Green Businesses connect, network, and teach at Montgomery County GreenFest!

Green Businesses connect, network, and teach at Montgomery County GreenFest!
On Saturday May 5th, 2018, Montgomery County GreenFest took place in Jesup Blair Local Park in Silver Spring. The largest GreenFest to date, it drew more than 1,000 attendees and 90 exhibitors, all of whom created an atmosphere of enthusiastic learning and fun!

GreenFest is the County’s signature environmental festival, hosted each year on the first Saturday in May. Attendance is on the rise and certified Green Businesses from across the County decided to make the most of the opportunity to connect with hundreds of residents. All Eco Center, Bethesda Green, Clean Choice Energy, EcoBeco, Neighborhood Sun, and Montgomery College Silver Spring/Takoma Park Facilities team all showed up to exhibit and promote their business to event attendees and park visitors throughout the day.

Certified Green Businesses contributed to learning opportunities at the event, too. GreenFest 2018 featured hands-on, free workshops, and Mark Mills of Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm graciously agreed to teach a “quick pickling” workshop on May 5th. Mark stated, “As a certified organic and Certified Naturally Grown vegetable farm, we work hard to bring local, organic produce that is colorful, and nutritious, to communities throughout Montgomery County. The values of GreenFest align well with what we aim to achieve with Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm: taking steps to live a greener life by focusing on real change each of us can make, in our own community. That’s why I decided to offer this workshop today!”

Click through this album to see Mark’s workshop in action, and other certified Green Businesses making the most of GreenFest.

  And save the date – GreenFest 2019 will be on Saturday May 4th, more details to come!

Lighten the Load with DEP and Safeway

Lighten the Load with DEP and Safeway
Get up to 3 LEDs and a free reusable bag at an upcoming Safeway event!

Bring in your old incandescent or CFL light bulbs and DEP will exchange them for up to 3 new and energy efficient LEDs. The ENERGY STAR®-certified LEDs we’re giving away offer a warm white light that’s equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb.

Not only will you save money by getting free LEDs, but also you’ll pocket money from lower electric bills. You could cut your utility bill by at least $25 per year by replacing five traditional, incandescent bulbs with LEDs.

LED prices have declined 85 percent in recent years, and bulbs can be bought for as little as $2 to $5.


Mondays from 4-6pm at a Safeway near you:


  The giveaway is a partnership between Department of Environmental Protection and Safeway. DEP Logo Square Safeway

Updates to ENERGY STAR® building metrics coming this August

Updates to ENERGY STAR® building metrics coming this August
If you benchmark one or more properties in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, you’ll likely see a change in your buildings’ 1-100 ENERGY STAR scores and other source energy metrics after August 26, 2018.

That’s because EPA is updating performance metrics in Portfolio Manager based on the most recent market data available. This is part of EPA’s standard process to keep ENERGY STAR metrics as current as possible, and reflective of current market performance.


Which property types will be affected?

Because source energy metrics are being updated, all buildings benchmarking in Portfolio Manager are likely to see a change in at least some performance metrics. The following 1–100 ENERGY STAR score models will also be updated:
  • Bank branches
  • Courthouses
  • Financial offices
  • Hotels
  • Houses of worship
  • K-12 schools
  • Offices
  • Retail, including retail store and wholesale club/ supercenter
  • Supermarkets
  • Warehouses, including refrigerated, non-refrigerated, and distribution centers

How will this impact my ENERGY STAR score?

The 1-100 ENERGY STAR score compares your building’s energy performance to that of similar buildings nationwide.

The most recent market data available shows an overall improvement in the energy performance of the U.S. building stock in recent years. So when Portfolio Manager metrics are updated this August, ENERGY STAR scores and other performance metrics will, on average, go down.

Exact score changes for specific buildings or portfolios will not be available prior to the August 2018 release. Your individual building’s ENERGY STAR score may increase or decrease, depending on your energy use, fuel mix, business activity, property type, and other variables.

  ENERGYSTAR score updates overview  

What else is changing besides updates to 1-100 ENERGY STAR scores?

