susan

UpRooted Dance to premier “The Legacy Project” at GreenFest!

UpRooted Dance to premier “The Legacy Project” at GreenFest!
The GreenFest committee is excited to welcome some special guests this year: local dance organization UpRooted Dance. Based in Montgomery County, they are preparing to premier their newest performance at GreenFest, titled “The Legacy Project.”  Read on to learn about why you should check out their performance on Saturday May 5th!
Keira Hart-Mendoza, artistic director of UpRooted Dance, started the intensive dance-installation-research project by collecting her trash within the home. As a mother of two and a wife, Keira noticed that her family was creating a LOT of trash. The amount of consumption and waste seemed to be endless and after a few month of saving all non biodegradable trash items, Keira had mounds and mounds of raw materials which she began crafting into original sets and costumes. With the help of artist Margie Jervis, Keira has expanded the artistic merit and scope of these costumes pieces and many of the trash items could even stand alone as “trash sculptures.”  The sets and costumes are not merely made from upcycled materials for the sake of design or art, but are also meant to demonstrate powerful images of consumption and waste.  These ideas, images, and movements are ubiquitous today.  A simple plastic water bottle, for example, can have so many varied meanings.  The dancers have integrated plastic water bottles into the work in a number of ways to serve as function and metaphor.

UpRooted Dance performers rehearse a scene in “The Legacy Project.”

  As part of the project, each of the eight dancers has been keeping their own “trash journal” of sorts and collecting common items frequently used in their home or workplace.  The dancers have educated themselves through a partnership DEP’s division of Solid Waste Services to learn more about recycling and the timelines and channels in which items are disposed of.  They are also referring to the texts Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and The Upcycle  byMichael Braungart as research material, to understand how and why things are made they way they are made. Both texts call for a “new way of creating” so that items can have endless cycles of use, an approach that inspired the costumes Keira and her team are creating! UpRooted Dance sees this premiere performance at GreenFest as a way to show others how consumption and waste can be very problematic. In collaboration with professional taiko drummer Mark H Rooney, they will offer three performances at GreenFest. UpRooted Dance hopes to provoke new questions, new discussions, and interacts with GreenFest attendants in meaningful discussions using dance and design as a means of education.

See the show!

You can watch the UpRooted Dance team perform the Legacy Project at Montgomery County GreenFest on Saturday May 5th in Jesup Blair Local Park! Free performances will take place at 11:30AM, 1:00PM, and 3:00PM. You can view the entire GreenFest schedule here. Learn more about UpRooted Dance: uprooteddance.com.  

A window into the restoration of a stream and pond system: the Bedfordshire Project

A window into the restoration of a stream and pond system: the Bedfordshire Project
Did you know that the Department of Environmental Protection restores streams and creeks throughout Montgomery County? The Restoration Team at DEP has been working on a project to restore a stream and retrofit a stormwater pond in the Bedfordshire neighborhood, to help reverse the effects of decades of largely uncontrolled runoff in the Kilgour Branch Stream Valley Park. Located in Potomac on a tributary to Watts Branch, over 1,000 feet of stream were restored in this project and a stormwater management pond at the end of the stream was completely rebuilt.  

The completed project, in February 2018.

 

Why did we choose Kilgour Branch for this project?

As is the case in many streams in Montgomery County, the Bedfordshire stream was actively eroding prior to this project, leading to three- to four-foot vertical eroded banks, sedimentation, and poor habitat for aquatic life.  The stormwater management pond lacked modern design features for improving water quality, controlling small and large storm flows, and ensuring dam safety.  

Pre-restoration, this stream’s banks were eroding rapidly.

 

The changes we made:

The restored stream now features a series of pools and cobble weirs that carry small flows, while allowing large flows to spread out on the floodplain within the park.  By reconnecting the stream to its floodplain, we are working to protect downstream waters by reducing the energy and velocity of the flow.  More nutrients and sediment are retained in the floodplain, recreating natural processes, instead of sending them downstream. The eroded channel is now stable, with enhanced habitat for fish and amphibians.  It also improves stream health by replenishing groundwater and increasing “baseflow,” which is the normal stream flow in between storms.  Native trees and other vegetation have been planted to add habitat and ecological diversity.

Newly planted sedges were installed to create an “aquatic fringe,” providing habitat near the upstream end of the pond. The cobble cascade transitioning from the stream is visible at top left.

  The restored stream flows into the stormwater pond, which provides water quality treatment in a newly-created “wet pool.”  The wet pool is a permanent area of ponded water, several feet deep, that retains water in between storms.  The rebuilt pond also has re-graded slopes and a safety bench to increase public safety, a fully rebuilt dam embankment, and a new riser (flow control structure) and outflow pipe.  In addition to removing pollutants from runoff, the pond now controls the outflow rate from small, frequently-occurring storms for the first time, helping to protect Kilgour Branch from further erosion. Now substantially complete after construction in 2016 and 2017, the stream and pond treat runoff from 265 acres (0.4 square miles).  The drainage area includes neighborhoods south of Glen Road, west of Falls Road, and northwest of the Falls Road Golf Course, and includes 70 acres of impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways, roofs, and parking lots.  By restoring natural functions and improving stormwater management, the Bedfordshire project helps to ensure clean, healthy streams in the local community and downstream to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

Pictured here: DEP’s Watershed Restoration Section at Bedfordshire, February 2018. Our job is to lead the planning and design of restoration projects throughout Montgomery County, resulting in cleaner water and healthier streams.

  To learn more about this restoration project, please visit the Bedfordshire Stormwater Pond and Stream Restoration page on the DEP website. To learn more about other projects throughout the County, take a look at the Watershed Restoration page on DEP’s website, and to learn more about projects you can do on your own property, please visit the RainScapes page.   We invite you to scroll through the photos below to see more images of the construction process and restoration progress!
The construction crew builds a cobble weir

The construction crew builds a cobble weir. These weirs help to keep the stream stable and carry normal stream flow. They also provide habitat for some of our smallest stream-dwellers, benthic macroinvertebrates.

 
 Restored stream in first season: Grass is starting to provide permanent stabilization. The restored stream both increases and improves the aquatic habitat in the park.

Restored stream in first season: Grass is starting to provide permanent stabilization. The restored stream both increases and improves the aquatic habitat in the park.

 

The riser takes shape: workers install the rebar and wooden forms for the new riser structure. The black corrugated pipe shown at top is used to divert flow from the work area.

 

Finishing the riser: The concrete floor is poured separately. The drain valve (bottom left) allows the pond to be emptied for maintenance. The low flow pipe (top left) conveys the flow from small storms.

 

Grading the stormwater pond: the riser is partially complete (left). The black diversion pipe conveys all flow from upstream into a temporary opening in the riser, keeping the work area dry.

 
The view six months later: The pond in February 2018, showing the permanent wet pool and new riser. Temporary fencing around the edge of the pond helps to make the pond less inviting to geese while the newly-planted vegetation is becoming established.

The view six months later: The pond in February 2018, showing the permanent wet pool and new riser. Temporary fencing around the edge of the pond helps to make the pond less inviting to geese while the newly-planted vegetation is becoming established.

Lending a hand with energy data: Helping Montgomery County non-profits benchmark through a pro bono program

Lending a hand with energy data: Helping Montgomery County non-profits benchmark through a pro bono program
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is the old saying in business circles—the same goes for non-profit management, too. Regardless of the organization you’re a part of, measuring energy use is the first step in making improvements to your building and making your operations more sustainable. The Montgomery County Benchmarking Law was designed with this foundation in mind and is helping building owners in the county  do just that. Passed in 2014, the Benchmarking Law requires owners of certain non-residential buildings to collect and gain a better understanding of their buildings’ energy use and then report it to the County via the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool for public disclosure. Large, non-profit entities are not exempt from the requirement, which means their energy use has to be measured and reported as well – even if they may not have the resources or staff to do it. To help, the Department of Environmental Protection developed a pro bono benchmarking and data verification pilot program to connect non-profit building owners with volunteer Benchmarking Ambassadors who can lend a helping hand. These volunteers provided one-on-one assistance to the non-profits so they could understand the annual benchmarking requirements, set up their Portfolio Manager account, complete the data verification requirement, and submit their data to DEP before the June 1st deadline. The information gathered for the benchmark report can be most useful in helping area churches and other non-profits reduce energy consumption, said Mark Wright of the Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville. The church’s benchmarking verification was completed by EnerCon Solutions.

“The benchmarking data should allow us to more effectively perform the trade-offs needed to make informed decisions about lighting and other projects,” Mark added.

The process of benchmarking can appear daunting because of the bevy of input options that may not be applicable to a particular building, but it is actually fairly simple, said Joe Sparks, operations manager with Cenergetix—who helped benchmark and complete data verification for St. Peter’s Parish and School in Olney, a multi-building church that has been around for almost 120 years.

“It is easier to navigate the benchmarking requirements…with the training Montgomery County has provided to use the ENERGY STAR benchmarking tool,” Joe said.

  The data verification pilot program is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Non-profit building owners interested in learning more about the pro bono benchmarking assistance program can email energy@montgomerycountymd.gov to request a questionnaire to get started. Building owners who receive pro bono assistance will be transparently listed in the benchmarking program’s annual report and on DEP’s website. Here are some success stories from the pro-bono benchmarking process. Take a look!
Built in 1968, the Silver Spring United Methodist Church (www.silverspringumc.org) is a 68,000 sq. ft. facility in downtown Silver Spring housing the church, the Spring Knolls preschool, and the Woodside Childcare Center after-school program for elementary-age kids. Built in 1968, the building also provides space for 12-step groups, neighborhood civic associations, one of the oldest Boy Scout troops in Montgomery County, numerous girl scouts troops, the Silver Spring Camera Club, and more. “Without the pro bono program, I would have taken at least twice as much time – and twice as much stress – to complete the required benchmarking,” said Aaron Siirila, director of operations. Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: Montgomery College’s Utilities Team.  
B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville (www.bnaiisraelcong.org) is a dynamic and inclusive Conservative synagogue committed to the spiritual growth of its members and grounded in the study of tradition and social action. For more than 90 years, the congregation has provided quality programs for children and adults via facility programming and social groups, Sisterhood, Men’s Club, committees and more. “The agency [we] had the pleasure to work with was extremely communicative, professional, and open to discussion and patient when training me to know the system,” said Pepe Strauss, director of facilities. “If [we] need help in the future, I would not hesitate to contact the team that helped [us] – they were awesome.” Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: JDM Associates (www.jdmgmt.com)
Jerome Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences (www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-research) is a Red Cross research land development laboratory in Rockville that investigates transfusion-transmissible infections. The facility has been instrumental in contributing to the body of research that has helped improve the safety of the nation’s blood supply.   Project Management Enterprises, Inc. (PMEI) met with laboratory facility supervisors multiple times to discuss the benchmarking process and to obtain data and the majority of the first meeting was devoted to properly setting up the Portfolio Manager account, sharing the facility with PMEI in Portfolio Manager, and walking the facility operators through the data inputs and the energy use intensity and score outputs of Portfolio Manager.   “…They were eager to learn and found the entire process easier as they became more familiar with it.” said Daniel Ackmann, energy program manager for PMEI. “Having a 3rd-party data verifier, in PMEI, complete and submit the information to the county seem to make them more at ease in complying to the county requirements. “   Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: Project Management Enterprises, Inc. (wp.pmei.com)
St. Peter’s Parish and School (www.stpetersolney.org) is a multi-building church with an original building constructed in the late 1890s. The parish has built around its original site, including the addition of a school in 1956 for children from pre-school through 8thgrade.Youth and adult ministry programs, CYO sports, women’s, men’s and prayer groups are also offered. “It is easier to navigate the benchmarking requirements with a broader knowledge of how different building types consume energy, and with the training Montgomery County has provided to use the ENERGY STAR portal,” said Joe Sparks, Operations Manager with Cenergetix. Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: Cenergetix (www.cenergetix.com)
Located in Silver Spring, the Lutheran Church of St. Andrew (mystandrew.org) is a worship facility with programs for children, teens, and families that include health and wellness, global missions, spiritual growth and education, music and fellowship. “All is going well! We have been ever-vigilant for the past 10 years in not wasting God’s energy from day one in our new property,” said Greg Twombley, chief operating officer and director of music. Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: JDM Associates (www.jdmgmt.com)
Covenant Life Church (mystandrew.org) is a three-level, 144,000 sq. ft. church and school in Gaithersburg with ministries and programs for children, students, couples, and seniors. The building is open from 7:00AM until 10:00PM, seven days a week. Having already scheduled the HVAC zones daily, based on changing use, the church has also done a major conversion to LED lighting, both inside the building and on the parking lots and sidewalks with most of the exterior lights on a programmed schedule. “Some of the information requests were confusing and was glad the people were there to help figure it out,” said Howard Anderson, facility manager. Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: Project Management Enterprises, Inc. (wp.pmei.com)
 Christ Episcopal Church (www.christchurchrockville.org) holds services and conducts Christian youth and education, outreach activities and pastoral care for about 250 parish families. The congregation manages its Rockville property and church business from a parish house converted from a single-family home next door. 2016 was its first year participating in the benchmarking program. And credits the pro-bono support received as being instrumental in getting them up to speed with assessment and entry of data. “We are considering a number of energy saving projects, including replacement of existing lights with LED fixtures,” said Geoffrey Fuller, vestry member. “The benchmarking data should allow us to more effectively perform the trade-offs needed to make informed decisions about lighting and other projects.” Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: EnerCon Solutions (www.enercon.com)
  For information about the next building energy benchmarking deadline, visit montgomerycountymd.gov/green/energy/benchmarking.   Story by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges

Staying warm this winter: 5 tips to weatherize your home in the coldest months of the year

Staying warm this winter: 5 tips to weatherize your home in the coldest months of the year
With Winter upon us and regional temperatures recently hitting a record low, we are here for you with tips to help you save energy during and protect your home from damage during the coldest months of the year! Stay warm and save energy by following these five quick, essential steps:

5. Protect the exterior of your home from winter weather-related damage.

Disconnect and drain all outside hoses, and empty out your rain barrel, if you have one in your yard. If possible, shut off outside water valves, to prevent hoses from freezing and breaking. Water expands when it freezes!

Empty your rain barrel to prevent any damage caused by freezing water.

 

4. Help your vents help you, by keeping them clear of snow and ice.

Remove snow or ice from any outdoor vents, including dryer and furnace vents. When they are blocked, air cannot flow freely and therefor carbon monoxide may build up in your home.

3. Remove fallen leaves and sticks out your gutters.

Check any downspouts and gutters for leaf build-up. By clearing away any leaf accumulation, you can ensure that melting snow can move off your roof freely, rather than freezing and causing problems on your roof or forming ice dams.

2. Get an energy audit: participate in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program to reduce your energy bills.

Participants may qualify to receive rebates up to $7,500.00, and you will learn steps you can take to reduce your daily energy usage while still keeping your home cozy. All Montgomery County single-family homes and townhomes are eligible for $400 home energy audit at the discounted rate of $100.00* because of the EmPOWER Maryland Program. These audits are available through PepcoBGE, or Potomac Edison‘s and include an installation of several simple measures, such as LED bulbs, wrapping your water heater pipe(s), ShowerStart™ showerhead adapters, efficient-flow showerheads, faucet aerators and power strips), a recommendation of improvements and available rebates to make your home more energy-efficient, comfortable, healthy and safe. Participants also receive a detailed report on the potential energy savings you can enjoy by making the recommended improvements. The Maryland utilities also offer rebates for work performed by participating Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractors, who have committed to work to the highest standards of quality. The utilities check the work to ensure quality, too. Montgomery County also provides an Energy Efficiency Tax Credit for certain home upgrades, and Takoma Park has additional rebates. Low-income Montgomery County residents may qualify for no-cost weatherization through Montgomery County’s Weatherization Program or through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Low Income Energy Efficiency Program.

1. Test your home for radon.

Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas created during the natural breakdown of uranium in rocks and soils. It  typically moves up through the ground and into homes and buildings through cracks and holes in the foundation. You can test your home with a take-home kit. To learn more, check out the EPA’s “Citizen’s Guide to Radon,” available for download here.

Additional resources:

  *Please note that the $100 offer is valid for homes up to 3,000 square feet with a single combustion appliance zone. Audits of larger homes or ones with multiple combustion appliance zones may cost more. Customers should discuss the cost with their selected participating contractor.   Questions about this blog post? Comment below or contact us at Energy@montgomerycountymd.gov!

Green Business Certification: In sync with company philosophies

Green Business Certification: In sync with company philosophies
A look at how two companies – Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc., a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions, and Raffa P.C., a 30-year-old accounting firm (employees pictured above) – work to reduce their carbon footprints for the good of the planet as well as their businesses.
This is the second of a three-part series (read part 1 here).
  Doing the right thing for the environment goes beyond efforts to become more responsible corporate citizens; it’s part of Canon and Raffa’s company philosophies. “For Canon, establishing good relationships with customers, communities, governments, and the environment is a core principle that flows from our corporate philosophy, Kyosei”, says Deb Teems, Manager of General Affairs for Canon U.S. Life Sciences. Translated, Kyosei means “all people, regardless of race, religion or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future,” which fosters the company goal of contributing to global prosperity and protecting our world. Learn more about Canon’s Environmental Charter here. Similarly, Raffa views every client as an invitation and opportunity to make the world a better place. Most of Raffa’s clients have social and environmental missions, and Raffa takes great pride in going well beyond the provision of administrative and accounting support. Their goal is to enable clients to fully focus on achieving their missions, and, to use Raffa’s tag-line, “Do More.” This heartfelt ethic permeates Raffa’s culture and helps the company attract employees who are passionate about helping their clients achieve mission-driven impact. Environmental sustainability, at the corporate and employee levels, emanates from this culture. “From the very, very beginning, we focused on things that made environmental sense to the corporation as a whole,” said Raffa, “but it has also been important that our individual employees think like that, too.”

High Standards

For the last nine years, Canon U.S. Life Sciences has maintained a certified Environmental Management System (EMS) that conforms with ISO 14001, a robust, internationally recognized standard. The EMS, which is certified by a third party every three years, provides the company with a framework to reduce its negative environmental impacts. Teems said the EMS requirements include strict documentation and employee, contractor and consultant awareness training sessions to ensure that everyone understands the elements of the EMS. “We work together to meet all the ISO standard requirements, one of which is to continually improve our environmental performance.” Raffa is a certified B Corporation, which means it has met a rigorous, independent, and transparent social and environmental performance standard. As part of this year’s recertification process, the company enlisted the support of sustainability experts to help develop sound environmental policies and measure its high level impact, particularly as it relates to its carbon footprint. The company, which is virtually paperless, offers bicycle storage for employees who ride to work, has a liberal remote office policy, donates used computer systems to nonprofit organizations, and has an environmentally preferred purchasing policy. It has consolidated its three offices into two, one of which is based in a LEED Silver certified building. “While our environmental efforts enhance our profitability, that’s not what guides us. We believe our primary responsibility is to be a better corporate citizen,” Raffa said.  

Tom Raffa inspiring other business leaders to embrace corporate citizenship at a recent Mix and Mingle sponsored by the firm.

The Certification Connection

For both Canon and Raffa respectively, the ISO 14001 and B Lab standards helped them focus on their company philosophies and find better ways to put their principles into action. “The certification process actually showed us things we could do better – like vetting vendors by asking them about sustainability practices,” Raffa said. “We don’t own our current buildings, but we’ve wielded influence on the landlord to make energy efficiency improvements.” Employee-centered initiatives were also put in place – including the “Ask Tom” program – an intranet system that lets employees ask their CEO questions anonymously like, “Can we eliminate all paper cups?” Raffa says he encourages employees to answer their own questions and determine the most environmentally sound solution. The program empowers the individual asking the question to establish a small committee to evaluate energy and resource use under various scenarios (e.g., paper cups versus reusables and dishwasher use). Having a certified EMS, said Teems, is a good example of Kyosei in action, as it’s led to a number of environmental initiatives that, along with many other improvements, include replacing the Styrofoam used for outgoing shipments with recycled content packaging materials, sponsoring match-up meetings to help increase the number of carpooling employees, starting an employee book exchange and actively promoting employee participation in their annual Clean Earth Event in which volunteers clean up trash, plant trees and mulch/weed flower gardens in County parks.  

Canon staff volunteering at their annual Clean Earth Event.

  “We’re always striving to do more and do better,” said Teems, and we’re generally able to do so because we’ve got both a clear corporate philosophy as well as an EMS that prioritizes our actions and measures our progress. That’s really the secret sauce.”

###

  Article by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges.  

New Managing Director at Bethesda Green’s Incubator brings investor lens

New Managing Director at Bethesda Green’s Incubator brings investor lens
On November 7th, Bethesda Green announced Tina Arreaza as Managing Director for the Be Green Hub. The Be Green Hub is Bethesda Green’s sustainability-focused incubator program. Bethesda Green’s mission is to accelerate the sustainable economy locally with a focus on innovation, impact and community.  

Meet Tina

Tina Arreaza is an expert in impact investing, or investments that intend to generate social and/or environmental impact alongside a financial return. Most recently Tina was on the investment team at Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment fund founded by Pam and Pierre Omidyar of eBay.  
“Coming from the investment side, I understand what investors are looking for when they make investment decisions,” she says. “This investor lens will be helpful when working with incubator companies to raise capital.” – Tina
  In 2012, Arreaza reached out to Bethesda Green to volunteer as a mentor. She later joined the Bethesda Green Board of Directors. Now she takes on a new role as Managing Director of the Be Green Hub incubator.
“Tina brings the depth of knowledge and experience we felt we need to launch our freshly redesigned cohort-based program in 2018. I have confidence that with Tina on our team, we can lead entrepreneurs of green and social impact start-ups to viability and success”, said Veronique Marier, Executive Director of Bethesda Green.
Arreaza succeeds Bob Snyder, who is well known in the region for his commitment and contribution to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Snyder will continue on as a Senior Advisor to Be Green Hub.  
Incubator company at event

Neighborhood Sun is a current incubator company.

