By Shanteé Woodards The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Elvia Thompson and Lynne Forsman have long dreamed of an Annapolis greenhouse -- for businesses.
They started out nearly a decade ago with Annapolis Green Drinks, a monthly networking opportunity for environmentalists. That effort continues, and together they formed the nonprofit Annapolis Green, which has spun off into a variety of sustainability efforts, including one that arranges for the funding of recycling and composting at area festivals.
Through the Responsible Events & Festivals initiative, they show organizers how to reduce waste and arrange for corporate sponsorship of these efforts.
Their organization is one of three nominees for the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce's Green Business of the Year award.
This year, the program became an affiliate of the Keep America Beautiful initiative, which promotes beautification and waste reduction in communities.
"We kind of have a finger in every pie," Thompson said. "We're all over the place. Whatever has to do with making our community sustainable, clean, green, we have an interest in. So, we're a mile wide and an inch thick."
The Annapolis Rotary has been working with Annapolis Green for three years on recycling and composting at its annual Crab Feast at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The first year, they started small by setting up bins in a section. For this year's event, all of the material was compostable, so it could be rolled up and put it in the bin -- and that made for easier cleanup, said spokeswoman Mary Felter.
"It went splendidly, and of course you learn as you go," Felter said. In the past "some of us would even take anything that seemed to be recyclable and put it in barrels. This year, nothing. We just rolled it up and got it to recycling."
This month's Green Drinks event was at the Charles Carroll House in Annapolis. Annapolis architect David Miles has been attending the monthly gathering for about a year and it has enabled him to network and gain a few business deals.
This time he brought his son, Michael, a recent college graduate who studied the environment and was looking for a job. Michael's interest is in coastal areas and he is worried about the future.
"It's like if someone has the flu and you tell them, 'Hey man, cancer is right around the corner,'" the graduate of Duquesne University said. "It'll go from bad to worse if we don't fix things."
The monthly gatherings are tied to the international Green Drinks movement, in which participants gather to discuss the environment in a bar setting.
The local effort began here in 2006, when Forsman wanted to offer a green option for her yacht charter operation. She heard about Green Drinks and the first event was at the Rockfish --now Blackwall Hitch -- with about 20 participants.
For the most part, the event has been held here monthly since. The organizers target locations that have an environmental story to tell, such as the living shoreline at St. John's College.
At this week's event, attendees learned about the environmental efforts of St. Mary's Parish and the Carroll House.
St. Mary's uses LED lights expected to save 3 million kilowatt hours, while the Carroll House learned new ways to save energy. Palate Pleasers, which catered the event, provided the food on plates made of palm leaves, ready for composting.
Frank and Ginger DeLuca have been coming since the first event in 2006. After Frank ran the Annapolis 10-miler, Forsman told the couple about a reusable product they would be selling at races to prevent the use of Dixie cups.
"Our position is we try to care for God's creation," said Ginger, who is with St. Anne's environmental ministry and the Chesapeake Interfaith Environmental Group. "Every time we come, there's a little bit more information."
Forsman and Thompson run things out of their houses. They have set up an effort called the Founding 100, in which they want to get 100 people to pledge $1,000 each to their organization.
That way, they said, they can fund future efforts, and handle expenses for office space and staff. So far, they've had 41 donors.
The REF -- the festival recycling program -- began with the Maryland Seafood Festival, which now handles its own green efforts.
Typically, the REF approaches organizers with a proposal on the cost for setting up recycling and composting bins, as well as signage. If the cost exceeds the budget, Annapolis Green tries to get sponsors.
"Two ideal outcomes of this REF program would be that A, we didn't have to charge anybody anything because we knew a few corporate donors that would see this as valuable," Forsman said. "And (B) is that each festival starts to do it on its own and puts us out of business."
2015 Business Award nominees Entrepreneur of the year: Kevin Lancaster of Winvale, Dr. Michael Freedman of Evolve Medical Clinic, Paul Jacobs of the Annapolis Boat Show. Small business of the year: Chuck Ferrar, Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits; Leigh Rand, Fast Signs of Annapolis; Jen Krohn and Steve and Ryan Gaines, Annapolis Smokehouse & Tavern. Green business award: Garden Family Farm, Greenstreet Growers Inc. and Annapolis Green. Business leader of the year: Larry Ulvila, Insurance Solutions Inc; Stan Klos, Council Baradel. Nonprofit of the year: Colonial Players, Summer Garden Theatre, Annapolis Rotary. Don Riddle Corporate Citizenship Award: Rob Norton of Maryland Live!, Lucia Steele/Ricardo Santor of Varuna Aveda Salon, Brian Riddle of Homestead Gardens and Steve Samaras of Zachary's Jewelers.