Break Down: Omnibus Bill's Green Spending

By now, most people know that the stimulus package was crammed with goodies for the environment. There were new tax incentives for renewable energy projects, increased spending for public transportation and funds for making the electric grid more energy efficient.

Now that the stimulus package has been passed and the money is making its way into the economy, it's time to turn our attention to the next source of environmental funding, the $410 billion Omnibus spending bill.

The Omnibus is a catch-all funding bill that provides funding necessary for 12 cabinet departments and lower federal agencies to operate. Congress was supposed to approve the Omnibus late last year, but punted the difficult vote to this year.

Here is a list of environmentally-related funding provisions in the Omnibus from the House Committee on Appropriations...

  • Environmental Protection Agency: $7.6 billion - Includes $224 million in grants for states to implement the Clean Air Act, $60 million in grants to reduce emissions from diesel engines, $50 million for the Energy Star program, $10 million in grants for communities to tackle climate change.
  • Department of Energy: $27 billion - $175 million for renewable energy pilot programs, $273 million for improved vehicle battery and clean fuel engine technology, $200 million in grants for weatherization, $18.5 billion for innovative technology grants and $4.8 billion for the DOE's Office of Science.
  • Climate Change: $232 million - This funding goes to addressing climate change while $2 billion was set-aside to study it. For 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels generated by the U.S., $10 million. For carbon capture and sequestration projects, $3 million. For a greenhouse gas registry, $6.5 million. Finally, $14.7 million for the Global Climate Change Mitigation Fund to encourage businesses to make green changes to their operations.
  • Hazardous Waste and Toxic Sites: $815 million - $605 million for 1,500 Superfund clean-up sites nation-wide. $112 million to investigate and clean-up underground toxic spills. $27 million to clean-up Brownfields' former industrial and commercial sites.
To see the full list of environmental spending in the omnibus, check out the list on the House Appropriations Committee's website.


CityRenewed.com: A Must See Site

If you live in DC, you and I might have the same problem: finding DC environmental info in one place. When I write posts about green happenings around our area, I have to sift through dozens of web calendars, organization sites and local newspapers.

A new website called CityRenewed.com has solved this frustrating problem. The site launched in early 2009 and is the most comprehensive source of green info in DC I've ever found.

Among the offerings on the site:

  • Green Events Calendar: The events calendar on City Renewed covers every green happening in DC you could hope to find - from farmers' markets to green jobs fairs and all the museum exhibits and educational workshops in between. If you have your own green event, you can add it to the calendar.
  • Green Business Guide: Searching for eco-friendly businesses in DC is kind of tough. Google results are almost useless. City Renewed has pulled together an incredible listing of green businesses in DC, divided into logical categories. You can even use their map to find what businesses are in your neighborhood.
  • Green Blog Posts: Running throughout the site are a number of totally useful and interesting blog posts all related to DC. Some of the posts relate to current issues, while other offer tips on how to be green in DC.
We recommend bookmarking City Renewed. The site is incredibly useful and intuitive. It is for sure the most comprehensive green resource in DC.


DC Pushes Artficial Turf, Despite Lead Fears

In New York City, a battle is being waged over the role of artificial turf on sports fields in the city’s public parks. Last December, a park in East Harlem was shut down after examiners detected elevated levels of lead coming from the artificial turf on the park’s soccer field. Some samples from the soccer field showed lead levels four times greater than the federal limits for playground soil.

Two members of the City Council and several activists were disturbed by these test results and have requested a moratorium on the use of artificial turf in New York’s public sports fields while further testing is completed. Other officials, like Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, argue that only a few parks reported elevated lead levels, which may be the result of coal processing that took place on the land years ago.

How does this story affect DC? In September of 2007, the Washington Post published a story titled “For Schools, Artificial Turf Grows in Popularity.” In the story, high school officials from Fairfax, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Loudoun, Arlington, Frederick and Charles county had either approved artificial turf on sports fields or were considering it. At the time, these officials viewed cost as the only drawback of the artificial turf.

