December 23, 2013

Hallowell inn wins Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce award

Maple Hill Farm wins a President’s Award because of its eco-friendly emphasis.

By Susan McMillan smcmillan@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

HALLOWELL — The greening of Maple Hill Farm began with separate heating zones.

click image to enlarge

CHAMBER AWARD: Scott Cowger, left, and Vince Hannan stand beneath mercury-free LED lights they installed in the “Gathering Place” room at their eco-friendly Hallowell inn, Maple Hill Farm. The couple are being recognized by the Chamber of Commerce with the President’s Award.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

During renovations in 2001 to add two guest rooms to the bed and breakfast, owners Scott Cowger and Vince Hannan decided that each guest room should be heated individually so that energy isn’t wasted on vacant rooms.

It was one of the first in a series of eco-friendly decisions that have won the inn and conference center widespread recognition, including becoming the first business to receive the state’s Green Lodging Certification. Mostly recently, Maple Hill Farm won one of the President’s Awards from the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s annual awards will be presented at a banquet on Jan. 24 at the Augusta Civic Center.

Environmental protection has personal importance to Cowger and Hannan, partners of 18 years who married in November.

“It’s important both as individuals and as businesses to make a commitment to tread carefully on the environment in which we live, especially lowering our carbon footprint,” Cowger said. “We’re an energy-intensive business, so sort of along with that it’s our obligation to reduce the amount of non-renewable energy that we use.”

Cowger bought the property, where the 1906 farmhouse was already being used as an inn, out of foreclosure in 1992. He and Hannan have expanded it from there, including construction in 2003 and 2004 of the conference center, which hosts at least 300 events per year.

Some of Maple Hill Farm’s eco-friendly features are big and flashy, like the 100-foot wind turbine, erected in 2003, and the solar array on the roof of the conference center, which was the largest in the state when it was built in 2006.

“We started long before it was the in thing to do,” Hannan said.

The turbine and solar panels provide electricity and heat water for direct use and hot-water heating. They’re connected to the electrical grid, so on rare occasions, Maple Hill Farm produces excess power that others can use.

Other aspects of sustainability are less obvious, like the energy-efficient LED light bulbs in the Gathering Place, the largest room in the conference center, and the dispensers in the showers that allow the inn to avoid all those tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.

Cowger said part of being green is also supporting the local economy, so they try to buy as many products locally as they can, but food is a special challenge. The inn does serve eggs laid by the chickens in their barn, and they buy bar soap from Rossignol Farm Soaps in Litchfield.

Being environmentally friendly has saved Maple Hill Farm money on energy costs and has also provided a marketing boost. If a potential guest is considering a few places to stay, being green can put Maple Hill Farm over the top, Cowger said.

Cowger said he used to receive a lot of inquiries from other business owners about renewable energy, but they’ve become less common as such technologies have become more widespread.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645smcmillan@centralmaine.comTwitter: @s_e_mcmillan
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