Sunday, December 20, 2009

What to do when you're snowed in? Make a plan for ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Researching my next article for Cville Weekly's Abode I came across a FABULOUS and TOTALLY user-friendly 36 page booklet

from DOE's , Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Department. OK so maybe you are in front of the fireplace, snuggled up reading the latest copy of DWELL magazine or the latest Barbara Kingsolver. Betty's telling you this is worth a glance, if not a good read. As I tuned into the coverage from Copenhagen, I was reminded of just how urgent climate change is. It's overwhelming, but it begins with the one step you are doing right now.

So how's this: read the booklet and right down 1 thing you can do RIGHT NOW to save energy. Then right down three things you can do in the NEXT MONTH. Then formulate a plan for the year 2010 and post it on your big home energy loser appliance (your fridge) - it'll make him feel better (he knows man's gotta eat) and you too for TAKING AN ACTION.

I'm pleasantly surprised by just how quick, informative and easy-to-implement some of the tips are.

The chart telling you what home plug ins use the most energy is worth a peruse. And news to me: if your kitchen faucet lever is turned toward hot, it's costing you money!! Turn it to COOL.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Building a Better World starting right here!

Exciting things were happening all over Charlottesville this weekend. It was hard to choose where to be and when and of course try to fit some holiday shopping in there somewhere, even for the Bettiest of Charlottesvillians. Saturday I found myself connecting with two wonderful segments of our green community here: local craftspeople and designers at CRAFTACULAR AND sustainable minded builders, architects, planners, political leaders at the 4th EcoMOD home on Elliot Avenue!

Cary and Kristen and Patty and Kim and other local artists and designers and craftspeople and "upcyclers" (I love this term!) were at Craftacular in the new Open Space at the corner of Monticello Ave and 2nd Street near ACAC). Of course I had to get over my initial "grrrr" feeling at the building for those of you who remember the majestic trees that were on that corner which had to be cut down. But the space is a very beautiful gathering place and cool community concept of rentable space for working and meetings of all types and the building's concierge informed me that they are striving for an all paperless work environment. Excellent.

I met Lindsay Mears who makes beautiful booklets made from old books and (think back now) old floppy disks. I met Kim who creatively upcycles old things she finds in antique or consignment shops or friends' attics, giving them a second life as beautiful bags and artful objects. She likes to take things apart - voila Cary's earrings.

After chatting with the artists and Roger Voisinet, green solar real estate outdoor adventure guy, I headed to the dedication of EcoMOD. Community members from all walks - students, UVA officials, professors, activists, we all braved the cold temperatures to celebrate an important piece of the sustainability puzzle: innovative sustainable modular and affordable home design otherwise known as EcoMOD,which is getting not only community attention, but national and international attention as well!!

EcoMOD is a UVA interdisciplinary project joining UVA's Architecture school and School of Engineering and Applied Science professors and students along with affordable housing organizations like Piedmont Housing Alliance and Habitat for Humanity. This home was a Habitat for Humanity home (the Andesha's home) and required cooperation of MANY students groups, area businesses, and city leaders. The lofty goal of this fourth EcoMod home was a net zero carbon footprint. WOW. And they are going for a LEED platinum rating as well as fulfilling the Habitat Mission of a modest, affordable home. This is a pre-fab home with energy star features, solar roof, and other sustainable feature. To quote Habitat's Executive Director Dan Rosenweig, to be sustainable, designs have to be attainable. This innovative, inter-disciplinary, inter-community effort is now being looked at in other parts of the world and it started with the work of Paxton Marshall and John Quale here in Charlottesville. Green hats off!!

I toured the home, spoke with Betty board members Paxton Marshall and Ryan Jacoby, as well as Mayor Dave Norris about the successful partnership and also about the future plans for the house next door.

The home at the corner of Elliott and Ridge (across from Tonsler park), once a drug hub, has been condemned for years, but through joint support of many organizations in our community, it looks like it's going to be transformed into a state of the green-art educational, living example of sustainable design and energy efficiency! Plans are currently being tossed about (I'm privileged to be a part of some of the dialogue via the Local Climate Action Planning Committee work I'm involved with), but if all funding goes well it should house LEAP, the Local Energy Alliance Program: a comprehensive program launching in Charlottesville to reduce our energy use.

Despite the bitter cold event (held outside the homes), I was inwardly glowing at all the good intention, Better World actions that continue to transform our community, our state and the planet, really. 'Tis the season, everyone!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Join the Green Party!

Join the green party
An article from Betty's monthly column in Abode magazine!

One way to survive the cold, dark, post-Fridays-After-Five season is to host or attend a cozy, holiday party. But if December is already booked with invitations, your carbon snow-print might be mammoth.

Follow these tips for green merrymaking:

Choose invitations printed on recycled paper; or postcard-sized, bamboo or hemp invites; or simply welcome friends with digital e-vites.

If you must have a tree, splurge on a fresh, local Christmas tree from the nearest tree farm (consult the Buy Fresh Buy Local guide at

Do you really need another seasonal decoration? Search your home for lost treasures, or ask close friends to loan decorations for the night of your party. Gather fresh rosemary or holly berry branches to garnish your soy, beeswax or palm wax candle.
Fill your favorite glass bowl or jar with cranberries and water and top with a tea light. Old CDs make glittery hanging ornaments; so do non-toxic gold and silver painted pinecones. Create recycled magazine Christmas trees by folding down every page. And garlands of leftover greenery, apples, cinnamon sticks and twine provide fragrance and fun.

Why not explore a local menu with Caromont chevre and a bottle of Gabriele Rausse’s Rosso? Be sure to serve guests on real or biodegradable plates. Here’s a gift idea for you and the planet: a set of sturdy, fashionable bamboo plates suitable for future parties!

And a beautiful handcrafted gift from local artists at the farmers’ market, or a gift certificate to your favorite locally owned business, captures the seasonal spirit of giving.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Take the Bruce and Betty local Thanksgiving Challenge

Every year 28 billion pounds of edible food goes to waste. Unbelieve, right? So this year, let's plan ahead, make less, and lower our collective impact by going local. Which means adding one or two dishes or localizing your entire T-day meal!! Then email your story to in 200 words or less and Brad of 1061 the Corner and Bruce of RSWA and Teri of Betty will pick the best one to air on the December 4th show (9am). We'll give you a free CD and reusable bag as well as 10seconds of Cville fame!!

1- Plan. Find out the per person amount of food to prepare. 1 lb of meat and 1/8 of a pumpkin pie beats guessing and overcooking!

2- TWEAK the main meal. Can you splurge on an organic turkey? Actually now there are all sorts of sophisticated designation according to what the turkey was fed and how it was treated (cage-free). Or like my friend Susan, serve FISH (check the Seafood Watch guide first, of course - they do all the pertinent research on which fish is friendly to take out of its home/water). You know, the pilgrims and natives likely served fish is what I read in a kids' picture book once!

3- Green clean your home. Put away the clorox and bleach and bring out the baking soda, water and lemon.

4- Use natural decorations. Holy berries, beeswax candles, rosemary twigs bring the outdoors in...

5- Leftovers. COMPOST them (without the meat and dairy, though) or DONATE to a local food bank or REPURPOSE items by making turkey tetrazzini or soup, etc.

Check out these helpful links: planet green 100-mile diet and these great links:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Greening up baby

Enjoy this article appearing in Abode magazine this month

“Babies just don’t need a gazillion things!” I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Dolly Garnecki, a local chiropractor and presenter of green mom workshops in town. This month we offer guidelines to help babies grow up green, which could end up saving you some green.

Paint: For your little one’s room, choose PVC-free wall coverings and paint without VOCs (volatile organic compounds). If your house was built before 1978, check for lead paint.

Furniture: Try local secondhand stores. For cribs, first verify the consumer safety guidelines for proper rail spacing and other safety considerations at

Buying new? Choose Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. It’s harvested with care. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification is industry-led, less stringent, and possibly an illegitimate measure. See the National Resources Defense Council website for more.

