2011 Bethesda Green Gala Highlights
Video montage of the Gala by Mark Leisher Productions.
Some 300 people gathered October 5 at Round House Theatre for an evening of inspiration, celebration and community recognition of local green champions--the 2011 Bethesda Magazine Green Award winners.
After a 90-minute reception featuring local food and drink, the crowd entered the theatre and the program began. A video played on a large screen above the stage, depicting the impacts of climate change and previewing its future perils. When the video ended, Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman and Bethesda Magazine Publisher Steve Hull entered wearing haz-mat suits to symbolize the dire nature of the challenges we face--and to indicate that they were here to help clean up the mess. (See article and photos from Bethesda Magazine.)
All theatrics aside, the program focused on the award winners. Here are brief profiles of each; congratulations to all!
Bethesda Magazine Green Award Winners
Category 1: Businesses in Montgomery County and Upper Northwest D.C. that have created an innovative green product, are selling an innovative green service, and/or are promoting a green lifestyle.
Winner: Clean Currents
Gary Skulnik, President; and Charles Segerman, CEO
Since founding Clean Currents in 2007, company president Gary Skulnik has made the green energy supplier an integral part of the DC and Maryland neighborhoods it serves. Offering bundled wind power (REC) options, the Montgomery County based company is the first energy company to be designated as a Benefit LLC, a company that commits to creating a material positive impact on society and the environment.
Clean Currents has elevated the sale of green energy from a commodity transaction to a lifestyle choice, treating its customers as a community of green minded citizens. Through their Green Neighborhood Challenge (GNEC), the company works with schools, churches, neighborhood associations and community groups, making a financial donation for every residential wind power enrollment, to go towards financing a greening project of the group’s choice. Through GNEC, Clean Currents has donated over $20,000 to help the purchase of recycling bins and rain catchment barrels, funding energy audits and weatherization for community buildings, purchasing and planting native plant species for neighborhood gardens, and making in-kind donations to environmental organizations.
The Compost Crew
Amicus Green Building Center
Category 2: Non-profit organizations in Montgomery County that have created an innovative green product, are selling an innovative green service and/or are promoting a green lifestyle.
Winner: Rock Creek Conservancy
Beth Mullin, Executive Director
Rock Creek Conservancy (formerly FORCE, Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment) works tirelessly to protect and restore Rock Creek. Since its founding in 2005, the group has tackled threats to Rock Creek’s natural areas through education, advocacy, and on-the-ground action.
The group launched the Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup in which volunteers pick up trash at over 50 locations, with a combined total of over 7,500 bags of litter plus 42 tons of junk hauled from the creek and woodlands since 2009. Building on this energy, the group launched a neighborhood-based Stream Team program for people or organizations to adopt sections of Rock Creek. Over 50 teams monitor the creek and organize their neighbors for projects such as trash cleanups, tree planting, and storm drain marking.
The group has installed demonstration projects to showcase eco-friendly techniques to reduce polluted runoff, cleared invasive vines from hundreds of park trees, placed over 500 “Do Not Pollute” markers on storm drains, and held workshops on how property owners can help protect Rock Creek. The group has also pressed for legislation and agency action to benefit our natural areas at the federal, state, and local level.
Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County ReStore
Category 3: Businesses that have significantly incorporated green practices into their culture and operations.
Winner: Congressional Bank
John Lane, CEO
In late spring of this year, Congressional Bank CEO John Lane decided it was imperative that his community bank be eco-friendly. He challenged the bank’s workforce to determine and implement ways to go green within 45 days—and they did! Congressional Bank has now received the first Montgomery County Green Certification awarded to any bank in the county.
Congressional Bank created a sustainability policy, which provides guidance to its recycling and sustainability efforts. Montgomery County branches are now totally powered by wind, through partner Clean Currents. They are evaluating all existing business processes for the possibility of “going greener” and selecting business development and event giveaways that are eco-friendly and spread the going green message. The bank promotes the benefits of electronic, paperless banking and no longer generates the plastic waste of bottled water, or individualized paper-dependent coffee and tea options.
Perhaps most importantly, the bankers of Congressional are now focused on lending to companies generating eco-friendly solutions to their customers, increasing jobs and leveraging green practices throughout the community.
Courtyard by Marriott Chevy Chase
Category 4: Non-profit organizations that have significantly incorporated green practices into their culture and operations.
