by Susanna Parker

A Busy Week at Bethesda Green

This week is a busy one at Bethesda Green. Join us Wednesday evening for our Emergency Preparedness panel discussion, and be sure meet us Thursday at Parva Restaurant Bar and Lounge for our monthly networking happy hour. Hope to see you there!

Farm to Freezer a Finalist in the TEDxManhattan Challenge!BGnews_logo

Implemented in June 2012, Farm to Freezer works with Bethesda Cares and local farm markets to save leftover produce from being discarded. Farm to Freezer’s many volunteers have helped to turn 5,000 pounds of fresh gleaned produce into frozen vegetables and tomato sauce that will be used to provide Bethesda’s homeless population with nutritious meals year-round. After the resounding success of their first season, Farm to Freezer is ready to expand in a big way. One major step is their inclusion in the TEDxManhattan Challenge; if selected, Farm to Freezer founder Cheryl Kollin will speak at the 2013 New York TEDxManhattan event, and Cheryl’s presentation, “Changing the Way We Eat,” will be broadcast to viewers worldwide. But Farm to Freezer needs your votes! Voting is a simple click, with no personal information or registration required. The deadline is December 15, so please tell your friends and vote today!  To learn more about this challenge and their work, read Farm to Freezer’s full blog post here.

Savenia Labs Premiers Single Serve Coffeemaker Energy Ratings!

Savenia Labs is an independent testing laboratory that provides lab tested energy and environmental impact ratings on popular appliances. Their previous work includes toasters, microwaves, and dehumidifiers, among others, and they have just released their newest ratings: the world’s first ever energy ratings for single serve coffeemakers. The surge in popularity of Keurig brewers and Green Mountain coffee pods has turned these single serve makers into one of the hottest holiday gifts — but how efficient are they? Savenia Labs’ energy ratings allow consumers to make an informed decision, choose the most environmentally friendly makers, and the most efficient machines. Along with the newly released ratings, Savenia Labs’ blog features posts on all aspects of single serve makers, including waste generated, what is actually in those mysterious pods, and cost variations among brands. Be sure to check out their blog, read their press release, and be informed before you buy!

Upcoming Green Events

  •  Drilling Down: A Conference on Fracking Risks and Action in Maryland, Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 am – 4 pm, Langsdale Auditorium, University of Baltimore, West Oliver Street, Baltimore.

Hydrofracking is a hotly debated process that can lead to environmental problems like drinking water contamination and increased air pollution. The natural gas industry is applying for permits to begin the process of hydrofracking in Maryland, and we currently have no laws protecting our communities from the risks that come with it. The Drilling Down conference in Baltimore, presented by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, is a call to action for Marylanders to learn about this process and fight against its implementation in our state. The conference will include speakers such as Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur, State Senator Jamie Raskin, author and head of the Environmental Policy Institute Lester Brown, and many more.

Registration is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Student tickets are available for $10. All tickets include lunch. For more information, and to register for this exciting event, please see Event Details.

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.

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They Came Hungry for Change and Left Inspired

By Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

Before settling into a full day of TEDxManhattan presentations, our local viewing party began with a different kind of meet and greet activity—human mapping. Participants moved around Bethesda Green’s spacious lobby in different spatial configurations as if it were a Google Map in response to: Where do you live within the DC metro area; who do you represent along the food value chain; and what one food-related issue do you want to voice your passion about?

More than 70 people attended the second annual local viewing party co-hosted by Bethesda Green, Full Plate Ventures, and SlowFood DC. As the only TEDxManhattan viewing location in the Metro DC region, we had a very diverse group of participants that provided a rich mix of locales, interests, ages, and community sectors. Throughout the day people mixed and mingled, grouped in two different viewing rooms, and feasted on delicious and homemade fare — responding to our local, seasonal potluck challenge.

Seasonal Local Potluck Challenge

People shared some new terms and concepts they learned throughout the day, including: Food labeling transparency, green carts (in the Bronx), aquaponics vs. aquaculture, good food = good health, food traceability,  neurogastronomy, and Land Link. The inspiring TEDxManhattan presentations, sponsored by the Glynwood Institute will be posted online soon. Our local program featured several new initiatives and entrepreneurial businesses bubbling up in Montgomery County.

