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DYK: You can choose your energy supplier in Maryland?

DYK: You can choose your energy supplier in Maryland?
It is very common for Montgomery County residents to think that their only choices for an energy supplier are Pepco, Potomac Edison, or BGE. In reality you have many more options and freedom of choice. The state of Maryland began offering their residents the power to choose their own electricity provider in 1999. With this change, comes the ability to choose your retail energy provider, all of whom attempt to offer the most competitive rates and packages for state-wide electricity consumers. As a consumer, you can not only save on your monthly energy costs by shopping for lower rates, but you can even take advantage of green energy options, and choose to have your electricity come from renewable energy sources. When searching for a new energy supplier, you should make sure you do your research as my family recently learned.  
Chad's family

Chad’s Family

Lessons from a new MoCo resident

When I first found out my family and I would be moving to Montgomery County from Orlando, Florida, I knew I would miss the sunshine, but not the electric bill.  My electricity bill easily reached well over $300 per month starting in June and lasting into September; and it was not that much lower in the months before and after. However, when I came to Maryland I discovered a benefit I had never experienced. For the first time, I would be allowed to choose my own utility company. In Florida, residents do not have the option to shop around for utility providers. Instead, one is assigned according to the current address or zip code in which one resides. You can imagine what a benefit it can be for an energy provider to have no competition. As an energy consumer, being able to select an energy provider allowed me the ability to choose where the source of energy comes from. You can choose non-renewable sources like coal, gas, and nuclear, or renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydro. I could even decide to mix and match sources or select a provider based on price and location of the company. The pricing for my residence ranges between $0.0729 and $0.089 per kilowatt hour (kWh), which gives me a great price scope to choose what best works for me. There were two resources I used while trying to make a decision:
  • Maryland Clean Energy  provided a clear, simple, user-friendly formatted guide to make my selections, breaking down the necessary information for me to easily understand.
  • Clearly Energy  also provided a clear, and easy way to understand where my energy costs are going and how I could save. All I had to do was put my zip code into the search engine and I could find the best rates for my home.
Now, my monthly energy bill is not only less than what I have paid in the past, but lower than I would have ever expected.  It’s amazing how the needs of the consumer are catered to in such a beneficial manner here in Montgomery County.  It certainly makes me wonder why all energy consumers nationwide are not granted the same benefits.
Chad Baisden is a new Montgomery County resident who resides in Gaithersburg with his wife and two wonderful daughters.

How to decrease your home’s carbon footprint

How to decrease your home’s carbon footprint
Home buyers and owners from coast to coast have zeroed in on cost and energy-saving features in an effort to boost sustainability and make homes more efficient and cost effective. There are many simple and effective ways to reduce home energy use simply by adjusting personal habits. Turning off lights and adjusting the temperature settings are a good start. More efficient plumbing fixtures and faucets, appliances, and heating and cooling systems also reduce the electric load and water consumption and save money. However, it may be surprising to note that only about 30% of the average American’s carbon footprint comes from home energy use. Even though more conservative energy use is advisable, there are other ways to make a bigger impact on the environment.  

How to do more

Data from the Union of Concerned Scientists on the Global Stewards website confirms that heating and cooling constitutes 17 percent of a home’s energy use, while other energy use comprises 15 percent of the total. The two best ways to make an immediate impact on household carbon footprint, then, according to Global Stewards recommendations is  to switch to a “renewable energy option” through your local service provider. In addition, consumers who are interested in calculating their personal carbon footprints can consider buying carbon offsets from a certified provider. These two steps are critical, according to the group. As more citizens make the jump to renewable energy in the home, reducing carbon footprint in other ways — including transportation, food and other purchases — become more viable for individuals, businesses, organizations and governments to address.  

Changing the home’s infrastructure

Owners can also make a difference in their home’s energy quotient, according to the pros, in the following ways:
  • Add solar panels to your roof
  • Buy and install only Energy Star rated equipment
  • Add additional insulation
  • Weatherstrip all doors and windows
  • Seal cracks and eliminate drafts
  • Replace single-pane windows on older homes, with modern thermal-pane, Low-E rated brands
  • Change to programmable thermostats
  • Embrace technology and home automation to control heating and cooling, lighting and irrigation
  • Schedule a home energy audit, and addressing the “energy drains” that are detected
Residential and commercial builders worldwide have made great strides in addressing energy use, green standards, and building “health” in recent years. LEED certification is a standard for new construction, and builders and remodelers recognize the value of modern energy-saving standards, even when sustainable materials and standards are not mandated by code.  

