GLOBAL WARMING

Environmentalists Find Being Green Is Getting Easier

John Morrill, Arlington County's energy manager, presented his display on lighting recently at the Arlington Central Library. It compares incandescent bulbs to the more energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps.
John Morrill, Arlington County's energy manager, presented his display on lighting recently at the Arlington Central Library. It compares incandescent bulbs to the more energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps. (Photos By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2007

For years, John Morrill peddled the virtues of compact fluorescent lamps at the Arlington County Fair and other local venues, touting their cost-saving benefits and environmentally friendly nature. And for years, people would nod politely before scurrying away.

These days, Morrill, Arlington County's energy manager, is getting a different reaction: Now people are approaching him.

"They'll say, 'Oh, I saw that on Oprah,' " he said.

Government bureaucrats such as Morrill who have spent their careers trying to sell the public on energy conservation are enjoying their rock-star moment. Thanks in part to "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary about former vice president Al Gore's lectures on global warming, the issue has a higher profile.

"I've been working on this issue since 1983, and this is the most gratifying time of my career," Morrill said. "It's just -- I'm actually having a lot of fun. And hopefully, all of us working on this issue are making a difference."

For years, Morrill said, he and his colleagues had an image problem. Their ideas were good; they knew they could save people money and help the environment. But the bottom line: "It's difficult to make energy efficiency sexy."

Until now. In the D.C. region, county governments are practically stumbling over themselves to come up with Earth-friendly plans. Montgomery, Fairfax, Arlington and Howard counties are among those that have recently launched eco-friendly initiatives.

"The Al Gore movie has been a fundamental catalyst," Morrill said. "Even if people didn't see the movie themselves, they read or heard about it through the media."

Gore's movie "really turned the tide," said Marion Clark, planning coordinator for the Montgomery County Planning Department. Clark, who manages the county's green-homes program, said homeowners associations, churches and schools are increasingly requesting speakers from her office.

Montgomery's " 'going green' program started in 2000-2001, but it's just within the past two years that people have really started to respond," she said.

Joshua Feldmark didn't even know his office phone number when he arrived in February for his first day as executive director of Howard County's Commission on the Environment and Sustainability. It didn't matter -- he already had more than a dozen messages.

"It was clear from the minute I walked into my office that people were excited about the environment," he said.


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