Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hinge House needs Homeowners

The person who will one day call the Hinge House their home will have a lot of people to thank when all is said and done. So much beautiful, better-world work has gone into the home, not the least of which is the work of Charles Hendricks, the lead architect and advisor on the project (and the Betty board member with the most initials after his name!), and the many students at CATEC who finished the project in May.

Though many In Albemarle County have had their eye on it, it remains for sale.

The list is long, but this project is an amazing collaboration in green building. It's the first high school project of its kind in the United States. From Pella's window donations to John Meggs' Nature Neutral's building supply donations to Albemarle Heating and Air and Beck Cohen's AC/Heat work, and Murus for the HardiPlank and Benjamin Moore with the low VOC paint, this has been a collective community effort. The green features in this modular home include passive solar, energy efficient AC and heat, the use of recycled products, and the use of advanced framing technologies that maximize insulation and energy efficiency. Not only is this home sustainable and versatile (it's made of three modular units that can be rearranged a couple of different ways), but it's also a mobile classroom. Hendricks had to design the home to meet stringent SOL standards for carpentry, which means the students had to learn and construct different types of doors, roofs, materials to meet the core competencies.

The name comes from the hinged roof, which folds down for transportation possibly under bridges, a necessity given the fact that one day this home will be transported to the perfect home lot hopefully to hither (and not yon).

Another hope of this project, as well as with EcoMod and the Piedmont Housing Alliance, is that these modular designs will transform the modular industry into one that appeals to homeowners desiring renovation. Instead of building an addition to your home, you could just order one or two pieces of the modular to fit your needs.

The benefits of modular buildings are numerous. Because the homes are built in a factory, it means less on-site environmental disturbance, less waste generated, better energy efficiency (more air-tightness), and less interference from the elements.

Another Betty-worthy feature: students generated only 3 36 gallon trash bags from the construction of the home. That's impressive!

All of the proceeds for the sale of this 3 bedroom, 1300 square foot home will by given to the Catec foundation that will support scholarship funds and next year's house.

So step right up. It's yours for the taking! Contact Charles Hendricks at

p.s. photos coming!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pack lightly and carry a green backpack

**This article appears here at Cvillebettyblog and in the Cville Weekly's ABODE, also available online at**

As you return to the classroom this month, don’t leave your eco-awareness at the door. Pack lightly for the sake of the planet and your pocketbook.

Experts say Americans will spend 600 dollars on back-to-school shopping. But, my green friends, do you really need all that stuff? Consult the list, and look no further than the nearest junk drawer, where pens, pencils, crayons, and highlighters abound. Dr. Denise Young, mother of five, recycles last year’s binders and notebooks, saving money and resources. When it comes to clothing, electronics, and supplies, embrace the concept of share and share alike among friends, family members, classmates and roommates.

Next on the list: paper products. Save a tree by minding your Ps and Cs: look for PCW, Post-Consumer Waste, preferably 100% recycled, and PCF, Processed Chlorine-Free (Staples). The Blue Ridge Eco-Shop carries pens and pencils made of leftover furniture wood, as well as recycled cardboard three-ring binders (no vinyl or PVC).

The popular Laptop Lunchbox (at Rebecca’s) is lead-free, BPA-free, reusable, and easy to clean.

Don’t forget the quintessential back-to-school item: the backpack. “Buy something that lasts,” Young suggests. “A good backpack from Lands End or LLBean can last years.”

Now enjoy the rest of summer recess,

Monday, July 28, 2008

Green Coverage!

Last week we saw a nice amount of green coverage in Charlottesville's local media. Monday's Progress asked "How green will officials make Albemarle County?" I found the article informative: it was exciting news to Betty that the Crozet library is the county's first project planed to meet the US Green Building Council's LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

The Hook's article on the ins and outs and continuing saga of recycling in town and in the county was also welcome. I applaud Van der Linde's giant recycling facility and hope the local goverments can come together to make it a win-win for residents. My fear is that if lots of individual residents and individual businesses sign on for recycling service piece meal, then the incentive for a bigger county-wide effort will be lost. I believe we need to act as a collective on this one - that will bring the costs down for residents and bring in more recyclables in the end.

Again on Wednesday we see "A City of Trees, Trails" in the Daily Progress. What is a better use of our money than planting trees, which in return give us shade, cooler summers, cleaner air, less erosion and more beauty to admire. The goal for the tree canopy is 40%, a 6% increase. Modest, some could say, but lets applaud small changes that will make a difference in this community for generations to come. The city also plans on adding 10 more miles of trails!

Be proud of our local efforts here and encourage more green where that came from.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good news and bad news!

The Good News:
Crutchfield is the leader when it comes to helping out local residents recylce their electronics (For a full list you can always check Betty's search tool). But this August 2 and 3rd you can recycle your electronics for FREE at the Rio store.

The Bad News:
In my travels today, I visited the Cafe at Martha Jefferson Hospital and was surprised to see that ALL of the food is being served with disposables: plastic bowls and styrofoam containers and plastic flatware. The same practice is being used at the hospital.

