part of the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, and studies Geography and Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

BGnews_logoMontgomery Council creates two new offices to tackle environmental issues in county

Montgomery County Council created two new offices Tuesday to oversee efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and promote the use of sustainable energy sources in the county.

The county has a broad portfolio of environmental regulations and goals, many of them established by a 2008 working group created by County Executive Isiah Leggett. They include an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

But council members said progress toward the goals needed to be accelerated and the county held more accountable. It voted unanimously to create an Office of Sustainability within the Department of Environmental Protection and an Office of Energy and Sustainability within the county’s Department of General Services.

The estimated annual cost of the new offices is $900,000, mostly for additional staff. The council approved funding as part of the fiscal 2015 budget it passed last month.

See full article published in The Washington Post

Poolesville Goes Solar

Poolesville recently celebrated the opening of its new solar array, expected to save $30,000 in energy costs in the first year of operation. Since the array came online in February, it has created enough energy to power 40 homes for a year and has saved nearly 600,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

Poolesville partnered with Standard Solar to build the 4,480-panel array to offset electricity for the wastewater treatment plant.

See full article published in the Gazette.

Solar Mowing Business Grows in Bethesda

In 2009, Lyn DeWitt decided that she had had enough of the fumes and noise associated with gasoline-powered lawn mowers and launched Solar Mowing, a company using battery-powered mowers charged by photovoltaic solar panels affixed to a truck.

She initially invested about $30,000 on the truck, solar panels, mowers and other equipment. Since then, the company has grown to six mowers, eight trimmers, three trucks with solar panels and a dozen employees. A year ago, it was certified by the Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program, signifying its effective environmental stewardship.

See full article published in the Gazette.

Green Events

  • Good Green Fun Happy Hour — Wednesday, June 18, 5-8 pm, Silver Spring Green networking event at La Malinche Spanish Tapas Restaurant, 8622 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD.
  • Bethesda EcoDistrict Workshop — Wednesday, June 18, 7-9 pm, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD.
  • Rock Creek Community Meeting — Saturday, June 21, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, Mount Pleasant Library, 3160 16th Street NW, DC , hosted by Rock Creek Conservancy.
  • GreenWheaton Gala — Wednesday, June 25, 6-9 pm, Ballroom at Wheaton Glen, 2400 Arcola Ave., Wheaton, MD.
  • Fishbowl Investor Pitch — Thursday, June 26, 1-5 pm, plus reception at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, MD, a “shark tank” like-program hosted in partnership with the William James Foundation.

by Julie Clendenin

DC Water lifted its two-day Boil Water Advisory March 7, which was a relief for many DC residents. Their short “water crisis” ended without much drama. It did, however, remind me of our good fortune when it comes to drinking water. It’s good that the remarkable days are those when our water supply is NOT absolutely safe.

And it made me wonder about the flip side of that luck that escapes my consciousness most of the time. I started really thinking about what it would be like to live without a reliable, convenient source of drinking water.

I wanted some perspective from the flip side, so I went looking for some data. Here’s what I found:

  • 768 million people in the world do not have access to safe, clean drinking water (UNICEF, 2014).
  • “Access to drinking water,” in international development language, means that the water source is less than 1 kilometer from its place of use.  That means that someone has to travel, collect water, and carry it home for use. EVERY DAY. The World Health Organization estimates that, globally, 200 million hours are spent EACH DAY collecting water for domestic use.
  • An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day (UN Development Program, 2006).

Our city’s briefly threatened water supply was an inconvenience for many of our neighbors – in fact, it was a very real health hazard that needed to be taken seriously. I am grateful that this kind of thing is a rare occurrence for us, and that we can remain confident about the safety of our drinking water.

RWFFLogo_FullColor_EST2012The thing is, in the developing world, the lack of clean drinking water is daunting crisis. In some African nations, less than half the population has access to clean drinking water. Every day, 1,400 children die from diseases directly linked to unsafe water or lack of basic sanitation.

The Reel Water Film Festival, Saturday, June 14 at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, is a great place to start exploring the global water crisis. It’s also an opportunity to explore our own, local water supply challenges. Roughly 6 million people live in the DC area – and most of us get our drinking water from the Potomac River, which is threatened by stormwater runoff from our paved surfaces, sewage overflows caused by massive rainstorms (and snowmelt!), chemical & nutrient pollution from our lawns as well as larger industrial and agricultural sources.

There are things we can each do to help, on both fronts. Let’s not take clean water for granted. It’s not really just a matter of good fortune. We need to get real about protecting it.

Julie Clendenin grew up in Bethesda, met her husband during high school at Walter Johnson, currently lives with her family in Kensington, and works for a consulting firm in Bethesda.

