Maine’s Environmental Leader Certification Program

By Ramona du Houx

May 23rd, 2010 

Mr. Cook explains more about the DEP's Environmental Leader Certification Program
Mr.Peter Cook explains more about the DEP's Environmental Leader Certification Program with Gov. John Baldacci
The Environmental Leader Program is a voluntary initiative where the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) helps advise businesses on how to best achieve savings through energy efficiency and other environmental initiatives to become better stewards of the environment. Often the program works with Efficiency Maine.

“Seven different states are coping the program we have in Maine,” said Peter Cooke, coordinator of the Environmental Leader Program. “It’s important that businesses and individuals realize that going green is not a huge hurdle to overcome. We are here to help.”

Governor John E. Baldacci celebrated the program’s success and Earth Day with local businesses that are committed to implementing green practices, ranging from reducing waste, saving energy, buying local and using environmentally friendly cleaning products.

The celebrations took place at The Senator Inn & Spa, which is certified green in the hospitality and restaurant categories. Several other participating certified green businesses were on hand.

“We were the first certified Environmental Leader certified hospitality establishment in Maine. The program was kicked off at our business in 2005, I’m proud to say,” said Scott Cowger, co-owner of the Maple Hill Farm Inn in Hallowell. “We made major long term investments in green energy. We’ve done a lot to create renewable energy from wind and solar power.”

Cowger’s bed and breakfast in Hallowell has an impressive array of solar electric and hot water panels, plus an active wind turbine. The Inn, whose original building was built in 1906, is set amid 130 acres of fields and woods. A 100 foot wind turbine sits on top of a knoll, and the conference center has 126 solar electric panels plus 202 solar hot water heating tubes on top of the roof. The Inn collects more than half of its power from these alternative green energy sources.

When Governor Baldacci was first elected he had the vision to promote and produce policies that are now helping Maine transition into a green energy economy while reducing individuals, businesses and the state’s dependency on foreign oil. This voluntary program was one of those policies.

According to the DEP, participating businesses in the program on average have saved over $10,537 per year in quantifiable electricity reductions.

“I saw the environmental stewardship competing against economic development so I tried to find ways to bring the two sides together,” said Governor Baldacci. “Today, we see clearly that we can promote a strong economy and have cleaner air and water. Energy efficiency is good for the environment and good for the bottom line. These businesses also benefit from being recognized by the tourism industry as being a certified green business. More and more, visitors appreciate businesses that implement green practices.”

Cowger has reduced his Inn’s oil consumption by about 20%.

“About 80 percent of our households and businesses depend on oil for heat. When I took office seven years ago, I was determined that Maine would break the grip that unstable energy prices hold on our economy,” said Baldacci. “Every year, billions of dollars are shipped to dangerous parts of the world instead of staying here at home where they can do the most good. Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce that dependency. This program helps businesses achieve energy efficiency goals.”

The program sets goals for businesses to achieve points.

“It’s a continual improvement program. Those of us in it are generally required to earn more points over time,” said Cowger, whose establishment has earned well over the hundred point standard. “I really like the challenge of working out what the next step will be. It’s great to have the program there supporting us in those choices.”

Every year Cowger makes environmental and energy improvements to his business.

“We’ve recently changed to green cleaning chemicals, which cost about the same as their traditional counterparts. It’s very important to us that our staff isn’t working with harsh chemicals,” said Cowger. “Guests who are allergic, and families with children benefit, as well as the environment. Our guest are very much appreciative and we’ve had more bookings because of this policy.”

The Inn also has installed lighting occupancy sensors in storage and work areas that turn off lights when there is no movement in these areas.

“These will really cut our electric costs,” said Cowger. “The next step for us will be to transfer to the new LED bulbs. Efficiency Maine just came out with incentives for LED lighting, and that’s huge. It’s just the boost we need to make the change.”

A new candelabra LED bulb was highlighted at the celebrations by Cooke who said, “The new LED candelabra bulb lasts 30,000 hours, while a conventional bulb only lasts 3,000 hours. And electricity bills are reduced dramatically.”

There are more than 100 certified lodging establishments, ranging from small bed and breakfasts to large hotels. In 2007, the DEP began to certify restaurants as green for their environmental stewardship and sustainable practices. To date, more than two dozen restaurants have been certified.

In April the DEP, with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, expanded its Environmental Leader program to grocery stores. The environmentally high-tech Hannaford at Cony Circle in Augusta was the first to be certified under this program.

“Maine leaders like Senator Muskie and Senator Mitchell led the way in ensuring that our country’s air and water are cleaner and our communities more livable,” said the Governor. “Maine continues to lead, whether it’s in pursuing renewable energy development, weatherizing homes, or working with the private sector to implement a combination of energy efficiency and environmentally sound practices. We can take great pride in the fact that governments, families and businesses here in Maine are working together to end dependency on fossil fuels, reducing carbon emissions, reducing use of toxic materials and recycling more every year.”

For more information about the Maine DEP’s programs visit:

http://www.maine.gov/dep/innovation/greencert/lodging.htm

http://www.maine.gov/dep/innovation/greencert/restaurant.htm

According to the Maine DEP, annual savings of participating businesses include:
• More than 18 million gallons of water
• More than 11 million kilowatts, yielding a cumulative $1.2 million dollars per year in energy cost savings, or more than $10,000 per business per year
• Nearly 8,000 metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions, the equivalent of taking more than 700 cars off the road
• More than 1 million pounds of solid waste by composting food waste
• More than 1.5 million pounds of solid waste through recycling programs, and
• Most of these businesses now use safer cleaning chemicals; this has resulted in the annual reduction of nearly 10,000 total pounds of cleaning chemicals, 1,600 of which are considered toxic or hazardous

Maine State government has been a model for energy efficiency efforts since 2003. Accomplishments include:
• Becoming the first state to purchase 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources
• Purchasing biodiesel to heat State buildings
• Creating a more fuel efficient State vehicle fleet, including purchase of 104 hybrids and reducing fuel use by 17 percent since 2002
• Using environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals and hand soap in State buildings, reducing the total amount of product used by thousands of pounds, including 900 pounds considered hazardous material
• Requiring green-certified computers and electronic equipment, reducing state energy usage by 917,000 kilowatt hours and eliminating 10,375 pounds of hazardous waste from the waste stream; and
• Purchasing paper with at least 30 percent post-consumer content, saving 1,830 tons of wood