Individual action counts

As effective as these widespread efforts are, however, the global reduction of harmful emissions requires additional individual attention. To learn more about what families and groups can do to effect change in local communities, become involved in action groups and educational efforts that focus attention on solutions rather than dire predictions. The Zero-Volt Challenge: It’s possible to reduce your energy bill with a few simple lifestyle changes. Print the worksheet, identify major energy drains and follow the instructions to make a big dent in your bill. Obviously, if everyone did the same, national energy consumption would be lowered. Other actions include:
  • Joining a local or national organization to spread the word and educate citizens.
  • Educating yourself, embracing positive change in your own home, and then moving on to other areas of life and activity, as you choose.
  • Supporting the ongoing development of renewable energy sources.
  • Investigating global concerns, developments and efforts to reduce the world’s carbon footprint.
***** By Preston Guyton REALTOR® 

Habitat for Humanity repairs and weatherizes homes

Habitat for Humanity repairs and weatherizes homes
Traditionally, Habitat for Humanity is known as an organization where you can volunteer to raise walls and drive nails, and serve alongside your community members in order to build new homes.  But what about existing homeowners? What opportunities are available for individuals who already own their home and struggle to make necessary health and safety related repairs? Or struggle with high utility bills as a result of inefficient appliances, outdated heating and cooling systems, or inadequate insulation? Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland is working on helping existing homeowners in Montgomery County through weatherization programs.  

Save money with weatherization

For the last few years, the Maryland Energy Administration has granted Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland (HFHMM) funds to provide weatherization services to qualified homeowners at no cost to the household! When you think of weatherization, think of lowering your home’s energy usage through the use of ENERGY STAR appliances, and improving your heating and cooling systems (keep the cold air out in the winter)! Common weatherization services include:
  • Installation of high efficiency shower-heads and faucet aerators: Conserve hot water and reduce the amount of water used while waiting for the shower to heat up.
  • Installation of energy efficient light bulbs: The benefit of replacing ones light bulbs with LED, for example is often huge.
  • Air sealing of conditioned spaces: Helps to retain the air your heating and cooling equipment creates, meaning that your equipment will not be working overtime in order to maintain the temperature in your home.
  • Weather-stripping around doors and caulking around windows: To minimize the presence of drafts in the home.
More intensive projects include:
  • Whole home ventilation: Makes sure that your home is outfitted with proper avenues for excess heat to escape in the summer.
  • Insulation (installation/improvement): Prevents heat loss in the winter as well as heat protection in the summer. Additionally, by minimizing the difference in temperature from one side of a surface to another, it prevents condensation which contributes to the prevention of mold.
  • Energy efficient appliance upgrades: Depending on the age and quality of your appliances, there are opportunities to upgrade to efficient ENERGY STAR models.
  • HVAC system repairs and upgrades in eligible homes: Not every heating and/or cooling system is eligible for replacement; however if the system is more than 20 years old, it is likely to be eligible.

How do we know if your home is in need of weatherization services?

Simple! If a home looks like a good candidate during the home visit phase of the application process, we will get the home tested in the form of a Home Energy Audit. The report generated from this audit provides us with information on how your home currently functions, and how it can be made to work better with a list of suggested measures.

Who is eligible for HFHMM weatherization programs?

Single-family homes or townhouses with high electricity bills and old heating/cooling systems would be ideal candidates for the program. Additional qualifications include:
  • Homeowners must own and live in the home that will be repaired. No exceptions.
  • Homeowners must have current homeowner’s insurance.
  • Total household income must not exceed 80% of the AMI: these amounts are listed in the chart on our website. **Please note that income from ALL adults (18+) in the home must be included in the total.
  • Also, note that homeowners must commit to remain in their home for at least two years following the completion of services.
We’re always looking for eligible individuals in need of Repair or Weatherization services. For more information about eligibility, please visit our website.

