Topsham retirement community a leader in efforts to go green

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TOPSHAM — Being green may not be easy for Kermit, but  so far it’s paying off for the Highlands retirement community.

The Highlands was honored Oct. 19 as the first community of its kind to receive the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Leader Certification.

The distinction, which is normally given to hotels, is granted to hospitality businesses across the state with more than 20 rooms that have taken measures to lower their environmental impacts.

The Highlands in 2012 established a Go Green Committee, which worked with management on energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives. Those included distributing recycling information and reusable bags to Highlands residents, composting food waste, and using environmentally-friendly lawn and cleaning products.

“I was on the Earth Care team at our church, and we had done several small things there,” said Highlands resident Elaine Kurtz, who chaired the Go Green group at its launch, in an interview Oct. 21. “I looked around, and I thought, ‘gee, we could do similar things here at the Highlands.'”

Although the group has striven since 2012 to meet the standards called for in the DEP certification, “in the last probably year and a half, we’ve really worked on the certification process,” Kurtz said, praising former Highlands CEO Brian Storey for involving his staff in the effort.

Kurtz, who moved to the Highlands in 2000, has been particularly interested in issues like climate change, global warming and the state of the oceans.

“It’s a great feeling to know that we’ve accomplished what we have,” she said. “There’s more we’d like to do, and we’ll keep looking around and deciding what we want to do next. We need to look at energy efficiency, and I think that’ll be our next big project.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The Highlands retirement community in Topsham was honored Oct. 19 with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Leader Certification. Elaine Kurtz, who led the Go Green Committee at he Highlands that spearheaded the effort, stands third from right.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.