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The Greening of Annapolis

Jan 02, 2014 02:04PM ● Published by Arden Haley

Photos by Tony Lewis, Jr.
By CAROL SORGEN

Image titleAnn Berger has always considered herself environmentally conscious. Now the rest of the world is catching up with her. “My parents went through the Depression so I was raised to be aware of not wasting anything,” says Berger, who with her husband, Tom, owns the Georgian House Bed and Breakfast in Annapolis. Berger adds that her young adult children also have been instrumental in encouraging her eco-friendly habits. Whether it’s not running the dishwasher until it’s full, turning off appliances when they’re not in use, asking guests to consider reusing their towels (though if they prefer clean towels every day, they just need to leave the soiled ones on the floor and fresh ones will be delivered), or using local produce as often as she can, Berger makes a deliberate effort to be as “green” as possible for herself and for her guests. She has even gone so far as to become a Maryland Green Travel Partner, a self-certification program that serves as a testament to the practice of environmental activities relevant to the partner’s particular industry (in this case, hospitality) and the commitment to continue to improve their environmental practices and make an annual report on their efforts.

Berger is especially proud of her latest accomplishment in that regard—the gift (from her children) of an indoor composter. “We try to do everything we can to conserve energy and resources,” Berger says, adding, “It’s just something we’ve always done.”

Having Fun with a Purpose

Not everyone came as early to the eco-movement as Berger, and that’s where Annapolis Green comes in. According to co-founder Elvia Thompson, Annapolis Green fills a unique need, connecting the community by communicating an environmental message that is meaningful, positive, and motivational, and engaging residents, businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and visitors in their efforts.

“Our goal is to make Annapolis the ‘greenest’ city in Maryland— a place where sustainability is a way of life and a source of pride— by accelerating the work of the legions of dedicated, wide-berthed environmentalists and celebrating successes,” Thompson says.

Annapolis Green isn’t a “shovel in the ground” organization. Rather, once a month Thompson and co-founder Lynne Forsman bring together a diverse group of approximately 200 (and growing!) environmentally aware Annapolitans and Anne Arundel Countians for socializing and sharing of information at its Green Drinks Annapolis gatherings. “It’s easier to get things done when you can pick up the phone and call someone you’ve met in person,” Thompson says.

“The synergy created in that ‘fun’ side of eco-awareness…making serious connections…continues to be an invaluable and unique opportunity for people to meet, make business connections, and share information,” continues Thompson, who wants people to be unafraid of adding a little enjoyment to their concern for the Chesapeake Bay and our environment in general. (For the next Green Drinks event, check out Annapolisgreen.com where you’ll find a wealth of information for the eco-aware, including a comprehensive environmental calendar of events.)
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In addition to Green Drinks Annapolis, the organization has made significant strides in greening the city in other ways, from bringing recycling to the annual boat shows to partnering with the statewide Maryland Green Travel Program, which was created to reduce the environmental impact of Maryland’s tourism industry. The program helps businesses evaluate their procedures, set goals, and take specific actions toward environmental sustainability, says Forsman, who helped establish the program.

According to Forsman, travelers are increasingly making their travel decisions based on the sustainable practices of accommodations, restaurants, and attractions. Maryland Green Travel will promote those businesses that undergo self-certification and are given Maryland Green Travel identification on the official state tourism site, VisitMaryland.org, which receives nearly two million unique visitors a year.

Though the hospitality industry was slow to “get with the program” when it comes to environmental awareness, “now everyone is sitting up and taking notice,” Forsman says.

Dining Out Responsibly

Ann and Tom Berger are not the only members of the Annapolis tourism industry to become Maryland Green Partners because of their conservation efforts and awareness. At Café Normandie in Annapolis, for example, general manager Suzanne Evennou reports that the Main Street restaurant has “virtually no trash.”

Image title“All leftovers are composted and taken to our farm; all recyclables are taken (by the restaurant) twice a week to the Anne Arundel County recycling facility; and all of our carryout containers are biodegradable,” Evennou says. In addition, Café Normandie has purchased the equipment to produce its own biodiesel fuel from used cooking oils to power its cars and farm equipment. And this past summer, the restaurant also was able to supply the majority of vegetables and herbs from its own gardens. “In short, we do as much as we can to educate our customers in the importance of sustainability,” Evennou says.

Anthony Clarke, partner and CFO of the Irish Restaurant Company, which owns three restaurants in the area—Galway Bay Irish Pub in Annapolis, Brian Boru in Severna Park, and Killarney House in Davidsonville—credits his Irish upbringing with his long history not only with the color green (think shamrocks!) but with being as environmentally conscious as possible. “We’ve always been very conservative in Ireland because our resources are so expensive there,” he explains.

