sustainability

Two years of the Residential Energy Program!

Two years of the Residential Energy Program!
Energy Infographic - 2 Year of the County Residential Energy Program  

Watt’s Up with Montgomery County’s Residential Energy Program?

In 2016, the Residential Energy Program launched. After 2 years, it is well on its way to energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions!
  • 14,237 residents engaged
  • 229 events, including:
    • 25+ congregations
    • 21 libraries
    • 16 senior centers
    • 4 regional service centers
    • 10+ schools
    • 10 MANNA food distribution sites
  • 4,583 CFL + incandescent light bulbs collected + recycled = >$16,557 in energy savings for County residents
  • Quick Home Energy Checkups are energy audits offered through your utility. They are at no additional cost to you!
    • 472 County referrals for QHECs led to 135,700 kilowatt hours saved which equals the CO2 emissions of 10.9 homes for 1 year!
With more to come!

Saving energy and taxpayer dollars through continuous improvement of County operations

Saving energy and taxpayer dollars through continuous improvement of County operations
Montgomery County’s Department of General Services (DGS) often works behind the scenes to ensure that the County is operating efficiently, both in terms of cost and utilities, through innovative programs and processes.

Improving performance through continuous improvement


In 2018, DGS launched their Continuous Energy Improvement Program. This Program is exactly what it sounds like – an ongoing system of monitoring and adjusting County facilities to improve energy efficiency.

The program works by a combination of detailed review of energy and water data, and in-person walk throughs of the facilities. Energy data is collected every 15 minutes electronically, then processed using powerful analytical tools available through EnergyCAP utility bill management software. The in-person site visits known as “Energy Sweeps” collect more detailed information on savings from HVAC equipment, lighting, and operations. In each facility, the Energy Sweeps process includes:

  1. Inventory existing HVAC equipment, lighting fixtures and bulbs, and water fixtures to understand where energy and water are being used.
  2. Speak with Facilities Management staff and building occupants to fully understand the building’s day-to-day operations and any outstanding issues.
  3. Make general observations that can lead to energy-saving opportunities, such as unnecessary lighting during daytime hours or malfunctioning equipment.
  4. Use the information gathered to determine appropriate energy and water conservation measures to implement.
  5. Repeating the Energy Sweeps process at the same facility at regular intervals (e.g., once every year) or more frequently if the building is performing poorly.


 
Evaluating Energy Data

DGS staff evaluating building energy data



 

Ambitious Energy Sweeps already seeing savings


The continuous energy improvement program is an ongoing system of identifying ways to save on energy usage throughout Montgomery County’s 430 facilities. Odohi Ettah, Energy Engineer in DGS’ Office of Energy and Sustainability, explains that “County staff conduct detailed audits of the highest-priority facilities and make recommendations for no-cost, low-cost, and capital-intensive energy and water saving opportunities that can yield $12,000-$50,000 in annual savings per facility, while also helping the County meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Projects are currently being scheduled for implementation.”
Silver Spring Civic Building

Silver Spring Civic Building



As of March 2018, program staff have completed Energy Sweeps audits at nine facilities. The County expects to conduct Energy Sweeps audits on 20 facilities in 2018, identifying potential annual savings of as much as $1 million. Cost-savings realized from many of these projects can be reinvested in additional energy saving improvements, multiplying the benefits to the community.

There is such a wide variety of buildings under inspection, ranging from libraries to recreation centers that it’s hard to know where what to look for in each case. A large emphasis of the program is on no- or low-cost opportunities to save energy to get the largest return on investment. For example, after doing a building inspection of a library, DGS discovered that an escalator was running unnecessarily outside of library operating hours. After making the adjustment to running only when the library is open, the escalator helps save on energy use thus energy costs, while extending the lifetime of the escalator due to less use.

Additionally, the older and less efficient buildings usually have a higher priority than the newer, LEED certified facilities. DGS is focusing their attention on underperforming facilities that can realize big energy savings – with 12% of Montgomery County’s 430 facilities accounting for 80% of the County’s total utility costs, there are big opportunities for the Energy Sweeps program.

“The first project reduced water and energy use, though simple faucet aerators and fixture replacement, by $15,000 annually in the Executive Office Building. The County plans to finish similar projects at two other large facilities in about two months,” says Odohi Ettah. It is estimated that the two other facilities along with the first project will save a combined 1.4 million gallons annually, which equates to $26,000 saved.

The National Association of Counties recently recognized DGS’ Continuous Energy Improvement Program with a 2018 NACo Award for its innovation.

Furthering sustainability through green action

In addition to the operation of County facilities, behavior of the people in the building is equally as important. The County is launching a pilot “Green Team” program with Departments to engage building tenants to drive further reductions in energy and resource use through employee engagement. This pilot is in partnership with the County’s Live Well employee wellness program.

Leah Miller, former Sustainability Program Manager in DGS’ Office of Energy and Sustainability, notes that “Green Teams will enable employees to adopt environmentally friendly behaviors at work while learning about actions that can benefit them in their daily lives. DGS and DEP have pilot teams in place, and expects to roll the program out Countywide in the future.”

WorkGreen Logo

The County’s WorkGreen Logo



Some examples of environmentally friendly behaviors at work include packing a waste-free lunch, turning the lights off in rooms that are not being used, using public transit to get to work, and bringing in a compost bin for people to compost their organic waste.

It’s clear to see that sustainability is a concept that can be applied to almost everything in our daily lives – from our homes to our offices, and into our communities. DGS’ Energy Sweeps is one piece of the County’s efforts to reduce energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save taxpayer dollars. Paired with the Green Teams, these processes for County operations will help our buildings and the occupants in them deliver services to residents in a more sustainable way.

Article by Jon Shay, Intern, Montgomery County DEP

Buying green electricity for your home

Buying green electricity for your home
An important way to combat global warming is to switch our electricity supply to “green” electricity (generated from wind- and solar-powered sources, both of which do not emit carbon dioxide).

Electricity generation is the single largest source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.  Electricity sold by Pepco in Maryland in 2017 was generated mostly by coal (32.2%), natural gas (26.7%), and nuclear (35.9%) – with only 2.8% from wind and solar.

Scientists tell us we need to switch to clean electricity without delay.  By buying electricity from wind and solar power, and/or by supporting community solar power projects, you are helping support the stronger U.S. green electricity industry essential for that transition.

 

How to buy green electricity without installing solar panels


The following information is focused on helping residents of Montgomery County, who cannot install (or prefer not to install) rooftop solar, buy green electricity.  You can make the switch to green energy by:

  • purchasing electricity with renewable energy certificates from wind and solar facilities; OR
  • supporting the development of solar power in Maryland by being part of a community solar project.


 

Option 1: Green-e Certified Suppliers of Renewable Electricity

Many suppliers offer green electricity for purchase by Montgomery County residents, but their offerings can be difficult to compare – due to differing terms, conditions, and other relevant considerations.

Green-e is the trusted global leader in clean energy certification. They make it easy for businesses and individuals to purchase verified clean energy with confidence, and for consumers to choose sustainable products and services. Green-e advocates for the advancement of clean energy policy, markets, and technology, and believes in their economic and environmental benefits. Here are the companies whom have been certified as of August 2018:

 
Supplier, Product Name, Renewable Content, and Web Address Price Considerations
CleanChoice Energy Clean 12 Month Rate Lock (99% Wind + 1% Solar) 11.60 cents/kWh CleanChoice is a local firm, a B Corporation, and is certified by the Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program.  12-month contract, but you can cancel at any time, for any reason, without paying any penalty.  BBB rating = A+
AEP Energy ECO-Advantage 100% Renewable Fixed Price Offer (100% Wind) 7.99 cents/kWh AEP is a large multistate utility. 36-month contract, but you can cancel at any time, for any reason, without paying any penalty.  Only available for Pepco customers, not BG&E or Potomac Edison customers.  No MC-FACS member experience with this supplier and there are customer complaints about AEP’s Ohio affiliate on Yelp.  BBB rating = A+
WGL Energy Services 100% National Wind Power(100% Wind)   8.50 cents/kWh (12-month) 8.30 cents/kWh (24-month) IFPL’s agent, Groundswell a local renewable energy non-profit has a supply agreement with WGL Energy Services, an affiliate of Washington Gas Light. 12-month or 24-month contracts; WGL Energy’s penalty for early cancellation is $10 for each month remaining on the contract (so potentially a larger penalty for 24-month contracts).  BBB Rating = A+

What to consider in buying green electricity


Under Maryland law, you can choose a supplier for your electricity other than Pepco, BG&E, or Potomac Edison.   Your monthly electric bill will then have two parts – a smaller continuing payment to Pepco/BG&E/Potomac Edison (as the distributor) to maintain the electric wires in your neighborhood, and a payment for your “electric supply” that goes to the supplier you choose.

