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The Washington Informer 2018 Sustainability Supplement in Observance of Earth Day

Charting the Sustainability of Natural Resources

Within Black Communities




In Memoriam


Conservation: A Conscious Effort to Sustain Our Futures Dr. Shantella Y. Sherman Special Editions Editor

“We can have environmental justice and positive economic development that generates jobs for communities, but at the same time fosters a cleaner environment. They are not mutually exclusive.” Damu Smith 1951-2006 Political, Social and Environmental Activist

In Memoriam Dr. Calvin W. Rolark, Sr. Wilhelmina J. Rolark THE WASHINGTON INFORMER NEWSPAPER (ISSN#0741-9414) is published weekly on each Thursday. Periodicals postage paid at Washington, D.C. and additional mailing offices. News and advertising deadline is Monday prior to publication. Announcements must be received two weeks prior to event. Copyright 2016 by The Washington Informer. All rights reserved. POSTMASTER: Send change of addresses to The Washington Informer, 3117 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., S.E. Washington, D.C. 20032. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. The Informer Newspaper cannot guarantee the return of photographs. Subscription rates are $45 per year, two years $60. Papers will be received not more than a week after publication. Make checks payable to: THE WASHINGTON INFORMER 3117 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., S.E Washington, D.C. 20032 Phone: 202 561-4100 Fax: 202 574-3785

PUBLISHER Denise Rolark Barnes STAFF D. Kevin McNeir, Editor Ron Burke, Advertising/ Marketing Director Shevry Lassiter, Photo Editor Lafayette Barnes, IV, Assistant Photo Editor John E. De Freitas, Sports Photo Editor Dorothy Rowley, Online Editor, Design & Layout Mable Neville, Bookkeeper Dr. Charles Vincent, Social Sightings columnist Tatiana Moten, Social Media Specialist Angie Johnson, Circulation REPORTERS Stacy Brown (Senior Writer), Sam P.K. Collins, Timothy Cox, Will Ford (Prince George’s County Writer), Eve M. Ferguson, Hamil Harris, Tatyana Hopkins, Jade James-Gist, Daniel Kucin, Jr., D. Kevin McNeir, Lauren Poteat, Dorothy Rowley, Brenda Siler, Sarafina Wright (General Assignment Writer) PHOTOGRAPHERS John E. DeFreitas, Shevry Lassiter, Roy Lewis, Demetrious Kinney, Daniel Kucin, Jr., Mark Mahonny, Lateef Mangum

I was barely a year old when Marvin Gaye lamented the catastrophic deterioration of global natural resources in the 1971 song, Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology). Through rhythmic beats and his beautiful bravado, Gaye raised awareness about disappearing blue skies, poisons carried on the wind, as well as oil, mercury, and radiation spills that would ultimately lead to the collapse of health for both animals and people. And while Gaye’s query as to how much abuse the Earth could withstand at the hands of men seemed almost rhetorical, in the 47 years since the song charted Billboard, African Americans have made tremendous strides in developing “green’ lifestyles. In fact, as we approach Earth Day 2018, (April 22) an increased focus has been placed on the burden of plastics on the environment, in addition to methods in which African-American communities, which have disproportionately been impacted by pollutants – can actively work against environmental abuses. Vien Truong, Director of Green for All, told Clean Technica that “Communities of color care about climate change and want to be part of creating solutions to pollution. Climate change affects us all — and it hurts low-income communities and communities of color first and worst. There are ripe opportunities to engage communities of color and by reflecting the diversity of our country, the climate movement will be stronger and better on equity and environment.” For decades, people of color have supported environmental protection at a higher rate than their white counterparts, despite shoring up only a handful of key executive positions within sustainability organizations. That lack of oversight, while seemingly insignificant, keeps information about sustainability, clean energy, and both individual and community guidelines for conservation from trickling into the lives of growing majority-minority America. A clean energy revolution is taking place across America, underscored by the steady expansion of the U.S. renewable energy sector that encompasses homes, schools, churches, and larger workspaces. In fact, data from the Department of Energy documents that in less than a decade, the United States multiplied its production of wind power threefold, and solar power more than twentyfold. In many places, clean energy is already cheaper than conventional power and has grown alongside technological advances – including apps, that place the controls for energy usage firmly in the hands of consumers. For instance, outdoor lights and indoor appliances can now be governed from Smartphones, giving consumers the power to lower bills and save energy. The Washington Informer invites readers to explore and learn more about clean, affordable energy as the nation looks to reduce its carbon footprint and perhaps make clean energy its mainstay. One estimate shows that by switching to 50 percent clean energy by 2030, electric bills in the United States would reduce by more than $40 billion. Informer Senior Writer, Stacy Brown The Washington looks at the myriad of ways plastics have Informer invites readers bogged down the environment and efforts to utilize eco-plastics to lessen its impact on the to explore and learn environment. Additionally, we attempt to dispel myths surrounding tap water and its safety more about clean, in the wake of national scares over purity. Finally, the Informer takes a look at the benefits affordable energy Prince George’s County, Md., had found in its as the nation looks single-source recycling efforts. Our individual and community efforts to to reduce its carbon respond to some of Marvin Gaye’s concerns – coupled with the responsible development of footprint and perhaps new and innovative energy resources -- including solar, wind, water, geothermal, and bioenmake clean energy its ergy -- will help create a cleaner, more vibrant mainstay. energy future. Read. Enjoy. Grow. SS / 2018 SUSTAINABILITY SUPPLEMENT / APRIL 2018


