Meet the seven winners of the first Bethesda Magazine Green Awards.
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The seven winners of the first Bethesda Magazine Green Awards were selected by four judges from nearly 120 nominees. The winners range from the executives of a giant corporation to an eighth-grade boy. But they all share one thing in common: an unwavering commitment to living—and promoting—a more sustainable way of life.
MOM’s Organic Market
Category: Businesses in Montgomery County that have created an innovative green product, are selling an innovative green service, and/or are promoting a green lifestyle
Stop at MOM’s Organic Market in North Bethesda and you may get a spontaneous lesson on cleaning with vinegar or learn that many antiperspirants contain aluminum. The morsels dished out by MOM’s employees and the store’s displays are no accident. Environmental values permeate the organic grocery, starting from the top.
“We try to make it easier for customers to do the right thing,” says founder and CEO Scott Nash, 45, of Bethesda, who believes people will choose greener options if they know about them.
For example, when MOM’s removed bottled water from its shelves (the first grocery store chain to do so, Nash says), it played a video on the empty racks describing landfills clogged with plastic bottles. MOM’s also boosted its stock of reusable water bottles and began selling water filtration systems for home taps.
Nash, who describes his mother and late father as “environmentalist hippies,” began selling organic produce out of his mother’s Beltsville garage in 1987. He opened the first MOM’s retail store three years later in North Bethesda, and opened a sixth location earlier this year in Bowie. The stores sell organic fruits and vegetables, sustainable seafood, gluten-free packaged foods, eco-friendly cleaning supplies and natural beauty products and nutritional supplements.
MOM’s commitment to the environment extends beyond what it sells. The company also looks inward, recycling about 81 percent of its total waste, Nash says. And it supports renewable energy by buying carbon credits to offset the electricity used in its stores.
MOM’s initiatives often originate from staff and customers. In fact, the bottled water ban followed a customer e-mail that questioned the plastic bags being used for people buying bulk foods like nuts, says Gaithersburg’s Steve Geest, a vice president and member of the firm’s seven-person leadership team. “That led to months of discussion and re-examining all areas where we use plastic.”
MOM’s employees are expected to encourage the company’s values, even outside its doors. Employees are asked during quarterly reviews how they’re personally helping to improve the planet. “It’s our way of making sure they feel a bigger purpose to being here,” says Nash, a father of three who drives a hybrid car (his third).
Nash plans five more stores by 2012, possibly including a second in Montgomery County. “It’s important to be big so we have more money and more influence,” he says. “When we eliminated bottled water, we got national publicity—and that puts the issue on the minds of other grocery store owners.”
Little Falls Watershed Alliance
Category: Nonprofit organizations in Montgomery County that have created an innovative green product, are selling an innovative green service and/or are promoting a green lifestyle
Suzanne Richman, a Bethesda resident for nearly 30 years, spent seven years becoming a certified naturalist—only to discover an eco-disaster in her own backyard.
The creeks of the Little Falls Watershed near her home were degraded from storm-water runoff. Trash was littering this urban area in southwest Montgomery County and landing in local waters, while nonnative plants were strangling the life out of park trees.
Richman gathered other concerned neighbors, including Bethesda environmental attorney Dan Dozier, and in 2008 they created the Little Falls Watershed Alliance (LFWA). Two years later, the group is gaining ground on cleaning up its 9 square miles of terrain, which includes the neighborhoods west of Wisconsin Avenue to the Potomac River and east to American University in Washington, D.C.
With more than 100 volunteers, the LFWA hosts about 25 events a year. Activities at these gatherings include labeling storm drains with “Do Not Pollute” stickers, ripping out English ivy and other invasive plants twice a month, and removing tires and plastic bottles from creeks that eventually flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
“We are addressing our immediate neighborhood because we care about water quality and the Chesapeake Bay,” says Dozier, who is now co-president of the group along with Sarah Morse of Chevy Chase. “We can’t do much about what people in Pennsylvania do to impact the bay, but we can take actions here.”
In fact, the extent of development in Friendship Heights, downtown Bethesda and along River Road makes the Little Falls Watershed one of the most impaired watersheds in the county, Dozier says. The many parking lots and other paved land in the area are increasing the volume and strength of water running to the creeks, causing bank erosion and a loss of habitat for microorganisms the streams need to survive, he says.
LFWA helped support the storm-water rule approved by the Montgomery County Council in July that bans new buildings within 50 feet of the watershed in an effort to encourage effective, or “smart,” development.
