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by ARLnow.com — April 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm 1,535 1 Comment

Bottled water (photo via Facebook)(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) County Board member Jay Fisette is starting his “personal crusade” to discourage bottled water use in Arlington, by moderating a public forum later this month.

Fisette will moderate and George Mason University’s Arlington campus will host “a special public forum to discuss the environmental and economic implications of single-use plastic water bottles,” from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Monday, April 15. The forum, entitled “Say NO to Bottled H2O,” will be held at GMU’s Founders Hall Auditorium (3351 Fairfax Drive).

Screen grab of County Board member Jay Fisette discussing Gov. McDonnell's transporation planIn addition to a panel discussion with environmental and water experts, the event will feature a screening of the documentary “Bag It,” which critically explores the use of single-use disposable bags. The forum is being co-sponsored by GMU, Arlington County, The Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, Arlington Public Schools, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Marymount University and the George Mason Environmental Law Society.

The forum is also the kick-off for a new grassroots organization called “Tap in Arlington,” which asks residents to “choose to drink tap water instead of purchasing single use plastic water bottles.”

The organization says 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce billions of single-use plastic water bottles annually, and less than 30 percent of those bottles are recycled. Bottled water is 2-4 times the price of gasoline, according to statistics cited by Tap in Arlington.

Fisette said the effort reflects the public commitment he made on New Years Day to bring attention to the use of bottled water and its environmental impacts.

“I raised the issue on January 1, stating that I would begin a ‘personal crusade’ to reduce the use of plastic water bottles,” Fisette said. “Well, the crusade is about to begin.”

by Katie Pyzyk — November 28, 2012 at 11:55 am 2,994 74 Comments

A draft of Arlington’s Community Energy Plan (CEP) has been revealed. If approved, it would provide a guide for transforming the way energy is used, generated and distributed in Arlington through 2050.

Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan presented the draft to the County Board members at Tuesday’s Board meeting. Developing the CEP has been part of a three year effort by county staff members, who consulted with energy experts, community leaders and businesses.

“Once again, Arlington is taking a leadership role in advancing a transformative Community Energy Plan that represents the next generation of smart growth and another visionary way to support a sustainable future for our community,” Donnellan said in a press release.

The goal of the CEP is to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 3.0 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per resident per year by 2050. That equates to a reduction of about 75% from current levels.

The CEP lists six primary areas in which the county intends to implement the plan: buildings, district energy, renewable energy, transportation, county government actions, and education and human behavior.

In a press release, the county listed a number of strategies for achieving the energy goals, including the following:

  • Improving by up to 60% the energy efficiency of newly constructed and renovated residential, commercial and civic buildings. Includes financial incentives for investment in energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Managing home and building operations to reduce energy costs. Arlington County will continue to lead by example, through its Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions (AIRE) program, and by partnering with Arlington Public Schools.
  • Creating district energy systems in the highest density development corridors. District energy, although not a new technology, has never been deployed on a community level by any jurisdiction in the Washington, D.C. area. The CEP calls for district energy and local cogeneration of power to provide about 40% of the County’s energy needs in 2050.
  • Deploying alternative energy sources, such as solar photovoltaic and other renewable energy systems. The CEP contains an ambitious goal for solar power: 160 megawatts of solar electricity by 2050; enough electricity to power 40,000 homes.
  • Refining and expanding transportation infrastructure and operations enhancements. The CEP envisions more people walking, biking and using transit and fewer cars on the roads, in addition to cleaner-burning vehicles.
  • Changing how people in our community think about energy, helping them to understand how to have an impact on energy consumption, and actually changing human behavior to transform how we consume energy.

County staff says a community benefit of the plan is a reduction in energy use, which would lower greenhouse gas emissions and create a more sustainable environment. Individuals and businesses would be able to use money saved on energy for other investments to improve their quality of life. Lower energy costs are also cited as directly affecting business’ bottom lines, which is expected to create a more competitive economic environment. Diversifying the local energy supply with alternative options like solar is expected to provide better energy reliability and supply security.