Ending Plastic Pollution: Forging an Eco-Friendly Life Plastic Free By Stacy M. Brown WI Senior Writer Plastic, in recent decades, has become a staple of convenience and a modern lifestyle, according to a 2017 Forbes Magazine article. The surge in plastic bottle use has accompanied a desire for bottled water as Asia has modernized its lifestyle, the article stated. Several recent reports indicate the dire global situation associated with the world’s plastic use. Two statistics jump out immediately. One, that globally humans buy a million plastic bottles per minute. The second, 91 percent of all plastic is not recycled. On top of that, it is estimated that over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold in 2020, which present an overwhelming challenge in responding to an exponential increase in recyclable, yet un-recycled products. Most plastic, bottles included, ends up in either the ocean or in a landfill and that only adds to an

ongoing dilemma: How to end the plastic pollution and forge an eco-friendly life that’s plastic free? Catherine Plume, a board member and conservation chair of the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C., said people can do something to reduce plastic bottle waste. The Sierra Club is the oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the country. “There’s a myth that bottled water  is better than any municipal  water  source.  While this is true in some areas, it’s not ubiquitous,” Plume said.  “New York City, for example, has some of the purest  water  in the United States. There may be no good reason not to drink directly from your tap,” she said. Plume recommends carrying a refillable water bottle, noting that stainless steel canisters can now be found in double-walled models that will keep water and other beverages cold or hot for

hours. “While you’re at it, do the planet a favor and skip the straw.  Straws are a huge menace and for the most part, can’t be recycled,” Plume said. Aside from the health issues surrounding drinking and eating from plastic,  plastic represents a huge environmental problem, Plume continued, citing the Forbes article that reported less than 10 percent of plastic bottles are recycled.  “If we’re lucky, the remaining 90 percent end up in landfills or are incinerated, which is less than ideal but still better than the reality, that far too, too many of these bottles end up clogging waterways and oceans or littering our land,” she said.  “As it takes somewhere around 450 years for

a single plastic bottle to decompose, we’re going to have a lot of plastic bottles to deal with.” Alarmingly, a study by the University of Texas took 455 everyday products like water  bottles, baby bottles, plastic wrap, plastic bags, and tested them for estrogenic activity (EA), a hormone found in very low concentrations in the human body. A chemical having estrogenic activity mimics human estrogen, by binding

to the cell’s normal estrogen receptor location, according to the National Institutes of Health. Plastic is estimated to take anywhere from 500 to a thousand years to decompose and, right now, the problem of plastic is, for the most part not affecting most Americans’ daily lives very much, yet if ignored, can have lasting, negative effects on the environment. SS

Earth Day Network Releases Online Plastic Pollution Calculator WI Staff Report Management of plastic waste is a global crisis, making the resulting plastic pollution one of the most pressing environmental problems. As part of Earth Day 2018 (April 22), Earth Day Network has released an online Plastics Pollution Calculator (https:// for consumers to calculate the amount of disposable plastic they use in a year and make plans to reduce the waste. Nearly 9.1 billion U.S. tons of virgin (non-recycled) plastic has been produced to date, generating 6.9 billion U.S. tons of plastic waste, and only 9 percent has been recycled. The world is already incapable of properly managing this enormous amount of waste, and the production of plastic is predicted to increase three times in the next 25 years. We know that micro-plastics are polluting our drinking water and the fish we eat and also cause health problems. Littered plastic not only kills wildlife but affects the lives of more than 2 billion people living without waste collection. “Plastic pollution is now an ever-present challenge. We can

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see plastics floating in our rivers, ocean, and lagoons, littering our landscapes and affecting our health and, the future of billions of children and youth. We have all contributed to this problem – mostly unknowingly – and we must work to reduce and ultimately to End Plastic Pollution,” says Valeria Merino, Vice-President of Global Earth Day at Earth Day Network. EDN is encouraging consumers to join the fight to reduce plastic pollution as part of its End Plastic Pollution campaign for Earth Day 2018. “You first need to know where you stand,” said Merino. “This plastic pollution calculator will help you determine your total yearly consumption of disposable plastic items.” While recycling plastic waste is important, it is not nearly enough, notes Merino. “You may be lulled into thinking it is OK to consume disposable plastic products because you plan to recycle them, but many plastics can’t be efficiently recycled and will end up in the landfill or littering the planet, even in the most remote places. Also, some localities lack the most basic infrastructure to manage waste and to sort and re-

cycle plastics. For this reason, it is much more important to focus on reducing your own level of plastic consumption,” she adds. There are a number of things that will lessen your plastics impact: Ask yourself every time that you are considering buying a disposable plastic item: Do I absolutely need this? Can I use something else that I already have? Could I buy something that I can use long-term instead? Prevent the creation of micro-plastics by properly disposing of plastic products and being careful not to toss plastic products near waterways, beaches or in open spaces. Pick up plastic trash whenever you see it, especially in ponds, streams, rivers, and beaches. Look up products on the internet and choose not to buy products containing microbeads. Choose products that have natural exfoliators instead. Consider changing the way you wash your clothing to reduce the number of microfibers that are released, wash synthetic clothes less frequently, purchasing items made of natural fibers when possible. SS

