Sustainability staffers have worked with their counterparts in other departments to conserve energy in county buildings by measuring the facilities' energy usage and then making "low-cost changes" such as installing programmable thermostats, replacing some light switches with motion sensors that turn lights on and off when a person enters and then leaves a room, and replacing traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

Ferriter said the county has been able to save $453,000 in energy costs in nearly two years using such measures.

"What it really boils down to is making responsible decisions with limited funding," she said.

Ferriter also mentioned the "cool roof" which was installed at Ring Factory Elementary School in Bel Air in 2010 in place of the school's aging asphalt shingle roof.

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The so-called cool roof reflects heat away from the building and cuts down on the need to crank up the air conditioner, according to, the U.S. Department of Energy's website.

The county used part of a $2.1 million federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant to fund the roof.

"It's one step at a time," Ferriter said.

Stormy waters

One effort by Harford County to be more environmentally friendly has not been well received by the public, however.

Members of the Harford County Council spent several hours Tuesday evening debating, and hearing opinions from residents, about a proposed $125 stormwater fee, which the state is requiring Harford and other Maryland counties to charge their residents.

The fee is designed to raise local revenue for stormwater management projects to keep runoff pollution out of the Chesapeake Bay.

Darlington/Dublin council member J. Alan Thompson encouraged local residents to get in touch with county council members.

"Let your councilman know your thoughts, because they're struggling with it," he said.