green business

Green Business Certification: Developer and caterer on common ground

Green Business Certification: Developer and caterer on common ground
A look at how two fundamentally different companies — Green Plate Catering, which specializes in vegan and vegetarian fare and uses sustainably produced local, seasonal and organic ingredients, and The Maven Group, a real estate and investment services firm that works to develop and redevelop contaminated or “stigmatized” properties – work to minimize their carbon footprint for the good of both the planet and their businesses.

This is the third of a three-part series (read part 1 and part 2 here).

When Green Plate Catering started as a brown bag vegetarian lunch service in 1983, the idea of sustainability wasn’t quite the same as it is today. Still, owner Kit Wood understood the importance of maintaining certain ideals.

“We liked to buy local and from farmers and producers who utilize sustainable practices and avoid using pesticides,” she said. “By supporting farmers in our communities that use those practices, it means fewer contaminants in the ground water.”

S.Schooler on Solar Panel Roof

S.Schooler on Solar Panel Roof

When The Maven Group began in 1995, Stuart Schooler, managing member, said environmental concerns were made a priority from the beginning. For example, they rerouted residential geothermal loops to avoid adversely effecting aquatic life in a nearby creek.

“These are the tradeoffs you run into in doing, and being committed to, renewable energy work,” Stuart said.


Walking (and Biking!) the Walk

At both organizations, carbon footprint reduction becomes a way of life for everyone associated with the companies – including how they work and how they get to work.

Butternut Squash Bisque that Green Plate Catering made and donated at a Shepherds Table Event

Butternut Squash Bisque that Green Plate Catering made and donated at a Shepherds Table Event

Most at Green Plate Catering live nearby and walk to work. They also carpool to events and have pow wows on how they can do things for the business that are better and greener.

In addition to regular employee training on things like composting, the company uses green cleaning products, separates all event recyclables from trash, and even reaches into garbage bins after events to claim things that are compostable or can be recycled.

In encouraging an environmentally friendly atmosphere, The Maven Group uses a comprehensive Employee Orientation Reference Manual that includes a big focus on sustainability.

For example, the company encourages its employees to use electric and hybrid vehicles. They also subsidize employee Metro SmarTrip passes and buy bicycles for employees who move closer to the office to enable them to peddle to work. Stuart often dons a bike helmet, too, leaving his plug-in hybrid car at home to bike the 5.5 miles to work whenever he can.


Sound Practices

To help eliminate as much waste as possible, Green Plate Catering uses actual silverware and real linen table cloths and napkins for events, and also offers reusable plates and glassware rentals to clients as an environmentally beneficial option.

Although it’s important for Green Plate to cater to its vegan and vegetarian clients, its menu has expanded over the years to include meat and poultry, and Kit has developed relationships with merchants who contract with area farms whose livestock and poultry eat a species-appropriate diet and live in pastured environments. They also consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guidelines to select seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean.

Focusing on environmental sustainability also means pursuing efficiencies. Seeking to find ways to use space that would otherwise go to waste, The Maven Group, with their affiliate Rockville Solar Group, decided on a very significant energy saving initiative. Originally intending to put a wind turbine on the site of its Rockville Ice Rink before discovering it was prohibited by land-use restrictions, they instead conceived the idea to install an 865,000 kWh photovoltaic solar panel energy system for the facility – the second-largest solar panel installation in the state.

Rockville Ice Arena

Rockville Ice Arena with solar panels

  Their embrace of sustainability includes a commitment not to cut down mature trees or build on wetlands when developing land.

“There’re enough industrial properties in need of redevelopment so there’s no need to be cutting down trees,” Stuart said.


The Benefits of Certification

“The certification process is thorough and can definitely help businesses looking to green their operations and reduce their environmental impact,” Stuart said.

Having been a Montgomery County Certified Green Business for about two years, Kit said she would encourage other businesses to get the process going because it’s worth the effort in order to begin a solid and sustainable path.

“Why are we here? It’s not just to make money,” she said. “It’s to benefit each other and to leave the earth in good or better shape.”

Article by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges

Be Green Hub incubator program accepting applications

Be Green Hub incubator program accepting applications
Are you or do you know an entrepreneur with a startup in the environment or food sectors? Help jumpstart your or their business by encouraging them to apply to Be Green Hub’s incubator today!
Be Green Hub, Bethesda Green‘s incubator program, grows green and social impact startups into successful companies with purpose. Be Green Hub is recruiting a select cohort of up to 10 scaleable, triple bottom line ventures for a six-month accelerator program beginning in January 2018.
New Bethesda Green Logo
Applications for the 2018 cohort are now live–don’t wait on applying.

