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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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.

Fox5 had a great story last week about how Manna Food Center buys fresh produce from local farmers–including Button Farm, which is run by the Menare Foundation, a Bethesda Green Business Incubator company.

Any leftover produce from grocery stores or the participating farms gets put into compost bins and sent back to the farms to become natural fertilizer to grow more produce. A complete circle! Check out the Fox5 story and video report.

By Beverly Firme, guest blogger

Montgomery County’s 2010 Farm Tour and Harvest Sale took place this past weekend.  Of the 14 participating farms,  I selected four to visit:  a rescue farm that cares for retired or neglected farm animals, a family farm, a Dairy Barn, and a living history center.  I had a great day and look forward to visiting these farms again – all have programs throughout the year!

I started out from my usual point on Saturday mornings – Suburban Traders in Kensington.  I’m hoping they’ll be on the Farm Tour next year and we can all visit the 3 acres they’ve just started farming in Olney.  Fortified with a farm breakfast Kensington-style – baby swiss, roasted onions, potatoes, eggs and spicy coppa on puff pastry and a cup of coffee, I headed out to pick up my friend Marggy – taking along a Hanger Steak, Blue Cheese and Arugula sandwich and a Nut Bar for later.  I figured I’d be working up an appetite despite the heat.

Rocky the holstein steer

Rocky the holstein steer munches hay at Star Gazing Farm.

Star Gazing Farm (Boyds, MD)
Our first stop was Star Gazing Farm, a farm animal sanctuary.  The friendly volunteer staff directed us into the farm and to the animals.  We visited with Louie, a Morgan horse and Graham, a Boer goat.  Pictures of the farm’s animals were posted by the staff on fences that included their ‘story’ – how they came to the farm and details about each animal.  For instance, Graham is apparently an escape artist.  The staff also directed us to Rocky and Bullwinkle, both Hostein steer.  Bullwinkle was nowhere in sight but Rocky kept one eye on Marggy and I as he ate some hay.

Star Gazing Farm is a non-profit organization supported by private donations, fundraising and services such as bunny sitting and shearing sheep, goats, alpaca and llamas for other farms.  Animals at the Farm range from chickens, ducks and bunnies to pigs, goats, the steer, a horse and a donkey.  The loyalty and enthusiasm of the volunteer staff is evident and for the Farm Tour many were on hand at information tables or near the animals, ready to answer questions and encourage visitors to pet the animals.  This is a don’t miss when they are open to the public.  You’ll enjoy your experience at Star Gazing Farm.

Lewis Orchards (Dickerson, MD)
We moved on to Lewis Orchards, which has been family owned and operated since 1888 and is open from mid-June through Thanksgiving.  This is a produce farm and the busy farm market is on a hill overlooking their fields – a perfect view and setting.   The farm market was filled with the bounty of summer – peaches, tomatoes, corn, string beans, onions, zucchini, eggplant, watermelon.  Refrigerator cases hold locally produced milk, cream, cheese and eggs.

The market – and the parking lot – was crowded.   We looked at the produce – fresh, inviting, and very colorful.  Marggy did some shopping, I grabbed a Birch Beer from the soda fridge and we got in line.   The staff kept the line moving quickly, and we were soon back in the car and on our way.  Lewis Orchards is a great destination and we will definitely return.  Apple picking in the fall!


King Barn Dairy MOOseum (Germantown, MD)

How can you pass up a MOOseum?  This was next on our list.  In the 1950s there were more than 300 dairy farms in Montgomery County; the MOOseum is a dairy heritage museum that preserves this heritage and offers the hands-on experience of milking faux cows.  Located in the South Germantown Recreational Park, the barn is up and ready for visitors!

We went inside the Dairy Barn to see all things cows and dairy.  Volunteers and supporters have put in 8 years of dedicated work and planning and it shows.   Photographs and memorabilia line the walls of the barn, and replicas of dairy cows stand in the stalls ready for milking.  On a hot day the Barn was cool(ish) and quiet.  You could imagine the life of a dairy farmer on such a day, the cows in their stalls, tails flicking, a ‘moo’ here and there.   Walking through the Barn, volunteers were eager to talk about the dairy heritage of the County and to encourage us to enjoy the barn and their exhibits.  With much more planned for the MOOseum, this is a great stop to keep an eye on.  A Grand Opening is planned for October 23, 2010!

