Archive for May, 2010

Green Neighborhood Spotlight: Green Souls!

Posted on May 27, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The All Souls Church Unitarian Green Souls Committee is signed-up for the Green Neighborhood Challenge. The Green Souls Committee is in the lead with 130 wind power sign-ups from their congregation! Check out additional information below on the background of the committee, green principles of the Unitarian Universalist Church, why the committee decided to sign-up for the Green Neighborhood Challenge, and how they have been getting the word out to their congregation members!

–Name of green neighborhood/committee:                                                                                                     All Souls Church Unitarian/Green Souls.

–Background on the committee (how long has it been established, what types of issues has the committee worked on in the past?):                                                                                                           The Green Souls has been around for nearly 10 years. Some of our long-term projects include  reducing the building’s electricity consumption with CFLs and programmable thermostats (an 18% reduction so far), creating a ride-share program to encourage green transportation to church, significantly reducing disposable dishware at church lunches, bi-monthly sale of fair-trade products, and a comprehensive recycling program. We recently became a certified Green Sanctuary Church through the Unitarian Universalist Association after completing a comprehensive church greening program. This included projects like instituting an annual Earth Day worship service, offering environmental justice themed classes and seminars, holding a socially responsible investing seminar, and more. We have quite a dedicated core of committee members who have given a lot of their time to make these projects happen.

 –Why are green/environmental issues important to your church? (values of the committee/uu church):                                                                                                                                               The Unitarian Universalist faith is guided by seven principles. The seventh principle states our commitment to “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”. This, and a strong tradition of social justice at All Souls, have inspired us to action on many environmental justice and eco-spirituality projects.

–Why did the committee decide to participate in the green challenge? (signing-up people for wind power):                                                                                                                                                                     For the past four years we have had an annual Earth Day worship in April. Not only have we had inspirational sermons and music based on Earth Day themes, but we also have an annual Earth Day action we encourage our membership and friends of All Souls to take part in. It’s difficult to come up with an action that is high impact, yet easy to do. The book, “The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices” by the Union of Concerned Scientists, lists 11 priority actions we can take as consumers to protect the environment. Among some of them are: reducing your driving, eating less red meat, and buying organic food. But, these are difficult to carry out and to quantify. Another action listed is switching your power sources to renewable energy. When we learned about Clean Current’s program, it became a no-brainer that this was an easy, one-time action that people could take that could have a big impact.

 –Why does the committee think the All Souls UU Challenge has been so successful (you are in the lead right now for sign-ups!)                                                                                                                  First of all, it’s an easy sell when people find that you will save money by being green. Second, the fact that our church will receive a monetary award for this doesn’t hurt either! And third, it’s easy to do. Our church community is quite progressive, so we figured a good nudging via a PR campaign was all we needed. Our community is around 1000 participants, so a goal of 100 households seemed lofty, but feasible. A core group of Green Souls volunteers spent time talking to church members after the service for the 5 Sundays leading up to Earth Day. We got the email addresses of interested people and followed up with them to remind them to sign up. Church staff supported a PR blitz by including info on signing up via our website, monthly newsletter, weekly emails, and announcements in the Sunday order of service. As people signed up, we updated the publications with the totals to create a feeling of momentum. Finally, on Earth Day, we made a pitch from the pulpit…a humorous, simple skit with smoke stacks and a model wind turbine. So, lots of repetition and various means of PR seems to have got the ball rolling and it appears the ball is still going quickly.

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Clean Currents Founding Member of Renewable Energy Coalition

Posted on May 26, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The Renewable Energy Markets Association (REMA), the leading industry trade group for the voluntary renewable energy market, launched the Renewable Energy Coalition (VREC) today.  VREC is comprised of organizations that share a common belief in the importance of voluntary renewable energy.

The 50 founding members of VREC include private companies, nonprofits, school districts, and municipal agencies across the country.  Lacking a comprehensive and clearly defined national standard on renewable energy, the voluntary market has been a significant driver for the growth of the overall domestic renewable energy market.