Why Apply?

Since its inception in 2009, Be Green Hub has incubated over 40 companies working in environment and food, of which 80% remain in business. Members of Be Green Hub have access to the following perks and resources:
  • Progressive and flexible six-month curriculum
  • Partnerships with angel investor groups
  • Relevant test beds for pilots
  • Targeted mentorship from former entrepreneurs 
  • Monthly office hours with energy entrepreneur Jigar Shah
  • Professional services and software systems
  • Opportunities to apply for financial awards
  • Access to affordable office space in downtown Bethesda

Key Dates

Rolling review.  Application closes December 1st, 11PM EST Intensive accelerator program runs from January-June 2018, with opportunity to extend membership.
Questions? Email to connect with Tina Arreaza, Managing Director of Be Green Hub, BethesdaGreen

Green Business Certification: The right thing to do for business and society

Green Business Certification: The right thing to do for business and society
In the first of a three-part series featuring six Montgomery County Certified Green Businesses we’ll look at companies both big and small reducing their ecological footprint and examine how their efforts help not just Mother Earth, but their businesses as well.

  This article focuses on AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering firm with a global presence, and ecobeco, a 25-person County-based business specializing in residential energy efficiency, remodeling, new home construction, and indoor air quality improvement.

What could these two companies possibly have in common?

As it turns out, they are both seizing business opportunities associated with addressing environmental challenges. Their customers are demanding environmental services and their employees are demanding corporate environmental responsibility. Doing right by the environment, in other words, complements their business operations and strategic objectives.


Client Demand

For ecobeco, environmentalism is foundational to their business model. Their DNA is based on “whole home” people- and planet-friendly residential improvements. One of the energy efficiency services offered by ecobeco is the Quick Home Energy Checkup, helping residents reduce energy consumption. Their company provides clients with LED light bulbs, low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and advice on other energy-saving measures, all of which reduce power usage. In short, ecobeco’s business model is premised on helping residents do their part to protect the environment while also reducing their home energy bills. As environmental awareness increases, so does the company’s bottom line.

AECOM – a global network of experts working with clients, communities and colleagues to develop and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most complex challenges – have over 500 employees working in its Montgomery County office. Ranked as the #1 green design company in the United States by Engineering News-Record and with decades of experience designing and implementing clean water, renewable energy and environmental restoration projects, AECOM has seen a marked increase in demand for energy efficiency and sustainability services. “We don’t make trinkets – we solve our customers’ problems. Our customers are demanding  an increased focus on sustainability.” says Ida Namur, an AECOM manager focused on power, energy and sustainability in the DC Metro area.


Ernesto Rivera of ecobeco conducts a Quick Home Energy Checkup. Photo credit: ecobeco.

Internal Pull: Employees Expect More, Too

Offering environmental and energy efficient solutions to clients is one thing. But, both companies say that it’s essential to practice what they preach. Making their own businesses more sustainable is the right thing to do, but it’s also what their employees increasingly expect.

Studies indicate that aligning employee values with business operations enhances employee morale, productivity and retention. Millennials, who account for the largest percentage of the U.S. workforce, value purpose in their jobs. According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017, 86% believe the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance. In addition, employees empowered to positively impact their workplace and society show greater company loyalty.

Brian Toll, President of ecobeco, echoes these findings. His staff were the ones who sought Green Business Certification. “[They] realized we were close to meeting the requirements and someone else wanted to take it to the next level,” he says.

AECOM also recognized that Millennial employees expect companies to be more responsible to the environment and the community in which they are based.

“In order to attract the best talent, we have to respond to what they are asking us to do,” Namur says, adding that employee engagement around sustainability helps them stay true to their values. At AECOM, these initiatives are extensive and fun. They have an in-house committee that focuses on green office initiatives, such as a “mug shot” campaign to encourage workers to bring in weird or ugly mugs so fewer office paper cups are used and asking colleagues to bring in old home electronics for recycling.

One of their most successful initiatives was the Earth Day Scavenger Hunt that was put together for Earth Day to help illustrate how the company greens its day-to-day operations, so employees can see the sustainability projects the company uses for clients and in their building. The hunt featured a nine-station “to-find” list, filled with things employees see and experience every day but might not know are energy-saving measures – like bathroom low-flow faucets, recycled ceiling tiles, a scrap paper and ink cartridge recycling system and the building’s landscape irrigation system.


An AECOM employee participates in the scavenger hunt. Photo credit: AECOM.

