Archive for the ‘This Green House’ Category

Extending the Growing Season

Friday, February 10th, 2017 - posted by interns

How Appalachian farmers and gardeners are raising crops through the winter

By Dave Walker

Finding fresh, local food during cold Appalachian winters can be a challenge. “Most folks in our region don’t grow at all in the winter,” says Christopher McKenzie of the nonprofit organization Grow Appalachia. “That limits what’s available and when. We know that families need and like to eat fresh produce year-around, and we want folks to be able to eat out of their garden all year long.”

Work-release inmates help Chris McKenzie build a high tunnel for the Russellville Urban Gardening Center in Russellville, Ky. McKenzie says they were a great group to work with. Photo courtesy of the Bowling Green Daily News

Work-release inmates help Chris McKenzie build a high tunnel for the Russellville Urban Gardening Center in Russellville, Ky. McKenzie says they were a great group to work with. Photo courtesy of the Bowling Green Daily News

Some farmers and backyard gardeners in the region are using season extension strategies to do just that.

Season extension expands growing opportunities by controlling the environment around a plant, allowing more favorable conditions for the plant to thrive. From high tunnels to low tunnels to heated greenhouses to straw bales and cold frames, gardeners and farmers are producing fresh vegetables in Appalachia even in the deepest snow.

Crops like carrots, beets, cabbage, kale and lettuce can be planted earlier in the spring or sustained over the winter. Summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, beans and cucumbers can also be started earlier and be better managed for disease prevention, water use and consistency.

For Grow Appalachia, based in Berea, Ky., four-season growing matters as the group works to end food insecurity in Appalachia. Founded in 2009, the nonprofit organization provides funding and technical assistance to 40 partner sites in more than 50 counties throughout Central Appalachia. In 2015, they helped 4,644 gardeners grow over 580,000 pounds of food.

“We work in this region for a reason,” says McKenzie. “A lot of the counties that we work in are record-setters, nationwide, for joblessness. The exit of the coal economy has made an impact on our region.”

By encouraging Appalachians to grow more of their own food, Grow Appalachia partner sites have been able to introduce market farming as an extra income source for families, teach new generations how to preserve their food, and connect fresh food with community centers, assisted living facilities and hunger relief agencies.

Lengthening the Life of Your Garden

Each season extension strategy is unique to the backyard garden or farm. But several simple methods can go a long way toward enjoying fresh, hyper-local greens in the middle of winter.

Hardy plants — including arugula, cabbage, mustard greens, kale, swiss chard, mâche, miner’s lettuce and turnip greens — can grow well throughout the region unaided or with some simple frost protection. Many of these are sown in the fall for winter eating, but some can be started in December for early spring harvests.

Use row covers to blanket plants and insulate them from the cold. They come as fabric rolls from garden supply companies, and can be cut for the gardener’s bed size and reused each year. By adding more layers, the gardener increases their insulation. Small metal hoops lift the row covers above garden beds and plants, much like a tiny high tunnel or greenhouse.

Straw bale cold frames can be constructed by placing straw bales in a rectangle. By adding a window frame on top, the gardener has made a mini-greenhouse. This simple and inexpensive strategy can be very useful when starting vegetables for the spring. To control temperatures, the gardener can ventilate the cold frame by propping open the window with a stick at different heights.

High Tunnels for Higher Yields

McKenzie’s work with Grow Appalachia focuses on the organization’s social enterprises — businesses that aim to improve communities, not just make a profit. By manufacturing and selling high tunnels alongside certified-organic fertilizers, Grow Appalachia is able to direct profits back into its gardening program.

High tunnels look like greenhouses, but are unheated, and are an increasing trend with gardeners and farmers. Some structures are small, just six feet wide by twelve feet long. Others are much larger, such as 30 feet by 96 feet, with peaked, gothic roofs that allow space for tractors.

These structures enable gardeners to harvest year-round and provide farmers with a market advantage. Over the last several years, Grow Appalachia has built 79 high tunnels for 40 different farms and families in Appalachia, many of whom also participate in Grow Appalachia’s gardening program.

“One of our farmers in Waco, Ky., grows spinach in his high tunnels,” says McKenzie. “He’s able to have fresh spinach in February when no one else has fresh greens. He once told me that he was making better money in February than the height of the summer growing season.”

Grow Appalachia’s initial high tunnel design was flexible in its size and did not require grading the land or pouring concrete. Known as a quonset-style high tunnel, it looks like a series of semi-circular hoops that are short and narrow, without a peaked roof. These smaller high tunnels work well on slopes or in compact growing spaces.

“Later, we worked with the University of Kentucky’s research farm to develop a gothic-style high tunnel that has a peaked roof,” says McKenzie. This allows the high tunnel to be larger and to perform better in harsh weather conditions.

Grow Appalachia works with farmers and gardeners to develop unique high tunnels for each client. The organization receives raw materials such as lumber, galvanized steel, hardware and plastic, and manufactures pre-built kits: galvanized steel tubes are bent, doors are fabricated and holes are drilled. The hoop houses are then delivered by Grow Appalachia, which can also assist with construction and follow-up technical assistance.

While high tunnels constructed with galvanized steel can last a long time, their plastic covers and wood support-sidings have a limited lifetime. Greenhouse-specific plastics are engineered with UV inhibitors, often guaranteed for four years. After that, the plastic begins to discolor and needs to be replaced.

Depending on scale and style, high tunnels vary in price. But for market farmers, support can be found through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which offers a cost-share program. Grow Appalachia’s high tunnel enterprise meets NRCS standards, and the organization can assist farmers through the cost-share process. The nonprofit also serves as a NRCS technical assistance provider in Southeast Kentucky, helping high tunnel farmers with growing plans, guidance on pests and weeds, and assistance designing irrigation systems.

Grow Appalachia Program Director David  Cooke stands inside a gothic-style high tunnel built for Greenhouse17, a domestic violence shelter outside of Lexington, Ky. Photo courtesy Grow Appalachia

Grow Appalachia Program Director David Cooke stands inside a gothic-style high tunnel built for Greenhouse17, a domestic violence shelter outside of Lexington, Ky. Photo courtesy Grow Appalachia

“Grow Appalachia has helped us do patchwork on our high tunnels by adding new plastic and building new sides,” says Christina Lane of GreenHouse17 in Lexington, Ky., an advocacy agency committed to ending intimate partner abuse in families and the community. Serving 17 Kentucky counties, seven of which are in Appalachia, GreenHouse17 grows flowers, fruits and vegetables in six high tunnels on its 40-acre farm.

Since 2012, GreenHouse17 has worked with the University of Kentucky and Grow Appalachia to develop its high tunnels. Participants in GreenHouse17’s farm-training program earn stipends and learn the basics of farming and running a small business. Produce is used for meals at the center and sent to the 75 members of the organization’s Community-Supported Agriculture flower program.

“High tunnels are super helpful,” says Jessica Ballard of GreenHouse17. “We’re able to grow winter root vegetables, cabbage and kale while also putting flower seeds in the ground earlier. Our flowers’ stem strength is better and our high-dollar flowers won’t break from the wind and rain.”

Severe weather, though, presents challenges. “Over the past years with interesting weather patterns, we’ve seen a lot of collapses due to snow because folks have sourced them as cheaply as possible or they’re getting a kit from outside the region which may not be built for the snow load,” McKenzie says. “Season extension is an investment, and if you invest in season extension it will pay off. High tunnels have the potential to be a game-changer for farmers, especially where weather can be a challenge.”

At High Rocks Educational Corporation in Pocohontas County, W.Va., youth help raise beds of lettuce.  Photo courtesy Grow Appalachia

At High Rocks Educational Corporation in Pocohontas County, W.Va., youth help raise beds of lettuce. Photo courtesy Grow Appalachia

At the Laurel County African American Heritage Center in London, Ky., Wayne Riley works with local youth to grow food for community members, an assisted-living center and the county’s jail. Riley grows lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower in the winter and tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and beans in the summer. With plans for two more high tunnels, the Laurel County African American Heritage Center will soon have six through Grow Appalachia’s social enterprise.

Riley prefers smaller high tunnels because they allow him to better rotate crops and control disease within the garden.

“Trying to overlap growing each season in a high tunnel can be hard,” says McKenzie. “With smaller tunnels, you can have one for spring, one for summer, and one for a cover crop. This lends itself to a sustainable production plan.”

Beyond Season Extension

In addition to its high tunnel social enterprise, Grow Appalachia works with partner sites across the region. These community groups collaborate with backyard gardeners, farmers and community gardeners to help produce bountiful harvests. Through six core classes, home gardeners work with these partner sites to plan, plant and maintain their garden while also learning heart-healthy cooking, food preservation and season extension techniques. According to McKenzie, this work has increased the availability of local food in many communities.

“Between season extension and food preservation, folks are eating and selling things out of their garden or farm year-round,” he says.

At the Cowan Creek Community Center in Letcher County, Ky., canning classes sponsored by Grow Appalachia lead to a greater sense of community. “People from all over Letcher County come to learn how to can like their mom or grandma used to do. It brings people from different economic backgrounds and experiences together,” says McKenzie. “In doing so, they’ve formed this interesting community where preconceptions are dropped.”

In Hindman, Ky., the Hindman Settlement School is reviving its agrarian history by experimenting with low tunnels, which are comprised of small hoops over crop beds that are blanketed with row cover.

This winter, the 114-year-old resident settlement school is busy planning for the spring. In February, it will distribute onion sets and pea seeds to more than 50 family gardeners. Many of these gardeners choose to only have a summer garden, but in the last few years Jacob Mack-Boll and Ashton Huxtable of Hindman have seen more and more gardeners continue to grow well into the winter.

“Some participants have been growing their whole lives,” says Mack-Boll. “They might need help tilling, while others have never grown anything before. So it’s a fun connection to have, bridging the gap between a generation ago and today for the folks we work with and the Hindman Settlement School’s history.”

During February, Mack-Boll and Huxtable will work with their area extension office to help gardeners prepare for the season. They will provide soil testing, advice on soil amendments, and will encourage gardeners to keep good long-term records. “We will talk about cover crops and crop rotation to put nutrients back in the soil,” says Mack-Boll.

Their hope is that this work, as well as their promotion of season extension strategies, will lead to a more vibrant and longer-lasting local farmers’ market. “One struggle is that our farmers’ market is just two months long, July and August,” says Mack-Boll. “With more late and early-season crops, we hope that it can run a little longer.”

Expanding the growing season gives farmers, customers and backyard gardeners alike the opportunity to enjoy local food beyond the traditional summer months. That leads to a greater abundance of healthy, fresh options, and the feeling of self-sufficiency that comes from a flourishing winter harvest. u
Dave Walker is the program manager for Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture’s CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) program in northwestern North Carolina. He also is working with community stakeholders to establish a seed library and a local food policy council.

Winter Greens with Executive Director Tom Cormons

Tom Cormons’ son stands in the family’s four-season backyard garden. Photo by Tom Cormons

Tom Cormons’ son stands in the family’s four-season backyard garden. Photo by Tom Cormons

For Appalachian Voices’ Executive Director Tom Cormons, gardening and self-sufficiency has always been a passion. He grew up eating fresh, wholesome food and wanted to share the experience with his family when he moved to his current home in Charlottesville, Va.
“I read Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest and learned what’s possible through that book,” says Cormons. “He’s up in Maine and grows a tremendous amount of food year-round. If he can do it in Maine, I can do it more modestly in Virginia. One thing that I learned from him is that certain vegetables and varieties are incredibly cold-tolerant.”

In Cormons’ 500-square-foot garden, two of his favorite home-grown cold-season greens are mâche and miner’s lettuce. Mâche, also known as corn salad, is a small leafy green with a nutty flavor. Miner’s lettuce leaves are even smaller. He plants them densely, harvesting them with scissors. Both are incredibly productive in Charlottesville’s 7a hardiness zone, regrowing after each harvest for several successions.

Other vegetables that he regularly grows and harvests throughout the winter are komatsuna, a mild, mustard-like brassica that is fast-growing and can survive the winter with some protection, as well as kale, arugula, and mustard or turnip greens. Cormons also plants lettuce in November or December, which will lead to a strong harvest in late February or early March and produce until July.