Land and Labor Link

The national demand for local food has exploded and continues to grow, yet in our region the supply can’t keep up with demand. The problem stems from a lack of affordable, accessible land in which to grow food locally along with a lack of training for a new generation of farmers without family farm ties and available labor to farm. Kristina Bostick, senior conservation specialist with Montgomery Countryside Alliance described Land Link and Labor Link, two new programs launched this year to facilitate linking farmers with farmland and labor. “We are proud to announce the first match between land owner and farmer this year!” Kristina reported.

This farmer and land link will expand our supply of locally-grown table crops in years to come without the volatility of short-term leases.

Montgomery County Food Council

The new Montgomery County Food Council launches this month with a diverse group of stakeholders whose mission is to foster a robust, local, and sustainable food system in Montgomery County. This independently organized diverse group of stakeholders is charged with improving the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of our local food system. “The public is welcome to join the broad-reaching Council network by attending monthly meetings, joining a Council working group, or joining as a capacity partner organization,” explained Council Coordinator Claire Cummings on ways the public can get involved.

On-line Food Marketplaces

In the last few years, a plethora of on-line market places have sprung up on the web to help people find local sources of sustainably-grown food. Among the many direct farm to consumer sites include: Local Harvest, which shows you where to find farmer’s markets;  Real Time Farms, a crowd-source online, nationwide food guide that gives you local farmer’s market and eatery locations; and Arganica, a food-buying club that delivers in the DC Metro Region.

Foodem.com is a new on-line food marketplace that matches wholesale food sellers and buyers. “I saw the need  to make wholesale food distribution more efficient and competitively-priced as an alternative to the largest national distributors like US Foods and Sysco,” explained Kash Rehman, CEO and founder of Foodem, who launched in 2010. “I’m very excited to connect local farms with local restaurants and food institutions as a way to grow the sustainable food movement.”

Tracing our Food to its Source

As food contamination outbreaks continue to make headlines, there’s a growing need to know exactly where our food comes from.  Also, small farmers don’t have the budgets to effectively market their products. Dick Stoner, of Locale Chesapeake, shared his exciting entrepreneurial labeling venture. “Locale Chesapeake uses  new affordable technology—such as bar codes, QR codes read with smart phones, and radio frequency ID tags to provide both traceability and better marketing so that farmers can share their story about their growing practices and unique products,” said Stoner.

It Takes a Community to Feed the Homeless

Today, one in six Americans is food insecure, meaning that individuals are not getting adequate nutrition for themselves and their families. Even in affluent Bethesda, the non-profit Bethesda Cares serves 20,000 meals to the homeless every year. Executive Director Sue Kirk outlined the grim reality of their clients—the long-term homeless population that are the hard to reach.

Yet, food—especially a hot meal is a great way to connect, to engage, and offer additional social services and medical resources needed to break  long-term homelessness.

“We are so fortunate to have a vast network of government, business, community groups, houses of worship, and volunteers who partner with Bethesda Cares,” explained Kirk.

Viewing TEDx

At the end of the day, participants offered their reflections. “This was an immensely invigorating and inspiring event,” shared Ashley Shaloo. Others pledged new habits they plan to adopt, including to deepen their commitment to buy local, compost more aggressively, join a CSA, garden more at home.

Next up: A new six-week discussion circle will begin in March using the Northwest Earth Institute’s curriculum, Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability, led by Marney Bruce, Simplicity Matters. Contact Marney marneyb@earthlink.net for more information.

We gratefully acknowledge our sponsors for this event: South Mountain Creamery, Honest Tea, and Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company.

TEDxManhattan’s “Changing the Way We Eat” is a one-day event in New York City that was simulcast at viewing parties all over the world.

Bethesda Green brings business, government and community together to promote a healthy economy and sustainable living practices in order to reduce our collective impact on the environment.

Cheryl Kollin of Full Plate Ventures, LLC is passionate about building sustainable, regional food systems. She provides business consulting and educational programming to social enterprises to enhance their profitability while serving their social mission.

SlowFood DC is a community that promotes and celebrates local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources; works to preserve the culinary traditions of the region’s ethnically and culturally diverse populations; and supports the right of all people to enjoy good, clean, fair food.

Getting Ready for TEDx Manhattan 2012 Viewing Party

by Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

We’ve had an overwhelming response to attend our TEDx local viewing party — Changing the Way We Eat — this Saturday, Jan 21.  While formal registration for the event is closed, guests are invited to visit throughout the day.  If you plan to join us for breakfast or lunch, please email cheryl@fullplateventures.com.