The Future of the Be Green Hub

Arreaza’s first task is to recruit the 2018 cohort of new companies to join the incubator. The cohort will include up to 10 companies across two verticals: environment and food. The ideal participant is a start-up with high growth projections, past the ideation stage. Be Green Hub uniquely combines the experience of both an accelerator and incubator. Similar programs provide either an accelerator experience (a short-term boost) or an incubator experience (long-term support). The Be Green Hub offers both, with the initial 6-month accelerator experience serving as an opportunity to propel a business to viability. The incubator then continues to work closely with each start-up to nurture the business as it grows. The 2018 cohort will experience a new and improved curriculum that leverages Bethesda Green’s Be Impact initiative to develop, measure and express impact to various stakeholders. In addition to the curriculum, Arreaza will build on the mentorship and partnership opportunities for the cohort participants. She will also help advise cohort participants on how to raise funds from investors.
“The intellectual capital in this community is outstanding,” she says. “There are many excellent mentors on our Board and in our network. We have a targeted mentorship program of both generalists and specialists so we can meet the specific needs of our cohort participants.” – Tina
Applications to join the 2018 cohort are now live, with a rolling review through December 1st. To apply online, visit bethesdagreen.net/be-green-hub or contact Tina Arreaza: tina@bethesdagreen.org.   New Bethesda Green Logo

About Bethesda Green

Bethesda Green is an Incubator, a Connector, and a Community Partner, acting in synergy, with Impact. The organization was co-founded in 2008 by Seth Goldman, co-founder and CEO-Emeritus of Honest Tea, and George Leventhal, councilmember of Montgomery County. Bethesda Green’s incubator program started in 2009 as the first sustainability-focused incubator in the Washington, DC region. The Be Green Hub nurtures green and social impact start- ups to accelerate their success as companies with purpose. To date, the incubator has worked with over 40 companies, of which 80% remain in business. For more information about Bethesda Green, visit bethesdagreen.org.

Saving dollars and watts: Highlights from Energy Action Month

Saving dollars and watts: Highlights from Energy Action Month
One month ago, Montgomery County Council proclaimed October “Energy Action Month” in Montgomery County, as part of the national effort to raise awareness about energy. Here at the Department of Environmental Protection, we celebrated all month long by hosting events and workshops to teach residents all about energy: how we use it, why energy efficiency matters, and specific actions everyone can take to reduce their energy usage and bills.  

Larissa Johnson teaches residents at an Energy Exploration event.

Why did Montgomery County dedicate a whole month to energy awareness and action?

From the moment we wake up every day, energy plays a role in our lives. Energy Action Month is a series of events created to connect Montgomery County residents with the information they  need to improve energy efficiency and reduce their energy bills. The potential for savings is huge: the EmPOWER Maryland program, which subsidizes investments in energy efficiency, has saved utility customers $1.8 billion on their electricity bills by helping them reduce power usage and preventing the need for new power plants to be built. (Source: The Baltimore Sun, January 2017).  

Here’s how we celebrated!

County Council Proclamation:

The County Council proclaimed October Energy Action Month in a special announcement on October 3rd. Council President Roger Berliner read an official proclamation in Council Chambers, and he was joined by representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, Montgomery County Office of Energy and Sustainability, Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL), and our partners at Bethesda Green and Poolesville Green.  

Outreach events for residents of all ages throughout the County:

DEP teamed up with the Department of Recreation to host Energy BINGO events at five senior centers throughout the County, creating a fun way for more than 150 seniors to learn about and connect with energy saving information!  

Energy BINGO in action!

  In partnership with the staff at MCPL, DEP also hosted “Energy Exploration” events. Offered as an interactive experience for all ages, Energy Exploration events feature hands-on arcade games that are fun for the whole family! Each arcade game highlights a different energy tip, including appliances, HVAC usage, lighting, weatherization, and water usage. In addition to these events, Energy Action Month was promoted by libraries through posters, library display cases, and community calendars. To connect residents with community organizations that are working towards a more energy efficient future, Energy Exploration events included representatives from our partners at Habitat for Humanity, One Green Montgomery, Poolesville Green, Pepco, Potomac Edison , ecobeco and Zero Draft Energy.  

