The State of Voluntary Certification Programs in Maine 2012

By Carla Aronsohn and Noah Teachey

Executive Summary

The State of Voluntary Certification Programs in Maine is the fourth chapter in The State of Maine’s Environment 2012, a report produced by the Domestic Environmental Policy Group in the Environmental Studies Program at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. This is the seventh State of Maine’s Environment report published since 2004.

Perceived gaps in the regulation of some economic activities as well as public interest in supporting environmentally sustainable practices have led to the growth of voluntary certification programs throughout the country. In this report we assess four certification programs in Maine: LakeSmart, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). We selected these programs for comparison because they vary in focus, scope, and standards.  We created six criteria to compare these different certification programs. We found that transparency, specificity, and source of funding were important factors in determining the success of a certification program. We conclude that by effectively considering economic, social, and environmental concerns, voluntary certification programs show the capacity to significantly benefit environmental sustainability in Maine. We recommend that Maine consider creating a certification advisory board to help adapt global and national standards to Maine. Certification programs should provide annual reports and increase visibility and transparency to enhance demand for the programs and help consumers make informed decisions. Education about consumer choices in regards to environmental sustainability should also increase to encourage demand for these programs. Certification programs, while non-governmental, depend upon state and national entities for funding and support; therefore, state government can influence the future success of these programs and the state should carefully consider this role.


Consumption of goods and services, particularly those associated with extractive industries, accounts for more than two-thirds of gross domestic product (GDP) in the US (National Research Council, 2010). The global demand for energy, food, and other goods is constantly rising, straining the natural and human capital requisite for production. Regulation is one avenue by which environmentally sustainable practices might be implemented, but it frequently fails to be both far-reaching and specific enough to effectively manage potential environmental threats. Additionally, command and control approaches are costly and inefficient to enforce, thus they are generally not the only means by which stakeholders, or individuals and groups interested in a topic, engage environmental sustainability (Farmer, 2007).

Another means of shaping more environmentally sustainable practices that has gained momentum in the past 20 years is voluntary certification programs. These soft law mechanisms contrast with hard law in that they are not regulatory but nonetheless combine the public’s interest in establishing standards of sustainability with mechanisms for the measurement of compliance (Steering Committee of the State-of-Knowledge Assessment of Standards and Certification, 2012).

Voluntary Certification Programs

Voluntary certification programs involve establishing standards through collaboration of stakeholders and experts in various fields. Sustainability standards in particular are built around the objective of preserving natural resources. In the case of certified organics, for example, the resources in question are soil and water quality, human health, and a number of other considerations. Standards consist of objectives that define practice or performance criteria that can then be assessed using compliance indicators (Steering Committee of the State-of-Knowledge Assessment of Standards and Certification, 2012). For example, various energy savings criteria for appliances make up the standards of ENERGY STAR, a program administered by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the primary objective of reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases produced by the consumption of fossil fuels (Sanchez, Brown, Webber, & Homan, 2008). A product must perform at or above an established standard during its review in order to obtain the ENERGY STAR label (US EPA, 2012).

After establishing standards, the next step is assessing compliance. Whether compliance is evaluated using a first-party or third-party assessment, there must be some means of performing an audit or certification. Without the assurance that all parties are complying with a uniform standard, the certification program loses credibility. A certification body is charged with assuring that certified parties are complying with the standard (Steering Committee of the State-of-Knowledge Assessment of Standards and Certification, 2012). Returning to the ENERGY STAR example, the EPA and DOE ensure compliance through a third-party certification process that involves extensive product testing in an EPA-certified laboratory and measures a number of variables relating to energy use and cost. The quantifiable nature of the variables considered by ENERGY STAR allows for some degree of uniformity in the review process (US EPA, 2012). This uniformity lends credibility to the ENERGY STAR label.

We investigated voluntary certification programs in the state of Maine in order to determine what factors promote or discourage the adoption and growth of these programs. In order to understand how voluntary certification programs are used in Maine, we researched and evaluated four that we deemed suitable for capturing a representative sample of the programs active in the state. We chose LakeSmart; two forest certification programs, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI); and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LakeSmart is only present in the state of Maine, and is the newest of the certification programs we evaluated. Forest certification programs are of particular interest to the state because of Maine’s prominent forest products industry, although the forest certifications we discuss are national and international in scale. Our consideration of forest certifications allows us to account for commercial motivations and competing programs. The built environment, consisting of the various buildings in which most people spend the majority of their time, is by no means restricted to Maine, but LEED’s presence in the state allows for comparisons across the rest of New England and the US.


We describe how each voluntary certification program works and compare similarities and differences that influence program efficacy. The characteristics we consider in our evaluation of each program include its specificity, adaptability and responsiveness, transparency, assessment variability, complexity, and source of funding. After evaluating the programs based on these characteristics we draw conclusions regarding their use and value. We then consider possible scenarios for the future of voluntary certification programs and make policy recommendations based on our findings.

Maine’s Lakes

Maine contains 5,784 lakes, which cover nearly one million acres (Maine DEP, 2010a). These lakes are used for recreation, drinking water, and tourism. Maine has more lake acreage, better water quality, and fewer invasive aquatic plant infestations than any other New England state (d’Hemecourt, Patel, & Sarkar, 2010). Nonetheless, a trend towards greater eutrophication threatens Maine lakes (Shannon, Pers. Comm.). Eutrophic lakes are those containing a relatively large quantity of biologically active nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. These nutrients encourage the growth of algae and thus result in a decline in water quality. Oligotrophic lakes, on the other hand, are relatively unproductive due to nutrient-poor water. Mesotrophic lakes occur somewhere in between eutrophic and oligotrophic lakes, and dystrophic lakes (also known as humic lakes) have brown-colored water due to high concentrations of humic substances and organic acids (Cain, Bowman, & Hacker, 2011). Of 1,923 lakes assessed as part of the Integrated Water Quality and Assessment Report conducted by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2010, 670 were eutrophic, 129 were oligotrophic, 1,122 were mesotrophic, and 2 were dystrophic (Maine DEP, 2010a).