Clothing: Choose secondhand or handmade clothing at farmers markets and craft fairs. Recycled fabric and organic cotton are lower-impact.

Toys: Less is more. Remember, babies and toddlers enjoy the box as much as the toy, so no need to overindulge. Embrace hand-me downs, both giving and receiving. If you decide to buy, choose domestic. I liked to rotate toys every two weeks, moving toys from one room to another. It keeps things fresh. Consider starting a toy-swap-rotation with other parents: Gather six toys your baby (and you) can part with, disinfect them with vinegar and hot water, and exchange at a monthly play date.

Keeping it simple will help you stay sane. And it’s O.K. to to give in to the occasional necessary bright pink plastic item!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Join the world tomorrow!!

Jessica and I have been emailing this morning and what better way to get back in the blogosphere with a CALL TO ACTION tomorrow. Hope to see you there at 3:50pm at the downtown chalk board for Charlottesville's 350 event!!

Some links:

The Map of Actions: (this page has the most comprehensive information in one place)

From Jessica, the event coordinator:

I love living in Charlottesville. As a progressive and green-leaning small city, there are so many good things happening - the city markets, green roofs on government buildings, progressive elected leaders, a growing local foods movement; the list goes on and on. As I watched the movement grow, I was certain that someone would organize an event for Charlottesville.

There are a couple of churches that are doing local events, and two different groups are hiking Humpback Rock, but nothing was happening in the heart of the city. I had the idea that the Free Speech wall was a good last minute meeting spot - the wall is there as a place for the citizens of Charlottesville to make their voices heard - what better platform for spreading the word?

As our country and our world move toward global climate talks in Copenhagen, it is imperative that we speak up about what is important to us. Our leaders cannot speak for us if we don't tell them what is important to us. One voice may be lost in the wind, but when we stand together, we can make a difference. I believe that Charlottesville can stand up tomorrow like we did for the Earth Week events earlier this year, and like we do for so many other important issues, and make our collective voices heard.

We may be one small city, but when we stand with the over 4600 actions in 177 countries, we can make a difference. I hope that anyone who hopes for a better tomorrow will come out and join the movement.

I will be at the Free Speech wall tomorrow at (or before) 3:50 pm with extra chalk, rain or shine. I will have a camera there, and will make sure that the group photo gets uploaded to the site as soon as I get home. All photos that are taken and uploaded will be streamed in Times Square in New York City (and I believe that they will also be displayed at the UN, but I can't find the documentation on that one!) I would urge anyone who will be joining the action to visit the website and read up about the climate science behind the movement. I will have some talking points with me, and a speech from Bill McKibben to read to the group.

Thanks so much for spreading the word on this!

No problem, Jessica. Happy to do it

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Betty, Bruce and Brad talk greener transport options

Concerned Cvillians:

[This blog comes in part from the Bruce and Betty show on transportation, helpful local green info/interview on 1061 the Corner, airing on Friday morning, October 9 at 9am]

The EPA tells us that transportation accounted for approximately 29 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2006. And it's the fastest-growing source of U.S. GHGs, accounting for 47 percent of the net increase in total U.S. emissions since 1990. Transportation is also the largest end-use source of CO2, which is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. We MUST, MUST, we MUST reduce our DRIVING... First, figure out your transport footprint HERE

Now let's talk HOW to increase efficiency, reduce your driving and thereby save money and precious dinosaur blood AND help keep our air clean!

1- Choose an alternative mode of driving once a week:
*Go car free and walk
*Take public transportation
*Take the Go-Green taxi service to the airport
*Take the rickshaw! (Check out Betty's directory under T for transport)

2-Buy Smart - check out the cool green vehicle guide at the EPA's website

3-Drive Smart by following these fuel efficient tips:

*Consolidate trips
*Avoid quick starts and stops
*The speed limit is not just there for safety, it's recommended based on Fuel Efficiency
*Get rid of excess weight in your car (I'm not talking about going on a diet here - make sure you get the trunk off the roof in a timely fashion and removed what you don't need from the trunk)
*Don't idle for more than 60 seconds. Turn off your engine.
*I recommend keeping a driving log and see if you can reduce your weekly miles traveled
*Ask you

4-Maintain your car by...
*keeping your tire pressure at the correct psi for the season (check the inside of the driver's side door)
*keep the manufacturer's recommended grade oil in your car and replaced regularly

5-Check into using renewable fuels

*There are two local alternative fuel stations in Charlottesville - for E85 and biodiesel.

Most of these tips can be found at this very helpful site:

Every contribution you make in the way of effiencing and reducing driving makes a difference!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Greening your Greenbacks

Greening your greenbacks - enjoy this month's column found in Abode

Think about this: Your hard-earned money in the bank could very well be funding activities you would find appalling: say, oil exploration in Antarctica’s wildlife refuge. How can you ensure your dollars are promoting the better world we all envision?

Greener banking
Simple steps include going paperless: Decline ATM receipts (at 8 billion transactions per year, that makes a difference), use auto deposits, and obtain tax forms, bank statements, investments materials online. More importantly, where do you shop for a mortgage and do your other banking? The Better World Handbook recommends using local credit unions, not-for-profit institutions with a mission to serve their community, and therefore preferable to large banking institutions whose practices are more about profits than the planet.

Greener investing
“If you are truly invested in a better future, socially responsible investing (SRI) just makes better sense,” according to Ryan Miracle of FMI, a socially responsible investment firm in Waynesboro. Screening is a good first step. This means excluding companies that violate your personal values and including companies which match them.

Another way to effect change is through shareholder advocacy where the fund manager acts on behalf of your beliefs about, for example, the importance of sustainable business practices. Community investing designates funds for specific organizations who are making change at a grassroots level.

Now the burning question. Is there more risk with SRI? Miracle has good news: “The Domini 400 (a sustainability index) has outperformed the S&P 500 since 1990.” Check for a list of socially responsible mutual funds, a comprehensive screening chart, and financial performance data.

GLOSSARY of Eco-Investing Terms:
Triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits
Negative screening: simply excluding companies that violate your personal values
SRI funds: Socially Responsible Investment
ESG: Environment Social Government (industry term for SRI)

Check out Better World Betty’s local green living resource list at


Saturday, October 3, 2009

What's for dinner, kids? LOCAL foods!

Last weekend it was a pleasure to hang with my friend Melissa at Piedmont Environmental Council (and the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campagin) and my loyal Betty volunteer Eric Betthauser and Lisa Reeder, owner/writer of a Local Notion and fellow columnist for the Cville Weekly at the ANNUAL VEGGIE FEST!! The rain was a bit of a downer, but the die hards were out, thankfully.

I hope you have had a chance to pick up the Eat Local Challenge Form. This is a fun and doable step into the local fresh food scene. For us it was easy with our CSA share, but if you still aren't a member of a CSA (Community Sustained Agriculture), you can still manage to get your 21 foods in 21 days buy shopping at the local farmer's markets or Integral Yoga/Rebecca's/Whole Foods or if you are a stellar gardener you may still be harvesting the fruits of your own labor.

(Confession here: today we finally weeded our extremely unstellar garden - the deer were not hampered by my short bamboo sticks and net fencing! But we did find a 5 foot long black snake and a cute toad!)

So in the past week I've been able to get creative with some yummy squash soup, apple pumpkin muffins, and tonight roasted rutebaga. Surprise,surprise my boys turned their nose up. But I found it delicious!

Eating local strengthens our local economy and helps support endangered family farms and protect the environment AND delivers great taste and freshness!

You still have until next Sunday (Oct 11)to participate by filling out the form and sending it in. The prizes are from the great sponsors:

The Charlottesville Cooking School
Blue Ridge Eco-Shop
Revolutionary Soup
Caromont Farm
Blue Mountain Brewery
Open Gate Farm
C and O
and Dr. Ho's Humble Pie (suddenly I'm craving the best pizza around!)