Lunch is our local, seasonal potluck lunch challenge (see details below).  Free weekend parking is available in the public garage on Woodmont Avenue, a block from Bethesda Green.

If you can’t stay for the whole day, select your visit by program offerings.  See our calendar page for more information about the TEDx presentations.  Here’s the line up:

9 am – 10:30 am — Welcome to Bethesda Green and Who’s in the Room?

10:30 am – 12:05 pm — TEDx Session 1 – ISSUES

12:05 pm – 1:20 pm — Local Lunch Potluck Challenge

If you join us for lunch, please bring a seasonal, locally-grown and/or locally produced dish to share — homemade is encouraged — according to the category by last name.  Honest Tea, hot tea, and coffee will be provided.  There is a refrigerator but no warming facilities.

A-H — appetizers, bread, cheeses, spreads, veggies

I-P — main dishes, side dishes

Q-Z — desserts including fruit

Our Local Discussion Panel

  • Growing Legacy On Metro’s Edge — a film teaser by Mark Leisher Productions
  • Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve — Kristina Bostick, Montgomery Countryside Alliance
  • Introducing the new Montgomery Food Council — Caroline Taylor, Montgomery Countryside Alliance
  • Local Food Goes Digital: Connecting local food producers with buyers on the web — Cheryl Kollin, direct to consumer; and Kash Rehman, Foodem for wholesale markets
  • Tracing your food from farm to fork — Dick Stoner, Maryland Small Farmers Cooperative
  • Hunger in Bethesda? — Susan Kirk, Bethesda Cares

1:20 pm – 3:15 pm — TEDx Session 2 – IMPACT

3:15 pm -3:45 pm — Hunger For Change – Intro to new local discussion circle with Marney Bruce, Simplicity Matters

3:45 pm – 5:30 pm — TEDx Session 3 – INNOVATION

5:30 pm – 5:45 pm — Closing thoughts at Bethesda Green

This TEDx local viewing party is presented by: Bethesda Green, Full Plate Ventures, and SlowFood DC.

We gratefully acknowledge our sponsors’ food and drink donations for this event: South Mountain Creamery, Honest Tea, and Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company.

by Dan Rudt

County Requests $1 Million for Bikeshare Program

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has, for the fifth time in three years, submitted an application to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) for a $1 million grant to fund a bike-sharing system in down-county transit corridors. What is different about this application? It is the first since the state government announced a bike-share grant program this past November.

If approved, the grant will fund 29 docking stations and 204 bikes between the Beltway and the D.C. line. The docking stations will be located at several Montgomery County Metrorail stops on both branches of the Red Line and will be integrated with the Capital Bikeshare system in D.C. and Arlington.

Montgomery County previously secured a $1.3 million Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant for a bike-sharing program in portions of the City of Rockville and Shady Grove. That grant is provided through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments under the FTA’s Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) program to link lower income residents and employers with jobs and job training. The City of Rockville is partnering with the County to provide matching funds and implement the program. The Rockville/Shady Grove bike-sharing program will eventually be connected with the proposed down-county system as it expands.

The new bike-sharing application requests 80 percent of the funding needed for capital facilities. The County would be responsible for the remaining 20 percent, which it intends to raise through private sector sources. The County also will be responsible for operating and maintenance costs, some of which are expected to be offset by revenues from membership and usage fees.

Building developers, businesses, residents and other organizations in the County that have an interest in bike sharing are invited to contact the County’s bike-share program staff at  mcdot.bikeshare@montgomerycountymd.gov  to explore opportunities for joint funding, as well as to suggest locations for bike-share stations.  

Montgomery County Food Council Taking Applicants through Friday

The Montgomery County Food Council aims to bring together a diverse representation of stakeholders in a public and private partnership to improve the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of Montgomery County through the creation of a robust, local, sustainable food system. The Food Council Search Committee selects and appoints between 13 to 17 representatives for a two-year long term as Montgomery County Food Council Members. Members are selected based on their individual qualifications in the following areas:

1. Commitment to improving the Montgomery County food system.

2. Lives, works, or has a strong interest/investment in Montgomery County.

3. Expertise in one or more local food-related issues such as agriculture, food security and access, nutrition, food business and industrial practices, food education and research, land use, urban food production and distribution.