Richman, now chairman of the membership committee, says that rule “is not as good as it could be, but it will make a vast improvement on the amount of water flowing down and rushing into the creek.”
The nonprofit community group estimates its members have removed more than 50 bags of trash from creeks and tagged more than 500 storm drains with stickers to ward off the dumping of motor oil, construction debris and other waste. Many people don’t realize that water in these drains doesn’t go through a treatment facility before hitting the Potomac River, says Morse, a former art teacher.
“The 200 volunteers who helped put up the stickers, and everyone who reads them, now know that what they dump impacts the Potomac and then the Chesapeake Bay,” she says.
Common Cents Solar, www.commoncentssolar.org; Non-Profit Energy Alliance
Marriott International Inc.
Category: Businesses that have significantly incorporated green practices into their culture and operations
One morning last March, employees entered Marriott International’s Bethesda headquarters to find a mountain of empty plastic water bottles on the floor and a flock of reusable water bottles dangling from the ceiling like errant angels. It was the company’s not-so-subtle way of nudging its 2,500 workers toward reusables—one of many hints they’ve received over the years.
Marriott has taken major steps since 2006 to make the building eco-friendly, from reducing energy use to increasing recycling.
“I decided we should be an example for the rest of the company and the entire hotel portfolio,” says Kensington’s Jim Young, senior director of corporate facilities for Marriott International and leader of the company’s green efforts.
In April, Marriott’s approach was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which certified the 30-year-old headquarters as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Existing Building Gold.
“Jim and his team made it all happen, exceeding our expectations by being gold certified,” says Young’s boss, Brad Bryan, a North Potomac resident and Marriott International’s executive vice president for architecture and construction.
Marriott helped the building achieve this status by reducing the amount of energy it uses (changing its cleaning schedule, for instance, to avoid electricity consumption overnight), boosting its recycling rates and converting to permanent dishes and flatware in the cafeteria. The company also bought higher efficiency lighting, purchased recycled office supplies, designated parking for hybrids and implemented a car-sharing program.
The changes to Marriott’s building and the adjustments it made regarding supplies and processes save the company about $65,000 a year in energy bills and the costs of disposable cups and other items.
The company’s management has enthusiastically embraced the green changes, Young says, and now is looking into additional ones, such as LED lighting in its garage and parking lot, and motion sensors in offices and conference rooms to reduce lighting costs in unoccupied rooms.
The March initiative to discourage the use of disposable plastic water bottles and to encourage the use of filtered water stations around the building was largely carried out by Marriott’s Green Champions, about 35 employees who volunteer to further the building’s green status.
Bethesda’s Jessica Flugge, a Green Champion and director of corporate finance for Marriott International, says seeing those two weeks’ worth of plastic water bottles “helped people realize the waste created by disposables.”
The Universities at Shady Grove
Category: Nonprofit organizations that have significantly incorporated green practices into their culture and operations
The very idea of nine universities offering courses at one location is green in itself, but The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Rockville embraces sustainable living in a more fundamental way.
The university’s academic center features eco-friendly flooring—cement and recycled glass in the lobby; bamboo veneer in the library—as well as banana fiber tables in the dining area, dual-flush toilets in the bathrooms and plantings on its roof that reduce energy consumption. The building even tracks its own electricity, gas and water usage.
The USG parking garage has dedicated spaces for carpools, hybrid cars and bike racks, and it collects rainwater to hydrate the native plants on the grounds.
USG, where the University of Maryland and eight other state public universities offer more than 60 programs, completed the building in 2007 following strict Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold guidelines. The campus, which pledged with other universities nationwide to reduce greenhouse gases, also is retrofitting its two older buildings with eco-friendly paint, recycled carpet and more efficient cooling and heating systems.
Campus officials and students give more than 100 tours of the building each year to construction professionals, interior designers and others who want to investigate its green features.
“The number one thing we do is share our knowledge,” says Potomac’s Karen Mitchell, USG’s director for administrative and financial services. “We were leading edge, and it’s important to pass on that knowledge.”
USG conveys its green message to students by hosting environmental lectures and providing training in activities such as composting. Students also help grow produce and herbs in the organic garden outside the academic building, then enjoy the fruits of their labor in the café.
The Rockville campus, located half a mile from Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, opened in 2000, offering full-time degrees to 30 undergraduate students. Today, 3,700 undergraduate and graduate students attend the public university.
“People want to engage in something bigger than themselves,” says Stewart Edelstein, USG’s executive director since 2002 and a Takoma Park resident. “Our community has absorbed green.”