TURNER — Heidi Hewison checked off the last two items in a workbook Wednesday before she submitted it to the state. It moves the Food City she manages in this town closer to becoming state-certified as an “Environmental Leader.”
Hewison of Hebron has been working with Roy Krout, an environmental specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Innovation and Assistance, for about a year toward the goal of getting the store classified as a “green grocer.”
She has been juggling other issues and projects as well, she said, and believes if she had just focused on the 100-item or so booklet, she probably would have finished sooner.
Sister stores in Livermore Falls and Wilton are also in the process of becoming certified.
The workbook covers a number of green practices that they could do or are already doing, Krout said Wednesday.
The state gives free assistance to help them with the green practices that include saving energy, reducing waste, using nontoxic chemicals and identifying local food sources.
The Environmental Leader program is a self-guided process offered by the state DEP as part of its pollution-prevention program to encourage grocers, restaurants and lodging facilities to implement selected initiatives from those offered in the department-developed workbook to achieve points toward certification, according to the state’s website.
To become recertified in two years, a business must increase its point total.
Since the program was launched in 2006, more than 150 businesses have been certified by the program. DEP estimates that lodging leaders alone have saved more than 19 million gallons of water through installing low-flow water fixtures and/or implementing towel and linen reuse programs and prevented more than 15 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions through lighting with CFLs.
“We’re just working with the state to cooperate with them to be as green as we can be,” store owner and Chief Executive Officer Zak Sclar said.
When the new Turner store building was built 4 1/2 years ago, thought was put into being more energy efficient and having less of an effect on the environment, Hewison said.
But owners wanted more to lessen the impact of their footprint.
“We had to get more environmentally friendly,” she said.
They added more green cleaning products to what they already used and increased recycling.
If she and other employees see something in the trash that could be recycled, they pick it out and put it where it should go, Hewison said.
Anything that can be recycled is recycled. They even bale their own cardboard and sell it.
The store is also selling more foods, including vegetables and fruits, that are grown locally.
“We buy as much local as possible,” she said. “We buy apples from Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner. We buy strawberries and blueberries from Rupert’s in Turner.”
Fiddleheads and corn on the cob are also purchased locally.
Buying green products costs a little bit more, but they say it is good for the environment, Hewison said.
“We’re doing what we can to save energy costs,” she said. “We had someone come in and go through the heating and air conditioning and put in different thermostats.”
The store has a new refrigeration system that allows for heat and hot water reclamation to be used toward heating the store, she said.
“It’s huge for hot water,” Hewison said.
One time she shut off the water reclamation and all of a sudden there was hardly any hot water, she said.
Once certified, the store will be able to display the logo showing they are environmental leaders.
But it is not about the recognition.
“It is just being more aware and making employees more aware of being environmentally friendly,” Hewison said. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s what everybody should do. If everybody did more, it would be better for the environment and better for our grandchildren and future generations.”