AltaGas and WGL: Partnering for Growth Together, AltaGas Ltd. and WGL Holdings, Inc. (WGL) have a vision for growth in the advanced energy economy. The proposed merger will bring together two complementary energy companies committed to delivering more value for customers in Washington Gas’ service territory and more investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy. On April 4, AltaGas and WGL reached a significant milestone with the Maryland Public Service Commission announcing its approval of the proposed merger of the two companies. Following completion of the merger, Washington Gas customers will realize many benefits, including $30.5 million in a one-time rate credit for Maryland residential heating customers and a rate credit for non-residential customers; new investment in customer, educational, workforce development

and energy efficiency programs; and funding to promote economic development, job creation and the expansion of natural gas infrastructure to underserved parts of Maryland. Like Washington Gas, AltaGas is focused on finding innovative ways to safely and reliably deliver clean, affordable natural gas to its customers. As a company, AltaGas is firmly focused on meeting the energy needs of a growing, low carbon economy, not only in Maryland and Virginia, but in the District of Columbia as well. A proposal is currently in front of the DC Public Service Commission that supports many initiatives contained in the DC Clean Energy Plan that would provide customers in the District with similar benefits to those that would be achieved in Maryland following completion of the merger. New renewable energy resources will be developed, following our guiding principles for developing energy infrastructure: respect the land, share the benefits and nurture long-term relationships. Following completion of the merger,

AltaGas will increase funding for energy efficiency programs in Washington Gas’ service area. As well, AltaGas has committed to expanded programs following the closing of the merger, including weatherization, insulation and installation of energy efficient technology—all directed to low- and moderate-income residences that can benefit from this assistance the most. AltaGas has committed, following the merger, to developing a 5-MW battery storage, or Tier 1 renewable energy asset, and to funding a study to assess the development of renewable biogas facilities in the Washington Gas service territory. As AltaGas evolves and expands our diversified energy assets, we will continue to operate in a safe, reliable manner by balancing economic priorities with social and environmental values. We operate our business with the highest regard for the safety of employees, contractors and stakeholders, while protecting the environment and minimizing our impact. We remain committed to building long-term, mutually beneficial

working relationships with communities and working closely with governments and regulatory agencies to help meet long-term project sustainability. By investing in communities through employment opportunities and funding for nonprofits, we support initiatives that help build communities. AltaGas believes that in the long-term, the abundant supply of natural gas in North America and the increasing demand for clean energy will continue to provide opportunities for sustained growth. With WGL, we will be in an even stronger position to deliver exceptional service at affordable rates, invest more in community and workforce training programs, provide more clean energy choices to customers, and add good, secure jobs in the region for years to come. SS

Affordable or and Clean Energy. When AltaGas and Washington Gas combine, customers across the DC area will benefit every day from their growing collection of affordable green energy choices. See how our vision for the advanced energy economy will power DC and create good jobs. / 2018 SUSTAINABILITY SUPPLEMENT / APRIL 2018


Doing the right thing is always sustainable. AltaGas and Washington Gas will come together to do great things for DC. Washingtonians will be able to opt-in for our new, affordable clean energy options. And we’ll invest in DC’s communities to improve energy efficiency, especially in low-to-moderate income residences. Our vision is to invest even more in the community, offer greater sustainable energy choices to customers, and create good, secure jobs right here in DC. Learn more about how we plan to power DC’s future at

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Build an Energy Efficiency Home From the Ground Up Make the Home of Your Dreams a Reality with Pepco’s ENERGY STAR® New Homes Program

A new home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, so be sure it’s built to last. That’s the confidence you’ll get when you purchase an ENERGY STAR certified new home in Maryland from a participating builder in Pepco’s ENERGY STAR New Homes Program. An ENERGY STAR

certified home meets stricter requirements that make it at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to standard building codes. And saving energy saves you money –approximately 20 percent on annual utility bills. Over the years, you also can save thousands of dollars on main-

Inside the Pepco WaterShed Sustainability Center (Courtesy of Pepco)

tenance costs. But savings are just the beginning. If you’re in the market for a new home in Maryland, Pepco can help you find a builder who is committed to constructing energy-efficient homes. Pepco’s ENERGY STAR New Homes program offers builders financial incentives to encourage them to build homes with energy-efficient features that help homeowners save energy and money. “At Pepco, we’re committed to advancing technologies that empower our customers, promote sustainable solutions, and drive a 21st century economy” said Na-

thanael Gillespie, Pepco Manager, Energy Efficiency, Residential Programs. “Being a local sponsor of programs like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR for New Homes is part of that commitment,” he added. As a result, Pepco was awarded the EPA 2017 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award and has won EPA’s Market Leader Awards for its contribution to energy-efficient construction. Pepco also recently recognized its top builders and raters that contributed to its ENERGY STAR New Homes Program in 2016, with several companies earning recognition for building homes that can save you money and that are built to last.

home includes energy-efficient features that deliver improved performance, greater comfort, and a healthier indoor environment. From the moment you walk in the door, you’ll see, feel, and hear the difference thanks to:



Compared to standard construction, ENERGY STAR certified new homes are simply built better. Comfort is ensured with consistent temperatures between and across rooms. Indoor air quality is enhanced by reducing dust, pollen, bugs, and excessive humidity. Durability is improved with comprehensive water protection and higher quality equipment throughout. Plus, a recent study indicated that 75 percent of consumers are interested in owning an energy-efficient home. So if you sell your home in the future, you can set it apart by highlighting that it has earned the trusted ENERGY STAR label, making your decision to build an ENERGY STAR home a good investment now and for tomorrow too. Each ENERGY STAR certified


Increased insulation means your home can stand up to winter’s chill and summer’s heat.


Air leaks around pipes and air ducts can make a home uncomfortable and increase energy costs. In an ENERGY STAR certified home, better sealing makes your home at least 20 percent tighter than building code requirements. Your new home will have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning duct systems that work about 33 percent more efficiently to deliver the right amount of air to every room in your home.


