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Green Business Network growing in Carroll

Posted by Don West on August 30, 2013 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (10)

Inside Melinda Byrd's Woodbine art studio hangs a pledge that she made to the community to be more environmentally friendly.

Part of the pledge is a commitment not to use any petroleum solvents for any of her projects.

"It was instilled within me as a child that we have a sensitive planet and it's hard to live without hurting the planet," Byrd said. "The best we can do is try to make a minimal impact."

Byrd's pledge is just one of the many green and environmentally friendly practices she employs at her studio and at home.

In addition to foregoing petroleum solvents, she also recycles, composts and participates in a local food co-operative.

She was recently recognized for her environmentally friendly practices as one of the first six businesses to be certified by Carroll County's newly formed Green Business Network.

Among the goals of the Green Business Network is to recognize and encourage businesses to adopt environmentally sustainable practices, according to network founder Don West.

West said adopting sustainable practices like those outlined by the Green Business Network is a "win-win" for business owners.

"It would actually help their bottom line, in addition to helping the environment," said West, whose Double Diamond Construction company in Westminster is among the six certified by the network.

In addition to Byrd's Byrdcall Studio, the network, which launched in late May, has also certified:

• Interior Harmony Acupuncture and Feng Shui, a home furnishing store in Finksburg

• Lowe's in Westminster,

• Fern Rodkey Electric, in Taneytown

Northrop Grumman, in Sykesville.

When considering a business for the program, evaluators look at four major categories: solid waste management, environmentally responsible purchasing, energy efficiency and renewable energies, and water conservation and quality.

Participants agree to take certain steps to encourage employee participation and raise the visibility of the program.

Efforts recognized by the network include recycling, composting, buying recycled or local products, performing an energy audit, and installing energy efficient lighting among other initiatives.

West said he was "pretty satisfied" with the start, and hopes that 20 businesses will be signed up by the end of the network's first year.

"I know our numbers will grow," he said.

Karen Greenstein, owner of Interior Harmony, said she applied for the network to promote it and encourage the conversation for implementing more environmentally sustainable practices.

"It was right up my alley," she said.

Greenstein, who runs her business out of her home, said she recycles, composts, uses her own bags for grocery shopping, and uses water from a rain barrel for her plants.

As part of her business to help organize rooms in a home or business, she clears clutter and collects old electronics and plastics from clients. She takes those materials to the recycling center or a local thrift shop.

She added that acupuncture clients also bring items to be recycled or donated to the thrift shop to their appointments.

"I feel like I'm kind of like Robin Hood," she said. "I don't rob, but I just take from those people who have to those people who need."

Byrd's environmentally friendly efforts include installing rain barrels to collect water for her garden, shopping at local food markets, and installing a porous pavement driveway.

She said she would advise local business owners to apply because it will make them more aware of their own practices and could also yield cost savings in the future.

"I can't think of a reason not to (apply)," she said.

For information on the Green Business Network, go to http://www.planetcarroll.org.

New green business network takes off

Posted by Don West on August 7, 2013 at 5:40 AM Comments comments (0)

By Jon Kelvey Advocate Staff Writer 

Woodbine artist Melinda Byrd said she has always been environmentally conscious, so when she heard about a burgeoning alliance of local green businesses she was immediately interested.

“Several years ago, when I was really starting to develop the work in my studio, I posted on the wall of my studio about 15 different ways of doing my art that are environmentally friendly,” Byrd said. “That was my commitment to live that way. So when I heard about this Green Business Network, I thought it was right up my alley.”

The Carroll Green Business Network is a certification program that launched in late May, according to co-founder Don West, and is designed to both help businesses become more sustainable and provide consumers a way to identify green businesses.

“A significant section of the buying public are willing to seek out greener businesses and might even pay a bit of a premium for those sorts of products and services,” West said. “We’re hoping this will become a marketing tool for these businesses, a win-win all the way around.”

The idea for the network was first hatched a year ago, a joint project between a number local nonprofit organizations including WasteNot! Carroll — of which West is also a co-founder — The Sierra Club Catoctin Group, Sustainable Living Maryland and Venturing Crew No. 202, a co-ed part of the Boy Scouts of America that focuses on environmental restoration.

