November 30, 2012

Will fracking affect the Chesapeake Bay?

That is NOT the moon rising over Cove Point Light
Indirectly--if the liquid natural gas terminal at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland handles the exporting of the glut of the natural gas now coming from fracking. As many as 75 tankers a year, each about 1,000 feet long, could arrive to load up at the terminal pier. That much additional commercial traffic on the Bay would change its tranquility even more.

We have sailed by this pristine point (well, it was pristine once) on our way up to Annapolis many times. The gas storage domes always bothered our "John Smith spirit."

We had never seen any megaships and wondered at their absence. The terminal had been built in the 1970s to handle imports of natural gas. But now we are on the cusp of becoming the largest exporter of such.

Click here to read what the Chesapeake Bay Foundation reports on this potential.

November 21, 2012

World Bank now banking on climate change?

So the World Bank has weighed in on the threat of climate change? Plus urged combatting it?

Time will tell if that is the nail in the coffin of climate change deniers. Some folks just keep their heads in the sand, and will never admit that science proves that the globe is warming. They confuse weather and climate and say, on cold days, that this proves that the climate is not warming.

Kinda like saying, after consuming a big meal, that they will never be hungry again.

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November 15, 2012

Green Christmas gifts

Marcie Evans' fish from nails
Many of us have too much "stuff" as it is. And Christmas means more of it.

At the very least, try to give green. That could mean cold hard cash, but you have more options than that. For example, Treehugger offers a super 2012 Green Gift Guide.

Buy local as much as possible. Book Exchange stores and Goodwill stores have some great buys. Bird feeders are always useful, especially if you buy good quality birdseed. Or perhaps a gift certificate to a local restaurant, especially one that buys from local farmers.

“Buy American” and support your local vendors at Williamsburg’s December 8 farmers market—the last one in 2012.

Support local artisans. I donated my Dad's 50 year old collection of nails of all sizes to Marcie Evans, a Poquoson artist who turns them into fish and crabs, among other things. Check her out at

Check out unique homemade items.

Green choice in wrapping paper

Tired of buying wrapping paper? Buy some seasonal fabric and make gift bags.

I have been re-using these Christmas bags for more than 35 years. Small children—and clumsy husbands—can wrap gifts easily by tying ribbons around the bags. Large items are SO easy to "wrap" in a large bag. Think of the wrapping paper that you'll never need to buy again.

Notice the gift name tags. They are the front of old Christmas cards. They are recycled year after year too. It is nostalgic to see the ones you'll never use again because of departed family members. But I still keep the name tags.

I made some birthday theme bags too. Wine bags are easy to make as well.

Drowning in catalogs?

The average household receives about 150 catalogs per year. 

Visit to get your name off unwanted mailing lists.

You can try their free phone app, MailStop, to opt out of catalogs by simply taking a photo of the mailing label.

Or try out another free junk mail stopper, PaperKarma. They process mail sent by larger companies quickly--such as catalogs and credit card offers. PaperKarma works best with unsolicited mail that is addressed to you directly (i.e., your name is on the mail).

Dreaming of a green Christmas?

More “stuff” is coming your way, needed or not. Experts predict that Americans will spend more than $586 billion on Christmas gifts this year. Retailers generate 20-40 percent of their annual sales during this shopping frenzy.

Recycle gifts?  I don’t mean re-gifting, although that’s not a bad idea if it’s not an ugly tie. I am referring to things you can make with your own ingenuity. Check out  for some creative repurposed gifts.

I made cork Christmas wreaths for a few family members last year. The one I made for my 94 year old mother was a big hit in her assisted living community. She told fellow residents, “It was made with decades of Communion wine.”

Shop online? Is it greener to shop online and leave your gas guzzler in the garage? Yes, no—and maybe. When you buy online, your product ships from a warehouse and goes right to your house. Greener? Not if it arrives in a box that is ten times too large, and packaged in googads of bubblewrap.

Some studies do support e-commerce, but inconclusively. A Carnegie Mellon study found that shopping online led to 30 percent less energy use and carbon emissions. Another study found online shopping greener—but only if it replaces 3.5 trips to the store. So what is the answer?

Plan ahead — So you don’t have to “overnight” a single overpackaged item, or cluster shop. Bundling your shopping—at any time—is a more efficient use of your car and time.

Most folks appreciate homemade gifts. What is not to like about homemade fudge, cookies or a pie? Most older relatives will appreciate that more than a new sweater.

Click here for Treehugger's VERY comprehensive 2012 Green Gift Guide. No matter who you are shopping for, you should find unusual green gifts here.

Or how about an affordable membership gift to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation or the Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club for a green friend?

November 14, 2012

Protecting 158 acres no small matter

Yes, $1.3 million is a lot of money to leave 158 acres of James City County, Virginia, in its pristine state. And yes, this chunk of land east of the beautiful Chickahominy River may not have been developed anytime soon.

But the chance to save it was NOW. Developers WILL arrive someday with an even more attractive offer for rural landowners. More homes will drain into that watershed. We have just witnessed what rampant development of the New Jersey shore meant after Superstorm Sandy.

So James City County’s Board of Supervisors approval of this $1.3 million conservation easement purchase was a good thing, ultimately. The decision was not unanimous, but not because of opposition to the county's Purchase of Development Rights program. The purchase leaves merely $600,000 in that specific program. But $3.9 million remains in other greenspace funds, as well as $14 million that can be borrowed--thanks to a 2005 public referendum that the public heartily supported.

Go see this area for yourself. Take a drive down Centreville Road. Turn onto either end of the Jolly Pond Road loop, and turn onto Bush Neck Road. Terrance Malick thought this was a unique area too. He built a fort there on the Chick during the filming of The New World a few years back.

You will not feel like you are in James City if you are used to driving down Richmond Road. This easement will prevent that look from invading this portion of the county.

The Williamsburg Land Conservancy also supported this purchase.

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November 11, 2012

The Mantoloking bridge to nowhere

Superstorm Sandy wrecked lives and homes. She did not spare bridges or the New Jersey coastline either. The Jersey shore will only be intact in our memories.

These before and after photos of the Mantoloking bridge by NOAA say more than I could.

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November 8, 2012

Where can Superstorm Sandy debris go?

I anticipate humongous piles of debris from Superstorm Sandy in coming months. We have already seen entire New Jersey and New York parking lots on TV that have become temporary debris mountains. Soggy furniture and drywall, ruined household goods and photo albums, flooded cars and googads of people's "stuff" have to go somewhere. Local landfills may be overwhelmed by it.

So what to do with all that debris? Either truck it to "waste to energy" power plants (thankfully, there are some in the Northeast) or ship it to Sweden. "What?" you respond.

Yes, 9.5 million Swedes recycle so well that they are running out of garbage. Only 4 percent of their waste goes to landfills. Is this a problem? Apparently it is because Sweden is now importing trash from neighboring countries, namely Norway. Why? For their waste-to-energy incineration programs.

Wind energy on Virginia hilltops

Virginia has few wind turbines (and none offshore yet) but we are getting two new Wind for Schools installations in the western part of our state. According to Remy Pangle, associate director and curriculum coordinator at James Madison University's Virginia Center for Wind Energy, construction on the Thomas Harrison Middle School and the Central High School installations are scheduled to be completed in mid-November. Whoopee!

Who is funding them? Thomas Harrison Middle School of Harrisonburg City applied for and received a Merck Foundation grant totaling $14,500 and a $1,000 grant from a local television station to help purchase a $12,000 Skystream 3.7 turbine from Southwest Windpower. In addition, the school raised approximately $1,000 through a parent and a movie night event for the project. That is a cooperative venture! Congrats.

Central High School received two grants to cover the purchase and installation of its Skystream wind turbine: a $14,500 grant from the Moore Educational Trust and a $10,000 grant from the Dominion Foundation. With this level of funding, Central High School took a different approach with its installation, hiring Baker Renewables to install the entire project, including electrical and concrete work, foundation digging, trenching, and the crane lift.

