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June 30, 2009

Paper or plastic? Neither!


“I’m here to help you save money (and the planet) for all steps of the shopping process,” proclaims local crafter Glow Girl. Her collection of functional and eco-friendly carry-alls includes tote bags, coupon organizers and sandwich snack baggies - all made from eco-friendly, vintage and/or upcycled fabrics. I’ve never been one to organize my coupons (or my snacks) but if I had a beautifully crafted baggie with an easy-to-use Velcro closure, I would most certainly try. Glow Girls’ carry-alls are affordable, adorable, water resistant and machine washable. Brilliant!

(Image courtesy of Glow Girl)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 5:22 PM | | Comments (6)

Fossil fuel spending projected to jump

Marylanders will spend up to $773 more per person on fossil fuels by 2030 if current trends in energy consumption continue, according to a new report from Environment Maryland.

That's a rise from $2,464 a person in 2006 up to $3,237 in 2030.

The report seeks to highlight the increasing costs of using fossil fuels for energy in the form of air and water pollution and climate change. About 85 percent of the U.S. energy supply comes from fossil fuels such as coal oil and natural gas.

The group is also pushing for the Senate to pass the energy bill recently passed by the House, which has a cap-and-trade system for pollution at its center.

Without change, the report says, the costs will be steep. 

In 2006, U.S. consumers and businesses spent $921 billion on fossil fuels. That's close to 7 percent of America’s gross domestic product and more than is spent on education or the military. Last year, expenditures likely topped a record $1 trillion.

Is there something else you'd rather spend that money on?

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:02 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: News

Supermarkets rank on sustainable seafood

Want to know where to find the most reliably sustainable seafood for sale? Shop at Wegmans, says Greenpeace.  But Giant isn't far behind.

The environmental group says that New York-based Wegmans, with a store in Hunt Valley, dislodged Whole Foods for top honors in its ranking of national supermarket chains by the sustainability of their seafood operations. Whole Foods, which had been No. 1 in the last ranking in December, fell to third, while Ahold, the international food empire which owns the local Giant chain and Stop & Shop, retained 2nd place.

Greenpeace scores the supermarket chains on what, if any, policies they have on selling sustainable seafood, on how easy it is for consumers to tell where their seafood came from, and on how much of the seafood sold is on the environmental group's "red list" of 22 species that are either overfished or unsustainably farmed through aquaculture.

Whole Foods, with two stores in Baltimore and one in Annapolis, slipped from its top spot in the ranking despite its otherwise "green" image mainly because the food chain sells 18 of the 22 "red list" species, says Casson Trenor, Greenpeace's senior markets campaigner.

And if Whole Foods doesn't get religion soon, Trenor warns, it may be overtaken by none other than Target, which is in fourth place. (While you might wonder how the two could possibly compare, Greenpeace rates canned and frozen as well as fresh seafood for sustainability.)

In the third ranking since last June, Greenpeace said 11 of the supermarket chains have made efforts to improve the sustainability of their seafood. Nine, however, have not. And for all the progress, Greenpeace says that none - not even top-scoring Wegmans - guarantees it won't sell any seafood from fisheries that are harming sea turtles, dolphins or other marine mammals.

To read the full report, go here

Here is the complete ranking:

1) Wegmans

2) Ahold USA (Giant, Stop & Shop)

3) Whole Foods

4) Target

5) Safeway

6) Harris Teeter

7) Wal-mart

8) Delhaize (Bloom, Food Lion, Hannaford Brothers, Sweetbay)

9) Kroger

10) Costco

11) Aldi

12) A&P (Pathmark, Superfresh & others)

13) Supervalue (including Acme and Save-a-Lot)

14) Giant Eagle

15) Publix

16) Winn-Dixie

17) Trader Joe's

18) Meijer

19) Price Chopper

20) H.E. Butt

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 9:02 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Products

Herring Run building gets gold star

The Herring Run Watershed Center -- an all-green educational facility, meeting site and HQ for the Herring Run Watershed Association -- becomes the first gold-level green certified building in Baltimore today.

The LEED certification system was created by the nonprofit Green Building Council to promote sustainable development. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.) There are plenty of buildings in the area seeking the status, from hotels, to houses to commercial buildings. Gold is the next to highest ranking available.

The Herring Run building, the former Pelham Bakery, has 36 green features. They include a green roof, tankless hot water heater, denim insulation, rain gardens and tubular skylights. A full list is here.

Ziger/Snead architects and Baltimore Green Construction worked on the project at 3545 Belair Road, one block south of Herring Run Park. Stop by a see the place.

Photo of the Herring Run's green roof courtesy of the Herring Run Watershed Association.


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: News

June 29, 2009

Ugly plants and animals deserve love, too

Used to be only the good looking plants and animals would get onto the federal government's endangered species list, even though officials claimed to try and save everything.

But a story in today's Washington Post says scientists are noticing some of the less lovely ones are getting some attention these days. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says money now goes to the most at risk.

There are 1,318 U.S. species listed as endangered or threatened. And only 15 have been declared recovered, including the gray wolf, pictured above. (Though, today Fish and Wildlife reinstated protections for the gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes.)

There are 31 species listed as threatened or endanged in Maryland, including the Indiana bat, the leatherback sea turtle, finback whale and the small whorled pogonia.

So, do we save them all, or stick with the pretty ones?

AP photo of a gray wolf


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 4:02 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: News

Where is the veggie food at Camden Yards?


After PETA named Camden Yards one of the Top 10 veggie friendly ballparks, the messages from B'More Green readers were a little mixed, to say the least. Some said they found NO options.

One reader did some more digging, er, eating, and wrote in to say that Pastimes Cafe on Eutaw Street did carry several options, such as wraps, salads, veggie dogs. (Thanks Chris for the work!) But, Chris noted, that there were no signs. And besides pizza and fries, not a lot of option in other parts of the park.

So, I called management. David Freireich, a spokesman for Aramark, the park's food service company, says that veggie items just aren't that popular. Even the Maryland crab cake is only offered in one place because, he said -- GASP! -- it also is not that popular. (He's clearly from not from here.)

He put me in touch with the local general manager, Nick Biello, who basically said the same thing, but added some numbers:

In the last 39 games, the average number of regular hot dogs sold per game was 4,517, or more than half of the sales for all main food items. The park sold 1,194 chicken fingers and 1,537 Boog's sandwiches.

Crab cakes? 167. Veggie burgers? 3. Veggie dogs? 2.

Perhaps if managers would sell veggie food in more than one place or advertise just a little? Visitors to Pastimes don't find out that there are veggie dogs and burgers until they are at the front of the line and see the 8x10" black and white signs with prices ($4.75 for dogs and $8 for burger, same as the regular kinds).

Though, Biello said they do advertise in the A-Z section on the Orioles Web site and in an Os magazine. 

He maintains there isn't enough demand to warrant veggie options in other parts of the park, and there are the difficulties of dedicating grill space (our investigators say there were microwaved and not grilled). Further, he doesn't want to overwhelm each station with so many choices the line backs up. 

He said 85 percent of park goers hit Eutaw Street during the game, so it's the best place to offer veggie food, if it's only going to be in one place.

If you'd like to tell Nick your thoughts on this, he said he honestly wants to hear them. He wants you to enjoy your day at the park, including your food. He graciously offered his e-mail: If you contact him, let me know, too.

Keep reading for a list of some veggie stuff available at Pastimes. 

Ceasar salad

Spinach salad

Fresh fruit cup

Garlic fries

Veggie wrap

Veggie panini

Fruit and yogurt parfait

Tomato and basil salad

Fresh fruit cobbler

Gourmet cupcakes



Cole slaw

Potato salad



Veggie burger

Veggie dog

French fries

Nachos with cheese

Cheese and veggie pizza

Photos by Meredith Cohn at Camden Yards

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: News

June 28, 2009

Is clucking coming from that Baltimore backyard?


Yes. Clucking. From two chickens in Liz Smith's yard in Hamilton. 

She got Sugar and Spice in April, and she and her family have been enjoying two eggs a day lately. 

She is one of many people across the country who wants to better control how her food is made. She joins others who grow veggies, maintain bee hives and otherwise grow their own food for health, fun, a lesson for the kids or to save money.

Read the full story. Or you can watch the video.

Baltimore Sun photo and video of Liz Smith and her chickens/Algerina Perna 

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: News

June 27, 2009

USDA to revise map showing rising temps in U.S.


My fellow Sun blogger Susan Reimer has an entry today on Garden Variety about a map that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has put together on rising U.S. temperatures.

USDA plans to revise the map, divided into zones, that show temperatures rising across the country. It should be ready by fall. But you can see an interactive version of the existing map on the Arbor Day Foundation Web site now. It show changes in temperatures from 1990 to 2006. 

A coincidence that news of an update comes around the same time the House passes a major energy bill with a cap-and-trade plan to control emissions of climate warming gasses?


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

June 26, 2009

Cheers to being green

It’s been a long week, no? Well I think it has, so in celebration of the weekend, I’d like to share with all of you a recipe for a refreshing summer drink: Watermelon Margarita. I’m categorizing it as “green” because the main ingredient is a seeded watermelon.


16 oz. seeded, blended watermelon
1/2 lime
6 oz. Tequila
3 oz. triple sec
1 tbsp. sugar

Dice the watermelon, removing all seeds. Freeze for 20-30 minutes. Blend (be careful not to over blend), add remaining ingredients and top with ice. Blend again. Add sugar to taste. Serve, enjoy and don't think about next week until you have to.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:45 PM | | Comments (0)

Barry Levinson may make Chesapeake Bay movie


Tucked into Laura Vozzella's column today was a mention of a possible new documentary on the Chesapeake Bay.  It is a new project by Baltimore's own Barry Levinson.

Laura reports that the filmmaker is in talks with state and federal officials about funding, though he said he plans to make the movie with or without public dollars. He's not sure if the film would be for the theaters or for cable.

"I've just been trying to think of a way to really kind of get people's attention to the potential disaster that is just ahead in terms of the Chesapeake Bay," Levinson told The Sun."This can't be allowed to die. Forty percent of it's already dead."

He has vacationed on the bay and has relatives who live there year round.

Think this project should be publicly funded? Think the issue needs national attention?

Photo of Barry Levinson on the set of Wag the Dog courtesy of Barry Levinson 



Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:24 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: News

East Baltimore cleanup & BBQ

What better way to spend your Saturday than doing a little tidying up, and then reward yourself with a nice cookout?

The C.A.R.E. Community has organized a cleanup starting at 9 a.m. Saturday morning for the neighborhood around Madeira Street Garden, in the 400 block N. Madeira St. Alex Van Breukelen of the group's "cleaner greener" committee reports that the city is expected to drop off a Dumpster to receive debris collected by residents and other volunteers (outside help welcome).

The city also is to deliver 130 recycling containers at the garden, paid for by the Baltimore Community Foundation and Banner Neighborhoods, to be distributed to residents who signed up for them. City officials will be on hand to explain the new trash and recycling rules.

Then, once the serious business has been taken care of, grills get lit at noon for a neighborhood cookout. For more info, contact Alex at 910-207-1111.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 9:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

Reading Rack: Smart Growth's Woes

A new article by the Center for Public Integrity takes a probing look at why Maryland's Smart Growth laws haven't worked that well and finds a culprit - local officials.

"After more than a decade of well-intentioned efforts to serve as a national model of carefully managed development," Dick Cooper writes, "Maryland finds its so-called Smart Growth programs frustrated by local governments whose parochial interests often trump the broader visions of regional and statewide planning efforts."

It's the perennial tug-of-war, given the legal and political climate in Maryland. By longstanding tradition, land use has been left largely to local officials, who jealously guard their prerogative as the decision-makers "closest to the people." 

Part of the problem is that one person's sprawl is another's "smart growth," and every community believes it must grow or die.  Also, the public often objects to concentrated development, complaining it will worsen traffic backups and overcrowded classrooms that local and state governments should have fixed already, but have been unable or unwilling to pay for.

An effort by Gov. William Donald Schaefer nearly 20 years ago to assert greater state control over Maryland's growth went down in flames, blocked by local officials.  A few years later his successor Parris Glendening managed to overcome locals' opposition with a carrot instead of the stick - using state funds to support development only in designated growth areas.

The carrot hasn't been big enough, though - as former state planner now turned develoment consultant Jim Noonan often points out in comments to this blog.

Gov. Martin O'Malley is trying to break Smart Growth out of its rut, relying in large part on a 21-member Task Force that's been hashing its way through the longstanding ambiguities and disputes around what growth is "smart" and who should decide where it goes.  O'Malley got a few reform bills through the General Assembly this year, and promises more next year.

It's a painfully slow process, though, which frustrates environmental activists and those who remember when the fifth most densely populated state had much more open countryside than it does now.

Cooper's piece does point to some glimmers that "smart growth," at least as a concept, has been embraced by some local officials, in places like Easton, Chestertown and Berlin.  Are there others? 

The center, a nonprofit group dedicated to doing investigative reporting, has been focusing on the Eastern Shore as part of a larger, national "Land Use Accountability Project" looking at sprawl.  Check out the other pieces here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 8:36 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: News

Greening the summer BBQ

It's summer party time, and event planner Nadia Digilov of Celebrating in Style has some tips for making it fancy and eco-friendly:

--Skip regular charcoal and use Coconut Shell Briquette Charcoal made from, what else, coconut shells. It has no chemicals inside and makes no smoke. It's cleaner burning, hotter and longer burning. 

--Don't use throw-away plastic and paper plates. For a greener option, use recycled, toxin free, biodegradable products from Verterra.  The company says it's made from fallen leaves that are steamed and pressed. They will naturally compost in two months.

--Buy locally grown and organic foods for the table. They didn't waste fuel traveling far and they didn't require lots of chemicals and fertilizers.

--Use soy candles instead of electric lights or paraffin candles. They come from sustainable and renewable resources and burn longer and pollute less.

Got any other good tips?

Photo courtesy of Celebrate in Style


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Tips

June 25, 2009

The Worm-Inn


Perhaps you’ve entertained the idea of worm composting but don’t have access to a suitable outdoor space. If that’s the case, consider doing it indoors with Nomad Needles’ Worm-Inn, which is essentially a mesh bag designed to facilitate continuous flow vermicomposting.

The way it works is pretty simple: deposit your food scraps with a mixture of cardboard bedding. The worms (which are placed in the bottom of the bag) move upward, digest the microbial waste and leave their castings behind, which can then be used for fertilizer. The Worm-Inn has a mesh cover that is attached with Velcro, so there’s little to no odor. It’s the perfect invention for wannabe indoor vermicomposters.

To read more about and/or purchase your own Worm-Inn, visit Nomad Needles.

(Image courtesy of Nomad Needles)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 2:36 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Products

A majority supports regulation of greenhouse gasses

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released today shows that three-quarters of Americans believe the federal government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars, plants and factories. And support runs across the board: Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Support drops to about half when surveryors asked about a cap-and-trade program that is at the core of the Obama administration's climate bill. Congress is expected to vote on the measure tomorrow.

Many environmental groups and businesses support the bill, which would mean those who could not meet emissions limits would have to buy credits. But opponents say the plan will push up costs for industry, and therefore consumers, too much. And some say the United States shouldn't act so agressively until China and India get on board.

According to the poll, however, a little more than 60 percent of American supported regulation even if it would cost them more for purchases and about half supported cap-and-trade if it lead to a $10 rise in utitlity bills. Support went down some when cost grew higher.


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:41 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: News

UPDATE: Wine now comes in a plastic bottle


 Yes, plastic. A big, old soda jug.