To sustain these crops, Cormons uses several layers of floating row cover resting on top of the plants. This may be one or four layers, depending upon the vegetable and the temperature. With heavy snows, he will sweep the snow from the row cover, as it’s resting on top of the plant. “I haven’t needed to use any other strategies,” Cormons says. “I’m always able to get all the salad greens that we can eat through the cold season, as well as a lot of cooking greens.”

“I grow anything my kids are fired up about trying. They are involved every step of the way, from ordering the seeds through the harvest. That’s one of the most wonderful things about it for me,” he says. “It’s really nice to be able to eat greens picked a few minutes before you eat them, year-around.” Cormons also notes that growing greens in the winter is easier and less labor-intensive than summer since there are no weed, pest or water shortage concerns.

Several things to look out for are: one, get things in on time and two, keep an eye on them. “It doesn’t require a lot of energy or time for the luxury of fresh greens,” says Cormons.

Electric Cooperatives Initiate Community Solar Projects

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016 - posted by molly

By Tristin Van Ord

“We’re at an age where we need to start looking at alternative energy,” says Olivia Haney, a member of the BARC Electric Cooperative since 1989.

The BARC electric co-op in Virginia and the Appalachian Electric Cooperative in Tennessee have both launched community solar projects to help members save money while reducing carbon emissions.

Community solar is a cooperative alternative to installing solar panels on an individual residence. Instead of dealing with the upfront and maintenance costs of solar panel installation on their house, homeowners can invest in a solar farm, or array of solar panels, provided by the BARC electric cooperative. BARC’s solar farm is a grid that consists of 1,750 solar panels. Now members of BARC can invest in solar and avoid dealing with personal solar panel installation.

Solar farm

BARC’s solar farm contains 1,750 solar panels and produces 550 kilowatts of energy. Photo courtesy of the BARC Electric Cooperative

Mike Keyser, the CEO and general manager at BARC, explains that there was a lot of interest in solar by members of the cooperative, but there was no real increase in the installation of solar panels on individual houses. Keyser adds that certain aspects were preventing people from investing in renewables, including physical barriers such as shading and positioning of the house, along with financial barriers including upfront costs and commitments.

The new solar project provides up to one-fourth of the total energy needs of each of the 220 households that have a membership in the cooperative.

Not only does this option allow any member to invest in solar, it also prevents the possibility of future rate increases through a 20-year fixed rate at only a dollar more per month than what standard customers are paying.

BARC sells its solar energy in “blocks,” which are made up of 50 kilowatt hours each.

“We rolled the subscriptions into something called ‘solar energy blocks,’” Keyser explains. “If it’s an average customer, 25 percent of their consumption would be five blocks, which is an easy thing for people to wrap their mind around.”

Community members who live in the five rural counties in Virginia that BARC covers can apply to be a part of the program, including all of Bath County and parts of Highland, Alleghany, Augusta and Rockbridge counties. BARC member Haney joined the community solar program after learning about the environmental benefits of renewable energy.

When it comes to the growth of the project, Keyser is optimistic about the possibilities.

“We have room on the site to triple the size. It’s 550 kilowatts, and we can go up to about a megawatt and a half, so we are hoping to expand in another year or so,” says Keyser. “Once we feel like we’ve given the option to every member that wants an opportunity, then we would increase the percentage.”

According to Keyser, most subscribers in the solar project have shown interest in increasing the percentage of their electricity covered by solar.

Tennessee’s Turn

Appalachian Electric Cooperative, an electricity provider based in New Market, Tenn., is also starting a community solar program. According to Mitch Cain, the co-op’s director of member services, the solar array will be operational after Dec. 12 and consists of 9,471 panels at 145 watts each. Any residential or commercial member of Appalachian Electric, which covers Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson and Sevier counties in Tennessee, can take part in this new initiative.

Subscribers to Appalachian Electric’s solar program can invest in individual solar panels. Members pay $125 per 145-watt panel as an upfront cost. There is a cap at 5,000 watts per residential customer and 10,000 watts for commercial subscriptions. Members begin receiving solar energy credits on their bills the month after they start the program. The time needed to recover a member’s investment is estimated to be about 12 years.

Community Solar’s Effect on Carbon Emissions

United States businesses have installed enough solar energy to offset almost 890,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Solar panels convert energy from the sun into electricity that can be used in place of other non-renewable sources such as coal and natural gas.

BARC’s calculations state that their solar project will prevent 11,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

Appalachian Electric’s program projects that 202 pounds of carbon will be offset per year for each panel installed. Over 20 years, one panel will keep 3,866 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

“Solar is here. It is something we can harness and use to help us and help the environment,” BARC co-op member Olivia Haney says. “Hopefully we will see more of this, and hopefully we will see more than just the co-ops looking to do this.”

Home Projects to Save Energy and Money

Friday, October 7th, 2016 - posted by interns

Story and photos by Adam Sheffield

Harper Robinson of Conservation Pros connects a water heater blanket by applying insulation tape.

Harper Robinson of Conservation Pros connects a water heater blanket by applying insulation tape.

The inevitable colder temperatures of winter can lead to rising energy costs — is your home ready? To help you prepare, Appalachian Voices recently produced several short videos where energy efficiency experts demonstrate ways to lower your home’s energy use. These straightforward upgrades can lower your energy bill as well as help you protect the environment by consuming less energy.

Below are several tips and energy-saving projects from the “Heating and Cooling” and “Water Heating” videos that you can do yourself.

To watch instructional videos about these and other home energy efficiency projects, visit

Heating & Cooling

Turning down your thermostat in the winter uses less energy and saves money.

Turning down your thermostat in the winter uses less energy and saves money.

John Kidda of reNew Homes, Inc., in Boone, N.C., discusses the energy saving benefits of using programmable thermostats as a way to save on heating and cooling bills.

Programmable thermostats allow residents to set the temperature in their home based on their schedule, removing the need to leave the air conditioner or heat running on high while away at work or asleep. During winter, set the thermostat to a lower temperature while you’re away from home or in bed, and program your thermostat to increase the heat right before you normally come home or wake up. Some thermostats can even be adjusted from a mobile device.