Henry volunteers at an Energy Exploration event. Thank you, Henry!

  In addition to the events at libraries and senior centers, DEP conducted outreach at Manna Food distribution sites to make sure all residents have the tools they need to save money this winter, such as LED bulbs, refrigerator thermometers and shower timers. As a result of these events, more than 520 residents had a learning experience during Energy Action Month!  

Partnerships make these programs possible!

We are grateful to all the partners and volunteers who collaborate to make Energy Action Month a success! Big thanks to Montgomery County Public Libraries, Senior Centers, Manna Food Center, Bethesda Green, Poolesville Green, One Montgomery Green, and Habitat for Humanity for their support. Fantastic volunteers generously shared their time to help at Energy Action Month events: Paolo from Ridgeview Middle School, Matthew from Quince Orchard High School, Marielle from Roberto Clemente Middle School, Mythili from Rocky Hill Middle School, Henry from Walter Johnson High School, and Isaac from Parkland Middle School all helped out!   Interested in learning about upcoming Energy events? Write to us at energy@montgomerycountymd.gov !

Meet Adam Moskowitz, Montgomery County’s PACE Marketing Manager

Meet Adam Moskowitz, Montgomery County’s PACE Marketing Manager
Montgomery County passed Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing for commercial buildings in March 2015, and we’ve enlisted PACE Financial Servicing to manage the County’s PACE program.

Adam Moskowitz, Marketing Manager with PACE Financial Servicing.

Meet Adam Moskowitz, Marketing Manager with PACE Financial Servicing, who is the County’s “backup singer” for the PACE program.

Tell us what you think about PACE.

My professional background is in marketing for financial services with development work for charities mixed in a bit. When I discovered the financial product that is PACE, I saw this as an opportunity to do a great deal of good through financial services. I’m excited to help businesses, communities and ultimately the environment in a single effort.

What is your role with PACE Financial Servicing?

There is a growing number of capital providers and energy services contractors that have become aware of commercial PACE. My job is to help them tell that story through public relations and content development. In what are the early days of the program, content often takes the form of case study development because that’s what makes the energy savings and operational cost reduction ‘real’ for the property owners.

What did you do before coming to PFS?

I helped form and operate two commercial banking startups. In a way, PFS is the third startup. My role after getting each firm open was what I like to call a “backup singer.” The business development team and entities in financial services need a good deal of marketing support. That’s what I do. It also suits me because I can’t sing too well – that’s why you’ll never see me at a karaoke bar.

In your opinion, what is the most exciting element of PACE financing in Montgomery County?

The element I like most about PACE is that it makes good things happen when they wouldn’t normally be achievable. An owner of an older property with high operating expenses can use PACE to stop putting Band-aids on an inefficient HVAC, for example, and can make the capital expenditure necessary to not only solve their operational problem, but enhance their property for the long term. Meanwhile, the county is that much more energy independent.

What advice would you give to building owners considering PACE financing?

Can I say, “This is a tax assessment you’ll love?” It allows business owners to stop fixing and start investing in their property, and for new construction, it can be used to preserve construction capital as energy efficient measures selected at the onset can be financed with C-PACE as well.

What do you see on the horizon for PACE programs in the region? What’s next?

As awareness of C-PACE financed projects grows PFS and in turn the capital providers in the market are hopefully going to see a ‘me too’ response from the market. Property owners of all types will hear of their peers and even competitors using this program to their advantage and will begin to make inbound inquiries. To date projects have primarily been initiated by owners already working with contractors to reduce energy use and/or operating expenses. Going forward I believe there is opportunity and cause for owners to look at C-PACE as a natural part of their capital management. It will make more and more sense for them to a) invest in energy savings and b) move that financial piece onto the balance sheet of the property via the assessment vs. the businesses balance sheet.

There’s more to life than PACE – Tell us about yourself!

When you’re not administering PACE programs, what do you like to do?

Teach and sometimes even play tennis. Spend time with family and laugh, usually while doing any of the former.

Choose three words to describe yourself:

Brilliant (well, almost).

Besides Montgomery County, where is your favorite place to visit?

Virginia Beach/Norfolk.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Hulk strength, plus he’s green so that fits the job description.     This is our fifth post in our “Meet the People of PACE” series (previous posts introduce Gerard, Drew, and Jessica). To learn more about the County’s Commercial PACE Program, visit MC-PACE.com or sign-up for DEP’s Commercial Energy News.