In addition to updates to 1-100 ENERGY STAR score models, there will be two other changes included in the August 2018 metric updates:
  1. Data center estimates: There will be a new option to use estimated energy use for data centers. This option is designed for smaller data centers, within another property type, and where it’s not practical to measure IT energy use.
  2. Source energy factor: The source energy factor helps level the playing field for different fuel types by tracing the energy requirements of the building back to the raw fuel input (coal, gas, steam, hydro, etc.). Based on the national average, the new national source electric factor will be slightly lower. However, performance metrics could increase or decrease depending on the building’s fuel-mix ratio, though changes based on this update alone with be comparatively small in magnitude.


What is the new available market data?

For most types of commercial buildings, the 1–100 ENERGY STAR score is based on the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, which is conducted every four years by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.

The latest CBECS data became available in 2016 and is based on the results of the 2012 survey.


When will the changes take effect?

The release date for all updated metrics is August 26, 2018. Users will see the updated metrics when they log in to Portfolio Manager on Monday, August 27.

The new calculations will be applied across all time periods, which means your scores and metrics for all historical benchmarking data will change—however if you previously earned the ENERGY STAR for your building, your building will be able to retain that recognition.

After the metric updates are implemented, EPA will not be able to provide “before and after” score changes for individual buildings or portfolios. If you anticipate needing to document changes, you can download your pre- and post-update metrics in Excel using Portfolio Manager reports. Instructions for downloading those reports are available here.


Can I apply for 2018 ENERGY STAR certification early?

YES! Apply now for ENERGY STAR certification…especially if your score is close to 75.
  • Applications submitted by July 26, 2018 will be assessed using currently available (pre-update) scores. Applications received before July 26, 2018, and which require no significant follow-up or changes, will be guaranteed to be approved and awarded certification using the existing score models.
  • Applications received July 26 – August 26 are not guaranteed to be approved prior to the score changes.
  • Applications received after August 26 will be evaluated using the updated score models.
All buildings that earned 2017 ENERGY STAR certification will be eligible to apply for 2018 certification using a “Year Ending Date” of April 30, 2018 or earlier. Note that EPA will not rescind prior ENERGY STAR certifications.


How can I learn more?

Visit energystar.gov/scoreupdates for details about the updates, guidance on how to prepare for the updates, and a communication toolkit for sharing this news with your stakeholders.

You can also join a webinar or view a recorded webinar at https://esbuildings.webex.comtto learn more.

Announcing the 2018 Energy Express schedule!

Announcing the 2018 Energy Express schedule!
Energy Express was such a success last year, that we’re returning in 2018 with a brand new program!

This year, we’ll be at 18 libraries in June and July with an educational activity focused on electricity and conserving energy. The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection hosts Energy Express in partnership with Montgomery County Public Libraries.

View the Energy Express schedule here. Register for an Energy Express activity on the MCPL website.


Pictures from Last Year’s Energy Express

Energy Express   Kids enjoying Energy Express   Participants in Energy Express   Energy Express from 2017

Blue Spotlight On: The Anacostia Watershed

Blue Spotlight On: The Anacostia Watershed
This is the first in an upcoming series where we put the “Blue Spotlight” on a local watershed. You’ll get a quick look at this watershed and some of the challenges and opportunities to keep it healthy.

About the Anacostia Watershed

The 176 square mile Anacostia watershed spans Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties and the District of Columbia. Montgomery County is home to four tributaries that flow into the Anacostia River:
  • Sligo Creek
  • Northwest Branch
  • Paint Branch
  • Little Paint Branch.
Rainwater that falls within this watershed finds its way downhill into these streams, which flow into the mainstem of the Anacostia River and ultimately the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.



The Anacostia is one of Montgomery County’s most heavily developed watersheds and much of this development took place prior to stormwater management regulations. DEP and other organizations have gone back into these neighborhoods in recent years to install stormwater management practices in neighborhoods throughout the watershed and have restored many impacted streams.