With this new coalition, companies and nonprofit entities involved in the voluntary renewable market will have a stronger platform from which to communicate to key policymakers.

Press Release here

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China’s New Solar City

Posted on May 24, 2010. Filed under: News, Recommendations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Many solar panel companies have developed in both Europe and United States, and now more developing countries wanted to want to lower their carbon footprint as well, using solar panels. China has invested 34 billion dollars on both solar panels and wind turbines, double the amount of money as the United States.

In Dezhou, a city located in northern China, was acknowledged for raising poultry, and however now is known as ‘China’s Solar City.’  Huang Ming (president of Himin Solar Energy) has created the Himin Solar Energy Group, which is now currently ‘the biggest solar energy production base in the whole world.’ Some of the company’s products include solar lights, PV lighting products, solar panels, solar water heaters, and solar collectors. Huang Ming also created a low carbon five star hotel and now working on eco friendly apartment complexes. He mentions, in an interview at his corporate head quarters, “renewable energy doesn’t mean people have to be uncomfortable.”

At first, Huang Ming was an oil industry engineer, working at a petroleum research institute; however, he did not feel right about the impact oil had on the environment.  Thus, he created this company as a kind of ‘experiment’ to see if it would be successful in China. His heating devices and solar panels became quite popular in the city of Dezhou. Many villagers, especially farmers can now use hot water for showers regularly, rather than using communal bathrooms a couple times a month.

Some argue, that solar panels will help the economy minimally and decrease China’s carbon footprint to a certain extent. They believe that China will still rely heavily on fossil fuels for a lot of their energy. Huang Ming admits this argument, but later says “solar energy a drop in the ocean,” but has big plans for the future!

See article here

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Obama Mandates Fuel Efficiency Improvements

Posted on May 24, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

On Friday, President Obama took a step to improve his image as an environmentally aware president by ordering further improvements to fuel efficiency standards for vehicles this past Friday in a presidential mandate.  While current rules require that cars made by 2016 must get at least 35.5 miles per gallon for combined highway and city, the mandate requires further improvements for cars and light trucks made in 2017 and beyond.  The increases in fuel efficiency will have multiple benefits, including reduced costs for vehicle owners and reduced gas consumption.

This move comes during a time when Obama’s image as an environmentally friendly president has been damaged in light of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  As oil continues to show up along the U.S. Gulf Coast, endangering species and marsh habitats, the catastrophe has highlighted the need to reduce our energy demand and invest in alternate forms of energy.  By helping our environment through reduced oil consumption and saving consumers money through reduced gas demand, fuel-efficiency standards are a win-win strategy to helping our environment at little costs to citizens.

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Breaking News: Montgomery County Passes Nation’s first Carbon Tax

Posted on May 19, 2010. Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , |

Its official: today, the Montgomery County Council passed a carbon tax bill- the first of its kind in the United States! The bill, proposed by County Councilman Roger Berliner, taxes stationary emitters in Montgomery County that release more than one million tons of co2 into the atmosphere annually. Currently, there is only one such emitter- a coal plant owned by Mirant Corporation. At a hearing yesterday, Mirant Corporation officials spoke against the legislation claiming it would only lead to rate hikes for consumers. However, Councilman Berliner said the $5/ton tax would not have an impact on ratepayers for numerous reasons.  This amount is marginal compared to the profits Mirant makes from the facility. The tax revenues will go to funding clean energy and other programs that are facing funding cuts during tough budgetary conditions.

Amanda Duzak and Gary Skulnik, Clean Currents resident activists were at yesterday’s hearing supporting the bill and the testimonies of CCAN’s Mike Tidwell and other advocates. Also present at the hearing were a rowdy group of tea party protestors in support of Mirant. These protestors denied climate change was happening. However, when asked about Mirant’s stance on climate change, the Mirant representative could not deny it, creating a real rhetorical problem for the tea party protestors.