The process of signing up for a supplier is done online and is simple – you will need to consult a copy of your electrical bill to provide your current utility account number as part of the sign-up process.

The cost of green electricity is slightly higher than what Pepco/BG&E/Potomac Edison will charge for the “electric supply” part of your bill.  For that reason, it is important to know that the green electricity you are paying extra for is really “green.”

The EPA recommends buying green electricity from suppliers that have undergone third-party validation – in the United States, the non-profit organization that provides that independent check is Green-e.

 

Signing up


When you sign up for a green electricity option, you will sign a fixed-price contract for a specific term (typically between 1 and 3 years).  Some suppliers make you pay a penalty if you want to switch to another source of electricity before the contract term is up.  If you want the flexibility to switch based on finding a better price, then you may want to pay attention to termination fees and consider a supplier that allows easy cancellation.

There are other differences among the types of suppliers in the marketplace that may be important to you.  Some suppliers of green electricity are large multi-state utilities.  They may have lower prices for green electricity.

Others are smaller, more local firms that are explicitly organized to operate on socially responsible business principles or that have been certified for environmentally responsible business practices.  Their prices may be higher, but if you want your electricity purchase to encourage more Triple Bottom Line business (Economic, Social and Environmental), then look out for green business or B Corp logos.

If you live in Takoma Park, the City of Takoma Park has a program for purchasing green electricity for its residents that offers low rates and good environmental value.  Visit the program website.

The end of your contract


Shortly before the end of your contract, your green electricity supplier must inform you of your options, going forward:
  1. If you do nothing, some suppliers will automatically renew you for another fixed term at a different fixed rate that may be higher.
  2. They might put you on a variable rate that changes from month to month, which will likely also be higher.
  3. Others may return you to Pepco/BG&E/Potomac Edison as your supplier.

It is important to pay attention to your options at the end of your contract term (be it 1 year from now or 3 years from now), so that you make a choice at that point that continues to provide you with the lowest cost.

   

Option 2: Supporting Community Solar Projects


A complementary strategy to the above is to support the development of solar generation facilities in Maryland through community solar projects.   Maryland’s demonstration program allows such facilities to be built once they have signed up customers equal to the plant’s capacity.

The first PEPCO region project, to be built on a brownfield site in Prince George’s County, is now soliciting subscribers (organized by Neighborhood Sun).

Subscribers receive credits on their electricity bills that will be 5% greater than what is paid PEPCO, resulting in an overall savings.  As a legal matter, you are not buying the solar power generated by the facility itself, but you are directly incentivizing such facilities in Maryland while saving money overall.  You may be able to combine this support with buying your personal renewable energy through one of the suppliers in Option 1.

  Community Solar Organizers:


This article was prepared in June 2018 by the Montgomery County Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions Working Group on Clean Electricity members are: Jon Foreman, Jack Lebowitz, Joelle Novey, Bob Simon, Stuart Simon, Doneby Smith, Gary Steinberg, Nancy Wallace, Walter Weiss, and Diane Wysowski.  Data current as of June 2018.

Yard care tips for the fall

Yard care tips for the fall
Fall is one of the best times to improve your lawn, trees, shrubs, and garden. The basic maintenance you do during this “second spring” will pay off in healthier growth and fewer problems next year.

 

Mulch Your Trees

Now is the time to add a layer of mulch around your trees. In the winter, mulch insulates the roots and provides nutrients. It helps the soil retain moisture, too. Even large and old trees benefit from adding a ring of mulch.

 
The mulch should not touch the base of the tree.

Mulch should not touch your tree.



  Apply mulch to a ring around the tree trunk. Remember the Rule of 3:
  • The mulch ring should extend 3 feet out from the trunk
  • The mulch should start 3 inches from the trunk so that no mulch touches the tree; and
  • The mulch should be 3 inches deep (but not more).

For a guide on how to apply mulch properly, visit mygreenmontgomery.org/mulch.

 

Start Organic Lawn Care

A beautiful lawn next spring starts with simple actions you can take this fall.

Learn from your soil. Whether it’s through weeds, or empty patches, the look of your lawn tells you about the health of the soil. The soil should be loose and teeming with life too small to see—if your lawn is suffering, start with aerating your lawn, adding compost, re-seeding, and leaving all your grass and leaf clippings as a source of nutrients.