Fog Mountain is now selling wine in one-liter plastic bottles (PET #1) that the company says is "packaging that reduces wine’s carbon footprint while providing added convenience and value for the wine lover."

But is plastic better than glass? They both can be recycled. I was turned onto this wine by, which points out in its lighter weight and does likely use less energy in shipping.

Boisset, organic wine maker and the producer of this California Merlot, says the bottle has 33 percent more wine, or two extra glasses, than a standard 750ml bottle; it has a carbon footprint that is 60 percent smaller; and uses less energy to produce, ship and recycle.

The company claims that seven recycled Fog Mountain wine bottles can produce one extra-large t-shirt.

And, if you were wondering, it also has "aromas of rasberry jam."

There is a Baltimore distributor, and I called to see where it can be found locally. No word back.


Would you buy wine in a plastic bottle? Or are you still adjusting to boxed wine?

Photo courtesy of Boissett

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Products

June 24, 2009

Electric cars for rent in Baltimore

A story in today's paper by Kayla Cross says electric cars are for rent or share in Baltimore. This may come as good news to those who were disappointed that ZipCar, now owned by FlexCar, didn't expand more in the city. It maintains just a handful of cars at Johns Hopkins Univeristy.

The city is also looking into its own car share program, called BaltimoreCarShare. You can sign up there for updates. Officials hope enough people are interested and will even be willing to give up owning a car in the city.

The electric car that will be for rent or sharing is a Maya 300, which has a lithium-ion battery that can be charged with any household outlet. It was made by the Canadian firm Electrovaya Inc.

It only has a top speed of 35 mph, but that should be fine for around town. It also produces zero emissions and gets 120 miles per charge.

The Maryland Science Center is offering free test drives with regular $14.95 center admission  through July. In August, 10 cars will be available for the car-sharing program. The rates are $7.50 an hour after you become a member. If you rent, it's $14.50 an hour. Call 410-528-0150 or go to for more info. Those in the program will be able to reserve cars online.

Sound like it would be workable?  

Baltimore Sun photo of the Maya 300


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 5:25 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: News

From coffee bags to laptop cases

Laptop%20Case3.jpg Laptop%20Case2.jpg Laptop%20Case1.jpg

I recently purchased a new laptop and have since been looking for the ideal carrying case. I’ve gone to all the usual places but have yet to find something extraordinary - until today. While browsing the “Shop Local” section of Etsy, I happened upon Baltimore crafter La Budde, who specializes in making very hip and eco-friendly laptop cases out of upcycled coffee bags. Each one is detailed with colorful fabric piping and comes lined two protective layers of poly batting. Also, they’re affordable at $35 a pop, and for a few extra bucks, she’ll throw in a shoulder strap and/or battery case. Perfect!

(Images courtesy of La Budde)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 3:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Products, Shopping

Dairy farmer makes up profit after going organic

I wrote a story in today's paper about a dairy farmer in Frederick County who switched to an organic operation and has seen his profits go up.

He was interested in the welfare of his animals, the environment and his consumers, but a survey by Maryland Extension showed that he was pulling down almost twice as much as the average in the survey.

Some of this is because milk prices are low, which benefits farmers whose cows graze (verses conventional "confinement" operations) because they get fewer pounds of milk per cow but bring in much higher prices. So, when prices are high, this farmer, Ron Holter, may not make as much.

But, he's keeping pesticides out of the fields, and is managing his manure is a way that's better for the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways. His cows, and therefore his customers, also aren't getting hormones and antibiotics common in traditional dairy farming.

Holter sells his milk to Organic Valley, which sells it in local stores.

Ag experts at the farm yesterday said that demand for grass-fed and organic milk is booming.

So, you got milk? And are you willing to pay more for the grass-fed or organic kind?

Baltimore Sun photos by Meredith Cohn


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:38 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: News

Chipotle to open in Columbia Mall

Why is this green? The fast food chain is moving toward sustainably farmed food and architecture. Chipotle is not 100 percent, manager say. But considering the environmental, labor and health records of other chains, maybe it deserves a look.

The chain strives to buy pork, chicken and beef that is humanely raised and fed vegetarian diets with no hormones or antibiotics added. Sour cream and cheeses are from hormone free milk and a quarter of the black and pinto beans are organically grown.

Chipotle is trying to buy a third of at least one produce item at each restaurant from small and mid-sized farms.

The Chipotle opens at the Mall in Columbia June 30. There are 13 other locations in the area. 

But does it taste good?

Baltimore Sun photo of a Chipotle chicken fajita burrito/Lloyd Fox 


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Products

June 23, 2009

Green Woolworth revives five & dime


Priscilla Woolworth is reviving the five and dime retail concept created by her family who founded the F.W. Woolworth stores. This month, she launched PriscillaWoolworth, an online general store for green conscious consumers.

Woolworth says she selects all products, ensuring quality and that they're verifiably eco-responsible. Visit the online store at

(Source: Signature Green Public Relations)

(Image courtesy of

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 5:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Shopping

TV expose of electronic recycling

PBS' "Frontline/World" program airs an expose of electronic recycling tonight. "Digital Dumping Ground" tracks allegedly recycled TVs and computers to China, India and Ghana, where much of it is burned, exposing people to toxic fumes.

What electronic castoffs aren't burned may wind up being mined for identity theft - and possibly worse. The correspondents acquire repurposed PC hard drives in Ghana and discover credit card information and even defense contract documents on them, according to the show's senior producer.

For a preview, go here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)

Garden on wheels rolls through B'more


Some enterprising folks have made novel re-use of one of those much-maligned trailers that the federal government commissioned at great expense to house Gulf coast residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Students and faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology took a "FEMA trailer" and converted it into a community garden on wheels. Their creation is dubbed "The Armadillo" because of the accordion-style, retractable cover over the composting center and greenhouse built on the end of the trailer. 

The trailer stopped in Baltimore over the weekend. It's now in the possession of Side Street Projects, an artist-run nonprofit group based in Pasadena, California. Jon Lapointe, acting executive director and Emily Hopkins, program director, are taking the trailer 6,500 miles back across the United States to its new hometown, where it'll join the group's fleet of mobile workshops.

The duo parked the white trailer yesterday in a pocket park on Madeira Street in East Baltimore and did a hands-on workshop with kids, making flower and plant pots out of plastic soda bottles. They had one patch of the trailer festooned with racks of herbs and flowers in clear plastic planters yesterday, and explained how they intend to cover the sides - and maybe even the roof - with vegetation once the trip is finished. Above is an artist's rendering of what it should look like when fully decked out.

The plants are packed inside when the trailer's on the move - so they won't bounce off whenever the trailer hits a pothole. The Armadillo sets up today on the Mall in Washington, then it's off to New Orleans and finally west. LaPointe and Hopkins say they hope to reach sunny Southern California by mid-July. Safe travels!

For more on the trailer, go here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Green buyer, beware

Ever wonder how green, really, are all those supposedly natural or environmentally friendly products lining the shelves of supermarkets, big-box stores, home improvement warehouses and pet shops?

The answer, apparently, is not that many. "Greenwashing is rampant," critics say, and consumers are confused or gulled by the proliferation of green product certifications offered. That's the upshot of a recent congressional hearing in Washington, where consumer advocates warned that Americans are being bombarded with misleading and false claims about products being biodegradable.

Scot Case, vice president of TerraChoice, a Canadian environmental marketing consulting firm, said that the average number of "green" products in stores has more than doubled since 2007, while advertising of them has tripled.  Yet his firm studied more than 2,000 products carried in North American stores and found that 98 percent of them made one or more false claims about their green-ness.  Toys and baby products, cosmetics and cleaning products were among the biggest offenders, he said.

Many marketers are exploiting consumers' growing demand for environmentally friendly products by claiming third-party endorsement of their merchandise, Case said, but some of those certifications are either weak or phony.  (To be fair, TerraChoice markets its own competing EcoLogo certification.)

Dara O'Rourke, associate professor at University of California, Berkeley, told lawmakers there's a growing gap between what consumers want to know and what companies communicate, leading to frustration and suspicion that undercuts the market for green products.  O'Rourke has produced GoodGuide to help consumers assess the health, environmental and social impacts of companies and products. 

The federal government should take a greater hand in sorting out green product claims, said Urvashi Rangan, an environmental health scientist with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.  Rangan added that the government itself must be above reproach with its own environmental product certifications, such as the Energy Star appliance program, which has drawn criticism as lax.

For more on this congressional hearing into "greenwashing,'' go here.  Thanks to Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian newspaper for covering it.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 7:35 AM | | Comments (6)

June 22, 2009

Want to live rent free in a state park?

The state Department of Natural Resources has so many historically significant properties that it can't afford to maintain them. So, it developed a program that allows people to live in historic houses within state parks so long as they renovate and maintain them. 

It's definitely not free -- in fact, DNR expects you to spend atleast $150,000 and you get no financial stake in the property -- but, in exchange, the tenants can live there, rent-free, forever.

There a people with no background in restoration or historic houses doing it now. It's hard to say if the state or the tenants are getting the better financial deal. But those in the houses seem thrilled to be so close to natural all the time.

Sun reporter Andrea Siegel wrote a story about it today.

Looks like there are five houses that have no current curators. Interested?

Quick on the program link above for more information, or call or e-mail John- Bruce C. Alexander, DNR's manager of curatorships and cultural resources at or 410-260-8457.

Baltimore Sun photo of Kim and Val Troiani, with 5-week-old Gavin, in front of the Evans House, a  19th-century fieldstone home in the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Cecil County/Kenneth K. Lam.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: News

City offers yellow recycling bins


Miss out on getting one of those big yellow recycling bins from the city the last go-round?

Baltimore's Department of Public Works plans to sell them next Saturday, June 27, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute parking lot at Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane and at M&T Bank Stadium, Lot B, at Hamburg and Russell streets. 

The department says residents do NOT have to have city bins -- you can use a cardboard box, paper bag, string around paper or other bin marked as recycling. Plastic bags are no longer accepted. You can take those to most area grocery stores for recycling.

But if you want a yellow bin ahead of the switch to weekly collection in July, they are selling the 18- and 25-gallon bins and lids.

They have 10,000 of the 25-gallon ones for $12 and 5,000 of the 18-gallons ones for $5, plus 6,000 lids for $3 on a first-come, first-served basis. Cash only. No receipts or rain checks.

For recycling information, go to or The site will have information on new collection days as of July 13, or call 311.

Baltimore Sun photo of Mayor Sheila Dixon and the recycling bins/Amy Davis

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: News

June 21, 2009

The Week Ahead: Smart Growth, Cousteau

If your dance card for the week is not already full, here are a couple events worth considering:

On Tuesday, June 23, 1000 Friends of Maryland, statewide advocates for compact communities and rural land preservation, are holding a panel discussion on the prospects for reforming the state's Smart Growth laws next year, with elections looming. It's from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Admiral Fell Inn, 885 S. Broadway, Baltimore MD. Tickets cost $30 for members, $50 for nonmembers. Details here.

On Thursday, June 25, Jean-Michel Cousteau, environmentalist and eldest son of the famed undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, delivers the keynote address at the 13th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering conference in College Park.  

Cousteau, founder of the Oceans Future Society and executive vice president of the Cousteau Society, will speak at 8 a.m. on "The Call of the Killer Whale" at the Marriott Inn & Conference Center, 3501 University Boulevard East.  Tickets are available to those not attending the conference, at $20 each, $10 for students.  Details and to buy tickets in advance go here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 7:37 AM | | Comments (0)

June 20, 2009

Septic, sewage cleanups on tap

With homeowners living near the Chesapeake Bay expected to upgrade their septic systems starting this fall, the state is moving to clean up its act, too.

Officials traveled to Calvert County Friday to admire the first state-owned, nitrogen-removing septic system installed at Jefferson Patterson Park in St. Leonard.

Beginning Oct. 1, a new law requires that all new or replacement septic systems in the Critical Area,  within 1,000 feet of the bay and its tidal tributaries, must remove nitrogen, the chief pollutant fouling the bay's waters. The enhanced systems add thousands to the cost, but the state has been providing grants to homeowners and businesses for the upgrades.  It will continue to do so when the requirement takes effect, with funds going first to those with failing systems near the water. For more on the grants, go here.

There are about 420,000 septic systems in the state, with about 52,000 in the Critical Area, where nitrogen seeping into the ground water is more likely to reach the bay.  Planners project that another 145,000 new septic systems will be installed over the next 25 years.  Conventional septic systems do not treat nitrogen, and scientists estimate that they are responsible for 7 percent of all the nitrogen fouling the bay.  Upgrading all the new systems can cut that in half.

Meanwhile, earlier in the week, the state Board of Public Works approved spending $20.1 million to upgrade Baltimore's Patapsco sewage treatment plant so it removes more nutrients from its wastewater discharge.  When completed, the improvement should reduce nitrogen and phosphorus getting into the Patapsco River by more than 80 percent.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 7:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

June 19, 2009

Buying the farm

Conservation advocates and community leaders have mixed feelings about a potential deal for Baltimore County and the state to buy a 190-acre farm on Back River.

As I reported in The Baltimore Sun today, county and state officials say they're considering teaming up to preserve it from development, even though its ecological value was called "mediocre" by the land acquisition chief for the Department of Natural Resources. The deal is still in negotiation, and no one would say what the price might be.  Funds for buying open-space are tight now because of the slumping real estate market.

Turns out, if the deal goes through, this would be the third, rather than the second, piece of land in the Edgemere area that Baltimore County has bought from developer Mark C. Sapperstein. Late last year, according to a report in The Dundalk Eagle, the county paid $839,000 for 21 wooded acres on North Point Road - the second half of what's known as the Karll Trust property.  The county bought the other half the year before, paying $900,000, above the appraised value.

The Eagle story by Randy Leonard reports that the tract, bought by the county for recreational use, has a history of contamination.  Tests of various spots found elevated levels of arsenic in the soil, plus chromium, mercury, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.  The county's recreation and parks chief was quoted in the article saying he was not concerned by the levels of contaminants found.

The Bauer's Farm property, which Sapperstein is considering selling now, also had a patch of contaminated soil.  But Sapperstein had it cleaned up - and the Maryland Department of the Environment has given the tract a clean bill of health.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 3:56 PM | | Comments (0)

MICA students grow food, connect with community

Students at MICA are used to hands-on classes and getting dirty. So, getting them to work with soil wasn't much of a stretch.

So, when Hugh Pocock offered an urban architecture class, which was anchored by days planting, weeding and generally tending to food grown on a swath of land near Greenmount Avenue not far from the Central Booking, the students signed up.

Pocock wanted them to learn that it's possible to grow food in the city, and he wanted them to engage the neighbhors -- people who might have some other, tougher life things on their mind than getting fresh tomatoes.

This garden, called Participation Park, was started a few years ago by some former MICA students, who are now finalists for the Sondheim Prize, a prestigious regional art prize named for civic leader Walter Sondheim and his wife Janet. The students -- Scott Berzofsky, Dane Nester, and Nicholas Wisniewski -- formed the Baltimore Development Cooperative for such urban experiements. (The prize winner will be chosen July 11, but the artists will have displays of their work at the Baltimore Museum of Art from July 17-Aug. 2.)

Pocock's students helped out at the beginning of class in the garden and again today, at the end of the semester. See photos of them at their flickr site. This garden has both private plots for neighbors, a community supported agriculture (CSA) operation that sells food at low-cost to other neighbors and an open garden where anyone can come harvest food. Involvement with the community, Pocock said, has bee up and down.  

Keep reading to hear what some of the students told me about what's next for them.

Isaac Diebboll, an interdisciplinary sculpture major finishing his junior year, said he and his roommate have since begun growing tomatoes on their roof since gleening some good planting method in class.

They learned about soil health, testing for lead (it doesn't show up in fruit, just unwashed root vegetables and some leafy greens). The got soil and plants donated.

"We didn't know everything about how to do it," he said. "We hope this works and we'll keep doing it."

Michelle Silwester, a general fine arts major who is finishing her junior year, went with a few classmates to an established urban agriculture site called the Duncan Street Community Garden this week and planted some tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. They plan to tend them all summer and into fall.

She took the class because she wanted to know how to grow food, what it looked like before it gets to the market and how to bring nature back to the urban community. Now, she wants to keep going.

"We want to put our skills into practice," she said. "No matter where I live, I hope to keep it up."

Matt Fox, an art history major who finished his junior year, is now growing food on MICA's campus with someother classmates. He said a lot more goes into successful growing than just sticking plants in the ground. He learned, for example, about the proper angle to plant tomatoes so they can get more nutrients.

"I signed up not knowing anything," he said. "I'd not really every thought about it before. But the thing about being an artist is our openness."

Baltimore Sun photos by Meredith Cohn



Posted by Meredith Cohn at 3:22 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Urban Issues

Investors, rehabbers getting on green bandwagon

If you missed it, I wrote a story today about some local guys at A+ Neighborhood Homebuyers LLC who have discovered the virtues of greening up their investment properties. They were put onto the idea by their lender, Bridge Private Lending LLC. Both target low and middle income homes.

It show how far this trend has come, that these real estate types have joined with homeowners, governments and nonprofits in weatherizing, buying Energy Star appliances and taking other steps to cut energy use.

Those who live in the homes know they are saving on utility bills and doing their part for the environment. But those selling them houses see that their properties are worth more and sell faster. Both sets can also qualify for various tax breaks. (There's a primer on those at

So, anyone got some tips for fellow homeowners on easy -- and relatively inexpensive -- ways to green the house? Or know of other investors doing such things?

Baltimore Sun photo of Michael D. Jones of A+ Neighborhood Homebuyers/Kenneth K. Lam

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 3:05 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Going Green

Baltimoreans buying more green cars?

Baltimoreans aren't as green as San Franciscans or Washingtonians when it comes to buying cars, but we seem to be at least as environmentally (or cost-) conscious as Los Angelenos.

That's the upshot of a new report by a marketing arm of the Nielsen public-opinion outfit.

San Francisco leads the nation in buying green, Nielsen reports, with households there 60 percent more likely than Americans as a whole to purchase hybrids or high-mileage cars, such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Fit or Mini Cooper. Second and third places go to the Washington and New York City areas, which are 44 percent and 31 percent more likely to buy fuel-sippers.

Baltimore comes in tied for 9th with Los Angeles, 22 percent more inclined toward greener new vehicles than the national average. All but one of the top 10 green-car cities are on the coasts, Chicago being the exception.

The biggest gas guzzlers tend to be found in the South and Midwest, according to Nielsen, with households in Greenwood-Greenville, Miss. only about half as likely as the national average to buy one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles.

Detroit, interestingly enough, didn't make either the bottom or top 10.

To see the entire list, go here.

With gas prices going up again - and pols in Washington debating climate change - are you more or less likely to buy a hybrid or high-mileage car the next time you go windshield shopping?

(2008 Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 2:49 PM | | Comments (0)

Smaller Bay 'dead zone' forecast this summer

The Chesapeake Bay's fish, crabs and oysters could be breathing easier this summer - the oxygen-starved "dead zone" in the troubled estuary should be one of the smallest ever measured, predicts a University of Michigan scientist.

Aquatic ecologist Donald Scavia and his colleagues issued forecasts this week for the nation's two most infamous "dead zones," those stretches of the Chesapeake and Gulf of Mexico where fish and shellfish can't get enough oxygen to breathe because of nutrient pollution fouling the water.

Scavia had good news (of sorts) for the bay, but gloomy tidings for the Gulf.

First, the good news:

The dead zone in the Chesapeake is likely to be the smallest since 2001 and one of the smallest on record, Scavia predicted. He based his forecast on the dry spell that lasted from January through much of April, dumping relatively little rain and snow on the bay's vast watershed, which stretches from Virginia north to Cooperstown in New York and west into West Virginia.

It's only good news of a sort, because the expected improvement in water quality stems from the weather, not from anything that's been done to reduce the massive overdose of nutrients we've been feeding the bay from sewage, lawn and farm fertilizer and air pollution.

"The predicted 2009 dead-zone decline does not result from cutbacks in the use of nitrogen, which remains one of the key drivers of hypoxia (low oxygen levels) in the bay," Scavia said in a statement released with his predictions.

University of Maryland scientists make summer forecasts of their own for the bay, but a spokesman said this week that they aren't ready yet.  The accompanying map, produced by UM, charts last year's dead zone - blue is where oxygen was good, orange, red and brown where it was poor.

Here's how the weather affects the health of the bay, and its fish: 

Whenever it rains, the runoff washes nutrient-rich fertilizer, animal waste and fallout from power plants and vehicle exhaust into streams and rivers emptying into the bay. Those nutrients - the same ones we feed our lawns and flowers to get them to grow - stimulate "blooms" of algae that cloud the water. When those masses of microscopic aquatic plants die and sink to the bottom, they suck the oxygen out of the water as they decay.

Rainy weather such as we've been having for the last six weeks or so tends to wash more nutrients off the land and pavement, stimulating a feeding frenzy of algae in the water.   If it gets bad enough, there are fish kills when oxygen levels in the water crash.  Baltimore residents saw  - and smelled -an episode up close last month in the Inner Harbor; scientiists reported similar algae blooms throughout the mid-bay.

While you might think the rainy spell we've been experiencing would undercut the Michigan scientists' forecast of a smaller dead zone in the bay, not necessarily.  Joel Blomquest, who monitors mid-Atlantic streams and rivers for the U.S. Geological Survey, said the upper half of the bay watershed in Pennsylvania and New York did not experience the wet weather we've had here in Maryland. Consequently, despite our downpours, the overall flow of fresh water into the bay has not been high, he said.

Scavia acknowledged that fresh-water flows have increased in recent weeks, though, and hedged his forecast.  While he still expects the Chesapeake dead zone to be a lot smaller, he says it'll probably be on the high end of the size range he predicted.

While things are looking up, however temporarily, for the Chesapeake, Scavia predicts that the Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" this summer is likely to be one of the largest ever measured.  The Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers ran 11 percent above average this spring, feeding heavy doses of nitrogen into the Gulf.  It hasn't helped, either, scientists say, that nitrogen concentrations in those rivers have nearly tripled over the past 50 years from human activities.

For more on the Michigan scientists' dead-zone forecasts, go here.  To learn more about the importance of oxygen in the water, go here.   And to see last year's water-quality forecast for the bay from the University of Maryland, go here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 1:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Chesapeake Bay, News

DIY Father's Day gifts

Nothing says "I love you Dad" like a gift made by hand. Here are a couple of simple tutorials you might consider using to celebrate Father's Day this weekend. Most of the required materials can be found around the house. Just be creative and have fun!

Father's Day pancakes, courtesy of Me and My Insanity.

Golf cover sock buddies, courtesy of Alpha Mom.

Handmade Father's Day card, courtesy of HGTV.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 7:28 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

Police the latest to green buildings

The state announced that it has awarded a contract to green 40 Maryland State Police buildings state-wide. This is the seventh round of contracts to improve energy efficiency at state buildings.

The move is part of the O'Malley administration's effort to cut power use by 15 percent by 2015.

The effort isn't just good for the environment, it save us taxpayers, state officials say. Utility costs are expected to be reduced by 26 percent. During the next 14 years, that means savings of $15.9 million.

The Board of Public Works agenda lists the contractor as Johnson Controls and the contract value at almost $12 million -- so looks like we make our money back on the upgrades that include new lights, water conservation retrofits, HVAC improvements and other stuff.   

The project will be managed by the Maryland Department of General Services, which reports that greenhouse gas emissions will also be significantly reduced -- 4.614 million pounds of carbon dioxide, or the same amount emitted by powering 220,000 homes within the life of the contract. Electricity use will be cut by more than 3.4 million kilowatt hours and more than 5,400 gallons of fuel oil and 95,280 therms of natural gas will be saved.

The state has six other contracts to green other buildings, including House and Senate office buildings, Government House, the Court of Appeals, William Donald Schaefer Tower, the Grasmick State Education Building and Saratoga State Center.

Once complete, the state expects to save $7.5 million annually.

Photo of State Police Barrack I in Easton courtesy of the Maryland Department of General Services 


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

June 18, 2009

Trash to Treasure: A Green Craft Fair

On Nov.14, the Watkins Nature Center in Upper Marlboro will host “Trash to Treasure: A Green Craft Fair.” This event will be the first of its kind within Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The nature center is looking for individuals and organizations that create arts and crafts from reused, recycled, responsibly harvested/natural or sustainable products. If you are interested in being a vendor, RSVP to

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 5:03 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events

State approves money for outdoor projects

Gov. O'Malley announced today that the state Board of Public Works approved money for several recreational projects around Maryland:

--$300,000 to expand the Patternson Park Recreational Center to create programming space for an environmental education center that will be operated by the National Audubon Society;

-- $660,000 to renovate the boiler/hot water system and gym HVAC at the Chick Webb Recreation Center to meet building codes and avoid emergency repairs, and to construct a new building for the Morrell Park Recreation Center that will include LEED design items such as a green roof and geothermal heating;

--$1.3 million to enclose and redevelop the historic Clifton Park Pool Pavilion as a new Recreation Center that will include a multi-purpose room, classrooms, kitchen, staff office and restrooms. (To the right: That's then-Mayor O'Malley in the pool with some kids.)

The money comes from Project Open Space, run by the Department of Natural Resources.

Continue reading for more projects aroudn't the state.


--Alleghany County will receive $25,000 to complete the second phase of construction of a concession and restroom facility with proper electricity, plumbing and other amenities at Cresaptown Community Park;

--The City of Annapolis in Anne Arundel County will receive $959,542 to construct an 85,000-square foot community recreation center at Truxtun Park, which will house a three court gymnasium, fitness center, rock climbing wall, walking/jogging track and meeting room, which will significantly improve and expand recreational program access for thousands of Annapolis and area residents;

--Baltimore County will receive $1.7 million to construct the Watersedge Community Center at Concrete Homes Park in the Dundalk-Watersedge area of southeast Baltimore County, which will include a gymnasium, dance studio and activity room, and recreational office to provide much-needed indoor recreational space for the densely populated greater Dundalk and Watersedge communities; and $3.8 million to acquire the Perring Racquet Club in the Loch Raven-Parkville area of the county to develop into a regional indoor sports facility for the myriad of recreational programs offered by various recreation and parks councils in the area;

--Calvert County will receive $897,388 to plan, design and construct an indoor aquatic facility in the Prince Frederick Town Center;

--The City of Brunswick in Frederick County will receive $28,770 to renovate the City Park Building, a center for city recreation activities and used by local youth groups, churches, and non-profit organizations;

--Washington County will receive $26,775 to repave the road and parking lot at Black Rock Golf Course in Hagerstown;

--Prince George’s County will receive funding for three projects, including: $1.5 million to design and construct a 12,000-square foot community center to provide much-needed recreational amenities and meeting space for residents of both the Little Washington and Westphalia communities, and will house a gymnasium and exercise room, which will eventually be attached to a future elementary school;

--$2.4 million to construct a 27,000-square foot community center at Pinebrook Avenue in Landover, which will include a gymnasium, computer room, fitness room, pre-school room and multi-purpose space, and will allow a larger variety of program offerings for the local Landover community; 

--$ 258,400 to acquire 5 acres of land in Lanham for the development of a trailhead to serve the local hikers and bikers of the American Discovery and East Coast Greenway Trail Systems; and

--$37,500 to renovate the existing gymnasium and stage area at District Heights Recreation Center.

Baltimore Sun file photo/2005

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Mosquitoes thriving this rainy spring

I knew it seemed like a lot of rain. Sun reporter Frank Roylance reports that 17 inches of rain since April 1 is twice the average.

And there are thunderstorms expected or possible through Monday.

State officials say water quality is fine, despite the extra runoff, but warn people with wells to have them checked once a year.

Anyone have good green ways to keep the pests at bay?

Baltimore Sun file photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

June 17, 2009

35 free patterns for reusable bags


Reusable bags can be made from just about anything – sheets, pillowcases, fused plastic and even yarn.

If you're looking to make your own, visit Tipnut. It's a brilliant web site that contains an extensive collection of household tips and life hacks, including a healthy handful of free patterns for reusable grocery bags.

Save your quarters for laundry and parking!

(Image courtesy of Wisdom of the Moon).

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

Mixing it up over cement plant pollution


A federal crackdown on toxic air pollution from cement plants is generating blowback from the industry, and an official with the company that runs a kiln in Union Bridge northwest of Baltimore warns that the plant (pictured above) may be unable to meet the new clean-air rule.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to require cement plants, among the nation's leading air polluters, to reduce emissions of mercury and other harmful pollutants by 70 to 90 over the next four years. In addition to curbing mercury, a known neurotoxin, the EPA is proposing tighter limits on cement plant emissions of hydrocarbons, hydrochloric acid and fine particles.

But in hearings this week in Los Angeles and Dallas, industry representatives are contending that the pollution reductions would be so difficult and expensive to achieve that they may undermine the US cement industry, endangering thousands of jobs. There's a third hearing Thursday in Arlington, Va.

The Portland Cement Association, an industry group, has issued a statement calling the rules "excessively stringent" and so costly they could force many plants to close and make the US building industry import cement.

The future of cement making in Union Bridge in Carroll County is by no means assured, says Tim Matz, director of environmental affairs for Lehigh Hanson Inc., which owns the plant there. While Matz had said earlier that the plant should be able to reduce its emissions of mercury to comply with the proposed EPA limit, he said in an interview this week the company is not sure it can afford to curb the other pollutants as much as EPA wants.

"It's hard to say right now if we'd be able to meet them all," Matz said, "but we're investigating."

Environmentalists say the cleanup is do-able and necessary. James Pew, an attorney with Earthjustice in Washington, contends that what plants will have to do varies, but in most cases the pollutants can be controlled using "off-the-shelf" technology, such as better filters or emission scrubbers on their smokestacks.

And Pew notes that EPA estimates its rule will prevent 600 to 1,600 premature deaths a year nationwide from reducing exposure to the toxic air pollutants it's trying to reduce from cement plants.

"If power plants are doing it, why is a cement kiln different?" asks Dan Strickler of the proposed air pollution reductions. He's president of the New Windsor Community Action Project, a citizen's group formed in a town neighboring Union Bridge that is concerned about the environmental impacts of the plant.

Strickler says he's not likely to attend tomorrow's hearing in Northern Virginia, but is concerned about the Union Bridge plant's emissions of mercury - 376 pounds a year, according to the company's report to EPA. Ingesting enough mercury can cause nerve and brain damage, and the metal tends to collect in the tissues of fish.

"It’s going to come down somewhere .. even if it comes down in the ocean it has effects," said Strickler. The Maryland Department of the Environment advises women and children to eat no more than one meal a month of striped bass - the state fish, better known as rockfish - because they may have low levels of mercury in them.

The EPA hearing Thursday is at Potomac Yard South Conference Center, 2777 Crystal Drive, Arlington, Va.  Go here for more information.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 3:30 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: News

Thursday is Dump the Pump Day


Tomorrow is the fourth annual Dump the Pump Day, a national effort to get people out of their cars.

It's sponsored by the American Public Transit Association, which has lots of facts sheets, if you want to learn more. Those folks want everyone on, well, public transportation. But really, you could also walk, bike, hop, whatever, so long as you are giving your car a rest.

The goal is to save money, protect the planet, deduce dependence on foreign oil, etc.

"If you have been thinking about changing the way you commute to work everyday by trying tranist, Thursday is the day to give it a try," Gov. O'Malley said in a statement. "In the past year as gas prices have fluctuated, transit ridership has increased 5 percent as more people have discovered that it is a cost effective way to get around and an excellent alternative to driving."

The relase also says people can save $8,000 a year by taking public transportation instead of driving and living with one less car. For every $1 invested in public transit infrastructure, $6 is generated in economic returns to communities. Public transit also save 900,000 fill-ups each day or 4.2 billion gallons of gas a year. Carbon emissions is also cut by 20 pounds a day.

For information on public transportation in Maryland, go to or call 410-539-5000.

And if you want to see how much you can save by pedalling to work, has set up a handy-dandy calculator. 

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Fee for plastic bags proposed, decried

The Baltimore City Council heard from the public yesterday about proposed legislation to charge shoppers 25 cents for each plastic bag they use. The various bills aim to curb the use of disposable bags that end up in the Inner Harbor, Chesapeake bay, area trees and so many other places.

Sun reporter Sarah Fisher wrote in her story that the opposition says the fees would unfairly hit the poor and elderly and cause trouble for shopowners trying to keep track of the fees. The city estimated that the fee would raise some $6 million a year.

Other cities -- including Washington, Denver, New York and Seattle -- impose fees as a way to encourage people to buy reusable bags. Their fees are all lower.

Council members said they were open to suggestions about how to off-set the cost. Maybe they could refund the money once the disposable bags are returned? Lower the fee? Hand out reusable bags to residents, as the city did with trash cans?

Anyone have another idea to encourage use of reusable bags and cut down on trash?

Baltimore Sun photo of Councilman Bill Henry holding up his reusable bag/Algerina Perna


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:17 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: News

Lawmakers voting greener in Annapolis, but ...

Maryland's lawmakers, arguably among the greenest in the nation, voted slightly greener this year than they did the year before, but still not enough for some environmentalists.

In its annual scorecard of votes on green issues in Annapolis, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters says members of the General Assembly improved their ratings slightly, with the House of Delegates siding with the greens 72 percent of the time and the Senate 62 percent.

League Executive Director Cindy Schwartz praised lawmakers in a statement for passage of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, preservation of state funding for buying parkland and requiring new or replacement septic tanks in waterfront housing to be less polluting.  But other bills sought by environmentalists that were aimed at curbing sprawl and banning toxic chemicals failed.

In a switch from years past, the House has become fertile ground for green bills, Schwartz noted, while "the Senate is often where good environmental legislation either is weakened or killed altogether."  The House Environmental Matters Committee, with a succession of conservative leaders, had once been a Bermuda Triangle for green bills, but its current chair, Del. Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore, was among 57 delegates to get a 100 percent rating from the league.

Not unlike their counterparts in Washington, Maryland's Democratic state lawmakers voted green far more often than the Republican members.   Pols representing urban and solidly suburban constituents also leaned green more reliably than did rural lawmakers. 

The areas with the greenest delegations were Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Baltimore city.  Least green was the district spanning Frederick and Carroll counties, where the delegation voted for environmental bills just 16 percent of the time.  One delegate from that district, Republican Joseph Bartlett, got a perfect "0".

Go here to see how your elected representative voted on environmental issues.  Or if you'd rather not register with the league to see its detailed scorecard, you can get the highlights by downloading the press release.


Posted by Tim Wheeler at 7:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Earn your "wheely good" smoothie

It's nothing short of brilliant. 

Artist-entrepreneur Natan Lawson got shoppers at a local farmers market to fork over $5 for the privilege of making their own smoothie. He hooked up a blender to a bicycle -- a really fancy horsey one -- and got paid as people pedaled.

Baltimore Brew wrote about Lawson's foray into business at the 32nd Street Farmers Market. And yes, that is former Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Shane taking a ride! Read the full story here.

Lawson said he sold 200 drinks at his Wheely Good Smoothies stand. He couldn't say how much he made after expenses, but still. Not bad for an artist. I hope someone tells his mother.

Photo by Fern Shen, Baltimore Brew


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Going Green

Recycling running shoes, water bottles

I ran in a race this past weekend, and it had me thinking about all the trampling on the planet we runners are doing.

Take running shoes. Most of us go through at least two pairs a year. And what can we do with them? Running shops often will take them back and make sure they get reused if they still have life left in them or recycled.

A couple local shops that do are Falls Road Running Store and Charm City Run.  Ask your shop if they do. There are also groups, including the Perpetual Prosperity Pumps Foundation, with local contacts. There's also Goodwill, which will take them and sell them if they are in good shape.

Anyone know of others?

Another less easy problem to solve are all those water cups and water bottles handed out during and after races.

Certainly, putting on one of these big events is a logistical nightmare. Organizers have a limited amount of time they are allowed to close streets, run a race and clean up. It's quite a dance, if you've never watched it -- so I don't want to knock anyone.

Still, I've seen some organizers put out cardboard recycling boxes for the water bottles handed out after races, but not at this one. I'm not sure what the best answer is for handing out water along the race course. Anyone have an idea or seen a good method?

Baltimore Sun Photo of a recycling event in Columbia 2006/Algerina Perna 

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Tips

June 16, 2009

US report: climate changing here now

Climate change is already happening, says a new federal study, and its impacts are visible throughout the United States - even here in Maryland.   The changes pose threats to crop and livestock farming, to property and to human health, the study warns.

The report, drawing on experts from 13 federal science agencies, universities and research institutes, concludes that insect infestations and wildfires already are increasing as a result of climate-enhanced droughts. Annual average temperatures in the Northeast have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970, with winter temps rising twice that much.

The report projects more frequent and intense heat waves, affecting every aspect of commerce from farming to energy use and transportation. It also forecasts heavier rainstorms and flooding in some parts of the country, with worse droughts and water shortages in others.

In coastal areas like Maryland's, sea level is expected to rise more than previously predicted, bringing more frequent and severe flooding and more storm damage.  Donald C. Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and one of the study's authors, said the Chesapeake Bay's "dead zones" could worsen as climate changes, and low-lying islands and coastal areas could be inundated by rising sea level.

Warming temperatures already are causing noticeable shifts in plants and animal migrations, said Anthony C. Janetos, director of the global change research institute at the University of Maryland and another author.

"We’re getting weed species that actually respond both to the fact that it’s getting warmer in the United States, but also to the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," Janetos said. "Everything from common agricultural weeds to poison ivy and kudzu."

Though many of the findings have been reported piecemeal before, officials and experts say the study represents the most up-to-date and comprehensive assessment of how climate is affecting the nation and how it may in the future, depending on how rapidly greenhouse gas emissions keep increasing.

It also has political import, as Congress is debating legislation now to curb greenhouse gas emissions. A bill is expected to be voted soon in the House, and Senate leaders have vowed to act by fall.

To view the federal report and background, go here.

To see an earlier, similar report focusing on climate impacts on Maryland, go here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 7:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Are gas prices making you change your ways?



The Sun's Mike Dresser wrote today about gas prices going up. They are lower than last summer but are rising faster than any then they ever have. Since the beginning of the year, prices have gone up 63 percent to $2.58 for a gallon of regular. That was a steeper climb than last year's climb over $4. And it sounded like there was some belt-tightening going on to compensate.

I'm interested in other ways people are responding. Are you riding the MARC train to Washington instead of driving, or do you notice more people aboard?

The buses now have bike racks on them, thanks in part to the effort of One Less Car, a group that advocates for transportation althernatives. Are people using them?

The state is working on connecting all the bike-pedestrian trails around Maryland and has made some progress on paths such as the Gwynns Falls Trail. There are even some city roads marked for bike commuters around town. This get anyone on a bicycle?

In the fall, the city is also is a unveiling its new Charm City Circulator bus that will pick up commuters in neighborhoods around downtown beginning in August. The buses will use clean energy. Will anyone ride?

There are many more choices in smaller and more fuel efficient cars, such as the Smart  and Prius. And Congress is considering that Cash for Clunkers deal where the government will give you money to trade in your gas guzzler. Will this cause a bump like the cash for buying a house did?

So, you pondering any big changes because of gas prices? Or do you think the high prices will make less environmentally minded Americans change to more eco-friendly alternatives just for the savings? Does the reason matter? What's it going to take?

Baltimore Sun photo


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 4:36 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: News

Green baby toys

PTS-duck.jpg PTS-penguin.jpg PTS-elephant.jpg

I spent some time with a friend’s baby earlier this week. I’m not around babies very often and quickly realized that I had little on hand to keep her occupied. I finally settled on Tupperware containers and a shoe box, which pleased her to no end. Still, it would have been nice to have some genuine baby toys around. Of course, maybe it doesn’t matter to them as much as it does to us adults. Nonetheless, I did a little research and found some adorable “green” baby toys that are far superior to plastic containers (at least in my opinion). These darling animals are made from recycled wool sweaters and stuffed with shredded recycled polyester. Each critter is one-of-a-kind and go for between $21-$26 at

And, if you’re feeling ambitious or have some old sweaters you’d like to get rid of, check out this great tutorial by Kayte Terry on how to make your own bunny softie.


(Images courtesy of Craftzine and Eco-Artware)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:14 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: DIY, Products, Shopping

Shipping containers recycled into homes reports that old cargo shipping containers are being recycled into homes, rather than being melted down.

The story says each container weighs 9,000 pounds and it take 9,000 kilowatt hours to melt that much steel. The energy saved from repurposing the container could power a 70 watt light bulb for 15 years.

So, we have a port in Baltimore. We, no doubt, have some extras containers. Anyone want to live in one? Looks like there are plenty of colors to choose from.

Baltimore Sun file photo of the port of Baltimore

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:42 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: News

National Geographic shows farming as therapy


Think the hard labor of farming can change the criminal mind?  

Might want to check out the National Geographic Channel at 8 p.m. tonight for the sequel to an award-winning documentary made a decade ago called The Farm.

It’s about the lives of six "lifer" inmates serving their time in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a notorious prison known as "The Farm." It’s a real farm covering 18,000 acres of a former slave plantation.

You can see the original film here. According to a release from the filmmakers, the warden has used the hard labor of farming, as well as some religion, to rehab his hard-core charges – more than half of the inmates are murderers and 95 percent of them will live the rest of their lives in prison.

Filmmakers say The Farm is now a "vibrant, almost self-sustaining agricultural community raising millions of pounds of vegetables, hundreds of workhorses, and thousands of cattle -- even though the grass-fed beef they raise is considered too much of a luxury for the prisoners, and is sold in the marketplace."

Photo of inmates being lead by a guard on horseback in "The Farm," courtesy of National Geographic

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:37 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Events

From the idea factory - greening highways?

A couple sharpies have come up with a scheme for turning the nation's spaghetti bowl of roads and highways into a renewable-energy grid. It's a novel idea to "green up" a transportation network dominated by cars and trucks, a major source of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

The "Green Roadway" project, as it's dubbed, aims to string solar panels, wind turbines and  geothermal devices along the endless ribbons of pavement, where they'll be linked to produce energy for businesses, homes and even roadside charging stations for electric-powered vehicles.  Pictured above is a model of how a stretch of asphalt might look with a series of such gadgets; the blue rectangles are photovoltaic arrays, and the little umbrella-like objects depict turbines.

The two men behind the project, Gene Fein and Ed Merritt, say they've patented techniques and technology to generate commercial quantities of power this way. They hope to capitalize on a flood of government economic-stimulus money and tax breaks for clean energy projects by auctioning off rights to use their inventions in each of the 50 states. In Maryland, proponents say, just one 10-mile necklace of roadside solar or wind devices could power upwards of 2,000 homes.

"For me it's a billboard of hope," said Kelly Meyer, a prominent Southern California environmental activist who's spokesperson for the project. Head of the Natural Resources Defense Council's leadership council there, Meyer calls the project a "transition from old America to new America."

I leave it to sharper minds to say how practical or profitable this may be.  The auction set for July 24 may be the test of that.  To be sure, there are millions of miles of asphalt along which to build this alternative-energy grid.  But I see potential bumps in the road for this plan to get over, if only from a scenic standpoint. 

Some people object to the sight of wind turbines adorning their favorite vistas - atop mountain ridges and off ocean shores, for instance.  State and local officials, ever wary of squeaky wheels, might be loath to grant widespread access to highway rights of way.

Meyer says these wind turbines won't be like the propellored behemoths that have stirred controversy in other settings. They'll be no more than 25 feet high, proponents say, and placed up to 500 feet back from the pavement.

But even if the roadside wind generators are less imposing, will motorists balk at having to peer between or over them to take in the scenery as they ride along?  Would you find them just a high-tech form of windshield clutter?  Or would you, like Meyer, see them as heartening signs that the country is finally coming to grips with its energy and environmental dilemma?

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 7:00 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Going Green

June 15, 2009

Report calls for "tough love" to save the bay

A Washington-based think tank is calling for what sounds like "tough love" to save the Chesapeake Bay from the 26-year trail of broken promises left by federal and state officials, who have repeatedly failed to meet self-imposed deadlines for cleaning up North America's largest estuary.

The Center for Progressive Reform argues that if Maryland and other bay states fail to meet the new two-year bay cleanup "milestones" they set for themselves in May, the Environmental Protection Agency should be required to take tough action against them, including barring any new sewage plants or industrial discharges, taking back federal clean-water funds and revoking the states' regulatory authority.

And if EPA blanches at taking tough steps to keep the cleanup on track, the center argues that citizens and environmental groups should be free to sue to force the agency to act.

"Without something like this, without consequences that people are really afraid of, nothing’s going to change," argues Rena Steinzor, president of the center and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law

She and the center's acting executive director, Shana Campbell Jones authored the report, "Reauthorizing the Cheapeake Bay Program: Exchanging Promises for Results."  It is to be presented to a coalition of bay environmental groups on Tuesday.

The states and federal government have spent roughly $4 billion on bay restoration over the decades, but the Cheseapeake remains "severely degraded," the center says, with little or no improvement in water quality overall.   The states and federal government originally pledged to reduce nutrient pollution by 2000, then extended the deadline to 2010, and aren't even close.  Officials picked a new "end date" of 2025 last month, but also promised to step up the pace by adopting a series of short-term "milestones" every two years. 

While the bay region's population growth has made it harder to stem the influx of nutrient pollution, the main problem has been the non-binding nature of the bay cleanup effort, Steinor and Jones argue.

The EPA has been "missing in action," the report says, unable or unwilling to use its legal authority to require cleanup, and with no one really responsible for the bay's restoration, no one's to blame when it fails, either.

The center's report comes as members of Congress weigh renewing the federal law authorizing the Chesapeake Bay Program, officially dubbed a federal-state "partnership."  Maryland's delegation and others want to give EPA more specific duties and power over the states' efforts, while also holding the federal agency more accountable as well.

The "tough-love" recommendations were welcomed by William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  The Annapolis-based environmental group sued EPA earlier this year, accusing the federal government of shirking its legal responsibility for restoring the bay. The suit is still pending, but Baker said the penalties proposed by Steinzor's centers are similar to what environmentalists would like to see.

"Many of these are things we think EPA not only has the authority to do right now, but the responsibility to do right now," Baker said.  

J. Charles Fox, the EPA administrator's senior advisor on the Chesapeake, was more noncommittal.  Though he said he hadn't had a chance to read the report yet, he called it "very timely."   In response to President Obama's executive order last month directing EPA to take a stronger role in the cleanup, Fox said, "we are considering a range of consequences under current law, as well as changes to policies or regulations."

For background on the center's report, go here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 3:14 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: News

Chickens make a home in the city

The Los Angeles Times reports that more families are housing chickens in their backyards. That may not seem like such a big deal, but these families live in cities.

A bunch of cities have made it legal for urban dwellers to raise chickens. And groups are lobbying for more cities to allow it. Baltimore allows up to four chickens.

They seem interested in saving money on eggs. Chickens produce an average of one a day. They think it's healthier and safer to grow their own food -- veggie, meat, everything. And also, some think it's nice to show the kids where food comes from.

If you have chickens, email me at and tell me about it. If your neighbors have chickens and you're not so happy about it, you can also email. I may want to write more about this. And, of course, post a comment.

Photo in Madison, Wis., courtesy of the Los Angeles Times


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 3:04 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: News

Welcome to the Baltidome


Welcome to the Baltidome, a wonderful web site that highlights local businesses, area events and solutions for a greener Baltimore. Local business owner Tina Carroll, who has lived in Baltimore for 12 years, created Baltidome because she saw a virtual gap that needed to be filled. “I am trained as an artist, but my other passion is the environment,” Tina says. “I created Baltidome as a community service of sorts. Over several years of living in Baltimore, I have accumulated a lot of helpful information about living green in Charm City [and] I felt a need to share it with others and to support those who do environmentally friendly work.”

Baltidome serves a dual purpose – it offers information about local events, shops, and things to do while educating readers about the environment. For example, the page of local vintage shops includes a brief blurb of statistics concerning how many tons of clothing Americans throw away on an annual basis. “If things work out as I hope,” Tina says, “then someone looking for something to do on a Saturday night might end up switching to wind power in the process.”

There’s a page dedicated to recommended antique, thrift and salvage stores in Baltimore, as well as one dedicated to local artists and crafters who utilize recycled goods. So go check it out and find your own way to make Baltimore greener.

(Images courtesy of Tina Carroll)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 10:34 AM | | Comments (2)

Kids read outdoor-related books outside

During summer months off from school, many students don't pick up a book. Worse, many sit inside and watch TV or play video games. But a new program called Park Reads that begins this month has the kids both reading and going outside.

The kids come from Belair-Edison and Lauraville will read outdoor-related books in Herring Run Park, a 375-acre expanse in northern Baltimore. They will also get in on some park activities related to the books.

The program is sponsored by the Parks & People Foundation, Baltimore City Recreation & Parks and Red Canoe Bookstore Cafe in Lauraville. Nicole Selhorst, the bookstore-cafe owner, says the goal is to get kids reading, learing and thinking about caring for nature.

They'll read books such as Hoot, an ecological mystery revolving around endangered miniature owls, Hatchet, about wilderness survival, and Bridge to Terabithia, about friendship in a shady forest.

For more information about the program, contact Nicole Selhorst at Red Canoe at 410-444-444-4440 or go to

What other outdoor things are kids up to this summer?

Photo courtesy of Bridge to Terabithia

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:27 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Going Green

River paddles combine outdoor fun, conservation work

Explore the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay's rivers, and learn firsthand about the threats to their vitality, by spending some time on - or in - them.

The Sojourn on the Patuxent, a leisurely five-day canoe/kayak trek covering 20 miles of the river, pushes off on Thursday, June 18, from around Upper Marlboro. It features a blues and folk concert, talks by local experts, an owl prowl, moonlight creek paddle, camping and camaraderie. You can join for as short or long a time as you like, but space is strictly limited. For registration or other information, go here or call Patuxent Riverkeeper at 301-249-8200 ext 2.

If that's not enough, or too soon, then there's the Potomac River Ramble from June 24 to 28, another paddling expedition that features riverside camping, catered meals, live music, restoration projects and environmental education. Sponsored by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and River and Trail Outfitters, this year's ramble takes in both the "nation's river" and one of its tributaries, the Monocacy, starting at Pine Cliff Park in Frederick. Learn from experts about the river's ecology and its problems, including aquatic species and inter-sex fish. No paddling experience required. For more information go here.

(Photo courtesy of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 8:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events

Berries, Berries, Berries!

Like all things berries?

The 4th Annual Native Berry Festival is June 20 in Herring Run Park, off Belair Road, from noon to 5 p.m. There will be live music, native plants, exhibitors, games for kids, and yes, lots of native berries and berry related events -- including a native berry dessert contest.

The event is FREE. 

About that berry contest: Celebrity judges include the chef-owners of Clementine and Chameleon and others. The winning dessert will be featured for a limited time on the menu at Clementine. (For a donation, you can get a taste of the entries.)

There will also be food from Big Bad Wolfe BBQ and drinks from Brewers Art and Boordy Vineyards for sale. Live music from the Stone Hill Allstars,  Joy Ike and Satabdi Express.

Also on hand will be an actual FEMA trailer, named the Armadillo, deployed after Hurricane Katrina that MIT in Boston turned into a mobile and sustainable community garden.  There will be instruction on how to build gardens out of other recycled materials. 

Side Street Projects -- a mobile artist nonprofit based in Pasadena, Calif. that recently won The Armadillo after a nationwide search by MIT -- is offering the container for show. The group is seeking donations of clean 2-liter soda bottles, plastic grocery bags, and old telephone and Internet cables for use at the planter workshop.

The event will benefit the Herring Run Watershed Association, which works on watershed restoration, tree plantings, rain gardens, stream clean-ups and stormwater management. For more information, call 410-254-1577.

Baltimore Sun photo of Herring Run Park by Kim Hairston

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events

June 12, 2009

Shop handmade this weekend at Great Grapes

Earrings made from recycled vintage plates by The Broken Plate Pendant Company, who will be at Great Grapes this weekend.

Don’t miss the Great Grapes Wine Festival on Saturday and Sunday at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville from noon-6 p.m. Enjoy local wines, organic food and handmade goods from area crafters. Tickets are available online at

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

Rats! Rats! Rats!


Jean Marbella wrote today about the science of rats.

It seems they have something in common with many of us Baltimoreans. They like to live near to where they were born and raised. They might move a block or two away, if need be for food or because the neighborhood bully forced them out.

But mostly, they like to stick close to home.

Since many people who just assume never think, read or see the things, I won't go on. You can read more about it here.

If you'd like to help cut down on the population, try putting your trash in a can with a lid -- which is actually the law for which tickets are now being written -- or at least only put the bag out on trash day. 

Baltimore Sun photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 4:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

More on TV, computer recycling


If you missed it in today's paper, I wrote a story about the problems associated with throwing away your old TV or handing it over to an irresponsible recycler. There are toxins in there that end up in our environment, or in the enviornment of poor countries, particularly in Asia where most electronics are now made.

Local and state officials urge consumers to drop their old TVs, and electronics in general, at offical drop-off sites. In the city and surrounding counties they say they've visited the facility where they are taken and everything is broken down in-house. I have not gotten there myself, but I plan to soon. 

There's information in there about recycling, and more on the Maryland Department of Environment Web site.

And for the readers wondering about Harford County, the Scarboro Landfill take computers but not TVs. The number there is 410-638-3417. Please contact the manufacturer of your TV and see if it has a take back program. If not, try Best Buy, which will take e-waste for free or a nominal cost. 


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 4:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Lots of things to do in the city this weekend

Baltimore's Department of Recreation and Parks has a bunch of stuff going on this weekend, if you're looking for something outdoorsy to do:

--Morning canoe/kayak escape at Middle Branch Park, 3301 Waterview Ave., 10 a.m. Saturday, 410-396-0440, pre-registration required 24-hours in advance, recommended for 5 and up, $5. Paddle around and see the city from another view.

--Butterfly Flowers at the Carrie Murray Nature Center, 1901 Ridgetop Road, noon-2 p.m. Saturday, 410-396-0808, for all ages, $3 for adults, $1 for kids 5 and under. Learn which flowers are best to attract butterfies and get answers to other questions.

--2nd Sundays in Leakin Park, 4921 Windsor Mill Road, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, 410-396-0440, for all ages, free. See animals, ride trains, go for a hike or just tour the mansion and grounds.

--Tour Dem Parks, Hon Bike Ride, Carroll Park, 1500 Washington Blvd., 8 a.m.-1 p.m., 410-926-4195, all ages, $35, first 400 riders get a t-shirt. See the parks and enjoy jazz and BBQ afterward.

Baltimore Sun file photo/Lloyd Fox 

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

June 11, 2009

Virginia cyclists ticketed for running stop signs

A story in the Washington Post's Loudoun Extra reports that eight riders, some participating in a charity event, were given tickets for running stop signs.

Authories said it was necessary to ensure everyone's safety. They had gotten complaints from motorists. The $30 tickets would surely get their attention.

The cyclists had raised $700,000 for charity that day, by the way.

Anyone ever gotten a ticket for riding in the Baltimore area?

Photo courtesy of jtjohnson on stock.xchng

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 2:13 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: News

Crafty ideas for your non-recyclables

Styrofoam%20ice%20resin%20bangle%20by%20ChelleV2.jpg Fused%20plastic%20lunch%20bag%20by%20copabananas.jpg Recycled%20plastic%20change%20purse%20by%20carataylor.jpg
Styrofoam ice resin bangle by ChelleV2, Fused plastic lunch bag by Copabananas, Recycled plastic change purse by Cara Taylor.

Meredith’s recent post about what is NOT appropriate for curbside recycling inspired me to explore the craft-worthy potential of plastic bags and Styrofoam containers. It turns out that the possibilities are endless though I managed to select a few favorite items, like Cara Taylor’s crocheted coin purses and ChelleV2’s hand cast resin bangles (as pictured above). I also discovered that plastic bag crafting is an art in and of itself. Crafters of the world have helped “the cause” by making anything and everything from handbags and headbands to knitted ensembles.

So if you’re at all inspired by what you see here, round up your non-recyclables and make something with them. You might start here, with an easy-to-follow tutorial on how to make a fused plastic bag.

Plastic bag dress by mleak.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 1:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

Thought about combining exercise, beach exploration?


When my husband and I travel, we often go for a run or a bike ride so we can explore more of our destination without getting in a car or bus.

I found recently that a lot of people have this idea. Or they just can't leave the running shoes and exercise clothes at home.

At the beach, running, biking and swimming allow you to see the uncrowded areas, like the parks. Many local groups and shops are happy to provide maps. We like to sign up for races while we're at the beach, so we can meet like-minded people and, maybe get a little inspiration to go farther.

I wrote a story about merging beach-going with exercising. There's a link with some suggested workouts and races on the Maryland-Delaware shore and places to get more information. The landscape is beautiful and the ground is nice and flat.

Baltimore Sun photo/Kim Hairston


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Tips

Is it time to give up fighting sprawl?

Is it time to stop fighting sprawl and learn to live with it? That was one of the provocative suggestions that came up today during "Humane Metropolis Baltimore," a day-long workshop on  how to make the metro area greener, safer, healthier, more equitable and more "neighborly."

"We have reached a point where sprawl is almost a moot issue," said Rutherford H. Platt, an emeritus geography professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and one of the organizers of the workshop, the fourth in a series of regional workshops held around the country, sponsored by the Lincoln Institue of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass.

Despite decades of planners and environmentalists decrying suburbia's spread, "we have now exploded," Platt said. "The battle to control sprawl is basically lost."

The numbers seem to bear him out. Ever since the end of World War II, the outward spread of communities has been phenomenal. By 1960, half of all Americans lived in suburbs, with the other half in cities. By 2000, city dwellers had become a distinct minority.

Platt, director of the Ecological Cities Project, argued that it's time for civic-minded folks to shift their energies from fighting sprawl to making the existing fabric of their communities - whether urban or suburban - as green and "humane" as possible.

His larger message - that people should work together on improving wherever they live - resonated.  But not everyone agreed that it's too late to stop sprawl - or rather, that there's no point in fighting it anymore.

Donald C. Outen, Baltimore County's natural resource manager, pointed out that the county had effectively limited sprawl to the north of the city, establishing an urban development limit that squeezed 90 percent of the county's residents onto about a third of the land.   Much of the county from the Baltimore Beltway north to the Pennsylvania line is still rolling countryside.  (Some would argue that suburban home shoppers simply swerved into Harford and Carroll counties, or kept heading north into Pennsylvania.)  

"Don't stop stopping sprawl," urged Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland. She argued for preserving as much of the state's remaining farmland as possible to boost production of locally grown food.

What do you think? Is it time to stop fighting sprawl and focus on making the suburbs more diverse and walkable, and linking them via transit more effectively with the city?  Has the economy essentially put an end to sprawl, or is that just temporary?

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 11:48 AM | | Comments (9)

Recycling continued. ...Recycle electronic waste

The Sun plans some more coverage on this topic, but here's some ready info on the switch to digital TV -- which happens Friday -- and what to do with your old sets.

If you're like me, you don't have cable or satellite TV. (If you do, you don’t need to do anything. But if you get TV over the air and your set is a little older, you need a digital converter box. For information, call 1-888-DTV-2009 or click here.)

And if you're like me, you have a TV that just isn't going to cut it in the new world. But don't stick in the trash. There are all kinds of bad things in there. Recycle it. 

Baltimore City offer recycling for residents Monday through Saturday at its drop off sites. The city will take TVs, as well as computer monitors, computers, cell phones, printers and other electronic equipment.

Find Baltimore County sites here.

Find Anne Arundel sites here.

And Howard County sites here.

Baltimore Sun file photo/Lloyd Fox

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Tips

State puts on Envirothon June 16-18

More than 100 especially eco-conscious Maryland high school students will compete in the Envirothon, a three-day natural resources competition in the coming week at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg.

These kids are tops in their counties, and the winner from the next round will represent the state at the Canon Envirothon, the largest environmental education competition in North America, in Asheville, N.C., August 2-8.

The event is only open to family and guests of competitors, but I thought it would be nice if the kids got some recognition for a job already well done. And, more importantly, if you have a high school student who wants to get involved, even start a group at his or her school, contact Beth Horsey at the Maryland Department of Agriculture at 410-841-5865 or

The event is sponsored by soil conservation districts and the state Soil Conservation Committee.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Events

A few notes about curbside recycling in the city

The city plans to switch to once-a-week trash and recyling pick-up July 14, so it seems like a good time to talk about what is okay and what is NOT okay to put in your recyling bin.

I spoke recently to Tonya Simmon, Baltimore City's recycling coordinator, and she says more city residents are recycling since Baltimore launched single stream, curbside pickup. She guesstimates that 30-40 percent of residents are now participating.

The city offers details on its Web site about what is acceptable. These items include: paper such as magazines, The Baltimore Sun and junk mail. Also okay are books, cardboard, metal food containers (please rinse), glass containers, aluminum foil and pie tins and clean milk cartons.

But she said there are still some items showing up in the tubs that shouldn't be there. No. 1 is plastic bags. While the city used to require residents put recycling in blue plastic bags, the city NO LONGER ACCEPTS THEM. They are mucking up the automated process that Waste Management Inc. uses. The machines use optical scanners to sort materials, and when trash is present, a person has to pluck it out.

Many grocery stores now take the bags back. Safeway and Giant do.  They also sell reusable bags, which are an even better alternative. Whole Foods annouced last year it would eliminate plastic bags altogether and said recently that reusable bag use has tripled since then.

