Monday, April 30, 2007

Ogunquit envisions lure of being 'green town'

Portland Press Herald
By ANNE GLEASON, Staff Writer

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit displays a flag on its property to let visitors know that the hotel is a Maine Environmental Leader.
To earn its "green" certification, the resort worked with the state to become more environmentally friendly. Its vending machines and arcade games operate using motion sensors. It switched to nonchlorinated cleaner in the swimming pool and installed energy-efficient light bulbs.

A similar state program, which involves earning enough points to receive certification, has been developed for restaurants.

Ogunquit officials are exploring ways to create a similar label for the town. And the benefits of being an official "green town" would be twofold, said Conservation Commission Chairman Mike Horn.

In addition to saving energy and helping the environment, the tourist town could market itself to travelers concerned about the environment and climate change, he said.

"It would be highly advantageous to be able to promote the town as Maine's green town," Horn said. "(Ogunquit's) almost totally a tourist town."

Other communities are going green, through efforts such as the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Portland, Saco and Kennebunk have signed a pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Horn believes Ogunquit could start by encouraging its many hotels and motels to participate in the state's lodging program. The program could then be expanded to restaurants, other businesses and residents who wished to participate to help achieve a townwide green status.

"It's blue sky now, but the more I talk to people, it seems doable," Horn said.

For assistance, the Conservation Commission reached out to Peter Cooke, program manager with the state Department of Environmental Protection's Pollution Prevention Program. Cooke oversees the green-certification programs for lodging and restaurants.

Using existing environmental programs, such as the lodging policy and the Governor's Carbon Challenge, Cooke said a town might be able to develop a communitywide certification program. He said the effort is worth exploring.

"Using a combination of programs to obtain green status as a town there's potential there," he said.

The carbon challenge requires participants to sign a pledge to lower emissions. The state's program has 60 participants. With the exception of about eight to 10 residences, all are businesses, municipalities or nonprofits, Cooke said.

The state program for hotels and motels, launched a year and a half ago through the state DEP's Pollution Prevention program, has 48 participants.

"It's well worth it, not just morally, but it has also made a lot of business sense," said Allyson Cavaretta, director of sales and marketing at the Meadowmere. "I can't stress enough the importance of taking care of the things that people come here to see."

The Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth was among the first to receive certification.

In recent months, the hotel started using biofuel and joined, allowing guests to donate to the fund to offset carbon dioxide emissions they contributed on their trip by checking a box on their bill, said Rauni Kew, the inn's director of marketing.

Kew said travelers are becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues. A recent TripAdvisor survey found that 38 percent of worldwide travelers see environmentally friendly tourism as a consideration when taking trips.

Also, corporations and businesses that are environmentally conscious have chosen to hold conferences at the hotel because of its efforts and designation, Kew said.

The hotel's environmental practices also have earned Inn by the Sea publicity, including being designated as a top environmental hotel in the Americas by MSNBC. The state, as a whole, could benefit in the same way by getting more entities in line with green initiatives, Kew said.

Vermont and New Hampshire have regional certification programs similar to Maine's lodging and restaurant programs, she said. The Boston Green Tourism initiative encourages hotels and restaurants to go green and promotes Greater Boston as a green destination, according to its Web site.

"It's time to market Maine as a green destination," Kew said. "We are the perfect place to do that, because we are green."

In Bar Harbor, a midcoast tourist town flush with lodging facilities, Graycote Inn owner Roger Samuel said he expects his bed and breakfast's green certification to become increasingly attractive.

"You might find some people who think, 'I can make perhaps a little impact by staying (at a green hotel) as opposed to somewhere else.' It's getting on the radar of more and more people," he said.

The lodging program is based on a points system. Hotels must obtain 100 points to receive certification. After two years, they either have to increase their points to 130 or pay a fee to recertify.

Currently, hotels can earn up to 300 points using various suggestions in the state's workbook, such as switching to geothermal heating or composting food waste.

A similar program is in place for restaurants, and O'Naturals in Portland became the first in the state to receive certification last week, Cooke said.

"This whole green thing's not going away," he said.
Ogunquit resident Bernadine Speers got the Conservation Commission talking about the townwide effort last week.

Speers had heard from a friend about cities in France that "had gone green." The cities, she said, go as far as presenting new residents with a bicycle, implementing green education into school curriculum and banning plastic bags in grocery stores.

Some of those efforts would not work in Ogunquit, but Speers said she finds the concept of a green community intriguing.

Staff Writer Anne Gleason can be contacted at 282-8229 or at:

No comments: