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The Resource

COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates and Guidance

The County is taking a number of actions to keep residents safe and minimize the spread of COVID-19. Find status information for County operations and services.

The Resource

by Richard Keller, Department of Public Works

Photo of a building at the landfill with a gravel parking lot in front

Baltimore County has established a new, long-term agreement with Energy Power Partners (EPP) to expand and upgrade the landfill gas-to-energy system at the County’s Eastern Sanitary Landfill (ESL) in White Marsh.

The project is an important part of Baltimore County’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. “Climate change poses one of the most significant threats to our state’s long-term health and prosperity. This new project will reduce Baltimore County’s carbon footprint and help meet critical renewable energy goals,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “Baltimore County can and should be a leader in environmental sustainability, and my administration will continue to innovate as we work to protect our shared environment for this generation—and the next.”

In 2019, EPP purchased the gas-to-energy facility at ESL and worked to restore and repurpose the site’s engines to generate electricity more efficiently from the produced methane. “This is a great example of a public-private initiative that helps protect the environment while providing a reliable energy source,” said Steve Gabrielle, partner for Energy Power Partners. “We look forward to a long-lasting relationship with Baltimore County, and we appreciate their vision.”

Beginning in June 2020, the County entered into an agreement with EPP where the facility captures methane gas from 161 wellheads to power two engine generators, providing energy directly to the local utility grid. Through a net metering process, the County will buy the energy directly from the plant to power the needs of county-owned facilities. The project should save the County $285,000 in Fiscal Year 2021.

The methane fuel generators will generate energy equal to the energy needed to power 1,600 homes and prevent about 10,400 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Under this first phase, the project should generate 13 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually. The second phase of the project, planned for completion by the end of 2020, will add a third engine to increase energy production to 20 million kWh annually.

Landscape photo of a construction vehicle working on a newly expanded section of the landfill

“With this project, Baltimore County is taking an important step towards embracing a vision for using our own renewable energy sources,” said Baltimore County Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Lafferty. The project will help offset at least 11 percent of the County’s total energy consumption, which is an important contribution to meeting the County’s 2022 goal of generating or displacing at least 20 percent of the County’s electric demand from renewable energy sources.

This is the most recent effort from the Olszewski Administration to promote environmental sustainability. In 2019, County Executive Olszewski appointed Baltimore County’s first chief sustainability officer to lead the effort to develop a countywide Climate Action Plan, covering topics such as reducing energy consumption and promoting green infrastructure and sustainable growth. Earlier this year, Olszewski convened a Youth Climate Working Group to include youth voices and recommendations in the Plan and other sustainability efforts. Last month, Baltimore County announced a long-term agreement to restart glass container recycling.

Follow @CleanGreenBaltCo on Facebook and visit BaltimoreCountyMD.gov/CleanGreenBaltCo to learn more about the County’s sustainability efforts and find tips to help you live more sustainably. 

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Photo of someone looking at a book on a table about reducing energy use

This June, for the first installment of the Staying Green During COVID-19 series, we talked about ways to reduce your use of common single-use items, such as disposable masks, gloves and wipes. In July, Department of Public Works intern Emily Small gave us a number of tips to help us safely manage and prevent waste at a time when we may find ourselves buying and using more stuff. For our third installment, we will cover methods to reduce home water and energy use, and how to green your cleaning routine by using products deemed “safer choices” for your home and the environment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Let’s Clean House

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we should follow a two-step cleaning and disinfection process to reduce our risk of exposure to the coronavirus. First we should clean surfaces—removing dirt, grime and germs—and then, to kill pathogens such as COVID-19, we should disinfect those surfaces, making sure to closely follow the directions for disinfection on the product label. Though you could use a product from the EPA’s “Safer Choice” list for the cleaning step, be sure to choose a disinfectant from the EPA’s list of disinfectants for use against COVID-19 to disinfect surfaces and kill pathogens. Read more about the use of green cleaners during the coronavirus pandemic in this recent piece from the Washington Post.

Slow the Flow

Photo of two glasses on the counter being filled with water

We all are cleaning more these days, doing more dishes and laundry and washing our hands more often than ever. To help conserve water, the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, Bureau of Utilities asks you to:

  • Keep a container of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap for a cold drink.

  • Avoid rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

  • Run the washing machine and dishwasher when they are fully loaded.

  • Take a shower instead of a bath.

  • Avoid running the faucet when you're brushing your teeth or shaving.

  • Visit the Bureau of Utilities online for information on water usage and more water-saving tips.

  • While conserving water, do yourself a favor: protect your pipes and help prevent overflows by not pouring fat, oil and grease down the drain.

Starve Your Inner Energy Vampire

  • Reduce your COVID-19 risk, commuting costs and carbon footprint by working from home if possible.

  • Turn off the lights in rooms not in use.

  • If you have energy-efficient windows, utilize natural light by daylighting your home.

  • Use energy-efficient window attachments to save energy and lower your heating and cooling bills.

  • Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs.

  • Green your thermostat.

  • Is everyone in your household spending more time at home? Try to organize movie or game nights to get everyone in the same room (and shut off lights and electronics everywhere else).

  • Schedule blackout hours when everyone turns off their screens (phones, tablets, computers, games and TVs).

  • Use power strips you can switch on and off.

  • Unplug chargers, small appliances and other electronics when not in use.

  • View our Facebook post for even more energy-saving tips.