  The office green team also wanted to engage AECOM employees so that they could shape and be active participants in the company’s sustainability efforts. Namur and her team surveyed employees around sustainability attitudes at work and elicited suggestions for improvement. The findings, which were shared with staff on Earth Day, set a baseline for future surveys and helped prioritize next steps and guide implementation teams. “The survey responses demonstrated our colleagues’ commitment to sustainability and also showed us where we have room for improvement,” Namur says.

“Our business is built on a foundational belief that we’re going in the right direction and helping the residents of the communities we serve do the same,” says ecobeco’s Marketing Director, Carol Schreitmueller. “There are thousands of County-located businesses that I believe would uncover significant hidden benefits from doing the work required to earn the Montgomery County Green Business Certification.”

Interested in learning more about the certification process? Visit , or contact Douglas Weisburger, at
Article by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges 

Improving Environmental Performance: Local Lessons from an International Standard

Improving Environmental Performance: Local Lessons from an International Standard
Fitzgerald Auto Malls, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated (CCBCC) Production Facility in Silver Spring, and Montgomery County Government’s Yard Trim Composting Facility were recently welcomed into the County’s Green Business Certification Program because of their certification to the ISO 14001 standard. They are understandably proud of meeting this voluntary international standard which is based on a process-oriented approach to reducing environmental impact known as an Environmental Management System (EMS). Each organization had their EMS certified by an independent third-party organization which performed a thorough on-site audit and verified conformity with the ISO standard. The standard is available to all sorts and sizes of organizations, regardless of their business type.

How does an EMS work?

There is little mystery, but a lot of work, in creating and maintaining an environmental management system. For these three County leaders, it entailed documenting all processes, breaking them down into sub-processes, and listing the negative environmental impacts of each. After prioritization, a detailed document was created that lays out the steps to systematically improve those processes.

Why would anyone embrace such a big undertaking?

Representatives from each of the three organizations indicated that the main reason for concentrating on environmental performance ultimately came back to customer and stakeholder demand. CCBCC is proud to be a leader in environmental stewardship. Whether through water conservation, reduced emissions, program activation or partnerships with environmental organizations – CCBCC is committed to the safeguarding of natural resources. Part of that commitment is represented by the Company’s conformance with ISO 14001 which, since 2015, encompasses the Silver Spring Production Facility.
Management Staff of Coca-Cola distributing free Coke products at a
Community Engagement Event at the Silver Spring Production Facility. 
In 2004 Jack Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Auto Malls, who has always followed the “lead by example” mantra, agreed to give it a try recognizing the sophistication and expectations of his customers, greater community, suppliers, employees and adjacent property owners. While he initially entered the process “kicking and screaming,” he now sets ambitious goals such as raising their recycling rate from an impressive 82.5% to an astounding 90%.
Senior members of Fitzgerald Auto Mall’s Green Team, including Founder Jack Fitzgerald (far left), in front of a banner celebrating their extraordinary recycling efforts.
Initially faced with community concerns about solid waste facilities in Dickerson, Montgomery County Government established a community group to advise the County on its solid waste facilities. They recommended an EMS for the Yard Trim Composting Facility. The EMS, begun in 2011, not only covers all operations occurring on the site but also transportation to and from the facility, an item of importance to the community.

Would you do it again?

Simply getting up and going with an EMS is a challenge. It takes organization, commitment, buy-in from senior leadership, and a lot of time to create one. Doubt, and a struggle to implement improvements, invariably characterize the effort. And while the EMS is so thoroughly developed it almost runs itself, maintaining the processes still requires time and vigilance. However, the proof is in the pudding. All three businesses have kept their management systems current and recertified multiple times. There have been numerous benefits. In their drive to reduce water use, the CCBCC Production Facility has realized synergistic benefits. Instead of chemicals, electrically charged water is used to clean floors and equipment. This eliminates the costly waste resulting from shipping chemical barrels on pallets and subsequent hazardous disposal of the barrels. Water contamination from the chemicals is also eliminated. In 2013, they replaced water-rinsers with air-rinsers that use ionized blasts of air to clean bottles before filling. In addition, because ISO 14001 is so comprehensive and focused on continuous improvement, it encourages the Company to implement long-term solutions. Replacing service doors with lighter and faster ones, Fitzgerald found that the doors paid for themselves after two years and the remaining energy savings can be reinvested in the business. With closing time reduced from 30 to 6 seconds, temperature swings are moderated and staff are more comfortable and productive. The Dickerson composting site is surrounded by fields of grass, which previously required mowing every summer to keep down on vermin. This was time-consuming and expensive. Now, they have a farmer from the community mow for hay, which he bales and removes for free. This solution is a win all around. This innovative thinking, unleashed by ISO 14001, is among its most compelling features. It essentially sparked a cultural shift among employees at the facility who are now empowered to think “outside the box” and suggest alternate solutions that often save time and money. Now staff jockey to present ideas and receive recognition.
A win-win situation at the Montgomery County Composting Facility in which a local farmer bales and removes hay for free, saving the County money from mowing and maintaining the fields while generating revenue for the farmer.