A special invisible coating on windows helps keep your home cool in summer and warm in winter. Plus, the coating helps protect carpets, drapes, and furnishings from the fading effects of sunlight. If you’re ready to invest in lasting quality, find a participating homebuilder at For more information on Pepco’s other energy efficiency programs, visit saveenergy. SS

“At Pepco, we’re committed to advancing technologies that empower our customers, promote sustaainable solutions, and drive a 21st century economy.”

Inside the Pepco WaterShed Sustainability Center (Courtesy of Pepco)

Nathanael Gillespie, Pepco Manager, Energy Efficiency, Residential Programs / 2018 SUSTAINABILITY SUPPLEMENT / APRIL 2018


Pepco Supporting Electric Vehicles, Starting with Own Fleet Consumers looking for opportunities to plug into alternative energy options are now more than ever turning to electric vehicles (EVs), with demand skyrocketing 26 percent nationally last year alone. The benefits of EV technology are clear: increased

“Our customers are demonstrating their interest in electric vehicles and other alternative energy technologies.” Donna Cooper Pepco Region President

energy security, lower costs, and less emissions. And District of Columbia consumers are no exception in seeking out this clean and affordable transportation option that will help improve public health and protect the District’s environment. When it comes to EVs, sales are growing in the District of Columbia. According to the United States Department of Energy, in 2016, only eight states (California, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Georgia, and Colorado) had more plug-in electric vehicles per 1,000 people than the District of Columbia. The District’s rate is 1.52 per 1,000 people. To meet that demand, Pepco and its parent company, Exelon, are investing in innovative energy technologies, including solar, energy storage, microgrids, and electric vehicles and charging, that are transforming the future of energy service for customers. As the country’s leading energy services company, Exelon’s utilities provide clean, safe, and reliable energy service for more than 10 million customers.

While customers have expressed interest in EVs, many are hesitant to purchase EVs due to anxiety about the range their vehicle will travel and a lack of available and affordable vehicle charging options. Pepco is committed to working in partnership with stakeholders in the District to address these concerns. Nationally, the Edison Electric Institute and the Institute for Electric Innovation released a report last year projecting that more than seven million EVs will be on the road by 2025. The report also says more than five million charging ports will be needed to keep these EVs charged and running. And right here in our community, the District of Columbia’s energy plan focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the District, and Pepco can help achieve these goals through the use of clean energy and transportation technologies. “Our customers are demonstrating their interest in electric vehicles and other alternative energy technologies,” said Donna Cooper, Pepco Region President.

“As an energy leader, we have a key role in helping to advance these technologies and provide our customers with choices and options on how and when they use energy.” At Pepco, we’re a company that leads by example, and are already using EVs to power our operations. Our Mobile Messenger team – a group that delivers mail and materials between our facilities – led the charge within our company. The team travels an average of 126 miles per day, and their work is crucial to our business. Using EVs helps eliminate the refueling trips required for gas-powered vehicles, enabling the team to charge their vehicles while making deliveries at locations along their routes. Working with colleagues on our Vehicle Resource Manage-


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ment and Smart Grid & Technology teams, the Mobile Messenger team helped configure the new vehicles to ensure they had enough cargo space to meet their needs. And on Earth Day last year, they rolled out their new Kia® Soul EVs. Since adding these vehicles, the team has cut costs while continuing to deliver for our business.   These vehicles are just the  latest additions to our increasingly eco-friendly  fleet. Elsewhere, we have incorporated  hybrids and EVs into crucial operations. At Pepco, we are continually looking for new ways to save energy and money while preserving the environment. Sustainability is one of our core values, and we are going to keep working to safely bring reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy to our customers and the communities we serve. SS



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A Conversation with Tommy Wells – D.C.’s Environmental Czar By Denise Rolark Barnes Informer Publisher On April 22 the annual Earth Day observation takes place, celebrating the 1970s origins of an environmental movement designed to raise public awareness of the depletion of natural resources. And while the initial focus charted deleterious impacts of oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife, Earth Day has also grown to incorporate tips, efforts, and legislation aimed at reducing that depletion. Today, the movement engage an aggressive effort to end global warming and promote clean energy, including solar and wind. Hundreds of grassroots organizations around the globe who partner with public sector entities seek to find innovative ways to clean up the environment and to create a sense of urgency aimed at changing behaviors and influencing public policy to protect the planet. In the District, the Department of Energy and the Environment tackles environmental issues affecting D.C. residents. Director Tommy Wells, former Ward 6 Councilmember, remains impassioned about the agency’s mission – “to improve the quality of life for the residents and natural inhabitants of the nation’s capital.” Wells, along with the agency’s 350 employees, work to protect and restore the environment, conserve natural resources, mitigate pollution, increase access to clean and renewable energy, and educate the public on ways to secure a sustainable future. The Washington Informer was pleased to spend time recently with Wells in his office at 1200 First Street, Northeast, where he shared with us the agency’s work and his vision for ensuring a sustainable future for the District.


We’d never heard of a derecho in the city before, but it was a storm that knocked out power for about two weeks.

Then, we just had a storm come through here about two weeks ago with the highest recorded winds in the history of the District of Columbia. It was about 60-70 miles per hour when it came through, and it was devastating. Thirdly, D.C. is positioned on a tectonic plate. We’re sinking while at the same time the water’s rising. Since the 50s, our water level has come up 11 inches, the fastest you’ll find on the eastern seaboard. The evidence of that is at Hains Point. When it was built, it didn’t flood, but now any time you go there at high tide, it’s flooded. It wasn’t built that way. And, the last three years were the hottest three years on record. We had the hottest day on record last February. As the climate changes, we’ll also see changes in the bugs, birds, and things that grow here due to the impact on their habitat.


