ROCKVILLE—The Montgomery County Department of General Services (DGS) released their annual Green Government Report, which provides updates on the county’s efforts to be environmentally friendly.
The report, which was released on April 8, indicates that green initiatives are being implemented successfully across the county.
“The collective efforts of our county departments to embed ‘green’ into our culture is essential to an effective and sustainable government,” said County Executive Marc Elrich.
Montgomery County has established two major initiatives aimed at combatting climate change in recent years. In 2009 the county created the Climate Protection Plan, which set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the county to 80 percent below the baseline 2005 levels. In late 2017, the county council passed the Emergency Climate Mobilization Resolution, which accelerated those goals. The resolution’s new set of goals includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035.
“They are very substantial goals,” said Eric Coffman, chief of the Office of Energy and Sustainability of DGS. “What the report is all about it to make sure the government leads by example. I mean, we can’t go out and ask residents in the private sector to take actions in their buildings or use more public transportation. Those things just won’t happen unless the government has essentially done it first.”
David Dise, the director of DGS, echoed the importance of leading by example.
“While DGS is proud to lead county government sustainability efforts, we don’t do it in isolation, and this report isn’t about DGS,” Dise wrote in the report. “It’s about how all county departments embrace the county executive’s vision and commitment that we lead by example.”
Coffman explained that the county government purchases clean energy and has made real strides toward green initiatives in recent years.
“We’re continuing to really get down to the fundamentals and expand our efforts to do energy efficiency and petroleum-use reduction,” he said.
Coffman created the Office of Energy and Sustainability five years ago, and with it came annual Green Government Reports.
“They started out very simple, and then each year they get more detailed as we get more data and we learn more and we launch more initiatives,” Coffman said.
One of the projects highlighted in the report is upgrading the light fixtures in Montgomery County parking garages. From 2018 to 2020 the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (DOT) will replace all lighting in garages and parking lots from fluorescent to LED.
The project includes replacing lights in lobbies, stairwells, decks and exterior lights. According to the report, the six garages that are already completed show a cost savings of over 40 percent in the first few months after upgrades.
“The entire project is expected to amount to more than $50,000 per year in savings from LED upgrades in Montgomery County parking garages,” the DGS report stated.
The lights are also programmed to dim when there is no motion detected and will harvest daylight in above ground buildings to augment the energy supply.
Another project the county has invested in is the installation of solar panels. In 2018, the county exceeded its goal to install 6 megawatts of solar power on county facilities. There are 7.6 megawatts of solar panels across the county now.
The Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters is one facility with new solar panels. The panels are mounted on the roof of canopies above the existing parking lot. They don’t disrupt any of the parking structures, and unless seen from above the panels, are virtually unnoticeable.
Other solar panel projects have been implemented on library buildings, community recreation centers, correctional facilities, child care centers and office buildings.
“That’s where the magic happens, that you often don’t notice the changes,” Coffman said. “We want things to blend in and meet the ideals of our community. Solar projects are a good example; we often take people on tours and show them where they are because we’ve got them tucked in public buildings within a tree line where they’re screened off.”
Coffman explained that the DGS is also working toward installing more signs to highlight the environmentally friendly elements in buildings people might already visit regularly.
“It will feel like the lighting is better and there is more daylight. The overall comfort will feel better. It will feel like a better building. These things are subtle, but the result is you can feel the difference,” Coffman said.
The report also indicates that the county diverted about 61 percent of waste away from landfills through recycling practices. The goal is to divert 70 percent of waste. The county also made improvements in its gasoline intake, reducing its consumption by 3.5 percent. The county’s goal is to reduce its consumption by 20 percent of 2014 levels by 2020.
Coffman explained that reports like these are important because they help inform the public about the progress the county has made in reaching the goals it set forth for itself.
“We need to report on what we’re doing so that the public has transparency and they know that we’re accountable to make progress toward those goals,” Coffman said. “It doesn’t help us to be out there doing things that people don’t know about.”
In the future, DGS outlines in their report what steps the agency hopes to implement in the county. Some of their future projects include exploring waste reduction through compost, implementing a pilot program for the police department to use hybrid SUVs, and installing low-flow shower and sink fixtures in high- use facilities.