Green Business Certification: The right thing to do for business and society

Green Business Certification: The right thing to do for business and society
In the first of a three-part series featuring six Montgomery County Certified Green Businesses we’ll look at companies both big and small reducing their ecological footprint and examine how their efforts help not just Mother Earth, but their businesses as well.
  This article focuses on AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering firm with a global presence, and ecobeco, a 25-person County-based business specializing in residential energy efficiency, remodeling, new home construction, and indoor air quality improvement. What could these two companies possibly have in common? As it turns out, they are both seizing business opportunities associated with addressing environmental challenges. Their customers are demanding environmental services and their employees are demanding corporate environmental responsibility. Doing right by the environment, in other words, complements their business operations and strategic objectives.  

Client Demand

For ecobeco, environmentalism is foundational to their business model. Their DNA is based on “whole home” people- and planet-friendly residential improvements. One of the energy efficiency services offered by ecobeco is the Quick Home Energy Checkup, helping residents reduce energy consumption. Their company provides clients with LED light bulbs, low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and advice on other energy-saving measures, all of which reduce power usage. In short, ecobeco’s business model is premised on helping residents do their part to protect the environment while also reducing their home energy bills. As environmental awareness increases, so does the company’s bottom line. AECOM – a global network of experts working with clients, communities and colleagues to develop and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most complex challenges – have over 500 employees working in its Montgomery County office. Ranked as the #1 green design company in the United States by Engineering News-Record and with decades of experience designing and implementing clean water, renewable energy and environmental restoration projects, AECOM has seen a marked increase in demand for energy efficiency and sustainability services. “We don’t make trinkets – we solve our customers’ problems. Our customers are demanding  an increased focus on sustainability.” says Ida Namur, an AECOM manager focused on power, energy and sustainability in the DC Metro area.  

Ernesto Rivera of ecobeco conducts a Quick Home Energy Checkup. Photo credit: ecobeco.

Internal Pull: Employees Expect More, Too

Offering environmental and energy efficient solutions to clients is one thing. But, both companies say that it’s essential to practice what they preach. Making their own businesses more sustainable is the right thing to do, but it’s also what their employees increasingly expect. Studies indicate that aligning employee values with business operations enhances employee morale, productivity and retention. Millennials, who account for the largest percentage of the U.S. workforce, value purpose in their jobs. According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017, 86% believe the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance. In addition, employees empowered to positively impact their workplace and society show greater company loyalty. Brian Toll, President of ecobeco, echoes these findings. His staff were the ones who sought Green Business Certification. “[They] realized we were close to meeting the requirements and someone else wanted to take it to the next level,” he says. AECOM also recognized that Millennial employees expect companies to be more responsible to the environment and the community in which they are based. “In order to attract the best talent, we have to respond to what they are asking us to do,” Namur says, adding that employee engagement around sustainability helps them stay true to their values. At AECOM, these initiatives are extensive and fun. They have an in-house committee that focuses on green office initiatives, such as a “mug shot” campaign to encourage workers to bring in weird or ugly mugs so fewer office paper cups are used and asking colleagues to bring in old home electronics for recycling. One of their most successful initiatives was the Earth Day Scavenger Hunt that was put together for Earth Day to help illustrate how the company greens its day-to-day operations, so employees can see the sustainability projects the company uses for clients and in their building. The hunt featured a nine-station “to-find” list, filled with things employees see and experience every day but might not know are energy-saving measures – like bathroom low-flow faucets, recycled ceiling tiles, a scrap paper and ink cartridge recycling system and the building’s landscape irrigation system.  

An AECOM employee participates in the scavenger hunt. Photo credit: AECOM.

  The office green team also wanted to engage AECOM employees so that they could shape and be active participants in the company’s sustainability efforts. Namur and her team surveyed employees around sustainability attitudes at work and elicited suggestions for improvement. The findings, which were shared with staff on Earth Day, set a baseline for future surveys and helped prioritize next steps and guide implementation teams. “The survey responses demonstrated our colleagues’ commitment to sustainability and also showed us where we have room for improvement,” Namur says. “Our business is built on a foundational belief that we’re going in the right direction and helping the residents of the communities we serve do the same,” says ecobeco’s Marketing Director, Carol Schreitmueller. “There are thousands of County-located businesses that I believe would uncover significant hidden benefits from doing the work required to earn the Montgomery County Green Business Certification.” Interested in learning more about the certification process? Visit mcgreenbiz.org , or contact Douglas Weisburger, at douglas.weisburger@montgomerycountymd.gov.
Article by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges