August 2009: Green Scene

August 2009: Green Scene

Don’t bug me

Not that I would know from experience (wink, wink) but if you’ve got unwanted guests like ants, mosquitoes, gnats and flies in your kitchen, there are some ways to evacuate the varmints without using hazardous pesticides. 

One more use for Dr. Bronner’s: deterring pests.

The simple solution: sanitation. You may not want to hear this, but the best way to deter critters is having a cleaner place than your neighbor.  Frequent vacuuming or mopping along with regular vinegar wipe-downs work well, along with keeping a tight lid on trash containers, compost pails and stored food items. Also, be sure to take up pet foods at night.

Alternative critter concoctions. First locate the path of entering pests, sealing any cracks or openings. Once you find the source, apply one of these eco-friendly alternatives:

baby or talcum powder
lemon/orange rinds
cayenne or chili powder
peppermint oil (or Dr. Bonner’s Peppermint Soap)

Feeling less friendly? This ant hotel recipe might do the trick. Combine 1 cup borax and 1 cup sugar water and pour over loose wads of toilet paper in a reusable jar with holes poked in the lid. Place in strategic areas and hope for a sugar-induced overdose. (Don’t use if you have young kids and pets).   

Homemade flypaper. Collect unwanted winged creatures by making your own flypaper. Combine 1/4 cup of your favorite syrup with 1 Tbs. of brown sugar and 1 Tbs. of white sugar. Brush 18” strips of a recycled brown bag, dry and hang. 

As for mosquitoes, citronella products are great, once you’ve eliminated any areas of standing water.

And remember: Keep your spiders around because they like their steady diet of bugs!Better World Betty

No, Virginia, there is no leasing solar panels

While solar panels may be great solutions to the energy crunch, it’s no secret they’re a big investment. According to several national solar panel companies, the total cost of installing a quality solar panel system in your home can be anywhere between $20,000 and $60,000.

You’re gonna have to buy ‘em in Virginia.

Because this option may not be so sunny for your wallet, leasing the panels may seem an attractive alternative. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth of Virginia is not one of the few states that currently offer leasing packages. Paul Risberg, president of local solar-energy company Altenergy Incorporated, explains why this is the case.

“[Solar paneling companies] don’t really see leasing as a viable option for Virginia at the moment,” Risberg says. “Because the rates in the state are not high enough, companies can’t pay for all the aspects that go into leasing a system.” According to Risberg, energy costs in Virginia average $0.08 per kilowatt-hour, compared to states like California, where the cost is $0.20-0.22 and leasing is more viable.

Solar panel systems are still well worth checking out, though. For further information about services or financial options in our area, contact Altenergy at 293-3763 or check out—Caroline Edgeton






A big boost for LEAP

Kristel Riddervold and Cynthia Adams were honored July 20 as part of the team that created the community’s award-winning LEAP program.

Last month, we told you about a new local energy-efficiency program, the Local Energy Alliance Program. LEAP aims to give out information and loans to homeowners who want to make energy-efficient improvements to their houses. On July 20, LEAP got major kudos when the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance announced that the program made Charlottesville and Albemarle the winners of its $500,000 grant competition. The local community was one of 16 to submit proposals on energy and water savings. Other cities in the running included Nashville, TN, Miami, FL, and Asheville, NC.

LEAP’s goals are ambitious: 20 to 40 percent efficiency gain over five to seven years, with 30 to 50 percent market penetration. Yep, as many as one in two local houses could conceivably get efficiency upgrades if all goes according to plan. Oh, and projections are that LEAP will create 1,600 jobs.

You’ll have to wait at least until LEAP’s January kickoff to find out if your house can get some help, but in the meantime watch the website for more info (soon to be launched at—Erika Howsare


Little houses that could

Green Modern Kits offers prefab, energy-efficient houses through its website.

Hankering for an energy-efficient, maybe even off-the-grid house that won’t carry an upper-middle-class price tag? Check out Green Modern Kits, a Virginia-based company that offers affordable prefab kit homes through its website,

Founder Copeland Casati tapped Charlottesville architect David Day as part of the design team for the houses, which are built of SIPs (structural insulated panels) and designed to work as passive solar homes if oriented correctly. That adds up to savings on the front and back ends. And if your aesthetic is more traditional, try Casati’s other site,—E.H.