Residents Supporting Sustainability

UPCOMING EVENTS:   On Friday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Encore Theater RSS will show the final episode of the  series called Our Planet II, which looks at the migrations of animals on land and in the sea and sky and at the impact human activity is having on those migrations.  This episode — entitled Deserts shows the conclusion of the forest elephants odyssey begun in the third episode as well as several other migrations in incredibly hostile conditions.  A discussion will follow.   


We are residents of Riderwood Village who cherish our earth home and are alarmed by the increasing degradation of the environment caused by human actions.  We yearn for our children and grandchildren to live in a world where a diversity of flora and fauna thrive and which copes successfully with climate change.  We believe that it is important for us to take responsibility in developing and supporting green initiatives at Riderwood and learning about and actively influencing the broader issues of sustainability of the earth.

This is a virtual group.  There are currently no regular meetings.  All are welcome to join.  Send your email address to Elaine Wunderlich (listed below) if you would like to be added to the group and be informed of upcoming events.  A Steering Committee decides what projects to pursue:

Steering Committee

Dave Ackerman, co-chair
Nancy Henningsen (liaison with Chesapeake Bay Foundation)
Anne Riley, co-chair
Elaine Wunderlich (membership/email list)

Contact information for members of the committee can be found in the Riderwood Resident Directory, available at the front desks or online at MyErickson.

What We Do

Since our founding in 2015 we have engaged in an extensive program of both education and advocacy. We have sponsored – often in cooperation with other organizations on campus such as the Unitarian Universalists, the Circle Fellowship, the Democratic Club, the Science and Technology Committee, and the Earth Day Committee — an array of films and programs that show the astonishing complexity and beauty of this planet as well as the daunting challenges facing our environment.  We helped form the joint resident and staff Riderwood Sustainability Committee to foster sustainability actions and policies here on campus.  We have entered into a partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and joined with them in numerous advocacy efforts in the state legislature.  We have participated in Riderwood Village’s Earth Day.

A detailed listing of our activities follows:

Movies, Documentaries, and Programs

  • Cowspiracy:  The Sustainability Secret — a groundbreaking feature length environmental documentary that follows an intrepid filmmaker as he uncovers the most destructive industries facing the planet today – the agricultural livestock and dairy industries – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations have in the past been too afraid to talk about it.  Many residents who saw the film were surprised to learn that eating meat and dairy was contributing much more to global warming than all of our carbon-based use of energy in the transportation sector.  In order to address this concern we worked with the Riderwood Dining Staff to identify and increase the number of vegetarian and vegan options.  This was our first undertaking after we formed in 2015.
  • Mass Extinction:  Life at the Brink— a Smithsonian film that documents the groundbreaking scientific detective work that has been done to discover the causes of past extinctions and raises the question of whether homo sapiens might be causing another mass extinction.
  • This Changes Everything — an unsettling but ultimately encouraging documentary about global warming and grassroots activism.
  • The Human Experiment a documentary about the effects of chemicals on our life.
  • Planet Ocean a documentary about living in harmony with the ocean ecosystem.
  • Before the Flood — another excellent documentary on global warming and climate change.
  • Chasing Ice — a National Geographic film documenting the shrinking of the glaciers on earth.
  • Groundswell Rising — a documentary about the effects of fracking.
  • BBC Planet Earth II (6 Episodes) — magnificent documentaries with extraordinary filming of the animals (and their habitats) that share the earth with us in six different venues.
  • An Inconvenient Sequel:  Truth to Power — the sequel to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth that highlights what has happened in the past ten years as we have begun to address climate change.
  • What the Health — a documentary that connects the food we eat with our health (and that influenced some people here at Riderwood to change their eating habits and eat only a plant-based diet).
  • Atomic Homefront — a documentary that looks at the effects of nuclear waste from atomic bombs on a community.
  • Reinventing Power:  America’s Renewable Energy Boom – a film by the Sierra Club underscoring that the nation does not have to sacrifice jobs for a clean environment.  (This program was co-sponsored with the Prince George’s Sierra Club Group, and Al Bartlett from the Club facilitated discussion of the film.) 
  • The New Fire – a film making the case for a new generation of nuclear plants.
  • A Plastic Ocean — a careful documentation of the effects of plastics on our oceans, sea life, and us.
  • Drawdown — a presentation by Lore Rosenthal and Robin Galbraith from Pachamama Alliance laying out a comprehensive plan to reverse global warming. 
  • State of the Bay — a program as part of our partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation reporting on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Joyce Tuten presented a program explaining the science of climate change from the perspective of a science teacher.
  • Our Planet a series produced by BBC on the wonders of our planet.  
  • A Conversation on Moving Maryland beyond Coal – a presentation by Matt Dernoga from the Maryland Sierra Club.
  • Paris to Pittsburgha documentary about how some localities responded to the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreements.
  • Racing Extinctiona sobering yet hopeful documentary highlighting the human role in the potential loss of half of the world’s species.
  • Eating Animalsa look at the food industry and factory farming.
  • Inalienable:  The Right Way to Meet Population Challenges on a Crowded Planet – a presentation by John Seager, President and CEO of Population Connection.

