by Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

Recent anti-pesticide laws enacted by local jurisdictions have moved members of the Montgomery County Council to examine the county’s current pesticide practices, both public and private facility management and lawn care/landscaping services, but not in farming or agricultural land uses.

DC’s Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act was passed unanimously in August 2012. It restricts non-essential “cosmetic” pesticides from all government-owned property and restricts the use of pesticides on private property around schools and child-occupied facilities and properties next to waterways.

In July 2013, Takoma Park, MD City Council passed unanimously “Safe Grow Act of 2013,” which restricts the use of certain pesticides on all city-owned and private property within the City.

Residents in DC and Takoma Park – Julie Taddeo and Catherine Cummings – brought their concerns to their respective council members about the health risks and exposure to pesticides, especially to young children, as there is a growing amount of research linking early exposure to synthetic pesticides and childhood leukemias and cancers. (See Policy Statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.)

In the Kentlands neighborhood in Gaithersburg, the community is considering alternatives to synthetic pesticides currently used in the common landscaped areas after concerned residents brought up health risks to exposure of these synthetic pesticides that are applied every fall and spring.  In 2011, the Kentlands Citizens Assembly voted to stop spraying pesticides in tot-lots due to residents’ concerns of pesticide exposure to children. The other concern is that the pesticides also run off into the local Muddy Branch stream and that local drinking water health suffers.

A pesticide is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “any substance or mixture of substances intended for: preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.”

Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal, who chairs the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, requested a discussion and presentation on September 9 at the Council’s Transportation, Energy and Environment Committee to inform the Council members about the county’s current practices, to hear testimony from Takoma Park and DC legislators, and to hear from people that are for and against local legislation.

So, what comes next?

Keith Levchenko, Senior Legislative Analyst for Montgomery County Council says that, “Currently, no legislation has been introduced at the County Council.  Council member Roger Berliner, Chairman of the T&E Committee, announced at the T&E discussion that he is considering introducing pesticide legislation.  If legislation is introduced, then a public hearing and committee discussion specific to the bill will be scheduled.”

Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin is the founder of Green Gaithersburg, a member of the newly formed Chesapeake Greens Collaborative, a coalition of environmentally friendly organizations that promotes sustainability and sound environmental practices in our communities.

by Susanna Parker

Green Entrepreneurs Explore Financing OptionsBGnews_logo

Going through a slow economic recovery, some start-ups are finding it difficult to secure investors, with green industry entrepreneurs  having a harder time than most. According to a recent Gazette.net article, Tom Matzzie, CEO of Ethical Electric, was able to land a green energy venture capital deal late last year — but he was the only one in Maryland to do so. Clean venture funding has fallen 28 percent over the last year, but there is hope; clean technology companies accounted for five of the top 10 deals of 2012.

It can be difficult to secure investors without ceding control; investors are trying to get the best deal they can, which may include increased involvement in company operations. The key to finding investors is having the right product, and knowing how to pitch it.

Bethesda Green’s Green Business Incubator is helping new companies become investor-ready, which includes finance and investment workshops as well as helping local investors become more familiar with the green mission. The next session of the Finance Workshop Series & Venture Forum, coming up on February 28, will address the different types of investments that can be utilized by early stage companies, and the financing structures related to each.

A Pledge to Stop Deforestation

Asia Pulp & Paper Group, one of the largest paper companies in the world, has pledged to stop its suppliers from from cutting down natural Indonesian forests. The move, geared toward the preservation of endangered species’ habitats, was created in conjunction with Greenpeace and the Forest Trust. The paper company had been pressured by environmental groups to change its practices, which included cutting down old growth forests to create farmed tree plantations. Their plan will work to retain carbon in two ways:

  • The rainforests act as a carbon sink, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and emitting oxygen
  • The soil in Indonesian forests is peat-heavy, so by preserving the sanctity of the soil, less carbon will be released from the ground.

The plan went into effect February 1. To read the full article, and for pictures of Indonesian deforestation, please visit The Huffington Post.

Fracking Moratorium Bill Introduced in Maryland House of Delegates

Last Thursday, Maryland legislators unveiled a three-point plan to establish a moratorium on hydrofracking. This legislation came the same week that Baltimore City voted against fracking, and new federal studies highlighted the potential harms of hydrofracking. Delegate Heather Mizeur, lead sponsor of the bill, said that the legislation would “ensure the General Assembly’s role in reviewing the study results before any final drilling decisions are made.”

The co-lead sponsors of the bill are Baltimore County Senator Robert Zirkin and Montgomery County Senator Jamie Raskin. For the full story, along with details of the three-point plan, please read the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s press release.

Upcoming Events

  • The 8th Annual Spring 2013 Film Series, Wechsler Theater, 3rd Flood, Mary Graydon Center. American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC.

Hosted by Chris Palmer and presented by the American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking and Filmmakers for Conservation, this series of environmental films and discussions is offered free to the public with no reservations required.