Lawn Mower by Martin Cathrae, flickr

Sharpening your blades is good for your lawnmower and the grass. Leave grass clippings on your lawn to cycle nutrients. Photo by Martin Cathrae, flickr.



Replace your “weed and feed” chemicals with grass seed. Fall is the perfect time to restore bare patches of lawn with seed—do this every year to fill in your lawn, because a strong carpet of grass will keep weed seeds from germinating.

3 ways to prep your lawn for winter.
  1. Dethatch (remove thick mats of dead grass down at the ground level).
  2. Aerate the soil (add small holes) to allow water and nutrients to penetrate.
  3. Add compost.
Download our fall organic lawn care guide.
Visit our new organic lawn care website

 

Recycle Your Yard Trim

During the fall, your yard becomes covered with leaves. What should you do with these leaves and other types of yard trim?

Hands holding compost

Black gold



Compost It. Take leaves, grass clippings, and garden prunings, and recycle them into a nutrient-rich soil amendment, better known as “black gold” or compost.

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection provides compost bins at no additional charge to residents of the County.  Simply add leaves, grass clippings, and garden prunings into the compost bin, add water, and mix the materials periodically. Then, let nature do its thing.  Over time, microorganisms will feed on the organic material, leaving you with compost you can add to your soil.

Recycle Yard Trim Properly. If you receive Montgomery County-provided recycling collection service, and you don’t have the space to compost, place your yard trim out for weekly curbside recycling collection.  The County collects yard trim year-round. Place yard trim in paper yard trim bags, in reusable containers labeled with a yard trim sticker, or bundle with twine.  Please note, yard trim cannot be placed in plastic bags.

For more information about the County’s yard trim recycling program or where to get a compost bin, visit montgomerycountymd.gov/yardtrim or call 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311.

 
Image of Recycling bins and yard trim

Place yard trim out for pickup

 

Community Solar is now available for Marylanders

Community Solar is now available for Marylanders
Montgomery County residents finally have the chance to take part in the new Maryland community solar program and be part of the newest, most innovative solar industry development.

Community solar was initially authorized by legislation in 2015, and it took several years for projects to become available. It’s a great way for people to support new solar power generation without installing any equipment on their roofs.

How community solar works

Residents receive the same benefit as rooftop solar by subscribing to a large commercial project in the same utility area. Community solar brings the promise of solar to a much broader audience, meaning almost everyone can now be part of the solar revolution.

Community solar is available in many states across the U.S. There are several models for it, but the one most common here is the subscription model. This is where a resident (a renter or homeowner) subscribes to a nearby commercial-scale project, and gets a share of the project’s output each month. The subscribing companies typically create the share by matching the resident’s historical electricity usage. Each month, when the project produces power, Pepco puts credits on the resident’s bill to match their solar share. It’s like virtually spinning your meter backwards.

 

Current community solar projects

The Maryland program allows for only a small number of projects each year in the three-year pilot program. There are currently several active projects across the state, in BGE, Potomac Edison, Delmarva Power, and Pepco terrorities.

  • The Pepco project is called Panorama Solar and is located on an old landfill in Ft. Washington, in Prince George’s County. Anyone who is a Pepco customer can subscribe to it. The subscription is a five year deal, with a guaranteed 5% discount against Pepco’s all-in rates. The project is very large and can take about 800 subscribers.
  • For Montgomery County residents in the Potomac Edison territory, there’s the Rockdale Project, in Williamsport. It’s offering a 20 year deal, with a rate that is 17% below Potomac Edison’s all-in rate, and with a 1% annual price escalator. The project can take about 350 subscribers.


Community solar is not the same as retail electric choice. People who are in wind power contracts, or other deals with competitive electric suppliers, can also sign up for community solar. The projects in Maryland will only get built once there are enough subscribers to them. So people signing up can rest assured that they are directly bringing new local, clean energy to our state. This creates green jobs, local power production, and a cleaner environment for all of us.

By Gary Skulnik Gary is a county resident and founder of Neighborhood Sun, a Montgomery County certified green business focused on community solar. For information on how to participate in community solar, go to neighborhoodsun.solar or call 240-284-6245, or email hello@neighborhoodsun.solar

Our top tips for a green back-to-school season

Our top tips for a green back-to-school season
Summer is almost over, and that means one thing — the non-stop back to school ads with dancing kids and the message to shop, shop, shop for the school year.