Each organization contributed ideas about how businesses could become more sustainable and efficient, according to West, eventually developing a scorecard that business owners can download and work through to score the performance of their business in four areas: solid waste management, environmentally friendly purchasing, energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation.

Various practices in each category are worth a certain number of points toward a total, West said, with a higher score reflecting a greener, more efficient business. Examples include recycling batteries — worth two points — and composting organic waste, worth five points.

“We want businesses to get in and then work to improve,” West said. “There will be three levels for the business based on their score ... The first level is 50 to 99 points, while level 2 is 100 to 149 and level 3 is 150 to 200 points.”

According to West, an interested business can go to www.planetcarroll.org to download the scorecard, and after filling it out and returning it along with a payment of $25 dollars — $50 for businesses with 100 or more employees — will receive a visit from a Green Business Network volunteer who will verify the score and make suggestions for further improvements.

Once certified, the business will receive a certificate and a window decal indicating their score, with the certification good for two years.

“This being a two year term, the hope is that these business will reevaluate themselves and earn a higher score after incorporating some of the practices into their business,” West said. “We will work with them, try to make them more green, and then they can market that to their customers.”

As of press time, five businesses had joined the network since it went live at the end of May: Byrdcall Studios in Mount Airy, Lowe’s Hardware of Westminster, Interior Harmony LLC Acupuncture and Feng Shui in Westminster, Fern Rodkey Electric Inc in Taneytown and West’s own Double Diamond Construction Corp in Westminster.

West said that he had been in touch with at least three other businesses that were considering joining the network, many of them for financial reasons rather than just a desire to be greener.

“It’s wonderful to conserve, but for many businesses, it’s a bottom line issue,” West said. “They realize that they’ll save money with greener practices.”

At Lowe’s Hardware in Westminster, Store Manager Curtis Byrum said joining the Green Business Network just made sense to him, both as a business manager and someone who cares about the environment.

“Not only does [conservation] make you aware of the environment,” Byrum said, “it can put money back to your bottom line if you pay attention. A lot of people don’t understand that.”

Lowe’s of Westminster joined the Green Business Network on July 5 with a score of 74 — the same score as West’s own construction company — and Byrum said he found they were already doing a lot of conservation on their own.

“When the economy took a dip about 10 years ago, that caused us to be more conscious about saving money,” Byrum said. “We have coolers up front where we keep drinks for our customers, but we took the lights out of them; they’re just not needed. It adds ups over the course of a year.”

Byrd joined the Green Business Network on July 18 — with a score of 117 — after designing the network’s logo, a stylized sycamore leaf, which will also serve as the design for the window decals that members will display on their windows.

“I really hope a lot of other businesses will participate,” Byrd said. “I’d love to see and support other businesses that are participating in this program. It will be nice to find out who they are so I can put my money where their conservation is.”

Organization seeking to recognize green businesses

Posted by Don West on May 29, 2013 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

By Carrie Ann Knauer Times Correspondent

A local environmental organization is aiming to connect eco-friendly businesses to eco-conscious consumers through a Green Business Network in Carroll County.

The program is a collaborative effort by a committee composed of members of Waste Not! Carroll, Sustainable Living Maryland and the Catoctin chapter of the Sierra Club, said Sally Long, one of the committee members.

Long said fellow committee member Don West came across a similar network of green businesses in Boone, N.C., and thought it would be a good opportunity for Carroll businesses and consumers.

After receiving a copy of the scorecard the Boone program uses to allow businesses to evaluate their green practices and receive points for different recommended practices, the Carroll group drafted a similar checklist for the Carroll program. The scorecard is expected to be accessible via the www.planetcarroll.org website by Tuesday, West said.

“The way I see it, all businesses want to be sustainable, otherwise they wouldn’t be in business,” Long wrote in an email. “We wanted to help businesses recognize that being ‘green friendly’ could result in financial benefits as well as environmental and community benefits.”

The scorecard for Carroll’s Green Business Network lists best practices in four areas of environmental and community stewardship, including solid waste management, environmentally responsible purchasing, energy efficiency and renewable energy, and water conservation and quality. The value assigned to each practice is weighted differently depending on the level of commitment required for each action.

Committee member Dan Andrews said the program has three tiers of recognition. All participants will receive a general decal to display in their business showing that they are a member, which will be accompanied by another seal denoting their level of achievement.

“We tried to keep phase one of this very practical and pragmatic,” Andrews said. “People can begin to learn these methods and these techniques and phase into more sustainable practices over the course.”

West said that during the creation of the program, he found an encouraging amount of support among local business owners.

“Once they see what we’ve tried to do, it’s been unanimous as far as thinking this is a good idea,” West said, noting that half a dozen businesses have expressed interest in receiving a copy of the scorecard once it was finalized.

Robin Ford, of Robin Ford Building and Remodeling, Inc., said he learned about the budding Green Business Network through West and was immediately interested.

As a certified green builder, Ford said he puts extra effort into incorporating environmentally-friendly features into the homes his company builds, and in the processes his company uses during construction. For example, Ford said he keeps an extra roll-off container on construction sites specifically for recyclable materials, whereas it would be easier to use one container and have it all disposed of as waste.

“I’m very much a believer of green features,” Ford said. “It’s a lot of work, and I put out a lot of effort, and I think it will be nice for the organization to recognize the people who have put out the extra effort.”

Interested business owners can print a copy of the scorecard from the website, then should evaluate their own practices and tally up the total score, then send it back to the Green Business Network Committee. Once the scorecard is received by the organization, a committee member will call the business owner to schedule a visit to their operation and complete the initiation.

Andrews said being identified as a local green business will benefit participants through the long-term cost-savings of the eligible practices within the scorecard, and by helping them to attract more customers.

“We believe that all people, as well as businesses, are going to have to work in a more sustainable fashion,” Andrews said of the future. “We think that if you develop a network like this, even with anywhere from 20 to 100 businesses, they would start to perhaps use each other as allies in purchasing from one another, or referring customers to one another.”

The Green Business Network is another way of educating the general community about some of the organization’s values, Andrews said.

“What we’re hoping to do is rather than just continue a consumptive and wasteful approach to life, we’re trying to get more of an awareness and a full circle cradle to cradle type of approach to life,” Andrews said. “It just makes a whole lot more sense as we continue to move forward.”

© 2013 Carroll County Times.

Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down

Posted by Don West on May 4, 2013 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Thumbs up: Carroll businesses that put extra attention into how their practices and operations affect the environment will be encouraged to join a new green business network this spring. The recognition program is being coordinated by Waste Not! Carroll, a nonprofit that focuses on solid waste and other environmental issues. Businesses that take part in the program can get recognition for their environmental efforts, and use them as a marketing point to connect with environmentally conscious consumers in the community.

Group intiating 'green business network'

Posted by Don West on May 4, 2013 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (3)

By Carrie Ann Knauer Times Staff Writer 

Carroll businesses that put extra attention into how their practices and operations affect the environment will be encouraged to join a new green business alliance this spring.

The recognition program is being coordinated by Waste Not! Carroll, a nonprofit that focuses on solid waste and other environmental issues. Group co-founder Don West said Waste Not! started working on the idea at the end of last summer, and their goal is to launch the green business alliance by Earth Day in April.

The program is designed to evaluate the environmental consciousness and actions of local businesses and is in the final revision process now.

“Nothing’s been done like this in the county,” West said. “It’s uncharted waters.”

The group researched and studied various similar programs from around the country, and ended up modeling its program on one in Boone, N.C., said Sally Long, a member of the committee working on the green business alliance for Carroll.

The Boone program had developed a lengthy checklist of potential actions a business could partake in and assigned point values to each action. The actions fell into six categories, including solid waste management, environmentally responsible purchasing, energy efficiency and renewable energy, water conservation and quality, employee wellness and preserving and promoting the region’s natural and cultural community.

While recognizing the value of employee wellness and preserving the natural and cultural community, Waste Not! has decided to focus on the more direct environmental subject areas at this time, with the intention of reconsidering the other topic areas after a successful program has been established, West said.

Businesses will be able to get a copy of the scorecard from Waste Not! Carroll and evaluate themselves based on the criteria. The program will likely have three different levels of recognition, West said, and if the business finds that it qualifies for one of those recognition levels, a Waste Not! member will visit the business to confirm the self-evaluation is accurate.