4. Representation of one of the five food-system sectors (production, processing, distribution, consumption, waste management) and one of the following “working communities”:

 ■ Business Community

 ■ Local Governance

 ■ Community Organizations and Citizens

 ■ Health and Educational Organizations

 ■ Rural and Regional Organizations

5. Capacity to bring specific food system relationships and resources to the effort, as well as potential to represent diverse sectors of the local food system and/or the community at large.

The application process closes this Friday, January 13. Council members will be selected by Friday, January 27 and the first general meeting of the Montgomery County Food Council will be on Wednesday, February 15. Application and more information here.

Thirteen Green New Buses for Ride On

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett recently announced the addition of 12 new hybrid electric-diesel buses and one new non-hybrid clean diesel or ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) bus to the existing Ride On fleet.

For many of us, the word diesel conjures up images of foul smelling black sooty exhaust. Today’s clean, or ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, however, contains 98.5% less sulfur than the diesel fuel of two decades ago. In addition, the newer diesel engines inject a solution into the exhaust stream to help reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Finally, today’s diesel engine exhaust systems include an emissions-reducing device called a particulate filter that traps most of the remaining tiny particles of soot in the exhaust. Given all these emission reduction measures, and the fact that diesel engines are more fuel efficient than gasoline engines, taking the bus today does more to curb air pollution than ever before.

Of course, these are not the first green buses for Ride On. Eighteen percent of the 339 bus fleet is now hybrid electric-diesel, another 19 percent are non-hybrid, ultra-low-sulfur-diesel, and 27 percent run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

The new buses, made in the USA by Hayward, California-based Gillig, were purchased with $6.55 million in federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds provided by the State of Maryland. They will be used on Ride On’s busiest routes in the down-county and mid-county areas.

Upcoming Green Events

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group Meeting – Newcomers Welcome! Wednesday, January 11, 4:00 – 5:30 pm., 4825 Cordell Ave., corner of Woodmont Ave., Suite 200, above the Capital One Bank. A team of volunteers, EOM supports all of Bethesda Green’s communication efforts. From recycling to energy efficiency, sustainability to green building/design, EOM expresses the organization’s various areas of expertise in a clear and concise manner via various media.  New members are welcome to join. More information here, or contact Bethesda Green Communications Director Dave Heffernan, dvheffernan@bethesdagreen.org.

Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 13th Annual Conference, “Farm to Institution: Making Local Food Economies a Reality,” January 13-14, National Conference Center, Lansdowne, VA. Two keynote addresses on local food economies, six learning tracks, pre-conference workshops, farmer panel on advocacy and much more! Information and registration here.

MLK Day of Service 2012, Monday, January 16, 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Montgomery County will be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Conference Center and at two satellite site locations (Universities at Shady Grove in Gaithersburg and the Silver Spring Civic Building). That is followed by a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. at Strathmore Hall at 4 pm. Volunteers can sign up to participate in this exciting event and learn about the great work that local organizations are doing, find out ways to get involved, and make a difference. More information and registration here.

Help the Hungry Food Drive:  Support those in need by bringing non perishable food items to the Bethesda North Marriott.  Food collection will be located near the Montgomery County Volunteer Center table.  Donations will go to Manna Food Center.

TEDxManhattan 2012: Changing the Way We Eat, Saturday, January 21, 9:00am – 5:30pm, at Bethesda Green. This all day, free event is a combination of live video from TEDxManhattan and local sessions at Bethesda Green. The event will highlight several aspects of the sustainable food movement and the work being done to shift our food system from industrially based agriculture to one in which healthy, nutritious food is accessible to all. Speakers with various backgrounds in food and farming will share their insights and expertise.

Learn about our burgeoning local food movement and opportunities to engage in our community, here in Montgomery County. No need to stay for the whole day. Drop in as your schedule allows. Local co-hosts of this event are Bethesda Green, Full Plate Ventures and Slow Food D.C.

Information about the New York speakers is here. The Bethesda program is outlined here, where you will find a registration link as well.

2012 “Keep Winter Cold” Polar Bear Plunge sponsored by CCAN, Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 11:00 am, The Beach at National Harbor, Maryland. For seven years, groups of people who care have plunged into cold bodies of water in our region to fight climate change, bring back the Arctic sea ice, and save polar bears. The Polar Bear Plunge is the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s biggest annual fundraising event. The money raised during the plunge goes to support programs to combat global warming at the state level in our area. Information here.

