Maine DEP Commissioner Speaks About Environmental Leadership of Private Sector, Helps Launch Zero Waste Challenge

April 7, 2011

CONTACT:
Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov/ 287-5842 (office) or 592-0427 (cell)

Maine DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown's Speaks About Environmental Innovation, Leadership of Private Sector at Launch of Middle School Zero Waste Challenge

SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE - Chewonki and Poland Spring Water Company teamed up with Memorial Middle School in South Portland to announce a statewide middle school Zero Waste Challenge. The competition asks middle school classrooms (grades 6, 7 and 8) across the state to develop and submit a plan to help their schools save money and resources by evaluating and reducing their own waste streams.

In March 2012, Poland Spring will award the top three winning school projects a total of $6,000 to help them implement their innovative waste reduction plans. School plans will be judged by an independent panel of experts.

Surrounded by students from the school's "Green Team," Memorial Middle School Principal Megan Welter announced that Memorial's participation in the challenge would commence during the fall 2011 term.

"We're proud to be the first school in Maine to commit to the Zero Waste Challenge. We believe it's an important tool to empower our students and show them that they can play a role in conserving the earth's natural resources by rethinking the concept of trash," she said.

With the support of Poland Spring, Chewonki developed a series of educational posters and online curriculum for schools, educators and libraries across Maine. These projects are designed to provide teaching resources and foster a growing interest in sustainability and natural resource protection.

Over the past five years, Poland Spring and Chewonki have partnered on three posters including this year's Zero Waste, 5,000 of which will be distributed across Maine.

Chewonki president Willard Morgan said he hopes that the project will help catalyze a rethinking of waste throughout Maine.

"Zero waste has environmental, financial and social benefits, and this project provides a path for schools to reduce solid waste, save money and engage in meaningful education," said Morgan. "Chewonki has a goal for 50 Maine schools to participate in the Challenge this year. We hope that students and teachers will exceed that goal," he said.

Poland Spring provided funding to produce the Zero Waste Poster and Challenge. The top middle school entries will be awarded $3,000 for first prize, $2,000 for second prize and $1,000 for third prize. The funds can be used to implement a Zero Waste strategy at the winning schools, or they can be used toward a Zero Waste Outdoor Classroom program at Chewonki.

Michael Washburn, Poland Spring/Nestle Waters North America's Sustainability Director, said that the company was proud to partner on Chewonki's newest endeavor.

"Poland Spring shares Chewonki's mission to promote and foster the understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of the natural world. Respect and responsibility for the local environment is at the core of our business. The Zero Waste poster and Middle School Challenge speaks to our ongoing commitment to recycling and waste reduction. Nestle Waters North America is going to lead our industry in advancing policies that seek to capture and reuse every beverage container produced,” he said.

For more information about the Zero Waste Challenge, including eligibility, requirements and deadlines, please visit http://www.chewonki.org/zerowaste/default.asp

Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Darryl Brown spoke at the event about the environmental innovation born from the private sector; the impact of cross-sector partnerships like the one between Chewonki, Poland Spring and Maine’s public schools; and his department's renewed commitment to supporting and strengthening Maine businesses that are being proactive in preventing pollution and reducing waste.

His remarks are below in their entirety:

"Last week, I was in Washington DC at a conference of my counterparts and met a representative from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. After introducing myself as the new Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, she asked me what work I'd done prior to my appointment. When I replied that I'd owned and operated a land use planning business for the past 40 years, the second she heard the word business, she shot back: 'So you're not really an environmentalist.'

These sort of assumptions that the private sector has no concern or commitment to the environment are misguided and they are misleading.

For this reason, the Maine DEP under my leadership will be doing more to support, strengthen and sing the praises of businesses that are being proactive in preventing pollution and reducing waste. We're relaunching the Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence that have languished for nearly a decade to celebrate the innovation within the private sector - and the nonprofit and public sectors too- in proactively protecting the environment. We're looking to expand our Environmental Leader program beyond lodging establishments, restaurants and grocers and we're doing more outreach around those businesses who are becoming certified for reducing their impact on the environment. And we'll be offering more technical assistance than ever before to help businesses integrate long-term processes, practices and products that reduce or eliminate the generation of pollution and waste or that protect natural resources through conservation and more efficient use.

Green is gold and it is good. And across the country and especially here in Maine, it is the leadership of the private sector in being stewards of sustainability that is having the most positive impact on Maine's environment- both the natural environment and the economic one. And there is perhaps no better example of this than Poland Spring, a company that is centered around turning a rapidly renewable natural resource into nearly 800 good jobs for Maine people. Because the quality of that Poland Spring water is dependent on Maine's pristine environment, the company has made lightening its footprint its first priority and waste elimination at the core of everyone's job.

Every one of those nearly 800 workers take the company's commitment to environmental sustainability seriously, because each of them calls Maine home and because many of them have kids just like all of you who will one day inherit the planet this generation leaves behind. Thanks to Poland Spring's 94 percent recycling rate at its Maine plants and the fact that its 1/2 liter bottle uses 33 percent less plastic than its competitors and is the lightest branded bottle produced, the planet that all of you and your friends will become the leaders of will be a healthy one, with much less waste than could be created if the company did not have such a commitment to conservation.

I and the entire Department of Environmental Protection applauds Poland Spring and praises them for reaching out beyond the confines of their company to collaborate with Chewonki, a leader in their own right of meaningful, hands-on environmental education, on this poster and education campaign. The private sector often has many more resources than those of us in the public and nonprofit sectors, and when they reach out to partner like Poland Spring has here today with Chewonki, the meaning of their efforts are magnified beyond measure.

Just like Poland Spring and Chewonki and many of the entities represented by the guests here today are stewards of the environment, all of you students here at Memorial Middle School and around Maine have the chance to be environmental stewards as well with the Maine Middle School Zero Waste Challenge Contest. Many of you are already doing important things to be green, like putting your papers into the recycling bin, turning off the lights when you leave a room or composting the spinach you didn't finish at dinner, but this challenge allows you to do even more.

When an Environmental Manager at a company like Poland Spring wants to be better at conserving the earth's natural resources, they identify the problem, they brainstorm and then they implement and measure the solutions they shaped. This contest is giving all of you middle schoolers in Maine a chance to pursue that same 'real world' process, except if you come up with the best idea, you can win as much as $3,000 instead of just getting to keep your job. You already know the problem and that is that our country is the number one generator of trash, producing around 40 percent of the world's waste though we only have about 5 percent of the people. Every single day, each of us produces about 4 pounds of trash and that adds up fast!!! And when that waste doesn't get recycled or resused, we see it piling up in our landfills at such a fast rate that of the two man-made structures that can be seen from space, one is the Great Wall of China and the other is a landfill in New York!

By taking the time to come up with smarter solutions to handle waste and innovative ideas to help get your school closer to zero waste, you all will not only get the opportunity to win your school $3,000 and leave a legacy of environmental leadership that will last long after you've left for high school, but you'll be having a real, measurable impact in protecting the planet that you'll soon be in charge of leading and ensuring that it will be a healthy one for plants, wildlife, you and your own children. The little changes you make today can have a BIG difference tomorrow."