The LakeSmart program grew out of the dual recognition that development along Maine’s lake shorelines was bringing with it reduced water quality and that regulatory standards were inadequate to stem the decline. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) began meeting with lake protection leaders throughout the state in 2001 to develop a program that would lead shorefront property owners to engage in best management practices (BMPs) such as the use of erosion control mulch on paths and minimization of driveways and parking areas. Their aim was to encourage the widespread adoption of the program through the incorporation of rewards, recognition, and peer pressure (Welch & Smith, 2010).

In analyzing the 2000 Maine Lake Users Survey and quantitative phone surveys dating from 1996, Maine’s DEP and lake protection leaders determined that their target audience was “concerned but lacking knowledge on cause and effect, looking for easy fixes, [and] retired” (Welch & Smith, 2010). In order to best serve the target audience, the developers designed LakeSmart to support improvements to the landscaping and structural housekeeping practices of shorefront property owners. The program’s designers included free workshops on BMPs, site visits by neutral, third-party experts, and awards for good examples of lake conservation behavior in their model in order to enhance its applicability to homeowners (Welch & Smith, 2010).

The BMPs specified by LakeSmart range from relatively inexpensive and unobtrusive to those that are more burdensome in terms of cost, time, and behavioral change. Less costly BMPs might include cleaning up pet waste and planting a rain garden or vegetated buffer along the border of a lakefront property meant to catch nutrient-rich runoff. More expensive examples include stabilizing or rebuilding a stretch of eroded shoreline or replacing a malfunctioning septic system. Not only do these BMPs differ in cost and intrusiveness, they also vary widely in their ability to prevent runoff. A wide range of BMPs are included in the LakeSmart model to increase the likelihood that a broad audience will be willing to partake in simple conservation activities and, upon completing them, become inspired to take on more costly and effective projects (Welch & Smith, 2010).

In 2003, after communicating with stakeholders and conducting focus groups and field research, the DEP completed the LakeSmart program design. That same year, it began providing free workshops and property evaluations. The program was based on the threshold model, in which property owners wishing to receive the LakeSmart Award were required to obtain a minimum number of points within each of four sections addressing the different types of BMPs (Steering Committee of the State-of-Knowledge Assessment of Standards and Certification, 2012; Welch & Smith, 2010). LakeSmart’s developers hoped that the visibility of the LakeSmart Award sign and various BMPs would encourage other members of the lakeshore community to seek out participation in the program, leading to a greater degree of self-sustenance for LakeSmart. Thus, the DEP aimed for 15% of the lakeshore community to obtain the award upon its introduction to a lake (Welch & Smith, 2010).

By 2012, the DEP had spent over $1 million on LakeSmart and had distributed fewer than 500 awards. The participation was deemed insufficient to justify the cost. DEP decided, therefore, to cease funding the program, and handed it over to the Maine Congress of Lake Associations (COLA), citing the credibility of COLA and its capacity to run the program at a lower cost (DePoy-Warren, Pers. Comm).

Maine’s Forests

Maine has been covered by approximately 18 million acres of forest since the 1600s, with small dips from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s (Irland, 1998) . Maine has 90% forest cover, which is the highest percentage of forest cover in any state (Mansius et al., 2005). Presently, 95% of Maine’s forested area is considered productive forestland, and Maine’s use of this forestland makes it a top producer of wood products in the Eastern US and Canada (J.D. Irving, 2011) . Forest-based industry has been a driving force of Maine’s economy.

Forests have been important to Maine’s economy from the origins of Maine ship building in the 1800s, to the production of  biomass as a primary source of energy in the early 1900s, to the present in which paper, lumber, biomass energy, furniture, and forest-based recreation are booming (Keeping Maine’s Forests Steering Committee, 2010). Maine’s dependence on the economic, environmental, and social benefits of forests drives forest stakeholders to continue to work to maintain the health and sustainable future of forests in Maine. One way of doing this is through forest certification.

Forest Certification

Forest certification started in the 1990s with the growing concern over rapid deforestation in tropical forests. In 1990, about 17 million hectares were removed globally at more than an acre per second due to deforestation (FAO, 2010). Discussions among environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were held parallel to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit with the goal of developing a system for certifying and labeling forest products (Perera & Vlosky, 2006). Forestry certification was largely driven by discontent with the failure to agree upon global governance regarding forests in Rio, and it was concluded that private sector implementation would be more effective (Bernstein & Cashore, 2004). Forest certification enables consumers, when purchasing wood products, to make a conscious decision to support sustainable growth and harvesting of trees.

The term certified wood has become synonymous with sustainable wood (UNECE & FAO, 2012). North America is a leader in forest certification, containing 51% of the about 975 million acres of forest certified globally (UNECE & FAO, 2012). The Northeastern US is known for its commitment to forestry, especially Maine, which has the greatest number of acres of certified forest in New England and is second in the US only to Minnesota (Levesque, Kingsley, Quigley, Renaud-Evans, & Rockwell, 2008) .

