Category Archives: Eco Friendly Living

Update #3: The “Pepco Green Wall Project” In Brookland

Hello neighbors! It’s been a while since our last update, so we thought you like to know what is going on regarding our effort to add a green wall at the Pepco substation on 12th Street, NE. Thanks to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie we had a face to face meeting on February 20 with the following attendees:

– Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie
– Tim Clark (McDuffie Staff)
– Donna Cooper (Regional Vice President, Pepco)
– Chris Taylor (Public Affairs Manager, Pepco)
– Theresa Sollecito (Civil / Structural Engineer, Pepco)
– Shirley Harmon (Environmental Compliance Assessment Manager, Pepco)
– Shani and myself
The Pepco Team clearly had concerns about our proposed concepts, especially regarding tree root structures potentially damaging the network of utility lines that run underneath the walkway. However, Donna Cooper promised us that all aspects of this project will be looked at, and that she is committed to finding a solution that will satisfy all parties involved. We all agreed that we have to meet again. I offered that I would do more research on technical aspects and that I would review our proposal based on the feedback I took away from the meeting. But at the same time, I made it clear that I am not going to give up easily and that I feel a responsibility towards the Brookland community to fight on their behalf. Over 160 of you have expressed their support by signing our Green Wall Petition. For those of you who still want to sign – it is not too late. Sign HERE. As long as this project is still in the planning and negotiating phase, every new signature is welcome and helpful.I sent a revised rendering to Pepco on March 3. Ms. Cooper acknowledged the receipt and committed to schedule another meeting after the proposal has been reviewed internally. We think this new concept would be a great compromise since vine roots do not grow deep enough to damage any underground structures. Here is what the improved rendering looks like:
Green Wall
Shani and I committed to ensure the watering of the plants. That was one aspect that Ms. Cooper was very clear about. Pepco would NOT take primary responsibility of day-to day maintainance the green space. We are exploring ways to ensure there is dedicated community support for the upkeep of the green wall.
It has to be mentioned that Casey Tree’s Executive Director Mark Buscaino has been a huge help. He has offered a lot of guidance along the way and has offered to hold the next meeting at his headquarters and to support our effort with his expertise. I hope it will not be too long until I hear back from Pepco, and the next meeting can be scheduled. I am very optimistic that this effort will result in an awesome project.
I will keep you all posted on any new developments and updates.

Casey Trees Is Getting Busy In Brookland And Beyond

The Casey Trees spring planting season started last Saturday. The kick off event of the season was a planting I participated in where a team of volunteers and staff planted 30 trees on the campus of Catholic University. Some of the species we planted were White Swamp Oaks, American Elms and Magnolias. Volunteering with Casey Trees is rewarding in many ways, but in this case, it was great to get to know this institution so close to home a little better. Catholic University has been a partner and supporter in increasing the tree canopy of DC ever since Casey Trees moved to Brookland.


This spring Brookland residents will have the chance to participate in a couple of upcoming plantings in and around their own neighborhood. For example, Langdon Park in nearby Woodridge will get 39 new trees on April 13. Go to the Casey Trees event calendar and sign up for this great volunteer opportunity.

There will also be an event in Michigan Park. Not all details for this event on Thursday April 25 are finalized. Please check back on the Casey Trees Event Calendar for the exact location and time.

Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy Public Charter School located on 14th and Jackson Street NE will partner with Casey Trees for a tree planting on March 28. This event is closed for the public, but the youth and education team from Casey Trees will lead the students of MMBDA to plant their own trees and teach them about the value, benefits and vulnerability of trees.

Photo courtesy of Casey Trees

The Casey Trees calendar offers many other opportunities beside plating trees to be involved in activities or learn about trees. Check out their classes, online tree chats, seminars, workshops and special lectures. And we are lucky, Casey Trees is right here in Brookland. It’s just a short walk or bike ride away. The staff is super friendly and always helpful and supportive.

Update #2: The Brookland “Pepco Green Wall Project” Petition

Help us turn this wall into a unique green space!
Help us turn this wall into a unique green space!