The Board will consider adopting the plan in June of 2013. If it’s approved, county staff would then begin implementation. Prior to adoption, there will be a number of meetings for the public to review the plan, ask questions and to offer feedback.

by ARLnow.com — October 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm 7,186 109 Comments

If the Arlington County Board goes along with a new set of recommendations from County Manager Barbara Donnellan, Arlington could soon be served by a fleet of 40 all-electric cabs equipped with 4G WiFi hotspots and iPads for passenger use.

As part of this year’s taxicab certificate allocation process, Donnellan is recommending that a total of 65 additional taxis be added to the county’s existing licensed fleet of 765 cabs. Among the companies receiving a recommended allocation from Donnellan is an Arlington-based upstart, EV Taxicabs.

The company is set to get permits to operate 40 cabs in Arlington under Donnellan’s recommendation. According to EV Taxicabs’ website and Facebook page, the cabs will be all-electric Nissan Leafs, a five-door hatchback that gets the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon.

In addition to being all-electric, the cabs will be equipped with a high-speed 4G WiFi hotspot and an Apple iPad, both for passenger use. The cabs will be dispatched using what’s described as a “state-of-the-art cloud-based dispatch solution… running on Samsung Galaxy 7 tablet.” Passengers will be able to book the cabs via smart phone or the company’s website.

In addition to the cabs, the company has pledged to install more than 50 electric vehicle chargers around Arlington.

Donnellan writes that based on a scale that considers various factors — including environmental impact, customer service, business feasibility and employee treatment — EV Taxicabs received the highest rating of any cab applicant. (Ten companies applied this year.)

Based on the rating system, EV Taxicab was rated the highest of all applicants. It will be installing a number of quick charge stations throughout the County that will be available to the general public as well as their drivers. This will encourage additional usage of zero emission vehicles, helping Arlington County to be a pioneer in this new technology.

The EV Taxicab applicant is a current Arlington County taxi driver. He is bringing his experience and wants to address and cooperate with County staff to improve the drivers’ profession. He proposes to provide training, two week annual vacation, health and fitness club membership, financial management training, customer service training, assistance with legal representation and is looking into providing life insurance for drivers. The EV Taxicab application impressed County staff through its use of technology and its apparent commitment to fair treatment for its drivers.

EV Taxicabs is not the only non-traditional cab company set to benefit from Donnellan’s recommendation. The “carbon-negative” EnviroCab company is set to receive 10 additional cab allocations. Separately, the company recently announced plans to add one all-electric Nissan Leaf to its current fleet of 49 hybrids.

Under the County Manager’s recommendations, Friendly Cab, Blue Top Cab and Red Top Cab will each be allowed to add five additional taxis to their fleet. The recommendations specify that Blue Top and Red Top are to add only wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

Donnellan’s recommendations will be considered by the County Board at its Nov. 17 meeting.

by Katie Pyzyk — October 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm 2,910 12 Comments

This weekend may be the perfect time to rid your house of unwanted items. Arlington County will hold its biannual Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE) on Saturday to allow for the safe disposal of hazardous household items.

Residents can drop of materials at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road) on Saturday, October 13, from 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Commercial and business waste will not be accepted.

An ID is required as proof of Arlington residency in order to drop off materials. There is no smoking allowed at the drop off site. A list of hazardous items that will be collected is listed below:

Acceptable Chemical Materials:

  • Paint Products (25 can limit)
  • Lawn & Garden Chemicals
  • Fuels/Petroleum Products
  • Flammable Solvents
  • Corrosives (acids/caustics)
  • Poisons (pesticides)
  • Automotive Fluids and Batteries
  • Car Care Products
  • Photographic Chemicals
  • Household Cleaners
  • Mercury
  • Propane Tanks
  • Fluorescent Lamps and Tubes
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Household Hazardous Materials

Unacceptable Chemical Materials:

  • Asbestos
  • Explosives and Ammunition
  • Freon
  • Compressed Gas Cylinders
  • Radioactive Materials
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Medical Waste

Mercury:

  • Covanta Energy will be providing a $5 gift card to all residents who drop off household devices containing mercury (thermostats, thermometers, sphygmomanometers, manometers, barometers, hygrometers and liquid mercury). Arlington County will be collecting CFLs at E-CARE, but they are excluded from Covanta’s $5 rebate offer.