“The idea is there would be several levels where a business could qualify for, and then they would have something to strive for with the other levels,” West said.

Qualifying businesses will receive a membership sticker to place on their door or window, as well as a certificate to display inside the business. The program will have a website recognizing the alliance’s members, as well as a resource area with tips to help businesses achieve more of the action items on the scorecard, West said.

Businesses that take part in the program can get recognition for their environmental efforts, and use them as a marketing point to connect with environmentally conscious consumers in the community, West said.

There’s also a potential cost savings to the businesses that take these actions, said Dan Andrews, another co-founder of Waste Not! Carroll. Increased recycling means decreased trash costs, water conservation efforts can lead to lower water bills and energy-efficient equipment can lead to lower electric bills.

West said he has had some informal talks with the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce about the green business alliance, and would like to see them come on board as a potential partner.

Mike McMullin, president of the chamber, said he hasn’t seen the details of Waste Not! Carroll’s proposal, but he is interested in learning more.

“Whenever you talk about being a good steward, I think it’s something everybody should look at,” he said.

Youths speak minds on environment, infuse conference with hope for future

Posted by Don West on April 22, 2012 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2012 12:00 am.

By Carrie Ann KnauerTimes Staff Writer

When attending a four-hour program on environmental topics such as global climate change, extreme weather events and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, one doesn’t usually expect to walk away feeling encouraged.

But thanks to some very passionate students, many of the attendees at Planet Carroll’s keynote address and panel discussions left McDaniel College Saturday with a new sense of hope about the environment’s future.

“The enthusiasm of these students is nice to see,” said Sandy Zebal, chair of the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council. “It makes me feel more optimistic, more hopeful.”

The event had two main discussion topics, one on sustainability and the other on global climate change, and featured some big name speakers from the environmental and land use planning fields, such as Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Richard Josephson, director of the Maryland Department of Planning. But each panel discussion also had a student representative, which many audience members said were just as, if not more, impressive than the star guests.

Joseph Wright, of McDaniel College, spoke on the sustainability panel with strong opinions about trying to bring people who don’t see themselves as environmentalists to understand why these issues are important. Wright said it’s time to stop talking about the science and purely environmental values and start showing people that protecting the environment is also the best way to boost the economy and people’s quality of life.

“If you can hit somebody in their wallet, they’re going to believe you,” Wright said.

He also challenged those in the audience who are environmentally-minded to become more politically involved. Local elected officials often seek short-term economical successes over making tough decisions that will have the best impact on the environment, and economy, in the long run. He encouraged the audience to get more involved by contacting their local officials, and when they don’t live up to regulations set by higher levels of authority, take them to task for it.

Eric Kazyak, a student at the University of Maryland College Park who sat on the climate change panel, said he gets frustrated with seeing the major discussion in the media about climate change focusing on whether it’s real or not.

At this point, most people have made up their minds one way or the other, and it would be more beneficial to focus on steps to improve efficiency and make sustainability a priority, he said, which will help the economy and the earth no matter what.

“It doesn’t matter whether you believe in this or that, it’s good for everyone to make these changes,” he said.

One of the audience’s questions to the climate change panel was how to deal with climate change deniers.

“You have to make it hit home with the person — talk about economics, energy independence — these are issues that almost everybody embraces,” Kazyak said.

But it’s also important to show the global ramifications of these issues, he said. For example, 20 million people in Bangladesh will have to move to higher ground if sea rise happens the way that scientists are predicting it will, and droughts in Africa are getting worse than they have ever been, he said, which will lead to more agriculture failures and famine.

“Draw from the moral obligation to take action for others as well as yourself,” Kazyak said.

Audience member Richard Soisson, a member of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission, said he was very impressed with the youths that participated in the event and how willing they are to stand up for the environment.

“It’s going to take individuals to correct these problems,” he said, and individuals can lead to action at a higher level as well.

In addition to the student speakers, a group of youths from Venturing Crew 202, a coed offshoot of the Boy Scouts of America, had several of their environmental demonstration stations on display, including a board comparing different types of light bulbs and their energy use, with the bulbs lit, and an electricity-generating bicycle. Attendees could view the stations and ask the students questions during the break between discussions and during the lunch provided afterwards.