Forest certification, is important for the environment because it promotes the protection of biodiversity, water quality, and well-functioning ecosystems. Healthy forests also provide humans with important services like enhancing air quality and moderating the climate. Sustainable forestry practices are also critical to the economy, especially in Maine, where the forest products industry contributed $4.3 billion directly and indirectly to Maine’s GDP which is 8.9% of the total GDP (MFS, 2010). Supplying management plans for sustainable forestry is imperative for the future of Maine’s forest industries.

There are a variety of certification schemes used in Maine, but the most common are: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Tree Farm System (ATFS), and Master Logger Certification. We will address the two most frequently used certification systems, FSC and SFI. These are compared because of their popularity but also as an important comparison between two competing programs that focus on the same issue in a different way.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

In 1993, FSC, a voluntary non-profit, was formed with the input of foresters, timber users, and environmental and human rights groups. These stakeholders collectively emphasized the need for an international method of identifying products coming from sustainably managed forests (Perera & Vlosky, 2006). As a multi-stakeholder, non-government agency, FSC builds standards and criteria collaboratively. FSC started with 26 participating countries, including the US (FSC, 2011). It now operates in 80 countries, making it the world’s largest independent third-party voluntary forest certification organization. Globally, FSC has certified about 412 million acres of forests (FSC, 2012a). FSC certifies through independent third-party certifiers. These FSC-accredited third-party certifiers audit and certify various aspects of forestry, including the land/forest, landowner, mill, or company. The organizations in Maine that certify for FSC are Scientific Certification Systems, Smartwood, Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), and Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands. Third-party certifiers issue certificates based on ten principles. Both FSC and SFI offer chain-of-custody certification, in which a final wood product is confirmed to meet standards in every aspect of production from forest to wood fiber. FSC has three chain-of-custody labels: pure (100% certified), recycled (85% post-consumer), and mixed (blend of pure, recycled, and controlled sources) (GreenBlue, 2010).

Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)

SFI was founded in 1994 by the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA). SFI has a significant backing from industry including many paper corporations and also the US Department of Agriculture. The certification program is recognized in North America and Canada. SFI is the largest certifier of forests in the US and holds the most certificates in Maine forests. SFI built its standards around the paper industry and a broad range of stakeholders are not involved. SFI also uses third-party certifiers. In 2005, after much criticism from environmental groups, SFI strengthened its chain-of-custody standard. Prior to this, the weak, unpopular standard blocked SFI’s access to international markets (Stryjewski, 2007).


The built environment is one of the largest resource-intensive areas of the economy, and is responsible for 37% of all energy consumed in the US, as compared to the 28% consumed for transportation (Cidell, 2009; National Research Council, 2010). Lighting, climate control, and ventilation are three of the many aspects of the built environment that require energy inputs. Also of concern in today’s built environment is indoor environmental quality, as noxious emissions, off gassing from the evaporation of harmful substances in building materials, and pathogens have the potential to cause harm to building occupants (National Research Council, 2010).

Since its founding in 1998, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a third party certification scheme overseen by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), has become the accepted benchmark for the evaluation and designation of sustainable construction. The program’s standards have been modified since their inception, allowing input from stakeholders in the areas of design, construction, and environmental sustainability to inform the program’s development (Cidell, 2009).


We conducted a literature review of voluntary certification programs and the environmental issues that affect the specific programs we researched. This framed our understanding of how certification programs function in Maine and the reasons why the programs we examined are important to the state. We gradually narrowed our research to the detailed workings of each program and how similarities and differences among them influence their efficacy.


Owing to the relative newness and small scale of LakeSmart, there is very little in the way of literature on the subject. Aside from a DEP report published in a 2010 edition of Lake Line magazine, the bulk of information came from an interview with Maggie Shannon of Maine’s Congress of Lake Associations (COLA), a database of LakeSmart evaluations and awards we obtained from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and a recording of a focus group from the summer of 2012. Ms. Shannon was able to provide us with background information, insight on the current state of the program, and her own views on how LakeSmart might be transformed to better meet its objectives. The database provided us with the ability to make quantitative statements regarding the program’s progress prior to the transition from DEP to COLA management. Additionally, a separate database of property screenings and evaluations informed our understanding of how the evaluation process might be made more user-friendly. The focus group, composed of Belgrade Lakes watershed residents, provided us with personal experiences with the LakeSmart program and insight regarding how it might be improved.

Forest Certification

We gathered data and information about forest certification from publications by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Maine SFI, and Maine, Forest Service (MFS). To learn more about the current state of forest certification programs in Maine we contacted Patrick Sirois, the Director of the Maine SFI Implementation Committee and Maine Forest Service Land Outreach Coordinator, Andy Shultz. The James W. Sewall Company provided us with GIS layers of SFI and FSC forest certification that we compiled into a map using ArcMap10 to visually represent the areas of Maine that are certified. We obtained data on major lakes, rivers and boundaries from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and forest cover data from the United States Geologic Survey Land Cover Institute.


We obtained the LEED for New Construction and LEED Certification Policy manuals from LEED Online, the website through which project administrators obtain educational resources and process registrations and certifications. To supplement our technical understanding of the program we met with project managers from the physical plant department at Colby College. These LEED Certified professionals were able to inform our research regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the program in Maine. To analyze the status of the LEED program in Maine, we began with a database of LEED-registered projects obtained from the USGBC website. The original database contains every LEED-registered project as of October 25, 2012, as well as data regarding location, registration date, certification date, points achieved, certification level, owner type, project type, and LEED system utilized (New Construction, Schools, Healthcare, etc.). We filtered out projects outside of New England and then filtered out projects outside of Maine, so that we were left with two datasets relevant to our research.

