Green roofs, solar energy, wind turbines, hybrid vehicles and recycling that encourages landfill-free manufacturing all figured into Harford County's first "Going Green," a seminar that gave business leaders an opportunity to show off their innovations and learn from others.
Green initiatives create sustainable development, which calls for responsible use of resources that preserves the environment for future generations.
"Going green is not a fad," said Mike Galiazzo, director of the Regional Management Institute of Maryland, who served as master of ceremonies for the discussion. "Companies have learned green products are marketable, that they make you money and allow you to save money."
Several dozen companies participated in the seminar Thursday at Harford Community College, which had its own green practices to display. The 332-acre campus with 20 buildings includes rain gardens, bio-retention ponds and roof plantings.
"By sharing these initiatives with you, we hope to increase the environmental literacy of the community in which we live," said Deborah Wrobel, dean of the college's science technology, environment and math department.
County Executive David R. Craig opened the seminar with announcements of proposals that will help address the national energy crisis on a local level. The county is offering tax incentives and fast-track status for projects that use LEED - leadership in energy and environmental design standards. Officials will bolster the solar/geothermal energy tax credit program that offers homeowners as much as $2,500 for investing in the technology.
Craig will request legislation to allow exploration of wind turbines in Harford's rural areas and will implement an energy management plan for county buildings. The county will also be purchasing hybrid vehicles and buses for the fleet, he said.
"The idea is to foster good environmental programs," he said.
Tucker McNulty, business development associate in Harford's department of economic development, said the seminar offered companies opportunities to "roll out projects under study and open a dialogue on green issues." Several businesses shared their energy-savings plans.
Ed Snodgrass, president of Emory Knoll Farms in Street, discussed green-roof technology, plants for living walls and no-chemical farming.
"All of us have to think of what we can do to be green," Snodgrass said. "In 50 years, you will either be a green business or you won't exist."
Tom Gallagher, the GM Powertrain Baltimore Transmission plant manager, a 400,000-square-foot facility in White Marsh, said the company has made a $120 million investment in hybrid technology. The plant relies on solar energy for some operations and recycles or converts its waste materials to energy.
"You can't conserve your way to savings," Gallagher said. "You have to diversify your strategies."
Dawson Killhoffer, supervisor at Custom Direct in Joppa, said the plant has installed motion-activated lighting, centralized its recycling facilities and added desk-side recycling bins. He is awaiting results of a free pollution prevention assessment, which the Maryland Department of the Environment conducted last month.
"Forums like this are a great opportunity to share all this information," he said.