Kidda points out that when a home is properly insulated and air leakage is minimized, the thermostat can be set to lower temperatures because heat is not being lost. “One interesting thing is that once you better insulate a house and make it less drafty, you actually will feel more comfortable at a lower temperature,” Kidda says.

Insulation & Air Leakage

Caulking cracks and crevices reduces air leakage to unfinished areas of your home.

Caulking cracks and crevices reduces air leakage to unfinished areas of your home.

Harper Robinson, project manager with Conservation Pros in Asheville, N.C., demonstrates proper installation of crawl space insulation and sealing of attic drafts in this video. According to Robinson, insulation should be positioned with the paper side facing the direction you want to keep warm. Insulation can be held in place by using short metal rods between joists in the crawl space. Robinson also applies a spray foam sealant to an attic’s gaps and crevices, inhibiting air from escaping the finished areas of the home.

Water Heaters

Slight turns of the dial adjust the tank’s temperature.

Slight turns of the dial adjust the tank’s temperature.

Keeping a home’s water heater at an appropriate temperature is a simple way to save energy. Remove the tank’s small access panel and locate the temperature dial. Adjust the dial up or down with a small coin or screwdriver. Optimal temperature settings release shower and tap water that is hot to the touch without having to be diluted with cold water. When temperatures are too high, the tank uses more energy to maintain consistently hot water and risks scalding skin. But water heaters should be set to at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid bacterial growth inside the tank.

Robinson explains that wrapping your tank with an insulation blanket can maintain heat within. Another way to retain warm water is to wrap the first few feet of pipe coming out of the tank with pipe-specific insulating material, such as foam tubing or insulation strips.

Vermicompost: Let earthworms green your kitchen

Thursday, August 11th, 2016 - posted by interns

By Savannah Clemmons

Of more than 4,000 species of worms, only a few are good for composting. Photo by Jimmy Davidson

Of more than 4,000 species of worms, only a few are good for composting. Photo by Jimmy Davidson

When Tracy Myhalyk first learned about vermicomposting in 2002, she was enrolled in an agroecology course as an Appalachian State University graduate student. After a colleague piqued her interest, she set up her own worm bin and began making compost.

Vermicomposting is the practice of feeding worms table scraps and other organic matter in order to obtain a richer soil.

A typical vermicompost bin contains roughly 1,000 worms in a moist, dark habitat made from damp newspaper, cardboard and leaves mixed with fresh organic matter. The worms consume the food scraps and paper items and then produce a nutritious compost made of the worms’ feces, or “castings.”

The compost has a number of uses, most commonly as a fertilizer for household plants and gardens. Vermicomposting recycles household waste into usable material faster than other forms of composting. It is also an aerobic process, which means that odor-blocking oxygen is present during decomposition and prevents foul smells.

After a year of composting with worms, Myhalyk set up a booth at the local farmer’s market and began advocating for vermicomposting and selling her one-of-a-kind kits with starter worms. While she no longer makes the kits, they are still a talking point across the area.

“Sometimes, someone will recognize me and say ‘Hey, you gave me worms!’” Myhalyk says.

She has also taught workshops and classes on how to manage worm composting bins, as well as the environmental benefits of vermiculture.

Customizing Compost

Requiring minimal time and resources, vermicomposting can be a simple and efficient way to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. It also allows individuals the chance to experiment with their setup.

Most composters, like Randal Pfleger, use their bins at home to process table waste. He has experience with traditional non-worm composting both at home and in community gardens as the executive director of Grass to Greens, a yard-care service and social enterprise of Bountiful Cities, an urban agricultural and community gardening non-profit based in Asheville, N.C. Pfleger says vermicomposting is best used at home. Small bins can create compost for use in gardens and household plants, or the worms can be used for fishing bait.

As decisions are made regarding the habitat, drainage, water content and harvesting, it is sometimes necessary to have a trial-and-error mentality.

Vermicomposting is faster than composting without worms. Photo by Jimmy Davidson

Vermicomposting is faster than composting without worms. Photo by Jimmy Davidson

For instance, when Pfleger finds it difficult to separate the worms from the compost, he makes use of other natural elements. He finds a sunny spot outdoors and dumps the contents of the worm bin. The solar heat dries the top layer of the compost, causing the worms to retreat inward to the cooler, wetter center of the compost.

Pfleger then separates the compost into smaller, dried-out piles, as the worms continue to retreat from the sun. He is typically left with compost as well as a “worm ball” that goes back into the bin to start the process all over again.

However, some challenges are more difficult. According to Tracy Myhalyk, due to Appalachia’s frigid winters, keeping a compost bin from November to March requires being more vigilant of the temperature and humidity levels around the bin, and storing it in an insulated place such as an indoor kitchen or closet.

Environmental Benefits

In the United States, a quarter of the country’s municipal waste comes from food, yard trimmings or other organic matter that can be composted.

According to North Carolina State University, over 98 percent of food waste gets thrown into landfills where it decomposes and produces methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Landfills account for 20 percent of methane emissions in the United States. And worldwide, it is estimated that landfills emit between 30 to 70 million tons of methane each year, either directly into the atmosphere or into the surrounding soil.

Composting organic waste rather than disposing of it in landfills can significantly reduce methane emissions and diminish an individual’s contribution to climate change.

For Pfleger, worm composting puts waste into perspective and can help people “think about how we generate waste, what we do with it.” The issue of assessing an individual’s contribution to municipal waste, Pfleger jokes, “opens up a big can of worms.

Tips for Vermicomposting

Which worms do I use?
The species Eisenia fetida, or red wigglers, are most commonly used for household compost bins. A typical starter system includes about 1,000 worms. Red wigglers can consume about 25 percent of their body weight each day.

How do I set up the bin?
For a red wiggler habitat, place newspaper, dried leaves, water and other organic material into a plastic bin, and make certain the material has the consistency of a moist sponge. Ensure that the worms have a comfortable temperature of between 60 and 70 degrees. Cut holes in the top of the bin to provide ventilation.

What do I feed the worms?
Worms can eat almost any organic or biodegradable material, including vegetables, paper coffee filters, rinsed eggshells and other table scraps, but meat or dairy products can attract unwanted pests and scavengers. Citrus should also be avoided because it contains the chemical limonene, which is harmful to worms.