All the organizations expressed great satisfaction in their ISO 14001 certification. We thank them for sharing their experiences and leading the way for others to improve their business operations and profitability with environmental management systems.

Written by Julia Craighill, Founder, Ensight Consulting

Special thanks to:

Joseph Richardson, Brett Clarence, Rebecca Young and Bradley Faley at the Silver Spring Production facility of CCBCC; Jack Fitzgerald, Larry Branche, Travis Roberts and Doug Wolf at Fitzgerald Auto Mall; and Godfrey Ampadu and Marilu Enciso at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.

Monarch butterflies gain an ally as Bell Nursery brings milkweed to County residents

Monarch butterflies gain an ally as Bell Nursery brings milkweed to County residents
The monarch butterfly, with its striped orange-and-black wings, is an iconic symbol of nature. Monarchs are the most recognized, and beloved, butterfly because of their amazing annual migration and because they were once a familiar sight across the eastern U.S. Over the past few decades, monarch populations have declined significantly. A prime reason? A plant called milkweed is the only place where monarchs will lay their eggs, and it’s the only thing monarch caterpillars eat. But agriculture and development mean milkweed is disappearing at a massive rate, and the monarch is disappearing along with it—up to 90 percent of their population, some studies show. The good news is that we can all help monarchs by planting milkweed in our yards, green spaces and community gardens. And thanks to a collaboration between area businesses and civic leaders, getting milkweed will be easier than ever.
Butterfly garden display at Home Depot

Butterfly garden display at Home Depot


Working Together to Benefit Monarchs

Bell Nursery, a flower and plant company whose main greenhouses are based in Burtonsville, Montgomery County, is the mid-Atlantic region’s largest wholesale nursery grower, producing tens of millions of plants each year for The Home Depot. Now, Bell is adding milkweed to its roster, making them available for purchase to Home Depot customers across the region. It all started when Montgomery County resident Barbara Ashe realized what the monarch was up against. As executive vice president of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Ashe tapped into her local business network to see what could be done. “Like many residential gardeners, I purchase plants, not seeds, when planting my backyard garden. However, the milkweed was not stocked at my local Home Depot where I often shop for my spring plantings,” Ashe said. “So, I contacted Bell Nursery which provides plants to Home Depot stores and asked if they would consider growing them and making it available to customers to buy as a plant.” Bell Nursery is a company with a track record of forward-thinking environmental practices. Among these are keeping operations free of the neonicotinoids class of pesticides. “We’ve always worked hard to reduce the use of pesticides of our operation,” said Bell Nursery CEO Gary Mangum. “We’re one of the first in the nation to adopt integrated pest management.”  
MIlkweed plants at Home Depot

MIlkweed plants for sale at an area Home Depot

  More readily available milkweed plants can make an immediate impact for monarchs. “The good thing about milkweed is that the monarch butterfly is very effective at finding it, so even small patches matter,” Ashe said. “If it’s in a backyard or a schoolyard, individual people can make a difference.” That’s why efforts like this one, which could be expanded if successful, are critical, according to Dan Ashe, Barbara Ashe’s husband and the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We’ve become very good at weed control, particularly in the agricultural heartland and in urban and suburban environments, including here in Montgomery County,” Dan Ashe said. “Milkweed is a casualty of that, and without milkweed you cannot have the monarch butterfly. It’s important that we get people focused on that.”  
Dan Ashe and Barbara Ashe at Bell Nursery

Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and Barbara Ashe, Executive Vice President of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce,  at Bell Nursery

Get Started with Your Monarch Garden Today

Bell Nursey supplying milkweed to Home Depot means that County residents will have an easier time finding the plants needed to build a monarch friendly garden. Learn how to get started with your garden by downloading the Gardening for Monarchs guide (PDF).  