Hello readers, three weeks ago I asked you here on the blog to support my effort to have the large wall of the Pepco substation #133 on 12th Street NE transformed to a more green and environmentally friendly site. The feedback we have gotten from the community has been so positive, that I thought readers would like an update on the progress of the “Pepco Green Wall Project”.

Here is what has transpired so far.

  • We are close to reaching 150 signatures for the petition.
  • The BNCA (Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association) and the Greater Brookland Garden Club submitted letters of support for this project. Many thanks to Caroline Petti, Mary Pat Rowan and their members.
  • We have made some inroads with Pepco representatives, and expect to have a meeting with them in the near future about our proposal.
  • Based on my request, the office of Ward 5 Coucilmember Kenyan McDuffie has also contacted Pepco and is involved in the debate about the project proposal.
  • Councilmember At Large and Brookland resident David Grosso has acknowledged my request, but has not yet decided whether he will support this project.
  • Just today I received an email from the Public Affairs office at Pepco with the following message: “I wanted to provide you a brief update.  We are conducting a feasibility study now on your request.  It should be wrapping up soon.  Once it is complete, we will reach out to you for next steps and potential meeting dates.”

Although I always want things to move forward faster, I think this status is quite good for just 3 weeks into the process. But that doesn’t mean that I am not going to be persistent and pushy.

At this point our proposal to Pepco is complete, but it is still not too late to sign the online petition and to ask friends and neighbors to do the same. Every signature is valuable and adds more weight to the petition.

I will post any new developments on this project here on the blog, so stay tuned and wish us luck.

Update: The “Pepco Green Wall Project” Petition

Hello neighbors,

We have reached the 50 petition mark in support for the “Pepco Green Wall Project”. Thank you so much to all who supported this effort with their virtual signature.

But, I know we can do better. I am sure there are more Brooklanders out there who would like to see more green space added to our neighborhood, and who would like to see Pepco giving something back to the community. I set a personal goal to reach at least 100 signatures before I deliver my package to Pepco.

Please share the link to the petition with your friends and neighbors, and ask them to support this project. Remember, the more weight we can add to our proposal, the more demand we can create.

pepco wall 3



Support The “Pepco Green Wall Project” on 12th Street By Signing This Petition

Have you ever wondered what the big brick structure on the west side of the 3100 block (between Irving and Jackson) of 12th Street is? It is the Pepco substation #133. We happen to live very close to it, and because of that, have come to realize what a visual and environmental negative it is for our neighborhood. Here is what it looks like:


In this post I am asking for your support. I am planning to approach Pepco and ask them to create a “Green Wall” in front of this substation.

After some research I found out that about 3/4 of the space in front of the building is Pepco property, the rest public walk way.

In the following images I am trying to show you what I envision for this space.

One idea is opening up the concrete surface and planting a row of evergreen trees right along the wall, or a few feet away from the building. Another idea would be creating a “green wall” of vines climbing up a metal structure.

(Please disregard the numbers in the pictures. These slides are from a power point presentation that is part of the package  I am going to present to Pepco.)

pepco wall 1
Current View Of Sidewalk
pepco wall 3
Concept 1
pepco wall 2
Concept 2
pepco wall 4
Concept 3








There are three major reasons why this is a worthwhile project.

1) An obvious reason, of course, is to make the site more visually appealing for residents and passing pedestrians. This would enhance the neighborhood for all and potentially increase property values.

2) We hope that the row of trees would break up and reduce the echo chamber effect the tall, flat brick wall creates towards the row houses across the street. This is especially problematic here because 12th Street is the main artery of Brookland it is heavily travelled by ambulances, firetrucks, etc. Studies have shown that trees and other vegetation are more effective than man made options for reducing noise pollution. 

3) From an environmental point of view, a green space would provide several improvements. Opening up a significant square footage of concrete walk way would help to reduce storm water run off. As you can see from the photos, the entire length of the wall is currently impervious. Further, projects like these help reduce pollution and help to offset urban heat island effects. 