How do you choose the weatherization projects?

HFHMM is expected to ensure that all energy efficiency measures applied to a given home will pay for themselves in the energy savings they are expected to create over the course of 10 years. This is called the 10-year-payback. In other words, we are obligated to apply, only the most impactful measures to any home we serve! So if a suggested measure costs $100 and has a projected energy savings of $10-$11 a year, then it would qualify for the program because over the course of 10 years that $10 annual savings would add up to equal or exceed $100. While there are other stipulations, this is the general rule of thumb. **What is important to note here is that not every item suggested by the auditor is guaranteed to be eligible for the program.  

So, what happens if my roof is leaking or my home needs repairs that keep HFHMM from weatherizing?

Should your home have repairs which stand in the way of proper weatherization (for example, if your roof is leaking), those repairs will be considered against HFHMM’s repair program guidelines. If those items are deemed eligible for our repair program, a work scope will be drawn up for those services and a repair agreement signed. Importantly, while the weatherization program is entirely free to homeowners, the repair program does has a small repayment component which equates to 1-5% of the total project cost depending on household income (with a standard minimum of $125). Should you have additional repair concerns you would like to have addressed, mention these on inquiry forms and the application. HFHMM is happy to consider any and all concerns a homeowner may have pertaining to their home, provided those concerns are directly related to health and safety of the household. HFHMM does not do cosmetic work.

Interested in Participating?

If you are interested in applying for the program, Submit an Inquiry online. When HFHMM has funding they believe to be applicable to the indicated needs of your home, we will send an application directly to you (if you are eligible). For more information about all of our programs, please visit: www.HabitatMM.org     Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland (HFHMM), which serves both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, has comprehensive programs for existing low to moderate income homeowners. We have been an active Habitat for Humanity affiliate since 1982, providing decent and affordable homeownership opportunities across our service area. Over the past 8 years, in an effort to expand our mission, and increase the number of families served each year, HFHMM has developed Repair and Weatherization programs for owner-occupied properties. HFHMM is now able to serve an average of 30-40 homes each year by providing up to $15,000 worth of eligible repair work and an average of about $3,000 worth of weatherization work on a per-home-basis. *********************** Information provided by: Katie Temple, Repair Client Coordinator Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland  

County Advisory Committee member takes energy savings very seriously, especially in her own home

County Advisory Committee member takes energy savings very seriously, especially in her own home
At DEP, we truly believe that our partners are key to making Montgomery County as green as it can be. This “Partners in Energy” series profiles a local leader, advocate, or trailblazer who is dedicated to improving energy efficiency and helping the County realize its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Find out more about them in their own words.  This installment highlights Astrid Caldas, PhD and member of the Montgomery County Energy and Air Quality Advisory Committee (EAQAC) 

My Green Montgomery: When did you first become interested in energy and climate change?

Astrid Caldas: I was always an energy saver – my dad would have low wattage bulbs around the house to use less electricity, and taught us to not leave lights on in empty rooms. He also taught me to turn off the shower while soaping and shampooing. I carried that with me, and when climate change became a big(ger) deal some 15-20 years ago, I became even more strict – I go around the house turning off lights, have energy efficient appliances, programmable thermostat, and do all kinds of things to reduce energy usage. I was part of the task force that created Sustainable Maryland back in 2009/2010. I got so interested in climate change that I changed my career, went back to school, and I am now a climate scientist working with climate impacts and adaptation.  

MGM: What do you like most about living in Montgomery County?

Caldas: I love that our County is one of the most progressive in the country when it comes to sustainability and energy initiatives, and related education. We need the education component, because without it people cannot know the connections between climate change, energy, and sustainability. The Department of Environmental Protection does a great job of education and outreach. Oh, and all the green spaces and biking paths!  

MGM: If you could be a renewable energy source, which would one would you be?

Caldas: I would definitely be solar! A solar panel lying on a beach somewhere…  

MGM: What has been your proudest accomplishment when it comes to energy or water savings?

