Environmentalist of the Month-Tackles Invasives by Hand

  Gaithersburg, Md Sunday, February 17, 2013 By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Concern for one’s environment moves people to take action in a variety of ways, and for Ken Bawer it is getting rid of invasive plants that otherwise would drown out native plants in Montgomery County Md. parks and trails. Bawer is …

Cheryl Kollin, December’s Environmentalist of the Month

By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Gaithersburg, Md December 14, 2012 Cheryl Kollin was selected as the Green Gaithersburg.com December environmentalist of the month. Kollin came up with an innovative program called “Farm to Freezer”, a  way to reduce food waste by freezing excess fresh organic vegetables and having the veggies then incorporated …

Environmentalist of the Month Improves Your Watershed and Water Quality

                    Gaithersburg, MD January 20, 2011 By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Jennie Howland is improving the local environment she lives in.   Over the past year, Ms. Howland has helped set up and run the Muddy Branch Alliance, a new non-profit in Gaithersburg, Md. …

Environmentalist of the Month

  By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Gaithersburg, MD Gaithersburg is a city that takes climate change seriously, thanks in large part to resident Karen Rainbolt. Rainbolt was moved to action in by reading about cities throughout the United States that were adopting climate change policies and enacting gas emission standards laid out …

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Water Conservationists Take on Watts Branch Stream

March 22, 2013 Green Blog No Comments


Annita Seckinger, Watts Branch founder

Annita Seckinger, Watts Branch founder







March 22, 2013

Gaithersburg, Md

Intro by: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

By: Annita Seckinger, founder of Watts Branch watershed group

This continues the series introducing the different watershed groups in Montgomery County, Md that are working on improving the quality of the local waterways.

“Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime
and our children’s lifetime.   The health of our waters is
the principal measure of how we live on the land.”
                                                                 ~  Luna Leopold

I have been in love with the water every since I was a kid. According to my mom, it was impossible for me to walk by so much as a puddle without jumping in.

Last year I attended a water conference in Silver Spring, Md.  I found out that Watts Branch, the watershed in which I live, had no champion. All the watersheds around had organizations to look out for them, but not poor Watts.  So, with a lot of help from Paul Hlavinka of the Muddy Branch Alliance, Watts Branch Watershed Alliance was born.

The Watts Branch watershed is a 22 square mile area located in southern Montgomery County, Md that originates in Rockville, It is roughly bounded by Travilah Road, River Road and Falls Road down to the Potomac. Its waters flow from its headwaters in the City of Rockville to the Potomac River, and from there, the Chesapeake Bay.

Watts Branch Watershed Alliance is a brand new organization (our web-site will be launching soon), created to clean, protect and care for this wonderful watershed. It should be noted however, that Watts Branch was not always an uncared-for little stream. From 1953 to 1999, Luna Leopold, a leading U.S. geomorphologist and hydrologist, and the son of Aldo Leopold, maintained a continuous record of its physical changes. He chose this river and its small basin because it had been the spot where, years earlier, he had taken his children on picnics. Leopold wrote that over time, suburban growth resulted in a basin filled with “muddy trash heaps” and “the little stream … littered with bricks, concrete, trash, plastic bottles, and old tires.”

Fortunately over the last few years, Watts Branch water quality has improved some due to the attention of concerned individuals, but it still has a very long way to go.

Help keep this stream and it surrounding areas clean and safe. Not only would it be great for children to be able to play in the streams that run though our parks and back yards again (remember?), but because, as mentioned above, all these smaller waterways flow to the Potomac and then eventually in to the Bay. Find your watershed. Volunteer. Help your friends and family protect your watershed. In doing so, you help save the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay as a source of clean food and recreation for generations to come.


Annita Seckinger

President, Watts Branch Watershed Alliance






Why a Watershed Leader Became Active in Water Quality Issues

March 15, 2013 Green Blog No Comments
Paul Hlavinka, Muddy Branch Alliance

Paul Hlavinka, Muddy Branch Alliance









March 16, 2013

Gaithersburg, Md

Intro: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

By: Paul Hlavinka

This is the second post in a series about the local Montgomery County Md. watershed groups that highlights those who are active participants in improving water quality in this county.

Paul Hlavinka, one of the founders of the Muddy Branch Alliance, a non-profit whose mission is to improve the water quality of the Muddy Branch, speaks about how he was motivated as a young child to love nature and water.

I became interested in the natural world as a young child.  I really don’t remember when.  I think it was always an intense interest.  I was fortunate to be able to enjoy days along the Goose River, in North Dakota, where we could bike on paths, find frogs, watch birds, and just generally explore and enjoy this world.  Moving to Maryland and raising a family here brought back these memories.

I wanted my family to also value nature.  There is no better way to connect with nature than through connections to local waters.  My girls both enjoyed hiking and exploring along the Muddy Branch.  They also felt a natural connection with this world.  We really have valued the park areas that have been left along the stream.

My curiousity about the health of this stream increased over the last 10 years.  We sail on the Chesapeake Bay and are aware of the environmental issues this area has experienced.  We observed first hand the large dead zones that are found there.  I realized that in order to try make a difference for the Bay, we need to act locally.  We started the Muddy Branch Alliance in 2010 with a number of other folks who were also interested in doing something about water quality.

I have since learned a lot about the stream and about the people who live near it.  I am inspired when I hear from friends and neighbors about their concerns and their willingness to do something about it.

Ultimately we all are part of the problem, and therefore can all be part of the solution.  Consider what you do in your own back yard and how it impacts runoff. Consider what you can do to reduce these impacts.  Help pickup trash when you see it so that it won’t wash down and end up in the stream.  There are many common sense things like this we all can do to make a difference.

I hope you feel this connection with your local stream and do what you can to make a difference.

Maryland Senate Committee Votes Down Fracking Moratorium

March 9, 2013 Green Blog No Comments


Sebastian Rowland Contributor

Sebastian Rowland







March 9, 2013

Annapolis, Md

By: Sebastian Rowland

The Maryland State Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs committee voted 6-5 this past Thursday to not advance the “Maryland Hydraulic Fracturing Moratorium and Right to know act of 2013.”  This vote means that the moratorium will not become a law.

In June 2011, Governor Martin O’Malley issued an executive order requiring the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDEP) and the Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources to study the impacts of fracking and placed a moratorium on the practice until the studies were completed. The order anticipated that the studies would be finished by August 2014.

The de facto moratorium forbids MDEP and Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources from approving permits for hydraulic fracturing before completing a suite of studies, and added a public health risk assessment to the required studies.

After completion of the studies, MDEP would also have to implement regulations to protect the environment and public health before issuing fracturing permits.

Although the moratorium will not become state law, the committee’s decision will not diminish the requirements of the Executive Order.  O’Malley’s Executive Order will remain in place until August 2014.

Hydraulic fracturing is a fossil fuel extraction technique in which deep holes are drilled vertically and then into horizontal branches. These branches are flooded with chemicals to fracture rocks containing oil and natural gas.

Environmentalists decry the practice because it contributes to climate change, can contaminate ground water, and consumes large quantities of fresh water.

At this stage, no fracking permits have been issued in Maryland. Some oil and gas companies, including Samson Resources, have bought leases for mineral rights in Western Maryland, but have allowed these leases to expire.

The industry has shown interest in developing wells in Garrett and Allegany counties in Maryland, which overlay the Marcellus shale, which is responsible for Pennsylvania’s fracking boon.

Representatives from local environmental and health groups are for the moratorium. These groups include Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), Trout Unlimited, Maryland Nurses Association, League of Women Voters, Maryland Environmental Health Network, as well as Marylanders from Western Maryland.

These groups are concerned that without the moratorium, the state of Maryland could face lawsuits from the industry.  They are also think that the the moratorium may end in 2014 without a complete report on the possible health impacts.

Mike Tidwell, director of CCAN, citing a previous lawsuit by Dominion Energy company, said  that, “Unless you have  a statute in place, not an executive order, then we’re not really sure what the outcome could be in court.” He, as well other environmentalists, are concerned that the moratorium may end preemptively if the studies are not completed by August 2014.

Representatives from the Maryland Farm Bureau, Chevron, and the American Natural Gas Association, as well as some Garret County farmers, argued that legalizing the moratorium was unnecessary.

A spokesman for the Maryland Petroleum Council, Drew Cobb, explained that industry interest in Maryland was too low to merit a moratorium. “The bill sends the wrong message to the business community,” argued Garrett County Commissioner James Raley. “If anyone can do it right, Maryland can do it right,” he concluded.

78% of Marylander voters showed support for the health and safety impact studies in a February 2013 survey conducted by Annapolis-based Opinionworks. The survey was commissioned by  CCAN, which has been organizing the Maryland community to support the moratorium and studies.

CCAN is holding a rally March 13 in Annapolis, Md to protest the decision to halt the moratorium on fracking.

Maryland is not the only state to face this issue- New York state is also considering whether to continue its moratorium on fracking. The NY state senate recently approved a bill to extend the moratorium until 2015.

The Executive Order will remain in place until August 2014 and the Senate anticipates facing the bill next year. Also, the health and environmental impact studies are underway, with $1.5 million in funding from Governor O’Malley.


A River Keeper Says,“To Know the Water is to be on the Water.”

March 1, 2013 Green Blog No Comments
Ann Smith, President of Seneca Creek Watershed Partners

Ann Smith, President of Seneca Creek Watershed Partners








Friday, March 1, 2013

Montgomery County, Md

By: Ann Smith

Part of a Series on Montgomery County, Md’s Watershed Groups.

It is a reasonable request to preserve watersheds.  A watershed  controls water flow from its source to its final destination.  It is a drainage slope.   From The Eastern part of the United States, water drains down towards sea level, the Atlantic Ocean.  In Maryland, water meets the Chesapeake Bay before it reaches the ocean.  The Chesapeake Bay receives fresh water from land, and salt water from the ocean.   The water is brackish, and creates an estuary with high levels of nutrients in the water.  http://www.chesapeakebay.net is a good site for finding current issues with the Chesapeake Bay.

I love to be by the water near my house. I take my cat Sebastian and my dog Cosita with me every week.  The water near my house is a creek in the woods.  It is a small tributary that connects to Middle Seneca Creek.

The trees have their bark removed around the edges, and the pipes from the neighborhood have created these excavation tunnels leading to the creek.  There is little undergrowth, and there are lots of fallen trees with no smaller trees growing to replace them.

I don’t know what a maintained creek should look like, but I know this one needs help.  I felt the need to learn more, so I contacted the Montgomery County DEP. Ana Arriaza is a watershed coordinator for Great Seneca Creek.  She sent me a study that was done in 1999 called Great Seneca Creek Watershed Study May 25, 2999 by Keith Van Ness. http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dectmpl.asp?url=/content/dep/water/sub_greatseneca.asp 

I was invited to a stakeholders meeting for the Seneca Creek Watershed Partners by Meo Curtis.  The group is forming as the Western Watershed Alliance in Montgomery County. The creek consists of five large geographic areas: Upper Great Seneca Creek in Damascus, Middle Great Seneca Creek in Gaithersburg and Germantown, Little Seneca Creek and Ten Mile Creek in Clarksburg, Lower Seneca Creek in Western Potomac at Dawsonville, and Dry Seneca Creek in Poolesville.

Until recently, most of this part of the county was agricultural.  Ten Mile Creek is the cleanest water system within Seneca Creek.

Timing is important. Now is a good time to improve the watershed.  At the end of the last century, research showed that Maryland has done a great job moving the water out of neighborhoods and into the creeks.  I guess you could call them flood zones.  Currently everything flows into the flood zones.   We have a lot of impervious ground that adds to the flooding.  The water does move!  It takes everything with it; trash, nutrients, fish, rocks etc.., and now we have lots of fresh water creeks that bring the “stuff” down to the bay at a faster rate than ever before.

The new objective is to slow the runoff down, and let the water soak into the soil, where plant roots can take up the nutrients and take out pollutants.   As we connect to people within our watershed by practicing methods that slow the runoff, we are creating a culture around a template that already exists.  It is not political, or wealth driven, or driven by cars. We have been given instructions on how to revive the Chesapeake Bay via preserving our local water.  The movement is like a ripple on water.

At first, clean-ups emphasized the watersheds on the eastern shore, and then the Anacostia and Patuxent watersheds.  Great Seneca Creek is part of the Potomac Watershed.  The ripple has moved out and we now have to improve our watershed.

All the people in Maryland are working together to preserve water.   We use it every day!

As educators, accountants, scientists, kayakers, stream stewards and fisherman, we advocate for preserving Great Seneca Creek for future generations. Find your watershed on a county map, and sign up for the alliance near you.  Jack Cochran from the Isaac Walton League and Paul Hlavinka from Muddy Branch Alliance have started a shared calendar for Great Seneca Creek, Muddy Branch, and Watts Branch.  We share a similar logo with Little Falls Watershed.   Local events are posted on Calendars weekly.     Take a look.




Ann Smith, President of Seneca Creek Watershed Partners

The ABC’s of Montgomery County’s Watersheds

February 28, 2013 Green Blog No Comments


Naomi Bloch

Naomi Bloch






February 28, 2013

Potomac, Md

By: Naomi Bloch

Hello Friends,

After a few weeks away, I am happy to be back and excited to introduce you to our first-ever series of blog posts dealing with an important environmental topic right here in Montgomery County.

If you are anything like me, then you have heard the term “watershed” from time-to-time but have never been too clear on what exactly that means, right?

Well, I am honored to have met several local people who actually know quite a lot about our area watersheds.  These folks will be teaching us about their particular watersheds, why they are important to us all, and what particular challenges they are facing; along with what is being done to address these challenges.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to present these “front line” reports from each of our local watersheds activist leaders. These are the people who are  in the best position to inform us.

stream2008_medCourtesy of Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection

Our first-up guest blogger is, Ann Smith, Director of the Seneca Creek Watershed Partnership. I hope you will read our entire series on watersheds and find the information enlightening. Thanks, Ann!

I urge you to share these posts and  information with your family, friends and neighbors so that they, too can learn about watersheds, why they are important, and why we should care. Most of all, I hope that you are inspired to roll up your sleeves, get outside with your kids and neighbors, and  help make our local watersheds the best they can be.

Thank you,







How to Reduce Your Food Waste at Home

February 22, 2013 Green Blog No Comments
Ruthzaly Weich, Contributor

Ruthzaly Weich, Contributor







Friday, February 22, 2013

Gaithersburg, Md

By: Ruthzaly Weich

A friend of mine shared this article with me recently on FacebookAlmost half of the world’s food thrown away was the title in The Guardian, a British newspaper.

I couldn’t believe it. There are still people in the world that starve to death.

It made me think about what I do to reduce my food waste and thought it may be helpful to also help you reduce your own food waste.

I should note this is something I am very passionate about, though it was not always this way.

After attending graduate school, my husband and I got jobs, moved to a nice apartment, and began our life together.  And then came the student loans. We had a tough time making ends meet so we looked at our expenses and made adjustments. We realized using food efficiently was a must.

As time progressed and we learned how to live within our means, downsizing apartment,etc., we continued to make choices to decrease our  food waste.

We even got an indoor composter!

Another important factor that has me using every last bit of food that I have, is how food waste effects our towns, regions, country and globally.

The idea that a seed is planted, tended to, harvested, then exported and travels often many miles to  get to your grocer, then to your home, and then may be forgotten and left to rot, is just not an option for me.

We can get into the metrics of waste in the food cycles (do read this article you’ll get a reality check) but, I want to focus on the immediate changes you and I can make to reduce food waste at home.

Our Menu

Our Menu

For the past seven years my husband and I have used some practical principles about buying, storing and cooking all the food we buy.  You may find is that the list below is logical or, if it is your first time giving this topic a thought, complicated, but it has worked for us.


  • Before leaving your home make a list of vegetables, fruits and other items that you usually throw away and don’t buy them! If you really like them but keep forgetting to use them buy them frozen if available.
  • Monitor eating habits and which are the preferred items.
  •  Pick healthy looking, firm vegetables if you tend to forget them in the fridge.
  •  Monitor your family’s eating habits and come up with a monthly list of the things you always use – that will be your baseline.
  • Come up with a menu for your family weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.  I’ve found that my menu gets repetitive, so smaller cycles are best. After all, we are all creatures of habit. The menu can be as flexible as you want it to be. The bottom line is to allow for a variety of meal options with all ingredients at home. You can use it as a meal suggestion list; it is there for when you and your family feel like cooking it and eating it. Or you can assign it to a date and mealtime if that is your cup of tea. Creating a menu allows you to be efficient about your purchase and is a perfect reminder to use all you get.
  • Analyze your diet, just think of the food pyramid. Review the daily portions for the age groups in your family, adjust how much you buy with this in mind.  Reminding yourself of what intake you and your family need can help you bring home the right amount of food.


  • Make a list of the vegetables inside the fridge and post it on the fridge.
  • Prioritize by ranking which items need to be used first and which can wait to be cooked later – use numbers.
  • Read up on ways to store vegetables – there are natural techniques that will help you get a longer life out of your vegetables and fruits. Long-term examples are food dehydration, canning, or advance freezing techniques.
  • If you find yourself throwing away leftovers, calibrate your portions for no leftovers. It takes a little while to adjust but you’ll get it. Watch closely what each member eats and how much you have left. Next time cook accordingly.


  • Be conscious of maximizing the use of any ingredient. If you don’t use it all, store it and add it to your list of ‘to use’ items.
  • Be creative.  Come up with recipes within a meal that will allow you to use the fruit, vegetable or whatever you did not use in your main dish and use this for dessert, salad or a side dish.
  • Consider composting all the peels and skins you would normally throw away.
  • Perhaps my most frequently used technique – when you find yourself with a half full (half empty) fridge and some food is now a ‘must use by’ without a meal plan,  go online, or download as many recipe apps as you can to your Smartphone. Search the name of the vegetable for recipes. Odds are you will find a tasty recipe with just the ingredients you have at home.

We have evolved into using this list.  Depending on your lifestyle, time availability, family size, etc., you will find that some suggestions work and some don’t. We too have experienced a large range of obstacles; both of us traveled so much that when my husband came home I would then have to travel too. This went on for a while. We also have experienced dietary restrictions, joined a CSA (community shared agriculture) and have add lots of fresh veggies at peak season.  We are now parents and are making the best out what we have seasonally to provide the nutrition our little one needs.

It may take some practice  as to how to be most efficient with your food. It gets easier and better as you go. I hope that these suggestions help you come up a personal or family plan that allows you to become a food waste free home.

You can also read about Cheryl Kollin, a Green Gaithersburg.com Environementalist of the Month, and see  how people in our community are making a different in our region to avoid food waste.





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Meatless Monday Recipes

Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Parmesan Croutons

19 Nov 2013

A good friend, Denise Clark, sent in this vegetarian seasonal recipe.   1 3 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes (5-6 cups) 2 tablespoons of olive oil 2 teaspoons of  kosher salt Pinch of freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon butter 1 large onion, diced 1 tablespoon …

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Meatless Monday Butternut Squash Ravioli

4 Nov 2013

From Chef John at allrecipes.com Ingredients  Original recipe makes 6 servings 1 cup mashed, cooked butternut squash 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 pinch cayenne pepper 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese 1 egg yolk 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 (16 ounce) package round wonton wrappers 2 …

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Meatless Monday Proclaimed by Montgomery County Council

22 Jul 2013

July 22, 2013 Gaithersburg, Md By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin I was so pleased to find out that Montgomery County Council has officially endorsed Meatless Mondays, a nationwide effort to choose more plant-based foods. For more information about this news read Compassion Over Killing’s website.  Also, Naomi Bloch sent in a Meatless …

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Meatless Monday Recipe- Roasted Cauliflower

17 Jun 2013

  This recipe sounds delicious and I am going to try it tonight because I have a cauliflower sitting in my fridge and I need to cook it! Will let you know what it tastes like!- Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Recipe is from BonApetit Ingredients Roasted Cauliflower 2 1/2 cups dry white …

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Meatless Mondays-Caramelized Onion Tart

20 May 2013

Here is a vegetarian recipe for an Onion tart. I just read up and now understand that a tart is made in ribbed dish, the bottom part of the pan can come out, and the tart can be all sorts of shapes vs. a quiche is in round pie dish… …

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