Laws and Institutions

Voluntary certification programs are by their nature rarely regulated. In fact, it is generally a lack of regulation that allows for and even necessitates their emergence. Nevertheless, some federal and state laws have helped set the stage for the introduction of voluntary certification programs by establishing incentives or regulations that indirectly aid in the adoption of a program’s standards. We describe some of the most relevant laws and institutions below.


Maine’s Program Implementation Law (1991) requires best management practices (BMPs) to be applied to agricultural, forestry, transportation, and development sites in order to mitigate non-point source pollution. There is no such legislation pertaining directly to the conservation activities of individual property owners, thus an absence of regulation has permitted the emergence of LakeSmart.

In defining the 250-foot shoreland zone surrounding Maine lakes and mandating the establishment of zoning ordinances at the municipal level, the Shoreland Zoning Law (1971) helped to set the stage for the LakeSmart program. Without these mandatory construction zones, houses would likely crowd lakeshores, leaving no room for the mitigation of nutrient-laden runoff through BMPs.

The federal Clean Water Act (1972), Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), and Maine Standards for Classification of Lakes and Ponds Law (1985) established water quality standards that pertain to Maine’s lakes (d’Hemecourt et al., 2010). All lakes in Maine are required to be of such quality as to allow for a variety of uses including drinking, recreation, and fishing. Further, quantities of biologically productive nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous must be stable or declining so as to prevent excessive algal growth.

The Standards for Classification of Lakes and Ponds Law (1985) and Great Pond Law (1973) established the precedent for treating Maine’s lakes as public resources. The potential for these public resources to become public liabilities in the event of water quality decline played a major role in motivating the development of LakeSmart. The DEP realized that mitigation of non-point source pollution was less costly than the restoration of declining lakes, thus it was willing to fund a program that could help facilitate lake water quality conservation (Shannon, Pers. Comm.).


Table 4.1 Selected federal laws that impact LakeSmart (source: State of Maine’s Environment 2010)





Clean Water Act


Establishes water quality standards to facilitate the protection and management of the nation’s water bodies; requires each state to create a 303(d) list of impaired waters; enforced by the EPA USC Title 33 §1251-1376
Safe Drinking Water Act


Establishes safe limits for contaminants in drinking water; outlines rules, schedules, and methods for water-testing and treatment; enforced by the EPA USC Title 42 §1400-1465


Table 4.2 Selected state laws that impact LakeSmart (source: State of Maine’s Environment 2010)





Shoreland Zoning Law


Mandates that municipalities issue zoning ordinances to govern where different types of development are permissible and defines the extent of shoreland areas as they pertain to great ponds MRS Title 38 §435
Great Pond Law


Grants public access to all water bodies classified as great ponds (lakes 10 acres of larger if natural and 30 acres or larger if man-made) MRS Title 38 §436-A
Standards for Classification of Lakes and Ponds Law


Establishes all lakes as class GPA waters that must be suitable for multiple designated uses including drinking water, recreation, and aquatic habitat MRS Title 38 §465-A
Program Implementation Law


Requires the implementation of BMPs to reduce non-point source pollution related to agricultural, wood harvesting, transport, and development activities MRS Title 38 § 410-J

Forest Certification

Both FSC and SFI state that their certification standards must comply with all federal and state laws. The following are selected federal laws that impact forest certifying bodies by setting the stage for current forestry practices.

The National Forest Management Act (1976) requires the Secretary of Agriculture to assess national forests and create a management plan. This law is important because it brought long term forest practices to a national scale.

The Lacey Act is the first law in the US to ban trade of illegal wood products (FSC, 2012b). This has important international consequences for certification programs, as certification could be a means to verify the source of wood products and thus increase demand for forest certification. In July of 2012, the RELIEF act was proposed to the House of Representatives, and this would have lessened the punishments set by the Lacey Act. FSC, forest product companies, and conservation groups, among others advised Congress not to support the RELIEF Act. Ultimately it did not pass the House of Representatives (FSC, 2012b). If the Lacey Act were weakened this would put negative pressure on the price of forest products, making it less economically feasible to make the investments required to for certification (FSC, 2012a).

The following are selected state that protect and sustain Maine’s forests.

Especially important is the Tree Growth Tax Law (1972), which lowers taxes for landowners who sign a contract to manage their land sustainably and hire a forester to plan and supervise forest harvests (Archeson & McCloskey, 2008).

The Maine Forest Practices Act (1989) forbids clear-cuts of over 50 acres, which helps alleviate deforestation. In 1999, the State Forest Service passed a law requiring an annual forest inventory to prevent underreporting of the amount of forestland harvested. This proactive approach to protecting Maine’s forests is also demonstrated by citizens who demand certified forest products to be assured their purchases are from environmentally friendly practices.

The Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) (1971), originally established as the Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC), is the planning and zoning authority for the townships of Maine without local governments. Most certified land in Maine is within the LUPC jurisdiction, so forest certification bodies must comply with LUPC’s land use regulations.

Government initiatives play a key role in the advancement of certification programs. In Table 4.5 we describe selected important interventions by Maine governors in these programs.