Beginning in March, 2020, Covid forced a relocation of the group’s programs and films from the Encore Theater to Channel 972; and this was eventually supplemented by post-presentation discussions on Zoom:

  • Update on Chesapeake Bay and Climate Legislation – a presentation by Doug Myers, Maryland Senior Scientist, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  
  • Seven Worlds – One Planeta seven-part documentary series by the BBC shown on Channel 972 (cosponsored with the Science and Technology Films Committee). 
  • The National Parks — en Burns’ six-episode PBS documentary on our national parks shown on Channel 972 (co-sponsored with the Science and Technology Films Committee).
  • Kiss the Ground:  Awakening People to the Possibilities of Regeneration — co-sponsored by the Science and Technology Films Committee, this was the first film that was followed by a Zoom discussion. 
  • Eating Up Eastera film showing the impact of development and tourism on Rapanui (Easter Island), which was followed by a Zoom discussion.
  • Gathera documentary that wonderfully weaves personal stories with archival footage contextualizing the continued violence against Native Americans, which was followed by a Zoom discussion.
  • My Octopus Teacher — a remarkable documentary about the development of a relationship between Craig Foster and an octopus, also followed by a Zoom discussion.  
  • David Attenborough:  A Life on Our Planeta moving valedictory by David Attenborough recounting how his life became intertwined with nature and the evolutionary history of life on Earth that both grieves the increasing loss of wild places and offers a vision for the future, followed by a discussion on Zoom.  

And starting in May, 2021, joyously back in Encore after a lengthy Covid hiatus:

  • Seaspiracya documentary made by the same folks who did Cowspiracy that documents the harm that humans do to marine species.  
  • Fantastic Fungia documentary that explores the world of fungi and offers a model for planetary survival.
  • The Game Changersa revolutionary documentary about meat, protein, strength, and sports.
  • Intelligent Treesa film by German forester Peter Wohlleben and scientist Suszanne Simard of the University of British Columbia documenting their ground-breaking research into how trees communicate with and even care for, one another.
  • Planet of the Humans — a documentary by environmentalist Jeff Gibbs and producer Michael Moore questioning whether renewable energy sources such as biomass energy, wind power, and solar energy are as clean and renewable as they claim to be and, more generally, whether any efforts short of population control and a dramatic change in our lifestyles can save us from the mounting consequences of climate change.
  • Anthropocene:  The Human Epoch — a moving cinematic meditation. four years in the making, on humanity’s massive re-engineering of the planet.
  • Born Wild:  The Next Generation  — a film produced by the National Geographic to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020.  It presents stories of hope and gives viewers a revealing look at the planet’s next generation of baby animals and their ecosystems and the daunting environmental challenges which they face.
  • Sea of ShadowsThis documentary film follows journalists, undercover investigators, environmentalists, and the Mexican military in desperate effort to save the Earth’s smallest whale – the Vaquita – from extinction and to bring an international crime syndicate involved in their depredation to justice.
  • Water’s Way:  Thinking Like a WatershedThis film journeys through the rivers and tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay to show the watershed as it was before colonization, the effects we humans have had on it, and how it could be if we learned to think like a watershed.
  • Breaking Boundaries:  The Science of Our Planet — This Netflix documentary examines the nine natural systems of our planet that have supported the development of civilization and the science that shows a number of these systems tipping into danger zones that will undermine life as we know it unless we take action now.
  • David and Greta in Conversation:  The Planetary Crisis — In this short film David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg converse about our planet’s environmental challenges and what can be done.  Special guest Dr. Janet Gingold, chair of the Prince George’s County chapter of the Sierra Club and member of the County’s Climate Action Plan, presented information on the plan and ways in which citizens can help persuade the County Council to adopt it.
  • Mass Extinction:  Life at the Brink — a Smithsonian film that looks at past mass extinctions and asks whether we are in the midst of another one.
  • Welcome to Earth  — a series of six short films by National Geographic that place actor Will Smith in a variety of settings including the interior of an active volcano, the Namibian desert, and a glacial river in Iceland that illuminate some of the earth’s secrets.  The segments are entitled Silent Roar, Descent into Darkness, Mind of the Swarm, Power of Scent, Speed of Life, and Beyond Fear.   
  • Petroleum: Chemistry, Retrieval, and Use and New Petroleum Directions — Drawn from the Great Courses series on The Science of Energy, these two films explore the variety of uses for oil, the means of extracting, transporting, and refining it, and some of the environmental consequences and challenges its widespread use has created.
  • Don’t Panic:  The Truth About Population — an engaging and optimistic film narrated by Swedish statistician Hans Rosling which combines an overview of trends in the world’s population (life expectancy, number of children per family, income distribution, etc.) with stories of how people are affected in different parts of the world and which contends that the challenge of an ever-increasing population is already solved.
  • The Power of Big Oil — a three-part Frontline series on how the oil industry abandoned its own research on the effect of fossil fuels on the global climate and, instead, sponsored massive efforts to forestall and undermine efforts to combat global warming, even as the science of climate change became more and more certain and its early consequences became a present reality.
  • Our Great National Parks — a five-part Netflix documentary narrated by Barrack Obama on the wonders of, and the challenges facing, the world’s national parks .  Part 1 shows the remarkable variety of national parks in Gabon, Madagascar, Japan, Costa Rica, Australia, Rwanda, and the U.S.  Part 2 focuses on Chilean Patagonia and efforts to re-wild parts of it.  Part 3 explores Tsavo National Park in Kenya and the challenges posed both by climate and human encroachment.  Part 4 shows an example of the extension of national parks into our oceans — the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  Part 5 examines the largest national park in Indonesia — Gunung Leuser Park on the island of Sumatra.  All have gorgeous photography and highlight the critical role national parks play in preserving biodiversity.
  • Earth Month 2023 featured four films on a variety of environmental concerns — The Story of Plastic, Fast Fashion, Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans, and Fantastic Fungi.
  • The documentary Food Chains examines the human cost of how we grow, harvest, and market our food and exposes the dominant role of supermarket chains in determining the working conditions of migrant laborers.
  • The documentary Arctic Sinkholes follows climate scientists as they explore whether a new phenomenon in the Arctic — massive sinkholes in Siberia and Alaska — is caused by an explosive release of methane due to the melting of the permafrost.
  • The film Surviving Paradise:  A Family Tale follows prides, packs, and herds of all kinds as the Okavango Delta in the Kalahari Desert transitions from a lush wetland to a place where water is scarce and where survival often depends on family.
  • The NOVA documentary Can We Cool the Planet? highlights several efforts to develop technology that can effectively remove greenhouse gases from our atmosphere.   These kinds of undertakings are likely to become an increasingly important part of efforts to limit global warming.
  • The Netflix series Our Planet II, narrated by David Attenborough, shows the sometimes incredible migrations animals make on land and in the sea and sky and the impact on these migrations of human activity.  The four episodes highlight the migrations of such creatures as cape buffalo, locusts, polar bears, penguins, pumas, red crabs, sooty shearwaters, and forest elephants.