Caldas: My house uses less energy than most energy-efficient homes in my neighborhood! I did a full home energy audit years ago, and found my house is pretty good at energy savings. That only makes me want to save more.    

MGM: What green projects are you working on now in your home or community?

Caldas:I am about to replace my HVAC system – it is old, and even though the technicians say it is very efficient, I know I can do better. Unfortunately my house is not a good fit for solar, or I would have done it.  

MGM: What’s your favorite way to save energy in your home?

Caldas: Keeping the thermostat always a bit too chilly in winter and a bit too warm in the summer. Second choice is only doing cold water, full loads of laundry.    

MGM: What’s one thing you’d like to share with your neighbors about energy efficiency?

Caldas: Don’t think what you do won’t make a difference – it will! A study showed that Americans underestimate how much energy they could save by implementing energy efficiency measures at home – their estimates are on average 3 times lower than the actual savings they could achieve. Plus, if everyone in the US aimed to reduce their carbon footprint by 20%, we would avoid over 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere per year – that is huge!

Americorps Fellow brings green living initiatives to Montgomery Housing Partnership

Americorps Fellow brings green living initiatives to Montgomery Housing Partnership
At DEP, we truly believe that our partners are key to making Montgomery County as green as it can be. This “Partners in Energy” series profiles a local leader, advocate, or trailblazer who is dedicated to improving energy efficiency and helping the County realize its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Find out more about them in their own words.  This installment highlights Sheri Brooks, Americorps Fellow at Montgomery Housing Partnership    

Sheri Brooks

My Green Montgomery: When did you first become interested in energy and climate change?

Sheri Brooks: I was taught from a fairly young age that it was important to preserve our planet as best we could. However, I also had the good fortune of living with several people in college who were studying environmental science and policy and I learned a lot from them.  

MGM: What do you find most interesting about energy issues in Montgomery County?

Brooks: Montgomery County has so many resources directed toward making everyday living cleaner and greener and I really enjoy finding out about all the ways the County uses those resources.  

MGM: Can you describe what you do in your role at Montgomery Housing Partnership?

Brooks: I am developing and piloting several programs to be used each year to help our residents save money and access more opportunities for success. One of those programs is a Green Living Initiative and my goal is to educate our residents on how they can save their wallets and the planet with energy saving habits.  

MGM: How does your day-to-day work impact Montgomery County and its residents?

Brooks: Montgomery Housing Partnership provides County residents with access to high quality, affordable housing as well as programs to help the kids achieve their best potential. My work specifically is toward giving our residents of all ages the tools to live healthier lives and take full advantage of the opportunities available to them.  

MGM: What has been your proudest moment in your position?

Brooks: I have only been at Montgomery Housing Partnership for a few months but it has been really exciting to learn about Montgomery County and to see the potential for partnerships and program development.  

MHP location piloting a Green Living Initiative

MGM: What projects are you working on now that we should be watching?

Brooks: I mentioned the Green Living Initiative, which I am very excited about because I am working with Larissa Johnson from the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a program that would be accessible for our residents at our properties but could also be used to implement similar programs throughout the County.    

MGM: What’s your favorite way to save energy in your home or workplace?

Brooks: I enjoy using my food practices and choices to save energy and have been learning more about it recently. I try to buy mostly food from sustainable sources and I share a lot with my roommates to cut down on waste and use of water while cooking.  

MGM: Outside of your role, what other activities or interests do you have?

Brooks: I enjoy jogging and walking on the Rock Creek Trail, reading, and volunteering with other local non-profits whose work I admire.   Want to be featured as our next Partner in Energy? Send us an email!

There’s a way to make your home more energy efficient…for free!

There’s a way to make your home more energy efficient…for free!
Did you know that there’s an organization in Montgomery County that offers safe and healthy home repairs at no cost to the recipient? There is and the organization is called Rebuilding Together Montgomery County (RTMC). RTMC works in partnership with state and local governments, community volunteers, nonprofit service providers, and corporate partners to provide free critical home repairs, energy efficiency upgrades, and accessibility modifications to our County’s most vulnerable residents.  They make repairs to homes, ranging from a small plumbing repair to a major system replacement and include weatherization and energy efficiency measures as well! Currently, they are looking for homeowners who qualify for the Energy Efficiency Program. That includes homeowners with an income that is 50% of area median income. To find out if this is you, check out the 2017 rent and income limits chart.  

