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Living green

By , - Last modified: February 14, 2011 at 12:07 PM

When Todd Milano drives around in his Smart fortwo passion
coupe, he gets some curious looks. But he's OK with that.

When Todd Milano drives around in his Smart fortwo passion coupe, he gets some curious looks. But he's OK with that.

As president of Central Penn College in East Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County, he is sending a powerful message to his students as well as the public, he said.

"I could buy just about any car I want, but I chose this one," Milano said. "Just because you have the right or the finances to do something, that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do."

For driving around town and on his 5-mile commute to work, the Smart car works fine, he said. The car has a three-cylinder engine that runs on gasoline, and gets about 40 miles to the gallon in the city, he said.

"This is all I need for that," Milano said. "Plus it's really cute and makes people smile."

Part of the mission at the college is to give back to the community, he said. Leading by example is something he's always tried to do. In 1987, he led a project in which the college built new townhouses that used passive solar panels, he said.

"Not everyone can do the big things," Milano said. "But it starts with little stuff. If we all do our part, it will add up."

Brian Denton founded his company, Project Earth H2O, on that same principle of each person doing a small part.

Denton was working as a vice president for an oil-drilling company when he realized he wanted to do something he could be passionate about. He came across a book that focused on future water issues.

"A light bulb just came on, and I knew what I should do," Denton said.

In mid-June, after 18 months of research and preparation, Denton's company began selling reusable stainless steel bottles, and he expects the company to roll out custom-made reusable plastic water bottles within three months.

What makes his plastic bottles unique is the material from which they're made, Denton said. Most single-use water bottles are made with #7 polycarbonate. Reusing those bottles creates a safety risk, as chemicals can leach into the water, he said.

Denton's bottles are made from #5 polypropyline, he said, and are safe to refill.

"Thirty-eight billion single-use water bottles end up in U.S. landfills and waterways leaching toxins into our earth and water every year," Denton said. "I just decided I had to do something to change that."

Initially his products will be sold on his Web site, www.projectearthh2o.com, but he has agreements with retailers to sell the plastic bottles as well, he said.

Denton also hopes to donate 10 percent of his profits to environmental organizations, he said.

That kind of giving back to the community is part of what motivates Marcus Sheffer, a partner at Energy Opportunities Inc. in Wellsville, York County. He has combined his passion for the environment with his consulting business.

"I am an environmentalist through and through," he said. "I try to do in my private life what I tell my clients to do in my business."

Sheffer builds environmentally friendly buildings using an integrated design that takes advantage of natural materials such as cork, wheat and recycled newspapers to create a high-performance building, he said.

"It's not just a matter of swapping out one material for another," he said. "Using the right materials can create a building that has zero energy consumption."

Although he drives a Prius, Sheffer's commute is only about 10 feet, he said. Having a home office saves time and lowers his environmental impact, he said.

Riding a bicycle to work most days has a double benefit, said Larry Richardson, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of York and York County. Although his primary motive for riding a bicycle to work was health, he said, he's happy to be helping the environment at the same time.

His 6-mile commute by bike takes about 20 minutes and adds just about five minutes to the car trip. His job allows him to dress more casually than some people, but he keeps a few outfits at his office, he said.

He said he also tries to schedule all meetings outside the office on the days he does drive a car to work.

"I would like to see offices become more commuter-friendly," Richardson said. "Maybe there could be closets for extra clothes, or showers available."

Richardson doesn't consider himself an environmentalist, but he is glad to play a part.

"If everyone rode bikes, we could change our way of thinking," he said.

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