Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Earth Month 2011: Energy savings at work

Posted as part of our Earth Month 2011 "GoGreen News and Tips" series...

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How can your workplace conserve energy? For the final installment in our Earth Month 2011 series, here's an example from a local certified Green Business:

Goodwill Industries International, in Rockville, MD, decreased its energy use by 17.5% while it increased its staff by 34%. Energy-saving changes included:
  • installing energy-efficient overhead lighting, occupancy sensors, shades in the southern-facing windows, photocell sensors and automated off-hours temperature controls
  • posting signs encouraging staff to turn off lights.
  • reducing emergency lighting
  • removing additional lights in over-lit areas.

Purchasing 100% wind power RECs (renewable energy certificates) resulted in the avoidance of an estimated 1.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year, as well as estimated savings of over $8,000 annually.

Goodwill's headquarters became a certified Green Business with the County in January 2011.

Goodwill employees with banner announcing their headquarters' 100% wind-powered status.

Learn more about the Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program, and check out the list of already-certified businesses:

Use a Kill A Watt meter to check your appliances' and gadgets' energy use and begin your own home or office energy audit. Borrow a meter at

Monday, April 25, 2011

Coming up this weekend, April 30, 2011: paper shredding and household goods donation events, and unwanted medicine takeback events

Shred, recycle, and donate at our paper shredding and household goods donation events on April 30 (Bethesda), May 22 (Germantown), and June 25, 2011 (Silver Spring)! Visit our paper shredding and donation web page for complete details on event locations and times, and information about accepted materials and items.

In addition, the next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day takes place this Saturday, April 30, 2011, from 10 AM to 2 PM. Visit the Drug Take Back Day web site for the updated list of participating locations.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Earth Month 2011: our Transfer Station goes solar!

Posted as part of our Earth Month 2011 "GoGreen News and Tips" series...

Did you know that the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station is now home to an array of 1,248 solar panels? The 280 kilowatt system went live last month. It will produce about 30 percent of the facility's energy needs. And, during the 20-year project, the panels are anticipated to produce 6 million kilowatt-hours, or enough energy to power 590 average American homes for one year.

Because the building's roof is flat, you can't see the array from the ground. We've taken a camera up to bring you close-up views of the project. From your computer, you can also look at how much energy the system is producing (and when our location experienced clouds or overcast skies!).

Learn more about our large-scale solar project, including photos and a link to near-real-time system performance monitoring.

This project is a joint effort of

  • the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection
  • the Maryland Energy Administration
  • the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority
  • SunEdison

It was partially funded with a $280,000 Project Sunburst grant from the Maryland Energy Administration, with no upfront costs to us.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Earth Month 2011: Recycling and trash collection by the numbers

Posted as part of our Earth Month 2011 "GoGreen News and Tips" series...

In preparation for Earth Month, we asked for your questions about our work. An email from resident G. inspired this "by the numbers" look at our recycling and trash collection operations:
"How many trash & recycle (separately) trucks are there and how many employees do this amazing work?"

Our contractors send out 107 trucks on each collection day:

  • 52 recycling trucks
  • 27 trash trucks
  • 24 yard trim trucks
  • 4 scrap metal recycling trucks

Each truck has 2 people on it, so there are 214 crew members: 107 drivers and 107 helpers. In addition, there are 15 contractor supervisors and 11 County Inspectors out "in the field" with the crews.

Together, they have the opportunity to make over half a million pickups each week. (Even though not every home puts out every type of eligible material on a given collection day, it still needs to be checked):

  • recycling pickups for 211,317 homes
  • yard trim pickups for 211,317 homes
  • trash pickups for 90,993 homes

In addition, we provide about 500 bulk trash and 500 scrap metal recycling pickups weekly.

And, each week, we deliver roughly 350 new blue bins and 50 new wheeled paper recycling carts.

Requests for bulk trash and scrap metal recycling pickups, and for new recycling bins are consistently in the top ten service categories for calls coming in to the County's MC311 Customer Service Center.

The error rate across all of our pickup types is remarkably low: about 10 missed collections are reported per week. Our two most important tips:

  1. Have your recyclables and/or trash out at the curb by 7:00 a.m. on your collection day.
  2. When you set out yard trim in trash cans, use our green yard trim decals, and have the decals facing the street for the crews to see.

G. also wrote:

"I'd love a tour and I know my kids would enjoy it as well."

Great! We'd love to see you, too, either virtually or in person:

Coming up next week: news from the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Earth Month 2011: The Oaks Landfill and... birds!

Posted as part of our Earth Month 2011 "GoGreen News and Tips" series...
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The Oaks Landfill in Laytonsville, MD, received about 7 million tons of trash during its 15 years of operation. It closed in 1997. Today, the landfill is a favorite destination for… birders!

The site’s nearly 545 acres of diverse habitat, with its two large storm water ponds, make it attractive to a variety of birds. Birdwatchers love to come out for the chance to spot rare birds, especially during the spring and fall migration periods. It’s not uncommon for them to find new birds to add to their “Life List” of all the species they have ever seen. See some of the birds spotted by participants on a walk this past winter.

While there are trees on the site, you won’t find any growing on the areas used to store waste. When the landfill was closed, it was carefully “capped” with layers of soil and geomembrane. The cap keeps trash in and surface water out. The lush brush layer which has developed on it is good bird habitat. Because their roots can cause problems, trees are removed if they start growing over the cap area.

Unfortunately, invasive plants have found their way to the Oaks, too. With their arrival, the numbers of bird species have decreased. Volunteers are helping us to keep these plants in check. They are also our partners in studying relationships between bird diversity and habitat.

Learn more about