How often do I feed the worms?
Red wigglers do not need to be fed on a regular schedule. The more worms that are in a bin, the more frequently food can be added. To avoid a bad odor, make sure that the worms have eaten all of their food before placing more into the bin, and periodically add more newspaper or dried leaves.

Accelerating Appalachia’s Energy Savings

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 - posted by interns
Energy Policy Director Rory McImoil discusses energy efficiency in Boone, N.C.

Energy Policy Director Rory McImoil discusses energy efficiency in Boone, N.C.

This spring, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. — an electric cooperative in the N.C. High Country — announced a new financing option to help eligible members pay for energy efficiency improvements to their homes. Alongside residents, energy services contractors and local agencies, we worked with Blue Ridge Electric to launch the program, and we’re continuing to help improve the program and educate members about the new opportunity.

Our team is also expanding our community outreach around energy efficiency to residents and local organizations in the French Broad Electric Membership Corp. and Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. territories.

In Tennessee, we’re collaborating with state organizations and electric cooperatives to develop a statewide energy efficiency financing program — and so far, six Appalachian co-ops have expressed interest in taking part!

Click here to read more about these initiatives, and the reasons why rural electric cooperatives have the ability and obligation to lead the way in energy efficiency. And check out Energy Savings news and resources about how to make your home more energy efficient at

Power of Cooperation: Co-ops put solar on rooftops

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016 - posted by molly

By Dan Radmacher

Augusta Solar Co-op member and homeowner Keith Shank stands with a representative of the solar installation company in front of his new solar array. Photo courtesy VA SUN

Augusta Solar Co-op member and homeowner Keith Shank stands with a representative of the solar installation company in front of his new solar array. Photo courtesy VA SUN

When Joy Loving decided to add solar power to her Rockingham County, Va., home in the spring of 2012, she did it the hard way. She taught herself what she could, then found an installer through a Google search. A full six months later, she turned on her system. Since then, she’s been working to make the process a lot easier — and cheaper — for others.

“My decision wasn’t driven by economics,” Loving says. “I’m 70 years old, and without state tax incentives or any kind of discount, my payback period for this system will be very long. I might live long enough to reap the economic benefits. I might not. But my primary motivation was about reducing my carbon footprint.”

When she first began looking into solar, Loving thought there might be some sort of program through her electric utility, or state policies that would help. Instead, she found obstacles. Unlike some other states, Virginia mostly forbids power purchase agreements, a solar financing model in which companies own the solar arrays they install on homes and charge homeowners for the power they use.

The state also limits the size of systems residents can build on their homes and caps the power generated by all Virginia residential arrays combined to no more than one percent of all power generated in the state. It also allows utilities to charge minimum monthly fees to solar users — even if the resident generates more power for the grid than they use.

Joy Loving’s solar installation in Rockingham County, Va. Photo courtesy of Joy Loving

Joy Loving’s solar installation in Rockingham County, Va. Photo courtesy of Joy Loving

Loving says all the obstacles to solar put in place by the state and politically powerful utilities irritated her. “It got my back up,” she says. “The freedom to choose my energy source was very important to me. I believe that I need to be a good steward of God’s creation, and this is one thing I can do positively to be a good steward.”

Even after her own system was installed, Loving kept reading and learning. “There was just nothing like the thrill of not having an electric bill,” she says. “I kind of got obsessive about it, checking the system and the power meter and watching what the system could do. After six or seven months, I thought ‘this is something that other people should know about.’”

She reached out to local/regional environmental group Climate Action of the Valley in Harrisonburg, Va. Leaders there ended up connecting with Virginia Solar United Neighborhoods, also known as VA SUN, which is a branch of the Community Power Network in Washington, D.C.

VA SUN helps solar co-op groups — usually collections of neighbors — by providing the experience and expertise it takes to get organized, research installers, issue a request for proposals, evaluate and negotiate with installers, and then see the process all the way through the installation and hookups.

Ben Delman, communications manager for Community Power Network, says the various state SUN groups in Appalachia — DC SUN, VA SUN, WV SUN and MD SUN — have helped around 1,000 people go solar across the region, with about a third of those in Virginia. According to Delman, when individuals organize into co-ops, they gain expertise and save money by negotiating bulk purchases.

Co-ops Accepting New Members

  • Richmond, Va.: Deadline April 30; For information, contact VA Sun Program Director Aaron Sutch,
  • Tucker, Randolph and Upshur counties, W.Va.: No deadline yet
  • Monroe County, W.Va.: No deadline yet. For information on WV co-ops, contact WV Sun Program Director Karan Ireland,

In addition to helping co-ops, Community Power Network has also supported groups that use the “Solarize” model, in which the installer is pre-selected rather than picked based on competitive bids.

After discussions with VA SUN, the Harrisonburg-based Climate Action of the Valley decided to sponsor a co-op in Harrisonburg and Rockbridge County. They asked Loving to lead it.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t know about co-ops when I installed [my system],” she says. “All the co-ops exploding around the state are like seeds — making people more aware and more informed about solar.”

According to Delman, the co-op experience generally works like this: “We start work with one or two local organizations — some sort of community group that can guide the process and begin recruiting co-op members.” The group holds a number of informational meetings during the recruitment phase. “We take them through understanding solar energy, the different ways to finance and help them understand the co-op process,” he says.

“In some ways, it’s the same as doing any home construction project,” Delman continues, “But how great would it be if you’re adding a deck or renovating a bathroom to be able to go through that with a group of people all doing the same thing?”

A critical mass of people interested in installing solar is necessary to move forward to the next step of actually reaching out to contractors. “Once a group gets to about 25 or 30 members, we work with them to issue a [request for proposal] to installers,” Delman says. Co-op members make the final decision. “We help group members review the bids, but it’s up to the selection committee to choose.”