For a full list of other items that will be accepted — including bicycles, electronics, clothing, eyeglasses and hearing aids — log on to the E-CARE website.

A representative with Boy Scout Troop 505 tells ARLnow.com that boy scouts will be at the E-CARE event from 8:30 a.m. until noon to collect unusable American flags for retirement and proper disposal at a ceremony later this month.

by Katie Pyzyk — October 10, 2012 at 9:45 am 3,867 75 Comments

The leaves may already be falling, but there’s an opportunity for you to green up your neighborhood this weekend. The county is giving away free trees to Arlington residents.

All of the trees, referred to as whips, are native to Virginia. They’re distributed in one, two or three gallon containers and typically range in height from two to four feet.

Representatives from the Arlington County Landscape staff and from TreeStewards will be on hand to offer planting guidelines and tree care tips. They can also explain characteristics of each tree species.

Distribution will take place from 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on Saturday (October 13) at the Arlington County nursery facility. It is located behind the baseball field at S. George Mason Drive and Four Mile Run. Parking is available in the lot in front of the field.

Each residential property is allotted one free tree; multi-family properties should email info@treestewards.org to obtain extra trees. Those interested in picking up a tree on Saturday should register online for a particular species. The spice bushes are sold out, but the remaining species are as follows:

  • American beech
  • American holly
  • Red oak
  • American basswood
  • Hophornbeam
  • Hornbeam
  • Sassafras
  • Persimmon

For questions, email Environmental Landscape Supervisor Patrick Wegeng at pwegeng@arlingtonva.us.

by ARLnow.com — October 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm 3,651 91 Comments

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) The closure of a power plant in Alexandria may help improve air quality in Arlington.

The GenOn Potomac River Generating Station, a 63-year-old coal-fired power plant on the Potomac River, north of Old Town Alexandria, permanently shut down this week. The plant closed after dogged efforts by local residents and environmental activists, who argued the 482-megawatt plant was harming local air quality and endangering residents.

The Washington Post called the plant the “largest single source of air pollution in the Washington region.” The plant’s smokestacks emitted fine particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, occasionally at levels that could temporarily harm sensitive individuals, according to a recent air quality study.

Jeff Harn, the Bureau Chief of Arlington’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management, said the plant’s closure is a positive development for local air quality.

“I think generally it’s a good thing,” he told ARLnow.com. “We sort of look at that plant as a regional source of air pollution. It affects the whole region. [The closure] would be beneficial, I’m sure.”

At a press conference on Monday, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said the closing of the plant will benefit the health of local residents.

“Today marks the conclusion of a long fought but well won victory for Northern Virginia residents and the health of citizens in the National Capital Region,” he said. “What once was the largest stationary source of air pollution in the metro area will be no more. With the extinction of this dinosaur, our air will be cleaner. As much as 600,000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide, 1.9 million lbs of nitrogen oxide, and 325,000 lbs of sulfur dioxide will be in the air we breathe.”

Harn said the areas closest to the plant — parts of Alexandria, as well as parts of South Arlington and Crystal City — should see some air quality improvement as a result of the plant’s closure. D.C. should also benefit, he said, as prevailing winds often carried the plant’s emissions across the Potomac and into the District.

Since there is not much heavy industry in the area, Harn says most of the air pollution in the D.C. area is transportation-related — from sources like cars, buses and airplanes.