For more about Mirant see here.

UPDATE 5-20-2010: More info in CCAN’s press release, plus Montgomery County makes Environmental Leader’s top daily headline!

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June 4: IGNITE Creativity in Business Conference

Posted on May 14, 2010. Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , |

Calling all entrepreneurs, business leaders and creatives! Join Clean Currents at the Ignite! Conference on June 4 in Rockville, MD and learn how to harness the power of creativity and innovation for business success. Register NOW for the early bird special: http://igniteconference10.eventbrite.com Full Press Release below.

CONTACT:

Shellie Williams 301‐565‐3805 ext. 24

Shellie.Williams@creativemoco.com

ARTS & HUMANITIES COUNCIL OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY TO HOST CREATIVITY IN BUSINESS CONFERENCE, FEATURING AREA’S TOP BUSINESS VISIONARIES

 SILVER SPRING, MD, May 11, 2010 —The Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC) announced today that it will host Montgomery County’s first creativity in business conference on Friday, June 4, at the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville.

IGNITE! Transforming Business with Creativity, will feature business visionary, Washington Post blogger and author of Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, Seth Kahan. The conference will feature six interactive and content‐rich breakout sessions led by pioneers in the field of creativity and business. Each session of IGNITE! is geared towards entrepreneurs, business leaders, and managers looking to gain tips and techniques for business growth and success.

“It’s common knowledge that innovation is the heart of business—that’s what keeps some business out in front while others lag behind,” says AHCMC CEO Suzan Jenkins, a 2009 Gazette of Politics and Business 25 CEOs You Need to Know’. “But, perhaps not as well known is the role creativity plays in business success and innovation. We’ve designed this event to highlight creativity in business and to break the mold of conventional business seminars and networking events.”

IGNITE! aims to showcase unique ways business leaders can learn first‐hand how the right and left brain can work together. Creative and informative interactive sessions include speed networking facilitated by Eliot Pfanstiehl, President and CEO of Strathmore Hall Foundation, Inc., a Playback Theatre production, and a networking event featuring entertainment by Happenstance Theater and others. All sessions relate to the areas of creative communications, creative leadership and creative thinking. A full roster of speakers and sessions is available at www.creativemoco.org/ignite.

“In today’s market, we’re all looking for the advantage that will send us soaring above the competition,” added Jenkins. “To gain the advantage in this challenging economic climate, it is critical for businesses to harness the power of creativity and put it to work. That’s where IGNITE! will help.”

Event tickets are on sale now at http://creativemoco.com/ignite/registration/ and range from $140 to $175. The event is sponsored by Calvert Investments, The Gazette of Politics & Business, C. Fox Communications, Clean Currents, John Hopkins University Montgomery County, Montgomery County Government Economic Development Inc., Rockville Economic Development Inc. and Wood Street, Inc.

Media interested in attending should contact Shellie Williams at 301‐565‐3805 or Shellie.Williams@creativemoco.com.

 Event Details:

The June 4 IGNITE! Conference is First of its Kind for Montgomery County;

A Response to Area Businesses Feeling Slowdown of Economy

WHAT:                  IGNITE! Conference: Transforming Business with Creativity, Montgomery County’s first creativity and business conference

HOST:                    The Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County

WHEN:                 June 4, 2010

Conference: 12:00 – 5:00 pm

Gazette of Politics and Business SchmoozeFest Networking Reception: 5:00 – 6:30 pm

WHERE:                Universities at Shady Grove
9630 Gudelsky Drive, Rockville, MD 20850

WHO:                    Over 200 entrepreneurs, business and government leaders are expected

PRICE:                Full Conference (includes SchmoozeFest)
$140.00 – Early Bird special (deadline Friday, May 21)
$175.00 – Regular price

Tickets to the Gazette of Politics and Business SchmoozeFest ONLY (5:00 – 6:30 pm)
$40.00 – Early Bird special (deadline Friday, May 21)
$50.00 – Regular price

ABOUT THE ARTS & HUMANITIES COUNCIL OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY (AHCMC)

Established in 1976, AHCMC is Montgomery County’s designated arts and humanities non‐profit agency with a vision to provide leadership that sustains arts and humanities organizations, artists and scholars and inspires participation in our County’s rich cultural assets. For more information, visit www.creativemoco.com.