Carl Droms, a member of Climate Action of the Valley, was a member of the Harrisonburg co-op’s selection committee. At that stage, there were 70 or 80 interested households, and about a dozen co-op members on the selection committee. “We all had different ideas about what was important and how to weigh the factors,” he says. “The price per watt — which included everything: panels, wiring, inverters, the electrical work, installation — was important, but there were other factors. Could the installer handle this number of installations and get things done in a reasonable time? Would they use local labor? What kind of guarantee did they offer? How much work had they done in the past?”
“In the end, we were pretty well agreed,” Droms says. “Everybody felt we made the right decision.”

Residents attend an info session for the Massanutten Regional Solar Co-op. Photo courtesy VA SUN

Residents attend an info session for the Massanutten Regional Solar Co-op. Photo courtesy VA SUN

The discount for a co-op member over an individual trying to buy their own solar power system is generally around 20 percent, Delman says. “It’s a good deal for the installers, as well,” he says. “To have a base of interested customers who are educated about solar is really good.”
Once an installer is selected, individuals in the co-op get a site inspection and, eventually, a contract for a system tailored to their individual needs at the agreed-to price. Co-op members aren’t obligated to buy unless they sign that contract.

Droms is very happy with the system he and his partner installed on their home. “Our total bill for the last year has been about $130 — and that includes a $9.50 a month fee just to stay connected to the grid,” he says. “We were really pleased with the co-op. If we had to negotiate everything ourselves, it would have been a lot more complicated.”

There’s not much of a downside to working through a co-op, says Cory Chase, a Tucker County, W. Va., resident who helped organize a co-op in his area. “WV SUN offers a lot of technical assistance that really helps. It might be a little more bureaucratic and slower than going on your own, but we’ll be able to help each other out, buy material in bulk and get a competitive bid,” he says.

According to WV SUN Program Director Karan Ireland, her organization has helped co-ops launch in the towns of Morgantown and Wheeling, and in Kanawha, Tucker and Monroe counties. “A co-op is like Solar 101,” she says. “It can be cumbersome if you’re trying to figure out everything by yourself. With the co-op, you work with friends and neighbors to learn about how to go solar.”

Like Loving, Ireland believes co-ops help create solar ambassadors. “As people understand the benefits of solar, they become invested in the policy as well,” she says. “Because they’re already working together, that creates a network of solar advocates.”

And solar advocates are needed, especially in states like Virginia and West Virginia where fossil fuel interests hold so much sway, says Mark Hanson, president of the Renewable Energy and Electric Vehicle Association, a do-it-yourself club in Roanoke, Va., that helps members with solar installations and other renewable energy projects.

“Our legislators don’t push the power companies to do the right thing,” Hanson says. “Power companies just see solar as a way for people not to pay for electricity. When it comes to legislators, the power companies pretty much get their way.”

Joy Loving says the co-op model is serving its purpose. “It has increased awareness of solar and gotten more press coverage,” she says. “People have heard about it. People see the panels going up and they talk. Co-ops will bring more people into the solar fold.”

Plugging-in Off the Grid

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 - posted by interns

By Kevin Ridder

The 3D-printed home and vehicle sit on display at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in East Tennessee.

The 3D-printed home and vehicle sit on display at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in East Tennessee.

Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has been on the rise in the past few years. With its near-endless customization at the touch of a button and its ability to create highly complex products that would be impossible using traditional methods of production, it’s easy to see why.

Tucked in the hills of Oak Ridge, Tenn., Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been on the cutting edge of this technology for several years. After unveiling their fully 3D-printed Shelby Cobra sports car at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, a project that took only six weeks from conception to finish, researchers at the nation’s largest national laboratory revealed their latest venture last fall.

The Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy demonstration project, or AMIE, was conceived in August of 2014 and features a unique pairing of 3D printing and wireless energy transfer between a vehicle and a building.

The 3D-printed single-room building, primarily powered through solar panels on its roof when detached from the grid, is accompanied by a 3D-printed vehicle powered by a hybrid natural gas engine.

What makes the pair special, however, is the capability for energy to wirelessly flow between the two.

This means the vehicle can charge its battery through the building’s solar panels, and the 210-square-foot building can tap into the vehicle’s natural gas engine during peak usage hours or when solar energy is unavailable. Any excess energy from the solar panels or vehicle can be stored in a battery onboard the building. And thanks to super-efficient vacuum-insulated panels inside the walls, the building can be insulated against the elements using supplies a fraction of the size of other insulation materials.

Workers assemble the building with components printed on-site. Photos courtesy of ORNL

Workers assemble the building with components printed on-site. Photos courtesy of ORNL

To Dr. Kaushik Biswas, a member of the research and development staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a participant on the AMIE project, this contributes to one of the biggest benefits of the project: the minimal amount of materials needed.

“If and when we are able to make this technology commercially available, there will be little to no construction waste,” says Biswas. “Customization is a big advantage for 3D printing.”

According to Biswas, with traditional construction practices much of the materials brought in are wasted because they have to be cut to size. With 3D printing, however, the material doesn’t have to be cut to size because it comes in a powdered state, meaning the operator can measure out exactly how much product is needed and transport it with ease. Researchers suggest that several years down the road this powdered material could even be made out of native biomaterials, eliminating the need for transporting supplies altogether.

“If we can reduce transportation costs by only sending a printer and using materials on site, that would be a huge benefit,” says Biswas. “In the future, this could be used for an operating base [off-planet] where all we have to do is send a 3D printer to the site, possibly even using indigenous materials.”

With the price to send materials to space costing thousands of dollars per pound, this has the potential to drastically reduce the cost of future space missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Closer to home, AMIE has the potential to be used to provide homes and vehicles in remote locations and developing countries, where the power grid is often unstable or nonexistent. These ideas lend themselves to the primary advantage of AMIE: collaborative innovation.

“This project was not just about 3D printing, but about the concept as a whole,” says Biswas. “I think what AMIE does is allow us to think about different ways of solving problems and overcoming challenges.”

To learn more about AMIE, visit

Knoxville Homes Get an Energy Makeover

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 - posted by interns

Mayor Rogero and Dorothy Ware on KEEM opening day. Image courtesy of City of Knoxville Office of Sustainability and Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee Housing & Energy

Mayor Rogero and Dorothy Ware on KEEM opening day. Image courtesy of City of Knoxville Office of Sustainability and Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee Housing & Energy

By Maureen Robbs

Cracks around your windows, drooping or nonexistent crawl space insulation, and inefficient appliances could be contributing to your high utility bills. If you are cranking up the heat to stay warm this winter, it may be time to do an energy audit.