Natalie Price, a freshman at McDaniel, did some of the behind-the-scenes preparations for the event and was excited to see it come to fruition.

“I was especially impressed with the younger speakers,” she said, and to be able to compare their viewpoints with the older guests.

Don West, one of the coordinators of Planet Carroll, said that he was pleased with Saturday’s event; he only wishes there had been more diversity in the audience.

“Unfortunately the people that really need to hear these things, need to be made aware of the situations, are able to choose not to be aware,” West said. “Some of those folks are in positions of power and decision making, and that’s a concern for me.”

West said he was proud of all the work the volunteers put into coordinating a whole week of environmental events, with Saturday’s panel discussions serving as the highlight of the week.

“I’m happy about what happened, I’m proud of the effort everybody put in to make it happen,” he said. “I just wish it could have an effect long term.”

The program had about 70 attendees Saturday and was filmed by the Community Media Center to be broadcast on local cable. To find out when the panel discussions will be broadcast, visit www.carrollmediacenter.org.

Reach staff writer Carrie Ann Knauer at 410-857-7874 or [email protected]

© 2012 Carroll County Times.

Editorial: Events highlight environment

Posted by Don West on April 18, 2012 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 1:00 am | Editorial

Anyone with even a remote interest in the environment can learn something this week by taking part in a series of programs leading up to Earth Day on Sunday.

Planet Carroll — Our Environmental Future, is a partnership between students and faculty of McDaniel College and Carroll Community College, local environmental groups and others.

The week kicked off Monday with events, including a recycling art show, at McDaniel College’s Ensor Lounge.

Today features Earth Day activities in the Great Hall at Carroll Community College from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On Wednesday the community college will host an energy event with BGE from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. After that will be a screening of the film “Cool It.”

Thursday features an Earth Day event at Carroll Hospital Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as a Community Matters Film Series/Discussion on “No Impact Man” at Carroll Community College at 7 p.m.

A concert at the community college’s amphitheater is slated for 7 p.m. Friday.

Saturday features the group’s biggest event, a series of panel discussions at McDaniel College on climate change, extreme weather, water quality, solid waste and growth and development.

The idea for the panel discussion grew out of a controversial anti-environmental summit that the board of county commissioners sponsored last year.

That event took place outside the county and featured a panel of climate change deniers.

On Sunday, the week wraps up with a tree planting by Boy Scout Troop 395 at Freedom Park in Sykesville from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

From Scouts and kids, to college students and institutes of higher learning, it is good to see such a broad base of residents who are interested in protecting our environment and preserving our natural resources.

While some skeptics may think that our way of life has little or no impact on the environment, an overwhelming majority can see things differently. From pollution of our air, water and ground to how we use our precious natural resources, how we live today will determine the quality of life that we leave for our children, and their children after them.

Protecting our Earth for future generations should be a top priority. The organizers of this week’s events have a lot to be proud of. The weeklong series of events promises to offer something for everyone.

© 2012 Carroll County Times.

In Poll, Many Link Weather Extremes to Climate Change

Posted by Don West on April 18, 2012 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

By JUSTIN GILLIS Published: April 17, 2012

Scientists may hesitate to link some of the weather extremes of recent years to global warming — but the public, it seems, is already there. Graphic: Seeing a Global Warming Connection RelatedSurviving a Deadly Twister, Twice in 65 Years(April 17, 2012)100 Tornadoes in 24 Hours, but Plenty of Notice(April 16, 2012) A blog about energy and the environment.

Go to Blog » Readers’ Comments Share your thoughts. Post a Comment »Read All Comments (235) » A poll due for release on Wednesday shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming. And by a 2-to-1 margin, the public says the weather has been getting worse, rather than better, in recent years.

The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change. Read together, the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.

“Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another,” said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. “People are starting to connect the dots.”

The poll opens a new window on public opinion about climate change.

A large majority of climate scientists say the climate is shifting in ways that could cause serious impacts, and they cite the human release of greenhouse gases as a principal cause. But a tiny, vocal minority of researchers contests that view, and has seemed in the last few years to be winning the battle of public opinion despite slim scientific evidence for their position.