Styrene appears on the National Toxicology List, though research continues on the potential harmful health effects. (I am waiting for more concrete findings on that one).

However, the fact remains that styrofoam produces harmful dioxins when manufactured. Moreover, styrofoam NEVER biodegrades. I know many styrofoam containers have a recycling symbol label and I have heard of isolated communities that recycle this foam (the process and ultimate net good from recycling this remains to be discovered), but not in the city and the county.

A note from Betty's Earth kitchen might be in order. I also encourage you to write a letter if time allows. The more advocate for less waste, less harm on the planet in our community, the better.

Today's Tip:
The next time you are given milk in a styrofoam cup for your kids or given take-out in a styrofoam container in one of our local restaurants, politely ask if the management has considered other less harmful alternatives. Cardboard can be recycled, as well as aluminum containers, though compostable containers are ideal. With my children, I ask nicely for glass cups.

Hope that helps!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday night surfing: for the green kids in your life

At least one Saturday night a month I like to scout the internet for great new finds in the eco-online world. Tonight I found some for the kids! - beautiful site. Loved her seven year old's fairy house birthday party. Great book list. - a Canadian site for kids. Very user-friendly, informative and fun - the graphics aren't as cool, but useful info - great tools for zero waste lunches! - this is more formal/scientific in appearance and web demeanor is a beatiful blog with a lot of great topics and it's concise, informative, helpful and nice to look at!

For older kids: - I enjoy this site by National Geographic. They've got helpful "go green" guides
This is a great site: a path to green via adventure and learning
The JASON project is "A nonprofit subsidiary of the National Geographic Society, JASON connects young students with great explorers and great events to inspire and motivate them to learn science. Its core curriculum units are designed for 5th – 8th grade classrooms but are flexible enough to be adapted for higher or lower grades."

I'll leave you with a great Salsa recipe for the budding gardeners in Cville...
Salsa Fresca from Deidre at www.thegreenguideforkids.blogspot.com1/2 medium onion
1 jalapeno stemmed and seeded (less if you don’t want it too hot)
2 cloves of finely minced garlic
4 tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper

Happy surfing!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Trails To You

I stopped by Blue Ridge Mountain Sports the other day to chat with John Holden, a super great outdoorsman who has worked there for over 30 years, about hiking in the West and I was happy to find a new Charlottesville Trail Map, updated last month. Check it out at or stop by the BRMS store.

It's beautiful!

Charlottesville Parks and Rec has mapped the Rivanna Trails Foundation footpath, waterways, schools, parks and other landmarks for your hiking/walking/running enjoyment.

The parks with RTF access are as follows:
Meadowcreek Gardens

I hope to take advantage as the cool weather rolls in and report back. In the meantime, email and tell me where you like to hop on and off.


Save the Date: August 3

Join us for a summer picnic!

Celebrate your earth-friendliness with other green-sceners at Pen Park (Pavilion #3) on Sunday, August 3rd from 2-5pm. $5/person and $10/family.

We will have music, eco-games for kids (a trash toss and scavenger hunt), face painting, and more. Please bring a gently used cd/book (make that plural) to swap. Light fare will be provided, but feel free to bring your own picnic basket and beverage (in a reusable or recyclable bottle).

Games and face-painting 2pm
Scavenger Hunt 3pm
Prizes and Music 4pm

Light fare provided by Rebecca's, biodegradable forks and plates provided by Blue Ridge Eco-Shop, and EcoDryCleaners provided postcard size green tips for those in attendance! Remember Better World Betty is a local, grassroots, non-profit organization working towards a better planet.

We hope you can make it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Vacation Life-Savers on a Budget

Usually when I travel with my two boys on a long trip I bring a bag of tricks, which include a few new items from the local toy store (or, Betty forbid, the dollar store).

But those were the olden days, before I upped the environmental awareness ante, before Al Gore's movie, before Betty, and before the no new-purchase buying pledge!

So before our trip, I eschewed the temptation to buy cheap, short lasting, high embedded energy doo-dads. Instead I gathered old crayons and markers from around the house, visited a local used book store and stopped by the Cville Market.

My first line of defense with the no-purchase pledge is "If you look, you will find it" - (I rearranged the "if you build it, they will come") This really works! Think of your attic, your garage, your kitchen junk drawer (I know mine is a veritable gold mine of goods: Old decks of cards, guitar picks, nails, pens, a corkscrew, a swiss army knife, matches - the list goes on).

So I gathered around a dozen markers and crayons and then printed off a few coloring pages on 100% recycled/recyclable paper for the boys.

Next stop the Book Room (in Shoppers World next to Whole Foods) - a great used book store I am embarrassed to say slipped through the cracks when making the directory (should be remedied promptly). There I found gently used I spy books, a dinosaur coloring book, a sticker book about nature and the seasons that had most of the stickers left, and a classic "A Hole is To Dig" by Maurice Sendak for half the cover price.