February 12 @ 7 pm: Animal Planet’s Battleground: Rhino Wars

Battleground: Rhino Wars takes the viewer into the conflict between rhino poachers and a South African anti-poaching unit. The unit, which includes former members of U.S. special forces, finds itself fighting a bloody war as they struggle to put a stop to the cruel, illegal, and highly lucrative trade of rhino horns. Animal Planet’s Senior Director of Production & Executive Producer Erin Wanner will discuss the series, premiering March 7, and reveal the back story of the miniseries’ creation.

More details about the film series can be found here.

  • The Next Generation of Transit: the Key to Montgomery County’s Green Future, Wednesday February 13, 6 – 8 pm, Silver Spring Civic Center

Join the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Smart Growth America CEO Geoff Anderson, and Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner to discuss the future of Montgomery County public transit. Future transit infrastructure should preserve open space, cut our emissions, and reduce our air pollution – and we can take action to make that future a reality. For details and to RSVP please visit the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

  • Forward on Climate Rally, Sunday Feb. 17, noon, The National Mall

Join fellow environmentalists on the National Mall to tell President Barack Obama that the time to act against climate change is now – starting with the prevention of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. For more details and to RSVP, visit the event page.

  • Secrets of Scandinavian Sustainable City Planning, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 8 – 9:30 am @ Bethesda Green

Doo Consulting presents Chris Jakubiak on “Secrets of Scandinavian Sustainable City Planning,” summarizing his fact-finding tour of Malmo, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark from the perspective of a certified and accomplished City Planner. RSVP — limited seating – breakfast fare will be served.

  • 2013 Green School Summit, March 2, 8:00 am – 5:30 pm, Mary Graydon Center, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC.

Are you a building professional interested in green development? Or are you a K-12 teacher that wants their school to become more environmentally friendly? Join the U.S. Green Building Council for the 2013 Green School Summit, and learn best practices for sustainable schools, including administrative policies, technical advancements in green building, and how to include sustainability in your school’s curriculum.

The event agenda can be found here and tickets can be purchased through the U.S. Green Building Council.

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.

BGnews_logo

by Susanna Parker

Happy New Year!

Has everyone thought of their Green Resolutions for 2013? My green resolution is to reduce waste  by buying less and recycling more. Please share yours in the comments!

Proposed Montgomery County Legislation Hopes to Attract Green Businesses

The “Green Organization Supplement” legislation, introduced to the County Council in early December, would allow environmentally conscious organizations to apply for grants from the county for up to $25,000. Authored by Councilman Roger Berliner, the bill is part of the county’s effort to attract more green energy companies, following the recommendation that the County make a stronger commitment to green development. Applying companies would have to be audited by the Department of the Environment for environmental sustainability. The bill could be a big step for Montgomery County, making it an attractive location for green start-ups and providing a boost to the local economy. Introducing the bill now will allow the proposed funds to be included for consideration in the 2014 fiscal budget. A public hearing on the legislation has been set for January 22.

For more information, please read the full Washington Examiner article, here.

Maryland Takes A Stand Against Invasive Plants

While kudzu is the most recognized (and most feared) of the invasive plant species, there are many other plants that pose a serious threat to Maryland’s native flora and landscape, and the Maryland Department of Agriculture is getting ready to take action. The Invasive Plants Advisory Committee was established in 2011 and given the task of creating a framework to rank species by their threat to the environment. Combining the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s protocols with Maryland-specific concerns, the framework will take into account: 1) a plant’s ability to spread, 2) its economic impact, 3) its risk of changing the environment, and 4) its risk of affecting human health. Plants deemed to be a threat will be assigned a rating of Tier 1 or Tier 2. Tier 1 plants will be banned from retail sale, and Tier 2 plants will require labeling informing consumers of their risks. Legislators hope that these steps will allow residents to participate in the protection of the environment, preventing the deliberate introduction of more invasive plants.

Invasive plants have long been a problem in this region, with many becoming so common that people don’t even know they aren’t native. English ivy, bamboo, Bradford pears, honeysuckle, wild garlic, and day lily are all examples of invasive species we see everyday. These plants have all been introduced into the environment, often for landscaping and decorative purposes, and have spread so widely and aggressively that they’ve driven out their native competition. The lack of native plants can then affect native animals, who find themselves without food sources and habitats. If the invasive species takes a firm enough hold, it can cause a native species to go locally extinct. The Maryland legislation is designed to halt this process, and will be a valuable resource for residents wanting to learn more. To help stop invasive species on your own, consider native gardening, the practice of installing only plants found naturally in this region. Not only will your garden be a haven for local species, but with a variety of growing seasons, something new will always be blossoming!

For more information on the legislation, please read the Maryland Gazette article here. For a list of invasive species in Maryland, please visit The Maryland Invasive Species Council. To learn more about native gardening, please visit the US Forest Service’s website, Celebrating Wildflowers.