The poll suggests that a solid majority of the public feels that global warming is real, a result consistent with other polls that have asked the question in various ways. When invited to agree or disagree with the statement, “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States,” 69 percent of respondents in the new poll said they agreed, while 30 percent disagreed.

Dr. Leiserowitz’s unit at Yale, along with researchers at George Mason University, commissioned the survey, conducted by Knowledge Networks. That company surveyed 1,008 American adults by computer in the last half of March, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

While many online polls are not representative of the broad public, Knowledge Networks is noted for its efforts to overcome this problem, including giving computers to households too poor to have them. The survey reveals public attitudes that are at least roughly consistent with scientific understanding of how the climate is changing.

For instance, when people were asked whether they attributed specific events to global warming, recent heat waves drew the largest majorities. Scientists say their statistical evidence for an increase of weather extremes is indeed strongest when it comes to heat waves.

Asked whether they agreed or disagreed that global warming had contributed to the unusually warm winter just past, 25 percent of the respondents said they strongly agreed that it had, and 47 percent said they somewhat agreed. Only 17 percent somewhat disagreed, and 11 percent strongly disagreed.

Majorities almost as large cited global warming as a likely factor in last year’s record summer heat wave, as well as the 2011 drought in Texas and Oklahoma. Smaller but still substantial majorities cited it as a factor in the record United States snowfalls of 2010 and 2011 and the Mississippi River floods of 2011. Those views, too, are consistent with scientific evidence, which suggests that global warming is causing heavier precipitation in all seasons.

One of the more striking findings was that 35 percent of the public reported being affected by extreme weather in the past year. The United States was hit in 2011 by a remarkable string of disasters affecting virtually every region, including droughts, floods, tornadoes and heat waves.

Dr. Leiserowitz said that recent events might be puncturing the public’s “very simplistic mental model of what global warming is supposed to be.”

Past survey work had suggested, he said, that people tended to see the climate change problem as “distant in time and space — that this is an issue about polar bears or maybe Bangladesh, but not my community, not the United States, not my friends and family.”

Because the survey questions are new, it is not clear how people’s views about weather extremes may be changing over time. However, more general polling by the Gallup organization suggests that public concern about climate change, which has waxed and waned over the years, may be starting to rise again.

Since 1989, Gallup has asked, “how much do you personally worry about global warming?” The percentage of people saying they were worried peaked at 66 percent just before the recession, then fell to a low of 51 percent in 2011, as the economy overwhelmed other concerns.

Gallup’s most recent survey, in March, showed an uptick to 55 percent. “It’s certainly possible that this is the start of a trend back up,” said Frank M. Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief, though he added that another year of polling data would be necessary to be certain.

Advocacy groups seeking policies to limit climate change say that extreme weather is giving them an opening to reach the public.

A group called 350.org is planning a worldwide series of rallies on May 5, under the slogan “Connect the Dots,” to draw attention to the links between climate change and extreme weather. (The group’s name is a reference to an ideal concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.)

“My sense from around the country and the world is that people definitely understand that things are getting freaky,” said William E. McKibben, the founder of 350.org. “During that crazy heat wave in March, everyone in Chicago was out enjoying the weather, but in the back of their mind they were thinking, this is not right.”

A version of this article appeared in print on April 18, 2012, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: In Poll, Many Link Weather Extremes to Climate Change.

Planet Carroll brings discussion on sustainability, climate change to local level

Posted by Don West on April 17, 2012 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012 12:00 am 

By Carrie Ann KnauerTimes Staff Writer 

When the coordinators of Planet Carroll look back on the reasons why they wanted to hold an environmental conference on Earth Day weekend, they have to give some credit to the Carroll County Board of Commissioners.

The seed of the idea was planted after some Carroll residents attended the board’s forum, “PlanMaryland: At the Crossroads, Technical & Economic Premises Forum and Panel Discussion.” The event, held at the Hilton in Pikesville on Halloween, featured five presenters who disputed the environmental and economic information in PlanMaryland, including a number of widely-held scientific theories such as global warming and rising sea levels.

