Earth Day is like our Super Bowl'
Companies mark day with range of activities
To commemorate the annual Earth Day today, some Maryland businesses are going to greater lengths than others.
Solar Energy World is installing solar panels on the 15,000-square-foot headquarters the Elkridge solar systems provider and installer purchased in December. The 34-employee business also is launching a new group, Clean Energy Coalition Mid-Atlantic, to advocate on environmental issues.
Dry cleaning chain Crest Cleaners, which has five sites in Montgomery County, is unveiling a cleaning system that uses pure liquid silicone, rather than a petroleum-based solvent.
Bethesda beverage company Honest Tea is co-sponsoring a video rap contest this month after releasing its own video. That one featured CEO Seth Goldman speaking about the benefits of organic foods and living sustainably with lines such as, "Middle age guys rappin', what could be sadder? I'll tell you, Holmes, what you put in your bladder!"
"Earth Day is like our Super Bowl," said Goldman, who was in a rap group at Harvard University called the Educated Devastators. "We're doing all kinds of promotions, new product launches and all kinds of other things."
Besides the video contest sponsored with New Hampshire yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm, Honest Tea is partnering with the National Forest Foundation in a program to plant 50,000 trees nationwide in areas affected by damaging wildfires and other disasters. Through April 30, customers who purchase four or more bottles of Honest Tea can receive a reusable shopping bag with a code that allows them to go online and choose which area of the country they want the foundation and volunteers to plant the tree.
Goldman, co-founder of Bethesda Green, a nonprofit that promotes green practices and sustainable economic growth, has inspired business owners and others in Silver Spring to work on forming a similar group, Silver Spring Green. Bethesda Green includes a green business incubator with a dozen small companies.
Many hotels with Marriott International of Bethesda are sponsoring special programs and events this week. The TownePlace Suites Baltimore BWI in Linthicum Heights is matching guests' contributions to Marriott's rainforest preservation program through Saturday.
Silver Spring hotel franchiser Choice Hotels International has "significantly" increased the number of hotels in its Room to Be Green energy and water savings program, which began in 2009, to more than 1,300, executives said this week. The company's foundation also donated enough to nonprofit American Forests to allow for the planting of 1,600 trees, one for each of the company's full-time domestic employees.
Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport will have eight electric-vehicle charging stations installed today as part of the state's Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program, which plans 65 charging stations throughout Maryland by June.
Programs that certify businesses as green are reporting more participants. Montgomery County, which started its green business certification program a little more than a year ago with 11 companies or organizations, is up to 28.
Such actions by companies are great to see, although the growth of certification programs can lead to consumer confusion about what being certified really means, said Roger Telschow, president and founder of Ecoprint. The Silver Spring printing company, which dates to 1977, adopted environmentally friendly practices long before the corporate trend, including using more environmentally sensitive ink and chemicals.
Like many printers, Ecoprint is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for its paper products but resists widely publicizing that because it can be misleading, Telschow said. "It's a good program, but if a company is going to use this to say, We're green,' it can be misleading," he said. The council "doesn't look at other practices, such as where a business' trash goes."
At Ecoprint, Earth Day is more like any other day, Telschow said.
"It's more of a year-round thing for us," he said.
BGE only Maryland
company to win
Energy Star award
Maryland companies were shut out last year from winning an award from the federal government's Energy Star program. But not this year.
Last week, Baltimore Gas and Electric, a utility subsidiary of Constellation Energy Group of Baltimore, was named an Energy Star Partner of the Year for partnering with contractors, retailers, customers and others to use more efficient appliances and products.
Customers deserve much of the credit for taking advantage of rebates and other incentives on equipment to help cut energy use, Mark D. Case, senior vice president of strategy and regulatory affairs for BGE, said in a statement. "The success of this program is absolutely dependent upon customer participation," he said.
Advocates often highlight savings for their products. For the panels on its headquarters, Solar Energy World executives estimated it will receive about $150,000 in tax incentives, rebates and grants, and save $5,800 annually on utility costs. Solar Energy's installations include a state-of-the art solar water heating system on the roof of Congregation B'Nai Tzedek in Potomac.
Another solar company, Standard Solar of Rockville, is installing more than 2,600 solar panels on a University of Maryland, College Park, building this summer, which executives say will make it among the largest rooftop solar power systems in the state. Standard Solar was ranked 73rd in Inc. magazine's list of the fastest-growing privately held U.S. companies in 2010, with 2009 revenues of $13.6 million. That was up 3,274 percent from about $402,000 in 2006.
Programs that certify or rate businesses as green include:
Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program, Rockville, mcgreenbiz.org
Maryland Residential Green Building Council, Baltimore, www.homebuilders.org/page/marylandresidential
Green Building Institute, Jessup, www.greenbuildinginstitute.org
Sustainable Business Network of Washington, www.sbnow.org
U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C., www.usgbc.org
Green Building Certification Institute, Washington, D.C., www.gbci.org
U.S. Department of Energy/ Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star, Washington, D.C., www.energystar.gov
Green Business Network, Green America, Washington, D.C., www.greenamericatoday.org/cabn
Green Business League, Plainfield, Ill., www.greenbusinessleague.com
American Consumer Council Green CTM Certification Program, San Diego, www.americanconsumercouncil.org/green
Green Restaurant Association, Boston, www.dinegreen.com
Programs or organizations that have a green business directory or similar services include:
Maryland Green Registry, Baltimore, www.mde.maryland.gov/MarylandGreen
Smart, Green and Growing, Annapolis, www.green.maryland.gov
Maryland Clean Energy Center, Rockville, mdcleanenergy.org
Bethesda Green, Bethesda, www.bethesdagreen.org
Chesapeake Sustainable Business Alliance, Baltimore, www.csballiance.org
Clean Energy Coalition Mid-Atlantic, Elkridge, www.getcleanenergynow.org