Reston Environmental Study Wins Fairfax County Award

Reston environmentalists received an award from Fairfax County last week.

The Reston Annual State of the Environment (RASER), a report compiled by nine people, won an Environmental Excellence Award from Fairfax County.

The report covers air, water, forests, meadows, wetlands, landscaping, urban agriculture, wildlife, hazardous materials, light and noise pollution and education in the Reston region, the Fairfax County website said. RASER was founded in 2017 and consists of professionals and citizen scientists who volunteer their time to synthesize the 325 data sources, the website said.

From the 2018 report, the group said Reston should focus on improving urban forests and community access to nature, which they say improves wellbeing for people in the area. The group sent in an application for the Biophilic Cities Network Program and drafted a pledge that residents can take to become more nature-friendly.

Based on other findings, they followed through on a biological diversity study in the area, called a BioBlitz, which cataloged more than 600 species of plants, animals and organisms.

“Through these and other actions, the RASER Working Group has established a strong foundation for the assessment and enhancement of Reston’s ecological resources and helped to create well-connected urban landscapes where nature and community members can thrive,” the Fairfax County website said.

In total, the report took volunteers more than 2,000 hours to complete, according to the website.

The nine members primarily responsible for compiling the report were invited to a ceremony on Tuesday (Oct. 22).

Photo via Fairfax County

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Del. Ken Plum: A Green New Deal for Virginia

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

My parents were not political; they tended to always want to avoid controversy. One exception was their support of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. They were married shortly before the Great Depression and had a really tough go of it in rural Virginia during the depression. They were convinced that it was President Roosevelt’s New Deal that saved the country, and they never let me forget it! Many historians would agree with them.

While the challenges facing our state today are very different from those that the country faced in the 1930s, there are issues that burden many of our citizens and jeopardize our country’s future that demand a plan and a set of actions not unlike those of the New Deal era. Appropriately the response to these needs is called the Green New Deal. (www.greennewdealva.com)

Many politicians are shying away from the Green New Deal terming it too ambitious, too hasty, and too costly. I support the plan and share its goals of “creating thousands of good jobs addressing climate change and restoring Virginia’s environment.” A long list of groups and organizations supporting the coalition have very thoughtfully put together our immediate need to respond to climate change with the need to put more people to work productively. Green New Deal supporters seek “to develop and implement a comprehensive state-wide energy transformation plan that centers environmental sensitivity, equity, transparency, justice and sustainability in its solution.”

The devil in the myriad of details that must be worked out over the next several years will require listening to each other, respecting the needs and rights of all our citizens, compromising when it moves us towards our ultimate goals, and giving credit to all stakeholders as they make advances supporting the goals.

With the emphasis being put on climate change and the necessity that we move forward on renewable energy, I was pleased that Governor Ralph Northam last week announced what is being characterized as “the largest state renewable energy contract in the Nation.” As the Governor described it, “With this landmark contract, Virginia is leading by example and demonstrating how states can step up to combat climate change and advance a clean energy economy.” Under the contract the partners will supply state government with 420 megawatts of renewable energy, which is the equivalent of powering more than 100,000 homes. It is an important small step forward that puts the Commonwealth on record as being on board with renewables.

Virginia has had a slower start than many of us would like, but I am encouraged by recent developments. The first off-shore wind turbines in federal waters are to be completed by the end of next year leading to full development of 2,600 megawatts of offshore wind that would power 650,000 homes. A press release from the Governor’s Office indicates that since January of 2018 the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued 23 permits for solar projects that will generate more than 800 megawatts of energy, and the agency expects to issue permits for an additional 478 megawatts for seven projects by the end of the year.

It is time for a new deal in Virginia and a green one at that. Children of the future will appreciate the wisdom of the actions that we are taking today.

File photo

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New Glass Recycling Rules in Effect in Fairfax County

Fairfax County residents are no longer required to place glass bottles, jars, and other glass items in curbside recycling bins.

The change, which went into effect on Tuesday (Oct. 1), was made at the request of private recycling sorting centers and Covanta Fairfax, Inc., which operates the area’s waste-to-energy plant.

In the past, county officials say single-stream recycling has caused major problems. Glass recyclables often break during collection and transport to recycling centers, contaminating other more valuable recycled items like cardboard and metals.