Bon Appetit!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Green ideas for RIGHT NOW... Betty's Bakers Dozen List

Here are some of the get-started now tips I shared during my radio interview (broadcast on 1070AM WINA tomorrow morning at 8:30am with Jennifer Till of the Jennifer Till Real Life show airing on Saturday mornings (check out

1- Reduce your driving. Have one day a week car-free or join a car pool. Contact:

2- Buy local and organic food when possible. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

3- Shift your thermostat by 3 degrees each season (Savings: up to 10% on energy bills)

4- Reduce your junk mail (Unsolicited junk mail uses 62 million trees a year!)

5- Embrace the three minute shower

6- Vinegar and baking soda are your cleaning friends. (You don't need a different chemical cleaner for each area of your home)

7- Say "NO" to disposables. Bring your own utensils and reusable bottles

8- Think local when gift-giving during holidays and birthdays: choose a gift certificate to a local business like Feast! or Read It Again Sam

9- Clothing: buy second-hand, host a clothing swap, line dry

10- Skip one red meat meal per week (meat is resource intensive) and eat sustainable fish (download or order your wallet card at

11- Install CFL or LED light bulbs and buy energy-efficient appliances (Govt estimates say if every American did this, it would be the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road!)

12- Tighten up your home: sealing any cracks or leaks will maximize your home's energy efficiency

13- Sign up for Betty's online newsletter which includes monthly tips and local eco-news at

In-joy, in the Earth Kitchen,

Monday, September 14, 2009

On becoming water wise...

As I sit here boiling water for my tea after my son's took their bath and with the (ultra water efficient bosch brand)dishwasher running, I am thinking about water. How precious this natural resource is that I too often take for granted. Of all the elements, I love water the most. The ocean is my favorite, but sometimes I get in a mode where "I must be around water!" So I head to Riverview Park or take the canoe down the Rivanna, or head to Sugar Hollow or a nice getaway is Ivy Creek.

If I love water so much, why don't I know more about our 50 year water plan and the heated debate surrounding it, I ask myself. I have my excuses, but the reality I likely share with many of you is that a feeling of being overwhelmed by all the complexities and differing viewpoints of the plan. This happens on the path toward more environmentally-responsible living. It's easy to get bogged down. It's hard to keep up, right? And we can't do it all at once...

Well, it's not as hard as you think. Tonight I'm making a renewed committment to be informed. Join me...

Where do we start?

My favorite tool for becoming informed on issues that directly affect our way of life here (without any spin factor or snarkiness): Charlottesville Tomorrow. Hats off to Brian Wheeler and Sean Tubbs and their board who have a class one non-profit organization whose mission is to keep us informed and engaged in the public discourse and therefore more motivated and able to take the next step: ACTION.

To connect on a broader, deeper level to our water here in Charlottesville, I'm going to take time to listen/read their online publication entitled "Our Water. Our Future." I just took a few minutes and listened to the first issue and already I'm feeling better informed.

From their website/email: "That's the title of Charlottesville Tomorrow's online publication on the state of our local water supply. As a subscriber to our e-mail alerts, you will be notified each of the six issues is published. With this message, I am pleased to announce that the fifth issue is now available on our website.

"Our Water Our Future" is an engaging online publication being released sequentially over this summer. Of course we will share facts, figures, and analysis, but you will also see informative illustrations, charts, and movies, plus hear some of the audio we have collected over the course of many community meetings.
We welcome your feedback and participation. I hope you will take advantage of the ability to comment on the content and even contribute your own insights to the detailed articles linked throughout “Our Water Our Future.”

Finally, here is a simple link to this project which you can share with your friends and neighbors: ."

Once you're informed, take action with Betty's help. Look up rainwater harvesting in the directory, find out about the city/county water saving kits, and look to see if there are any water/stream clean up events in the near future...

Thanks, guys!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Local eco-sense for buying, reusing, recycling your appliances

Here's a recap of the show without the Betty and Bruce banter and/or mouth misfires...

Small appliances like toasters, food processors, microwaves, coffee pots, irons: NOW: Don't leave them plugged in. That draws a small amount of energy that's just wasted.
If they work and you're done with them? Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat, Freecycle. If they don't work, call Cycle Systems (formerly Coiners). They took our old microwave last year.

Bigger appliances:
Let's talk big losers in the home. We're not talking about the Bruce and Brads out there (joking!)It's the refrigerator. According to the EPA, the refrigerator averages about 9% of your home energy use.
NOW: Turn down the setting to 40 degrees and regularly get rid of the dust bunnies so the air is free to flow and don't lurk at the contents with the fridge doors open, just like your mom told you to!
If you have the money? Go to and research the highest efficiency models. Side doors are the least efficient. And if you have 2 fridges in your home (20% of Americans do), consider getting one big one. That could save you money and energy.

NOW: Do full loads, use biodegradable detergent, be choosy about your settings.
If you have the money? Buy a dishwasher with a .65 energy star number. Some models use 1/2 the water. We bought a BOSCH dishwasher last year and LOVE it. I consider them a progressive/green-minded company I can trust.

Refer to last weeks column in the Abode or in previous blog.
NOW: Full loads, cold water - Remember that hot/warm water rinses cost 5-10 times more. If you have the money? Check the cool tips on in the column

Water Heater:
NOW: Turn down the setting to 120 degrees. Use an insulation blanket. If you have the money, check out for tips.

When in doubt check Betty's search tool. If they work and are not absolutely egregiously uber-unefficient, Freecycle them or take them to Habitat.

Bulky Waste free Amnesty Day at the Ivy Material Utilization Center (fondly called Muck in the Biz): Saturday, October 10. check The freon will be recycled and the remaining will be stripped down at Cycle Systems.

Some local retail/repair companies will take it to Cycle Systems for you. Ask them what they do with broken appliances - if they say "trash" them, be an advocate by asking them if they would consider recycling it instead.

OR wait to find out about Virginia's cash for appliance program (similar to cash for clunkers - thanks to Obama's stimulus package) due out sometime this fall where residents are expected to get 50-200 dollars for the appliance when they purchase a newer, more efficient model.

Want another resource for savings?? Check out the tax incentives for solar heating and things like new water heaters at

Don't just take Betty's word for it - do your own research at and an AWESOME resource the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy or

And remember, if Betty is helping you SAVE money and SAVE the environment, please consider making a donation. (We a non-profit, all volunteer org!)


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Greenwashing we can get behind

Betty's September column appears below and in Abode online!

An inherited and ultra-inefficient clothes washer nearing its death was the inspiration for this month’s topic: tips for a green laundry room makeover! At 400 loads of laundry a year per family (more for us messy outdoor-types, like my two favorite sons), conservation is Betty’s call to action.

When purchasing:
The good news is new washer technology can yield up to 40 percent energy savings. Start shopping by checking out the Energy Star website ( and look for labels with higher MEF (Modified Energy Factor), which means higher efficiency, and low WF (Water Factor). Front loaders initially cost more, but clearly win in terms of water and energy efficiency. Conventional clothes washers use about 40 gallons of water for a complete cycle; large capacity, resource-efficient models use less than 25 gallons; smaller models use less than 10. Pick one with plenty of water level options and faster spin speed.
Dryers unfortunately don’t have Energy Star labels, but a moisture sensor is the important feature here. Take your old washers and dryers to Cycle Systems (formerly Coiners) for recycling.

When using:
You’ve heard the basics: full loads, cold water (remember: a hot water wash with warm rinse costs 5 to 10 times more than a cold wash and rinse), and biodegradable detergent. Clear your dryer lint filter after each cycle and avoid non-biodegradable fabric softeners (I use Nellie’s Dryer Balls). Drying several loads in a row will take advantage of residual heat. Of course line-drying is uber-green.
An easy tip we shouldn’t forget: Wearing clothes more than once before washing extends their longevity. Check the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s site,, for more information.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Slow Sunday

It's that time of year when I feel like everyone is back in the ville and turned the frazzle meter to mock 10. No more vacations, staycations, breaks. Sign ups, disclosure statement signatures, deadlines, bills, car inspections, are all due the same day and I've somehow managed to miss the majority of them! Case in point, the "new set of markers" on the 3rd grade back to school list. "Mom, I had to borrow Joseph's marker because you're Betty and won't buy me anything with plastic!" Grrrr. What next? My mom will be calling to figure out the Thanksgiving menu?! Calgon...I mean all-natural dr. bonner's all-purpose soap... take me away, right?

If you feel like this, I recommend embracing a SLOOOOWWW Sunday. A car-free Sunday. An Earth-filled, breezy, lazy, Sunday! Ignore all the shoulds and have-tos and stressers and recharge.


Embrace the 3 P's: pause, patience, and play!

The kids and I took a picnic lunch and the Better World Beagle and went to the creek for a picnic. But this wasn't a normal nature walk. We were on a hunt. A hunt for cool nature objects to collect for our fairy house. Actually since I have two boys, we called it a Nature Landscape. We were inspired by the a man/woman artist team we met in Salt Lake City who build ginormous tree houses, including fairy furniture, out of everything they find in Nature. You can imagine me in front of their farmer's market booth, wide-eyed and ready to abandon my family right then and there and apprentice with these two magical folks.

Ours was a valiant effort for our first try, as pictured above, don'thca think? The more important part was the process of connecting to Mother Nature miraculously at play - the caterpillar we spied in our search eating a maple leaf and the surprise and excitement at Mugsy finding a snake.

Going slow, just being invites the love, the grace, and the gratitude back in to what often feels like rushing, chaotic, stressful lives.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Betty's Top Ten Back-to-School Tips!

Save money, trees, resources by using what you already have...

1- Use last year's backpack. (If you buy a heavier duty one like our favorite Land's End you will pay a bit more up front, but it will last - my 8 yr old is on his third year with the same backpack)

2-Raid your junk drawer, home office, old backpacks, etc. for pencils, pens, scissors, and markers. You may very well have many supplies already in the home.

3-Bring a reusable water bottle to school instead of disposable plastic water bottles.

4-Use last year's lunch box (not a paper sack), pack using reusable containers and a cloth napkin (voila: a zero-waste lunch)

When you purchase...

5-Buy recycled paper and pencils: just google recycled money pencils or recycled pencils and you'll find a bunch of great links. (Crayons: soy-based are your non-petroleum based option.)

6-Opt for canvas or cardboard binders, instead of the plastic ones. (Check Staples eco line, Whole Foods, Blue Ridge Eco-shop)

7-Look for TREE-FREE notebooks - i.e. made of recycled paper or sugar cane (that funny word Bruce said on the radio show)

8-Encourage others to reuse school supplies, pencils made of old/unusable money or leftover sugar cane waste are so cool your friends will want one!!

9-Make sure your classroom and school is recycling (All county schools have an extensive recycling program beginning last year)

10-If you see excess, be an advocate by asking questions, and sharing your concern and desire to see a "less is more" attitude

10+: bike, bus, or school pool ( - check their school pool list!)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Going West...

So you'll have to excuse the self-indulgent attempt below at waxing poetic about my recent (and only) summer travel. I'm no Rachel Carson or John Muir, but we just returned from Utah (a place near to my heart, having spent almost 20 years there before moving to Charlottesville 10 years ago) And I have to share!

Not many people know that Utah contains FIVE of the nation's most beautiful national parks: Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Capitol Reef. My fondest memories of growing up there include biking Slick Rock in Moab, backpacking in the High Uintah mountains, and repelling 50 ft into the Narrows in Zion National Park. Nature beckons you to play there and it's so accessible. Last year my girlfriend and I found ourselves at the base of pristine mountain lake within 15 minutes drive from the Salt Lake Valley. I believe people there may tend to take Mother Nature and her beauty for granted. I know I did.

This trip was for the Kent family reunion, so I wasn't able to soak up as much as I would have liked the red rock desert solitude, hundreds of miles from any billboard or 7-11(don't take that personally, family).

But we were able to squeeze in a tasty visit to Salt Lake City's farmer's market (above), a peaceful raft down the Provo river (minutes away from Robert Redford's Sundance) - the picture above is Bridal Veil Falls, a hike at the base of Mount Timpanogos (not pictured), and a visit to see ancient petroglyphs at Parowan Gap (last picture above).

Did you know that Utah has more Native American petroglyphs and pictographs that any other state?

And I was lucky enough to visit one of the most prolific galleries concentrated in one area: Parowan Gap. When I stared upon these rocks and looked beyond them at the horizon of desert sagebrush, I felt gratitude for being there: a witness to another being's tool for communication from centuries ago. And I longed to know more about what they were telling us. The meaning of the petroglyphs isn't fully understood - tribes, archaelogists, historians have different stories to tell. Some (the sheep) are more clear than others (stryations forming a zipperlike shape).

For me, the only certainty I left with was how connected ancient peoples were to the land. And a taste for how I can help our community be even hungrier for connection to our planet.

I thought about all of the quick and easy ways we can connect and communicate in today's world - cell phones, internet, blogs, email, FB. But to what end? Late night you tube surfing, internet shopping, quipping and out-clevering on facebook?

I'm not trying to pass judgement here. I do all of these things too. But I ask you this admist all of our quick ways we can connect to others today: How "well-connected" are you? Do you include a favorite tree, butterflies, other friends of the natural world? (The first tree I would "friend" on my FB is that amazing magnolia between Park and Rio Road!)

I like Terry Tempest Williams' wider lens: "I believe our path toward the future is as it has always been - a people in a place with a commitment to community. Staying put. Slowing down. Listening. Learning... the names of our neighbors. Which she includes the pronghorn antelope, sego lily..." If we are to live in better balance and harmony, we must include the plants, trees, animals, rivers. And "friend" them in ways that go beyond this e-venue.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Don't Bug Me

You can also read this month's article in Abode.

Not that I would know from experience (wink, wink) but if you’ve got unwanted guests like ants, mosquitoes, gnats and flies in your kitchen, there are some ways to evacuate the varmints without using hazardous pesticides.

The simple solution: sanitation. You may not want to hear this, but the best way to deter critters is having a cleaner place than your neighbor. Frequent vacuuming or mopping along with regular vinegar wipe-downs work well, along with keeping a tight lid on trash containers, compost pails and stored food items. Also, be sure to take up pet foods at night.

Alternative critter concoctions. First locate the path of entering pests, sealing any cracks or openings. Once you find the source, apply one of these eco-friendly alternatives:

• baby or talcum powder
• lemon/orange rinds
• cayenne or chili powder
• peppermint oil (or Dr. Bonner’s Peppermint Soap)

Feeling less friendly? This ant hotel recipe might do the trick. Combine 1 cup borax and 1 cup sugar water and pour over loose wads of toilet paper in a reusable jar with holes poked in the lid. Place in strategic areas and hope for a sugar-induced overdose. (Don’t use if you have young kids and pets).

Homemade flypaper. Collect unwanted winged creatures by making your own flypaper. Combine 1/4 cup of your favorite syrup with 1 Tbs. of brown sugar and 1 Tbs. of white sugar. Brush 18” strips of a recycled brown bag, dry and hang.

As for mosquitoes, citronella products are great, once you’ve eliminated any areas of standing water.

And remember: Keep your spiders around because they like their steady diet of bugs!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Integrating Local Foods into Your Life...

The Bruce and Betty show focus for Friday, July 31st: SUPPORTING LOCAL and MORE SUSTAINABLE FOODS. This from my fellow earth-loving friend, Dawn Story, who has been working Kay's Kitchen, a local community project working to serve local farm-fresh food to homeless in the area. Thanks Dawn for letting us post your living document (i.e. please add comments and suggestions) on the Betty Blog!