“The perspective that the commissioners have put forth is so extreme that it’s kind of driven a response,” said Chris Spaur, a Planet Carroll member who also serves on the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council. “It generated a sense of urgency.”

Don West and Dan Andrews, two of the founders of Waste Not! Carroll and Sustainable Living Maryland, said they went to the forum as interested residents who wanted to hear the arguments that were shaping the county commissioners’ policies and actions, and found that they disagreed with much of the information that was presented.

Other residents, such as Claudia Lewis, were unable to attend the forum, due to a limited number of seats, which were sold for $25, being made available for the public versus invited guests.

Members of Carroll’s environmental community met in November and Planet Carroll was formed, with representatives from McDaniel College, Carroll Community College and the EAC on board.

“I’m very proud of the way this evolved into a group of educators, environmentalists, students, people in and out of government — it runs the gamut across the community of all ages and all backgrounds,” West said. “The broad base of support has been important.”

The group has coordinated an event for every day from Monday through April 22, Earth Day, with an art show, movie screenings, a concert, a tree planting and informational fairs.

But the pinnacle of the week will be Saturday, West said, with the keynote address and panel discussion that will be held at Decker Auditorium at McDaniel College in Westminster.

Saturday’s event will take some of the topics that were covered at the PlanMaryland conference in October and give the other side, he said, from local speakers who are nationally known for their expertise in this area.

The first panel discussion is labeled “Why Sustainability is Important to You” and will feature Ned Tillman, co-founder of Sustainable Growth, LLC; Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland; Richard Josephson, director of planning for Maryland; Nelson Widell, co-founder of Peninsula Compost Group, LLC; and Joseph Wright, a student from McDaniel College.

The second panel, “Climate Change, Extreme Weather Events, and Ecosystems,” will feature Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Michael Barbour, director of Tetra Tech Ecological Sciences; Mona Becker, acting director of the environmental studies department at McDaniel College; and Eric Kazyak, a student from University of Maryland, College Park.

While these are big issues, the program is designed to make them relevant to ordinary people, Andrews said.

“This is an attempt to have people that live in Carroll County begin to understand our role on these specific environmental issues, that we are not an isolated unit,” he said.

Planet Carroll member Karen Moody, an environmental science teacher at CCC, said there will also be time after the panel discussions for audience members to submit questions for the panelists. The goal is to clarify information on these issues, she said, and have people walk away with a better understanding of the topics.

The group had considered inviting some of the commissioners’ speakers, such as Lord Christopher Monckton, a British global warming-denier, but decided against it.

“There was a conscious effort to make it non-confrontational,” West said.

While there is the desire to present balanced arguments on complex topics such as global warming, West said the group thought it was more important to hear scientists who have worked for years on this topic, versus non-scientists who are just presenting theories without credible science to back them up.

“We like to have the balance, the A versus the B, the unfortunate thing is when taken to its extreme, it allows sometimes for some pretty cockamamie ideas to be put on an equal footing with something else,” West said. “When you give somebody the opportunity to share that platform, it elevates that side of the discussion to the same plane, and that’s not always what you want.”

Lewis said Planet Carroll is hoping to attract a diverse audience, not just other environmentalists.

“There are a lot of serious things facing not just Carroll County in general,” Lewis said. “We need to talk about them, not be polarized. It’s time for consensus building.”

The county commissioners and town officials have all been invited to the summit, Becker said, but so far there has been little response.

Calls to Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, and Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, were not returned by 5 p.m. Friday.

Regardless of how many dignitaries show up, Lewis said she’s heard from a lot of residents that they are interested in attending.

“The support has been really good from the community, people are saying ‘how great that you’re doing that,’” she said.

Planet Carroll member and former county sustainability director Neil Ridgely said he knows there is some skepticism in Carroll over environmental issues, but he still encourages people to attend the event with an open mind.

“We’re going to have the presenters give their side of the story on land use and global warming,” Ridgely said. “What if they’re wrong, what’s the worst that can come of it — we end up with a better planet?”

Planet Carroll Week-long Schedule

Today: Business and Career Day in Decker Center at McDanielCollege from 4-6 p.m. Recycling Art Show in Ensor Lounge atMcDaniel College from 6-9 p.m.