In April, 2008, the Post published a new story titled, “U.S. Investigates Artificial Turf’s Lead Levels.” In the story, an official from the McLean Youth Soccer league, Al Stephenson, said fears over lead in artificial turf would delay the league’s push to install artificial turf on several of their soccer fields.

The issue of lead in artificial turf appears to be related to the use of recycled tires in the turf. Tires are broken down and converted to rubber pellets, which are then formed into the spongy vast sports fields many enjoy because of safety and maintenance ease. Unfortunatley, the crushed tire bits rub off easily on people’s skin and clothing, allowing users to carry the lead laden tire pieces on their body and into their homes.

As of September, 2008, the McClean Youth Soccer League was moving forward with plans to install more artificial turf soccer fields. An opening ceremony was held for two such fields on September 17th. The League has tried to calm fears over lead contamination with a public statement that says…”Based on information received from the (synthetic turf) industry we continue to believe that fields in Fairfax County do not pose any hazard to the public.”

To read more about the artificial turf battle in New York, read the New York Times story on their website by clicking HERE .

To read the Washington Post story on lead investigations for artificial turf fields on their website, click HERE .

Green DC: Stimulus Cuts & DC

On Monday night, President Obama spoke to the American people about the urgent need for passage of the stimulus bill before Congress. In his remarks, the President specifically mentioned the importance of funding for energy efficiency improvements in federal buildings. He said, “When people suggest that, ‘What a waste of money to make federal buildings more energy-efficient.’ Why would that be a waste of money?” President Obama said that making federal buildings more energy efficient would create jobs and reduce government spending long-term.

It’s no coincidence that President Obama mentioned energy efficient federal buildings, recent chatter from Capitol Hill suggests that funding for such projects in the stimulus bills has been cut. On February 6, Glenn Thrush of Politico reported a list of funding cuts in the stimulus bill agreed upon by Democrats and Republicans. In addition to cuts in funding for watershed rehabilitation and renewable energy loans, the list includes a cut of the $3.5 billion for “greening” federal buildings.

Right now, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are working to create a compromise stimulus package that reconciles the differences between their respective legislation. This means there is still a chance that funding for energy efficiency improvements in federal buildings is possible.

Making these changes to federal buildings has a bigger impact on DC than anywhere else in the nation. The federal government is the largest energy consumer in the United States. The District is home to all three branches of the federal government and a multitude of agencies, law enforcement organizations and military operations. The federal government alone employs about 250,000 people in DC.

Investing in energy efficient improvements in federal buildings will help DC meet its goal of training and employing more residents in “green jobs.” Less energy demand by the federal government will mean a reduction in demand for the coal energy that powers, and pollutes, our community. Finally, an influx of funds for energy efficient development will help DC create a green energy sector of the local economy.

Unfortunately, DC doesn’t have a strong voice in either the Senate or the House to fight for this funding. However, because Congress has ultimate authority over Washington, it’s our responsibility as residents to voice support for the energy efficiency program. Below is a list of the Senators and Representatives assigned to the stimulus bill conference committee, visit the Senate’s phone directory website by clicking HERE and let these Senators know that as a DC resident, you support funding for energy efficient federal buildings.


  • Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
  • Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.
  • Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii
  • Finance Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa
  • Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss.


  • Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wis.
  • Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
  • Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
  • Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.
  • Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Dave Camp, R-Mich.


Clinton's First Visit Focuses on Energy

During the contentious primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, one issue they completely agreed upon was the need to address the role energy plays in foreign relations.

Growing nations like China, Egypt, Brazil and India are demanding a larger portion of the world's energy supply, while leaders like Vladamir Putin and Hugo Chavez are becoming petro-dictators, wielding increasing power from their control over energy supplies.

Both Obama and Clinton agreed that unless we find ways to reduce global demand for energy and create open markets for oil, the world could become a series of energy coalitions, competing with one another for access to energy, perhaps through deadly confrontations.

Already, China and Russia have used their membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to create economic agreements with one another for the transfer of energy supplies. Iran is an observing member of the SCO but may soon become a full member. There is a joint military element to the SCO, with coordinated military tests conducted as recently as 2007 by China and Russia in the Ural Mountains. The United States has applied for membership in the SCO and was rejected.