Flickr pool photo by Afagen

by ARLnow.com — September 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,374 25 Comments

By the looks of the forecast for Saturday and Sunday, you’d be hard-pressed to ask for a nicer weekend weather-wise. As such it should be a great weekend to get out and look at some homes.

Below are four open houses scheduled this weekend. Check out our real estate section for a listing of open houses around Arlington County.

2615 North Nottingham Street
Single Family Detached — 5 Bed / 4.5 Bath
Listed: $1,250,000
Agent: Brian Blackburn
Open: Sunday, Sept. 16 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Notes: According to builder Arlington Designer Homes, this house is one of only twelve NAHB Gold-certified green houses in Virginia. Green features include “Energy Star appliances, energy efficient Jeld-Wen windows and doors, an advanced insulation package with Agribalance spray-foam insulation, a two zone high-efficiency HVAC system, low VOC paints, and a low-maintenance Hardiplank with PVC trim exterior.”

2154 Patrick Henry Drive
Single Family Detached — 5 Bed / 3.5 Bath
Listed: $949,000
Agent: Billy Buck
Open: Sunday, Sept. 16 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

5301 1st Place North
Single Family Detached — 4 Bed / 3 Bath
Listed: $835,000
Agent: Bichlan DeCaro
Open: Sunday, Sept. 16 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

1001 Vermont Street North
Condominium — 2 Bed / 1 Bath
Listed: $459,000
Agent: Maria Sison
Open: Sunday, Sept. 16 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

by Margaret Doyle — August 6, 2012 at 11:35 am 3,499 47 Comments

August brings the eleventh anniversary of the most notorious stream pollution incident in Arlington County history. In the years since golf course runoff poisoned the Donaldson Run and Gulf Branch streams, residents and county officials alike have stepped up their protection of our region’s waterways.

In August 2001, an herbicide applied to 12 fairways at the Washington Golf and Country Club washed into Donaldson Run and Gulf Branch after a storm. Eight thousand pounds of this herbicide, Basamid G, had been applied to kill all plant and animal life in the top two inches of the fairways’ soil. However, it did a whole lot more than its intention. The runoff killed an estimated 1,000 American eels. No living organisms were found in the streams following the storm.

Jen McDonnell, a Stormwater Outreach Specialist at Arlington’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management, said the incident “brought attention to the impacts that runoff can have on our streams.”

After this event, golf course officials agreed to halt the treatment of the remaining six fairways, which would drain into Gulf Branch. In 2005, facing civil charges, the golf course agreed to a consent decree in which it paid $145,000 to reimburse the costs incurred by the federal government — specifically, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – in responding to the incident.

Arlington County code makes it unlawful for “any person to discharge directly or indirectly into the storm sewer system or state waters, any substance likely, in the opinion of the County Manager, to have an adverse effect.”

McDonnell said that she is “not aware of any other penalty fines which have been paid for stream pollution.” However, she does know that polluters oftentimes have to pay for cleanup activities following a spill.

Despite the threat of financial consequences, pollution still continues, often unknowingly, from residents applying pesticides and fertilizers onto their lawn. The county and some environmental groups have been trying to counter the contamination with various stream-friendly projects.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — August 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm 1,019 9 Comments

Earlier this summer the Urban Libraries Council honored Arlington Public Library as its 2012 Top Innovator for Sustainability.

The council singled out the library’s “Bikes, Buildings and Broccoli” approach to transportation, energy and food sustainability as one of the factors that helped it win the award. Urban Libraries Council CEO Susan Benton spoke about the award at the July 24 County Board meeting, as seen in the video below from the county’s Arlington TV channel.

by Aaron Kraut — August 3, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,203 59 Comments

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former Virginia governor Tim Kaine spoke about his economic development record during a Thursday afternoon campaign stop at Clarendon-based clean energy company GridPoint, Inc.