The State of Maryland lists the Anacostia River Watershed as impaired, with damage caused by excessive nutrients, sediment, trash, bacteria, and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB’s.

DEP is required to clean up the County’s portion of the watershed and lower the amounts of these pollutants entering our waterways. Restoration projects, RainScapes practices, street sweeping, and tree planting all help DEP reach these goals.

Cleanup in the Anacostia River

Volunteer picks up trash during a stream cleanup along Bucknell Drive.


Restoration Highlights

Montgomery County DEP has completed over 70 watershed restoration projects in the Anacostia watershed, including:
  • 5 new stormwater management ponds
  • 16 stormwater management pond retrofits
  • 8 Green Streets neighborhoods
  • 347 individual rain gardens, bioretentions, and tree boxes
  • 28 stream restoration projects for a total of 16 miles of restored Anacostia tributaries
  • 425 Rainscapes rebates issued for residential stormwater practices
  • 5 acres of new forest planted
Hollywood Branch Stream Restoration

Hollywood Branch Stream Restoration – 4,470 feet of stream restoration north of Cannon Road Elementary School in Colesville


Year of the Anacostia

2018 has been designated the Year of the Anacostia. Agencies and watershed partners have planned a series of volunteer events, river cleanups, and educational opportunities throughout the year in celebration of restoration and historic milestones in the Anacostia.

  Did you know? The Anacostia River was designated by the State of Maryland as a “Scenic and Wild River” in 1984.

Breewood Tributary

Breewood, a restored tributary of Sligo Creek and the Anacostia River


Recreational Opportunities

Montgomery County offers many recreational opportunities in the headwaters of the Anacostia River. The streamside and floodplain habitat on Sligo Creek, Northwest Branch, and Paint Branch are protected by M-NCPCC parkland where citizens can hike, bike, and enjoy these headwater streams. A few highlights include:  
Northwest Gorge – Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park at Burnt Mills

Northwest Gorge – Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park at Burnt Mills


Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer with DEP Join a Watershed Group:   Five volunteers standing next to all the trash they picked up from a stormwater facility.  

More Photos of the Anacostia Watershed

Brown Trout

Paint Branch, a tributary of the Anacostia River, supports a naturally reproducing Brown Trout fishery. Brown Trout highly sensitive to water quality and temperature and only live in the most pristine, coolest stream habitat in the County.

Dennis Avenue Green Streets

Students from DEP’s 2017 National Green Infrastructure Certification Program explore a bioswale off Lanark Way at the Dennis Avenue Green Streets project.

NIH Stormwater Management Pond in Bethesda.

NIH Stormwater Management Pond in Bethesda.


A RainScapes rain garden installed in the Anacostia watershed. DEP’s RainScapes program offers technical and financial assistance to encourage property owners to implement stormwater projects on their properties. Projects include rain gardens, conservation landscapes, rain barrels, green roofs, and permeable pavers. Find out more here.


Celebration Amidst the Rain: Little Falls Community rallies around a new Bioretention

Celebration Amidst the Rain: Little Falls Community rallies around a new Bioretention
It was a dark and stormy night…

Well, you know how the story goes. And recently, it seems we’ve had many stormy days and nights in Montgomery County!

According to the Washington Post, in the last 26 days, our area has received more than 10.4 inches of rain. This ranks second most on record for this time of year. We have also seen five separate storms unload at least an inch of rain.

On May 19th, we definitely felt some of that rain at the Little Falls Library but to many of us, it was a good thing – it was our chance to see a brand new bioretention in action, doing what it was made to do.

Bioretention Drainage

The completed bioretention treats 0.77 acres of impervious surfaces such as the library’s roof and parking lot. Nearly 700 plants were installed just days prior to the event.

  DEP, the Little Falls Library, Little Falls Watershed Alliance (LFWA) and the Friends of the Little Falls Library all worked together to host the Little Falls Watershed Celebration. While it was rough setting up for the event as the rain poured down on us, it ended up being a great time for both the planners and the community.

