Office of Sustainability launches countywide Green Homes' challenge
Informational session scheduled for next week
The Frederick County Green Homes Challenge, an Office of Sustainability program that aims to save county residents money and improve the environment, kicked off earlier this month.
"This is really our first comprehensive community outreach program," said office director Hilari Varnadore. Formed in 2008 and staffed in January 2009, the county office has worked to collect grants for conservation and energy projects, including the challenge, which will cost about $750,000. Those funds will come from grants and private contributions.
"We know that being more efficient saves money," Varnadore said. And it's "doing the right thing from an environmental standpoint," she added.
Anyone in the county can participate in the challenge, she said. Some municipal governments Frederick, Middletown and Brunswick have signed on to participate. Smaller groups, such as churches and homeowners associations, have the option of hosting "powerware parties," which is a play on the popular "Tupperware parties."
Frederick Community College, All Saints Episcopal Church, Spring Ridge Homeowners Association and the Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association have either hosted or signed on to host a powerware party, Varnadore said.
"They're an opportunity for people to become more power aware," she said. "A member of our staff will come out and facilitate the event," she added.
Each party will provide resources, information and registration sheets for the challenge. The host who organizes the event will receive a free energy audit worth $140, Varnadore said. Everyone who registers for the program must eventually schedule an audit, she added. They currently are being offered for free through Allegheny Power's Watt Watchers program.
The EBPA's party will take place 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at The Carriage House Inn in Emmitsburg. The sustainability office soon will begin hosting regular sessions at Winchester Hall in Frederick.
Each challenge participant will aim to earn "green points" by completing power-saving projects and using renewable energy in their homes.
The first "goal," titled "be a power saver," encourages participants to save energy in their homes through a variety of basic techniques. That initiative already has launched and helpful materials can be found online. The second and third goals, labeled "be a green leader" and "be a renewable star," respectively, will launch later this year.
The office will provide handbooks outlining the goals of the challenge and ideas and tips on how to meet them at powerware parties and online as each initiative launches, Varnadore said.
One example of an energy option that will be offered to challengers is Clean Currents, a Rockville-based company that allows customers to buy clean energy credits to neutralize their power usage, sustainability program coordinator Lisa Orr said previously.
When 50 green points are earned, the participant can apply to be a certified "power saver," Varnadore said. The first 50 certified households will receive $50 gift certificates to a home improvement store and every person who becomes a certified saver in the program's first year will be entered to win larger home improvement prizes donated by area contractors and companies.
While the challenge is offered to all county residents, Varnadore said she is not sure if Thurmont residents, the only people in the county who buy their power from their municipality and not directly from Allegheny Power, will be able to benefit from the from the rebates and incentives offered by the utility company.
Allegheny Power is one of the program's main partners and residents who buy power from the company have access to the Watt Watchers program, as well as websites that can track their savings during the challenge, Varnadore said.
Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns said he would like to work with the office to see if anything can be done about the obstacle. At Monday night's town meeting, Burns announced that he would invite a member of the sustainability office's staff to a future town meeting to provide more information about the challenge.
To find out more about the challenge, contact Lisa Orr at 301-600-6864 or firstname.lastname@example.org.