For curbside pick-up, residents should use paper bags, cardboard boxes or a tub marked "recycling" -- you do NOT have to use the yellow ones sold by the city, but you can still get one if you want. 

Another big offending material is Styrofoam. The city does NOT accept any of this. The list of no-nos also includes wire hangers and soiled containers and aerosol can that are not empty. Empties are okay.

The city is now accepting plastics labelled 1-7 on the bottm, but not all of it. They take narrow and wide mouth containers, which includes cottage cheese and yogurt containers and prescription bottles. No need to remove tops. Those plastic containers that sandwiches and some lettuce comes in are NOT okay. Those plastic things that hold beer cans together are also NOT acceptable.

All of this stuff can also be taken to one of Baltimore's eight drop-off sites.

Hard plastic toys, lawn chairs, laundry baskets, buckets and milk crates can NOT go into the curbside bin, but can be dropped off at the first five drop-off sites on the list, which also take electronics, such as old TVs and computers.

Did I cover it all?

Photo courtesy of Balimore Public Works

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Tips

June 10, 2009

Congress considers paying cash for clunkers

The House passed a bill this week with the stuggling auto dealers -- and the environment -- in mind. It would provide up to $4,500 to people who trade in their gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient cars.

Proponents said in this story that similar programs have worked in Europe.

The House bill would offer $3,500 for trading in a car getting 18 mpg or less for one getting 22, based on window stickers. The figure rises to $4,500 if the mileage increases 10 mpg. Those trading in SUVs getting 18 mpg would only have to increase mileage by 2 mpg to get the $3,500 and 5 mpg for $4,500.

Auto dealers would provide vouchers.

The Senate is considering a similar bill. The limits apply to cars getting 17 mpg or less. To get $2,500, drivers would have to upgrade to a car getting 24 mpg. Boosting mileage by 10 mpg would get them $3,500 and 13 mpg would bring in $4,500.

SUV buyers would $2,500 for upgrading by 3 mpg, $3,500 for 6 and $4,500 for 9. By a used car that gets 24 mpg and get $1,000.

If the Senate passes its version, the chambers would have to reconcile their bills.

Perhaps then it will be time for a Smart car?

Getty Images photo





Posted by Meredith Cohn at 4:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Something in the water in Bel Air

Fellow Sun blogger Liz Kay writes on her Consuming Interest blog that the funny smelling water in Bel Air is likely the result of several hundred gallons of molasses spilled from a holding tank in the 400 block of Franklin Street.

The Maryland Department of Environment investigated and observed no fish killed as a result of the syrupy contamination.

Officials there told Liz that, in general, residents can report fish kills, algae blooms or chemical spills (tasty or otherwise) to the Maryland Department of the Environment's Emergency Response hotline at 866-633-4686. Officials will investigate reports and take action if needed.

Liz was interested in hearing more details. If any of you have them, please go to her blog and comment.  

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Farmers' market opens at State Center

State officials cut the ribbon on another farmers' market today, this one at State Center at 300 W. Preston St. This one will be open during the week -- 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Wednesday through October.

The market is sponsored by the state departments of General Services, Agriculture and Health and Mental Hygiene at State Center, which is being redeveloped. The goal is to provide business opportunities to Maryland farmers and healthy, local food to people who live and work in the city.

The state officials said there are more than 90 farmers' markets open around the state, including at least one in every county and Baltimore City. (We all know there are way more than that in the city now.)

The officials picked State Center because it is at the confluence of a subway, light rail and bus transit and has the largest concentration of state office buildings in Maryland. More than 3,500 state employees work there, or almost 5 percent of the state workforce.

So, are more markets better or are we maxing out? Do we have enough markets open during the week?

Photo courtesy of the state of Maryland

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:43 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: News

State takes issue with coastal bay growth plans


Worcester County residents aren't the only ones worried about development spoiling Maryland's coastal bays, those scenic, fish-rich stretches of water that beach-bound vacationers must cross to get to Ocean City.  (Seen above is Isle of Wight Bay near Hoopers Crab House, a popular spot to collect clams and mussels.)

Hundreds of local residents turned out last week for a public hearing to voice their objections to proposed county zoning changes that would permit more homes, stores and pavement on farmland and ecologically fragile areas near the bays. The state Department of Planning also weighed in with a letter pointing out that several proposals, if adopted, would seem to violate state law.

The state planning letter notes that the county's comprehensive plan -- a widely praised blueprint for growth adopted three years ago -- calls for limiting sprawl development and protecting the threatened water quality of the coastal bays. But some of the zoning changes proposed by the county's planning commission "are not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan as required by law," the state letter contends.

Among the state's concerns: the zoning plan still allows for sprawl, permitting large-lot housing in some areas, while not protecting enough farmland and ecologically sensitive shoreline areas, such as the South Point peninsula opposite Assateague National Seashore.

Bud Church, vice president of the seven-member Worcester board of commissioners, noted in an interview that county officials plan to review public comments and likely will change at least some of the zoning proposals before adopting them later this year. He said he personally opposes any increase in development in the South Point area across Sinepuxent from Assateague.

Though in slightly better shape than the Chesapeake Bay, these smaller bays -- an integral part of Maryland's coastal tourism industry -- are losing ground to polluted runoff from development and farms, a new scientific assessment finds.  As reported here in The Sun, scientists gave the bays a C-plus grade overall, but said they vary in vitality from good to very poor.

It's not clear what, if anything, the state would do should Worcester officials ignore the state's objections and adopt more growth-friendly zoning.  But the General Assembly this year reinforced state law spelling out that local government's development actions must be consistent with the growth plans they adopt in consultation with residents.  State Planning Secretary Richard E. Hall may be hoping it doesn't come to that - in a brief interview, he praised the Eastern Shore county as generally "Smart-Growth friendly."

For more on the bays, go here.   For more on the county's zoning plans, go here.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 7:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Rodgers Forge, state map their gardens


In the Think Globally, Act Locally category are Joe Hamilton and his neighbors in and around the Rodgers Forge neighborhood, just north of the city. Hamilton recently launched the Rodgers Forge Farm Initiative, which connects residents who are interested in organic gardening.

The initiative has begun mapping gardens in the area -- there are now close to 30 with more coming online. One of the gardens is housed in an older neighbor’s yard that is gardened collectively. The neighbor wasn’t going to garden herself, but had an end-of-group house with a southern exposure. The initiative aims to hook up others with space but no time for a garden, or time and no space.

Hamilton also expects to plan events where the home grown food is served, as well as offer  information on the site about gardening methods and other eco-friendly activities and products.

The idea for the site came from casual talks among neighbors and a similar effort in San Francisco. A spur to action came from a campaign called "Grow It Eat It." It’s sponsored by the Maryland Master Gardener program and the Home and Garden Information Center and aims to get more people planting. The goal: One million Maryland food gardeners producing their own affordable, healthy food.

Hamilton says Rodgers Forge plans to do its part for that program. He is now promoting "a garden on every block" and hopes to get 40 to 50 area gardens mapped on his site and on the master gardeners’. So, plant a garden and let him him know where.

And let us know what's going on in your neighborhood.


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

June 9, 2009

Free on Sunday? Go to a stream clean-up

Want to feel cleaner and greener? Volunteer this Sunday from 9 a.m.-noon for the Western Run Stream Clean Up. 

For the last 10 years, Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. and the Jones Falls Watershed Association have partnered to sponsor the event. There are five more community associations involved, but they could still use some more volunteers. Organizers say in years past, people have come from all over the city to help.

In addition to stream clean up, this year the groups are sending out teams of volunteers to label storms drains to warn people about dumping pollutants -- there's no filter. All the stuff dumped goes right into area waterways and the harbor.

The goal is to label 50 to 100 drains and clean the Western Run Stream from Gulley Road (in Cross Country) to Mt. Washington Village. Both goals depend on the number of volunteers that show up.

If you're ready and able, e-mail or call Barry Kaminetz, CHAI Community Development Coordinator at or 410-318-8311 x15 or 410-382-2800. He needs to plan and have sufficient supplies.

Volunteers will meet in front of Cross Country Elementary/Middle School. Keep reading for directions. 

Western Run Stream Clean-Up meet at Cross Country Elementary School, 6100 Cross Country Boulevard.

Directions to Cross Country Elementary School:

From Pikesville, Owings Mills or beyond:

• go south on Park Heights Avenue • left on Fallstaff (second light after Slade Avenue) • bear right onto Cross Country Boulevard, follow for a little less than 1 mile • Cross Country Elementary School will be on your right • Park on the street or in the school’s parking lot.

From downtown or other points south:

• I-83 to Northern Parkway-west • right on Greenspring Avenue • left on Cross Country Boulevard, follow for a few blocks • Cross Country Elementary School will be on your left • Park on the street or in the school’s parking lot.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 4:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Volunteer

Mass. beavers, like Md. swans, regarded as pests

Across the United States, a growing number of animals are being labelled as pests.

The latest to get the label are the beavers in Massachusetts. The furry dam builders have also been a problem in Washington, where they've caused floods and other damage.

Florida has issues with its alligators. There are apparantly too many birds in Louisiana. And mountain lions are coming into contact with hikers more and more in California, according to this story in the New York Times.

Maryland has mute swans, an invasive species that eats the bay grasses and squeezes out other birds. The state Department of Natural Resources is ready to off them all.

But many of these animals have made a comeback after their habitat was either destroyed or they were unintentionally poisoned by toxins seeping into their territory. Think bald eagle. Animal welfare groups and some environmentalists cheer their return. Other groups want them gone gone gone.

So, how do we balance? Can we share space? Should we get rid of the invasive species and allow the native ones to stay? Allow some hunting or some sharpshooters in?

Baltimore Sun photo/Amy Davis



Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:29 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: News

Summer smog season sneaks up

We may have been lulled by the wet, relatively mild spring we've had so far, but yesterday provided a reminder that summer is fast approaching - and with it worsening air quality, aka "smog."  Time to pay attention, especially if you have compromised breathing already.

Ozone in the air reached "Code Orange" unhealthful levels on Monday in Padonia, north of Baltimore city, for children and adults with respiratory and heart ailments, who are likely to be more sensitive to pollution.

It's not uncommon to have "bad air" days in summer, as strong sunlight is all that's needed to make ozone from the pollutants spewing from car and truck tailpipes, power plant smokestacks and a whole range of other sources.

Ozone is a good thing in earth's upper atmosphere, where it helps shield us from skin cancer by blocking out some of the sun's ultraviolet rays; closer to the ground, though, it can "burn" our lungs and bronchial passages if inhaled in the air we breathe.  High levels of ozone can cause coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches and nausea, and eye and throat irritation. Even for health adults, exercising in ozone-polluted air may make it painful to take deep breaths. 

Last year, there were 25 bad ozone days in the Baltimore area.  Normally, they peak in June and July, though they can happen earlier, in May or even sooner.  The first Code Orange days this year actually hit during a brief warm spell on April 25 and 26.

When ozone levels soar on sweltering days, it's best to keep kids - and yourself - indoors, especially if you have health conditions already.  You can get daily air-quality forecasts and even check ozone levels real-time here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air Pollution, News

Local building get green seal of approval

Staff writer Mary Gale Hare wrote today about a building called Spencer's Crossing in Timonium that just became the state's first residential project to achieve gold status for leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council. It's a nonprofit that certifies all kinds of buildings as green.

Spencer's Crossing is a 10-home development, and the gold rating means buyers will qualify for a 60 percent property tax reduction for three consecutive years after the purchase and can expect to save more than 50 percent on energy costs.

Overlook Clipper Mill in Baltimore was the first housing project in Maryland to get the certification, but there are more buildings with the stamp now and more in the pipeline. So, stay tuned.

If you want to learn more, here are some frequently asked questions and their ansers.

Baltimore Sun photo of Spencer's Crossing opening ceremony/Barbara Haddock Taylor

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:36 AM | | Comments (0)

June 8, 2009

Tuesday market tomorrow in Hamilton


It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Tuesday Market in Hamilton started up and the feedback so far has been positive. “The market is a great and a welcome change to the neighborhood,” says Hamilton resident Elizabeth Fletcher. “I think it will be a huge success in the future. And hopefully I will be one of the vendors.” She adds, “It’s a great family outing and it is dog friendly.”

Hosted in a formerly abandoned filling station at 4500 Harford Road, this weekly market features locally grown food, native plants, handmade goods and live music. Stop by and check it out from 4-8 p.m. If you’re interested in becoming a vendor, contact Adam Fisher at

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 3:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

Buying milk can be a challenge, Sun story says

Sun reporter Laura Vozella took a look at all the different kind of milk on the market in an effort to make sense of the health claims in a story in today's paper. There's organic, grass fed, hormone free, soy, you name it.

It all costs more than regular old milk. And some experts say the difference has more to do with marketing. But others insist that there are benefits.

Laura reports another view from a reader who said this:

I've just read your interesting Page 1 piece on milk. It give a fairly balanced picture of the nutritional issues but overlooks another important health issue -- effect on the environment of the various methods of producing milk. It's well known that levels of antibiotics and various  hormones in the streams, rivers and lakes of the USA are rising concurrently with reports of increasing discovery of genertic mutations in the wildlife (fish and amphibians) that inhabit these bodies of water. To the extent that these hormones and antibiotics reach the ater that we drink, the may represent serious long-term health hazards even to non-drinkers of milk. Or they may not, representing an equally important controversial issue that must be explored. 

tell us your take on the milk debate and continue reading for some definitions.

Baltimore Sun photo/Algerina Perna


deciphering the dairy case
Milk: Conventional milk comes from cows that may have been treated with antibiotics and injected with synthetic growth hormone. The animals also may eat feed treated with chemical pesticides.

No added hormones: Milk from cows not treated with synthetic bovine growth hormones (called rBGH and BST on some labels). Sometimes billed as "hormone-free," but that's a misnomer, since all milk has naturally occurring hormones.

Organic: From cows not treated with antibiotics or artificial growth hormones. The animals also eat feed raised without chemical fertilizers or pesticides and must have "access to pasture." How often do the cows have grass under hoof? No telling. The government has not defined "access to pasture."

Grass-fed: Milk from cows that spend at least some of their time grazing. How much of their diet is grass? Another undefined term, another unknown.

Plus DHA: Milk supplemented with a supposedly brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acid derived from algae.

Homogenized: Milk that has been pressurized to evenly distribute the fat, so the cream doesn't rise to the top. Almost all of the milk on the market fits this description.

Nonhomogenized: The fat is not blasted into tiny bits in this variety, produced by some niche dairies. Before pouring, shake the bottle to mix in the cream or scoop it off for your coffee.

Pasteurized: Milk heated to 161 degrees to kill off potentially harmful bacteria.

Ultra-pasteurized: Milk heated to 280 degrees, a temperature higher than what's needed for pasteurization, to extend its shelf life.

Raw or unpasteurized: From the cow's udder to your lips. Because the milk's not heated, no nutrients are lost, devotees claim. But drinkers risk illness - and arrest if they buy it in Maryland, where sales are illegal.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:20 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: News

Maryland to continue killing mute swans

Maryland's top natural resources official has decided to push ahead with the state's effort to kill or otherwise reduce the population of mute swans around the Chesapeake Bay - a decision likely to inflame animal lovers but supported by a wide range of conservationists and birding groups.

Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin accepted the recommendation of a DNR task force to continue reducing the number of non-native birds in the state.  The population, which numbered 4,000 a decade ago, has been reduced to fewer than 500 by "addling" the birds' eggs so they will not hatch and by killing some.

Despite the swans' stately appearance, scientists contend the birds drive away native shorebirds and threaten the bay's health by consuming significant quantities of the underwater grasses that provide shelter and nursery for crabs and fish. Animal-rights groups and animal lovers oppose the eradication effort.

Read the story here.

Read the task force majority and minority reports here.

(2004 Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 1:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Coastal bays' health moderate but declining

Maryland's coastal bays - where many summer vacationers fish, boat and swim -- are in better shape than the Chesapeake Bay, but their health is declining, a new scientific report card finds.

The shallow bays between Ocean City and Assateague Island and the mainland still have abundant fish and clams, but their water clarity is declining and underwater grasses are down from where they were a decade ago, according to the report issued today by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The troubling report comes as local residents worry that Worcester County may be easing rather than tightening controls on growth, one of the major sources of nutrients fouling the bays' waters. Other sources include farms and fallout of pollution from power plants and vehicle exhaust.

Bud Church, vice president of the Worcester board of commissioners, said the county staff was consolidated and cut because there were fewer construction projects to oversee, not to ease the way for developers. He vowed to vote against any increase in housing along the peninsula south of West Ocean City, which borders Newport and Sinepuxent bays.

Scientists and environmentalists argue that given the troubling report card, the county needs to increase rather than reduce its oversight of development, and curtail growth on sensitive lands that drain into the bays.

Read the story here.

Review the report card here.

Learn more about the coastal bays here.

(Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 12:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Juveniles arrested in dog burning

For all you following the story of Phoenix in The Sun's Unleashed blog, the pit bull who was lit on fire in Southwest Baltimore, the police have arrested two juveniles in the case.

(It's not really a green topic, but I know a lot of you spend time in the parks because you have dogs.)

There's not a lot of news yet, but the reward for information had topped $24,000 after people hear the news and were outraged by it.

Baltimore Sun photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Museum of Industry launches farmers' market


The museum of past industry has gone all trendy: They've opened a farmers' market.  I went to the new market this weekend, and it looks like it's off to a nice start.

It was not nearly as big as the established markets in Baltimore under the JFX or in Waverly. But there were a handful of table with vegetables and strawberries, a table for meat and pastries, a table with potted flowers and herbs and a table with art. At least one vendor said he planned to bring  items, and some organic, next week.

There was parking available at the museum, off Key Highway, but the attraction for me was the market's proximity to my South Baltimore house. I walked. And while there was a steady stream of people, it was not so crowded -- the JFX market is PACKED. That's good for the market, but a little stressful on a Sunday morning.

The BMI market opens at 9 a.m. Saturdays under the pavillion.

Anyone else go to this market, or another smaller market in their own neighborhood? Do you prefer more options and a crowd or fewer options and a little space?

Baltimore Sun file photo, 1993



Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:37 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Going Green

Trash, recycling pick up to go once a week

Sun reporter Annie Linskey wrote today about how the move (July 14) to once a week trash pick up is causing some anxiety. Some residents believe there will be a big pile up of stinky old food and diapers on their streets.

The city hopes to save $7 million by switching to once a week pickup from twice a week. The city will also begin picking up recycling once a week. Those trucks now only come every other week, which could be a big relief to the increasing number of people who participate. When a vacation comes on recycle day, residents would have to wait a month for pick up.

The city must also be anticipating that there will be more trash left on the streets, because it also plans to begin enforcing the can rule -- as in all trash must be in a trash can with a lid to keep out all those hungry rats. The city plans to hire more officers to write $50 tickets.

What do you think of the change to trash/recycling pick up?


Maybe the video will help make up your mind:
Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Tour du Port for One Less Car

Take a ride around the city on your bike and change the car culture.

One Less Car, which advocates for biking, walking and mass transit, has opened registration for its Tour du Port.

The event is Oct. 4, and riders meet at the Korean War Memorial in Canton at 7:30. Rides range from 12 to 51 miles.

There are refreshments on the ride and food at the end. Last year, that meant peanut butter bagels during the ride and pizza on the waterfront at the end. Commemorative t-shirts are extra.

Mostly, I found drivers are okay with all those bikers on the road. Anyone done the ride? Do you regularly ride to work in traffic and have tips for the rest of us? What should One Less Car or transportation planners be doing to make the ride better?

Image courtesy of One Less Car


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Events

June 7, 2009

Locals to talk about cleaner, greener Baltimore

The future of Baltimore as a sustainable, as well as cleaner and greener, city will be the topic of a workshop to be held June 11 at the Maryland Historical Society on Monument Street.

The event is being hosted by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Baltimore-based Parks & People Foundation’s Urban Resources Initiative. It’s one in a series of symposiums around the country based on geographer Rutherford H. Platt’s book and DVD called The Humane Metropolis.

It will highlight locally based strategies for urban improvement. There will be 30 speakers including Mary Washington from the Parks & People Foundation, Lenneal J. Henderson of the University of Baltimore, Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Director Wanda S. Durden and Dr. Steward Pickett of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

There will be sessions on such topics such as urban parks, growing food, reviving urban streams and urban ecology. The workshop is booked but there is a waiting list.

Photo coutesy of Rutherford H. Platt

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events

June 6, 2009

Hotels put out the green carpet


This is an Earth Day story written by The Baltimore Sun Travel Editor Michelle Deal-Zimmerman. The day has passed, but the issue has not:

There’s nothing like Earth Day to make travelers reflect upon the burden of our footsteps across the planet. Flying from continent to continent or driving coast to coast, our vacations and business trips are not as much fun for Mother Earth as they are for us.

A single passenger traveling round trip from Baltimore to Los Angeles will be responsible for emitting about 1,400 pounds of carbon, on average, according to the carbon calculator at TerraPass, an outfit that sells carbon offsets. The offsets – about $180 for an individual -- support renewable energy, alternative fuels, and other environmentally friendly programs.

A traveler’s hotel carbon footprint is probably smaller but no less significant. In 2005, the Inn & Conference Center at the University of Maryland became the first hotel to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Every room uses recyclable materials, dual flush toilets, and energy-saving systems and an on-site organic restaurant serves locally grown foods.

Since then, other hotels nationwide have followed in their green footsteps. Here’s a look at a few new places to find eco-friendly lodging in the Baltimore region:

Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown Inner Harbor (rendering shown above), 101 President Street, Baltimore, 410-837-9900, Amid the urban landscape that is downtown Baltimore lies a 154-room oasis just waiting to blossom this summer. The new hotel not only provides luxury, but also garners LEED certification, making it an emerald pioneer among the city’s hotels.

The Fairfield by Marriott, the city’s first bona fide green hotel, is located on the former Baltimore Brewing Company site. (Though the brewery no longer spews German-style suds at this location, there is Tavern 101 for drinking fans.) In addition to its green credentials, the hotel offers pillow-top mattresses, down duvets, continental breakfasts, exercise equipment, Flat Screen TVs and “courtyard-view rooms.”

Green element: One remnant of the Brewing Company, a large grain barrel, is being recycled to accumulate rainwater that will irrigate the hotel’s local, plant-abundant landscape. The green roof will prevent heat from seeping into the hypoallergenic, fragrance and smoke-free rooms, and bikes will be provided as alternative transportation.

Green fees: Rooms start at about $100 per night.

Hilton Baltimore Convention Center, 401 West Pratt Street, Baltimore, 21201, 443-573-8700, What could be green about a huge hotel that cost $301 million and has more than 757 rooms? In addition to the green that Baltimore City officials are counting on raking in from increased meeting and convention business, the hotel has some other environmental credentials -- 60,000 in fact.

Green element: At first glance, this is just another giant convention hotel in a bustling city. On second glance -- perhaps from a helicopter -- one might notice a roof covered in shrubbery, or maybe mistake it for the green fields of Camden Yards. Instead, what you’d be looking at is the largest green roof in Baltimore -- a 32,000-square-foot space on the hotel’s east and west towers. Planted with 60,000 one-inch plugs, mostly sedum, the green roof is credited with reducing energy costs, improving air quality and providing a natural habitat for wildlife. The hotel is also within walking distance of most major Baltimore attractions. Less driving is more eco-friendly.

Green fees: Rooms start at about $130.

Aloft Hotels, Arundel Mills (BWI), 7520 Teague Road, Hanover, 443-577-0077, Aloft, making its debut in May at Arundel Mills, strives for a cool vibe, demonstrated by phrases like “easy breezy” and “aloha!” But beneath this carefree facade is a seriously chic hotel. Vibrant colors cover the modern furniture in the lounge and exercise rooms. The hip atmosphere continues to the “re:fuel” cafe and “w xyz” bar, where guests can relax, socialize and even play pool. A second Aloft hotel will open at BWI Marshall Airport this summer.

Green element: Aloft promises landscaping that will enrich the air. The “see green eco program” reserves priority parking for visitors with hybrid cars. The hotel also has refillable dispensers for in-room soap and shampoo, instead of disposable, single-use containers. There’s also a car wash with green cleaning supplies.

Green fees: Rooms will average about $150 per night.

Element Hotel, 7522 Teague Road, Hanover, 443-577-0050, Element, a brand of Starwood hotels, requires each of its hotels to be LEED-certified. The extended-stay hotel opened right next door to Aloft. Element features a modern-design influenced by the great outdoors, with emphasis on natural light.

Green element: The hotel’s furnishings are all eco-friendly, including carpets with 100% recycled content, water-efficient faucets and fixtures, Energy-Star appliances and recycling bins for paper and plastic. For activities, Element offers a saline pool, an eco-friendly alternative to chlorine, as well as a “borrow a bike” program, including helmets, to lead guests to their own outdoor adventures.

Green fees: Rooms rates start at about $175 per night.

Know of other green places to stay?

Photo courtesy of Gordon and Greenberg, Architects

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Going Green

June 5, 2009

You wouldn't eat a bird at Camden Yards, would you?

Bird at Camden Yards

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal ranked Oriole Park at Camden Yards as one of the Top 10 Vegetarian-Friendly Ballparks for 2009.

The animal rights groups included the park for the first time -- it's No. 9 -- because it now offers "veggie burgers, veggie dogs, vegetable wraps, vegetable panini, various salads, made-to-order sandwiches, and fresh fruit cups."

I've only been to the park once so far this season, and have not seen these items. I've contacted PETA officials to find out if they've actually visited and found them to be widely available and will report back.

I have seen that the Orioles are providing recycling bins at Camden Yards this year.

Has anyone bought one of these veggie item there?

Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.

UPDATE: PETA's Assistant Director of Campaigns Dan Shannon says: "Some of these items were in fact added over the offseason, which is why we've added the Orioles to the list this year. And according to Orioles staff, the veggie dog and veggie burger are available every game at Pastimes Cafe."



Posted by Meredith Cohn at 5:05 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: News

Make your own toy stove

Rainy days are always a great excuse for staying inside and cooking something nice. If you have a little one at home who enjoys playing along in the kitchen, consider this tutorial from Croq Zine on how to make a toy stove out of plastic storage containers. I’m sure you’ve got a few around the house, right? All you need is construction paper, scissors, and glue, and you’ve got a homemade range! And, when it’s time to clean up, you’ll have an obvious and easy place to store the play pots and pans. Read the full tutorial here.


(Image courtesy of Croq Zine)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

The greenest of the green

This is Maryann here, sometimes blogger, all-time community coordinator and, for today, impartial judge for Meredith's best re-use contest.

There were some interesting suggestions offered, and even a little bit of debate, but one clear winner stood out. It seemed to be an overwhelming favorite, both among readers and us newspaper types.

So who was it? Are you dying to know?

It's Jessica, with her clutch made out of plastic bags! 
plastic bag clutch
(Photo by Jessica @
She wins a shiny, reusable mug for her crafty use of all the leftover plastic bags in her home: According to Jessica, she places each bag between two sheets of wax paper, irons them flat, and then uses them as cloth, such as in the brilliant Target-themed bag above.
Thank you to everyone who participated. We'll have more contests in the future and will eagerly gobble up your entries. 
Posted by Maryann James at 1:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Contests

New diet to control cow burping, climate change

The nation's cows are burping. And that's really bad for the planet because they're burping out methane, the most harmful heat trapping emission after carbon dioxide. Climate scientists are alarmed.

So, organic yogurt maker Stonyfield Farms has launched an experiement on 15 Vermont farms to see if a diet rich in alfalfa and flaxseed could help. Read the New York Times story about it.

There's a lot more going on to combat global warming. The United Nation's has launched efforts such as tree planting. But the biggest global effort to combat climate change began in Germany recently with negotiations on a new emission reducing pact among industrialized countries to suceed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The United States declined to participate in the last treaty. It's unclear what will happen this time, even under green-minded President Obama, especially because the economy has worsened considerably since the global effort first began.

Congress is considering a more modest reduction bill, the Waxman-Markey comprehensive enegy bill, but its prospects are also uncertain. One of its main tenents is a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

If you have an opinion, you can write your congressman -- and write us.

Getty Images photo



Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

States work for renewable energy, clean oceans


Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a pact Thursday with governors from other mid-Atlantic states to protect the ocean and work for renewable energy development offshore.

The group includes New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia. They plan to work for protection of habitat for ocean mammals and fish, as well as corals and canyons.  They also hope to shape federal policy and direct dollars to renewable energy.

Read the story here.

Also, check out the  post on this Star-Ledger blog about the event by Bill Wolfe.

Could this mean a view of windmills from the beach in Ocean City?

Associated Press photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: News

June 4, 2009

Too much striped bass is unsafe, state says

State officials say that people shouldn't eat striped bass -- also called rockfish -- more than once a month if it comes from the Atlantic Ocean because it has too much toxic PCBs. Pregnant women, those of childbearing age and kids under 6 should not eat it at all.

This warning from the state Department of the Environment expands one already in place for Chesapeake Bay rockfish. That advisory says people shouldn't eat the fish more than two times a month.

The Atlantic advisory is the first of its kind in Maryland, which didn't have data in the past to make such a determination. The state and others along the East Coast shared their information and jointly made the advisory. It technically only applies to fish caught by recreational anglers because states do not have jurisdiction over commercial fishermen.

Read the full story here. See the state's full list of advisories here.

With all the news about the safety of fish, does this one concern you?



Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:01 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: News

Safety of shredded tires on playgrounds questioned

The federal government says those shredded tires that make playgrounds across the country nice and cushy for the little ones may not be safe afterall.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said the recycled tires were safe, but scientists now say there were gaps in the data and they don't know if children are at risk from inhaling toxic chemincal found in the tires. 

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says the government has endorsed use of recycled tires since 1991 and now millions of pounds of ground rubber are put on playgrounds every year.

But the group said neither the EPA nor the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has investigated the potential harm from arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury or hydrocarbons. PEER wants EPA to revoke its endorsement of tire crumb until more research is done.

Some limited studies are planned, according to an Associated Press story.

Do your kids play with recycled tires or on tire crumb?

Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum of the Recycled Tire Playground in Patapsco Valley State Park near Catonsville.


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

A little shop with a big mission

(Image courtesy of Nest)

While running some errands out in Columbia yesterday, I drove into Clarksville to swing by Nest, which is one of my favorite environmentally friendly boutiques in Maryland. If you’ve never been, Nest (Natural Elements Selected Thoughtfully) is located in the Clarksville Shopping Center just off of Route 108. They are part of the “Conscious Corner” of the center, which also includes Roots Market, Great Sage, and Bark.

Nest stocks a gorgeous selection of well-made products, many of which are one-of-a-kind. Their mission is to encourage positive change on an individual, local and global level by offering products that support independent artists, fair-trade importing, organic farming and recycling, and by promoting a healthy and conscious lifestyle. Read more about Nest on their web site, or take a drive out to Clarksville and see it for yourself.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 11:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Shopping

Prize for best idea, don't forget


It's the last day to send in your ideas for reusing items -- most creative reuse wins a prize from The Sun.