The importance of addressing energy challenges, specifically in the "Eurasian" region, has provoked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to use her first overseas visit to go to China to discuss the issues of climate and energy. The meetings between Clinton and Chinese leaders have been placed under the umbrella of climate change, but discussions of energy cooperation will likely be included.

To see the full NYT store on Secretary of State Clinton's visit to China, click HERE.

Dual Flusher Doesn't Require New Toilet

It's not unusual to see dual-flush toilets in other countries. If you've never seen one before, they are just like any other toilet, only they allow users to choose one of two flushing options. When you need less water you push one button, or one lever. When you need more water, you push the other button or lever.

The idea is to conserve water by not using maximum water flushing if it isn't necessary. One downside to adopting this technology in America is the need to replace millions of toilets already in existence.

A company called Brondell has come up with a solution for us Americans seeking more than one flushing option. The "Perfect Flush" is a toilet modification that provides two buttons connected to a sensor in your toilet tank. One button tells the sensor to let all the water out, while the other tells the sensor to let half the water out.

The company claims anyone can install the Perfect Flush and that it takes just 30 minutes to set-up. It works with about 90% of existing toilets and comes with a one-year warranty. The system is designed to provide 50% water savings.

If you want to check out the Perfect Flush, go to their website by clicking HERE.


A Must Read: Fish Shares and Sharing Fish

From the New York Times, guest columnist Aaron Hirsh:

"The eldest of the fishermen, Memo, rubs his grizzled chin in somber recollection, for one of our students has just asked a pointed and painful question: Which species have disappeared in his lifetime?

As he nears the end of his list, it’s hard not to imagine what might have been: a wildly plentiful eco-system, yielding its riches year after year; and these very men, supporting themselves and their families with relative ease. But instead, they work harder each year, driving their fishing boats ever farther, pursuing a meager haul of reef fish."

To read the full story, click HERE.

2008: U.S. Biggest Producer of Wind Energy

In 2008, the United States overcame Germany to become the top wind energy producer in the world!

Much of this achievement is due to the enormous growth of wind energy producers just over the last few years. New wind projects represented 42% of America's wind energy creation in 2008. They added 8.4 gigawatts to the grid, bringing our total wind energy production to 25 gigawatts. Germany's wind energy output is 24 gigawatts.

There is plenty of room for growth as the Senate seriously considers including $31 billion worth of tax cuts for renewable energy development and President Obama plans to push a "smart" energy grid.

On Valentines Day, Green Your Love

The December holidays were not very long ago. You're probably still paying off your credit card debts from all the gifts you bought. Thinking of buying more presents for your significant other this Valentines Day is probably not very appealing. So why not avoid all that needless shopping and do something thoughtful for your partner this year?

By avoiding more consumerism and emphasizing more romance, you get the dual benefit of being green and appreciated this year. Below are my tips for combining your love for the planet and lover in one special day.

  • Start With Breakfast in Bed: Slip out of bed a little early, take the dog for a walk and cook up a delicious homemade breakfast. Your mate will love the extra time in bed and whats sexier then feeding someone veggie bacon?
  • Make Your Own Valentines Day Card: Put some time and energy into making your own card. Use magazines and catalogs laying around the house to piece together a funny or romantic card that you can sneak into your mate's briefcase or backpack for them to discover during the day.
  • Set the Mood: After work, make sure your mate will come home to a cozy, dark, bee's wax candle-lit environment with delicious organic wine and relaxing music. Get the romance started with a nice massage. Here's a tip, don't mix romance and dinner. You or your mate might feel self-conscious with a full belly and smelly breath. Save the meal for after the "dessert."
  • Prepare an Organic, Vegetarian Meal: Once you both feel nice and relaxed, go to work on dinner. Leave out the nasty preservatives, chemicals and pesticides that make your body feel contaminated and bloated. Martha Stewart has some Valentines Day recipes that are sure to impress.
  • Cuddle Up With Their Favorite Movie: Sit back on the couch with a blanket and enjoy a movie in the dark. Even if you both fall asleep, it will be the end of a perfect Valentines Day.
If you would like some more unorthodox gifts for your sweetie, you can adopt a cute baby animal from the National Zoo to help preserve their habitat. Buy Endangered Species Chocolate to donate money to protecting endangered species. You can plant a tree in honor of your love that will grow for many years to come. Of, if you must, you can buy fair-trade, conflict-free diamonds.