In recent years, China, the largest customer of recycled materials, has begun imposing strict standards on the quality of accepted recycled materials.

County officials also say glass has damaged machinery and is often heavy, adding costs to transporting recyclables to centers.

Residents can deliver glass containers to one of 21 purple recycling bins in the county. Recently, a new bin was added to the Reston South Park and Ride lot.

All colors of clean glass bottles and jars are accepted at purple containers. Light bulbs, lamps, ceramics, porcelain, mirrors, window, and sheet glass cannot be recycled at the sites.

Collected glass will be processed by the region’s only glass processing plant in Lorton. Recycled materials will be used for pipe bedding, filter material, and other purposes.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Friday Morning Notes

Deer Management Archery Programs to Begin — “The county’s annual Deer Management Archery Program begins this Saturday, Sept. 7 and runs through Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. The archery program is conducted in parks and other locations throughout the county under our oversight and working closely with the Park Authority and NOVA Parks.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Goodbye to Plastic Straws — “Suggestions presented by a group of students to the Fairfax County School Board have resulted in a procedural change on the availability of plastic straws in Fairfax County public schools’ cafeterias. For the 2019-20 school year, plastic straws have been removed from the serving lines at middle and high schools.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

North Shore Pool Hours Extended — Reston Association has extended pool hours for North Shore pool for season six. The Pool will be open on weekends from 10 a.m.  to 7 p.m. and from 4-9 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the pool will be open from 4-7 p.m. [Reston Association]

Photo via Flickr/vantagehill

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Del. Ken Plum: Electric Vehicles to be the Norm

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

 

In 1996, I had the great learning experience of chairing the Northern Virginia Electric Vehicle Launch Committee through the sponsorship of the Electric Transportation Coalition (ETC) and the US Departments of Energy and Transportation. The national goal to clean up the air we breathe was the impetus to the study we did in our region as was being done in nine other suburban regions throughout the country. The one-inch thick report we produced–“The Path to an EV Ready Community”–provided a guide that is still relevant and valuable today.
General Motors came out with its EV-1 vehicle which I had the pleasure to drive for a day; prospects were looking good for electric vehicles until suddenly the bottom dropped out of the market. All big manufacturers dropped their testing and production of electric vehicles. Our report was clearly ahead of its time.
Fast forward a couple of decades and electric vehicles have come into their own. All manufacturers I know of are predicting that over the next couple of decades electric vehicles will be the only cars and trucks they produce. They are environmentally clean, outperform traditional cars, need less maintenance, and are safer.
Hybrids that use traditional engines with electric assist have virtually taken over the market. Jane and I felt like pioneers in 2003 when we bought our first Prius. It got great gas mileage, required little maintenance, had less harmful emissions, and ran until we finally traded it in with more than 150,000 miles. Our experiences with the Priuses we bought in 2007 and 2012 were the same.
The path to electric vehicles that my earlier study had considered has made huge strides over the past several years. While Tesla is probably the best known of the electric vehicles, most manufacturers have an all-electric option. Chevrolet has the Bolt and Nissan has the Leaf among the better known models. They will help us reduce our carbon footprint, clean up the air, and more easily adapt to the many new automatic features that are becoming available.
But the shift in the power sources of our vehicles brings new challenges, all of which must be recognized and can be met. At a session “Juicing Up for Electric Vehicles” at the recent National Conference of State Legislatures I attended some of the issues were discussed. How should the sale of electricity be provided and regulated if necessary? Will utilities be able to handle the increased demand? How can equity and access be assured for drivers in the market if prices go up?
Coming with the electric vehicles are many automated features that can make driving safer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that of the over 37,000 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, more than 90% had a human error factor. Maybe the new cars will be able to have safety engineered into them.

Continuing my story about electric vehicles that began more than two decades ago, Jane and I purchased a Tesla a week ago. It is environmentally friendly, has many safety features, and will be very comfortable for my numerous trips to Richmond!

File photo

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Herndon Farmers’ Market and Arborist Program Celebrates 30 Years of ‘Keeping Green’

The Town of Herndon is celebrating 30 years of keeping green with its Herndon Farmers’ Market and the town’s arborist program.

Although the local farmers market has gotten slightly smaller over the years, the weekday market has seen an increase in the variety of products sold, including empanadas, fresh pasta and pickles. Other vendors are not offering different types of fruits, vegetables, meats and breads. Nearby competition from other markets has strained the reach of the local market.