Sustainability 2.0 includes getting information out and holding meetings to engage residents in the Sustainable D.C. Plan. We’ve had 45 neighborhood meetings so far with a heavy emphasis in Wards 5, 7 and 8. We’re doing phone polling, and it’s our way

to enrolling people in our sustainable future.


It’s extremely successful. In about 6-8 months, the use of disposable bags went down by 65 percent. Fast forward, after about eight years of the bag fee, the use is still down by 65 percent. It immediately went down about that amount and no deeper. It’s hard to gauge now that we have more grocery stores throughout the city, which means more bags, but the amount of revenue we’ve raised has been steady. A nickel brought about behavior change automatically, and then it stopped. We still believe a five-cent fee is fair enough and as a result, we’ve seen about a 70 percent decrease of disposable bags in our rivers. The main purpose of the fee was to get in between the consumer and the retailer to force them to ask you, “Do you need a bag with that?” Sometimes bags were given unnecessarily. It’s a fee; not a tax. All the money raised goes to the Anacostia Riverworks Initiatives, which includes a free boat tour, which I would advise everyone to take. The tour gives residents a chance to see how the fee is working and how very successful the bag bill has been.


The main thing with the bag fee is to get the bags out of the river, and the water bill fee is meant to fix the combined sewer overflow. To fix the sewer system problem, it will cost $2.7 billion. Ratepayers, including the D.C. and federal governments, will have to pay it. We’re putting in more than 15 miles of tunnels, a little larger than a subway tunnel, to hold this water. We just completed about 7 miles. So, while the Anacostia is getting cleaner, we’re working to get the sewage out.


With this year being the Year of the Anacostia, our goal is for that river to become swimmable again. Now, with the sewer system being

diverted from the river, we’re not that far from being able to swim there again. The only thing that’s particularly bad in there is the bacteria E. coli, but I’m sure the river will become swimmable again in our lifetime. Also, Kingman Island is a very interesting place. Through leaving it alone, it’s become a wild island with indigenous growth. For the Mayor to take an inner-city island and spend $4.7 million to make it a protected area, it will be interesting to see how it will become a natural learning environment for children.


That’s a very serious question. The federal government used to have a role in giving grants and pushing innovation to bring states and countries along. If one state were doing a great job at something, the federal government would encourage partnerships to teach other states how to do it, as well. The federal partnership is evaporating quickly; we have to network between states without the federal government, which is no longer a partner, and that is a huge loss. SS / 2018 SUSTAINABILITY SUPPLEMENT / APRIL 2018


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Increasing Economic Empowerment in the District of Columbia Through Community Solar

By Mike Healy, CEO New Columbia Solar   Imagine being able to harness the power of the sun to save money on your electric bill. For thousands of DC residents and millions of Americans, that is now a reality.  More and more homes and businesses across the country are enjoying the benefits of solar power less pollution, cost-savings, and more control over how their energy needs are met. New Columbia Solar (NCS) is a local energy provider that strives to positively impact District residents and businesses by making solar energy accessible to everyone. Over the past two years, NCS has grown from a small group of industry leaders to an organization employing over 30 District residents. We’ve proudly invested over $20 million into District based solar energy systems that are now powering homes and businesses across our city with clean energy.


How can solar energy benefit

members of our community? In addition to building and managing solar energy systems, our team is expert in financing solar projects that provide long-term benefits to our customers at no up-front cost. What this means is we can cut our customer’s electricity bills in half without the need for them to invest any money upfront. Instead, NCS bears the cost of the solar panels while providing our customers with immediate savings. What’s more, because solar energy has no fuel input costs – just Mother Nature’s beautiful sunshine – we can provide a flat, predictable energy price for up to 25 years. Additionally, NCS can front-load our customer’s savings, enabling them to make capital upgrades to their facilities, such as roof-replacements, HVAC and boiler replacements, or other needed improvements. This unique service allows NCS to reinvest in our neighborhoods and extend the useful life of some of our most important social centers, all while powering our community with locally generated solar energy.


Generally, solar energy is accessed through panels directly placed on a building. Through Community Solar, we are now able to utilize a single solar system to provide the benefits of solar energy anywhere in the city, creating a clean energy access point for dozens of residents and businesses. For New Columbia Solar, the community is what we are about.  We take pride that our company is located in the nation’s capital, the vast majority of our staff live here, and we train and employ DC residents across all eight wards. We provide low-income residents and seniors access to low-cost electricity and predictable energy prices. Often, our company helps residents and businesses find solutions to problems that would typically make solar inaccessible.  Take for example DC’s Ward 4 Celestial Church of Christ. Our goal - install panels on the roof of the church to enable 29 homes in the area to benefit from the use of the solar pow-

er.  The problem?  The roof was in disrepair and suffered from extensive leaks.  Our team worked with the church to repair the building’s roof, and now Celestial Church of Christ has a brand-new roof with a 25-year useful life. When the solar system is turned on in a few weeks, these 29 homes will see lower electric bills for the lifetime of the solar system. We also have an ongoing partnership with the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), a non-profit that helps District residents, businesses and institutions save energy and money through energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. In March of this year, New Columbia Solar and the DCSEU  successfully brought 792 kW of clean, renewable solar energy to three schools in the District’s community: Capital City Public Charter School, Academy of Hope Public Charter School

and Paul Public Charter School. Each school will receive low-cost energy for the next 15 years, saving them an estimated total of $2.24 million. This directly translates into additional funds for school programming, facility upgrades and equates to about 40 new full-time teachers. Correspondingly, this partnership has enabled New Columbia Solar to expand our small business by hiring six new District-based employees. As the CEO of New Columbia Solar, I am excited to continue our mission to make it as easy as humanly possible for District residents and businesses to benefit from solar energy. We are transforming how the District of Columbia is powered and invite you to join our journey. Together, we can move our community forward and inspire every city in the world to follow in our footsteps. SS

