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 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 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:

http://my.barackobama.com/page/event/detail/gptwcc

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.

Like old friends catching up on good times, President Obama and Seth Goldman, TeaEO of Honest Tea and Bethesda Green Board co-chair, take a Obama Economymoment to chat at a recent White House gathering of business leaders.  Seems like Bethesda Green and the White House have something in common — we both like to keep well-stocked with the bottled organic beverages produced by Honest Tea.

The president is a long-time fan of Honest Tea and reportedly kept a supply on the campaign trail.  Now Seth drops by to stock the Oval Office frig with Barack’s favorites — Black Forest Berry and Green Dragon — honest.