Mikel Moore, LFWA, led the effort and brought the groups together to host the event. Residents had the chance to learn about stormwater, the Little Falls watershed, native plants, soil, macroinvertebrate (stream bugs) and more. There were even kids crafts and a blue grass band to set the mood.


A long time in the making

After initial analysis, the bioretention project began in 2012 by requesting bids from engineering firms. Once one was awarded, the process of permitting, cost estimates, designs, and public meetings began. After 5 years in development, construction commenced in 2017 coinciding with the refresh of the library. The celebration event culminated the many years of planning and even featured a planting of 700 plants days before.

It was great to see so many residents come out in the rain to celebrate this wonderful community amenity and support the health of their local watershed.

For more information about the project, visit our website.

Residents learning how stormwater happens during the festival

Residents learning how stormwater happens during the festival

Frank Dawson, Watershed Restoration Division Chief, planting the final aster with an area resident.

Frank Dawson, Watershed Restoration Division Chief, planting the final aster with an area resident.

Everyone celebrating the "official" opening of the bioretention

Everyone celebrating the “official” opening of the bioretention

Sarah Morse, Little Falls Watershed Alliance Executive Director, checking out the new Bioretention sign

Sarah Morse, Little Falls Watershed Alliance Executive Director, checking out the new Bioretention sign

The ribbon cutting

The ribbon cutting

The Little Falls bioretention celebration

The Little Falls bioretention celebration


Check out Episode 10 of My Green Montgomery TV!

Check out Episode 10 of My Green Montgomery TV!
In this episode of My Green Montgomery, hosted by Susan Stark, DEP expands its ability to recycle, the Department of General Services adds new electric vehicles to its fleet and installs solar panels for energy independence, and we visit a local Montgomery County Public School that installed a rain garden.    

A Focus on Growth: Newport Mill Middle School’s Bioretention Garden

A Focus on Growth: Newport Mill Middle School’s Bioretention Garden
Have you noticed how plants can look very different at different times?

This can be particularly noticeable at your own home as you await the first bloom of your favorite flowers. Perhaps a gorgeous azalea or the sweet smell of a fragrant lilac in Spring, or again in Autumn when the leaves take on a myriad of vibrant colors.

Similar to your home garden, bioretention gardens also go through seasonal changes. A great example is the new bioretention garden that the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) constructed at Newport Mill Middle School. It is one of four Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) green infrastructure improvements constructed during summer 2017.

Landscape architects designed the landscape plan for the bioretention garden with native plants known to thrive in both wet and dry conditions, and to flower in different seasons, including:
  • blue flag iris – Spring flowers. Lavender-blue flowers in late spring and attractive sword-shaped foliage during the growing season.
  • butterfly milkweed – Summer flowers. Bright orange flowers in late spring and early summer, which as the name indicates attracts pollinators.
  • black eyed susan – Summer flowers. Golden flowers with dark centers blooming from summer to early fall, with basal foliage persisting into winter.
  • Fireworks’ goldenrod – Summer flowers. Cascades of yellow flowers in the fall, which combines great with asters. Dense basal foliage.
  • ‘Hummingbird’ summersweet – Summer flowers. Shrub with fragrant white flower spikes in summer which attract pollinators. Foliage turns yellow in fall.
  • New England asters – Late Summer/Early fall flowers. Purple to violet flowers in the fall. Combines well with goldenrod.
  • ‘Shenandoah’ red switchgrass – Elegant foliage provides contrast with other plants, turns reddish in the fall, and provides structural interest in the winter.
  • ‘Jim Dandy’ and ‘Red Sprite’ winterberry – Winter berries. The male Jim Dandy pollinates the female Red Sprite resulting in bright red berries from fall to winter. Both shrubs have yellowish fall foliage.
  • ‘Nordic’ inkberry – Keeps leaves year-round. Shrub with neat evergreen foliage, providing year round interest and a backdrop for other plantings.
All in all, more than 1,700 shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses were planted! Amazing, right?