Easy Tips for Slashing Energy Bills By Ronda Smith Special to the Informer No matter the season, the use of technology and the myriad of gadgets – from Alexa to automated cleaners – have caused American households to function in a constant state of “plugged in.” That always thriving energy level, keeps information at our fingertips, but has also caused the average household to spend more than $2,200 annually in energy bills. Fortunately, many product manufacturers and emerging clean energy platforms have also created new and effective ways to improve energy efficiency and lower the costs of connectivity. Here are a few of those tips:


A programmable thermostat allows you to automatically change the heating and cooling of your home when you’re not at home, when you’re asleep, and so on, saving significantly on your heating and cooling bills.


The hot water heater is a major energy drain in most homes, accounting for about 14 percent of energy costs. By dropping the temperature down to 125-130 degrees Fahrenheit and installing a water heater blanket to keep in the heat. An insulation blanket, or hot water heater blanket, is ex-

actly what it sounds like -- It’s a blanket that wraps around your hot water heater to keep it from losing heat.


Electrical devices around the house that stay plugged in, but are not in use, can literally drain money from your pockets. Most electronic devices constantly draw a small amount of electricity that can add up quickly when you consider just how many devices and small appliances you own. To eliminate that usage, unplug any items or power strips you use infrequently.


The key to saving energy is within reach! Switch to dimmer switches, so you only use as much light as you need. Light dimmers save energy by reducing the flow of electricity to the bulb and allowing lights to operate with lower power outputs.


Most of the energy consumed by your dishwasher goes to heating water. Turn off the heat dry feature, and you’ll minimize the drain. A heating element uses a lot of electricity, so instead, use the manufacturers’ setting for air or condensation drying. These systems use a heated rinse at the end of a cycle to coat dishes in hot water. SS / 2018 SUSTAINABILITY SUPPLEMENT / APRIL 2018


By Stacy M. Brown WI Senior Writer The United States has one of the safest water supplies in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which notes that, if you are among the 286 million Americans that get water from a community water system, the tap water is regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Drinking water varies from place to place, depending on the condition of the source water from which it’s drawn and the treatment it receives, but it must meet EPA regulations. Still, there was the Flint, Michigan water crisis where in 2014 more than 100,000 residents were potentially exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water – resulting in 15 reported deaths and countless illnesses. That crisis still has many Americans reeling, wary of just how safe – or unsafe – their drinking water might be. With that, the CDC does acknowledge that drinking water that’s not properly treated or which travels through an improperly maintained distribution system may create an environment for contamination. Also, the presence of certain contaminants in water can lead to health issues, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and immune-compromised persons may be especially susceptible to illness. That realization does little to dispel the many myths and fears about water purity although Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, which makes organic and natural beauty projects, offered up and shot down two examples of what he said were myths. “Fluoride is bad for you. In water it serves two very important functions [which are] it helps prevent tooth decay, and it prevents goiters, and let’s be honest, nobody misses lumpy necks,” Backe said. “Clean water is important and getting a filter may be an option with regard to guarding against mishaps. Pure water, on the other hand, is just a luxury.” Indeed, there’s a real concern about safe drinking water, not

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only domestically, but around the globe, said Darrel Larson, the international director for Sawyer Products, a manufacturer of water filtration products. “I believe that there’s significant proof to dispel the myth that plastic bottled water is necessary in order to enjoy safe drinking water,” Larson said. In recent studies commissioned in Fiji by Sawyer Products, results indicated that clean water effects individual health, family economics and the environment. GIS data collection has been a part of a distribution that will result in nearly 100,000 Sawyer-made filters donated to a project in Fiji as a solution for that country’s clean water needs, particularly in rural, hard-toreach areas, Larson said. “Not only does the GIS data allow for tracking of the filter installations and follow ups, but health and social-economic data is also being collected. Each family that receives a water filter voluntarily participates in a survey that measures diarrhea reduction, school and work days recaptured that were once lost due to waterborne sickness, purchased water savings and medical savings associated with poor water quality,” he said. After a health scare, Kathryn Kellogg stopped assuming everything she put in her body was safe and starting cooking from scratch, making her own cleaning and beauty products, and, she said, she stopped using plastic. Today, she devotes her life to Going Zero Waste, a blog dedicated to ditching plastic, removing harmful chemicals from homes, and reducing waste. “Unfortunately, I can’t [dispel the myths of and fears about water purity],” said Kellogg said, who spends her time educating the public on the dangers of trash, plastic pollution, and fighting to end food waste. In doing so, Kellogg said she can show anyone all of the trash she’s thrown away in the past two years … in one mason jar. “There’s 94 percent of plastic in our drinking water with higher concentrations of plastic in bottled water. Our tap water has less plastic than bottles and is regulated and tested more regularly than bottled water. Tap water is still the safest option out there,” she said. SS

By the Numbers

Compiled by Ronda Smith Special to the Informer

8.5 greenhouse gas emissions that result from the decomposition of waste in landfills and the burning of waste in incinerators. Making new paper from recycled materials uses less energy than producing paper from virgin tree products and leaves more trees to absorb carbon dioxide in the forest.