The Energy Efficiency Program

The Energy Efficiency Program is designed to help those who have no other means to complete needed repairs. RTMC is working to improve the safety, warmth and security of the homes as well as to provide accessibility modifications. Repairs can include
  • minor plumbing and electrical work;
  • roofing, floor, wall, and ceiling repairs;
  • energy efficiency and weatherization;
  • some (limited) interior and exterior painting, installation of grab bars and building of ramps; or
  • trash removal and yard work.
Repairs are made through RTMC’s National Rebuilding Day Program, Volunteer Handyman Program, Energy Efficiency Program, and/or Critical Needs Program. This repair work is done year-round.

Weatherization and Energy Efficiency

What does it mean to have weatherization and/or energy efficiency upgrades? There are lots of different areas that they focus on and here are some examples of what to expect if you qualify:  

Home Performance with Energy Star Audit

A certified contractor will use diagnostic equipment to perform a comprehensive home energy audit and determine how improvements throughout your home can work together to maximize energy efficiency and savings. Some of these tests may include:
  • A blower door test that uses the combination of pressure and airflow measurements to determine your home’s air leakage, which contributes to higher energy costs.
  • Thermographic camera tests that use infrared images to assess the effectiveness of your home’s insulation, which directly affects your home’s comfort and energy efficiency performance.
  • Combustion and safety testing to detect carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks.
  • Verification of adequate ventilation, which is critical to reducing indoor air pollutants, moisture and odors in your home. Without proper ventilation, some household contaminants can cause health problems, while excess moisture can lead to mold growth and physical damage to your home.

Weatherization Measures

Weatherization reduces energy costs for low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of the homes while ensuring the resident’s health and safety. Some of the areas that they will address in your home may include:
  • Adding insulation in the attic/crawlspace – Insulation does two important things.
    • First, it provides thermal resistance. Remember that heat always tries to move to colder places unless something (like insulation) gets in the way. Insulation stops the warmth created by your furnace from escaping through your walls to the outside.
    • Second, insulation makes the surfaces on both sides of a wall similar temperatures. This prevents condensation and mold from growing on the colder surface of the wall where the moisture condenses. To prevent mold, the most important thing you can do is stop condensation. Insulation does this in both winter and summer.
  • Caulking of windows – Caulking windows, weather-stripping doors, and closing your chimney flue when it’s not being used are just a start. Most houses have substantial numbers of outdoor air leaks in the attic and basement. Other leaks are hidden behind walls or under siding. These leaks allow polluted air into the house, and allow heated or cooled air out of the house.
  • Installation of energy efficient light bulbs – Switching out your lower-efficiency bulbs to higher-efficiency bulbs, like LEDs, mean that you will be consuming 80% less energy compared to incandescent light bulbs.
  • Installation of energy efficient appliances – Every appliance comes with two price tags: the purchase price and the cost of operating the product. ENERGY STAR certified appliances help consumers save money on operating costs by reducing energy use without sacrificing performance.
  • Installation of high efficiency shower-heads and faucet aerators – These upgrades will save not only water but electricity, as demands on water heaters will also go down, thereby saving energy. High-efficiency faucet aerators reduce the amount of water flowing through the tap, thus using less energy.
  • Maintenance or replacement of heating/cooling systems – When you are not using hot water, your tank loses as much as 2-4 degrees of heat. One way to maintain the heat is by insulating the water heater and its pipes with insulation and pipe sleeves. Additionally making sure you are checking air filters every three months, or 90 days, will help keep your systems in good shape.
 

Interested in Participating?

Single family homes or townhouses with high electricity bills and old heating/cooling systems would be ideal candidates for the program. Here are some additional qualifications, they are looking for:
  • Homeowner(s) who own and live in the home that will be repaired. No exceptions.
  • Homeowner(s) who are current on their mortgage payments.
  • Total household income must not exceed the amounts listed in this chart. Income from ALL residents in the home must be included in the total.
  • Also, note that homeowners should remain in their home for at least five years following the completed repairs.
If you are still interested in applying for the program, applications can be found here. And for more information, visit rebuildingtogethermc.org.