If you’re like me, and trying to minimize your environmental footprint, this time of year can be very stressful. Did you know that the National Retail Federation estimates that “Total spending for K-12 schools and college combined is projected to reach $82.8 billion?” That’s a staggering amount of new stuff that could eventually wind up in a landfill one day.

It’s not too late to plan out how you can have a successful school year and minimize the green guilt.

Take Stock

Dig in the school supply bins and pull the boxes out of the closet. Determine which items can be repurposed and reused from previous years.

  • Does that backpack really need to be replaced??
  • Is that lunchbox still sturdy enough for the upcoming school year?
  • And don’t forget the electronics such as computers, graphing calculators, and printers (more on these later). Of course, they’re newer, sleeker and lighter options, but are those upgrades worth the price?

If your child wants to go back to school with new supplies, try a compromise. They get a new backpack, but must reuse the other supplies. Any of the old supplies should be donated.

Slay the Energy Vampires

Energy vampiresComputers, phone chargers, printers — literally any device that is switched off, but remains plugged in – operates on standby power and is costing you a lot of money!

Invest in a Smart Power Strip. At $20 to $30, it’s a bit costlier than an average power strip, but is worth it. The strip stops drawing electricity from appliances that are turned off, meaning you don’t have to remember to switch the strip on and off every time. In fact, using a smart power strip throughout the house will save energy and dollars in every room.

Have you signed up for a Quick Home Energy Checkup? If you haven’t already, they are a service provided by your energy utility company at no-additional cost to you. During a QHEC, an auditor will provide you smart power strips and other energy saving devices and suggestions. Contact your electricity utility provider to learn more.

pens and pencils

Write Smart

The days of throwaway pens and pencils are gone, replaced by eco-friendly pens, and recycled versions of both. Once you have greener options in hand, encourage your kids to keep each pencil until it wears down to the nitty-gritty, and to use each pen as long as possible.  With greener pens, you won’t feel bad whenever one “disappears” or falls between the seats of the car.

Don’t Sacrifice Your Fashion Sense

Kids grow like weeds, so buying new clothes from retail stores not only wastes a lot of money for very little value, but “fast fashion” also contributes greatly to both sweatshop labor and waste. According to Eileen Fisher, a clothing industry magnate, “the clothing industry is the second largest polluter—second only to oil!”

Recycle clothesOrganize a clothing swap with your neighbors or co-workers. If that’s not an option, consider purchasing clothes from consignment shops and thrift stores. A popular trend is upselling gently used clothing at stores like Plato’s Closet and Uptown Chesapeake and using the money to purchase new-to-your-child clothing. These stores specialize in teen and young adult clothing and accessories that are in good condition and trendy. TotSwap, Maryland’s leading children’s consignment shop, is holding a swap at the Fairgrounds on September 18, 19, 21 and 23.

For clothes you are buying new, wait until Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week. This year, the first $40 of a backpack or bookbag is also tax-free. Accessory items like school supplies, except backpacks, are not included. The Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week for this year is Sunday, August 12 – Saturday, August 18, 2018.

And of course, don’t forget your reusable bag when shopping for clothes!

Pack Waste-Free Lunches

Ditch the brown bag and opt for a washable, reusable container to pack your lunch. Invest in a PVC-free, thermally insulated lunch bag, one made from recycled materials like juice boxes or from organic cotton.

Keep lunches cool by freezing water in a reusable container and slipping it in the bag. Instead of using baggies and plastic wrap for sandwiches and snacks, use reusable plastic containers or an easy to clean Wrap-n-Mat.

I polled DEP colleagues and asked what steps they’ve taken to green school lunches. One colleague said she saves used cereal bags, cuts in half and uses it to wrap sandwiches. The Laptop Lunch box system is also a good choice for reusable lunches, and includes individuals containers and beverage holders. For other beverages, use metal bottles which come in kid-friendly sizes and designs.

Green the Commute

To help reduce air pollution—a major contributor to childhood asthma—investigate whether you live on or close to the school bus route.Even if your child stays late for chess club or soccer practice, most schools have an extended bus schedule to accommodate.

BusIf you live relatively close to the school, a “walkpool” is a great way to save gas, reduce emissions, while getting your steps in! Parents take turns chaperoning a group on foot (or bike) to and from school.

Finally, if walking, biking or the bus aren’t options, organize a carpool with your neighbors.