BG 101, Wednesday, January 25, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Dan Rudt is the editor of Montgomery County Sustainability News,  or MoCo-Sustain.com serving the local area with environmental sustainability news, information and events.

by Dan Rudt
Editor, Montgomery County Sustainability News  

EV Chargers Coming to Bethesda, Rockville

Electric vehicle charging stations are coming to Bethesda Row, Rockville Town Square, and Congressional Plaza on Rockville Pike. Miami-based Car Charging Group will install Level II, 240-volt, EV charging stations, manufactured by Coulomb Technologies at the three sites, all owned and/or managed by Rockville-based Federal Realty Investment Trust.

Drivers will have access to the ChargePoint® Network, an online network connecting EV drivers to unoccupied charging stations. That access means EV owners will have flexible payment options, mapping and driver support services and the ability to make reservations through their mobile apps.

“Besides the obvious environmental benefits, a big advantage of electric cars will be the ability to conveniently charge your vehicle when you’re already stopped somewhere on your daily routine,” said Michael D. Farkas, CEO of Car Charging Group.

Federal Realty has taken other steps toward environmental sustainability. Mike Kelleher, director of asset management for the company stated, “The partnership with Car Charging Group to install EV charging stations is the next step in the continual greening of our operations, which already includes the creation of biofuels through recycled oil and grease waste from restaurants at our Bethesda Row mixed-use development, LEED certifications at many of our recent developments as well as numerous energy efficiencies and minimized usage of natural resource at a number of properties throughout the portfolio.”

Very Special Food Event at Bethesda Green

“Changing the Way We Eat” is the topic of an all-day, free event at Bethesda Green on Saturday, January 21. No, it’s not a diet seminar. It’s a day of talks about the growing sustainable food movement here in Montgomery County and around the world – and how we can all hop aboard. The day will be split between live video sessions from New York City and local sessions in Bethesda where attendees can learn about the new Montgomery Food Council, preview a portion of a documentary-in-progress about our local food system and the Montgomery County Ag reserve, share a pot luck lunch of local winter foods, and meet others who are interested in a local sustainable food system. Click to the Bethesda Green event calendar for the where and the when and for more detailed information.

SemaConnect is Growing Fast

One year ago, SemaConnect was a startup with two employees. Today, the Annapolis-based company has a staff of twelve. By this time next year, the Maryland Clean Energy Center reports in its December newsletter, SemaConnect founder and CEO Mahi Reddy expects that number to double. His company’s product is an electric vehicle (EV) charging station.

The company developed the ChargePro, with features such as smart grid integration, RFID card authentication and sustainability reporting. SemaConnect also partnered with solar companies, including Advanced Technology and Research (ATR) Corp. of Columbia and TimberRock Energy Solutions of Frederick, to create EV charging stations with solar voltaic panels built onto them.

“This autumn,” the CEC reports, “the company raised $4.2 million to support increased production and signed a deal with 350Green, a California-based developer of EV charging networks, that will see 1,500 ChargePro units installed in California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York and elsewhere. Company officials estimate that recent developments will push SemaConnect’s revenues close to $5 million in 2012.”

” ‘When you talk about green collar jobs, these are the green collar jobs,’ ” Reddy said. ” ‘They are jobs that pay well and are right here in our state and really help establish our state as a clean tech industry leader. So I think this is all coming together and I am so happy to be part of it.’ “

Announcing an Environmental News Website Devoted to Montgomery County

This week marks the introduction of a new local Website, Montgomery County Sustainability News, or MoCo-Sustain.com. The site is dedicated entirely to publishing daily (M-F) news and information that impacts the environmental sustainability of Montgomery County. MoCo-Sustain.com includes links to local resources, and calendar listings of local environmental events, as well as the latest news. The Website is edited by Dan Rudt, who will continue to provide this column of Green News & Events for Bethesda Green.

Upcoming Green Events   

First Thursday Happy Hour @ BlackFinn, Thursday, Jan. 5, 5-8 pm, 4901 Fairmont Avenue, Bethesda. Ring in the New Year w/Bethesda Green. Join us for casual conversation and social networking.

What’s your New Year’s Green Resolution?

Jot it down with your name and email address. Bring your Green Resolution to the Happy Hour for a chance to win a BlackFinn gift card. We’ll share ideas and publish highlights on our website.