October is Energy Action Month!

October is Energy Action Month!
In Montgomery County, we celebrate Energy Action Month by sharing easy tips to help residents and businesses save energy and money.  

Outlet plugTIP 1:  Make a COUNTER argument

Most of your small kitchen appliances reside on your counters. This month, we propose you UNPLUG those appliances when they are not being used.

Do the Math: There are 24 hours in a day and 30 days in an average month, giving us 720 hours. Multiply that by the 0.00308 kilowatts your small appliances are using in “standby mode”. That’s ~ 2.22 kilowatt-hours per month.

At a rate of $0.11 per kilowatt hour, that means your appliances are eating about $0.24 per month sitting on the counter in standby mode. Now multiply that by how many appliances you have plugged it – your coffee maker, microwave, toaster oven…etc. Unplugging these items will save you dollars a month and won’t be wasting energy.

 

Air ConditionerTip 2: Breathe easy…

Half your energy bill goes to heating and air conditioning your home, on average. If your units are not running in top form, they’re wasting money and could be impacting your air quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air inside the average home is up to 5X’s more polluted than the air outside. One way to maintain healthy air is to clean your air conditioner filters and follow this compliance checklist.  

LED Light BulbTip 3: Watt’s up with your lighting?  

Now is the time to switch over to LEDs, this app will help you find the best fit for you. They are one of the best forms of light for your home or office, compared to less-efficient CFL or incandescent bulbs. LED light bulbs last significantly longer than other light bulbs, for approximately 50,000 hours and they don’t contain mercury (like CFLs do) so they can be thrown into the trash when they burn out in 17 years!  

Water faucetTip 4: Water you thinking?

In an average home, showers are typically the 3rd largest water use after toilets and clothes washers. The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons and lasts for 8.2 minutes.…that’s a lot of water. In addition to taking shorter showers, we encourage you to install an EPA WaterSense high efficiency shower head. You’ll hardly notice the difference — except in your water use and bill. Caulking GunTip 5: Time to Caulk it out Plugging up small leaks can add up to big savings. Small gaps and cracks around your windows and doors and in your basement and attic can let the air you’re heating or cooling escape.  It can also let in moldy and dusty air, and even vermin! If you can feel drafts, you really have a problem, but even if you don’t, almost every home can benefit from additional caulking and weatherstripping.  Nearly half your energy cost is for heating or cooling your home.  So it’s not just air that’s leaking out — it’s money!

About Energy Action Month

National Energy Action Month takes place every October! It is an annual celebration that has been around since 1990 as a way to increase public understanding of our Nation’s energy needs and the energy choices available to us. The Department of Energy even has a checklist for home owners that outlines actions that conserve energy within your home.

Rockville Teens become part of the NOAA Climate Stewards Community this Summer: Part Three

Rockville Teens become part of the NOAA Climate Stewards Community this Summer: Part Three
This year, the Residential Energy Program Manager, Larissa Johnson, became part of the NOAA Climate Stewards Community. As part of the community, she had to develop a climate stewardship action project with students from Montgomery County. This summer she partnered with the City of Rockville to complete an action program titled “Source to Socket: Learning the FUNdamentals of Energy Literacy.” Students from the City of Rockville Community Services Youth Programs participated in a four day training session which connected them to their energy sources and encouraged them to make energy conscious choices. One of the students, Jasmine Jackson, a rising Senior at Richard Montgomery High School documented the entire experience for us, for the My Green Montgomery blog. Each day, the students focused on a different area in which energy impacts their lives. This is Jasmine’s fourth and final blog post.

Photo of students on a swing in Rockville, captured with a thermal camera.

