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 …

Recent Articles:

Save Money and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

November 10, 2011 Green Blog No Comments


November 9, 2011

Gaithersburg, MD

By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

As winter weather and temperatures approach, homeowners start thinking of ways to save on their heating bills and how to weatherize their homes. Both low income and regular wage earners can tap into cost savings, either tax rebates or Maryland State and Montgomery County Energy Assistance Programs, depending on your income.

The Environmental Protection Agency says that the average U.S. family spends $2,200 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling.

Saving money on energy in the home also helps reduce one’s carbon footprint. Carbon footprint is a term used to describe reducing carbon emissions, gasses that warm the atmosphere.

The EPA makes many recommendations as to how a homeowner can start to reduce costs, from maintaining heating equipment to sealing leaks in the home. For example, the EPA suggests energy audits as a way to clearly know where your home is not energy efficient. The EPA provides a list of various energy auditors throughout the United States.

There are various local energy auditors. Solar Energy World, a local Gaithersburg solar power company, provides home energy audits for residences and businesses that want to save on energy bills.

According to Geoff Mirkin, VP of Solar Energy World, a four hour comprehensive audit of energy usage in a home costs $400. By applying Montgomery County and Pepco energy audit rebates, the auditor can help reduce the homeowner’s final cost to $100.

Energy audits should include looking at walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors. The area resistance to heat flow should be measured to search for the leakage rate or infiltration of air.

Gaithersburg residents, Tim and Denise Clark had an energy audit done to their home after their heating bill hit $900 and they couldn’t understand why. “We knew something was wrong because we were very conservative with our thermostat setting,” explained Denise Clark. “Our bedroom is typically 66 degrees Fahrenheit for example. We didn’t have a consumption issue per say, but just knew something was wrong in the house,” she said.

After conducting the energy audit, the Clarks had insulation added to the attic and found that their Pepco bill is typically 25% lower both in summer and winter months.

The State of Maryland provides up to $3,100 in tax rebates for home efficiency upgrades, which include: energy audits, whole house air sealing, attic insulation, duct sealing or replacement.

Thanks to the Recovery Act law of April 2009, low income earners can also weatherize their homes and meet energy efficient standards. To qualify, an individual has to earn less than $19, 100 a year. The income eligibility standards are per household size. A household with four people would qualify if the total annual income is less $39, 100.

Montgomery County was allotted $5,479,944 through The Maryland Energy Assistance Program.

Energy audits are also conducted in conjunction with the Energy Assistance Program. A home or apartment that qualifies under this program is visited by an energy auditor according James McAteer, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development program administrator. The auditor inspects the insulation, furnace and water heater. A contractor affiliated with the program completes the necessary work, followed by a quality control inspector that verifies that the work has been done correctly.

McAteer says that priority under the Energy Assistance Program is given to elderly, disabled or identified high energy users.

Go Green Day at Kentlands Whole Foods Market, Gaithersburg, MD

October 26, 2011 Green Blog 1 Comment

Wednesday October 26th, 2011

Gaithersburg, MD

By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

Want to learn more about green products, sign up for wind energy or get more information from local green groups that are active in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Kentlands Whole Foods Market is hosting a GO GREEN event on Sunday, October 3o from 11-4 pm, outside its store.  The event is geared for kids and adults alike.

American Wind, Kentlands Community Foundation GO GREEN Group, Muddy Branch Alliance, 3 GreenMoms, and Purple Goose Kids are some of the organizations and green vendors that will participate.  GreenGaithersburg.com will have a presence, too!

For people who want to determine the source of their electric power through PEPCO, American Wind, a subsidiary of North American Power, will provide information and on-line registration at the venue.

Since 2009 when PEPCO was deregulated, Maryland residents can choose alternative energy providers such as American Wind.  There are 88 residential alternative energy providers that meet Maryland’s Public Service Commission and utility requirement to provide services in Maryland.

American Wind power broker Rodney McCallister says that the company offers renewable energy certificates in all 50 states.  They offer 25% and 100% energy products to PEPCO or BGE customers in Maryland.  “One signs up by grabbing their PEPCO or BGE bill and visiting the North American Power website, where you can select a charity if you would like the company to donate on your behalf out of its profits,”  according to McCallister.  “There are no fees or contracts to sign and the rates are variable and extremely competitive.”

Muddy Branch Alliance, a new non-profit working on water quality issues and education in Gaithersburg, will also be at the venue with valuable information about upcoming events including how to conduct water tests and how to set up rainscape gardens.

Kentlands Community Foundation GO GREEN Group will provide a hands-on activity to educate about alternatives to synthetic chemicals for safe lawn care. You can watch a short video, Life. Nature. You Make the Conection, by Danish Independent filmmaker Myles Thompson.  Thompson’s video has been submitted for a video competition.

3GreenMoms will demonstrate their lunch skins and other reusable bags!

Purple Goose Kids, a D.C non-profit organization of parents and volunteers, will participate to share their mission of  increasing special needs education awareness and advocacy.

