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Governor LePage, DEP Commissioner Aho Announce Environmental Excellence Awardees

Governor LePage, DEP Commissioner Aho Announce Environmental Excellence Awardees
-Recipients include IDEXX, CLYNK, the George R. Roberts Company, Maine Energy Systems, the Washington County Council of Governments and the Environmental Living & Learning for Maine Students Project-

GORHAM – Governor Paul LePage honored six stewards of sustainability today with the first state-sponsored environmental achievement awards handed out in Maine since 2005.

The Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence, administered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), were presented by Governor LePage and Maine DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho in a ceremony Thursday at Jøtul North America’s headquarters in Gorham.

Recipients were recognized for voluntarily going beyond regulatory requirements to creatively and collaboratively initiate innovation that was both environmentally and economically sustainable.

More than 100 people –including senior staff from the Governor’s Office and Maine DEP, representatives of each of the winning organizations and many of the nominated entities, members of the Board of Environmental Protection and Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and leaders in Maine’s environment and business community attended the awards, which were scheduled in conjunction with Earth Day (April 22) commemorations around the state this week.

“For many Maine employers, Earth Day isn’t just one day a year, but a constant commitment to stewarding our natural resources and ensuring a sustainable economy. These Governor’s Award winners illustrate the interdependence of Maine’s economy and the environment and why the choice between the two should never be ‘either or’ because it must always be ‘both,’” said Governor LePage.

IDEXX, of Westbrook, won in the “Businesses Over 100 Employees” category for committing to considering sustainability in every business decision the company has made since 2008. As a result, their operating costs per square foot are lower than they were five years ago through energy conservation, less than 6 percent of their waste ends up in landfills and their employees have grown hundreds of pounds of produce through a campus gardening program, all of which is donated to local food pantries.

CLYNK, based in South Portland, won in the “Businesses Over 50 Employees” category for their efforts in effectively engaging thousands of Mainers in returning nearly 300 million containers since 2006. Earlier this year, the company released a new service that allows its account holders to track in real time the environmental benefits that result directly from the specific beverage containers they recycle at the nearly 50 partnering Hannaford supermarkets.

George R. Roberts Company, known as “The Step Guys” and located in Alfred, won in the “Business Over 15 Employees” category. A leading manufacturer of precast concrete products –including steps, in 2010 the company switched on the largest solar array in the state, which now provides 90 percent of their power. To date, the 638 U.S. made panels have produced 244,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power 130,000 light bulbs each year and accounting for a 10,000 ton annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Maine Energy Systems, of Bethel, won in the “Business Under 15 Employees” category for helping Maine homes, public facilities and businesses –including Waterville High School and Mt. Abram Ski Resort– transition to a cleaner fuel, sustainability-harvested from Maine’s forests with the sales of their wood pellets and boilers. This conversion can lower fuel costs for users by about half, while helping to retain and create jobs in Maine’s vibrant forest products industry.

The Washington County Council of Governments won in the “Public Sector” category for its county-wide Brownfields program, which has helped restore environmental vitality to abandoned sites in a region greatly dependent on the health of its natural resources. Through these coordinated efforts over the past three years, environmental assessments have been conducted at 11 sites and there has been redevelopment of five sites, including a former cannery now being used for regional storage by local lobstermen and a former boat building school being overhauled into a shop for construction of tidal power generation units. In total, redevelopment projects presently underway have the potential to create up to 50 new full-time jobs and increase property value by over $4 million.

The Environmental Living & Learning for Maine Students Project, a partnership between the Chewonki Outdoor Classroom for Schools, Ferry Beach Ecology School and the UMaine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond and at Tanglewood (in Lincolnville), won in the “Nonprofit” category. Launched in 2011, the collaborative creates a financial aid fund that has already subsidized residential environmental education for nearly 2,000 Maine students. Through the fund, schools are able to apply for grants to send their students to any of the four partnering organizations for experiential environmental learning programs that last up to five days, with aid scaled from 25 to 95 percent based on the number of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program in the applicant school.

Commissioner Aho said it was important for the state to start acknowledging Maine’s many environmental leaders who are modeling her department’s vision of a mutually healthy environment and economy.

“Maine has long been a national leader when it comes to environmental excellence and our 2012 Governor’s Awards recipients are carrying on that legacy,” Aho said. “As Maine’s foremost environmental organization, it has great meaning when we respect and recognize these leaders and that the innovation improving our environment and our economy comes directly from Maine employers and people. I want to thank all of the nominees for their commitment of creativity, time and resources toward our shared vision of making Maine a better place to live, work and play for ours and future generations.”

Aho added the awards program is one of the many activities the DEP has advanced under the LePage administration that further the agency’s culture of cooperation with the regulated community. Others include expanded technical assistance, permitting process improvements and pragmatic regulatory reform.

Recipients said being recognized by the State goes a long way.

“Being recognized by the state for this achievement is an honor for IDEXX, especially since IDEXX is headquartered in Maine, and most of our employees live in the surrounding communities,” said IDEXX Maine Operations Manager Matt Haas.  “This award validates a lot of work from many, many dedicated people who prove everyday that sustainable business practices are achievable and essential.  Sustainability is an on-going journey of continuous improvement, and this recognition validates that we are on the right path to environmental excellence.”

Based on the success of this year’s awards, Maine DEP intends to continue the annual recognition program, with nominations for the 2013 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence opening in late 2012. More information can be found at www.maine.gov/dep or by contacting Samantha DePoy-Warren at 207.287.5842 or samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov.

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