There were different permitting processes as well. Thomas Harrison Middle School is located on public property and as a result, there were no rules in place for the project. So they sought approval from the city council and the school board.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America initiative, based at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, helped to launch the Wind for Schools project in 11 states (Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) to equip college juniors and seniors with an education in wind energy applications; engage America's communities in wind energy applications, benefits, and challenges; and introduce teachers and students to wind energy.

The general idea is to install small wind turbines at rural elementary and secondary host schools while developing Wind Application Centers at higher education institutions.

I am hoping that tax incentives for the wind energy industry continues in Obama's second term. If subsidies for fossil fuels continue (and I don't see them threatened), the playing field for renewables needs to be levelled.

November 7, 2012

Climate change??????

Whatever side of the fence you sit on regarding global warming, NOAA has a VERY cut-to-the-chase website with some nifty charts and maps that you might want to check out. Click here to see it.

The earth's temperature changes are subtle, but there was nothing subtle about Superstorm Sandy. That weather system was Mother Nature ticked off.

November 1, 2012

More on Tangier Island in the wake of Sandy

This is the only news article I have found on the plight of Tangier Island residents. Click here to read the Times Dispatch article.

But a picture is worth a thousand words. Look at this and you'll understand why I worried about Tangier Island last Monday as Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy stirred up the Chesapeake Bay.

This is NOT how you want your streets to look. Tangier Island needs a seawall on the east side which will cost millions.

But in the meanwhile, make plans to visit this delightful island--after it dries out. Lunch at Hilda Crockett's is a meal to remember.

Click here for some background info on this unique destination. Then Click here for cruises to Tangier Island. It's an enjoyable day trip or you can stay at a Bread and Breakfast.

Rising ocean? Duh!

In addition to rising water levels, we here in Hampton Roads have sinking land. Seriously. 

So Tidewater Virginia is one of the areas most threatened by climate change (formerly known as global warming).

Yes, it may be inconvenient, but it is finally in the headlines. Neither candidate made it an election issue, but Sandy did.

I have been collecting info for an in-depth piece on rising waters for a few years, but this Bloomsberg Businessweek magazine cover prompted me to post a little something on the topic today.

Flooding from Sandy on Tangier Island 
I had worried about the folks on both Tangier Island, VA and Smith Island, MD during the approach of Sandy a few days ago. Both are low-lying islands in the middle of Chesapeake Bay if you didn't know.

And by low-lying, I mean a few feet above sea level. They flood frequently and are endangered islands that I have a special fondness for. We sailed to Tangier Island two summers ago and met some fine folks who really know how to catch--and cook--crabs.

We had also taken a day trip to Tangier years ago on a ferry from Onancock, VA.

I have been worried about these threatened islands for many years after seeing "Grog Island" off Fleet's Bay disappear entirely two years after we first saw it.

The Tangier residents made it easy for me to check up on them during and after Sandy. They began an impromptu "Ridin' Out Hurricane Sandy on Tangier Island" Facebook page. Check it out and you'll probably get hooked on knowing these folks too and supporting their efforts to get a protective seawall or jetty built.

Here is one photo from their Facebook page. Much more on this topic to come!

Sandy was kind to the Chesapeake Bay

NASA photo from Sept. 2011
I have been glued to the TV since last Monday. Sandy devastated New Jersey and New York City, as well as other shorelines in Connecticut, Long Island, and Delaware. It will be a LONG time for any sense of normalcy to return. The Jersey Shore may never return to its fabled state.

I had feared that the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay would see a plume of sediment coming down the Susquehanna River and over Conowingo Dam again this year as it did after Hurricane Irene in 2011. The view from space was quite impressive last September.

So I found the news about the Bay  from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation folks quite positive. It seems that the rains were less than Irene's and the Bay will be spared. Click here to read the good news.

The only aspect of the damage from Sandy that I have not seen covered anywhere yet is the amount of debris that will head to landfills. It may very well overwhelm them. There is no way to recycle this much construction material.