Lore Rosenthal, a principal leader behind the Greenbelt Climate Action Network, attended a meeting in Greenbelt, Maryland, on an energy purchasing cooperative more than a year ago. Also attending the meeting was Lore's neighbor, Sylvia Lewis, on the board of both the Greenbelt Community Foundation (GCF) and Greenbelt Homes, Inc. (GHI). The energy purchasing co-op spokesperson was offering electricity at a lower rate than that offered by PEPCO, our local utility.

Lore longed for a similar arrangement—a bulk electricity purchase but with wind energy. She spoke to Sylvia, who thought it was a good idea. Lore publicly stood up and challenged the presenter. He couldn't offer a clean electricity option. Lore asked if others might be interested in wind energy instead. There was a general sentiment that they would hold off with this energy purchasing co-op spokesperson and wait to see about a wind option.

Through a series of phone calls and e-mails, Lore was able to introduce the board and staff of GHI and the board of GCF to Clean Currents, an independent green energy solutions company providing residents and businesses in Washington D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware with affordable, renewable wind power through the electric grid. A few months later Clean Currents had worked out an arrangement with the Greenbelt organizations. It was modeled after the Clean Currents original energy cooperative in Catonsville, Maryland, where more than 300 people had signed up for wind energy. The Greenbelt arrangement became a "pilot" for Clean Currents' Green Neighborhood Challenge. Although Clean Currents wasn't able to offer a lower "bulk purchase" rate than what it offered individuals, the firm agreed to donate $15 for each new subscriber to the Greenbelt Community Foundation.

That's how Greenbelt became enrolled in the "Greener in Greenbelt" Green Neighborhood Challenge. The program is a cooperative effort among a group of nonprofit/not-for-profit organizations and a for-profit business:

  • Greenbelt Homes Inc., our local not-for-profit housing cooperative;
  • Greenbelt Climate Action Network (GCAN), the local chapter of The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN)—a grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.;
  • The Greenbelt Community Foundation, an advised fund within the Prince Georges Community Foundation, whose mission is to maintain, improve, and enrich the quality of life in the City of Greenbelt and is especially interested in new initiatives and specific projects that will enhance the cultural, artistic, recreational, social, or environmental vitality of Greenbelt.
  • Clean Currents, a firm providing renewable energy-generated electricity. Clean Currents has partnered with Washington Gas Energy Services, which in turn works with the local electricity utility. Customers typically notice little difference, other than the fact that their bill is a little thicker (showing that Clean Currents is being paid for their services) and the amount is a little lower. Customers continue to pay a single utility bill to their local electricity company, and their regular utility continues to supply the electricity and handle outages. Clean Currents also installs solar panels to generate electricity.

This "Greener in Greenbelt" Green Neighborhood Challenge program strives to get local Greenbelt residents (and non-Greenbelters who are interested as well) to sign up for Clean Currents wind-generated electricity for their residences. For each homeowner who signs up for wind-generated electricity and enters "Greener in Greenbelt" in the "How did you hear about us?" field on the online sign-up form, Clean Currents has agreed to make a donation to the Greenbelt Community Foundation.

Photo of four people holding a large check.

Caption: Clean Currents presents a check to Greener in Greenbelt. From left: Co-Chair of the Greenbelt Community Foundation Advisory Board: Emmett V. Jordan; Manager, Maintenance Operations, Greenbelt Homes Inc: Matt Barres; Co-Chair of the Greenbelt Community Foundation Advisory Board: Sylvia Lewis; City of Greenbelt Recycling Coordinator: Luisa Robles. Photo courtesy of Clean Currents.

The Greenbelt Green Neighborhood Challenge program is now in its second year. Last year 80 Greenbelt households enrolled and Clean Currents presented a check for $1,200 to the Greenbelt Community Foundation. CHEARS, the Chesapeake Education, Arts and Research Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the health of all who share the Chesapeake watershed environment, is using some of this funding from the Greenbelt Community Foundation to establish the Three Sisters Garden project, demonstration gardens being developed in three different Greenbelt neighborhoods. The Greenbelt City Council approved space on city property for the gardens.

The pilot Green Neighborhood Challenge has expanded considerably in less than 2 years, growing to more than 75 registered neighborhoods. Houses of worship and schools have now joined the Challenge.

If you live in one of the areas covered by Clean Currents, I challenge you to consider signing up, if you haven't already. Everywhere I've checked, rates seem to be lower than those offered by the local utility, so check it out. And by the way, when you sign up, don't forget to type in "Greener in Greenbelt" in the "How did you hear about us?" field. After all, you did hear about it from me, didn't you? At last count, Greenbelt had signed up a total of 110 households. But I've heard that some neighborhoods have edged ahead of Greenbelt. We can't let that happen, now, can we?

John Lippert is an employee of Energy Enterprise Solutions, a contractor for EERE. He assists with technical reviews of content on the Energy Savers Web site.