Day Four: Energy and Solutions

July 27, 2017 Today I am writing about my final day project with the County to work towards being consciously aware of our energy usage and impact on our world. On this final day, our goals were to take all the information we have learned during the last three sessions and come up with campaign ideas for the City of Rockville. We also needed to understand how thermal cameras can be used when communicating with the public and to reflect on how our choices impact the world. This is the last day doing this project with Ms. Johnson, Ms. Erica, and Ms. Dianne and it was bittersweet. We started with an activity outside, as always, and this time we played two new games. The first game was called Jedi Mind Trick and was super fun. Then we split into group of two or three and played a game called This Week in Energy Conservation where each member in the group had to be either the cameraman, the desk reporter, or the field reporter. You can see a picture of me doing the activity to the right.   Both games were fun and when we were done, we walked to City Hall into the Diamondback room where we all sat down to discuss the final activity. Before we broke up into groups, Ms. Erica presented information on the City Climate Action Plan and we learned about climate change and how it affects our lives and Rockville. In the future, it is predicted that by 2050 there will be heatwaves and we need to make changes now. After learning about that, we went over the projects we did yesterday on Community Based Social Marketing and then we split into groups to take iconic pictures of Rockville Town Center with the thermal camera. It was a nice long 15 minute walk around Town Center as we visited different spots. It was as if we were on a treasure hunt but we didn’t get no real treasure and that was fine with everyone. By end of the day what matters was having fun while learning something new. After 15 minutes, we walked back and discussed our experience as we all wrote down our final ideas to try to convince others around us to save energy as much as we can. After coming together and discussing our ideas, we learned that it is hard to convince people to do things. I also earned that dark surfaces are hotter than others and about the temperature on things like buildings. I learned that it is hot outside but cooler in the shade under or near trees. After this program, I learned that I want to help and somehow teach others to care about their energy use. If we don’t start worrying about our future for our generation and for future generations, who will? I hope this blog reaches many people and gets you to think about how you are using (and wasting) energy every day. The only way we can change the world for the better is by working together and coming up with creative solutions like solar ovens made from pizza boxes. On behalf of the other students in the program, I want to thank everyone: Ms. Johnson, Ms. Erica, Ms. Dianne, Ms. Kate, and all the other people we met and worked with during this wonderful cool experience. Thank you for teaching us about energy use and how we can make a difference in our own lives and in the world.  

One of the final project ideas from the students.

 

Rockville Teens become part of the NOAA Climate Stewards Community this Summer: Part Two

Rockville Teens become part of the NOAA Climate Stewards Community this Summer: Part Two
This year, the Residential Energy Program Manager, Larissa Johnson, became part of the NOAA Climate Stewards Community. As part of the community, she had to develop a climate stewardship action project with students from Montgomery County. This summer she partnered with the City of Rockville to complete an action program titled “Source to Socket: Learning the FUNdamentals of Energy Literacy.” Students from the City of Rockville Community Services Youth Programs participated in a four day training session which connected them to their energy sources and encouraged them to make energy conscious choices. One of the students, Jasmine Jackson, a rising Senior at Richard Montgomery High School documented the entire experience for us in a series of blog posts. Each day, the students focused on a different area in which energy impacts their lives. This is Jasmine’s second blog post in a series of three.