Kentlands Whole Foods Market will give away reusable bags, in preparation for the Montgomery County plastic bag law which goes into effect in January, 2012.  Passed in May of this year, the law places a five-cent charge on each paper or plastic carryout bag provided by retail establishments at the point of sale, pickup or delivery.  Retailers retain 1 cent of each 5 cents for the bags they sell a customer.

Environmentalist of the Month


Karen Rainbolt, Environmentalist of the Month, Great Seneca Park, MD

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 by the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Rainbolt emailed Mayor Sidney Katz in 2008, explaining that she thought it would be a great idea for the City of Gaithersburg to sign the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protections agreement.

Mayor Katz responded to Rainbolt’s emails and after a few months the Mayor signed the agreement in an official press conference with Rainbolt, her family, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, and the City Council.

“It seemed to make so much sense with what they were doing in Seattle. Why wouldn’t other areas do anything about this, whether or not climate change is man- made or not man-made, there is issue and it is affecting every one. Why wouldn’t you take the steps to mitigate what you can?” says Karen.

Though the United States has not signed this protocol as a country, 1,054 individual cities throughout the United States have signed. Montgomery County signatories include Gaithersburg, Chevy Chase, Rockville, Kensington, and Takoma Park.

Mayor Katz then asked Rainbolt to join the City of Gaithersburg Environmental Affairs Committee. Rainbolt is now chairperson of this committee.

Though Rainbolt had been conscious and concerned about how environmental impact on health and had always enjoyed spending time in nature, her work focused more on communications in general.

Then she decided to get an on-line Masters Degree in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College in Vermont. As a working mother of four children, the new online program provided her with the flexibility to finish her degree whenever she could.

Now Rainbolt not only helps the City of Gaithersburg decide what environmental issues should be addressed by the city, but she also has an advisory role in her job at the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA).

The PVA has taken on environmental stewardship as a voluntary program for members to adopt and expand environmentally friendly practices.

When not busy at work or serving on the Environmental Affairs Committee, Rainbolt and her family like to spend time visiting national parks and camping. Rainbolt’s family considers Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg a favorite for walks.

Monitoring Water Quality in Your Backyard

October 9, 2011 Green Blog 1 Comment


Muddy Branch Stream Cleanup


Gaithersburg, MD

October 9, 2011

By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

Rainfall brings essential nutrients to trees, plants and yards but excess storm waters flow into drains and then into the Muddy Branch tributary stream here in Gaithersburg.

This excess water contains pesticides, phosphates, construction materials and whatever else is out there on the roads, sidewalks and yards.

These waters eventually flow into the Potomac River and then into the Chesapeake Bay, where large areas of algae have created dead zones. Dead zones are areas of water that have little or no marine life.

A new non-profit called the Muddy Branch Alliance was founded last spring in Gaithersburg, Md. It’s main focus is water quality and its effects. The Muddy Branch Alliance is actively engaging communities and individuals to start thinking about water quality.

Founder Paul Hlavinka, an electrical engineer, elevated his concern for the environment into his mission when he started this organization.

“It didn’t take long to get other people interested in water quality issues,” says Hlavinka . “I called a few people in Gaithersburg, such as the Scale it Back organization and members of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, and found 27 people at the first Muddy Branch Alliance meeting.”

The Muddy Branch Alliance has teamed up with the City of Gaithersburg and the Izaak Walton League to provide a free water monitoring workshop on November 12 for people interested in testing local water quality. The Izaak Walton league is known for its water quality training programs.

According to Hlavinka, water monitoring will be performed twice a year. If potential illicite discharges are identified, they can be reported  to Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. If trends are found then Gaithersburg City Planning, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, as well as Montgomery County Parks Department can be notified so that they can consider restoration efforts.

“If we find that stated impacts by developers are not being met, we can notify the developer and the Montgomery County of Environmental Protection for a plan to do better”, says Hlavinka.

The Muddy Branch Alliance offers a variety of other programs too, such as organized stream cleanups and landscape workshops to minimize run-off.

Gaithersburg’s Environmental Affairs Committee Agenda

September 27, 2011 Green Blog No Comments
City of Gaithersburg Environmental Affairs Committee

Gaithersburg Environmental Committee member showing water run-off's path.

Gaithersburg, MD

September 26, 2011

By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin


Do you know that the City of Gaithersburg is a signatory of the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement that commits the signees to strive to meet or exceed Kyoto protocol targets for reducing global warming pollution?  Ever wonder why you have large bins and single stream recycling available as a resident?  Do you know that the City of Gaithersburg took the lead in Montgomery County by enacting strong energy conservation building codes in 2008, requiring that new commercial and residential buildings be LEED certified?  These environmentally conscious decisions are due in large part to the concerns of city residents serving on Gaithersburg’s Environmental Affairs Committee.

Gaithersburg’s Environmental Affairs Committee was established 21 years ago in September, 1990. The first committee was appointed by Mayor Edward Bohrer, Jr. to work on recyling issues.  The Environmental Affairs Committee is charged with advising the Mayor and City Council on environmental protection, pollution prevention and the restoration of scarce and unique ecosystems.  Gaithersburg residents serve a two-year term once appointed to the committee.

Chairperson Karen Rainbolt leads the current committee of six city residents with City Council liaison Cathy Drzyzgula.  Several action items constitute this year’s agenda.  Along with the annual Green Week activities and City of Gaithersburg Environmental Awards, Rainbolt explains “we would like to start monitoring the water quality in all the streams and lakes in the city.”

According to the the United States Protection Agency (EPA), water quality data are used to characterize waters, identify trends over time, identify emerging problems and determine whether pollution control programs are working.  The Izaak Walton League and the Muddy Branch Alliance are two local organizations in Gaithersburg that promote the importance of monitoring water quality and train people how to monitor water.

“Another issue that we are looking into,” Rainbolt continued, “is the use of pesticides and chemicals in lawn care.”  The committee is surveying homeowner associations in the City of Gaithersburg to learn what products are being applied and whether they are synthetic herbicides and pesticides or  organic.  The committee will consider whether to suggest changes to City of Gaithersburg with respect to lawn care practices.

Another committee agenda item, according to Rainbolt, is publicizing and enabling the proper disposal of compact flourescent light bulbs (CFLs).  More and more flourescent light bulbs are being sold since they reduce energy use; however, CFL bulbs contain mercury and cannot be discarded in the regular trash bin like regular incandescent light bulbs.  If a flourescent light breaks, small amounts of mercury vapor are released and can be inhaled or possibly end up the ground if not safely disposed of.

Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste  has a collection point as does Home Depot and Lowe’s in Gaithersburg and Rockville, but the Environmental Affairs Committee is working on establishing additional collection points in the City of Gaithersburg.

These issues as well as numerous long term goals, such as the promotion of sidewalks and bike paths and the protection and enhancement of urban wildlife, to name a couple, are the focus of the Environmental Affairs Committee.  This committee has regularly scheduled meetings on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 7:00 pm at Gaithersburg’s City Hall.  Gaithersburg residents are welcome to attend these meetings.  Residents interested in serving on the committee can contact Monica Sanchez, the City’s Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator.

‘Shrooms Anyone?

September 23, 2011 Green Blog 1 Comment

Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea) mushrooms pop up in the Kentlands neighborhood, Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Gaithersburg, MD

September 23, 2011

By Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

Photo: Helen Jurkowski


‘Tis the season for picking mushrooms.  Take a look at the green patches in your neighborhood, under trees, in mulch and on logs.  You will find both edible and unedible mushrooms popping up on all these surfaces.  Black Chanterelles, Shaggy Maine, Puff Balls, Chicken of the Wood and Honey mushrooms are some of the varieties growing around the Washington, D.C. area.

It is important to know that some mushrooms are extremely poisonous.  Novice mushroom pickers should test the waters of mushroom picking with an experienced mycologist at their side.  A biologist who studies fungi or someone who has trained with a mycologist will help the novice avoid dangerous mishaps!

Mushrooms tend to grow in forest-type settings, but the recent heavy rains in the Washington, D.C. metro area have created the perfect environment for a variety of mushroooms to appear and thrive in conventional neighborhood lawns.  With moist soil, humid air and less mowing in the fall, a perfect environment for mushroom spores is created.

“Mushrooms grow where no fungicides have been applied or where there’s been no chemical treatments,” says Raymond LaSala, President of the Mycological Association of Washington DC.  “Mushrooms tend to grow in greener, lusher arks or rings of grass.  They favor shady areas,” she added.  LaSala explained that mushroom picking is almost a year-round activity, except during winter when the ground is frozen.

According to LaSala, the art of mushroom hunting and picking is alive and well in this region.  The Mycological Association of Washington DC was first started in 1981 and is still going strong, even helping to identify new species of mushrooms.  Its members meet once each month and organize mushroom pickings and culinary events.

On Saturday October 2nd, the Mycological Association of Washington DC will host the 10th Annual free Family Mushroom Festival at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, from 12:00 – 5:00 pm.  The venue will offer crafts, mushroom recipes and talks about mushrooms, of course!

The art of picking and mushroom cultivating goes beyond the realm of recreational pickers.  The University of Maryland Forest Education Extension program has workshops throughout the year for forest landowners to learn how to earn additional income from their land.  The university’s  extension program suggests growing shitake mushrooms on oak logs, and offers detailed information on how to cultivate these nutritious mushrooms on its website.

A forestry workshop slated for October 25th  in Jefferson, Maryland, will include a presentation by a Maryland shitake mushroom farmer.


Facebook Forum

Advertisement space available


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 …

(No Comments)

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 …

(No Comments)

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 …

(No Comments)

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 …

(No Comments)

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… …

(No Comments)

Available Grants and Scholarships