NBC Poll: 89% Support Clean Energy Investment

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released yesterday provided good news to both President Obama and environmentalists. Of those polled, 71% approve of Obama's presidential transition efforts. More importantly to environmentalists, 89% of those polled said they supported the idea of creating jobs by expanding renewable energy development and making buildings more energy efficient.

According to the AP, House Democrats and President Obama's economic team have released a draft version of the stimulus package. A review of the draft shows that policymakers have heard the American people and plan to invest heavily into new energy infrastructure and energy efficiency.

Some of the provisions in the draft include:

  • $32 billion for installation of a "Smart Grid" that is more efficient and reliable than the outdated existing grid
  • $20 billion for tax incentives for renewable energy development
  • $6 billion to "weatherize" existing modest-income homes
  • $10 billion in rail and mass transit projects
  • $13 billion to repair and make more energy-efficient public housing projects
Read more about the draft stimulus package HERE.


Obama's Green Inaugural

The upcoming inauguration will be the first held in the age of green living. Accordingly, steps have been taken to ensure that the environmental footprint of celebrations are kept to a minimum.

In addition to official inaugural events, several companies and organizations are hosting their own parties and balls where steps have been taken to make things eco-friendly.

Below is a list of eco-actions taken for official inauguration activities...

  • Carbon Neutral Inaugural Balls
  • Organic Menus
  • Valet Bicycle Parking
  • Invitations Printed on Recycled Paper
  • "Green Carpet" Made of Recycled Products
  • A Liaison Provided to the Presidential Inaugural Committee from the EPA to Advise on Decisions
  • Parade Floats Made of Recycled Floats of Years Past, Including a 60-foot Long, 24-foot High American Flag Float Built for Reagan's 1985 Inauguration
  • Biodegradable Food Containers
  • Utensils Made of Corn-based Plastics
  • Expanded Composting Efforts

Europe Banning Plasma TV's

Members of the European Union have finalized provisions of a minimum energy performance standard for televisions. On average, plasma televisions burn 50% more energy than their LCD counterparts. Because of their appetite for energy, the larger size plasma TV's will probably be banned under the new EU television standard.

In addition to banning large plasma TV's, the new EU rules will also phase-out inefficient TV models and will create a labeling system that tells consumers which TV's are the most energy efficient.

A similar television energy standard has been proposed in the United States but momentum for new rules fizzled out. The only progress made at the federal level is the inclusion of televisions in the Energy Star program beginning last November. Energy Star is a voluntary program for manufacturers whose products exceed minimum efficiency standards by some amount. Televisions with the Energy Star label have already reached store shelves.

In 2007, the federal Energy Bill required that televisions be included in the Energy Guide program. This program provides information to consumers about how much electricity the product use annually and how much operating costs will be over the lifetime of the product. Unfortunately, including televisions has been difficult because the Department of Energy hasn't provided the necessary testing methods.

As usual, states are picking up where the federal government has failed to act. California's Energy Commission is currently creating a new television energy standard that would require all new TV's use 50% less energy by 2013. The proposed standard would save the state 600 megawatts, the amount of energy generated by a large power plant.

To read more about new TV energy standards, click HERE.

We're Back from Vacation

All apologies for an extended vacation from posting. We are back now and ready to help you integrate that green piece into your 2009 life.

This is going to be a big year for the environment. Green living has saturated our society and become a part of daily life for many. Changes in leadership among our policy makers will certainly have a big impact on the spread of new energy technologies and protections for our planet's ecosystems.

We look forward to sharing as much information, advice and opinion with you as possible as we move into this new year of "change."