Day Two: Energy and Rockville  

July 25, 2017 Hey everyone, this blog post is about the second day of the project. The goal today was to learn about the role of city government in energy choices, and to understand the components of the Rockville City Climate Action Plan and their role in helping the City educate the public about it. We were also going to experiment with and understand how “tools of the trade” work, such as the IR thermometers (infrared thermometers), thermal cameras, and light meters. The final goal of the day was to perform an energy audit on Rockville City Hall, to gather information that will help shape the next steps for the City. It was another normal day getting up and joining with the rest of students. Every day we did something new, which always made the day interesting. Today everyone was eating and chatting over of what we were going to do today after making our solar ovens yesterday. Ms. Johnson mentioned that today we were discussing how we can reduce energy within our homes and within Rockville. Before starting the activity, we all went outside and played a new game, it was called Ro Sham Bo Rockstar. It was exactly like the rock paper scissors game but if you lost you must follow the person you lost to and cheer them on so they can beat the other person. It was a cool game. After that we headed back toward the Rockville City Hall, the Mayor and City Council room where we met two new guests, Ms. Erica Shingara and Ms. Dianne Neville. At City Hall, we learned about the energy we use at home and in public buildings. For example, did you know that your thermostat should be set at 78 degree during the summer, using cold water to wash your clothes can help reduce the amount of money you’re spending and that your shower should only take five minutes??? That was kind of shocking for me because everyone knows that I love taking showers for more than five minutes. We went through a Power Point presentation with Ms. Erica that showed us how much energy Rockville currently uses, and then we watched a few videos that highlighted some of the energy “tools of the trade” like the IR thermometers, thermal cameras, and light meters. Ms. Erica and Ms. Dianne taught everyone so much about how much energy everything around us use daily, such as building, phones, and lights. To learn more about energy use, everyone split into different groups and we were given a bag and some materials to take picture of our process. We used many different tools like the kill-a-watt meter, light meter, thermometer, and thermal camera. I also learned about keeping track of lighting, heat, and temperature around each floor of City Hall and how important that is to reducing the amount of money the City pays for electricity. It is also important for the City of Rockville to improve their structures to use less energy. A lot of appliances/lights take up energy in the building and there are many ways to change and conserve energy. Even little things like chargers can take up a lot of energy. Lots of things that seem insignificant can make a huge difference. We each took turns using each tool within the different group and kept track of the amount of energy that was most used around the office. It was probably the phone, the window, and the computer that was the hottest.  After these activities we all came back together and talked about what we observed and learned throughout the day.

Day Three: Energy and Communication/Community

July 26, 2017 Hey everyone, Jasmine again. I am writing this blog about my third day project with the county to work towards being consciously aware of our energy usage and impact on our world. Our goal for today was to understand that energy decisions are influenced by economic, political, and environmental, and social factors. We also learned about the basics of community based social marketing and how that plays a role in the outreach that cities, counties, and state agencies do. By the end of the week, we were asked to come up with a plan on how to do outreach to a specific audience in Rockville. Another day joining with the rest of the young volunteers.  Everyone was eating and chatting about what we learned yesterday when Ms. Johnson came back and told us we were doing another game outside. We all went outside and play a new game called Ro Sham Bo Evolution,  another version of Rock Paper Scissors. In this game, we started as an egg and once we won, we became a chicken and then when we beat another chicken, we became a Rockstar and then a superhero. It was a quick game, I wish it could’ve last longer but it was still fun! After the game, we walked back to the Department of Environmental Protection to learn more about communicating with the public. Before we went over the findings from the energy audit, Ms. Johnson talked to us about  what Marylanders think about energy and how the County communicates with the public through My Green Montgomery stories. Then we started discussed what we saw while doing the energy audits with Ms. Erica and Ms. Dianne. I volunteered to write on the white board and we made a list of the things we noticed during the energy audits. We were trying to determine what the common themes were. For instance, a lot of people left lights on when they weren’t in their offices. Some people left their chargers plugged in even when they weren’t charging anything and a lot of people have personal coffee makers on their desks but don’t use them that much. We watched a video some videos about Behavior Change  and Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) and then we used the principals of CBSM to determine what audiences, messages, barriers, and benefits would help us with an outreach campaign for the City, the County, and especially for teens. One of our suggestions was for us to become the “energy police” where we would go around to different offices and issue citations and warning for people who are using too much energy. That was one of the best ideas. We wrote down our main ideas that could work to convince others to save energy. Then we split into three different groups to focus on different tactics, one group worked to create a meme, one worked on creating a competition for City employees, and one worked on finding a quote or a saying to remind a person to turn off everything when they leave a room. After we presented our ideas to each other, a new guest, Reuven Walder from ecobeco and a member of the Montgomery County Energy and Air Quality Advisory Committee came to talk to us about things we can do in our homes. He told us about what he does for a living, that he helps people reduce their energy usage. He also talked about the components of the Quick Home Energy Checkup, something that he encouraged us all to get. Today I learned how to make changes that can help everyone save energy. We learned how to get people to do things we want them to do by trying to understand the target audience. I learned how to use positive reinforcement. We learned different tools that can help me encourage people to do better things. Some of those tools the help save energy are prompts, commitment, and norms.     Click here to read Jasmine’s third and final blog post in this series about “Source to Socket: Learning the FUNdamentals of Energy Literacy.”