The company sells efficiency-monitoring software to electrical utilities, government agencies and private corporations. According to CEO John Spirtos, it employs about 100 people between its corporate headquarters (2801 Clarendon Boulevard) and its manufacturing facility in Roanoke.

In a statement, Kaine touted GridPoint as an industry leader in energy efficiency solutions.

“GridPoint’s innovative energy management systems are saving companies up to a fifth of their total energy costs per month,” Kaine said. “These are dollars that can be invested back into the business to expand and hire new workers. Their advancements in energy efficiency and conservation technology are absolutely essential to ensuring our businesses can compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

Kaine also touted his own record of helping to bring GridPoint to Arlington. In 2007, Kaine approved a $500,000-incentive package from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to entice GridPoint to move its headquarters to Arlington from Washington, D.C.

“My economic development team played a big part in bringing GridPoint’s headquarters here. We considered it a big victory because of the kind of business that it has and the kind of talent that it has,” Kaine told a roomful of GridPoint employees on Thursday. “Where we really have thrived is we just try to bring the best talent here. If you win the talent race, you win the economic race.”

Kaine toured part of the company’s 30,000-square-foot space at the corner of Clarendon Boulevard and N. Edgewood Street with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Spirtos to highlight his “Strengthening Our Economy Through Energy Innovation” plan.

“Oregon and Virginia are really kind of innovation economies and we know that today we aren’t just competing against people sort of 20 miles down the road, or in my case, California or Seattle. But we are competing against the Chinese. We are competing against the Indians,” Wyden said. “The governor is proven in terms of some of the energy investments he’s been able to invest in and make.”

Professional and technical services accounted for a fifth of Arlington County’s jobs, according to the county’s annual profile. Spirtos said that local base of highly-trained workers is one reason why GridPoint fits among Clarendon’s high-end retail shops and restaurants.

“D.C. is a great place to be but it’s a tough place to get [computer] developers to go to work. We needed access to the talent. There’s a lot of folks who won’t cross the river to go into D.C. There’s a lot of folks who won’t cross the river to go into Maryland,” Spirtos said. “And in this location, we have the Apple Store and the Whole Foods and the whole thing and that’s great. This is a great neighborhood. It’s an ideal neighborhood.”

It was revealed this week that Gridpoint has received another $23 million in venture capital funding, bringing its total funding to $263 million, according to GigaOm. In addition to its Virginia locations, Gridpoint has offices in Austin, Texas; Ottawa, Ontario; and Seattle, Washington.

 

by Katie Pyzyk — July 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm 3,485 26 Comments

An Arlington catering company is boasting about being the first in the D.C. metro to use a non-traditional technology — aquaponics, a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture — to farm its own fish.

Main Event Caterers (3870 S. Four Mile Run Drive) recently began using the urban farming technique. Aquaponics is the practice of using a closed-loop ecological system to grow both fish and plants in one body of water. Water circulates through fish tanks, moves through filters and plant beds, then heads back to the fish tanks.

The catering company says the process benefits the business as well as the environment.

“Less water and fertilizer use, the ability to grow a large volume of crops in a small space, and the value of our clients knowing exactly where their food comes from are just a few of the benefits we’ve experienced,” said Joël Thévoz, CEO of Main Event Caterers.

Main Event Caterers has a history of operating a green business. In addition to the aquaponic farming, it uses compostable materials, wind and solar powered electricity and rain water reclamation.

“Our commitment to sustainable initiatives runs deep,” said Nancy Goodman, Co-Founder of Main Event Caterers. “Everything we do within our daily operations is motivated by our dedication to protect and preserve the environment while providing an entirely green experience to our clients.”

by Katie Pyzyk — May 31, 2012 at 1:45 pm 3,198 97 Comments

As summer travel season ramps up, a lot of money will be put toward filling up the car with gas. But a new report claims the average Virginia family could save $560 at the pump this summer by using more fuel efficient cars.

The Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center, an organization aimed at promoting cleaner energy options, released the report. It highlights President Obama’s proposal to increase fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Organization representatives presented the findings today at a press conference at the River House Apartments (1400 S. Joyce Street) in Pentagon City. There, they highlighted the electric car charging station in the parking lot, and urged Arlington residents to consider purchasing an electric car.

The report claims that the improved standards would save the equivalent amount of pollution as taking three coal power plants offline for the summer, on top of the $560 each Virginia family would save.

“Not only could you take that trip to Virginia Beach while burning much less oil along the way, but you could book the family a hotel for a couple of extra days with the money you’re saving,” said John Cross, Federal Transportation Advocate for Environment Virginia.

Congressman Jim Moran (D) backs the proposed standards mentioned in the report.

“From an economic, environmental and national security perspective, we must reduce our dependency on oil,” said Moran in a statement. “This new report from Environment America highlights the importance of moving forward with cleaner, more fuel efficient cars.”

Cross noted that buying an electric car now has a positive environmental impact, even though the standards aren’t yet to the 54.5 mpg mark.

“Drivers do not have to wait until 2025 to reap the benefits of cleaner cars,” Cross said. “A bumper crop of fuel efficient cars have already started coming to the showroom floor.

by Katie Pyzyk — May 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm 1,196 56 Comments

A building under construction in Rosslyn could earn the first LEED Platinum certification in Arlington.

International developer and construction company Skanska is working on the five story building at 1776 Wilson Blvd, which will contain both retail and office space.

To earn LEED certification, a developer must earn credits in six categories called Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design & Regionalization. The rating system has a total of 110 points, and 80 are necessary to receive platinum certification.

Some of the green features included in the new building are ultra-efficient plumbing fixtures that offer a 40 percent reduction in the typical amount of water used, and water efficient landscaping that doesn’t require a regular irrigation system. Solar panels will be part of the effort to reduce the building’s annual energy costs by 24 percent, and high performance glass will prevent heat gain in the building.

There will also be a green roof terrace on the fourth floor. The garage will feature preferred parking for fuel efficient vehicles, and will be outfitted with power outlets to accommodate electric cars.

The building is scheduled to be mostly completed by August, and the hope is that tenants can move in this fall. Already, the building is 50 percent pre-leased.

by Katie Pyzyk — March 9, 2012 at 3:57 pm 3,110 32 Comments

The internet has made many things easier, including looking up businesses and phone numbers. If you don’t feel the need to receive those big phone books on your doorstep anymore, there’s a way you can opt out.

Two trade groups have teamed up to create a phone book opt-out website. It was set up to reduce the amount of waste and costs associated with delivering unwanted directories.

The site determines which phone books you are eligible for based on your ZIP code, and allows you to choose which you do or do not want to receive.

Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services didn’t have specific stats on how many phone books are recycled in Arlington each year, but officials remind anyone who still wants to receive the directories that they can be recycled in the standard county recycling bins.

by ARLnow.com — October 19, 2011 at 10:58 am 2,064 50 Comments

Arlington is installing energy performance labels on 14 county buildings today.

The green labels are intended to tell citizens the buildings’ carbon footprint, current energy use and planned long-term reductions in energy use (by 2050). The stats are all relative to the square footage of each building.

The county’s main administrative building, at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, is one of the buildings that will be receiving the labels. The building is 30 percent more efficient than the average U.S. office building, according to its label. Its 17.9 pounds of carbon dioxide per square foot carbon footprint compared favorably to the U.S. office average of 26.1 pounds.

The labels also state when each building was built.

Among the other buildings expected to receive energy labels today: Central Library, Cherrydale Library, Glencarlyn Library, Shirlington Library, Westover Library, Court Square West, Drewry Health Center, fire training facility, 1810 N. Edison Street, parks and cultural affairs office, parks operations office, solid waste and traffic engineering office, and the Water Sewer Streets Bureau.

“We will post labels in the rest of the county buildings over the next couple months,” said Arlington County environmental planner Joan Kelsch.

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