As part of this effort we have sought out the support of local organizations, and we thank Casey Trees, The Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association and the Greater Brookland Garden Club in particular for agreeing to stand with us. But, we felt that our proposal would be much stronger with a petition from members of the community.  So, I ask all of you, if you would like to see this project become a reality, and would like to support my efforts in my negotiations with Pepco, please sign the petition below. I have no idea if we will be successful, but we think it is worth a try. Thanks in advance for your support!

Get Those Christmas Trees Out To The Curb For Recycling/Composting!

If you are like us, your Christmas tree is looking pretty sad, crunchy and parched by now. The Department of Public Works will be picking up trees and wreaths and will repurpose them into compost until January 12. However, according to the DPW website, you should try to get the greenery out there by this Sunday, the 6th. Additional info from DPW:

  • Remove all ornaments
  • Place the greenery where you place your trash and recycling for collection, next to curb (treebox area) for collection
  • Do not put the trees in plastic or cloth bags

If you aren’t able to get your tree out by the 12th, it will be collected as regular garbage is, as space is available in trash trucks in the weeks following. If you are like us, and normally put your trash in an alley, not a tree box, I would go with the tree box in front of your house anyway. We have done that for 3 years and tree has always been picked up.

Brookland To Get Another Capital Bikeshare Station! Read How Astrid Made It Happen

Capitol Bikeshare Station in Brookland near CVS at 12th and Newton Streets NE. Photo courtesy of Elvert Barnes via Flikr.

About a year ago, Astrid, one of our bloggers here at the Brookland  Bridge started the application process to get a Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) station installed in Brookland at the corner of 12th and Irving NE. It seemed like a great location, being just across the street from Casey Trees, where over 30 people work daily and volunteers come and go. Plus, she thought it was important to bring a bikeshare station deeper into our neighborhood. We finally got word today that all her hard work paid off, as CaBi announced 12th and Irving as part of their next wave of new stations. Way to go Astrid! I sat down with her and asked her some questions about how she got it done.  New stations are also coming to the Chancellor’s Row development/St. Paul’s campus.

Why did you initiate the request for the bike share station at 12th and Irving?

I had been intrigued by the Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) system for quite some time. It is a wonderful alternative to other forms of transportation. It is environmentally friendly, fun, easily accessible, and an amenity that benefits local businesses and residents alike. I noticed that NE DC had very few stations and is not well-connected to the CaBi network yet. When I started the application process, the only NE CaBi stations were at Catholic University, the Brookland Metro, and the CVS on 12th Street. The station at 4th and Rhode Island was about to be installed as an amenity for the Mint condominium building. But the gap between these stations the rest of the network was quite big. I think it is important to have more stations installed in Brookland and NE in general, so many more DC residents have access to the Bikeshare system.

How did you go about getting the application together?

First I identified the department and team at DDOT that handles all matters related to CaBi. My primary contact was Chris Holben, who has been extremely supportive and helpful during the entire process. Once I knew where to submit my request, I started the ground work. I created a flyer which explained the CaBi program and membership, the benefits it would bring to our neighborhood, as well as a section for the  name and contact information of potential supporters. I went house to house in a 3 block radius around 12th and Irving. I made sure neighbors understood that I am not with CaBi, but just a neighbor who thinks that it is a great program. In the address field I added an option where supporters could identify themselves as being interested in becoming CaBi members, if a station would be installed in their immediate neighborhood. This added additional weight to my application. I also reached out to local businesses and asked them to write a letter supporting the new CaBi location. Many thanks to Casey Trees, First Time Computers, The Menkiti Group, Abbott Klar Realtor Group, as well as the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (BNCA)  for their immediate response to my request. I completed my application package with pictures of the proposed location and I hand delivered it to Mr. Holben at his office.

How long did the process take?

I submitted my application on January 31, 2012. All location suggestions go through a lengthy selection process including a site visit of a DDOT team or representative. I learned that CaBi experienced a back-order situation for some of the equipment, and therefore had to delay the installation for a several months. According to the announcement, we should have the new station by March 2013.