Textbooks are Expensive — Buy Used

TextbooksUsed textbooks are often available for half off or more in campus bookstores, and websites such as eCampus and Amazon Textbook Rentals also carry a broad selection of used titles. (You can search by ISBN, Author or Title.) Renting or buying used textbooks is an increasingly popular option that helps to reduce the number of books being created, which can save millions of trees.

According to a statement issued by the Environmental Paper Network, “If the U.S. reduced its paper consumption by 10 percent annually, we could save enough energy to power 228,000 homes, conserve 11 billion gallons of water, and prevent carbon emissions equivalent to removing 279,000 cars from the road! Choosing used textbooks can help.”

Start a Conversation

ConversationInclude your children in the conversation about why going green is good for them and the planet. They should feel like part of the decision making and not that going green is forced upon them. Hopefully, because of your thoughtful conversations with your kids, they will make greener, healthier choices when you aren’t there watching over them. It’s the first step towards them becoming a global citizen.

Hope these tips allow you to have a happy and green back-to-school season!


By Cindie Harrison, Program Manager at the Montgomery County, MD Department of Environmental Protection

MCDOT sponsors free PARK(ing) Day celebration

MCDOT sponsors free PARK(ing) Day celebration
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is encouraging artists, planners, businesses, organizations, groups, and individuals to participate in International PARK(ing) Day on September 21 by temporarily transforming a metered parking space in Silver Spring or Bethesda into a fun, parklike spot. Participants are encouraged to creatively reimagine the urban landscape for a day. See photos online from previous years that include a park with plants, mini-golf course, campfire site and games and interactive activities for kids and adults. There is no charge to participate in the event.

“PARK(ing) Day is a way to have fun, stimulate conversations about our transportation choices and support infrastructure that is more transit-oriented, bikeable and walkable,” said MCDOT Director Al Roshdieh. “This year, MCDOT is offering PARK(ing) Day applicants the opportunity to promote their services and provide free samples or giveaways at their ‘park.’ In addition, applicants can suggest a preferred parking space location if the spot they have in mind was not identified as an option on the online map.

PARK(ing) Day spots were chosen with safety in mind, but MCDOT will evaluate other location suggestions. The use of parking spaces will be allowed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., including set up and tear down.

 
DEP's Parking Day Display in 2017

DEP’s Parking Day Display in 2017



  Those interested in taking part in PARK(ing) Day can get more information and apply online or by mail. Participants are required to meet certain guidelines that are spelled out in the application. Guidelines for businesses have been relaxed to allow more promotional activities.

Get inspiration and see what others have done on past PARK(ing) Days online.

Join DEP at the 2018 County Fair!

Join DEP at the 2018 County Fair!
We love the County Fair! From the animals to the rides and carnival games, it’s one of our favorite times of year. (And don’t get us started on the food.)

But the main reason the Department of Environmental Protection loves the County Fair is that it gives us the opportunity to engage and talk with thousands of County residents over the course of a single week! We get to hear from you, exchange ideas and share what programs we have available for you.

 

Fun at the Fair

The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair offers a great opportunity to have fun and learn. This year, the Fair is August 10th-18th. Where else can you see pig races, Chainsaw Carver demonstrations, learn all about bees, buy award winning bake goods, and visit educational booths?  As a bonus you can visit us!

 
Image of geese dressed up at the County Fair

Even geese dress up and come out to enjoy the Agricultural Fair.



 

The DEP Tent

This year, DEP will have one tent with all the information about our Department under the same roof – learn about recycling, energy, your watershed, trees, and composting in one spot!

  • Pick up a compost bin
  • Ask a recycling question  (or answer one for a prize!)
  • Learn how we clean our waters with rain gardens and bioretentions
  • Spin the “green” wheel for prizes
  • Discover our RainScapes, Tree Montgomery, and energy programs
  • Learn about litter prevention
  • Pick up resources and informational tools
 
Image of kids participating in the DEP trivia game.

Test your knowledge by participating in our fun trivia game.



  The DEP booth is located next to the Chilly Mall and the 4-H Building.

Overall, we are very excited to be gearing up to participate and look forward to seeing you there!

Visit www.mcagfair.com for the latest schedule, maps and all the details of Fair activities.  

Sustainability is not an “add-on” at CNSI

Sustainability is not an “add-on” at CNSI
For CNSI, a Rockville-based health information technology company, environmental sustainability is central to its corporate culture and work ethic. Importantly, their Green Business Certification is not viewed as a distinct add-on to the company’s strategic objectives.

