Archive | climate change

Hurricane Help: A Call to Action

In response to the environmental and economic devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Clean Fairfax is posting this call to action.

If you or someone you know can help with the recovery from this hurricane season, the Small Business Association (SBA) has paid positions and FEMA has mostly volunteer positions.  Deployments are up to 60 days, some with possible extensions. SBA travel is paid, overtime is highly likely and also paid.  It’s perfect for someone who wants to give back and who has a flexible schedule/obligations.

Tell them SBA/OHRS sent you if you apply.

Hurricane Response paid positions at the Small Business Administration

To apply to volunteer with disaster relief with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster go to www.nvoad.org

 

To apply to volunteer with disaster relief specifically in Florida go to www.volunteerflorida.org

The following is a list of the types of skills and roles FEMA is most in need of right now.

Program Area Skillset Required Duration Personnel Requirements
Individual Assistance Survivor outreach and communication, case management (Target Series: None) Up to 60 days 500 personnel

·         Specialists

·         First-level Managers

Logistics Load and unload trucks; coordinate and deliver resources; track inventory (Target Series: None) Up to 120 days 450 personnel

·         Specialists

·         First-level Managers

IT Establish connectivity for facilities; install, track, and manage equipment; configure communications equipment (Target Series: 2210) Up to 120 days 250 personnel

·         Specialists

·         First-level Managers

Disaster Survivor Assistance Engage directly with survivors; demonstrate understanding of available programs; case management (Target Series: None) Up to 60 days 300 personnel

·         Specialists

·         First-level Managers

Hazard Mitigation Floodplain management, mitigation strategies for the built environment, flood insurance, FEMA’s grant programs and authorities (Target Series: Engineering) Up to 180 days 230 personnel

·         Specialists

·         First-level Managers

Telecommunications Set up, operation, and shut down of communications vehicles; installation of voice and data cables; knowledge of radio protocols (Target Series: 0391) Up to 30 days 200 personnel

·         Specialists

·         First-level Managers

External Affairs Communications, Congressional and intergovernmental affairs, media analysis, media relations, tribal affairs, private sector relations (Any Communications Specialists – Target Series: 1035) Up to 60 days 100 personnel

·         Specialists

·         First-level Managers

Environmental and Historic Preservation Knowledge of environmental, historic, and floodplain management processes and regulations (Target Series: 2820 and 0810) Up to 120 days 70 personnel

·         Specialists

·         First-level Managers

Human Resources Human resources specialists and managers (Staffing and Processing (EmpowHR Specialists/Assistants – Target Series: 0201/0203) Up to 120 days 70 personnel

·         Assistants

·         Specialists

·         First-level Managers

Finance Travel arrangements and budget controls (Concur experience preferred – or Target Series: 0500) Up to 120 days 30 personnel

·         Specialists

Acquisitions Contracting officers, purchasing specialists, and procurement specialists (Target Series: 1101 and 1102) Up to 120 days 5 personnel

·         Specialists

 
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Solar Energy in Virginia

Solar energy not only contributes to environmental sustainability, but also makes economic sense from a statewide perspective. While our national government continues to tout the need to support the coal industry, solar is slowly making some inroads in the Virginia energy system. As our Solar Report Card shows, however, both lukewarm state policies and insufficient incentives still keep solar from being all it could be in our (mostly) sunny state.

A few facts to debunk some myths:

Jobs:  Only 2,647 Virginians still work in coal mining while 4,338 work in solar energy and 1,260 in wind power—and employment in alternative energy is rising. (January 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report). The number of solar jobs in Virginia climbed by 65 percent between 2015 and 2016 and solar jobs grew 53 times faster than the overall state economy according to a report released by The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, which defines solar workers as those who spend at least 50 percent of their time on solar-related work. Alternative energy, and solar in particular, offers great employment opportunities for Virginia residents.

Cost:  Dominion Energy’s latest integrated resource plan (IRP) for Virginia reveals that utility scale solar farms (20 megawatts and up) can produce electricity at a cost that beats coal, gas, and nuclear. Accordingly, Dominion is proposing a build-out of 249 megawatts of solar per year. Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services has been building 260 megawatts of solar in five Virginia counties to supply its data centers. And developers have proposed more than 1,600 megawatts of additional solar capacity in counties across the state. At the large-scale level, there is some growth.

What about the cost to the average homeowner? Unfortunately, while the Federal government offers a 30% income tax credit, VA is behind many other states in offering incentives for homeowners to go solar. Some counties and cities in Virginia, including Fairfax County, exempt solar energy equipment from local property taxes, but that’s about it. There is no income tax credit offered by the state of Virginia.

For comparison, Maryland residents get $1,000 when they purchase a solar system smaller than 20 kilowatts for their primary residence. Also, homeowners do not have to pay any extra taxes on the increased value of their home when they go solar and the purchase of the solar energy system is tax-free. According to Solar Power Rocks, an independent organization “committed to giving homeowners a clear picture of the policy, incentives, and investment returns on local solar panel installations.” payback time for 5-kW solar in Maryland is 10 years and the Investment Return Rate is 10.3%. Here is Virginia’s Solar Report Card.   