John Dudzinsky, the town’s community forester, says the town is looking to find “value added” vendors as well as more organic options.

Last week, the town distributed reusable totes and coasters to celebrate the milestone.

The town is also celebrating Dudzinsky’s position, which aims to maintain the health of the town’s trees and urban forest. Although this duty has remained the forester’s central task for the last three decades, the forester now manages the market, offers horticulture services to town residents and helps with environmental tasks like stream monitoring.

The Town has also maintained its Tree City status, which is given to comunities that meet standards of sound urban forestry management.

“The Town’s leadership has always been supportive of the Community Forestry program.  Along with the support of our town citizens.  With everyone’s’ support and assistance the Town has been able to maintain our Tree City USA status,” Dudzinsky said.

The designation is given by the Arbor Day Foundation, which is a nonprofit conservation and education organization founded in 1972.

The market is held on Thursdays from April to November from 8 a.m. to 12:30 on Lynn Street. Information about this year’s vendors is available online.

Photo via Town of Herndon/Facebook

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Monday Morning Notes

Summerbration with Battery Lane is Tonight — Enjoy classic rock during this weekly summer concert from 7-9 p.m. at Reston Station Plaza. The event is free and open to all. [Reston Community Center]

Town of Herndon Celebrates 30 Years of Keeping Green — The town received its first “Tree City Award,” started the Herndon Farmers Market and hired its first community forester. To celebrate, the town of is offering free goodies at the farmer’s market. [Herndon Police Department]

A Refresher on Road Rules Ahead of Back to School — With county schools back in session next week, county officials are reminding drivers to review road rules for school buses, school zones and crossing guards. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Local Mothers Launch Electric School Bus Campaign

A group of mothers from Fairfax County are banding together to push county schools to use electric school buses.

The group, Mothers out Front Fairfax, recently formed a local chapter of the national climate advocacy group Mothers Out Front.

“Our county has a chance to be on the cutting edge of technology and to be a national leader in providing our kids with healthy air and clean energy future,” said Kathy Keller, a nurse at Inova Fairfax hospital, Mothers out Front Fairfax member and a mom with two children in county schools.

The group formally launched its campaign at Patrick Henry Library in Vienna on Tuesday (August 20). Fairfax County Public School’s school board member Pat Hynes spoke at the event.

Here’s more from the group about their initiative:

Electric school buses, with no tailpipe emissions, eliminate children’s exposure to dangerous diesel exhaust during their ride to school. They have lower global warming emissions than diesel, even when the source of electricity is taken into account. They have no engine, muffler, or alternator that requires tune-ups, meaning a lifetime fuel and maintenance savings over diesel buses of up to $170,000. They have a lower center of gravity than diesel buses and are therefore less likely to roll over. They are safer for our kids and cleaner for our environment.

The health and environmental benefits of electric school buses are well documented. Studies show that that exposure levels to harmful chemicals can be between 4 and 10 times higher on school buses than in the surrounding environment.

The county has the second largest public school fleet of buses in the country, behind only New York City.

Mothers Out Front is a national advocacy group. Members are mothers who aim to “ensure a livable climate for all children,” according to the organization’s website.

File photo

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Boy Scout Receives Award for Environmental Work at Frying Pan Farm Park

The Fairfax County Park Authority is honoring John Foong for a major environmental project at Frying Pan Farm Park.

Foong received the 2019 Sally Ormsby Environmental Stewardship Award for creating and implementing an ambitious plan to remove invasive plants and replace them with native plants.

The student, who describes himself as an avid naturalist, worked five separate workdays to oversee 150 volunteers as they removed 120 large bags of stilt grass.

Volunteers came from ten different Fairfax County Public Schools and ranged in age from 5 to 80.

The project was developed as part of Foong’s efforts to earn a Boy Scouts of America William Hornaday Award.

He will be honored by FCPA in November.

The award was established in 2007 in recognition of Sally Ormsby’s service as a citizen steward. It recognizes individuals and organizations “whose actions embody the spirit and values of stewardship and result in tangible environmental benefits.”

Photo via FCPA

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Made in Reston: Electrify America Aims to Fuel Electric Vehicle Use

“Made in Reston” is a bi-weekly series that offers readers a glimpse of what is happening behind the closed doors of offices in the Reston area. As more office buildings scrape the skies, Reston Now chats with company officials at startups and up-and-coming businesses to capture the local business community scene. 