BGgreennews_logo1Bethesda Downtown Plan

Although there are still issues to work out, a development plan is taking shape for downtown Bethesda. The Montgomery County Planning Department is updating the 20-year-old Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan to manage future building and zoning decisions in the area. The Department recently hosted a workshop for residents, planners, and developers to help them move forward with their plan. Guests were asked to determine where the exact “heart of downtown Bethesda” was on a map on the wall and where the most troublesome areas were for pedestrians. Discussion also included changes that attendees thought needed to be made, with most saying there was a need for more green space.

Downtown Bethesda is growing rapidly; in fact, it is expected that between now and 2040 the population will double.

To get all the details, check out the Gazette.

Purple Line Project — Recommended by the White House

President Barack Obama’s new budget plan includes $100 million in federal construction money for the proposed light rail Purple Line Project, an infusion to help keep the $2.2 billion project on schedule. Also, the Purple Line Project was recommended for a full funding grant agreement, a long-term construction commitment that Maryland officials hope will amount to $900 million in federal funding. Purple Line construction is scheduled to start in 2015 and open in 2020.

Some of the advantages of the proposed plan would be faster and more reliable transit options for traveling east-west between suburbs and would encourage new investments around stations in older suburbs. Opponents of the project say that the construction would require cutting down hundreds of trees in popular trails and would bring noise pollution to residents living along the route. The town of Chevy Chase has been leading the opposition to the Purple Line Project because it would require condemning 116 homes and businesses; they also believe that the state hasn’t done enough to explore other options.

The Purple Line would consist of 21 stations with two-car trains mostly running above ground.

Read the Gazette article here.

Addendum: Council members call for Purple Line community task force (see article here).

Climate Change in Montgomery County

Climate change is becoming more apparent to farmers and gardeners because their farming or blossoming seasons are becoming unpredictable and unreliable. Last week, several horticulturists, biologists, and environmental activists met to discuss ways of adapting to climate change. They were part of a conference called “Green Matters 2014: Gardening in a Changing Climate” in Montgomery County.

Precise temperature and weather are key to growing healthy crops and plants but with the increasingly severe and erratic weather, the plants are susceptible to death.  Farmers and planters have to worry about temperatures dropping below freezing and damaging their crops. There is not much farmers and gardeners can do except respond to the changes they see. With higher temperatures, new pests can now survive farther north and at higher elevations than normal. For example, the mountain pine beetle, which is normally found in western forests, is beginning to spread. It and many other species could start invading Maryland.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network leads efforts to fight climate change through political activism and encouragement to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Read the Gazette article here.

Events

  • Raptors of the Chesapeake Bay: Past, Present, and Future Outlook for the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon — Lecture, Thursday, March 13, 7 pm, Annapolis Maritime Museum, 723 Second Street, Annapolis. Speaker: Craig Koopie, Raptor Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Office. Free for certain Museum members; $10 for the public.
  • 5th Annual Davidsonville Green Expo — Saturday, March 15, 10 am – 2 pm, Davidsonville Elementary School, 962 West Central Avenue, Davidsonville, MD. The Expo features awareness about environmental issues, children’s activities, free native tree give-aways, Bay-friendly lawn and landscape techniques, and more.
  • Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital — various venues from March 18 – March 30. The theme of the 2014 Festival — Our Cities, Our Planet — will examine the challenges posed by Earth’s urban environments and the efforts of the world’s cities to balance environmental and economic needs.

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

BGnews_logoCut your own Christmas tree from the several tree farms around the D.C area

As you decorate your homes for Christmas consider visiting your local farm stand to pick up a fresh, Christmas tree. You can take your family to pick up a pre-cut Christmas tree or cut down your own! Not only will you be supporting your local farms, but you’ll be helping the environment, as well. Real Christmas trees are 100 percent environmentally friendly unlike artificial trees, which may contain harmful lead toxins and plastics and last centuries in a landfill after thrown away. Real trees naturally decompose over time and provide wildlife habitats for your little critters.

Check out the Washington Post to find out where the tree farms are!

Take care of your home during the winter season

Make sure to pay attention to your home during the busy holidays. If you tackle these tasks now, you may prevent problems later. Here are some quick and easy household tips:

  • Clean your kitchen vents whether they have an over the range microwave or a hood that is vented to the outdoors. Before the holiday cooking starts, clean or replace the grease filter in a dish washer or in a sink.
  • For better freeze-protection of outdoor faucets, replace standard frost-protected faucets with ones that have a built-in pressure relief valve.
  • Periodically watch the snow to  pinpoint maintenance issues you might otherwise never notice.

To see more details and more tips check out this article!