* Hear about upcoming Bethesda Green events
* Meet members of our Green Business Incubator
* Learn what you can do to make a difference in your community

RSVP through Meetup

Free Screening of Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic? January 9, 2012, 7:00 pm, Brookside Gardens Visitor Center. Presented by GreenWheaton, with Brookside Gardens, Silver Spring Green and Safeway.  Join us to watch this engaging film about how single-use plastics affect our environment and our health — and simple steps we can take to reduce this waste.

Chronicling the global production, use and disposal of plastic bags and other plastics, the film documents the environmental consequences of these products, including the effects of plastics on a wide range of species, lands, waterways and oceans. Traveling the world on a fact-finding mission, the film also identifies smart alternatives and solutions. Plastic will never look the same again! Directed by Suzan Beraza. Produced by Suzan Beraza and Michelle Hill.

Free reusable grocery bags from Safeway will be available at the event on a first come first served basis.

The event is free, however, tax deductible donations to GreenWheaton are appreciated.

Please register now as seating is limited.

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group Meeting – Newcomers Welcome! Wednesday, January 11, 4:00 – 5:30 pm., 4825 Cordell Ave., corner of Woodmont Ave., Suite 200, above the Capital One Bank, Bethesda.A team of volunteers, EOM supports all of Bethesda Green’s communication efforts. From recycling to energy efficiency, sustainability to green building/design, EOM expresses the organization’s various areas of expertise in a clear and concise manner via various media.  New members are welcome to join. More information here, or contact Bethesda Green Communications Director Dave Heffernan, dvheffernan@bethesdagreen.org.

Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 13th Annual Conference, “Farm to Institution: Making Local Food Economies a Reality” January 13-14, National Conference Center, Lansdowne, VA. Two keynote addresses on local food economies, six learning tracks, pre-conference workshops, farmer panel on advocacy and much more! Information and registration here.

MLK Day of Service 2012, Monday, January 16, 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Montgomery County will be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Conference Center and at two satellite site locations (Universities at Shady Grove in Gaithersburg and the Silver Spring Civic Building). That is followed by a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. at Strathmore Hall at 4:00pm. Volunteers can sign up to participate in this exciting event and learn about the great work that local organizations are doing, find out ways to get involved, and make a difference. More information and registration here.

Help the Hungry Food Drive:  Support those in need by bringing non perishable food items to the Bethesda North Marriott on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Food collection will be located near the Montgomery County Volunteer Center table.  Donations will go to Manna Food Center.

TEDxManhattan 2012: Changing the Way We Eat, Saturday, January 21, 9:00am – 5:30pm, at Bethesda Green. This all day, free event is a combination of live video from TEDxManhattan and local sessions at Bethesda Green. The event will highlight several aspects of the sustainable food movement and the work being done to shift our food system from industrially based agriculture to one in which healthy, nutritious food is accessible to all. Speakers with various backgrounds in food and farming will share their insights and expertise.

Learn about our burgeoning local food movement and opportunities to engage in our community, here in Montgomery County. No need to stay for the whole day. Drop in as your schedule allows. Local co-hosts of this event are Bethesda Green, Full Plate Ventures and Slow Food D.C.

Information about the New York speakers is here. The Bethesda program is outlined here, where you will find a registration link as well.

2012 “Keep Winter Cold” Polar Bear Plunge sponsored by CCAN, Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 11:00 am, The Beach at National Harbor, Maryland. For seven years, groups of people who care have plunged into cold bodies of water in our region to fight climate change, bring back the Arctic sea ice, and save polar bears. The Polar Bear Plunge is the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s biggest annual fundraising event. The money we raise during the plunge goes to support our programs to combat global warming at the state level in our area. Information here.

BG101, Wednesday, January 25, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Dan Rudt is the editor of Montgomery County Sustainability News, a daily news Website serving the local area with environmental sustainability news, information and events. 

Bethesda Green Hungers for Changing the Way We Eat

by Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

Forty food lovers, farmers, business people and activists gathered at Bethesda Green’s TEDx Manhattan Viewing Party February 12 and settled in for a day-long live streaming presentation about “Changing the Way We Eat.”  The independently organized TED event featured 22 live presentations from New York on many aspects of the sustainable food movement and the work being done to shift our food system from industrially-based agriculture to one in which healthy, nutritious food is accessible to all.

