By Matt Wickenheiser, BDN Staff
GORHAM, Maine â IDEXX Laboratories saved more than 12,000 disposable cups yearly when the company gave its employees reusable containers.
Concrete precast company George R. Roberts Co. of Alfred several years ago had the state’s largest solar panel array installed on its plant roof, with 638 panels powering its processes.
And CLYNK’s recycling machines have processed more than 300 million returnable cans and bottles since 2006 â enough to fill Fenway Park to the top of the Green Monster three and a half times.
On Thursday, Gov. Paul LePage recognized these companies, as well as several others and two organizations, with the 2012 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence. A common theme during the event, held at the Jotul North America headquarters in Gorham, was the combination of job creation and environmental stewardship.
“I really do believe in our environment. I believe in our economy,” LePage said, with metal clanging in the background as Jotul workers built stoves.
“There is room for the environment and the economy to grow â our administration demands it.”
LePage noted that the awards had been discontinued in an earlier administration, and that his administration revived them. According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the awards program ended in 2005.
“I am considered the person who was going to come to Augusta and destroy the environment,” LePage said. “I did not choose to remain in Maine my entire life because it was a dirty place to live.”
According to the DEP, recipients were recognized for voluntarily going beyond regulatory requirements to creatively and collaboratively initiate innovation that was both environmentally and economically sustainable.
About 25 applicants put in for the awards, and were scored by a team that included the bureau directors at the DEP, the agency’s regional directors, a staff member from each bureau, and the agency’s small business ombudsman and the communications director. Criteria included environmental benefits, energy reduction, economic benefits and more.
“All of you have gone above and beyond what is expected of you, and have taken it to the next step,” said DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho.
Westbrook-based IDEXX won in the “Businesses Over 100 Employees” category for a variety of initiatives, including the disposable cup project.
Aho noted the biotech company is working with EcoMaine, and now recycles half of its total waste. The company also started a program that has refurbished 2,500 laptop and desktop computers headed for the electronic waste pile, and made them available for low-income families.
And an employee-supported garden grew 500 pounds of food that was donated to local pantries, Aho noted.
“When you get everybody involved in the collaborative efforts, they all add up to a very significant vision,” she said.
CLYNK, based in South Portland, won in the “Businesses Over 50 Employees” category. The company has made it easier for individual consumers and groups to recycle bottles and cans. Earlier this year, it launched a new service allowing its account holders to track in real time the environmental benefits that result directly from the specific beverage containers they recycle.
George R. Roberts Co. won in the “Businesses Over 15 Employees” category for its solar array project. According to the DEP, the 638 solar 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 “Businesses Under 15 Employees” category for helping Maine homes, public facilities and businesses cut oil consumption with its Maine-produced wood pellets and boilers. The company is providing jobs in forestry and transportation, as well as manufacturing, said Aho.
The Washington County Council of Governments won in the “Public Sector” category for its countywide Brownfields program. According to Aho, there are more than 120 brownfield sites in Washington County. Brownfields are generally old industrial sites, where a degree of environmental contamination is suspected, but the extent unknown. The program has done investigations at 11 sites, and has led to the redevelopment of five sites, the DEP said, with 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, won in the “Nonprofit” category.
Launched in 2011, the collaborative creates a financial aid fund that has subsidized residential environmental education for nearly 2,000 Maine students.
Maine Energy Systems CEO and co-founder Les Otten said his company was “in the business of disrupting what’s commonplace and ordinary,” by trying to provide an alternative to heating oil.
“We’re changing thinking and keeping money in Maine â building a product in Maine,” said Otten.
Tim Cook, owner of George R. Roberts Co., said the solar project started in 2009 and was completed in 2010. The project started after he installed solar at his own home. It’s a collaboration with the Solar Market in Arundel, said Cook, which owns the array equipment, and sells the electricity to the concrete company. Cook said his company employs 36.
“For me, it’s great to represent them. They’re working for a company that has the right idea,” he said.