Howard County's James & Anne Robinson Nature Center has won the Maryland Office of Tourism's 2013 Green/Sustainable Tourism Award. State officials announced the win late last week at the annual Maryland Tourism and Travel summit.
The award recognizes a state tourism business or destination with successful green practices that have led to a positive economic impact or cost savings. Green practices include waste reduction, water conservation and energy recycling.
Awardees must be part of the Maryland Green Travel program, a self-certification program that identifies tourism businesses making an effort to reduce their environmental impact.
Opened in 2011, the Robinson Nature Center has energy-efficient features such as geothermal heating and cooling, a green roof and solar panels, which work together to reduce energy use at the facility by 30 percent, per county figures.
According to the county, the center's solar panels have generated enough electricity to save 3,632 gallons of gasoline and offset more than 165,475 pounds of carbon dioxide, as well as more than $18,000 in energy costs. Water efficiency features save the facility 50 percent more water than buildings of comparable size. The center recycles more than 50 cubic yards of materials each year.
The nature center, located in Columbia, became a Maryland Green Travel partner in September of this year.
“This designation reaffirms our ongoing commitment to strengthening our quality of life through public amenities and other investments," County Executive Ken Ulman said in a statement. "Our nature center is a wonderful example of sustainability and green operations."
Robinson Nature Center Director Stacey Yankee said in a statement that she was "proud" of the center's staff.
"We're overwhelmed to be chosen to receive this prestigious award," Yankee said. "To have the recognition, support and publicity from Maryland's Office of Tourism Development will help fulfill our mission to spread the work on sustainability and responsible environmental practices exponentially. The future appears to be very bright and we're excited about the potential to extend our reach to families throughout the county, the state and now beyond."