There is no limit to the number of times an aluminum can could be recycled.

To produce one trillion pages of paper takes 8.5 million acres of trees, representing an area larger than the country of Belgium or the state of Maryland.

Every day, Americans use enough steel and tin cans to make a steel pipe running from Los Angeles to New York and back.

The average American uses seven trees and 680 pounds of paper per year. One person uses two pine trees’ worth of paper products each year.

One quart of motor oil can contaminate 2 million gallons of fresh water.


Crystal Clear: Dispelling Myths and Fears about Water Purity


The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it. The average college student produces 640 pounds of solid waste each year, including 500 disposable cups and 320 pounds of paper.

In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage. This means that each adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 pounds of trash for his or her (or other people’s) children.


Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as does burning it. Five recycled plastic bottles make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.

1.5 million tons of plastic are used to make bottles every year, a waste that could instead power 250,000 homes.


Traditional waste disposal creates

A recycled aluminum can is back on the shelf within 60 days. Recycling two aluminum cans saves the amount of energy it takes to power a PC for one workday.




Motor oil never wears out; it just gets dirty. It can be recycled. SS


DC Water Delivers on a Cleaner Anacostia River Grand Opening of the Clean Rivers Tunnel System

New tunnels will dramatically improve water quality. In late March, local residents and environmental organizations joined DC Water to celebrate the commissioning of the first phase of the Clean Rivers Tunnel System. Deep underground, a new seven mile long tunnel is now open and ready to protect the Anacostia River during heavy rainfalls. The tunnel can hold more than 100 million gallons and will reduce combined sewer overflows to the Anacostia by approximately 80%. It is a fitting milestone to mark the Year of the Anacostia, and work has already started on another tunnel that will eliminate almost all of the overflows to the river.


OPC Working to Build a Sustainable DC on Multiple Fronts

By Sandra Mattavous-Frye People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia In celebration of Earth Day, the Office of the People’s Counsel is pleased to join the Washington Informer’s 2018 Sustainability and Energy Supplement. OPC welcomes this opportunity to share the work we are doing on behalf of District of Columbia consumers to promote and achieve a sustainable DC. As People’s Counsel, I am obligated to advocate on behalf of District consumers of natural gas, electricity and telecommunications services to ensure consumers are charged rates that are just and affordable; and are provided service that is safe and reliable. As we execute our mission, OPC is committed to advocating for sustainable policies and for local utilities to integrate more energy efficient resources into the power distribution grid, thereby reducing energy and utility costs for DC consumers. The need to update the grid at reasonable costs to produce affordable rates is one of the most important issues we face. OPC fiercely advocates for the cost-effective integration of distributed energy resources such as solar, wind, battery storage and electric vehicles into the retail and wholesale markets. OPC is focusing on this issue by providing input on a regulatory proceeding before the DC Public Service Commission (PSC) entitled Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS/Formal Case No. 1130).

DC People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye and Community Outreach Specialist Denise Blackson with children attending an OPC energy efficiency workshop at Upshur Recreation Center in Northwest as part of OPC’s partnership with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation. In this case, OPC’s key goals are to: (1) cooperate in creating an effective grid modernizing plan that will strengthen the resiliency and reliability of the District’s energy delivery system; (2) allow optimal utilization of all viable distributed energy resource options such as solar and wind power; and (3) provide all District ratepayers access to the benefits of sustainable energy options. OPC continues to be committed to working with the PSC and other parties to meet the challenge of developing a modernized energy distribution system in a cost-effective manner. OPC is embracing a sustainable DC through our participation in academic studies that will help inform the public and policy makers as they charge ahead on the sustainability front. Most recently, OPC was awarded a federal grant from the Clean Energy States Alliance “Solar Innovation Network” to study the placement of solar within the District of Columbia. Upon its completion, we look forward to sharing the results with the public.

Meeting the District’s sustainability goals is a collaborative effort that requires engaging many District agencies. For example, the District Department of Energy & Environment launched the ambitious Solar for All program in 2017 with the purpose of reducing the electric bills of low and limited-income DC residents. OPC has taken an active role as a member of the Solar for All working group, and as chair of the group’s Consumer Education Committee. As the multiyear program is implemented, we continue to monitor its stages; and will integrate it into our outreach and education programs to keep the community updated on the initiative’s progress. OPC’s advocacy and active role in promoting dis-

tributed energy resources, enhancing service reliability and ensuring affordable rates, are critical steps toward achieving a sustainable DC. OPC implements various outreach programs and creates timely publications to expose consumers to energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives. OPC recently published “A DC Consumer’s Guide to Going Solar.” Designed to be simple and informative, the guide offers District residents a step-bystep roadmap to bringing solar to their home or business. The brochure includes information on the installation process and consumer protections, among other useful topics. We also are excited to announce the launching of several new ini-

tiatives, including expanding our working partnership with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, and DC Public Schools to teach young people about energy efficiency and how they can help their parents save money on utility bills; and developing an “Energy Affordability Hub,” which will be an interactive training facility aimed at educating consumers about the latest tools and tips to become more energy efficient at home. As we celebrate Earth Day, I encourage all District residents to join the Office of the People’s Counsel in helping our city meet its sustainable energy goals. With the emergence of solar, wind, electric vehicles and other clean energy technology, OPC remains committed to making sure the benefits of these adopted technologies are shared across all eight wards of the District. For more information on the work we are doing to foster sustainability, visit, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. SS / 2018 SUSTAINABILITY SUPPLEMENT / APRIL 2018