It also wouldn’t hurt to "unplug" yourself—take a break from work, social media and news updates, turn off the television and get out of your head. Call a friend. Read a new book or an old favorite. Do an upcycle project. Spend quality time with your cohabitants and/or pets. Get some fresh air if possible. Do some gardening or bayscaping. Take your dog for a walk and clean up after your pet. Do daily checks around the yard to keep it free of pet waste. Remove invasive plants from your yard. Pick up litter on your block following proper guidelines to protect yourself and others. Take a deep breath…or 50. Take good care of yourself and your loved ones. And most importantly, stay well.

by Emily Small, Department of Public Works

Photo of healthy groceries in a bag

The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in many ways. As we all adjust to a new normal and learn to deal with the closure of many businesses we once relied on, there are important lessons we should learn from the pandemic. One important lesson many of us have learned is that we do not need as many “things” as we thought we did. This thought should stay with us as nonessential businesses begin to reopen so we do not return to the habit of buying more than we need.

Want vs. Need

Several months of closures and stay-at-home orders have prevented us from walking around shopping malls and taking trips to retail stores. Since our trips to the store generally have been for groceries and other essential needs, many of us have noticed the money we are saving. Cutting back on the number of trips we take to the store, by planning ahead, not only saves time and money but also discourages bad habits of buying more than we need.         

What you may not have realized about these new shopping habits is their positive effect on the environment. By decreasing the amount of unnecessary shopping we do, we reduce the need to make more products while making the most of what we already have. This reduces landfilling, the creation of greenhouse gases and the use of energy and natural resources. While we may miss the days when we could go to a store to simply browse and shop, we have learned a lot about what we truly need versus things we just want.

Wasting Less

Waste prevention is now more important than ever. The pandemic did not hit the “pause” button on climate change, and during a time when many people have lost their jobs and are experiencing financial uncertainty, it is important to find ways to waste less, to cut back on costs. One way to do this is by using things as long as possible and getting multiple uses out of one item. With many of us having spent a lot of time at home recently, some people have worked on “upcycling” projects. These are great opportunities to reduce and reuse materials you have lying around the house.

Being at home also allows for more time to clean out closets and downsize. Don’t forget to donate old clothing or household items that could be used by someone else. The County’s Reuse Directory is a great resource for finding organizations that will accept all different types of items and materials. Contact the organization before dropping off any items to make sure they currently are accepting donations. Other ways you can waste less include:

  • When shopping (online or otherwise), look for quality products that will last a long time, and always try to repair instead of replace.

  • Try to buy products with minimal packaging.

  • Save paper by using both sides for printing or taking notes.

  • Reduce “junk mail” by opting out of marketing mailing lists.

  • Reuse items like glass jars for food storage or other projects.

  • Compost yard materials at home.

Food Waste

In normal circumstances, it’s easy to waste food. In fact, about 30 to 40 percent of food goes to waste in the U.S., according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Now is a good time to be thinking about how each of us can cut back on food waste.

Since most of us have been trying to limit trips to the grocery store, we are using what is already in our pantry, refrigerators and freezers, eating leftovers and not letting things go to waste. Maintain these habits of reducing food waste after the pandemic is over. Remember the following tips to reduce food waste, even when life returns to normal:

  • Organize items based on expiration dates; put the items that expire first in the front of the pantry or fridge.

  • Eat leftovers. Before making a new meal, do your best to eat what you have left over from the day before.

  • Freeze leftover food to make it last longer.

  • Do not panic buy. Many people started doing this when stay-at-home orders began. Panic buying leads people to buy more than they can consume, and food ends up going bad before you can eat it all.

  • Plan your meals in advance. To save money and time, try to plan meals for the week before you shop.

  • Read more about food waste on the County’s blog.

Recycling        

Photo of plastic bottles in a box to be recycled

The recycling sector has been deemed essential and has continued its work through the pandemic, though it has been affected by the uncertain business climate. Businesses who normally buy recycled commodities may not have been buying regularly the past few months. This has demonstrated the importance of establishing strong markets for recycled materials. The emphasis on the need for stable markets calls on us to expand market development and “buy recycled” efforts.

Along with market effects, there have been significant effects on material recovery facilities (MRFs) across the nation. Concerns over spreading the virus have caused some facilities to temporarily close. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it is likely that other employees have been exposed, due to the nature of the work. In the event that a MRF has to be closed, recyclables cannot be processed and sold.          

While communities face decisions about what to do with changing budgets, some have made cuts in their recycling programs. According to Resource Recycling, East Peoria is an example of a city that cut curbside recycling due to financial constraints from the pandemic. As other communities around the country are facing similar issues, it is important that we recognize and be thankful for the important work done by haulers who continue to collect trash and recyclables during the crisis. You also can show your appreciation by closely following trash and recycling guidelines, which can be found on the County’s website. 

Remember to recycle hand sanitizer bottles and all other plastic bottles (after removing any pumps). Recycle jugs, cartons, cardboard, dry goods packaging, steel and aluminum cans, newspapers, magazines and junk mail. If you find yourself shopping online more often, reuse and/or recycle your shipping boxes and materials.          

The pandemic has changed our world, most likely forever. Learn from the pandemic to reduce your purchases and your waste. Remember the importance of markets for recyclables and buy products made from recycled material. Finally, recognize the unsung heroes who collect our trash and recyclables each week, even in a global pandemic.

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