Gaithersburg: Partner in Energy
At DEP, we truly believe that our partners are key to making Montgomery County as green as it can be. This “Partners in Energy” series profiles a local leader, advocate, or trailblazer who is dedicated to improving energy efficiency and helping the county realize its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Find out more about them in their own words.
This installment highlights Dyan Elizabeth Backe, Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Gaithersburg.
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My Green Montgomery: When did you first become interested in energy and climate change?
Dyan Backe: My interest was first developed more broadly in the environment (before my interest more specifically in energy and climate change) … I grew up in both Florida and Maryland and spent portions of all of my summers on a lake in New Hampshire. As a child, I was incredibly lucky to be exposed to the natural world in Florida, the mountainous regions in Virginia, and New Hampshire.
My interest in working in an environmental field developed from an appreciation of the wonders found in the natural world.
MGM: What do you find most interesting about energy issues in Montgomery County?
BACKE: I find energy issues fascinating due to the rapid pace of change in the industry and the role of innovation. Our ability to problem-solve and find new solutions for energy efficiency is inspiring – and many of these developments occur quite literally in our backyard at places such as NIST and Goddard Space Flight Center.
One of Gaithersburg’s newest Environmental Affairs Committee members (Melissa Goodwin) works at the American Geophysical Union and she has already shared sustainable building practices that the AGU is incorporating into their net-zero energy redesign at the headquarters in DC.
MGM: Can you describe what you do in your role as Sustainability Coordinator?
BACKE: I work in the Office of the City Manager and coordinate with departments within the City on various sustainability initiatives, including energy, waste, and the tracking of greenhouse gas emissions. The City is a member of the Maryland Smart Energy Communities program and we are actively engaged in reducing our energy consumption at City facilities and in reducing the petroleum usage of the City fleet vehicles. During the upcoming year, one of the projects I will be working on is going to be exploring food waste collection and composting options for the City.
MGM: How does your day-to-day work impact the City of Gaithersburg?
BACKE: I endeavor to include the lens of sustainability to the work of the City. As one person, I can realistically work on a finite number of projects at any given moment; however, there are multiple partners both within and outside of the City workforce that inform and assist with my efforts.
Internally, I work closely with the City’s Facilities team, the Stormwater Division, and with our Environmental/Forestry Planner. Externally, some of my partners include Montgomery County DEP, the Maryland Energy Administration, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, the University of Maryland’s Environmental Finance Center, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
MGM: What has been your proudest moment in your position?
BACKE: I am most proud of the work that a team of us completed in updating the Environmental and Sustainability Element of the Master Plan in 2015. I am also proud for the City of our certification as a Sustainable Maryland Certified community.
MGM: What projects are you working on now that we should be watching?
BACKE: The City is very excited that we recently adopted Montgomery County’s benchmarking ordinance. This will enable us to encourage energy conservation on a broader scale – beyond the facilities owned by the City – and to make strides to reduce the greater community’s carbon footprint.
MGM: What’s your favorite way to save energy in your home or workplace?
BACKE: I am a big supporter of solar power, which I have at my home. I would love to add a geothermal system, but my lot is constrained…so that will have to wait.
MGM: Outside of your role, what other activities or interests do you have?
BACKE: I enjoy cooking, reading, traveling and being outdoors with my family. We like to visit Florida as often as we can and spend time on the water – fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and swimming.