A little over a year since it opened its first charging station, Electrify America is now on a mission to roll out the country’s fastest-growing network of zero-emission car chargers.

The Reston-based company hopes to fuel zero-emission vehicle adoption nationwide by deploying a network of highway chargers that are “convenient, ultra-fast and reliable,” per Company spokesman Mike Moran. 

Part of the solution is to make charging for EV drivers as easy as possible, while also educating the general public about zero-emissions vehicles. Earlier this year, Electrify America launched a mobile app to allow EV drivers to “manage their entire charging experience on their mobile phone” — from finding a charger to tracking a charging session.

The company also plans to expand its partnership with Walmart by bringing dozens of charges in major urban areas at Walmart locations. So far, it has more than 120 charging stations at Walmart stores in 34 states. Other companies like EVgo and ChargePoint are also attempting to challenge Tesla’s hold over its fast-charger network, which has more than 11,200 superchargers around the world.

Electrify America executives are also exploring new partnerships with the EV charging company on roaming charging agreements with the company’s networks. Recently, the company announced it will work with Harley-Davidson to provide honors of a new all-electric motorcycle — the LiveWire — with complimentary charging over two years.

The push to grow its charger network and expand into motorcycles comes in the the wake of Volkswagen’s fuel emissions scandal, which led the automaker to pour $2 billion from its 2016 settlement into Electrify America.

Electrify America is a subsidiary of Volkswagen and first opened in an unassuming office complex on 2003 Edmund Halley Drive two years ago. As part of the Volkswagen settlement — which rocked the automaker industry and opened the door for other investigations into diesel emissions scandals — Electrify America now operates as an independent entity.

Moran says the company’s placement in the technology corridor of Reston now provides Electrify America with unique access to innovation partners in the state and across the country.

As more EV vehicles come online, company officials are confident that demand for EV vehicles will continue over the next five years, maintaining Electrify America’s relevance and the inspiration behind its name.

One way it’s hoping to stay relevant is by bringing EV vehicles mainstream through emojis.

The company submitted a formal proposal to the Unicode Consortium — the government body for emoji creation — to create the first-ever “EV with charger” emoji. Emojis, according to the company, should be “representative of today’s world” — whether it’s using the proposed emoji or the zero-emissions vehicle. 

Photo via Electrify America

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RA Central Services Facility Designated as Wildlife Sanctuary

The Northern Virginia chapter of the National Audubon Society has certified Reston Association’s Central Services Facility as a wildlife sanctuary. The certification recognizes properties that promote citizen participation to conserve and restore local natural habitats.

Here’s more about the certification from the Northern Virginia chapter:

“The largest volume of acreage available for conservation and restoration of healthy green space in Northern Virginia is “at home” in our own backyards. Incentives for participation include making a difference in aiding the environment and pride in property certification and registration as an ‘Audubon at Home Wildlife Sanctuary.'”

A native plant garden at the facility serves as a “demonstration site to educate Metro developers on how native plants can be integrated into areas near transportation stations,” RA noted in a weekly newsletter.

File photo

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Lake Anne ES Recognized for Environmental Stewardship

Lake Anne Elementary School received its third Eco-school Green Flag, an honor given by the National Wildlife Federation to schools that champion environmental stewardship.

Lake Anne first received the award in 2012 and nabbed two additional awards during the first two years in the program.

Since then, the school has made changes to become more environmentally sustainable.

“Being an Eco-School permeates our school through energy conservation, recycling, water conservation, eco education, our bird houses, and our sustainable garden. Our students are eco stewards every day,” said Principal Jill Stewart.

The school has been involved in many environmentally sustainable projects, as told by Fairfax County Public Schools:

Since 2012, Lake Anne added a pollinator garden, a Monarch butterfly garden, a bird garden for all seasons, a mini meadow, a watershed garden for its dry pond, added solar panels to save energy, added raised beds to the courtyards, and started protecting bluebirds by adding a bluebirds nest box trail. The school also started a community edible garden to provide food for its families in the summer, established and grew a recycling program in the classroom and the cafeteria, participates in walk and roll to school once a month, and started a nature trail in the woods to facilitate nature observation. The school also certified its gardens with the National Wildlife Federation and the Monarch Watch program. 

More information about the award is available online.

Photo via FCPS

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Reston Boat Rentals — Williams Peterson, the watershed manager for the Reston Association, has information for Restonians about summer boat rentals, including single canoes and kayaks. New this year, boat rentals will be available on July 4 and Labor Day weekend. [Reston Association/YouTube]

Lake Anne ES Students Protecting the Planet — “Lake Anne Elementary’s Eco-School team was invited to present at the second annual Student Innovation Showcase… students were able to share their work on protecting the environment.” The school will receive $2,581.82 in grants this spring for to improve the existing learning gardens, create an herb garden and composting system, create a nature trail and more. [Fairfax County Public School]

Office Evolution Coming to Herndon — “Office Evolution is now bringing what it calls a workplace revolution to Herndon with a 6,400 square-foot center on Van Buren Street that opened on Mar. 15, becoming the company’s second franchise in Fairfax County along with an existing Tysons Corner location.” [Fairfax Times]

Herndon Students Say “Au Revoir” to French Immersion Program — “May 31 [was] an occasion of mixed feelings for everyone involved with Herndon Elementary School’s French immersion program. Past and present students, teachers, and parents [gathered] that day to celebrate the program’s 30th anniversary, but the event [was] a final send-off, as Herndon Elementary will no longer offer French immersion after this academic year ends in June.” [Fairfax Times]

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Del. Ken Plum: Bold and Swift Changes for Our Environment

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Advocates on behalf of cleaning up our environment got further strong evidence of the need for “bold, swift action on behalf of our environment,” a phrase used by many who have recently written letters to me. A 1,500-page report based on thousands of scientific studies by hundreds of international experts has concluded that “humans are transforming earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plants and animal species are now at risk of extinction posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival.”

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that produced the report for the United Nations found that “piecemeal efforts to protect individual species or to set up wildlife refuges will no longer be sufficient.” Instead, they call for ‘transformative changes’ that include curbing wasteful consumption, slimming down agricultures and cracking down on illegal logging and fishing.” The writers of the assessment are hoping that policy makers will see the importance of nature to the health of people and local economies and will able “to strike a more careful balance between economic development and conservation.”

As Virginia advocates point out in their plea, “it will now be up to the 2020 Virginia General Assembly to stand up for our health and the environment, for clean energy, and to protect Virginians from the ravages of climate change of which we are already feeling the effects.” The most recent session of the General Assembly demonstrated that the legislators in charge can make all the difference. In a strictly partisan vote, the Republican majority had language inserted in the budget that restricts the Commonwealth’s ability to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that will be a critical avenue for reducing carbon emissions in the state and addressing the negative effects of climate change on the health and safety of the people.

While the language by the Republicans was not subject to a line item veto by the Governor because of past court decisions, the Governor nonetheless has pledged to move forward with new regulations much the same as would be part of RGGI to make significant reductions in carbon pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants. The Governor has made it clear that the budget he prepares next year will delete the Republican language. With the probable change of control of the House of Delegates and State Senate this year the language will not be carried forward in future budgets.

It is unfortunate that the actions of the Governor on this and other items in the budget have been sharply criticized because of a misunderstanding on the part of many that the Governor’s line item veto power is not unlimited — supported by court decisions but still controversial. The good news is that the Governor has indicated in many other actions that he recognizes the need for bold and swift action to protect our environment. I look forward to working with him in greatly enhancing Virginia’s protection of the environment.

File photo

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Friday Morning Notes

Fatal Pedestrian Crashes Exceed Murder Rate in Fairfax County — Local officials are asking the public to avoid distracted driving in order to help prevent cyclists and pedestrians from being killed on the road. [WTOP]

‘Before the Flood’ Screening Tonight — The film follows  actor Leonardo DiCaprio as he interviews scientists, activists and world leaders about climate change. The screening, which is part of an annual environmental film series, takes place at the Walker Nature Center from 7-9 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome. A donation of $5 is suggested. [Reston Association]

County Proposal to Pay Legal Fees for Residents Facing Immigration Enforcement –– “As the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approaches the May 7 deadline for budget adoption, one of the more intriguing, and potentially polarizing, items under consideration is a pilot program that would fund legal representation for county residents subject to federal immigration enforcement actions.” [Fairfax County Times]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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