Dr. William Li presented compelling evidence of how certain foods, like strawberries, hard cheeses, papaya, chocolate, artichokes, fish, and black raspberries can starve cancer.  Brooklyn-based Dr. Melony Samuels, director of the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, changed a conventional food pantry into an alternative supermarket to restore dignity among its recipients.  She also transformed one backyard into an urban farm to provide more local fresh produce for seniors with diabetes, heart, and cancer  and by doing so, inspired her neighbors to transform their own yards into 2,000 sq. ft  of gardens for growing vegetables.

Laurie David, author of “The Family Dinner” harkens back to my own childhood and cites all the health, and family bonding statistics on why families should eat dinner together.

The TEDxManhattanViewing Party attracted:

  • 11 countries
  • 40 Bethesda Green viewers
  • 130 viewing parties
  • 14,014 computer logins
  • 46,382 total viewing streams

Ken Cook, president and founder of Environmental Working Group put our nation’s growing demand for local and sustainably-grown food in perspective:  Sales of organic food is now a $25 billion industry, however, it only represents 1% of land farmed today.  Community supported agriculture (CSA) has grown from two in 1986 to more than 4,000 offerings in 2010 but still represents less than 1% of the entire food supply.   He urged everyone to learn about the Farmbill and to contact their Congressional representatives in support of sustainable food systems when the debate for 2013 reauthorization soon begins.

Josh Viertel, executive director of Slow Food, USA believes that with our growing public awareness of food issues,  we need to shift from enlightened eaters to engaged citizens.  He believes that change is not longer just about individuals voting with our forks, increasing the demand for healthy, locally-grown food. We must become engaged in changing the food system within our whole community.  This was the perfect lead-in to our off-line Bethesda Green discussions about our local Foodshed, defined simply as where our food is produced and eaten.

Today there are about 90 farmers markets in the Washington Metropolitan region and agriculture contributes approximately $1 billion annually to our regional economy.  In Montgomery County, our 93,000 acre Agricultural Reserve contributes $250 million in food annually to the local economy, however, there is much more demand than supply to meet our growing desire for local and sustainably-produced food.

TEDx Viewing Party attendees break for a locally-produced and prepared pot-luck lunch. No Costco or Safeway food here! Photo by Bill Franz

In the spirit of eating together, Bethesda Green’s attendees were challenged (in February!) to contribute a locally-produced and prepared potluck dish for lunch.  Our table was graced with a bounty of seasonal, locally-grown, and homemade treats — including Devora’s KOL Foods grilled grass-fed beef, Cindy’s homemade roasted winter vegetables in pastry, Claudia’s freshly homemade Schnitzbread with dried apples and maple glaze and Kristina’s mom’s homemade apricot preserves.  Each dish was labeled with its ingredients and source and none of it came from Costco or Safeway.

Over lunch, our local speakers gave attendees a taste of what’s happening in our area.   Kristina Bostick, Montgomery Countryside Alliance (MCA), spoke of the vision of Montgomery County to preserve farm and open space 31 years ago, and MCA’s work to support farming and protect the land from modern day encroachments.  Mike Kennedy described Fox Haven Farm in Frederick County as an incubator to grow new land-based technologies and entreprenurial businesses on land undergoing conversion to organic status.

Kati Gimes discussed the joy of eating and learning with Slow Food DC members at monthly events at food establishments and farms. Debra Tropp, of USDA, directed the audience to the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food website that consolidates federal funding and knowledge sharing in a one-stop shop.

Jessica Weiss of GrowingSOUL passed around a bin that collected all the lunchtime compostable dishware and food scraps as she explained her zero-wasted sustainable closed loop food system.  She’ll take our food scrap donation, compost it into rich a growing medium and donate it to farms that grow food for food banks and the community.  She does this while driving a truck fueled by waste vegetable oil.

During our afternoon break, Bethesda Green attendees broke into small discussion groups and generated ideas of how our community can educate our community and change our local food system. Bethesda Green, serving as a catalyst for initiating sustainable projects, will cultivate these ideas among volunteer coordinators.

“It was great getting together to view the presentations with a group of people with the same interests so that thoughts and ideas could be shared during the breaks,” said local attendee Lori Wark who manages the website, Adventures in Climate Change.  “I also enjoyed meeting the many interesting people and have begun to think of ways we can work together.”

The TEDxManhattan presentations were recorded in three sessions and are available until 6 pm ET on Feb. 26th.

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3

Cheryl Kollin is principal of Full Plate Ventures, who provides business consulting to clients who serve a social mission.  She hosted the TEDx Viewing Party at Bethesda Green.