September 2009: Green Scene

September 2009: Green Scene

Energy info coming in your mail, online


Doug Lowe, left, and Scott Elliff show off insulation added to an attic panel in a public building at Forest Lakes.

Remember the Buy Fresh, Buy Local guides that have shown up in area mailboxes the last few years? This fall, the Piedmont Environmental Council, which produces those guides, will launch another wide-reaching campaign, this one targeting energy efficiency for homeowners. It’ll be called Energy Smart Solutions.

Look for a paper guide in your mailbox soon, and keep your eye on energy That’s where producers will post a series of three-minute how-to videos on topics like weatherstripping and wrapping water heaters. Scott Elliff, who’s coordinating the campaign, explains that rather than expensive upgrades like new appliances or solar panels, “I wanted to position this toward low-cost, good-payback things you can do.”

Elliff tagged Doug Lowe from Artisan Construction to demonstrate these tasks on camera in the public buildings at Forest Lakes, where Elliff is on the board of directors of the community association. He hopes those facilities will also host an open house so that local residents can come and see what inexpensive efficiency looks like in person.

Stay tuned for more from the—shall we say—energetic folks at PEC.—Erika Howsare

Harvest away!

For all you locavores in the hood: It’s harvest time, folks! The third annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello will be held Saturday, September 12, on Montalto from 10am to 4pm.

The celebration will feature free samples of locally grown produce (more vendors this year than ever—yum!), informative workshops on sustainable gardening and talks by knowledgeable gardening authorities. For early birds, the festivities will kick off with a seed swap from 8am to 10am for locals to share gardening knowledge and, well, their seeds. Coffee and breakfast will be provided by local vendors.

“It really brings the community together,” says Kate Collier, co-owner of Feast!, a festival sponsor. “It’s fun, educational and great for networking, too. It really shows that our citizenry is speaking loudly and it strongly believes that localizing will make us and our economy stronger.”

Adrienne Young is a songwriter and producer of the local organization Backyard Revolution (, which will be part of this festival for the first time. “The citizens of this Commonwealth are extremely attuned to the power of individual choice in thought and action and how these choices affect our world locally and globally,” she says.

The festival is free of charge, but there is a $5 parking fee. For a complete list of events, check out—Caroline Edgeton

Where’s the glass go?

When we place our glass in its designated recycling bin, we want to believe we’re doing a good deed. However, we’ve heard rumors that glass is being thrown into landfills rather than recycled.


According to Bruce J. Edmonds, Rivanna Solid Waste Authority’s recycling operations manager, a tough market for glass since 1995 does not mean the material’s getting wasted.

“[RSWA] has been in the forefront of finding alternative ways to reuse glass,” says Edmonds. “If we really wanted to place leftover glass in a landfill, we would have to spend $66 per ton to place it there…Why would we landfill something we accept for free?”

Michael Freitas, chief of Public Works for Albemarle County, concedes that “It’s a very volatile market,” but explains that “I think where people are getting confused about landfilling glass is that the glass is getting reused in the landfills, not actually placed in the landfills.”

Edmonds states that at Rivanna’s McIntire facility plenty of glass has been reused for road pavement, road gravel base, backfill and aggregate for filling drains. “In the past five years, Rivanna has been able to save $20,000 we didn’t have to buy in gravel,” says Edmonds.

Convinced yet? Mark Brownlee, Rivanna’s Ivy site manager, informed C-VILLE that in the year ending in June 2009, Rivanna recycled 894.86 tons of glass for road base material, 85 tons of which was used for the Moore’s Creek sewer upgrade. So keep saving those bottles and jars, folks.—C.E.

Solars and cents

If you have a solar panel system installed in your home, you’re probably aware of the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program that goes along with it. If not, let us draw your attention to SREC—yet another benefit of solar power.


According to New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities, an SREC is a clean energy credit that you can earn when you produce 1,000 kilowatt-hours, or one megawatt per hour, annually with a solar panel system. Why should you care? Because you can then sell the SREC.

Unfortunately, Virginia doesn’t have an SREC market; however, SRECs issued to homeowners here can be sold in participating states: New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio and California, to name a few.

Potential earnings from SRECs essentially depend on the size of your system.

“The average size of a thermal system is 4,000 kilowatt-hours,” says Paul Risberg, president of local solar company Altenergy Incorporated. “This type of system would produce, according to a current SREC’s worth, about $1,100 per year. Because we have five-year contracts with our customers, over that course they would earn $5,500 by selling their SRECs.”

Risberg also says that, at the moment, one SREC is currently worth $100-$400; however, the market fluctuates. Contact a local service provider like Altenergy (293-3763) for further information about this program.—C.E.

Greenwashing we can get behind


An inherited and ultra-inefficient clothes washer nearing its death was the inspiration for this month’s topic: tips for a green laundry room makeover! At 400 loads of laundry a year per family (more for us messy outdoor-types, like my two favorite sons), conservation is Betty’s call to action.

When purchasing:
The good news is new washer technology can yield up to 40 percent energy savings. Start shopping by checking out the Energy Star website ( and look for labels with higher MEF (Modified Energy Factor), which means higher efficiency, and low WF (Water Factor). Front loaders initially cost more, but clearly win in terms of water and energy efficiency. Conventional clothes washers use about 40 gallons of water for a complete cycle; large capacity, resource-efficient models use less than 25 gallons; smaller models use less than 10. Pick one with plenty of water level options and faster spin speed.

Dryers unfortunately don’t have Energy Star labels, but a moisture sensor is the important feature here. Take your old washers and dryers to Cycle Systems (formerly Coiners) for recycling.

When using:
You’ve heard the basics: full loads, cold water (remember: a hot water wash with warm rinse costs 5 to 10 times more than a cold wash and rinse), and biodegradable detergent. Clear your dryer lint filter after each cycle and avoid non-biodegradable fabric softeners (I use Nellie’s Dryer Balls). Drying several loads in a row will take advantage of residual heat. Of course line-drying is uber-green.

An easy tip we shouldn’t forget: Wearing clothes more than once before washing extends their longevity. Check the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s site,, for more information.Better World Betty