A coalition of community groups in Knoxville, Tenn., is taking energy efficiency initiatives to new heights, setting a goal to weatherize 1,278 homes by September 2017.

The $15 million Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover project, initiated in August, is funded by the Tennessee Valley Authority and led by a project team comprised of the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee, the City of Knoxville, Knoxville Utilities Board and the Alliance to Save Energy.
TVA made the funding available as part of a 2011 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the utility’s violations of the Clean Air Act.

“We have some pretty aggressive goals for climate mitigation: a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020,” says Erin Gill, sustainability director for the City of Knoxville. “The KEEM project stems from Smarter Cities Partnership, which was founded September 2013 and recognizes the persistent challenge of more than 10,000 families who struggle with high utility bills, which are often driven up by aging housing infrastructure.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average value of weatherization improvements is 2.2 times greater than the cost. The KEEM project targets at minimum a 25 percent reduction in energy spending for each home. The allotted upgrade costs are based on the square footage of the home.

A Custom Fit

“It is a custom experience for each house,” says Jennifer Alldredge, an education team program manager at the Alliance to Save Energy. “The auditors thoroughly examine each home and every home receives services specific to that home.”

Weatherization practices are energy efficiency measures intended to help low and middle-income residents improve their homes, reducing long-term energy costs and immediately enhancing in-home comfort.

Energy auditor evaluates a home. Image courtesy of City of Knoxville Office of Sustainability and Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee Housing & Energy

Energy auditor evaluates a home. Image courtesy of City of Knoxville Office of Sustainability and Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee Housing & Energy

To calculate the projected electricity savings of each home, the KEEM project coordinators use a TVA-provided data entry tool. With the homeowner’s or renter’s permission, the KEEM team collects electric bills from participating households so that TVA may measure and verify how projected savings compare to actual savings over time.

Eligible participants must reside in a single-family home or duplex at least 20 years old within the Knoxville city limits and earn a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median. The home must also have electric heat and a water heater. The KEEM program is available to renters with their landlord’s permission.

Jason Estes, director of Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee Housing & Energy Services, confirms that approximately 430 homes have already qualified and 23 audits were completed by the end of October.

Energy Education

Participants must pass a pre-audit and attend a free educational weatherization workshop, but “attendees don’t have to be eligible for KEEM, anyone who is interested can attend the workshops to learn tips and habits for energy efficiency,” says Alldredge, who has run 42 workshops in the first two months of the program.

The KEEM project’s ultimate goal is to benefit local families through education, increased energy efficiency and monthly utility cost reductions.

“The project empowers people through education,” says Chris Woudstra, project coordinator for the KEEM project at the City of Knoxville Office of Sustainability. “I saw a house get weatherized this weekend, and it put into perspective how small actions can have a big impact.”

The initiative also provides jobs for qualified local contractors, who are installing the upgrades once the KEEM auditors approve a participant’s home. Based on TVA’s projections, Gill noted that the KEEM project will help create approximately 120 jobs.

“Our strategy is built for creating opportunities for small contractors, who may have already been doing weatherization projects and can now make this a core component of their business,” says Gill. “They can participate in the green economy in a very real way.”

To learn more about the KEEM project, visit If you are interested in conducting your own personal energy audit, visit

Vaughn’s Diesel

Thursday, October 15th, 2015 - posted by interns

Brewing Biofuel On the Farm

By Julia Lindsay

Dean Vaughn's diesel trucks — plus his farm equipment and several past vehicles — are all powered by his homemade biodiesel. Photo by Dean Vaughn

Dean Vaughn’s diesel trucks — plus his farm equipment and several past vehicles — are all powered by his homemade biodiesel. Photo by Dean Vaughn

Dean Vaughn is the picture of the Appalachian self-made man. He works at a factory and farms his land in Tennessee. And he also built and runs his very own biodiesel fuel processor.

Biodiesel is a renewable alternative to petroleum-based fuels. Made from corn or soybean oil as well as used cooking oil or animal fats, this degradable biofuel will run in most diesel-powered engines without any modification to the vehicle. Unleaded fuel cars with rubber fuel lines, typically those manufactured prior to 1993, can convert to using biodiesel by replacing their fuel lines with modern synthetic lines.

Vaughn uses his biodiesel for his farm equipment and trucks, and used to have a diesel Jetta and Mercedes that ran on his fuel. He began making his own fuel at the height of the economic crisis in 2008. He calculates his finished product to cost about 75 cents a gallon, – upwards of three dollars less than the sky-high gas prices at the time. Though saving money played a role in why he started making fuel, he adds, “I got a kick out of making something usable out of trash.”

Recycled cooking oil is the main ingredient, making Vaughn’s method of production more sustainable than other biodiesel methods. When mass producers plant corn in industrial agricultural farms for use in biodiesel, for instance, they require more natural resources like land and water.

Vaughn gets his recycled oil from a local hospital cafeteria. When a cafeteria employee told him that the hospital was paying a company to haul off the waste oil, he told her “I’ll keep your oil clean and your place clean, and you don’t need to pay anybody.” Thus, a symbiotic relationship emerged.

“Brewers” of biodiesel use a process called transesterification. Like the word itself, the process is complex, but Vaughn already understood the concept from working at a chemical company. “It’s been so many years now, I kind of sleep-walk through the steps,” he says.

Vaughn uses 275-gallon storage tanks for his biodiesel supply. Photo by Dean Vaughn.

Vaughn uses 275-gallon storage tanks for his biodiesel supply. Photo by Dean Vaughn.

First, methanol is mixed with lye to make methoxide. This chemical, when combined with the waste oil at a ratio of one part methoxide to four parts oil, acts as a catalyst and separates the unneeded glycerin from what will soon be the fuel. When the mixture is heated to 120 degrees in a processor Vaughn fashioned out of an old water heater, the separation process takes about an hour and a half.

After draining the glycerin, “it kind of looks like orange juice,” Vaughn says. This cloudy appearance stems from impurities remaining in the mixture. To remove these, Vaughn runs water through misting heads, like those in the produce section at the grocery store, for six hours. The water molecules attach themselves to the impurities. In the final step, he lets the mixture circulate at 120 degrees to evaporate the water. “You can do it in one day,” he says, and voila — biodiesel.

According to the EPA, biodiesel produces 57 to 86 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the blend, than petroleum. Biodiesel also releases fewer pollutants from a car’s exhaust pipe than petroleum.

“The chemistry’s different,” he says, “but it’s like a work in progress; you have good batches and some that don’t work out as well.” He is still learning and making changes. For example, he warns, “You don’t want to use 100 percent biodiesel in the winter.” The cold weather will cause the fuel to gel, rendering a vehicle inoperable. This he learned the hard way.

The solution: blending petroleum-derived diesel and biodiesel. Most biodiesel plants produce a blend with about five to twenty percent biodiesel. In the summer, Vaughn’s vehicles run on 100 percent.

Preferring to work in the spring, Vaughn will undertake his 72 gallon-producing process several times and store the fuel in the summer. He has 550 gallons of storage capacity. “If you don’t have acreage,” he says, “it can be a bit of a headache.”

Biodiesel newcomers lacking the space to produce on their own shouldn’t look to Vaughn to purchase some, however. “I’ve never been interested in the liability,” he says. “It’s just me. What I do. My thing.”

For more information on how to make biodiesel, visit

Communities Find Solutions to Stormwater

Thursday, August 6th, 2015 - posted by molly

This Renaissance Park Bioretention area in Chattanooga, Tenn., collects water from the parking lot and allows it to infiltrate into the ground. Photo courtesy of the city of Chattanooga

This Renaissance Park Bioretention area in Chattanooga, Tenn., collects water from the parking lot and allows it to infiltrate into the ground. Photo courtesy of the city of Chattanooga

By Laura Marion

On average, Chattanooga, Tenn., receives 53 inches of rainfall per year. Combined with the city’s steady growth and development in recent times, the rainfall began to overwhelm old drainage systems, causing flooding and erosion in the city. This stormwater washed into the Tennessee River, pollutants in tow. In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Clean Water Network sued the city for violations of the Clean Water Act. Under the resulting settlement, the city agreed to pay an estimated $250 million to minimize or eliminate sewage overflows and improve their sewer system.

Stormwater runoff in Appalachia can be attributed to several factors. One major issue is the spread of development into natural areas that trap rainwater and allow it to slowly seep into the earth. The replacement of permeable soil with roads, buildings and parking lots causes issues with erosion and flooding. The U.S. Forest Service predicts that central Appalachian summer droughts will be accompanied by increased flooding in the spring and winter.

Since the EPA expanded the Clean Water Act in 1987 to include a program for stormwater runoff, many communities across the country have been required to implement plans to manage the problem. The use of green infrastructure — the replication of natural areas with plants and other organic materials as a means of trapping and filtering stormwater — has been encouraged by the agency since 2007.

Mounir Minkara, the water quality manager for Chattanooga, predicts that the plan will have many long-term benefits for the city.

“[We were] looking at a roadway project here that would have cost a lot of money to actually fix a drainage issue on the streets or on the neighborhood that floods a lot,” Minkara says. “Now we’re looking to address it through green infrastructure. We feel like the cost may be half of what it had been if we do it through [the storm drain system].”

According to Minkara, benefits of using natural stormwater retention also include aesthetic improvement, increased property value and environmental stewardship. As part of its plan, Chattanooga implemented several sustainable projects including green roofs and water-permeable pavement.

Converting to green infrastructure is a team effort, Minkara says, and takes work from city planners, engineers, property owners and volunteers alike.

Jay Squires, the streets and stormwater manager for the City of Spartanburg, S.C., is also looking at the long-term benefits of stormwater management. A 2013 project sponsored by the EPA, the Northside Project, will incorporate green infrastructure such as rain gardens, permeable pavers, open green spaces, and green rooftops. Squires also hopes to restore a stream as an amenity for the Northside neighborhood. In addition to helping with water quality, Squires believes that the green infrastructure will solve drainage issues in Northside, and help increase property values. He and his team are obtaining permits to begin implementation.

“It’s an important project, but it’s a long-range project that we need to always be on the tip of our tongue and not something that we stick in the background,” Squires says.

Community Partnerships

In mid-July, the EPA recognized the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina for their Native Plant Nursery Facility, which provides plants for projects to restore streams and habitat on tribal lands. The community uses two 6,000-gallon cisterns to collect and store rainfall to water their plants, which reduced their water withdrawls from an on-site stream by 36 percent during the first year.

At the University of Kentucky, a rain garden is aiding education. The rain garden, located near the headwaters of the Wolf Run Watershed in Fayette County, was funded through a stormwater incentive grant from Lexington, Ky., and the university’s student sustainability council.

“It’s functioning as a living-learning lab,” says Rebecca McCulley, interim director of Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment and associate professor of Plant and Soil Sciences. “We have students and faculty that are actually out there pretty regularly collecting data.”

The University of Kentucky’s rain garden is used as a living-learning lab for students. Photo courtesy of the University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky’s rain garden is used as a living-learning lab for students. Photo courtesy of the University of Kentucky

To prevent the university’s stormwater runoff from polluting nearby water bodies such as streams and ponds, school officials are required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and develop a stormwater management program that includes public education. Suzette Walling, administrative support for the Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment at the University of Kentucky, says that student involvement in the rain garden contributes to that outreach.

“Being a community partner is certainly important,” Walling says.

There are many schools that have implemented creative stormwater management solutions in the Appalachian region, including Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., ranked number 22 in the nation among the Sierra Club’s green schools of 2014. Among the projects the school implemented are a rainwater retention cistern that captures runoff and releases it into the watershed by way of a low dam that regulates the waterflow to prevent flooding, and a broadcasting center that collects stormwater and uses it as non-potable water in the restrooms.

In Chattanooga, innovative stormwater management through green infrastructure has become more than just addressing the EPA’s original lawsuit.

“We feel like this has been the right approach,” Minkara says of Chattanooga’s sustainable stormwater management program. “We anticipate that property value will improve and it will have better benefits for the environment for sure.”