Table 4.3 Selected federal laws that impact forestry and forest certification in the United States






Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act


States that national forests are to be administered for activates such as outdoor recreation and timber. USC Title 16 § 528-531
National Forest Management Act


Revised the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, which called national forests to implement management of renewable resources; requires the Secretary of Agriculture to assess national forests and create a management plan. USC Title 16 § 1600-1614
Lacey Act

1900, amended 2008

Considered one of the first conservation laws. It provides penalties for illegal trade of plants and animals. In 2008 the law was expanded to include illegal logging. USC Title 16 § 3371-3378

Table 4.4 Selected state laws that impact forestry and forest certification in Maine





Tree Growth Tax Law 1972 Land that has trees that will be harvested for commercial use is assessed and if it meets the standards of the Woodland Management Plan, property tax will be reduced. An important chapter of this law is the Forest Regeneration and Clear-cutting standards, which require oversight of clear-cutting by the Maine Department of Conservation. MRS Title 36 § 571-584-A
Maine Forest Practices Act 1989 Promotes and regulates sustainable forestry; aims at “substantially eliminating” liquidation harvesting. MRS Title 12 § 805
Forest Regeneration and Clear-cutting Standards 1999 Require that a landowner notify the Bureau of Forestry before a clear-cut, allowing the Bureau of Forestry to set standards for what can be cut; also works to create a regeneration plan for the forest re-growth. This standard is important to the timber product industry and keeps landowners looking to the future use of forests. MRS Title 12 § 805, sub-c. III-A
Maine Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) 1971 Formerly Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC), now called LUPC as of 2012. It functions as a regulating entity for the unorganized territory northern Maine. Requires permits for timber harvesting. MRS Title 12 § 206


Table 4.5 Selected government intervention in forest certification in Maine

Policy maker



Governor Angus King 2001 Addressed the 2001 forest certification conference, came out in support for forest certification programs and praised the Bureau of Parks and Lands for receiving dual certification of FSC and SFI (MFS, 2005).
Governor John Baldacci 2003 Launched the Maine Forest Certification Initiative, to build Maine’s forest industry by improving forest management and distinguishing Maine products (MFS, 2005). He initiated a report about the current state of forest certification in Maine in 2005. Baldacci set a goal of reaching 10 million certified acres of forest in Maine by 2008.
Governor Paul LePage 2011 Released an executive order expanding forest certification in new or expanded government buildings to not just FSC (which would be recognized by LEED) but to SFI, American Tree Farm System, and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Systems (LePage, 2011).


In 2003, Governor John Baldacci issued an executive order requiring the incorporation of LEED practices into new or expanding state buildings (Baldacci, 2003). Governor Baldacci issued the order shortly after Maine passed the Energy Conservation in Buildings Act (2003). The order requires greater energy efficiency in new or substantially renovated government-owned buildings. Another law establishing an energy efficiency standard in Maine buildings is the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, which replaced the various municipal building codes in Maine in 2008. In setting energy efficiency standards similar to those that form part of the LEED system, these laws initiate the process of standard compliance and thus make the transition to LEED a smaller step for building owners.

The Energy Policy Act (2005) is designed to incentivize, rather than require, energy efficiency in buildings. It established a tax deduction that reduces the initial cost of installation for owners of commercial buildings who employ energy-efficient climate control, lighting, and water heating systems. A similar federal law designed to incentivize energy efficiency in buildings is the Energy Independence and Security Act (2007), which established an office within the Department of Energy to create programs designed to promote energy efficiency in a variety of building types. At the state level, the Loans for Energy Efficiency Improvements in Municipal and School Buildings Law (2007) establishes a program to finance energy efficiency improvements in schools and municipal buildings. The Property Assessed Clean Energy Act (2009) allows for the same type of program in municipalities to help pay for improved energy efficiency in homes and businesses. While these incentives do not necessarily lead to the adoption of LEED, they do help lessen the cost of sustainable building design features that fall within LEED systems and make certification more financially viable.

In 2011, Governor Paul LePage issued an executive order requiring new or expanding state buildings to incorporate “Green Building” standards that consider forest products certified under SFI, FSC, American Tree Farm System, and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification systems equally (LePage, 2011). As LEED currently only assesses credits for FSC-certified forest products, this executive order has the potential to complicate the Maine state government’s commitment to the program as established by Governor Baldacci’s 2003 executive order.

Two pending federal laws that would supplement already established energy efficiency legislation are the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (2011) and the Smart Energy Act (2012). The former would create a loan program to help finance energy-efficient upgrades in manufacturing buildings, whereas the latter would establish a similar loan program to help finance upgrades to commercial, multi-family residential, industrial, municipal, government, education, and healthcare buildings. All of the aforementioned buildings are LEED-certifiable construction types, thus a federal law that establishes a financial incentive to pursue energy efficiency could bolster LEED participation in Maine (American Architectural Manufacturers Association, 2012).

Table 4.6 Federal laws that impact sustainable building in Maine





Energy Policy Act


Establishes the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction, which incentivizes more energy-efficient building design features USC Title 42 § 13201 et seq.
Energy Independence and Security Act


Establishes the Office of Commercial High Performance Green Buildings within the Department of Energy, meant to help promote energy efficiency in commercial and public buildings USC Title 42 § 17001 et seq.

Table 4.7 State laws that impact Sustainable building in Maine





Energy Conservation in Buildings Act


Requires designs for new or substantially renovated state buildings to include reduced energy-use targets and life-cycle cost analyses that consider public health and environmental benefits associated with energy-efficient building design MRS Title 5 §1764-A
Loans for Energy Efficiency Improvements in Municipal and School Buildings Law


Establishes the Efficiency Partners Program which finances energy audits and cost-effective energy efficiency improvements to help decrease energy costs in municipal and school buildings MRS Title 30A §5953-C
Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code


Provides for an energy efficiency expert on the governor-appointed Maine Technical Building Codes and Standards Board and requires energy efficiency reporting in consumer reports MRS Title 10 §1103
Property Assessed Clean Energy Act


Allows for the establishment of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs by municipalities to help homeowners and businesses afford renewable energy and added energy efficiency MRS Title 35-A §99


Voluntary certification programs in the state address a variety of topics and affects a wide range of people, thus there are numerous types of stakeholder involved.


