Featured MDE Staff: Laura Armstrong

Meet MDE's Sustainability Coordinator: Laura Armstrong

Photo of Laura Armstrong

At the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), we do more than issue environmental permits. We also offer value-added services to our permit holders and customers to help them operate more efficiently reduce waste and save money. Meet Laura Armstrong, MDE’s Sustainability Coordinator, who promotes a proactive approach to environmental management through energy, water, and material conservation and a focus on eliminating waste at the source rather than through end-of-the pipe control or treatment technologies.

What can MDE do for you?

At MDE, we provide technical assistance and information to Maryland businesses through a variety of technical services including on-site assessments, Environmental Management System (EMS) implementation assistance, Lean and Clean assessments, engineering intern projects, and pilot projects that address specific industry sectors or practices. These services are provided in partnership with the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MD MEP). They are confidential, non-regulatory, and best of all, offered for free or at a reduced cost.

“Our onsite visits provide a fresh set of eyes to identify ways that businesses can lower their operating costs and reduce their environmental impacts,” said Ms. Armstrong. The MD MEP engineers walk through the facility and identify waste reduction, and water and energy conservation opportunities. “We’ve worked with facilities of all types – manufacturing plants, auto body shops, hotels, printers, woodworking facilities, food processing plants, hospitals, stadiums, and even a chiropractor’s office. It requires a minimal time commitment on the part of the company and we’re always able to find some great opportunities and solutions." The program also provides industry-specific information on environmental best practices in the form of checklists, case studies and vendor information.

Some examples of P2 recommendations made through on-site assessments:

  • Updating to high-efficiency lighting
  • Improved equipment inspection and maintenance
  • Improved housekeeping and inventory control
  • Employee training to increase environmental awareness
  • Improved procurement policies that consider environmental impact
  • Better cleaning practices to reduce use of solvents and harsh cleaners
  • Installation of water flow restrictors
  • Reduced packaging in both receiving and shipping, and
  • Installation of more efficient and appropriately-sized motors to conserve energy.

Environmental Management System (EMS) Program

Our Environmental Management System (EMS) program takes businesses through the process of implementing an EMS based on the global ISO 14001 standard. EMSs benefit all types of organizations by ensuring that the facility addresses both their regulated and unregulated environmental impacts. EMSs require that a facility be in compliance with environmental laws and regulations, but also direct the facility to identify all of its environmental impacts, and then rank and prioritize them.

“Our EMS program has created some really positive and lasting results because we work with the businesses to create a team that identifies projects with specific objectives and targets that will result in measurable cost savings and environmental improvements,” said Ms. Armstrong. “EMSs also institutionalize a commitment to continual improvement and because they operate on an annual cycle with annual goals, we know their efforts will continue long after our involvement. It helps put their organization on a path to sustainability, which is an important consideration for industries that want to thrive and be viable well into the future.”

Maryland Green Registry

“It’s important that we recognize businesses that have taken the extra step to improve their environmental performance. It can help encourage their continued efforts and by sharing their successes, it can also help to inspire others to adopt similar practices.” The Maryland Green Registry, a free, voluntary membership program, was created to capture these practices by encouraging organizations of all types and sizes to share practical and proven sustainable practices in place at their facilities. More than 450 businesses have joined the program by posting online member profiles sharing the practices and results related to energy, water, waste, green building, transportation, procurement, and community activities. Collectively, Maryland Green Registry members are saving over $79 million annually through these practices, including 449 million kilowatt hours reduced, 645 million gallons of water saved, and 525,000 pounds of hazardous waste eliminated. See additional results here.

The Future of Environmental Management

“New technologies, products, and chemicals are being created every day and it’s a challenge for laws and regulations to keep pace with this, which is why EMSs and a commitment to pollution prevention are so useful in helping a company stay ahead of the curve. This proactive approach, in tandem with an informed public, is part of how MDE is working towards our mission to protect and restore Maryland’s environment for future generations.” For more information on technical services and recognition programs, visit here, or contact Laura Armstrong by email at Laura.Armstrong@maryland.gov or phone 410-537-4119. ​