Image titleThree years ago, Clarke and his partners decided, “with the love and respect for our home country of Ireland…and as responsible business owners in the communities in which our families live, work, and play, that it is important to become environmental stewards by reducing our carbon footprint in each of our three locations.” The restaurants have all been making strides in that direction through: recycling, rain barrels, environmentally friendly serving products, reusing materials for renovation work, turning used fry oil into biofuels, eliminating plastic, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, minimizing water usage, encouraging environmentally friendly transportation by partnering with e-cruisers, and promoting environmental organizations and community events.

An important component of being as “green” as possible is educating their staff, Clarke says. “By keeping our team informed about what we are doing, it has helped them understand the importance of what each of us can do to help our environment. We encourage all of our staff to recycle and get involved with what we are doing on a daily basis—it makes them feel good about where they work.

“As a result, our customers are appreciative of our efforts and we have even been told on many occasions how happy they are that we go to the extra expense to provide all of our take-out food orders in compostable containers and paper carry bags,” Clarke continues. In 2011, the restaurants also began purchasing Renewable Energy Credits from Clean Currents, also a Maryland company. “We made the commitment to offset 100 percent of our CO2 output generated from the kilowatt hours we use in electricity to 100 percent “green” energy by purchasing certified Renewable Energy Credits from wind-generated sources,” Clarke says. “For every kilowatt hour we use, we made a choice to pay the renewable energy industry for supplying that same amount of energy to the national electric grid system.”

Clarke is an avid promoter of “green” living, and in Annapolis, his Galway Bay Irish Pub and nearby Harry Browne’s work together to compact their waste, which is then picked up by Aberdeen-based Veteran Compost, which employs veterans and their family members to turn food scraps into high-quality compost. For his ongoing efforts in cleaning up the environment, Clarke and his restaurants have won numerous awards, including the Green and Sustainable Business Certificate from Anne Arundel County and the Green/Sustainable Tourism Award from the Maryland Office of Tourism Development.

Keeping our Waters Healthy

Of course. it should come as no surprise that the boating industry also has a vested interest in preserving the resources of the Chesapeake Bay for the many who make their living from its waters or simply enjoy it for recreational purposes. In addition to its work with the lodging and restaurant industries, Maryland Green Travel also has launched a partnership with the Department of Natural Resources’ Clean Marina Program to welcome Clean Marina members as Maryland Green Travel Partners.
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There are currently 45 Maryland Clean Marinas recognized on the VisitMaryland.org website, including six in Annapolis and additional ones in the surrounding area. At Mears Marina in Annapolis, for example, clean practices include recycling oil, antifreeze, batteries, cardboard, paper, and glass; participating in an oyster restoration project; providing a trash disposal area with clearly marked recycling; and picking up trash on the grounds daily. Meanwhile, at Hinckley Yacht Services in Annapolis, pump-out oil recycling; solvent and waste paint recycling; and employee training on safety and environmental issues make up the majority of the marina’s clean practices.

Boat manufacturers and distributors themselves are becoming more eco-conscious, as well. Greenline Hybrid, for example, available at Annapolis Yacht Sales, is the world’s first serial produced hybrid yacht, featuring a hybrid propulsion system, solar roof, and low-drag hull, making it both more energy efficient and more cost effective than conventional powerboats and, in the process, earning 21 international boat of the year, design, and environmental awards.

Sally Reuther and her husband David DiQuinzio wanted to enjoy sailing without the noise, vibrations, and fumes associated with a diesel engine. After looking at electric propulsion for their own boat, they decided to open Annapolis Hybrid Marine in 2010 and began importing Thoosa motor systems, manufactured by ASMO Marine in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the past three years, the couple reports on their website, there has been significant growth in this fi eld as more boaters seek a “greener” alternative to their inboard diesel or gas engine.

And at West Marine, a nationwide specialty retailer of boating supplies and services, which has 10 stores in the Greater Annapolis area, being “green” is not something new, according to Laurie Fried, director of community and public relations, explaining that being environmentally conscious has been part of the company’s mission since their early days of existence more than 40 years ago.

Five years ago, West Marine launched its “Green Product of the Year” program, which encourages the development of environmentally friendly boating products. (The company is currently looking for entries for its 2014 award. For more information, visit Westmarine.com/green.)

In 2011, West Marine also launched BlueFuture,™ a program that encompasses the company-wide efforts to make the world a better place. “Our customers love being out on the water and so do our employees,” Fried says. “We know that our personal enjoyment and business success is dependent on healthy oceans, waterways, and fish stocks. Reducing our impact on the environment, improving marine habitats and fisheries, and growing the sport of boating is what BlueFuture is all about.”

It’s evident that while Ann Berger may have been an early participant in what Elvia Thompson calls the “eco-evolution,” she is no longer a lone crusader. As the increasing number of programs and practitioners make clear, Berger says, “being environmentally conscious is just what we do these days.”
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