Winner: Brookside Gardens
Stephanie Oberle, Director
Brookside Gardens, always a beautiful place to visit, has taken a great many steps to make all their operations more sustainable, with as little negative impact on the environment as possible. Their greening efforts include growing native plants and installing permeable paving surrounding the large rain garden, which reduces water and pesticide runoff into streams. The irrigation system is efficient and reduces water consumption. It includes a water cistern capturing rain off the conservatory roof to water outside containers and gardens. Brookside hosts zero-waste events, using compostable tableware, and composts all green waste, reusing it to mulch the beds and nourish the soil. A deer exclusion grate has replaced automatic gates that were used 18 hours a day with more than 400,000 visitors annually, saving energy and repairs costs.
Brookside Gardens is lit with LED and compact fluorescent bulbs, the flooring is recycled or recyclable carpeting and the walls painted with low VOC paints. They use green cleaning products, efficient hand dryers that use 80% less energy, and automatic soap dispensers, premeasured for less waste. They have also banned the use of plastic water bottles at internal events and outside fountains are equipped with special water bottle fillers.
Red Wiggler Community Farm
Goodwill Industries International
Category 5: Communities (neighborhoods, schools, condo associations, faith-based organizations, etc.) that are promoting and implementing green practices.
Winner: Bullis School
Dr. Gerald L. Boarman, Head of School
An environmental consciousness permeates Bullis School, an independent, co-ed college preparatory school for grades 3-12 in Potomac. The school derives 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources—a 111 kW solar photovoltaic system consisting of 540 solar panels on the roof of its Blair Family Center for the Arts, with 100% wind power purchased for the rest of its electrical needs. The U.S. EPA Green Power Partnership has ranked Bullis 4th in the country for its use of renewable energy, and awarded it membership to the 2011 Green Power Leadership Club.
The Bullis Community Garden is used to grow 30 different types of crops. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used on the garden, which provides food for the school’s dining hall and space for classroom use.
Bullis incorporates environmental awareness and education into its curriculum at all grade levels. It is a Buddy Bison school partnering with the National Park Trust to promote exploration and protection of national parks and resources. Third grade teacher Carolyn Cohen was the first recipient of the Trust’s “Buddy” award bestowed annually to a teacher for excellence in environmental stewardship.
Sandy Spring Friends School
Category 6: Individuals, 18 and younger, who are actively promoting and living a green lifestyle.
Winner: Young Activists Club
Brenda Platt, Parent Leader
The Young Activist Club, an amazing group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at Piney Branch Elementary School (as well as 6th graders from Takoma Middle School and two parent volunteers), has been working tirelessly to shift their
school cafeterias from Styrofoam lunch trays and disposable cutlery to reusables. In the process, they are educating themselves and others about the perils of our disposable culture.
The children use innovative ways to spread their message. They have created award-winning videos, music, and have even marched in parades wearing costumes made of Styrofoam lunch trays. They have testified at public hearings before policy makers, and convinced the city council to pass a resolution supporting their efforts. They have raised $10,115 to pay for a rebuilt dish washer and durable reusable trays. In spite of the school board’s continuing opposition to their work, the young activists are gaining a sense of infectious empowerment.
Students at Wood Acres Elementary School
Category 7: Individuals, 19 and over, who are actively promoting and living a green lifestyle.
Winner: Mike Tidwell, Founder and Director
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Mike Tidwell was convinced years ago that climate change is the greatest crisis facing human-kind and that in order to stop it, he needed to do something about it himself. Mike installed solar panels on his roof, a corn-burning stove, a super efficient refrigerator and bought a Prius. He walks to work nearly every day and is a vegetarian. To inspire others to live greener lives, Mike hosted open houses so that others could see how they could go green. Then, in 2002, he founded the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) to help make Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia greener overall. CCAN was the first organization in Maryland to focus exclusively on fighting climate change. Throughout the past decade, CCAN has been instrumental in the passage of many pieces of environmental legislation, such as the Maryland Clean Cars Act, the Maryland Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act, and the Maryland Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, to name a few.
Since devoting his life to fighting global warming, Mike has written dozens of opinion and feature articles for the Baltimore Sun, the Gazette, the Washington Post, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He has also published two books on global warming’s effects: Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast (2003), and following the devastation of the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mike wrote The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of America’s Coastal Cities.
Jenny Brown, GreenKids
(Photos of winners taken by Jonathan Timmes)