Riding Clean! Sustainable, Emissions-free Transportation in Maryland

This article is a joint effort from MEDA and Chispa Maryland. Lyn Griffith Taylor, coordinator, Marylanders for Energy Democracy and Affordability Ramon Palencia-Calvo, Program Director, Chispa Maryland Tyrese Robinson is a Prince George’s County special-education teacher, Mount Rainer resident, and mother of four. Like many, she didn’t think much about the quality of air in her community – until her 9-yearold daughter started experiencing severe, recurring, asthma attacks. After her daughter was hospitalized yet again because of trouble breathing, Tyrese began to make the connection between air pollution in her community and her daughter’s illness. In the end, it was clear to Tyrese that the health of her children was directly impacted by the pollution of the environment in which they were living. Ground-level ozone and airborne pollution -- from sources including industrial and commuter traffic -- are the most harmful air pollutants in Prince George’s County and the Washington DC Metropolitan Area. Medical research confirms that exposure to air pollutants from transportation sources can reduce lung function and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, infant mortality, cancer, and the very same asthmas attacks with

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which Tyrese is all too familiar. Asthma is the leading cause of school absences for children and adolescents, which inhibits students’ productivity and success in the classroom. In order to protect the health of our communities and move towards a truly sustainable future, we must do everything we can to reduce harmful carbon emissions, including those from the transportation sector. Emissions from vehicle tailpipes are one of the largest contributors to dangerous climate- and health-impacting pollutants in Maryland. Meaningfully reducing carbon emissions will require not just continued work on the transition to clean energy, but also the transition to electric transportation, which produces no tailpipe emissions. The Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund and the Maryland utilities’ joint proposal to invest in electric vehicle charging stations are two key moving pieces that could accelerate transportation electrification in our state. As a result of a 2015 scandal over emissions-reductions fraud, Volkswagen Motors was ordered to set up the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund and provide more that $75 million in funding to Maryland. This funding is to reduce carbon emissions by supporting widespread transportation electrification. These funds should be reinvested in local communities and school districts, with emphasis on lower-income communities and/ or communities of color where students and families face dis-

proportionately high risks of air pollution. Transitioning dirty diesel school buses to clean, zero-emissions electric buses will benefit the more than 623,000 school children that ride them to and from school every weekday. Electrified buses will also benefit residents that live in neighborhoods along bus-routes, and those that live near Maryland’s many bus yards, in which buses frequently are left to ‘idle’ with their engines on, creating toxic clouds of diesel fumes. Additionally, the Maryland Public Service Commission is currently considering a joint proposal by the state’s utilities to build a network of electric vehicle charging-stations throughout the state. Building a network of charging stations, just like gas stations, is crucial to supporting the widespread adoption of electric vehicles in our state. The utility proposal is one outcome of the Commission’s grid mod-


ernization proceeding, which is considering upgrades to make Maryland’s electricity system more environmentally sustainable, customer-centric, and generally bring it into the 21st century. Chispa Maryland, a program of Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ Education Fund, launched the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign last year after identifying Volkswagen settlement funds available for states’ use. This campaign is building momentum to ensure that communities -- particularly communities of color -- no longer suffer the negative health consequences of diesel school bus emissions. With support from residents like Tyrese, we took our campaign to the Prince George’s County Council, which approved a resolution to request that Governor Hogan dedicate that Volkswagen Trust funding to the purchase of electric, ze-

ro-emissions school buses. And we will continue working with the County Council to secure their commitment to transition the entire fleet of dirty diesel school buses to clean, zero-emissions electric transport. Electric buses are costly to purchase at the outset, but they cost 30% less to maintain than diesel vehicles and reduce pollutant emissions by almost 80%. Replacing one diesel bus with an electric counterpart is equivalent to taking 27 cars off the road, and can save $11,000 per year in operating costs. Combined with the Public Service Commission’s planned charging-station network, the County Council resolution sets the stage for a massive shift that will deliver tremendous benefits for the health of our planet, our communities and our children. Maryland has made amazing progress towards sustainability and the incorporation of more clean energy. But much work remains to be done. Residents must maintain pressure on policymakers and representatives to make investments that will safeguard our children’s healthy future. Continuing with ‘business as usual’ means dangerous emissions from the transportation sector, which will only reinforce the adverse health effects to which communities, especially those of color, are exposed. It is imperative that Prince George’s County commit to transitioning to clean transportation in order to achieve a sustainable, prosperous, clean energy future. SS

You are invited to a


Anacostia River with a special presentation on the Anacostia River Sediment Project

April 24, 2018 7:00PM - 9:00PM

Take the River Use Survey:

Department of Employment Services Community Room #1 (ID required for entry) 4058 Minnesota Avenue NE Washington, DC 20019 Closest Metro: Minnesota Ave. Station The event will feature informational tables showcasing connections to the Anacostia River from the Alice Ferguson Foundation, Anacostia Park and Community Collaborative, Anacostia Waterfront Trust, Anacostia Watershed Society, Anacostia River Keeper, Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership, DC Water, Department of Energy and Environment, and the National Park Service.

• Learn more about the efforts to clean up the Anacostia River • Provide feedback on the Anacostia River Sediment Project • Sign up for FREE educational boat tours • Explore opportunities related to the Year of the Anacostia



2018 Sustainability Supplement  

2018 Sustainability Supplement

2018 Sustainability Supplement  

2018 Sustainability Supplement