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Helping the Earth and Having Fun

Visitors flock to Vienna’s sixth annual Green Expo.

Dennis Dineen with his electric-hybrid Chevy Volt.

Dennis Dineen with his electric-hybrid Chevy Volt. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

The Vienna Community Center recently hosted the sixth annual Green Expo, in which some three dozen, earth-friendly exhibitors showed those attending how to achieve a green lifestyle.

There were spiffy cars that use alternative fuel, plus people providing information about everything from water conservation to ways to protect the environment, how to recycle and even opportunities to go on eco-adventures.

Dennis Dineen showed visitors his 2011 Chevy Volt, which cost $28,000 after a $7,500 tax credit. He plugs it in at night to charge. “It goes 40 miles on an electric charge and then switches to gasoline,” he said. “But the car has no range limit. So far, I’ve gone 29,000 miles and only used 78.6 gallons of gas.”

He doesn’t have a garage, but that’s no problem because the car draws power from a standard, 110-volt outlet in the house. No special wiring or installation is required, and the charger comes with the car.

“Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline and, when I charge my car at night, I get a discounted electric rate,” said Dineen. “And it’s a powerful car – a sport sedan similar in ride and handling to a BMW or Audi. It’s a fun car to drive.”

Also there was Diego Paldao who brought his $68,000 Tesla, all-electric car. “Depending on how fast you drive, how much weight’s in the car, if the air conditioning’s on and the road conditions, it can go 140 miles on a full battery charge,” he said.

ALL THE LIGHTS are LED and a computer screen by the steering wheel lets the driver control the doors, windows, lights, sunroof, air conditioning and heater with a touch of the fingertips. It also enables the driver to raise the car’s suspension to glide over potholes, adjust the steering, play regular or Internet 3G radio.

In addition, the screen will connect to a phone hot spot and aid in navigation and even functions as a rear camera. Describing himself as “environmentally conscious,” Paldao said he bought this vehicle so he could “get ahead of the curve technologically. I now drive slower because I want to drive more efficiently.”

Inside the community center, at the Fairfax County Park Authority’s table, ecologist Justin Roberson educated the public on some unwelcome plants in the local forests. “It’s for concerned citizens wanting to volunteer to remove invasive plants from the county’s parks,” he said.

Pleased to participate in the Green Expo, Roberson said it’s “a way to connect with the citizens. It’s a good outreach and education opportunity and allows us to explain why we do what we do and why it’s important to be good stewards of our natural area.”

Representing the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District was Lily Whitesell. She stood by a display showing ways people may get involved in environmental activities. She also presented information about the county’s watersheds, some upcoming rain-barrel workshops and how residents may build their own rain gardens. For more information, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd.

Vienna’s Irene Lane promoted her eco-adventure company, Greenloons. She organizes trips throughout the world that benefit communities socially, economically and environmentally. “People stay in locally owned accommodations that are energy-efficient and eat food that’s locally sourced,” she explained. “And activities are led by guides certified in some type of environmental science.”

For example, said Lane, “They’d teach people about wildlife conservation, the area’s environmental challenges and what people can do at home to help the environment. The adventures can include anything from kayaking, biking and hiking to cooking with locally-sourced ingredients.” For more information, go to www.greenloons.com.

Also participating in the event was Tim Fricker, owner of Bikes@Vienna on Church Street. He displayed folding, transportation and recumbent bicycles, and the Vienna Town/Business Liaison Committee selected him as the recipient of the first annual Vienna Green Business Recognition Award.

THE HONOR acknowledges local businesses and nonprofits that have adopted sustainable and environmentally friendly business practices. Mayor Laurie DiRocco and the committee members presented Fricker with the award during the Green Expo.

Happy with the recognition, he detailed some of the ways his business supports the environment. “We recycle used bikes and give them to Bikes for the World which then distributes them to people in developing countries,” he said. “We also give bikes to a local group, the Committee for Helping Others, that collects bicycles for needy children at Christmas.”

“In addition, we recycle all our scrap metal when we do bike repairs,” continued Fricker. “And we help maintain the W&OD trail and work with the town’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.”