Halley Rise, a major mixed-use development next to the Reston Town Center Metro Station, will be powered by renewable energy.
Brookfield Properties, the developer, announced today (Tuesday) that the company is shifting all six of its Northern Virginia office properties to renewable sources in order to “develop responsible and sustainable placemaking destinations’ in the area.
“Brookfield Properties is committed to developing great places for people to live and work while also bringing innovation and responsible practices to our projects and communities,” Greg Meyer, Executive Vice President, Brookfield Properties’ Washington, DC region. “We are proud to be powering our Northern Virginia office portfolio sustainably, reducing our impact on the environment and setting a new standard for green practices in the region.”
Halley Rise, which is located at the corner of Sunrise Valley Drive and Reston Parkway is seeking LEED Neighborhood Development status, which is awarded to neighborhoods that are built to be sustainable. Once complete, the development will bring 1,500 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, and 250,000 square feet of retail space to the area. It’s also the site where self-driving vehicle company Optimus Ride is currently exploring energy-efficient options to transport commuters within the development.
Brookfield broke ground on the project in October. Wegmans plans to open in 2022 at the project.
Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government
A bill to reduce the use of styrofoam use by food vendors in Virginia cleared the state House with a 55-44 vote on Tuesday (Feb. 11).
Introduced by Del. Paul Krizek (D-Alexandria) and backed by Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) who introduced a similar measure this session, the bill requires some chain restaurants to stop using styrofoam containers by July 1, 2021. All food vendors must phase out the use of the containers by July 1, 2025.
Plum proposed a similar measure that was incorporated into Carr’s bill.
Styrofoam products — which are also known as polystyrene — are not biodegradable and take up a significant percentage of space in the state’s landfills.
Environment Virginia, an advocacy organization that is part of Environment America, applauded the vote:
A lot of waste comes from things we don’t need and we know we shouldn’t use, such as foam cups and take-out containers. This trash ends up in our open spaces and waterways, where it endangers wildlife. Polystyrene never breaks down, so it harms our environment for decades. Nothing we use for five minutes should pollute our planet for generations to come.
Environment Virginia has talked to tens of thousands of Virginians about plastic pollution and polystyrene and has collected more than 50,000 petitions calling on our leaders to take action on this crucial issue. Virginia’s leaders in the House of Delegates listened today and we look forward to our leaders in the Senate doing the same.
The ban will not apply to public schools and correctional facilities. Localities can also step in and provide one-year exemptions to individual food vendors if the proposal causes “undue economic hardship.”
All violators will be charged a $50 fee for each day of violation, which would be reused for lottery control and recycling projects.
The state Senate will consider the bill at a date that has not been announced yet.
Dazzling is the only word I could think of to describe the amazing work that is going on in the Virginia General Assembly this legislative session. The annual meeting of the legislature is just approaching half-time of its annual session, but already significant policy changes are being debated and adopted. There is little new to the policies that are being adopted; many are in place in other states already. But in Richmond they seem revolutionary!
I have already written about the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the early days of the session. The movement to ratify the ERA began in the early 1970s but was not successful in Virginia until nearly 50 years later! Since two ratification deadlines have already passed, the fate of the amendment with Virginia being the needed 38th state to ratify is uncertain. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is among the leaders seeking a judicial decision to validate the amendment’s ratification. Although the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified in 1920 and added to the Constitution, Virginia did not add its support to ratification until 1952!
While legislation must be passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by the governor to become law, here is a run-down on what has been approved so far by at least one house. By the time the legislature adjourns in early March this legislation is expected to be approved by both houses and sent to the governor. Numerous bills have been passed to ban discrimination against persons because of their sex; bills to protect LGBTQ+ persons would not have made it out of committee last year. Bills to ban discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment and credit applications have passed as has a bill to ban conversion therapy.
Likewise, bills to protect public safety from the misuse of guns that would never have made it out of committee previously have passed in both houses of the Assembly. My bill to require universal background checks has passed as well as bills granting localities the right to ban guns in public spaces, increasing the penalties for leaving guns unsecured around children, and requiring people to report lost or stolen guns within 24 hours. A “red flag” law that allows authorities to remove guns from individuals who have shown themselves to be a danger to themselves and to others has passed.
This week action is expected on bills that will open up the state to more solar and wind power and that will establish standards for the increased use of renewables in generating electricity. Plastic bags may be eliminated or taxed to reduce plastic pollution. I am sponsoring the Governor’s bill to advance the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay that is getting some push-back from the farming community that would be affected by regulations to clean up stream run-off. Numerous bills have already passed to make it easier to register to vote and to vote on election day, including no-excuse absentee voting.
There is more to come. Tune in next week or follow the sessions on live-streaming at House Chamber Live Stream for more dazzling action!
FCPS is one of 16 districts chosen by the company, which will cover the difference between the cost of diesel-fueled and electric buses. Dominion Energy’s vendor, Thomas Built Buses, will provide 50 buses for the first phase of the project.
“This is an innovative, sustainable solution that will help the environment, protect children’s health, make the electric grid stronger, and free up money for our schools,” Dominion Energy Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell, II, said in the press release.
Here’s more from Dominion Energy:
The buses also provide environmental and health benefits through reduced emissions and reduce operation and maintenance costs for schools by up to 60 percent.