Source: https://solarpowerrocks.com/virginia

RPS Law:  Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a law used to require electric utilities to generate a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources by a certain date. If a utility company fails to meet these goals, it can be subject to large fines.  Virginia’s standard is 15% of base year (2007) sales by 2025. For more info about Virginia’s RPS:  http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program/detail/2528

Solar Carve-out:  Part of a state’s RPS that sets a specific goal for electricity generation from solar panels. Virginia does not have a solar carve-out.

Net Metering: Billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For more info on VA’s net metering policies: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/PollutionPrevention/VirginiaInformationSourceforEnergy/DistributedGeneration/NetMetering.aspx

Battery Storage: Power producers face a constant challenge of supplying energy to match the ebb and flow of energy demand. Many people continue to hold the erroneous belief that solar power is too inconsistent to be reliable, i.e. when there is no sun there will be no power. According to Ivy Main, from Power to the People VA, several factors make the storage problem a non-issue in Virginia.

  • First of all, we have a huge grid managed by independent operator PJM Interconnection that easily compensates for any “down” time. While solar makes up less than 1% of its electricity supply currently, PJM’s own March 2017 study concluded that its grid could handle up to 20% solar right now without any new battery storage, resulting in energy savings (see “cost” above) and a reduction in carbon pollution from the move away from coal and gas sources.
  • Secondly, hidden in Bath County, Virginia, is the world’s largest “battery:” pumped storage provided by a pair of reservoirs generating over 3,000 megawatts of hydropower that PJM can use to balance out supply and demand.
  • Finally, actual batteries are also an option since their price has dropped by half since 2014. Solar-plus-storage combinations now compete with new gas plants that run only when there is a high demand (“gas peakers”) and batteries can also be paired with solar to form microgrids for emergency use during widespread outages.

Considering solar? Contact Solarize NOVA, a non-profit, community-based outreach initiative that brings solar power to people in their homes and businesses in Northern Virginia. They will answer questions, help find a qualified solar installer, and perform a free solar satellite assessment. http://solarizenova.org/

Keep on top of energy legislation in Virginia at https://powerforthepeopleva.com/

Help Clean Fairfax in its mission to keep Fairfax County green and sustainable!

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Energy Star Program on the Chopping Block

If you have shopped for a new appliance in the last 25 years, you may have seen the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate by promoting energy efficiency.

The program helps shoppers identify products that use less electricity. It also certifies buildings that meet strict energy performance standards set by the EPA. According to the EPA website, “ENERGY STAR certified buildings save energy, save money, and help protect the environment by generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions than typical buildings.”

When news broke that the Trump administration wants to defund the program as part of the budget plan, more than 1,000 companies called for it to be saved in a letter to Congress.

This program is a great example of the government and the private sector working together. It costs just $50 million a year, and the EPA estimates that it has saved Americans $430 billion on utility bills since 1992.

So, why would the Trump administration want to cut this program? A CNN report on April 26, 2017, revealed that 11 of Trump’s 15 properties in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco have received scores below 50 (out of 100) in energy efficiency from the Energy Star program. Buildings with low energy efficiency — like Trump’s properties — tend to have lower property values than their competitors. Corporate, public and individual buyers are increasingly looking for green buildings, especially when these offer cost savings in the long run. Energy Star provides a mechanism to publicly inform buyers of the energy efficiency of their potential purchase, thus “outing” the energy hogs.

Congress needs to hear from individuals as well as corporations on the benefits of this important program!

Carbon Offset Your Summer Travel

Summer is a heavy travel time and eco-tourism is on the rise. In fact, the UN has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

 A 2013 NY Times Sunday Review article entitled “Your Biggest Carbon Sin May Be Air Travel” says that one round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10.

One way to minimize the environmental impact of your travel is to purchase carbon offsets.  A carbon offset is essentially a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that compensates for an emission produced somewhere else. But when buying carbon offsets, it is important to be clear on what offset sellers are guaranteeing. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the offset should be real, verified, enforceable, and permanent. Also, the offset should be additional with no leakage. In a 2016 article entitled “Should You Buy Carbon Offsets?” they give the following example:

If the offset seller is giving money to a landowner in the Amazon who promises to leave his/her trees standing to maximize carbon sequestration, there needs to be a way to ensure there is an actual landowner with the trees, a way to penalize this landowner if s/he does not follow through, and guarantees that the trees won’t be burned down six months later. Also, if the landowner was not planning on removing the trees anyways, this would be considered a gift rather than an offset. Finally, if the logging company just buys the land next to the landowner’s land, then the carbon offset just shifted deforestation rather than prevented it.

According to the NRDC, “The best carbon offset programs are transparent. If you have concerns, you should contact the seller to find out exactly what you’re buying. Many will allow you to direct your money to specific projects or away from others.”

 There are numerous carbon offset sellers online. Be sure to read the fine print.

