Couple goes solar and restores a creekside forest in Myersville

“I’m all about being green. And I think I’ve finally achieved net zero when it comes to electricity.”

Today, I am a retired federal employee with a utility bill of $5.36 a month. But a few years ago, before retirement, my wife and I worried that our $6,000.00 a year utility bill would make it more difficult to continue living in this house and on this piece of land we love.

But when we did a home energy audit, it became very evident that there were a lot of things we could do to our house to improve the situation and lower our costs. Over time, we have done all those things, and it has made a huge difference.

Some of the changes were made easier by grants that are available and other programs that exist to encourage such efforts. One example is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (aka RGGI), which was created by nine northeastern states to set limits on and reduce CO2 emissions.

From the RGGI website:

“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.”

Thanks to RGGI, projects such as the installation of solar panels and geothermal HVAC systems become more cost effective. As it was intended, RGGI has also spurred innovation in the these industries, helping to further drive down the cost of these systems to the point it is now less costly than producing electricity at fossil fuel-burning power plants. This important program has been used frequently in Frederick County.

The following is the RGGI ad video on my house.

Beyond the changes we have made to our house, my wife, Jan, and I have worked for 20 years with the Maryland Forest Service, improving the natural ecosystem on our property, and helping the environment in Frederick County, by reforesting 15 of our 17 acres.

Our forest management plan has emphasized reforesting the land with a variety of native trees, restoring riparian buffers and creating vibrant wildlife habitats.

When we originally purchased our property, there was very little wildlife around. Today, a growing diversity of wild animals finds our home a good place to live, including deer, wild turkey, rabbits, opossum, red tail hawks and all sorts of other creatures.

That will only get better, as our most recent planting — of 1,000 trees — converts another open field to a rich woodland.

As part of the watershed of Catoctin Creek, we were able to get funding from the Healthy Forests, Healthy Waters Initiative, a collaboration of the Maryland Forest Service and Maryland Forestry Foundation, which is designed to improve water quality.

Healthy Forests Healthy Waters Project Background

The implementation of forest management plans is an important strategy for achieving water quality and other environmental, economic and social goals. Forest management plans provide guidance to landowners on how they can meet their management objectives while sustaining their forest and the benefits it provides. The Maryland Forest Service works with 400 rural landowners each year to implement management plans. Yet current estimates suggest that only 10% of family forest owners have a written management plan.
This project will:

• Deliver quantifiable nutrient and sediment reductions on private lands through forestry bmp’s in addition to their important ecosystem services like air pollutant removal and provision of wildlife habitat

• Document how focused funding for forest management plan implementation can help meet water quality goals

• Demonstrate how new tools can facilitate implementation of nutrient and sediment practices

• Promote forest management plan and other forest conservation program implementation

Here is the Frederick News Post article about the most recent planting:

Rebuilding a forest: Couple replant decades of lost trees near Myersville
(by Samantha Hogan, April 4, 2017)

The following is the raw drone video done on our property, including some pretty good shots of the tree planting area.

What we have done to reduce our fossil fuel consumption and to restore native forests affects one house and one small piece of land in Frederick County. But we aren’t the only ones making these choices, and we encourage you to evaluate some of the options that are available for you.