Anything else you would like the readers to know?

Spread the word about the Capital Bike Share system, become a member if you think you will benefit from it, because the more demand we can show for it in NE DC, the more stations will be added in the future.

Want To Go Solar? Check Out The Ward 5 Solar Open House Hosted By The Brookland Solar Co-Op. RSVP Now!

Eco friendly Brookland NE Washington DC
Solar panels being installed on Flather Hall. Photo courtesy of the Catholic University of America.
Ward 5 residents are invited to learn about solar home energy at the Ward 5 Solar Open House hosted by the Brookland Solar Co-Op of DCSUN. The event will feature a special guest speaker from DC Solar United Neighborhoods (SUN) and light refreshments will be served.  Participants will learn about how to go solar and support DC-wide solar initiatives from DC SUN representatives and other Ward 5 Residents. Also, a solar inverter which produces power will be displayed. The event will be held from 2:00 – 4:00 pm on Saturday December 8th, with seating for only 20 people. Secure your spot by contacting Guy Durant at 202-525-6342, by email at rightguy(at)writeme(dot)com or check out this Evite.For more local information about going solar check out the Brookland solar Yahoo! group here.

Project Rain Barrel – Do It Yourself

This is the story about my latest DIY project …… a rain barrel.

I spent a lot of time online looking at all kind of different options. From complete ready to install systems from the home improvement or specialized garden stores, most of them ugly – to used barrels, you never know what you get – to plain food grade barrels that still needed a spigot and overflow fittings – and everything in between.

I finally came across a website that sparked my interest. Veteran Compost is a business owned, managed and staffed by veterans and veteran family members. Their main product, as the name says, is compost. But they also build and sell rain barrels, that are available in original blue ($70), or painted ($150). I was very close to ordering one of their painted designs, but I did one more “google” search for individually designed rain barrel images. I found an easy method to design my own barrel. So I placed an order with Veteran Compost for a blue barrel. The transformation and installation of the barrel can be seen here:


Thinking About Going Solar? One Brookland Couple’s Experience

Solar Energy Brookland NE Washington DC
Solar Panels – Eco Friendly and Cost Effective!
Remember Mary and Greg, the super-smart couple who saved a bunch of money with the Riversmart program? We got back with them to talk about the solar panels on their roof and learn about another program they took advantage of – the DC renewable energy grant program. This program provides rebates to applicants to offset the cost of  installing solar (or other renewable) energy systems. The program is what iniatially motivated Mary and Greg to investigate going solar. Greg told us that they “applied the DC grant funds to a one-time lease payment which is much cheaper than buying a system.  The installer guarantees a minimum production level and is responsible for all maintenance/repairs.” According to the program’s web page:

Solar Thermal incentives are based on a flat rate percentage of installed system cost:

  • Solar Thermal (water heating) system 20% of total installed cost up to $5,000
  • Solar Thermal (space heating) system 20% of total installed cost up to $2,000
  • Solar Thermal (combination) system 20% of total installed cost up to $5,000

Rebates for solar thermal systems are capped at a maximum of $5,000 for residential and $7,000 for nonresidential. Only one REIP rebate may be requested per unique installation address, per program year.

Photovoltaic incentives are based on the combined system rating in kilowatts of Direct Current (DC) output:

  • $1.50 for each of the first 3,000 installed watts of capacity
  • $1.00 for each of the next 7,000 installed watts of capacity
  • $0.50 for each of the next 10,000 installed watts of capacity

Rebates for all systems are capped at a maximum of $16,500 (at 20 kilowatts capacity or greater) for each applicant site per program year.

So, does it pay off? Greg tell us “We’re saving about 25% on our electric bill after our solar installation!”  Be warned, it is a long process – it took Mary and Greg about 18 months to complete. The photo above shows their south-facing roof with the solar panels. Unfortunately, their roof structure didn’t meet the installer’s standard so they had to reduce the system they wanted significantly. But in the end, they told us they are glad they did it. Great job Mary and Greg!