Rather, their environmental efforts are rooted in an integrated corporate social responsibility (CSR) framework which focuses on doing the right thing in all aspects of business. Hence, their environmental initiatives flow naturally from this over-arching framework.

iCare and The Five Pillars

To better define their objectives, CNSI created their iCare program in 2015, which consists of five pillars: People, Environment, Governance & Ethics, Philanthropy & Volunteerism, and Innovation. The company’s overarching CSR motto is,“Think Globally, Act Locally.”

CSNI

The governance of iCare was structured to ensure that its objectives are woven throughout the fabric of CNSI’s business. Leaders from each business unit, which include Human Resources, Information Technology & Security, Ethics and Corporate Compliances, Facilities, and Marketing Communications, create annual CSR goals and tactical plans to achieve those goals. These goals and plans are then approved by the company’s board of directors and tracked throughout the year by the iCare Leadership Committee. To showcase the impact of the programs efforts, the company provides an annual CSR report (the 2016 report can be found on their website and the 2017 report will be released shortly).

The CSR committee is housed in the marketing department and as Jennifer Bahrami, Vice President of Marketing Communications, says, “None of our CSR work would be possible without having 100% buy-in from our leadership. Our efforts touch each part of the business and collaboration is vitally important.”

  iCare at CSNI

Think Globally, Act Locally

To act on their mantra, “Think Globally, Act Locally”, CNSI’s CSR consultant Mary Fehlig, of the Fehlig Group, another Montgomery County Certified Green Business, encouraged CNSI to consider certification. As they gathered data, they quickly discovered that they were already doing many of the suggested actions as a matter of course. Missie Aulls, CNSI’s Facility Manager and the company’s lead on the certification process, was pleased to discover that, “We are actually implementing a lot of green practices. We just did it because that’s the way we thought it needed to be done, not because we were seeking a particular certification.”

They also found the checklist provided a tangible and detailed roadmap to help the company communicate ways in which employees can “live green”, both in and outside of the office. It also allowed the Green Committee to engage with more departments and expand their sustainability efforts.

The Green Business Certification Program also helped CNSI to determine areas in which they could improve, and better ways to measure progress. Their goals for 2018 include the following:

  • Complete each phase of the Continuous Improvement Plan, which involves monitoring defined metrics
  • Expand awareness tactics for all employees including e-newsletter articles, in-house digital advertising, and in-person education events.
  • Institute a Fair Trade Certified and low-impact purchasing policy at all project sites.
  • Identify requirements and begin work on greening three office locations outside the county, utilizing the Green Business Certification framework.


Their main challenge was pulling all the information together from various departments. But now they possess real data on things like recycled and recyclable office supplies, coffee packets, etc., that provide tangible evidence they are making progress toward their goals and a positive impact on their local and global environment.

The certification has also helped them understand that their commitment to organizational stewardship comes alive when policies are put into practice.

  CSNI

 

Earth Day Becomes Earth Month

Since iCare began, Earth Day has been an important cornerstone to increase employee engagement and raise awareness of environmental issues. In the past, CNSI has distributed reusable mugs, bags, and garden seeds. They also make an annual contribution to the Arbor Day Foundation. Given that CNSI is an IT company, they place a great deal of emphasis on electronic recycling. Each year, they host an e-cycling event where employees can bring in used or broken electronics for proper recycling. To date, more than 2,500 pounds of electronic waste has been collected.

In 2018, Earth Day transformed into Earth Month. Throughout the month of April, the company hosted different sustainability activities. In addition to their annual e-cycling event, the company invited a representative from Waste Management who showed the process, goals, and tips for proper recycling.

The company also extended their seed giveaway by distributing more than 1,000 packets to all their US offices. Lastly, the CNSI office in Michigan teamed up with their local area food bank to weed, clean up, and plant fresh vegetables and fruit in their garden.

To highlight all these activities, the Marketing Communications department put out a e-newsletter at the beginning of the month, advertised events on the company’s intranet, and displayed weekly ads on the TV screens located on each floor. These promotional and educational materials are then used throughout the year to serve as friendly reminders of how to be environmentally conscience.

Sustainability Embedded

What is readily apparent is that CNSI’s sustainability efforts are not simply about checking the boxes. Their significant efforts are very much a part of their corporate culture and embedded in their long-term commitment to being a good corporate steward.

Article by Julia Craighill, Ensight Consulting