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Oil Catastrophe in the Gulf

Posted on May 13, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

After 3 weeks BP is still unable to stop the oil from gushing into the gulf. The leak, a result of an offshore oil rig that exploded breaking a large underwater pipeline and killing 11 people, is gushing tens of thousands of gallons a day. According to the Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, it may take many more months before the pipeline is plugged. This is despite BP claiming that they are throwing everything they’ve got to stop the leak. While the Chairman of BP, Lamar Mckay, claims the spill is a result a mechanical failure, there are questions surrounding how much BP knew about previous problems regarding blowout preventers, the underwater valves that are supposed to shut off the flow of the well in the event of a blowout.
 
As recently as September, BP was among several companies arguing to the U.S. Minerals Management Services (MMS) that stricter regulations were not needed. BP’s vice president for Gulf of Mexico production, Richard Morrison, wrote in a letter published on the U.S. government web site Regulations.gov, although BP “is supportive of companies having a system in place to reduce risk, accidents, injuries and spills, we are not supportive of the extensive, prescriptive regulations as proposed in this rule.”
 
While BP experienced its highest profits in its corporate history, it simultaniously implemented budget cuts of 25% in 1999 and 2005 at each of its 5 U.S. refineries. This is depsite the saftey board finding ‘compacency towards serious saftey risks’ at all of them and BP doubling its profit last quarter from a year ago – to $6.1 billion.
However, BP is not the only one to blame. Halliburton, who was in charge of the underwater cementing of the deepwater rig, was also implicated for their cementing work in a massive blowout off the Austrailia coast that dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the sea for 10 weeks.
 
This is not the first time BP and Halliburton have come under fire for shody saftey records. Because of this, citizens should continute to place pressure on the government and fossil fuel companies to ensure that they take responsibility for their actions. The one good thing that could come out of this spill is less support for off shore drilling and more excitement and innovation for green energy technology.
 
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Growing Energy Demand in China

Posted on May 13, 2010. Filed under: News, Uncategorized |

Despite emerging as a world leader in manufacturing and installing renewable energy, China’s surging demand for power has resulted in the largest six-month increase in tonnage of human generated greenhouse gases ever by a single country.  This can be partly attributed to the fact that the vast majority of China’s energy needs are still met by large, polluting coal fired plants.  Thermal electricity production, which includes coal, oil, and natural gas, increased 24 percent in the first quarter of 2010 from a year earlier, following a similar increase in the fourth quarter of 2009. 

China overtook the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas in 2006, and that margin is growing at an exponential clip.  China’s ravenous appetite for fossil fuels is driven by its shifting economic base – away from light export industries such as garment production and toward energy-intensive heavy industries like steel and cement manufacturing.  An ever increasing number of Chinese households now have a washing machine, refrigerator, and air-conditioner, further increasing demand for energy.  And car ownership is rising rapidly, while bicycle ownership is actually falling.

As China’s society continues to modernize, the composition of their economic output is overwhelming the effects of their rapid expansion of renewable energy.  The increase in fossil fueled electricity consumption in the first quarter was twice as fast as economic growth of about 12 percent for that period, a sign that rising energy consumption is not just the result of a rebounding economy but also of changes in the mix of industrial activity.

President Hu pledged that China would address this increase in greenhouse gas by redoubling energy efficiency efforts.  But many Western energy experts believe that without big policy changes, like raising fuel taxes, China will not be able to meet their goal.

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