Green-e provides international energy certification. Their suggested list is at https://www.green-e.org/certified-resources/carbon-offsets

 If you want to know how much carbon you are creating go to http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/calculator

A more detailed carbon calculator can be found at https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/

Trump and the Environment

We are just past President Trump’s first fifty days. While the press has focused mostly on the President’s appointees for government positions, immigration issues, and health insurance, changes that affect the environment seem to have taken a back seat.

Earth 911 has done an excellent job keeping us on top of this administration’s impact on environmental issues so far:

http://earth911.com/business-policy/trump-50-days-in/?utm_source=New+Earth911+List+-+2015&utm_campaign=c3932a5fe7-Tuesday+Emails+3.14.17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e8b4dc609-c3932a5fe7-167852373

Whatever your political bent, the environment is something that affects us all! Stay informed and inform others. Take action on the issues that concern you.

 

World Soil Day—December 5

Soil. Noperson-with-soil-and-plant-headt great when it smudges your clothing or gets tracked into your home, but as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations points out, it is a “life enabling resource.” As an essential ingredient to healthy food and nutrition, or as they put it, “where food begins,” soil is indispensable in providing
sustenance for humans. Additionally, soil can play an important role in slowing climate change by storing carbon through a process called carbon sequestration.  Healthy soil decreases greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere and is therefore, according to FAO, “our ally against climate change.”  Yet, we continue to take soil for granted, and our actions negatively impact this important resource.

On a macro scale, industrial activity, particularly mining and manufacturing, have a huge effect on our soil. Unsustainable agricultural practices such as the heavy reliance on pesticides and shopping-carts-in-streamfertilizers, damage the soil too. In fact, according to the FAO, “if soils are managed poorly or cultivated through unsustainable agricultural practices, soil carbon can be released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), which can contribute to climate change.” Oil spills and acid rain also contribute to soil degradation.

But our own individual actions count as well. Every piece of litter thrown by the roadside or dumped into a stream is not only unsightly and may entrap
wildlife, but also leaches foreign substances into the soil and waterways as it biodegrades.  Check out some pictures of litter here in Fairfax County. Imagine the impact on our precious soil as these items break down.

If soil sustains life, we are not doing enough to protect it. The implications are huge….tire-and-other-litter.

Environmental News Roundup – October 21, 2015

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Mom’s Organic Market Herndon Grand Reopening

Join us for the Grand Re-Opening of Mom’s Organic Market in Herndon, featuring local tastings, henna art and more.

Clean Fairfax is pleased to be in attendance at the grand re-opening of Mom’s Organic Market in Herndon, VA. There will be a Naked Lunch – an all organic eatery featuring soups, bowls and raw juices! Come by and do some grocery shopping, try the local tastings, henna art, and much more. 5% of Grand Re-Opening sales will be donated to Clean Fairfax.

If you would like to volunteer, please send an email to cfc@cleanfairfax.org. We could use a few extra pair of hands, and we have fun things planned throughout the day.

Friday October 23 3 p.m.-6 p.m.

Saturday Oct 24 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sunday October 25 12 p.m.-3 p.m.

Molly's Sketchbook: Back to School Lunch Bag

As Schools Buy More Local Food, Kids Throw Less Food In The Trash

As hungry children stand in line each day for lunch, many school districts across the country are making an effort to serve food that was grown locally. When there was an increase of local food being served, the children ate more healthy meals and threw less food in the trash. Washington, D.C. school districts has been promoting this effort. Other schools across the U.S. are also following this route as well.

Obligatory Selfie Avec Camera

Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) Photography Competition

Do you love taking pictures, the environment, and wildlife? NVCT is holding a Second Annual Nearby Nature Photography Competition. Up to five photos can be submitted. The deadline is on midnight November 2, 2015. The winners will be announced in mid-November, and prizes will be from local businesses and organizations. Additionally, the winning photos will be included in the next edition of the Stewardship Connection, NVCT’s website, Facebook page, and other NVCT publications. More information can be found here.

Solar-Powered Glowing Bicycle Path In Netherlands Inspired By Van Gogh’s Starry Night

Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch artist and designer has created a stunning glowing bike bath. At night, it is illuminated by glowing pebbles and LEDs, which resembles Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night painting.

The path was created using glow-in-the-dark technology and solar-powered LEDs. The glowing path assists bicyclists stay on track when they ride on night. Similar beautiful environmental glowing paths are also in some parts of the U.K. This might be a new trend that catches on other parts of the world.

Conservation Assistance Program

Conservation Assistance Program

Funding Assistance for Conservation Work on Homeowner and Community Association Property

Have you ever thought about improving your community’s common lands by installing a rain garden to capture runoff, incorporating native meadow or tree and shrub species into your landscaping, or even installing porous pavers on a portion of your parking lot? Do you want to improve the energy efficiency of your community’s clubhouse or other shared building? These practices and more are now eligible for cost-share funding through the newly-launched Conservation Assistance Program (CAP).

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Visit the CAP webpage on the Conservation District’s website to learn more about eligible practices, funding levels, and who can apply. Applications are due by March 11th, so don’t delay!

For other updates, please consider subscribing to NVSWCD’s monthly watershed calendar. Email conservationdistrict@fairfaxcounty.gov to subscribe.