The LakeSmart program is managed by a certification body, supported by conservation groups, and implemented by evaluators.

Program Administration

The Maine DEP funded, developed, and administered LakeSmart from the program’s inception in 2001 until the transfer of administration to the Maine Congress of Lake Associations (COLA) in 2012. Prior to taking on management of LakeSmart, COLA helped to promote the program and served as a forum for discussing lake conservation and other related issues. With its new administrative role, it will be responsible for managing all aspects of LakeSmart, making any necessary changes to the program, and procuring the funding to ensure its continued operation (Shannon, Pers. Comm.).

Lake Associations and Conservation Groups

The partnership between the DEP and individual lake associations further benefited the program, as it permitted the use of a volunteer pool. Upon taking on LakeSmart, lake associations agreed to promote it, avoid instituting other big programs that might compete with it, and encourage at least 15% of property owners to obtain the LakeSmart award within three years (Welch & Smith, 2010). The Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance is a conservation group and land trust that also supports LakeSmart. Its Youth Conservation Corps Program employs high school students over the summer to work on homeowner requested erosion control projects. The labor is provided to the homeowner free of charge, thus further incentivizing the adoption of best management practices (BMPs) on shoreline properties (Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, 2012).

Table 4.8 Stakeholder groups that influence Maine’s LakeSmart Program





Maine Congress of Lake Associations (COLA)


The only statewide network of individuals and lake associations with the sole purpose of protecting and preserving lakes. Nonprofit, charitable organization
Maine Department of Environmental Protection


Protects Maine’s natural resources and enforces its environmental laws—has been responsible for implementing the LakeSmart program State government organization
Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance (BRCA)


Dedicated to conserving the lands, water quality, and natural heritage of the Belgrade Lakes Watershed through land conservation, watershed management and protection, education, and outreach Umbrella organization and land trust
Youth Conservation Corps


Provides labor of high school students free of charge to homeowners requesting erosion control projects such as buffer plantings and shoreline stabilization Summer program
Lake Associations Partnership between DEP and 33 lake associations across southern Maine facilitated LakeSmart prior to defunding by DEP Nonprofit organizations


Soil and Water Conservation District staff members initially made up the bulk of LakeSmart’s professional evaluators, but as it aged, other neutral, third-party evaluators began aiding the program. Evaluations completed by volunteers save the program money, as the Soil and Water Conservation District employees must be paid for the time they spend on evaluations. Volunteer screeners became an active part LakeSmart in 2009 as part of a three-year pilot program meant to add power and flexibility without adding cost (Maine COLA, 2011). Screeners visited properties prior to evaluators so as to identify weak areas and make suggestions before the formal evaluation in order to increase the likelihood that only one evaluation would be necessary for each LakeSmart award.

Forest Certification

FSC and SFI have similar stakeholders but there are some important differences in the leading actors. FSC uses a committee of stakeholders that equally represent social, economic, and environmental chambers  to develop standards and criteria (Stryjewski, 2007). SFI has moved from a dependent board of directors, the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), to an independent board in 2007. This new board includes equal acknowledgement to SFI participants, environmental organizations, and forestry organizations (Stryjewski, 2007). Important stakeholders of forest certification include large industry, environmental NGOs, state and federal agencies, landowners, local communities, social interest groups, and trade organizations. It is notable that FSC has a commitment to Indigenous People’s rights stated in their 10 core principles, while SFI lacks a transparent stance on such criteria, which has led to increased social pressure on SFI standards.

Governmental Organizations

The Maine Forest Service provides a disclaimer at the bottom of all its webpages that refer to forestcertification. It reads: “The Maine Forest Service does not endorse any particular forest certification system” (MFS, 2005). It is notable however, that copious information on the Maine Forest Service webpage cites the Service’s commitment to forest certification and desire to help consumers choose certified wood products. As mentioned earlier, Governor John Baldacci launched the Maine Forest Certification Initiative and initiated the establishment of a Certification Advisory Committee (MFS, 2005). Government commitment to Maine certification programs can also be seen in the Maine Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Parks and Lands, which has certified 575,000 acres of public land (SFI, 2010b). The Bureau of Parks and Lands’ forestry practices have been certified under both FSC and SFI (Bureau of Parks and Lands, 2011).


Large corporations manage most certified forests because they have better access to information and markets, scale economies, and abilities to bear risks and costs (Bass, Thornber, Markopoulos, Roberts, & Grieg-Grah, 2001). Large timber retailers have helped certification take off so quickly. Home Depot prefers FSC as an element of their corporate responsibility assurance. SFI is heavily supported by the large paper corporations in Maine like Hearst, Verso, and Time Incorporated. Because SFI was started through the AF&PA it is an industry-driven program that has the support and resources to be successful, so even though SFI is not largely consumer driven it maintains industry support. The high price of certification creates a barrier to entry for small corporations that are buying or selling wood to achieve forest certification.