Bell Nursery: A Green Leader

The milkweed initiative is just the latest in a line of green innovations from Bell Nursery. “I’m always looking for ways to improve the sustainability of our operations in cost-neutral ways,” said Cole Mangum, Bell’s vice president of production. “There is a lot of opportunity to do that in the business world.”  
Gary Mangum, President and CEO, Bell Nursery, at one of the nurseries

Gary Mangum, President and CEO, Bell Nursery, at one of the nurseries

  For instance, everyone is familiar with the ubiquitous plastic pots, trays, and tags dotting the garden section of any home-improvement store. At local Home Depot locations, customers return those plastics to stores for recycling, courtesy of Bell. In 2015 alone, Bell recycled almost 750,000 pounds of material. Bell Nursery LogoOther sustainability initiatives include:
  • For the seventh time, Bell has received the Veriflora Sustainably Grown certification, which certifies environmental sustainability and agricultural product quality.
  • Two of Bell Nursery’s facilities, in Elkridge and Burtonsville, run on 100 percent wind power.
  • Bell employees volunteer in Baltimore, where they recently helped install community gardens and renovate a community center, among other things.

600 Milkweed Plants Donated to Local Businesses

Recently, Bell was recognized as Visionary of the Year by the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce at its Annual Dinner. Gary Mangum used the platform to raise awareness about the plight of the Monarch. But he did more than that – Bell donated 600 potted milkweed plants to guests and encouraged them to do their part. The gesture put a green exclamation point to the evening giving Mangum’s sustainability message some legs (or, as the case may be, wings)!  
State Senator Cheryl Kagan, District 17, with milkweed plants received at the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner

State Senator Cheryl Kagan, District 17, with milkweed plants received at the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner

  By Scott Harris. Scott is a freelance writer who lives in Montgomery County and covers the environment and other topics. He may be reached at   National Geographic video on monarchs:

For Rockville yoga studio, mindfulness means green

For Rockville yoga studio, mindfulness means green
To the uninitiated, yoga may seem like little more than a group of flexible people bending their limbs in time to dreamy music. But for the devoted, yoga is a full-fledged lifestyle. Fitness is a big part of the equation, but so is a concept called mindfulness. According to practitioners, mindfulness can help people become more environmentally conscious. Continue reading →

Do your food venues donate food? Look for the green sticker

Do your food venues donate food? Look for the green sticker
Have you ever wondered about what your favorite restaurant, farmer, grocer, or caterer does with their leftover food? Some donate it to those in need. Most send it to landfills. Food Recovery Certified (FRC) is the nation’s first and only food recovery certification that differentiates and recognizes food businesses that donate their surplus food from those that don’t. To date we’ve certified 53 food businesses in 20 states. We haven’t certified any businesses in Maryland yet, but we anticipate that will change very soon. We’re excited to partner with Community Food Rescue (CFR), our first countywide effort to certify businesses that donate food in Montgomery County. Through CFR’s new auto-matching Web app, powered by Peninsula Food Runners, it is easy for food businesses to find and donate food to hunger relief organizations. As an added incentive, Food Recovery Certified is offering the first 15 Montgomery County licensed food businesses a one year free certification—a $100 value!  

Voting with Your Wallet

How do you know if businesses donate their surplus food? Look for our co-branded, green window sticker of approval proudly displayed at food establishments. Let owners know that you’re supporting their business because they are doing their part to fight food waste. Tell businesses that don’t donate their extra food how they can get started through Community Food Rescue and Food Recovery Certified.
Food Recovery Certified

Community Food Rescue joins Food Recovery Certified to celebrate businesses that donate their unsold food. Look for this sticker.


Food Recovery is Good for Business

Food recovery efforts are on the rise and customers are increasingly interested in food businesses’ sustainability efforts. Craig Hetherington, Bon Appétit’s Executive Chef at TASTE says, “Our customers care about the community and the environment, and they want to know that we care, too. Bon Appétit cafes have increasingly been donating our surplus food to hungry people. Food Recovery Certified is helping us communicate this to our customers in a compelling way.”  
Business donating food

Business donating food

  Food recovery not only helps businesses connect with their community by feeding those in need, but most businesses can receive an enhanced tax deduction for donating their food, boosting their bottom line. Thanks to the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, all food donors are protected from liability. In fact, the Arkansas School of Law’s The Food Recovery Project reports there hasn’t been one lawsuit against a food donor. Donating food is also good for the environment. That’s why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly encourage food businesses to donate their food. The EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge highlights businesses that are pioneering in food recovery. If you know businesses that donate surplus food but aren’t recognized for their work fighting food waste and feeding people, tell them how they can be a pioneer in Montgomery County through Community Food Rescue and Food Recovery Certified. By guest blogger Cam Pascual, Food Recovery Network

The Green Business Program has expanded with new businesses and an updated website

The Green Business Program has expanded with new businesses and an updated website
Montgomery County is seeking to stimulate growth in the green economy with the announcement that it has broadened the standards for its Green Business Certification Program to include business sectors previously ineligible. They include restaurants, cleaning companies, hotels and home-based businesses.  The program has also updated its website to be more user friendly and responsive.  Continue reading →