Spring 2017 before construction – an unused turf area perfect to treat stormwater runoff from the school parking lot

Spring 2017 before Construction –an unused turf area is a perfect location for a bioretention facility to treat stormwater runoff from the school parking lot

Track the Seasonal Change of a Bioretention

Since this is the first full growing season for the bioretention garden, the plant roots will be growing and helping the plants to become established new residents of the garden. By next year, we expect the plants to be more lush and fill in the garden. We hope you follow them along as they grow.

DEP’s staff will be following the garden’ progress to ensure the plants survive and are replaced as necessary under the contractor’s warranty. We’ll also be following this bioretention garden to see how it grows and changes each season. We’ll keep you updated on the growth.

Summer 2017 – construction of the bioretention garden to improve stormwater runoff in Rock Creek, which flows into the Potomac River.

Summer 2017 – construction of the bioretention garden to improve stormwater runoff in Rock Creek, which flows into the Potomac River.

  Let us know if you have any questions! Also, stay tuned for two more MCPS green infrastructure improvements under construction this coming summer at Olney Elementary and Sherwood Elementary!

For more information on how the Newport Mill Middle School bioretention garden works to improve water quality, check out our blog with the school’s Green Team from Dec 2017.  
October 2017 - A new bioretention garden being planted!

October 2017 – A new bioretention garden being planted!

DEP also planted trees to improve shade for students.

DEP also planted trees to improve shade for students.

Stay tuned for updates on how the plants grow through the seasons!

Stay tuned for updates on how the plants grow through the seasons!


Meet the Magical Glomalin: Perhaps the most important glue in the world!

Meet the Magical Glomalin: Perhaps the most important glue in the world!
Ever wonder what holds the soil together?

It’s not Velcro, tape, or oil: it’s glomalin, a sticky glycoprotein that glues sand, silt, clay, and organic matter together, to create soil aggregates. This creates what farmers and gardeners call “tilth,” which is a feeling of smooth soil granules that flow through your fingers. It’s also naturally brown, and when removed, the soil is left as a mineral grey color.

Not only is glomalin an important soil glue, but it stores a whopping one third of the world’s soil carbon–which is really important for stabilizing our climate. And glomalin was only discovered in 1996 by scientist Sara F. Wright. Yet the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and plant roots is possibly the oldest and most abundant plant-microbe association on earth!

glomalin USDA-ARS Dr Sara Wright

Glomalin. Photo by USDA-ARS Dr Sara Wright

  Glomalin is produced exclusively by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AM fungi). AM fungi infect the roots of plants, but help them survive by transporting nutrients and water back to roots through the fine filaments called hyphae that extend out into the soil.

The glomalin is excreted by the fungi to form a protective barrier that contains nutrients and water flow and provides rigidity to the hyphae to span air spaces between soil particles in search of nutrients and water. There can be hundreds of miles of hyphae in just a pound of soil. As feeder roots expand, and become permanent roots, the hyphae move down to the new feeder roots. The hyphae on the permanent roots now stop transporting nutrients, and the protective glomalin sloughs off into the soil. While the hyphae only live days the weeks, the glomalin can last as a glue for more than 40 years.


How do I increase AM fungi and glomalin?

Don’t add phosphorus!

First, mycorrhizal fungi are very sensitive to phosphorus, and thrive in low phosphorus soils. Despite this, they are the most critical microorganism for converting the phosphorus already in soil to a form plants can absorb. So be sure to not add any synthetic phosphorus to your soils.

In fact, synthetic nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers are known to cause AM fungi to stop working, or kill them outright.

Next, only aerate lawns when necessary, as any tillage that cuts up the soil also breaks apart strands of living hyphae in the soil. Compacted soils reduce hyphal growth, though, so check if your soils are compacted and aerate and add compost if needed. Yard clippings, and composted yard clippings can encourage mycorrhizal fungi, which in turn convert nitrogen and phosphorus for plant growth, and produce glomalin, and in turn create a great soil.

Still want more? You can learn a bit more science behind glomalin here.

Photos by the U.S. Forest Service and Dr. Sara Wright of the USDA.