25 Ways to Integrate Local Foods into Our Lives
Dawn Story, Growing Food & Community 2009
1. Buy locally produced food to support our small, regional farms and preserve our agricultural heritage and traditions. It strengthens our local economy and reinforces the web that connects us to others within our communities. It safeguards our environment and lessens our dietary carbon footprint by reducing the number of miles our food has been shipped. Piedmont Environmental Council’s Buy Fresh Buy Local food directory is the ultimate resource for sourcing local food. Go to:
2. Shop at one of many local farmers markets. Get to know the farmers. Listen to their stories and learn their growing practices. Touch, smell and taste fresh, healthy and locally grown food. I say, “Meet a farmer, make a friend”. For a local listing, go to For a statewide listing, go to: or
3. Patronize grocers that sell locally produced food and request your favorite producers. For a list, go to: or
4. Dine at restaurants that include local food on the menu. Inquire about where the food on the menu comes from. Recommend your favorite local producers. For a list, go to: or
5. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). A CSA is a mutually supportive relationship between local farmers and community members with annual membership fees to cover farm production costs. Members receive weekly “shares” of the harvest during the local growing season which ensures them tasty, nutritious food and a deeper connection to their food source and community. For a list of regional CSAs, go to: or
6. Eat fresh produce in seasonal and learn to cook with it. Consuming local foods within season is the diet that nature intended and is designed to supply us with many of the nutrients we need for health and well-being. These most auspicious foods allow us to take in the terroir – or essence – of the land from which they are grown. For a seasonal availability chart, go to:, or pick up a copy of one of our many regional food ‘zines featuring recipes and articles on seasonal foods, such as In The Kitchen, Flavor, Piedmont Virginian Magazine and Edible Blue Ridge,. The Weston A. Price Foundation ( is a great resource for learning the art and appreciation of traditional food preservation and preparation. Or visit the Sustainable Table website at for a fusion of food advocacy and education, cooking methods and ideas. Alternatively, take a class in cooking with local food from Charlottesville Cooking School ( or the Seasonal Cook (
7. Sign up for the EAT Local list serve to stay abreast of – and to post -- current, local food issues and resources. Do so at:
8. Go visit a farm. Attend a nearby farm tour and meet those behind our local food supply. While you’re at it, try harvesting your own food at one of the area’s many U-Pick farms and orchards. For a list of U-Pick farms and farm tours, go to: or to
9. Participate in a community garden plot at either Meadowcreek Park or Azalea Park through Charlottesville Parks and Rec. Call 434-970-3592 for more info. Or, collaborate with your neighbors or home owners association to start one in an unused community greenspace. For more information on community garden projects in general, go to:
10. Get involved with an urban garden program, such as Quality Community Council’s Urban Farm Initiative. For more information, go to:
11. If you have a yard, plant a garden of your own and replace chemical and energy-intensive lawns with edible plants (fruit and nut trees, berries, herbs and vegetables)! For more information, go to: For courses teaching permaculture and sustainable gardening, contact the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network ( Better yet, visit Edible Landscaping in Afton and taste your way around their diverse supply of functional and edible plants. Or, to hire someone to garden for you contact
12. If you don’t have a yard, learn about container gardening. Lots of foods can be grown in pots on patios and balconies and in windowsills. For consulting services, contact Growing Food & Community:
13. Learn the art of traditional food preservation techniques (such as canning, drying and fermentation) and take advantage of surplus fruits and vegetables during a seasonal glut. Resources include:,,,,
14. Become an agricultural entrepreneur. Turn an old, cherished family recipe into a specialty food sensation by creating a great product using local ingredients and marketing it. Find out more by visiting the Virginia Agriculture & Food Entrepreneurship Program at
15. Share surplus food and garden supplies with friends and neighbors in need or to area food banks and community kitchens like the Thomas Jefferson Area Food Bank ( and the Charlottesville-area Emergency Food Bank ( Donate unusable yet perishable CSA shares by contacting the Charlottesville Community Food Project. Their website is:
16. Get involved in community foods projects or start one of your own. Find out what initiatives are taking place and how to get involved by joining Transition Blue Ridge’s “Food & Agriculture” committee. Or contact for more ideas.
17. Talk to your friends, family and neighbors about the importance of eating locally, the state of our current food insecurity and what options are available. Form a “support” group and, together, take the “locavore” challenge! For ideas go to
18. Host or attend a dinner party with a local foods theme. Discuss where and how the foods were grown and compare the taste and vibrancy of these foods to processed and far-travelled foods. Not sure how to organize one, let alone cook up fresh, local produce and foods for a crowd? Contact Lisa Reeder, our local food and drink consultant extraordinaire at
19. Host or attend a showing of a documentary on food production and supply issues and follow it with a discussion. Check out our area’s own “Meet the Farmer” cable television program featuring interviews with local food producers, buyers and consumers to hear what current issues are facing our local food supply and what initiatives are taking place. Go to Good feature films to screen include “The Future of Food”, “King Corn”, “The Real Dirt on Farmer John”, “The World According to Monsanto”, “Power of Community”, “Peak Moment Television” and “Eat At Bills,” available from Netflix, by searching online or by special order from your local video rental.
20. Join forces with others interested in discussing local food issues, initiatives taking place and how to get involved. Transition Blue Ridge hosts a monthly community dialogue about food ( Express your concerns, ideas and opinions so that our local officials are aware that food security is an important issue. Support organizations that advocate for scale-appropriate agricultural laws like the Virginia Independent & Consumers Association ( Check out what is happening with the Virginia Food Policy Council by going to
21. Preserve our agricultural heritage and biodiversity by learning the practice of seed saving. Go to: to learn about seed saving, to buy seeds and to get information on attending the annual Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival on September 12.
22. Catch rainwater from the roof in rain barrels or cisterns to conserve precious water that can be used to irrigate the garden without taxing our water supply. Contact our local rain barrel guru, Brian Buckley, at or find them at the EcoShop in Preston Plaza, Charlottesville next to Integral Yoga (where you can also buy local produce!).
23. Support organizations working to ensure a safe, nutritious and equitable food supply through volunteering and donating useful supplies and through making financial contributions. Volunteer opportunities abound at any of the aforementioned organizations and initiatives. Also find out about volunteer and benefactor opportunities for the new day haven and community kitchen serving the Charlottesville-area’s hungry and homeless (slated to be open this fall) by contacting
24. Learn and practice sustainable farming in the state of Virginia by reaching out to groups like the Virginia Association for Biological Farming (, the Center for Rural Culture (, the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (
25. Vote with your dollar. Remember, every local food purchase you make contributes toward building a safe, secure, healthy food system and supply.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Calling all yogurt lovers!

This article is from Betty fan, educator, dj, ever-talented, ever-helpful Eric Betthauser! You may have met him at the Saturday farmer's market downtown. (Thanks for all your time and enthusiasm, Eric)

Ah, fantastic plastic. It has brought so many benefits to our lives, not the least of which is lightweight, shatter-proof food containers. Trouble is, they still often become long-term residents in the local landfill. So, what about recycling?

Charlottesville is better than most places, in that our city will recycle any plastic bearing the #1 (PETE) or 2 (HDPE). But, in most municipalities, “if it doesn’t have a neck, you can’t recycle it”. That includes plastic ice-cream pails, sour-cream tubs, defensive tackles and, yes, yogurt containers. It may be the “right” number (1 or 2), the recycling truck might even pick it up (they trash them at the end of the ride), but it’s not going to be recycled.

So, what’s an eco-conscious dairy lover to do? Well, you’ve got a few options:

 Make your own. Many of us do it, and it seems to be becoming popular again. Truthfully, after conquering the learning curve, making your own yogurt or kefir is pretty easy. With yogurt, the best method that I’ve found is to use a Thermos:
1. Bring a pint of milk to about 120o F (you can use a candy thermometer).
2. Stir in ¼ cup of plain yogurt.
3. When the mixture is at 105-110o, pour it into a Thermos, seal it, and put in the oven with the light on. (Or, you could wrap the Thermos in towels and set it in a warm place.
4. Let the mixture sit at that constant temperature for 7-10 hours (the longer it sits, the more tart the yogurt).

