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.