Environmental NGOs

Many environmental groups prefer FSC’s collaborative approach to SFI’s industry driven approach (Lansky, 2002). Environmental groups that have publicly supported FSC practices include the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the National Wildlife Federation. The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) favors FSC and has publicized the largest fine in Maine’s forest history against Plum Creek Timber, an SFI certified company, for breaking 18 violations of the Maine Forest Practices Act (NRCM, 2006). NRCM wrote a letter to the SFI board asking that they suspend Plum Creek’s SFI certification in Maine (NRCM, 2006). Watchdog groups like Greenpeace, FSCwatch, ForestEthics, and Treehugger support FSC as the best option for preserving the health of the world’s forests. These groups play an important role in educating consumers about forest practices and products. They help prevent “greenwashing,” a term that describes business practices and marketing that put up the façade of being more environmentally friendly than they are, by putting pressure on companies that incorporate unsustainable practices. The Rainforest Action Network has successfully pressured Home Depot to endorse FSC (Stryjewski, 2007). This is significant for Maine as there are 10 Home Depot locations throughout the state.


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is reliant on administration by the certification body, input from professionals, demand by building owners, and vendors of sustainable services and materials.

Program Administration

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) was formed in 1993 as a non-profit organization for the promotion of sustainable building practices. It began development of the LEED program in 1994 and released the first version of LEED for New Construction in 1998. It has since continued developing the program with input from a variety of stakeholders. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) originated in 2008 with the support of the USGBC. Since its inception, it has taken over management of the LEED Professional Accreditation process and the LEED Certification process for buildings and spaces.


With the professional accreditation offered by the GBCI, the demand for LEED Accredited Professionals has become a factor in finding employment for project managers. Some organizations will only hire an individual with the necessary LEED credentials (DeBlois, Pers. Comm.). The credentials offered by GBCI include LEED Green Associate, LEED Accredited Professional with specialty (ranging from building design and construction to neighborhood homes), and LEED Fellow (USGBC, 2012a). This has changed the market for designers, architects, and construction professionals. It is necessary in the design and construction of any LEED project that professionals involved in the implementation of sustainable design practices understand how the LEED process works. An appropriate background and a unified vision allow for a more efficient and effective design and construction process that yields a greater number of credits (DeBlois, Pers. Comm.).

Building Owners

Building owners often have a vested interest in sustainable building design because of the potential benefit to their business or organization in the form of branding, tax incentives, or efficiency. College campuses, for example, benefit from LEED Certified buildings because the certification contributes to a “green” image that is increasingly attractive to prospective students and the general public (DeBlois, Pers. Comm.). Businesses might choose to move in the direction of sustainable design due to savings in electricity and water that will add up to outweigh the costs of pursuing a LEED certification. Regardless of the reason, more and more building owners are choosing to adopt sustainable design through LEED and thus hold a stake in the program.

Vendors of Sustainable Services and Materials

As a result of increasing demand from building owners, the market for sustainable services and materials has grown. For example, a prerequisite in LEED for New Construction is an area dedicated to storage of various recyclables (USGBC, 2012b). While the cost of recycling collection was once significantly higher than that for regular garbage pickup, growing demand has made it more economically feasible to provide this service to more customers and at a lower cost (DeBlois, Pers. Comm.). Providers of sustainable services and materials thus have a stake in LEED because it encourages the purchase of their products.

State of LakeSmart

LakeSmart is currently undergoing a transition in management from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to the Maine Congress of Lake Associations (COLA) (Hongoltz-Hetling, 2012). As a result, the established standards and the process for assessing compliance with these standards are likely to change before the program resumes operation in 2013 (Shannon, Pers. Comm.). While it remains unclear how the program will function in the future, the remodeling will certainly be informed by lessons learned from its previous forms, thus an evaluation of the state of the program up to this point will be useful in drawing conclusions, scenario planning, and making recommendations for the future.

The Program under DEP

LakeSmart is an example of a small voluntary certification program, thus it will vary with the others we researched in several areas of our framework. Figures 4.1 and 4.2, found at the end of the State of LakeSmart section, display data from the program as it was administered by the DEP.


As a program developed and implemented in the southern half of Maine, LakeSmart is specific to a single region and environmental focus. It is sensitive to the unique needs of the people and environment of southern Maine. Between 2003 and 2012, the statewide demand among lakefront property owners for the LakeSmart program grew, but the DEP limited the number of participant lake associations in order to guarantee that it could properly serve property owners at participant lakes and not overwhelm its institutional capacity (Welch & Smith, 2010).


The four areas scored in a LakeSmart property evaluation were: road, driveway, and parking areas; structures and septic system; lawn, recreation areas, and footpaths; and shorefront and beach areas. Each criterion within an area of focus was assessed on a scale of zero to three and counted toward the total points for the section. A property was required, under the threshold model, to perform adequately in all four sections in order to receive the LakeSmart Award, but if a property only succeeded in three sections, the DEP would send a certificate of commendation along with recommendations for additional work that a homeowner might complete in order to achieve the Award at a later date (Welch & Smith, 2010). As this system has a binary result, meaning a property owner either receives the Award or does not, one or two points could and sometimes did mean the difference between passing and failing the evaluation. Additionally, some criteria on the evaluation form were difficult to quantify, causing variability in responses, such that if multiple evaluators visit the same site, they might view the same criterion and score it differently (Lovell & Teachey, 2012). Multiple instances of this variability resulted in frustration among people attempting to achieve the LakeSmart Award (LakeSmart Focus Group, 2012).

Responsiveness and Adaptiveness

The LakeSmart evaluation form and process were reviewed every year since the program’s inception, and some changes were made over time. Between the 2005 and 2010 versions, the relative importance of each section to the LakeSmart Award changed due to a shift in the number of criteria per section and the resulting number of available points per section. The minimum number of points required for the LakeSmart award remained virtually unchanged, but the relative importance of sections changed as there were fewer criteria in section three (lawn, recreation areas, and footpaths) and more in section four (shorefront and beach areas) (Maine DEP, 2010b). The shift in relative importance of each section is the result of input from stakeholders.