You can also buy packets of starter culture at natural-foods stores (rather than using a pre-packaged container of yogurt); it is produced by the Canadian company Lyo-sant. If you’re not willing to do the make-your-own, you have several other options:

• Reuse those containers. This may go without saying, but reusing is always step 1, before recycling. The only trick is to figure out how comfortable you are with reusing plastic, which may leach chemicals.
• Buy from Stonyfield Farm. They have a recycling program, by which you can send them your old (clean) containers, and they will recycle them. The inherent problems are that:
1. You need to package and pay to send them (although they do respond by sending you
2. The energy, time, and expense of shipping something many kilometers (they’re
based in New Hampshire) may offset the benefits.
To their credit, Stonyfield Farm has done extensive research about packaging, and the simple fact that their yogurt is in lightweight Polypropylene (#5) plastic saves a lot in shipping (and therefore in gasoline). Also, they now put recyclable aluminum foil on their yogurt, rather than plastic lids. This makes it harder to reuse the containers, so, again, it’s a tradeoff.
• Gimme 5. This program was recently started by The Preserve. You can send any plastic containers bearing the number 5 (Polypropylene) back to them, and they will eventually turn them into toothbrushes. Whole Foods is also sponsoring this by placing drop-off bins in their stores (not in Charlottesville…yet),
• Buy kefir. Never tried it? This Middle Eastern drink, similar to yogurt, is readily available. Properly pronounced /kÉ™-FEER/, it’s more of a liquid than yogurt, and it’s produced with a different starter culture. As a result, the flavor is a bit stronger than yogurt, it can be slightly effervescent, and it can even contain a small amount of alcohol. Helios produces plain, peach, raspberry, and other flavors, and they’re all made from organic milk. Helios is now owned by Lifeway Foods, who also produce a line of regular and lowfat kefir, some of which uses organic milk. Additionally, Lifeway has begun offering small bottles of the Indian drink lassi. All of these products are bottled in High-Density Polyethylene (#2), recyclable virtually everywhere.

Making kefir is quite simple, too: Place the starter culture in a container of milk, let it sit at room temperature for a day or two, strain, and enjoy. Starter grains are available at natural-foods stores, or online at (a Minnesota company)

Monday, July 20, 2009

On your marks, get set, the County Fair!

I can't believe the Albemarle County Fair is just over a week away! Lots of exciting NEW green initiatives have been implemented. Not the least of which is NO STYROFOAM and Adrienne Young's Backyard Revolution and Better World Betty's Booth at the Eco-Exhibit Tent. So much Bettier, everyone!

2009 Albemarle County Fair Eco-Initiatives:
Eco-Exhibit Tent
Eco-friendly Landscaping Exhibits
Recycled Materials being used throughout
Elimination of Styrofoam
Waste Recycling and Recovery

I also want to encourage you to enter the Home Arts Section 4: the Recycling contest!! (I hope my boys are still planning on entering this). Contact Sarah Nissen 434-977-3989 or check the website, but here are the details I have. The special rules are:

1-All items must be made with recycled materials.
2-Entries must have been prepared by the exhibitor
3-Entries must reflect original work by the exhibitor
4-Materials used must be identified
5-The entry should be self-explanatory
6-The department reserves the right to add or delete classes if the need arises

1. Sculpture 2. Jewelry 3. Imprinting on Tin 4. Wine Corks 5. Wood 6. Paper 7. Metal 8. Stone 9. Plastic 10. Every Duct Tape 11. Miscellaneous

Free "Backyard Revolution" and singer/songwriter and creator of Backyard Revolution witll perform at the 2009 Albemarle County Fair. Young is an ardent supporter of sustainable agriculture, the preservation of our historical character, and the honorable aims of our ancestors. These beliefs are evident in her music. Adrienne has has integrated a national responsible-farming awarenesss campaign and fund-raising effort into the release of her third album "Room to Grow." Also don't miss Better World Betty and other environmental non-profits as well as local green businesses in the Albemarle Fair's Eco-tent this year sharing our vision for a sustainable future, helpful green living hints, and more! Remember to carpool and bring your own reusable water bottles.

Operating Hours: Tuesday, July 28th 4-11pm
Wednesday, July 28 4-11pm
Thursday, July 30 4-11pm
Friday, July 31 4-11pm
Saturday, August 1 10am-11pm
Sunday, August 2 1-6pm
Admission Prices: Adults $7, Seniors (60+)$6, Children (6-12) $3, Children (under 6)


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Betty brings you Green Spaces interview!

(In) Play: Green Spaces Competition is an exhibit on display at the Charlottesville Design Center from July 10- August 31

From their website: "Every year the James River Green Building Council sponsors a design competition to showcase innovative strategies and practices in the field of sustainable design. This year's (In) Play competition challenged designers to address the evolving relationship between people and the natural world through play. Read more about the competition and view selected entries on the JRGBC website."

Better World Betty fan and our first guest blogger, Jan Ferrigan, did a video spotlight for us. It's the next best thing to going there and seeing it for yourself!

And here's the link

Thanks, Jan!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July's column in Abode: Green Gadgets that are worth it!

Enjoy Betty's July article in Abode magazine here or at
Green gadgets that are really worth it

Far be it from Betty to promote the latest, greatest green gizmo with a hefty price tag and made-in-China label, but I believe your pocketbook and the planet will appreciate these eco-gadgets.

The Smart Strip “is still the best bang for your buck as far as green gadgets,” according to Paige Mattson of the Blue Ridge Eco Shop. Given our love of Plasma HD, LCD, TV, and all things bright and flashy, it behooves all of us to conserve energy in any way we can. This powerstrip can sense when devices are on and off and acts accordingly to eliminate any excess energy drain. Reviews suggest the cost (around $40) can be recouped within months.

So many items in our home require the use of batteries, why not use solar battery chargers? They now come in all shapes, sizes, and options. Ubergreen geeks will love the HyMini which has an option to collect wind power while you jog, bike or ski! Given the wide price range, consider your budget and remember solar power requires some planning and patience.

Finally, two gadgets which conserve our most precious resource:
water. No plumber is needed for the Controllable Flush, a five-part handle replacement, which converts a standard toilet into dual flush.
After all, not every flush needs a full flush. (If it’s yellow...). A two-person household can save 15,000 gallons of water per year depending on your toilet!

The five-minute shower timer is simple, durable and costs $5. Suction cup this (recycled) plastic covered hourglass to a relatively dry area to help you to cut down your shower time. I used mine from the Charlottesville City (free from Earth Day) religiously. Here comes the green confession. I thought I was the queen of the quick shower (me: I'm sure I'll have left-over sand! shower timer: you were just daydreaming of your next Betty idea for at least 30 seconds!) Unfortunately that one wasn't shatter-proof (so check for when you purchase).

Here's to half-flushes and shorter showers!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rebecca Cooper stopped by my Betty booth yesterday at Whole Foods' Local Fare with a Betty-stumping question (that's a first!). So I am sending it out to the blogosphere in hopes of a helpful reply. Where to find the supplies and know-how to construct an indoor vertical garden? Check out the email below...

Hi, Betty!

You and I chatted at the Whole Foods Local Fare Fair about possibilities for building an indoor vertical garden, like this one by Smith and Hawken:

Here’s another source… (although no longer available),default,pd.html?SC=XNET8002

I’m looking for a cheaper, DIY solution that would work in a small apartment.
I’ve found that a search for “living wall” brings up some results (though none that are terribly helpful), but I’m wondering if anyone around Charlottesville knows how to make one of these (or even sells the parts that would be required). I think it would have broad appeal… especially in a more urban setting where space is at a premium. If you or your readers can point me in the right direction, I’d be grateful!

Thanks for your help!


Architecture and Instruction Librarian
Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library

Friday, June 26, 2009

SEEING green links from local govt websites!

Check out these cool new online tools that have me seeing green...