Button Farm Barn

An old barn at the Button Farm

Button Farm Living History Center (Germantown, MD)
The Button Farm, located in Seneca Park and secured as a long-term lease by the Menare Foundation, is Maryland’s only living history center depicting 19th century slave plantation life. (Menare Foundation is a Bethesda Green Business Incubator company.) We drove in, parked, and walked to the Button Farm House (circa 1927) to sign in.  We were greeted by Anthony who encouraged us to visit their Museum Garden filled with peppers, leeks, peas, herbs and anything else a plantation might grow for their needs.  A Civil-War era Barn is on the property near the garden.  We walked around the garden, down to the Barn and into the 19th century.

Carolina Black Peanuts

A patch of Carolina black peanuts at the Button Farm

Walking on the farm we listened to the music of Anthony Hyatt, Fiddler.  Anthony played period tunes as a great backdrop to the quiet peace of this 60-acre farm.  Aquabarrel was also there with a display of rain barrels – reminding us that in the 19th century farmers made use of rain barrels for their water supply. (Aquabarrel is also a Bethesda Green Business Incubator company.)

The Button Farm holds many events during the year.  Anthony says one of their best is their Fall Festival held during the first weekend in November – with demonstrations, storytelling, tours – and a cider press!  Don’t miss this unique living history opportunity in Montgomery County.  You’ll enjoy it immensely.

All the heat and the trip to the MOOseum had us thinking of ice cream, so Marggy and I finished our trip with a stop at Sprinkles in Potomac.   Although we hope the weather’s cooler next year, we’re already looking forward to this Farm Tour in 2011.  It was a great day, we saw and learned a lot, really enjoyed the Tour and look forward to other events at these locations.

Star Gazing Farm, the MOOseum and Button Farm all accept donations and volunteers – and Lewis Orchards always welcomes customers!  Please consider visiting and supporting these Farms and the others on the Montgomery County Farm Tour.

(Photos by Beverly Firme)

  • Change is blowin’ in the wind: Last week, American University announced it has purchased 100 percent wind power through wind-generated renewable energy credits. The credits are equivalent to AU’s annual electricity usage of 53 million kilowatt hours. Among local colleges, only Catholic University has also purchased green power.
  • One local who is promoting wind power is Mike Tidwell, head of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, he urges Virginia to drop its offshore oil drilling plans and instead build offshore wind turbines.
  • Local blog AwesomeDC.com notes that the Finnish Embassy now features a banner saying it is green—the first LEED certified green embassy in DC. Apparently they got the status back in February, according to their website.

Upcoming green talks, classes and more:

  • May 20, 7:30 p.m — ReThink Montgomery Speaker Series – Kate Herrod, Director of Ashoka’s Community Greens, will discuss effort to enhance communities by integrating citizen-managed shared green spaces into places where people live and work.  M-NCPPC Auditorium, Ground Floor, 8787 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring.
  • May 20 and 22 (10 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. both days) — Conservation Landscaping Techniques Workshops, one session, given twice by the county RainScapes program. Learn how conservation-based landscaping techniques can beautify your yard and neighborhood, restore native habitats, and help improve the environment all while saving you valuable time and money. Explore ways to replace traditional lawns with native landscapes to benefit out local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. $10. Takes place at Brookside Gardens.
  • May 21 — Bike to Work Day Join the Bethesda Transportation Solutions staff and Maryland State Delegate Bill Bronrott at 6:30am on Friday, May 21st at the Bethesda pit stop (Reed Street, at the corner of Bethesda Ave & Woodmont Ave).  Attendees will enjoy breakfast, prizes, DJ entertainment, bike tune-ups on site by REI and City Bikes, and more, all for FREE! Register in advance online at: http://www.waba.org/events/btwd/md_bethesda.php
  • May 22,   9:00  to 1:00 — Second Annual Volunteering for Business Day at THE BUTTON FARM. Help prepare soil for planting, plant seeds, stack wood, clear trails, create signs….there is something for everyone and every bit helps! The Button Farm is run by the Menare Foundation, which is a Bethesda Green incubator organization! Location: 16820 BLACK ROCK ROAD, GERMANTOWN, MD 20874. Get More Event Info from the Corporate Volunteer Council of Montgomery County.

Do you have more news or events?  Post them in a comment here!