Upcoming Green Events

  • Teeming With Life: Bringing Gabon to the National Zoo, Friday January 11, 6:30 pm, Smithsonian National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW.

Join Smithsonian National Zoo scientist Alfonso Alonso for a presentation on Gabon’s Gamba Complex — a little-known region of Africa with remarkable species diversity. Dr. Alonso will be joined by National Zoo animal keeper Gil Meyers and National Zoo veterinarian Dr. Chris Whittier. Their panel discussion will address Gabon-related research projects at the Zoo, as well as provide information about the upcoming Gabon Gamba Complex exhibit to be displayed in the spring. The presentation will be followed by a reception with complimentary beer, wine, and light hors d’oeuvres. Tickets are $15 for FONZ members, $20 for non-members, and all proceeds will go toward improving the Cheetah Conservation Station and helping to bring new African wildlife species to the Zoo.

For information, and to purchase tickets, please visit Smithsonian National Zoo’s website.

  • 2013 “Keep Winter Cold” Polar Bear Plunge Hosted by Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Saturday January 26, 11 am, The Beach at National Harbor, Maryland.

Concerned about climate change, and want to make a difference? Register for Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s 8th Annual “Keep Winter Cold” Polar Bear Plunge and help make a difference! While some people might think it takes a crazy person to jump in the Potomac in January, Chesapeake Climate Action Network knows that great people coming together for a great cause can do incredible things – including willingly going into chilly Potomac waters! The event is the organization’s annual priority fundraiser, and helps them move toward their goal of creating swift action at local, state, and national levels, and getting the DC Metropolitan Area away from fossil fuels. Showing her commitment to the environment, Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD), will be joining in the plunge for her third consecutive year! To register for this fun event and help out an important cause, visit www.keepwintercold.org.

  • Grow Community Gardens While You Shop! Wednesday, January 9, Whole Foods Markets.

This Wednesday January 9, shop at any Montgomery County Whole Foods Market, and Whole Foods will donate 5% of sales to support the Community Gardens Program. Participating stores include Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Rockville, Kentlands, and Silver Spring.

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.

Bell ringers open the Bethesda FreshFarm Market, June 19.

Bell ringers--including BG's Dave Feldman (white shirt) and County Councilmember Roger Berliner (center, with jacket and green cap)--open the Bethesda FreshFarm Market, June 19.

One week ago today, Bethesda Green’s Executive Director, Dave Feldman, was part of a group of people who rang the opening bell(s) for the new Bethesda FreshFarm Market,  June 19.

The bell ringers walked the length of the one-block farmer’s market on Norfolk Ave. FreshFarm employees, Bethesda Urban Partnership representatives, County Councilmember Roger Berliner and Feldman were among the group.

The Bethesda FreshFarm Market is open Saturday mornings on Norfolk Ave.

The Bethesda FreshFarm Market is open Saturday mornings on Norfolk Ave.

The Bethesda FreshFarm Market is open Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. through October 30, on Norfolk Street, which is blocked off at that time between Fairmont Ave. and St. Elmo Ave. It features farmers and producers selling local fruits and vegetables, baked goods, cheese and dairy, meat and eggs, and flowers and plants. There’s even one stand that sells nothing but pies.

Some vendors were not present at the opening, but there were placeholder signs noting that they would be joining the market soon.

Ilaya Hopkins, left, speaks with shoppers at the market. Hopkins is a Democratic candidate for county council in District 1.

Ilaya Hopkins, left, speaks with shoppers at the market. Hopkins is a Democratic candidate for county council in District 1.

A decent crowd showed up the first day. One of those perusing the produce was Ilaya Hopkins, Democratic candidate for county council in District 1. Hopkins sits on the Bethesda Green Board of Directors, as does incumbent District 1 Councilmember Berliner.

The new FreshFarm market gives Bethesdans another opportunity to conveniently buy local foods, along with the Bethesda Central Farm Market that is open Thursdays and Sundays on the Bethesda Row side of town.

We enjoyed a great Happy Hour March 4 at Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle, courtesy of proprietor Mac Tigue, who not only donated 15 percent of sales to Bethesda Green, but at the last minute also offered free dinner for two for raffling.

The featured speaker was BG Board Member and District 1 Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner who announced that the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) was coming in the next few months.  The HELP program offers homeowners a low-interest loan for energy-related home improvements, payable through property taxes.

Our group was in a lively mood, in keeping with the pre-St. Paddy’s theme, including a contingent from Capitol Office Solutions, a Xerox company and Bethesda Green sponsor, who were in town for a product show earlier in the day at our office.

Since launching our First Thursday Happy Hours last fall, the events typically attract at least 50 attendees, with a large percentage of newcomers interested in learning about upcoming events and activities and connecting with others in green businesses.