The final stop was Cville Market. The best kept secret here for moms in Cville, besides the ABC baguettes and other local food options, is their great snack section. I love it because they have some healthy, no or low-sugar options. (I realize I could spend the time in the store gathering the wheat chex, popcorn, nuts, and other snackie items, and jumble them at home, but this time we left on short notice) We choose a fabulous trail mix that lasted us a good two days.

I wrapped each item in the Sunday Comics that we save.

This is key. Not only are they delighted to open a surprise gift, we can also read the comics together afterwards!

The only backfire was when my youngest opened the second gift. I had wrapped what I thought was some long-forgotten toy from the basement thinking he would happily rediscover it. Wrong. "I've seen this lots!" my youngest wailed.

No worries. The breath mints I was saving for myself saved the day.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gratitude and Greenness

Happy to be back in the land of the Blue Ridge and Better World Betty!

I return to the blogosphere with humility and awe at being able to visit our nation’s first National Park - Yellowstone and the amazing Grand Tetons Mountains of Wyoming!

I have never felt as humbled as when I've stood at the base of a 13,700 ft tall, brash, jagged mountain - geologists call it “young” at more than 2.5 billion years old-- surrounded by 100 foot tall trees in awe at the teeming wildlife that surround it, including us humans who come to witness and learn and be inspired.

The Bison who roam free there are a beautiful example of how people can come together to create a better world. The bison, at one time numbered in the double digits, now flourish, to my two sons' delight. The buffalo is their new favorite animal!

We also shared space with pelicans, osprey, eagles, a moose and a grizzly (though thankfully at a great distance).

I have so much gratitude for the many people, past and present who allowed us to experience nature at its most pristine - explorers, preservationists like John Muir and philanthropists (like John D. Rockefeller)and brilliant engineers - my beloved husband's business meeting allowed us to go West.

I was happy to learn of the park’s managing company, Xanterra's, environmental commitment to lessening the environmental impact of the millions of visitors they receive each year. Our "frontier cabin" had recycling, signs about water conservation, information on the environmental plan and progress, as well as modest-size and earth friendly soap shaped like a bear, which came in handy after a day of hiking and sightseeing! says that gratitude
restores courage
reconciles relationships
heals our Earth

Try it for a day - in each moment connecting with the forces, the people, the choices that made each one available to you. I think you’ll find connections to the earth, the sky, the air, the water, the food available to you. I believe it will inspire awareness, mindfulness, and change.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Just under the wire: Betty visits EcoMOD3 before closing

Ok, so Mayor Dave Norris and Governor Tim Kaine beat me to it, but I had the opportunity to visit EcoMOD3 this week with Roger Voisinet before the new owner takes possession!

EcoMOD3 is a joint project of the City of Charlottesville, the Piedmont Housing Alliance, UVA Architecture School (under Professor John Quale), and UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science (under Paxton Marshall, who is also on Betty's Board).

And it's sustainability at its quaintest.

Students transformed a one-room house built in 1925 into a modern two-bedroom and one loft single family dwelling with an attached studio. Both have green roofs, solar hot water, thermasteel construction and other green features (like the bamboo flooring). (Unfortunately I forgot my camera, but I may add photos soon).

My favorite feature is the way the design beautifully incorporates bits of history as well - artifacts like a shoe horn and old bottles found on the home site are displayed on shelves in the upper loft. The attic has been knocked out allowing more height and support beams are exposed.

I loved the use of rectangular double-paned windows in the studio with views of the surrounding greenery. Who knew it's a block or so away from Main Street? The style is sleek and, to me, Swedish.

The Swedes have a word in their language that we Americans haven't embraced yet (my hope is we will). The word is pronounced "lah-gum" (I'm unsure of the Swedish spelling) and it refers to an amount that is "just enough" - not too much and not too little. It's like passing a cake around the table. Everyone needs to eat, so be sure to only take what you need. Sounds better world to me.

Hats off to everyone involved in this collaborative effort in sustainable design with a historic preservation twist.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cooking for a Cooler Planet

Today's blog comes from Betty's new column appearing in the Cville Abode, which debuted last month. Read it here or at the online Abode.

This summer in the kitchen, you can lower both the sweat factor and your carbon footprint with these tips:

Think cool foods. Cool the palate as well as the planet with cold soups like homemade gazpacho (local tomatoes only), fruit soups, salads, or raw veggies.

Buy local and organic. Shop the farmer’s market Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, or the local selection at Rebecca’s or Integral Yoga.

Keep a lid on it. Don’t peek when stovetop or oven cooking. Opening the door can lower the internal temperature by as much as 25 degrees.

Don’t preheat. It’s unnecessary in most cases.

Use a pressure cooker or Crock-Pot. Both help you get more out of the electricity you use.

If the pan fits, use it. A 6” pan on an 8” burner can waste 40 percent of the heat produced.

Cook double portions. Microwaves save as much as 75 percent of energy on reheating (don’t use plastic, though!).

Go the extra green mile. Buy a solar cooker!

Betty’s Smoothie
1 cup local fruits, like Berry Patch blueberries
1/2 cup Twin Oaks tofu
1/2 cup Seven Stars Farm yogurt

Blend and toast to a better world, compliments of Betty!