Albemarle County’s new Green Resource Map HERE (check the left hand side under: What's New - last link listed)

This cool map includes farmer's markets, recycling, green roofs, etc which I'm quite sure required the use of Betty's directory and search tool :-)!

Map features:
*Providing a resource for residents to find out where they can reuse, recycle and/or properly dispose of common household items (e.g. electronics, motor oil, inks/toner, compact fluorescent bulbs, etc.)
*Highlighting Park & Ride sites to make carpooling easier
*Featuring farmers market locations so that residents can choose to “eat local”
*Green demonstration projects for residents to tour/visit/see, such as LEED certified buildings, rain gardens, solar energy sites, green roofs, etc.

"The Green Resource Map is a very visual and engaging guide to a wide variety of local options that support the kind of sustainable lifestyle habits that many of our residents are very interested in," said Albemarle's Environmental Compliance Manager Sarah Temple.

The Green Resource Map is the newest of the County’s continuing efforts in promoting innovative environmental stewardship and climate protection. Other recent accomplishments include earning the prestigious ENERGY STAR rating for the County Office Building McIntire, reducing municipal energy conservation by 12% and achieving a savings of $113,000 in 2008 and installing solar energy panels on the County Office Building at 5th Street.

Next up... Charlottesville City's Water Use Calculator

June is Water Conservation Month which is a good reason to check out your water use and compare it to other residents in the area and then consider purchasing a rain barrel or implementing other steps to conserve.

Brian Buckley will be at the farmer's markets and is offering a five dollar discount if you mention Better World Betty! Between that and the city rebate program of 30 dollars - you are getting a rain barrel for a steal at $45! Don't forget to check out the Charlottesville's Green city page (to be honest, I still have a hard time finding from the Charlottesville' home page, so here's the link)

They have some really great water-saving tips for the home.

Thank you, local government, for providing these two important tools for change!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Yes We Can...Create Clean Energy Jobs in the Ville!

(pictures are not uploading - will try later)

Today was yet another exciting day for Better World Betty, Charlottesville, and the larger Earth community as residents and community organizers joined our representatives and leaders in politics as they continue to forge the way toward a greener path.

5th District Congressman Tom Periello stood in front of Ms. Ingrid Feggans's home, where the "Creating Clean Energy Jobs: Helping People Helping the Environment" event was held to introduce a line-up of residents and political leaders who are . Her home was recently upgraded with the help of Eric Gilchrist, head of Spark's weatherization program, thereby reducing her energy costs (which were costing her in the thousands per month) and, it's important to mention our collective community carbon footprint.

A special treat for me was meeting Van Jones, author of a recent book I read Green Collar Jobs and Obama's advisor on Green Jobs and Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality - straight from the West Wing!

Joined by Mayor Dave Norris, Congressman Periello, were other government officials like Sally Thomas, Ann Malleck, Holly Edwards, David Brown, and David Toscano as well as community organizers like Karen Waters of QCC (with Todd, urban farm extraordinaire at Garrett Square), Charlottesville Design Center Director Jane Fisher's crew, yours truly, and so many other members of our community who care about conserving energy, saving money, better ways of tending the planet, and the people who live on it, who require meaningful paychecks to provide for their families.


One of those interested in getting a job was Michael Stewart, who spoke about his desire to enter the green job sector I couldn't help but notice he was the first person to mention coming together for the Earth. Of course saving money, the comfort of the home, securing good-paying jobs are paramount. And I appreciated his extending his enthusiasm and desire to take it a step further by speaking about the importance of helping the planet.

Mayor Norris and Congressman Periello outlined the win-win solutions of revolving load funds and other financing programs to help people pay for the necessary retrofits and energy efficiency upgrades which may be cost-prohibitive without help or payback programs. LEAP, the Local Energy Alliance Program, plans to launch their initiative in January of 2010 with exciting and far-reachiing plans to systematically reduce energy use here in Charlottesville, reaching a whopping 20-40%of the market. It's my hope Betty can play a role in this exciting program, continuing to be a tool get the word out about these measures and provide you with local action steps/resources found in the directory and events to make it easy for you to enact change. "Inch-by-inch," one of the presenters touted!

I was excited to learn that officials are working with Piedmont Vally Community College to design certification programs in various green job fields.

Chairwoman Nancy Sutley gave encouraging words to our community as they watch us from Washington to see how a city can really impact change. She emphasized the administration's desire to see us reduce energy use, innovate new more efficient technology, and implement energy-savings into our homes and businesses.

I'm feeling energized by all that's going on greenwise in our fair city. Thank you to the leadership and efforts of everyone involved.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Have you hugged a tree today?

What are you doing on this cool, rainy, summer night?

I'm curling up to my favorite new book The Remarkable Trees of Virginia by local authors, photographers, tree lovers: Nancy Ross Hugo and Jeff Kirwan and Robert Llewellyn. I am in the process of tracking down photographer Robert Llewellyn, whom I first had the pleasure to meet at last year's Bread for a Better World event at Feast! He brought his lap top and was sharing recent tales of his trip to Iceland. What a passion he has for telling stories with his photography! I hope to track him down by the end of the summer for an interview about this amazing four year project of photographing and telling the stories of the most remarkable trees in Virginia. People all across Virginia nominated their favorite trees and after a long, arduous process, the trees were selected and photographed in all their glory. The categories are old trees, historic trees, champion trees, community trees, unique trees, fine specimens, noteworthy species, and mighty oaks. I just read the account of the Crying Tree in Marion, Virginia, whose story has been passed on from generations: Sally, a five year old slave girl was comforted by this tree when crying over her lost family after they were sold into slavery in Lynchburg, never to be seen again.

I find trees offer a beauty, presence, strength and solace to us which defies description.

When I first moved here from Utah ten years ago, I could think only of the majestic Rocky Mountains which were no longer within my sight every day. I missed them so much! The grounded, jagged, peaks of the Wasatch front (which line the valley of Salt Lake City) were an incredible canvas of color, light and texture at my favorite time of day: sunset.

With time though, I have come to adore the trees here in the Piedmont. I remember during recess at Sutherland Middle School (my first job here was teaching English there) staring up at the enormous pine trees telling my colleague, "You guys have got some amazing trees!" Some of my favorites are at UVA and in surrounding parks and homes. Last year I discovered a boxelder tree I call Old Man Elbow along the Rivanna River Trail near Riverview Park. Recently he lost one of his arms after a wild night of storms (a nearby Ash cascaded onto the main branch which hung over the Rivanna, which I'm quite sure served as a launch pad for many a daring Charlottesville youth.

The trees are jubilant this spring and summer with the copious amounts of falling rain. I hope you take an opportunity to get to know at least one - enough to hug it regularly.

I also hope you'll check out this lovely book and website.

If you or someone you know is interested in starting a tree club here in Charlottesville, I'll be the first one to sign up!


Monday, June 8, 2009

Green your tennis game

In light of Federer's exciting French Open win, I decided to take the opportunity to do a little research on how to green one of my favorite sports, tennis. I played tennis for my high school team in Utah and I'm just now getting back into it here in Virginia. As a result our used tennis balls are really piling up.

Betty's on are the tips she dug up:

1. Take your own water in a reusable bottle. Many courts offer water in paper or plastic, so this is an easy way to reduce waste.

2. Recycle your plastic tennis ball container, which is #1 plastic.

3. It IS POSSIBLE to recycle the tennis balls. How? Check out this cool new company out of Arkansas: Start a collection box at your favorite tennis facility, send them your email for free shipping and handling, and then at the end of the summer or whenever it fills up, send them your tennis balls to be "rebounced." Rebounces' goal is to make tennis balls 100% recyclable. Bill, Cannon and Grant ask for your help in making Rebounces' dream a reality! If you want to keep it local instead, contact one of the elementary or high schools or senior centers. Tennis balls make great skid-proof chair slippers (placed on the legs of the chairs) or walker slippers.