Phase two of the project, with state approval, would expand the program to bring at least 1,000 additional electric school buses online by 2025. Once phase two is fully implemented, the buses’ batteries could provide enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes.
Phase three would set the goal to have 50 percent of all diesel bus replacements in Dominion Energy’s footprint be electric by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.
“Adding electric school buses in our fleet is consistent with the environmental focus of Fairfax County and the school division,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in the FCPS press release.
Photo via Unplash
A major county effort to restore heavily degraded stream areas at the Snakeden Branch at Lake Audubon is underway and should be completed by October of this year.
The county is working with Reston Association and neighbors to restore 750 linear feet of stream channel. The stream area is so degraded that it exposed sewer pipes between South Lakes Drive, Wakerobin Lane, Cedar Cove Court and Lake Audubon.
“Exposed utilities, including sanitary sewer, are a potential human and environmental health hazard,” according to the county.
Construction began in October last year and is expected to take one year to complete.
The project disturbs a little over half an acre of forested land, requiring the removal of 111 trees. When the project is complete, 326 will be planted, according to data provided by the county.
Once its complete, the project should improve water quality in the area, protect the local sanitary sewer system, remove invasive vegetation at the site, and reforest the area, resulting in improved wildlife habitat.
Here’s more on the project from RA:
Photos via Fairfax County Government
This op-ed was submitted by Doug Britt, who was honored as a 2019 Volunteers of the Year for his efforts to guide Reston into becoming a member of the Biophilic Cities Network. Mr. Britt is a Virginia Master Naturalist and currently serves as an At-Large Director of Reston Association and is a member of RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee.
For years golf courses have been stereotyped as environmentally unfriendly amenities. But times are changing the way they are being managed. Overall Virginia has 37,000 acres of open space devoted to golf courses, and many of them are providing valuable wildlife habitats in otherwise urban settings. Reston’s two courses are prime examples. Deer, fox, groundhogs, chipmunks, and grey squirrels are often observed during daylight hours. More secretive or nocturnal mammals such as voles, mice, flying squirrels, coyotes, possums, raccoons, and skunks use the wooded margins of the roughs during the late evening hours. The golf course ponds harbor various species of turtles, frogs, toads, and salamanders. Birdwatching around the golf course margins can be very productive: more than 100 bird species have been observed from the two Reston courses. A pair of red-tailed hawks have fledged several young at Hidden Creek Golf Course each of the past several years, bald eagles occasionally stop over, and the peregrine falcons that nest at Town Center are occasionally seen hunting along the fairways. Bluebird populations around the courses have been increasing and Hidden Creek Country Club is the only community nesting site in Reston for purple martins.
More and more courses in Virginia are applying best management principles to reduce chemical applications and to minimize irrigation needs. For example, the Virginia Golf Course Supervisors Association (VGCSA) established a Golf Course Nutrient Management Plan in 2017 designed to minimize fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide use. This year approximately 99% of Virginia golf courses have adopted this Plan. Most Virginia golf course supervisors are also using a comprehensive “Environmental Best Practices for Virginia Golf Courses Manual”. Audubon International has initiated a certified Cooperative Sanctuary Program for golf courses, and 29 Virginia courses have so far met the rigorous standards for program certification, including Reston National Golf Course, which just received its re-certification.
Some Virginia courses have established “pollinator gardens” around their tee boxes to attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. More than 50 individual butterflies comprising a dozen different species were observed feeding on flowers around a single tee box at River Bend Country Club this summer. Other Fairfax County courses are participating in the “Monarchs in the Rough” Program, where the host plants for monarch larvae are planted to attract these iconic butterflies. Other County courses are cooperating with the Virginia Bluebird Society to create blue bird trails (Kingsmill Golf Course reported that it had fledged more than 200 bluebird chicks on its three courses this year). Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria has 6 on-site beehives to help pollination; moreover, they sell the honey produced in their pro-shop.
Heavily treed golf courses such as Hidden Creek also provide substantial environmental and human health benefits. The trees contribute significantly to carbon capture and storage, air pollution removal, oxygen production, stormwater retention and erosion control. They also are effective in lowering energy costs by cooling surrounding buildings in the summer and reducing wind chill in the winter. Research on the human physiological, psychological, and spiritual benefits of contact with nature (and urban forests in particular) are showing diverse positive effects, including reduced blood pressure and stress hormone levels, lowered obesity, and increased cognitive performance.
Proper turf management on golf courses also builds healthy soil microbial communities and encourages large earthworm populations that create biopores that oxygenate the soil and facilitate stormwater retention and groundwater recharge.
In 2018 Reston was designated a member of the prestigious Biophilic Cities Network – a network of progressive cities around the world that purposefully connect their residents with nature in significant and extraordinary ways. Reston was clearly designed to do just that by its founder’s (Robert E. Simon’s) guiding principles, its 55 miles of walking, hiking, and biking paths, and its 1300 acres of open space and natural areas. Reston’s golf courses have the potential, if managed wisely, to be very valuable environmental assets. They should be another extension of the way Reston connects its people with nature where they live, work, and play.
Photo by Reston Association
Reston environmentalists received an award from Fairfax County last week.
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
A group of mothers from Fairfax County are banding together to push county schools to use electric school buses.
“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.
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