Events

  • Bethesda Green First Thursday Happy Hour, today, Dec. 5, 5 – 8 pm at Parva in Bethesda.  Hear from Interfaith Power & Light  about what local congregations are doing to save energy and go green. For more details and to RSVP, go to the Bethesda Green Meetup website.

 

           

savenia_Hor_w_arrow_TM_NEWA Bethesda Green Business Incubator company, Savenia Labs recently launched its new Home Ratings service.  We spoke to Savenia Founder John Jabara about the new offering.

So tell us a little about this new service your company has come out with.

Sure, Savenia tells home buyers, for the first time, the lifetime value of what’s in a home before they buy it. We’re talking about energy efficient appliances, lighting, water heaters, solar panels. These things saved you money when you lived in the home – what are these savings worth to the new buyer? That hasn’t been calculated before – and that’s what we do.  Home sellers and home buyers want to know how much it costs to run a home, not to mention the environmental impact.  This is what we capture on our Savenia Home Rating Label.

So, it’s a little like a BlueBook report for a car.

Exactly, and people forget that BlueBook is not only good for the buyer – but also the seller – because a seller with a car with premium features can get a premium price. But before BlueBook, you could tell people that the car was valuable because it had extra features, but it was hard to quantify. Same for Savenia. Home owners make efficiency improvements to their home all the time, efficient appliances, LED lighting, but when they go to sell their home, they and their Realtors have found it difficult to quantify and explain this in dollars and cents.  Savenia steps in with a simple way to clarify the lifetime value of what’s in the house.

OK, I think I get it. So how does it work. Where does Savenia get the data.

Savenia is a subscription service for home sellers, they send the data about what’s in the home to Savenia, and we can use our huge proprietary energy efficiency databases to crunch the numbers and tell them what these items are worth, how much energy they use, how much they cost to run, and how all that compares to other homes with the same types of products.

How do you make sure you get accurate data?

Great question.  The short answer is that we verify everything. Savenia uses 3 systems to verify and manage the data that users put in our system. We have 2 verification processes, where first we get subscribers to sign a contract regarding the quality of the data they put into the system, but also we do unannounced checks on homes to make sure the data is accurate. Then, for maximum transparency, we color code and disclose data sources on all our Home Rating Labels for quick reference in words and in color; light green labels are subscriber provider data, and dark green labels are independently verified.

So the Realtor puts the data in, and this results in a rating – how does that work?

Right. The Realtor puts in the data, and the system tells them which home systems qualify for a Savenia Rating, either a Bronze, Silver or Gold. Let’s say we have a home where the appliances qualify for a Silver, but the lighting only qualifies for a Bronze. The Realtor has the opportunity to make some changes, for example swap out the lighting for more efficient bulbs and get them a Bronze, Silver or Gold for the lighting.

Why don’t you just get your system to force a whole home rating – good and bad.

That approach has been tried all over the country, and unless the government mandates it, it is very difficult to get everyone on board in practice. And the reason is simple – people don’t upgrade their entire home at one time. They do it in sections. They remodel a kitchen. They replace an air conditioner. When they go to sell their home, they should be able to highlight the upgrades they made, without having to highlight the things that have not been upgraded. Buyers should use home inspections and auditors to dig deeper on these things. The Savenia system is not meant to replace a professional auditor or home inspector.

So how is your system different from other rating systems out there.

There is nothing out there in the market like the Savenia Home Rating System. If you’re a home seller and you’ve recently remodeled, and probably spent some money on this, there aren’t that many options that are quick and easy to communicate to buyers the cost saving benefits they get when they buy a home. You can always get a home energy audit or an inspection, and we recommend these pre-close, but some people don’t want to spend the money or the time to do this upfront. That’s where Savenia comes in.

Very interesting John. Thanks for that explanation. With so many people doing these efficiency improvements, this seems like a great way for them to explain the benefits and maybe even get some of their money back when they sell the house. How does someone get a Savenia Rating on their home.

Savenia Home is a subscription service for professional home sellers, builders and buyers…but we all reap the rewards. Right now Savenia availability is limited to a select group of professionals in the region, one of the largest custom home builders Sandy Spring Builders and one of the largest Realtors, Jane Fairweather are using the system.  Savenia Home Ratings are also guiding the historic renovation project at The Button Farmhouse in Seneca Creek State Park. And next year we will be able to add a second group of subscribers, again limited, as we plan to expand across the DC metro region. Realtors, builders and renovators should contact us at our website to grab a slot for 2014, and we can lock them in for this next phase.

You can get more information on Savenia Home Ratings at www.saveniahome.com. And you can also get many of the Savenia rated products that go behind this system at Ace Hardware stores across the region.

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