The bar has been set high, but we could use some more before we pick a winner tomorrow.

I've heard about using the two-liter soda bottle bottoms as orange juicers, using Sun newspaper bags to pick up poop and other good stuff. What else?

Photo from stock.xchng

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 8:11 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Contests

Tour dem Parks, Hon!

The 7th annual Tour dem Parks, Hon! bike ride is June 14.

There are several options for rides: 12, 20, 35 or 64 miles, but they all wind around Baltimore parks and neighborhoods.

The event begins and ends in Carroll Park in southwest Baltimore, 1500 Washington Blvd., and it’s sponsored by the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks and the Baltimore Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

There’s a barbecue and jazz as a reward for finishing.

The cost is $30 for singles and $45 for couples. JThe cost is $35 for singles and $50 for couples. Kids under 10 are $5 and teens under 16 are $15. The money goes to improve the city park system.

You can register online or get more information at

Know of a green event? Let us know.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Events

June 3, 2009

It's not a UFO, it's a solar-powered car

Sun reporter Larry Carson reports on a man who is driving a solar-powered car more than 17,000 miles -- from Buffalo, N.Y., to Alaska to Florida and now the East Coast — to promote clean energy.

The man reports that nearly flat upper surface has 893 solar cells that can absorb 900 watts of electricity, enough to take him 300 miles on a sunny day, or 130 miles at night. The car can go 75 mph and does zero to 50 in six seconds.

He says the car isn't totally practical, however. There is no storage space, and he said he was stuck for a month in Vancouver, British Columbia, when the sun refused to shine.

See all the pictures here.

Baltimore Sun photos by Amy Davis

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:57 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: News

Volunteers needed to plant marsh grasses


If you're looking for a volunteer opportunity and don't mind getting a little dirty, the National Aquarium people are headed to Poplar Island in the upper Chesapeake Bay, about 34 miles south of Baltimore, to plant marsh grasses.

The 1,000-acre commuity was once thriving, but by 1994 there was just four acres. New grasses will provide habitat for wildlife, reduce potential for erosion and stabilize the site, the aquarium officials say. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Maryland Port Administration, the Maryland Environmental Service, and the aquarium are working on this restoration project and hosting events today through Saturday.

Volunteers must be at least 10 years old because of work conditions.

For more information, call 410-659-4274 or e-mail to To sign up, click here.

Photo courtesy of the National Aquarium

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events

Room for more to B'More Green

Turns out, we're not the first to B'More Green. There's another B'More Green and it has been recruiting unemployed and underemployed city people and preparing them for entry-level brownfields remediation careers since 2001.

The program has trained 165 people, some of them whom had a criminal record and may have had few options. The average hourly wage of those now working in environmental technology and hazard abatement is $12-$16 an hour.

B'More Green is a project of the non-profit Civic Works. The group has other programs, including one that offers compact flourescent lightbulbs, low-flow shower heads and other energy saving devices to low-income homes. Another installs white roofs and other energy savers to local residences.

Get involved. Or for a $12 donation or more, the group will send you a B'More Green T-shirt. Who wouldn't want that? 

Photo courtesy of Civic Works

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Going Green

June 2, 2009

National parks waive fees for three weekends

Thinking of a vacation at a national park this summer? The National Park Service hopes so.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today that the agency would waive fees at the 147 parks that charge an entrance fee during June 20-21, July 18-19 and August 15-16. The fees range from $3 to $25, and Salazar says waiving them will boost tourism and the economy. Another 244 parks don't charge fees.

Most Americans live less than a day’s drive from one of the parks, and more than 275 million people took advantage and visited one last year. Those visitors brought in $10.6 billion to the local economies and supported more than 213,000 jobs outside of the parks, according to the park service.

If you don't feel like traveling, check out one of the sites in Maryland.

Photo of Fort McHenry courtesy of the National Park Service

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 9:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Book making classes at Tilt Studio

Ever wonder what to do with your dusty old books or last year’s holiday wrapping paper? Sign up for Tilt Studio’s new series of book making classes, which are being held at the gallery in Charles Village. The classes are part of an effort that Tilt is making to expand its artist community and enrich artist talents. Here’s the scoop:


Saturdays June 12-27 10 a.m.-noon

2616 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, 21218

Learn from 3 different teachers as they explore the art of paper making, bindings and paste papers.

Price: $35 a class

June 13: Paste Papers
Creating Paste Papers can be fun and messy. Bring your studio clothes. Sam Merrick will teach the ways of creating painting and mark making techniques.

June 20: Covers
Bring your paste papers, wrapping paper, or fabric and learn the ways of making book covers.

June 27: Rebinding
Old made into New. Using the Coptic binding technique, Christopher Cass makes old books into working journals.

For more information, contact Jessica Pegorsch at

Local crafter of machines uses recylced materials and handmade papers for her hand bound books.

(Image courtesy of of machines)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY, Events

State gets stimulus money for better drinking water


The Obama administration is handing out cash, trying to stimulate the economy by improving the nation's infrastructure. And Maryland is getting a cut -- $122 million -- of this round for water projects.

Some 95 projects are slated to get the green light, including the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant (pictured above.) State and federal officials say they will improve the quality of drinking water and clean up the bay and other waterways.

Read the full story here.

Baltimore Sun file photo/Lloyd Fox 

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

Parks and People teach ways to go green

The Parks and People Foundation , a local group that works to improve Baltimore's neighborhoods, have a big, long list of workshops, if you're feeling like you want to learn something about improving your home or surroundings -- or you just want to meet like-minded people.

There are programs on building a kid-friendly garden, constructing a rain barrell, designing a green space and applying for grants. There's also one on beekeeping.

Did you even know you could have a hive in the city?


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

DNR holds rain barrel workshop



The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is holding an hour-long workshop at noon on June 19 to show Marylanders how to use 55-gallon rain barrels to collect roof water runoff. You can even make them pretty like these ones from a Chicago-area home.

DNR says a 1,000-square-foot house produces more than 630 gallons of runoff during a summer storm. Barrels slow the runoff of the nitrogen-rich water into the streams and Chesapeake Bay.

Cost is $80, which includes a barrel. The registration deadline is June 10. Click here for the registration form. Call 410-260-8715 with questions or e-mail Elena S. Takaki at

(Just one side tip from a farmer I know: If you want a rain barrel but worry about mosquitoes, buy a few goldfish. They can live in the barrel and eat the larvae.)

Photo from the Chicago Tribune

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

TV that might turn you green: ABC's "Earth 2100"

ABC broadcasts a special at 9 p.m. Tuesday that forecasts a bleak - make that no - future for civilization by the next century unless we somehow curb population growth, resource depletion and climate change.

In "Earth 2100," ABC says correspondent Bob Woodruff talks with a series of experts to draw up what is admittedly a worst-case scenario, given current trends.

Among those interviewed is John Holdren, science advisor to President Obama. According to ABC, he tells Woodruff: "If we continue on the business as usual trajectory, there will be a tipping point that we cannot avert. We will indeed drive the car over the cliff."

I haven't had the opportunity to screen this special in advance, so have no insights to offer. Watch - or ignore it - at your own risk.  To learn more about it, go here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 6:36 AM | | Comments (28)

June 1, 2009

Most creative reuse of an item wins a prize!



Reuse the cardboard center from the roll of paper towels to store plastic bags? Reuse the cottage cheese container for leftovers?

You can do better than that. Tell us your most creative reuse of an item and win a prize from The Sun.

Send them in this week, and we'll have our panel of greenies (the people who sit around me) pick the best one. We'll announce the winner Friday and mail you your prize.

Photo from stock.xchng


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 3:44 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Contests

Make your own natural dye

If you’ve ever wanted to dye your own fabrics or yarn, consider the following recipe for homemade dye (courtesy of Kim Hall):

1 tablespoon Turmeric
4 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
Several small pieces of natural fabric or natural fiber yarn.

Presoak your fabric or yarn in warm water to remove any soil or starch.
Boil the Turmeric with the water and salt for 15 minutes.
Strain vegetable matter out of the dye and return the dye to the pot. Add your presoaked fabric or yarn and bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Once your material looks a few shades darker than you think it should, remove it, rinse it thoroughly and dry it.

*Instead of Turmeric, you can also use ½ red cabbage (boil for 30 minutes) or the crispy skins from 5 yellow onions (boil until water is reddish).

To see Kim’s step-by-step video on hand dyeing, visit the Storque.

Local crafter Kel Millionie of Dude Yarn makes this “Twisted Tweed” out of natural fiber yarn and organic dyes.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 3:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

City looking for cash and advice on energy efficiency


A delegation of government and private sector officials from Baltimore is at Harvard today and tomorrow for a Green Boot Camp, and the group is hoping to come home with some training and maybe even some money to retrofit some city buildings to make them energy efficient.

More than 120 people from around the country went to the event, sponsored by the philanthropic collaborative called Living Cities, to show off their leading-edge programs and hear about everyone else’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through large-scale retrofitting programs. They also hope to create jobs along the way.

All the retrofitting is designed to save energy and money, and the attendees would like to do more of it. Buildings in the United States consume 72 percent of the electricity and 55 percent of the natural gas while accounting for 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change estimates that buildings could avoid nearly 30 percent of those emissions by 2020. A $1 million investment in energy efficiency create 21.5 jobs in installation, maintenance and manufacturing.

The hurdles to retrofitting include costs, work force capacity and know-how, Living Cities says.

By attending the boot camp, the groups expect to get technical assistance and lay the foundation for funding for their urban green programs from Living Cities and its member foundations.

Baltimore has already taken some steps, said Ken Strong, director of energy efficient homes for the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development and Ted Atwood, energy advisor for the city. They said the city is:

•investing $31 million in energy and water conservation, resulting in approximately $5.5 million in savings per year

•replacing all the traffic lights with LED lighting, reducing energy consumption by 80 percent

•capturing the digester gas from the Back River waste water treatment plan to produce over 3 megawatts of power and the steam needs for the facility

•developing approximately $25 million in energy efficiency programs at municipal building such as fire stations, park facilities, libraries and the zoo

•expanding renewable energy applications through the utilization of waste, wood, fats, oils and greases

•looking at solar power generation at brown field sites, municipal buildings and commercial buildings

Baltimore has a host of other efforts underway and has completed a greenhouse gas inventory for city operations and the larger Baltimore community, said Beth Strommem, manager of Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability, in an e-mail from the event.

Douglas W. Nelson, president and chief executive of the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, also said in an e-mail:

"The Living Cities Green Boot Camps are an important way for public and private partners to coordinate efforts and share what works. The ideas and approaches that will come out of the boot camps can create a more positive economic future for the families and children who are struggling to get by in Baltimore’s low-income neighborhoods."

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:50 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: News

Baltimore Green Map shows off its stuff

The Baltimore Green Map is celebrating its first year's accomplishments this Friday (World Environment Day) from 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at the Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill Park.

The map site is a collection of ecological resources offered up from local people.  It's now topping 2,300 visitors a month. There are icons, which conform to a network of international mappers, and pinpoint farmers' markets, museums, parks, consignment shops, green buildings and even places in need of cleaning.  

Take a look for eco-opportunities in your neighborhood. Or stop by the event. There will be map displays, interactive demonstrations and opportunities to add sites. There will also be music and food, thanks to co-hosts Friends of Druid Hill Park. RSVP at



The Friends of Druid Hill Park are our co-hosts for this event which will include map displays and interactive demonstrations, music, light refreshments and, of course, opportunities to add sites to Baltimore's Green Map. (We thank Dogwood, Gertrude's, Golden West, Whole Foods, Zia's Cafe,  Clipper City and Woodhall Winery for their contributions to the festivities.)



Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

Of Sparrows Point & Black-eyed Susans

Sparrows Point has a long history of pollution and official neglect, Mark Reutter reminds us in a piece he's done for Baltimore Brew, an online journal of news & views.  Reutter's a former Baltimore Sun reporter and author of Making Steel: Sparrows Point. He points out that at one time Abel Wolman, pioneering sanitary engineer at Johns Hopkins University, served as consultant for Bethlehem Steel Corp.  Wolman also worked at times for the city of Baltimore and for the state health department, which once regulated industrial pollution.

While over at Baltimore Brew, check out "Street Natural" by Heather Dewar, another former Sun reporter with whom I had the pleasure to work for several years, writes about the new Baltimore branch of Project Budburst, a growing national network of citizen climate observers.  The local effort is being coordinated by the Maryland Science Center - check it out here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 9:32 AM | | Comments (0)

So-so grade for Maryland's Smart Growth

This being traditional report card time, Maryland's Smart Growth policies recently got a mixed review from a national think tank.

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, based in Boston, released the first-installment of a two-year nationwide evaluation of "smart growth" efforts to encourage more connected, walkable communities while preserving natural resources.

The study took a look at how sprawl-fighting policies worked during the 1990s in four states that pioneered them - Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon - and it compared the outcomes with what's happened in four other states without similar policies - Colorado, Indiana, Texas and Virginia.

A team of 21 researchers found that the "smart growth" approach wasn't a smashing success in any state, though it apparently helped in some ways in each.

Maryland, for instance, managed to protect more natural resources by preserving large amounts of land from development, largely by buying it outright or by buying easements, or development rights, using taxpayer dollars. But the experts found affordable housing a problem in the state - largely because that hadn't been a priority of the Smart Growth laws and policies begun in 1996.

"No single approach is right for all states," the report concludes, noting that affordable housing also was a problem in Oregon, often regarded as having the nation's strictest development controls. It urged that states use a mix of voluntary incentives and regulations, but also tackle growth across entire regions, not in piecemeal county-by-county fashion.

The Lincoln Institute's report card comes at a good time for Maryland, as the O'Malley administration is pledged to make more reforms in the coming year in the state's 13-year-old Smart Growth policies, which despite aggressive land purchases have had only limited success at encouraging redevelopment of cities instead of sprawling into rural fields and forests.

For more on the Lincoln Institute report, go here. And to learn more about Maryland's Smart Growth efforts, go here.

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)

Old mosquito netting becomes fashion statement


Notice anyone tooling around town with a brightly colored handbag that looks like mosquito netting? It probably was mosquito netting – repurposed and for sale at local shops and markets by Ellen Reich.

She started a local company called Three Stone Steps that seeks to offer products that are fairly made and constructed with recycled materials. She said the company is an outcropping of her love of travel and her sense of social justice developed after earning a masters degree in Labor Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The products come from artists around the world and are mostly made in small shops or people’s houses. She says she goes to make sure there’s no sweatshop behind the purse.

In addition to the mosquito netting and garbage bag purses from Cambodia, there are recycled metal bracelets made from old oil drums in Haiti. See all the products on Three Stone Steps site.

Go a local company or product with a green bent? Tell us about it.

Photo courtesy of Three Stone Steps

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:30 AM | | Comments (1)
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About the bloggers
Tim WheelerTim Wheeler reports on the environment and Chesapeake Bay. A native of West Virginia, he has focused mainly on Maryland's environment since moving here in 1983. Along the way, he's crewed aboard a skipjack in the bay, canoed under city streets up the Jones Fall from the Inner Harbor, and gone deep underground in a western Maryland coal mine. He loves seafood, rambles in the country and good stories. He hopes to share some here.

Contributor Christy Zuccarini has been blogging about the local DIY craft scene for a year for She brings her pespective on all things handmade to B'More Green, where she will highlight projects you can do yourself as well as crafters who are integrating sustainable methods and materials.

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