Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is starting a new program, encouraging businesses to take on an environmentally sustainable project. In a 2019 initiative, Hannaford in Wells mowed its nearby fields with monarch butterflies in mind. Jessalyn Benson Photo/USFWS

Planting native Maine flowers and using energy energy efficient LED lightbulbs are among the many environmental sustainable options businesses can choose as participants in a program offered by the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge is asking local businesses to undertake such actions this year through Conservation Champions: Businesses for a Greener Future. The community-wide project aims to inspire as many as 50 local business owners to implement at least one environmentally sustainable action at their business within a one-year timeframe.

Actions could be small, like planting native flowers and shrubs around a business — lists of native plants are available at: https://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/pesticides/yardscaping/plants/n_flowers.htm — or only giving straws to restaurant patrons if they ask.

One example of a larger efforts would be participating in employee volunteer day with a conservation organization.

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is marking the 50th year since the refuge was renamed for Carson, a renowned conservationist and marine biologist.

One project undertaken by the Hannaford grocery store in Wells in 2019 in a different initiative involved “mowing for monarchs” — monarch butterflies that is.

The company used to mow the field in the traditional manner, said Rachel Stearns, a biological technician with the refuge and one of the organizers of the new business program.

Choosing to mow a field well before and when after the milkweed comes and goes allows monarch butterflies to enjoy the food source. Courtesy Photo?USFWS

“A lot of milkweed was growing in the field,” said Stearns, explaining that mowing early in the season and then late in the season instead of throughout, gives milkweed, a monarch butterfly food source, time to grow.

Businesses can sign onto the initiative by visiting  the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge website at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/rachel_carson/ and scroll to the Around the Refuge section.

Stearns said research published in the past decade suggests that businesses marketed as environmentally friendly result in higher purchase intentions — or willingness to buy a given product — especially among younger consumers.

According to a Nov, 21, 2018, story in Forbes online magazine, a 2017 study on corporate social responsibility revealed 68 percent of millennials bought a product with a social or environmental benefit in the 12 preceding months, and, among other findings, noted 87 percent  of consumers will have a more positive image of a company that supports social or environmental issues.

Businesses can join the Conservation Champions: Businesses for a Greener Future initiative by visiting  the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge website at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/rachel_carson/. Dan King photo

The nonprofit Friends of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge will highlight participating businesses on social media, its website, and in its quarterly newsletter, said Stearns. She said the Facebook page will allow businesses to share ideas, promote events and offer presentations geared toward small businesses.

Businesses can pick and choose how involved they want to be, and the refuge stands ready to help, by brainstorming ideas and providing signs for those participating, she said.

Located along 50 miles of coastline in York and Cumberland counties, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is headquartered in Wells. Its office is scheduled to move to Kennebunk in 2022. The refuge consists of eleven divisions between Kittery and Cape Elizabeth.

Some ideas businesses could explore are encouraging customers to use reusable bags, switch to eco-friendly cleaning products, composting, pesticide- or herbicide-free landscaping, using local farms or companies for food and drink options at restaurants, switching to LED lights and a host of others.

Some businesses in southern York County have already signed on to the effort, Stearns said.

“Ideally, businesses will sign up for the summertime. They have a year to start their project, she said.

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