Advocacy Efforts

  • During Fall, 2016, at the showing of Groundswell Rising, petitions were signed to support legislation in Maryland to permanently ban fracking.  Subsequently, Residents Supporting Sustainability joined the coalition Don’t Frack Maryland to support this legislation.  The advocacy was successful as Maryland became the first state with viable fracking opportunities to permanently ban fracking.
  • Whenever it has been possible, the group has participated in the Riderwood Village Earth Day. The Earth Day events give the whole Riderwood Community the opportunity to learn what is happening here at Riderwood in our sustainability efforts (like the huge savings in energy by the installation of LED lights) and to connect with the issues outside Riderwood Village.  Because of Covid, the 2020 and the 2021 Festivals were canceled.  
  • In September 2016, a campus-wide Riderwood Sustainability Committee was formed composed of six staff and six residents.  Gary Hibbs, Executive Director, and Jim Henkelman-Bahn were the co-chairs the first year.  Subsequently, the co-chairs have been Mickey Thaxton, Associate Executive Director, and Jim Henkelman-Bahn for 2017-18; Jason Spivey, the General Services Director, and Dick Dowd for 2018-19; and Chris Davis, Assistant General Services Director, and Bill Flank for 2019-20 and 2020-21.  Some of the key accomplishments have been the changeover to LED lights, the installation of electric car charging stations, the purchase of an electric car by Transportation, the shift in Dining to all recyclable containers (until COVID), the introduction of more vegan and vegetarian choices, and the introduction of a number of energy-saving projects.
  • In 2017 Riderwood Village entered into a partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  That has resulted not only in several educational presentations but also a number of advocacy efforts.
  • During the 2018 Maryland Legislative Session a busload of residents went to Annapolis to work for the passage of the legislative agenda of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (especially the improvement of the Forest Preservation Act). 
  • During 2019 a group of residents went to Annapolis to encourage passage of bills for two of the filters for the Bay – Forest Conservation on Land and Oyster Restoration in the Bay.
  • Fifteen residents went to Annapolis by bus in January 2020, to participate in the 2020 Environmental Legislative Summit.  Many of the bills were passed including funding for the efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Taking advantage of the relationship with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a number of residents of Riderwood visited its headquarter in Annapolis in August, 2022, to learn more about its programs and to see the world’s first certified LEED Platinum building.


Our hope is that giving heightened visibility to sustainability will encourage and support Riderwood Village in becoming a leading retirement community in the nation in sustainability and will lead all of us to become more knowledgeable and to take actions that will enable our children and grandchildren to have a wondrous and livable planet.