Bethesda Green —— Almost an Institution

Bethesda Green grew from a vision by Honest Tea TeaEO (not a typo) Seth Goldman and members of the Montgomery County Council to make Bethesda a community that can sustain growth, reduce congestion, and be environmentally friendly. Its first project: to install two recycling bins in downtown Bethesda. 

Nearly six years later, the nonprofit has impacted local life in countless ways, including a GreenerLiving series to teach residents about energy efficiency and home energy audits; “On the Farm, Around the Table” events, which connected farmers and consumers; several Solar & Green Home Expos; the first green business incubator in Montgomery County; the installation of dozens of recycling bins; and a Green Gala co-hosted each fall with Bethesda Magazine.

2014BGGalaLogoThis year’s Gala will be held at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club on October 9, 6:30-9:30 p.m. The event will feature seasonal food from local sources, live entertainment, beer, wine, and a dessert reception. Plus, Gala goers will enjoy a silent auction of one-of-a-kind experiences and environmentally friendly gifts. As in past years, Green Awards will be given to businesses, organizations, communities, and individuals who are promoting sustainable living practices. For tickets and more info on this year’s Gala, click here.

(Thanks to nominations by customers and supporters, Solar Mowing received a runner-up award in a category recognizing businesses “selling an innovative green service” at the Second Green Gala in 2011.)

And thanks largely to the mentoring efforts of Bethesda Green, the “greens” are spreading. Check out the happenings at Silver Spring Green and Green Wheaton.


Divine Energy at Shoshoni

I spent two days last week at Shoshoni, a yoga/meditation retreat in Colorado, where life goes on at its simple best — contemplation, exercise, nourishing food — and where solar energy plays a starring role. (Pun intended :))

Much of the organic food served at Shoshoni is grown on site in hoop houses.

Much of the organic food served at Shoshoni is grown on site in hoop houses.

With 300+ days of sunshine a year in the eastern Rockies, there’s plenty of solar power to put to work. Solar panels atop cabins and the main lodge heat water for bathing; south-facing windows on many buildings allow for passive solar heating, which can be blocked on hot days by pulling down thermal shades.

Solar and geothermal energies allow year-round gardening even when winter temperatures dive below zero for weeks at a time. Outside air moves through underground pipes (where temps stay in the mid-5os) and is warmed in winter and cooled in summer before being vented inside one hoop-style greenhouse.

Shakti has helped manage the gardens and grounds at Shoshoni for 3.5 years. Behind her is a hoop house and a shed for chickens.

Shakti has helped manage the gardens and grounds at Shoshoni for more than three years.

“A second hoop house will be outfitted this winter with solar panels that will heat water, which will run through underground pipes that will, in turn, radiate heat up through the soil,” said Shakti, who has worked on the gardens and grounds at Shoshoni for more than three years.

While the beets, carrots, peppers, kale, collards, and other food crops need solar-generated heat in the winter to survive, the chickens do not. “I chose heritage breeds,” said Shakti, “that are fit for Rocky Mountain winters.”

Heritage-breed chickens live perfectly well throughout Rocky Mountain winters.

Heritage-breed chickens, acquired only for their eggs at this vegetarian retreat, thrive even in Rocky Mountain winters.

Shakti’s name means divine energy, which if you ask me, is another way of saying solar power.

NOTE: Check out the outstanding recipes in Shoshoni’s cookbook.