4. Send this article to your favorite tennis pro who is in charge of your favorite tennis facility for other tips for greening the game. Ezine article

5. Raise your right hand, bend your elbow, and give yourself a nice pat on the back for doing your part in protecting our natural resources and closing the loop.

Here's to better bounces on the court!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blue Jean Baby! Take 'em to Whole Foods

Newsflash to Betty fans! Take your old jeans to Whole Foods so they can be turned into insulation. Oh man, does this mean I'll have the green wherewithall to finally give up my favorite jeans ever, that have the right butt cheek torn out, both knees, frayed bottoms, but still fit perfectly?? Hmmm. Eco-conundrum. I'll get back to you. In the meantime, scour your closets and take a trip to Whole Foods, which is fast becoming its own comprehensive recycling center (watch out Vanderlinde - hee hee). Seriously, newspaper, plastic bags, compost, plastic, glass, the ubiquitous crocs, and now jeans. Nice!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Recycling: beyond the basics...

Enjoy Betty's article in this month's Abode here or in newstands or on their website:

Recycling with the stars

You may already consider yourself a recycling expert, so this month two local pros, Sonny Beale of UVA Recycling and Bruce Edmonds of the McIntire facility, help answer recycling conundrums of a subtler kind.

DON’Ts: Avoid recycling the packaging from reams of paper, Sonny Beale reports. It is woven with protective plastic and damages recycling pulp machines. The same goes for the paper backing on sticker labels for nametags and mailings, as well as wax-coated paper cups and milk cartons. Tissues and paper towels cannot be recycled for sanitary reasons .

DOs: Turns out you don’t need to cut out the plastic window from your mail envelopes. “Just toss it in with your other junk mail and office paper,” Bruce says. Also, gift-wrapping paper (including tissue wrapping paper) is recyclable in the paper bin. Avid recyclers will be glad to know that Blue Ridge Packing Store on Preston reuses those annoying sheets of Styrofoam that large electronics or appliances are packed in, as well as air bags. Empty spray paint cans and other aerosol cans are recycled with the metal cans after removing the plastic top. And speaking of lids: The plastic ones join the 1s and 2s and metal jar tops join the steel bin.

Finally, how clean does the peanut butter jar have to be? “Pretty clean,“ Bruce advises. Which means? “One good rinse is enough; a dishwasher cycle is not necessary.” This comes from the head manager of a facility that boasts zero contamination. Trust it and recycle onward, green warriors!


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Farmer's Market Finds!

In the thirteen short minutes I had with my two hot, tired, hungry children (:-) we managed to flesh out this year's garden with plants AND buy some cool new glasses made from recycled wine bottles.

First, for all of you brown thumbs with a big heart like out there, perhaps our tale will inspire.

My five year old and I have been feeling rather discouraged from our attempts at growing seeds beginning inside in March. The first time I forgot to water them for over 24 hours (ironically enough around Earth Day - so many events, so little time for tending). Apologies and copious watering efforts proved futile.

We tried again - this time about half of those survived, so we bravely placed the thriving (ok maybe that's a strong word) plants onto the screened in porch before make the colossal jump to the garden. At which point half of those plants died. Our THIRD attempt we planted the seeds straight into the Earth. A whole new appreciation for farming has emerged, as have three lettuce plants, three pea plants, two beets and two cucumber plants (if we can't grow cucumbers, we might as well pack it in right now!) Good news: they look great, but lonely. So today we headed to the farmer's market today to fill in the gaps.

We chose our plants from Radical Roots - a community farm based in the Shenandoah Valley who grows high quality ecologically grown vegetables using permaculture principles. I found out about them from Christine Gyovai's class at Gaia. I am excited: we've got mini-watermelons, canteloup, sweet red pepper, brandywine and cherry tomatoes.

We hereby resolve to be mindful of watering our plants EVERYDAY with our cool new rainbarrel. And this year we aren't taking any chances with the deer. We took bamboo stalks and limbs from our pin oak and built a fence of deer-proof (we hope) netting; we plan on using St. Gabriel's deer repellant; hanging human hair from the posts from boy haircuts; and we're encouraging "camping" - (our family euphemism for permission to urinate outdoors). Stay tuned in later blogs for our imminent success.

The SECOND sweet farmer's market find was the four cool drinking glasses we bought from local industrial designer Jose R Rodriquez Bosch shown above. I got a chance to talk to him briefly about his creative designs, but look forward to a more in-depth interview. His current work includes glasses of all sizes made from beer bottles and wine glasses from Horton and Barboursville. As well as ultra cool toys: fanciful wands made of reclaimed wood dyed naturally, funky pull toys, and swords are on the way (my boys' eyes lit up).

Betty hopes to join the famer's market in the non-profit area with the help of volunteers (inquire at

See you there,

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Earth Craft Home Tours begin...

I posted this graphic compliments of the Vermont Green Building Network: to inspire your thinking around green building and housing becuase today and tomorrow you have a chance to see hands-on examples of green building elements at Charlottesville's Earthcraft Home Tour 2009 which began yesterday May 22 and runs through tomorrow. Details at The tour includes homes that are in the stages of construction so you can see up close and personal techniques and materials that help reduce energy use in your home.

The Department of Energy reports than single-family homes account for 80% of residential energy use - 47% of which goes to heating air, 17% water, 24% lighting. So whether you decide to build a home or renovate your existing home, keeping the
Earth in mind will reduce your carbon footprint, conserve natural resources, and over time save you money.

Kingma Developers and Barry Meade are two of 19 EarthCraft Homebuilders in the area, who are also listed in Betty's directory:

Real Estate Weekly magazine's article on the event cited a recent study which found that %70 of buyers are inclined to purchase a green home over a conventional home, which means in this market it's also a good investment if you plan on the future resale of your home.

As we've talked about in previous blogs, there are also tax benefits available for use of solar panels and geo-thermal units.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

The side of Bruce Edmonds they don't write about in the papers...

After Friday's Bruce and Betty show, we had a serious meeting in the 1061 the Corner parking lot regarding my next piece in the June Abode: Recycling Conundrums. As you can see.

One such recycling question mark was this piece of purple plastic packaging some flowers I received recently arrived in. You know that stuff that's not tissue paper and it's not plastic.

Bruce informed me that he not only knows all about recycling and household hazardous waste, but also FASHION. This purple landfill-bound sheet makes for the perfect Jackie-O fashion statement he volunteered. (Sorry, it's not recyclable)

Try it on, I say. Stunning. I wish I had some bubble wrap. That would have made a stylish accent poncho.

Don't quit your day job, Bruce!
Thank you for recycling at McIntire everyone.
Better World Betty

Friday, May 15, 2009

Discovery Museum - helping kids go green!

My son had a playdate with one of his buds this week at the Discovery Museum, where we were enjoying all the great new additions and contemplating whether his energetic all-over-the-place energy could sustain focus for the Discovery Dash next weekend, when we spied a cool new green display, pictured above. With some cool tips for kids to go green. Besides encouraging recycling and water conservation and making a fun reusable tote bag, the poster also touts the importance of packing a zero-waste lunch. It's possible to forego the one-use, disposable items like drink pouches and single-use yogurt containers for the bigger bulk containers, which you can put into small glass, reusable containers. I like to use old sandwich loaf bags for storage as well as the biodegradable wax bags found out Whole Foods, Rebbeca's and Integral Yoga. Don't forget your cloth napkin. Now the only waste you have to worry about is the crusts your picky eaters still manage to leave behind. Take heart, bread crusts make great compost too!

Back to the Discovery Museum, for those of you who want to further encourage eco-friendly behavior in your kiddos, they are having a one-day going green camp on Memorial Day. I neglected to write down the details - but will post the event on Betty's calendar in the next few days. Or just call them directly at 434-977-1025 to get the details and/or sign up or go to their website:

Have a great weekend,

p.s. As long as we're talking kid stuff, I hope to see you at the Quetzal Kite Festival in Palmyra on Saturday. Nature's spring breeze plus creative colorful kites, make for a beautiful outdoor activity.