Tuesday: Earth Day Activities in the Great Hall at CarrollCommunity College from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Wednesday: Energy Event with BGE in room K 100 at CarrollCommunity College from 6:30-7:30 p.m., immediately followed byscreening of film, "Cool It"

Thursday: Earth Day Event in the Main Lobby of Carroll HospitalCenter from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.,Community Matters Film Series/Discussion on "No Impact Man" inroom K127 at Carroll Community College from 7-8:30 p.m., sponsoredby Sustainable Living Maryland

Friday: Concert at Carroll Community College amphitheater (bringa chair or blanket) at 7 p.m., sponsored by Waste Not! Carroll,Sustainable Living Maryland and CCC

April 21: Keynote Address and Panel Discussion in DeckerAuditorium at McDaniel College at 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and sustainabilitydisplays outside Decker Auditorium by Venturing Crew 202.

April 22: Earth Day Tree Planting with Boy Scout Troop #395 atFreedom Park in Sykesville from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.


Reach staff writer Carrie Ann Knauer at 410-857-7874 or [email protected]

© 2012 Carroll County Times.

Planet Carroll Gears Up for Week of Earth Day Education

Posted by Don West on April 14, 2012 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (0)

A group of students and citizens in Carroll County have created an organization dedicated to education and the environment.

By Kym Byrnes April 12, 2012

Earth Day is officially Sunday, April 22, but one local organization intends to make it a week-long affair in Carroll County.

Planet Carroll describes itself as a group of local students, educators and activists who want to provide an educational, balanced and inclusive look into our environment and how we affect it.

Starting Monday, April 16, Planet Carroll will host events and activities to educate Carroll County citizens about climate change, growth and development, and water quality issues.

Don West, one of Planet Carroll's leaders, said that it was impossible to celebrate the environment in just one day.

"The idea for this event was spawned from the Board of County Commissioner's forum in Pikesville back at Halloween [PlanMaryland summit]," West said in an email to Patch. "Those of us who attended that event were left somehow unfulfilled and uninspired by what we saw and heard. We felt a need for a local event, free to the public, that would be educational and fact-based."

The group is primarily made up of students from Carroll County's local colleges--Carroll Community College and McDaniel College. West said that it's not the younger generations that he worries about when it comes to recognizing the importance of caring for the environment.

"Actually, I have great faith in young people, it's my generation that concerns me most," West said.  "I am proud of the partnership that Planet Carroll has been able to forge between students and faculty at both McDaniel College and Carroll Community College.  They did NOT need to be convinced about the importance of this undertaking."

West said that it's important to think on a larger scale than Carroll County.

"There seems to be an attitude among some here locally that Carroll County is somehow an 'island'," West said.  "In other words, things that we do here have no effect on others around us and vice versa.

"I happen to believe that we are all part of a larger community, so not only is the well-being of Carroll County important to us, but so is that of our greater community, including our entire state, the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and our wider ecosystem."

The following Earth Day-related events will take place in Carroll County next week:

Monday, April 16

Business and Career Day, Decker College Center, McDaniel College, 4-6 p.m.Recycling Art Show, Ensor Lounge, McDaniel  College, 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, April 17

Earth Day Activities, Great Hall, Carroll Community College, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.Wednesday, April 18

Energy event with BGE, Carroll Community College, K 100, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m., immediately followed by a screening of the film, Cool It.Thursday, April 19

Carroll Hospital Center Earth Day Event, Main Lobby, Carroll Hospital Center, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.  Community Matters Film Series/Discussion No Impact Man, Room K 127, Carroll Community College, 7-8:30 p.m., sponsored by Sustainable Living MDArtists' Panel, McDaniel College (tentative)Friday, April 20

Concert at Carroll Community College, sponsored by Waste Not! Carroll and Sustainable Living Maryland, 7 p.m.Saturday, April 21

Keynote Address and Panel Discussion, Decker Auditorium, McDaniel College, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.Sustainability displays outside Decker Auditorium, McDaniel College by the Venturing Crew.Sunday, April 22 (Earth Day)

Tree Planting with Boy Scout Troop #395, Freedom Park, Sykesville, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

The events are free and open to the public. To learn more or get involved, visit the website at http://planetcarroll.webs.com.