Trained staff with the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Maine carried out the property evaluations from the program’s origin until its transition (Welch & Smith, 2010). A source of professional evaluators is a valuable asset to a voluntary certification program, yet the inconsistencies across evaluator responses hindered the program. Additionally, professional evaluations represent a bulk of the program’s cost of $100,000 per year (Shannon, Pers. Comm.). A great deal of the approximately $2,000 spent on each property evaluation went towards the salaries of state employees (Depoy-Warren, Pers. Comm.). A pilot program in the Belgrade Lakes watershed introduced volunteer labor into the evaluation process, resulting in 72 awards and 75 commendations from 2009 to 2011. This method cut costs, which is of critical importance to small programs. It also engaged stakeholders to a greater extent, as it facilitated conversations among peers regarding lake conservation in contrast to the previous dynamic of conversations between state government employees and homeowners (Maine COLA, 2011).

The Transition

The primary threat to a small program like LakeSmart has been the exhaustion of state funding. Now that the state is no longer funding the program, however, its new management has the opportunity to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.

The new program will begin with a drastic reduction in size, serving 10 lake associations instead of its previous 33 (Hongoltz-Hetling, 2012). So far, COLA has obtained three grants to help pay the costs of the program, which are expected to amount to approximately $60,000 per year in the beginning, $40,000 less than the amount required to run it under the DEP. COLA aims to add ten lakes to the program each year over the course of the next seven years, provided it is able to secure sufficient funding and interest among stakeholders (Shannon, Pers. Comm.). The new management intends to experiment with different models for the program’s redesign. COLA may utilize a tiered approach similar to that found in the LEED system. The overall goals are to increase transparency, stakeholder engagement, and responsiveness in order to make LakeSmart more dialogue-oriented than the program was previously (Shannon, Pers. Comm).

Figure 4.1 The number of LakeSmart-awarded properties over time (source: Maine DEP)

Figure 4.2 LakeSmart participant lakes prior to the management transition (source: Maine DEP)


State of Forest Certification

Process and Trends of Forest Certification

In order to receive forest certification, a landowner or mill owner must contact a certification body and have an independent audit team review the management practices both on site and on paper to determine if the standards of the program are being met (Maine SFI, 2004). Both FSC and SFI have detailed literature for certification; SFI has 118 indicators based on its 14 core principles and FSC-US has 192 indicators, based on its 10 principles that assess the state of viable certification. In a review of the clarity of these indicators in Canada for the two certifications by an assessor, 10% of SFI criteria and 17% of FSC criteria were found to be difficult to understand (UPM, 2005). Below is a table of the core principles that the two programs use to certify forests.

Table 4.9 Core principles of FSC and SFI certification (FSC, 2012a; SFI, 2010a)

SFI Principles

FSC Principles

1. Sustainable Forestry 1. Compliance with Laws and FSC Principles
2. Forest Productivity and Health 2. Tenure and Use Rights and Responsibilities
3. Protection of Water Resources 3. Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
4. Protection of Biological Diversity 4. Community Relations and Workers’ Rights
5. Aesthetics and Recreation 5. Benefits from the Forest
6. Protection of Special Sites 6. Environmental Impact
7. Responsible Fiber Sourcing Practices 7. Management Plan
8. Avoidance of Controversial Sources 8. Monitoring and Assessment
9. Legal Compliance 9. Maintenance of High Conservation Value Forests
10. Research 10. Plantation Management
11. Training and Education
12. Public Involvement
13. Transparency
14. Continual Improvement

In Maine, FSC and SFI have increased since their inception in the early 1990s, but SFI has increased much faster and continuously than FSC. As can be seen in figure 4.3, SFI holds the most acres certified in Maine. Notable gaps in data can be seen from 2006-2010, in which FSC data was not made publically available for Maine.

Some of the largest landholders in Maine are SFI certified: Plum Creek Timber Company, which is in the Moosehead Lake region, holds about 900,000 acres. On the other hand, Prentiss & Carlisle Management Co. owns 764,487 acres of FSC certified forest near Bangor (MFS, 2011). J.D. Irving, which own over 1 million certified acres in Aroostook and the Allagash, is dual certified with FSC and SFI. These land owners have different objectives which lead to different preferences. Paper suppliers tend to be SFI certified, while forest used for retail wood products tends to be FSC certified.  An increasing number of paper mills in Maine are accepting both FSC and SFI. Dual certification in Maine is in response to consumers demanding different products. This dual certification exemplifies good forest practices and also market response to consumers’ demands

Public land certification by the Bureau of Parks and Public Lands, has also been important to modeling sustainable forestry. There is notable certified public land including Baxter State Park (Figure 4.13).

Figure 4.3 Acres of forest certification by FSC and SFI, and total certified acres by year (James W. Sewall Company, 2012; Mansius et al., 2005). The dotted line represents trends where data were unavailable.

Figure 4.4 Areas of certified forest in Maine (source: (James W. Sewall Company, 2012)

Comparison to Other New England States

Maine has both the most forest cover and the highest percent of certification for its forests in all of New England (figure 4.5, 4.6, and 4.7). New England states, like Rhode Island, have no certified forest, while states like Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire have comparatively large tracts of certified forest. Of Maine’s forest cover, 4 million acres are FSC certified and 6 million are SFI certified (James W. Sewall Company, 2012).

Figure 4.5 Forest cover in New England States (source: US Geologic Survey Land Cover Institute)

Figure 4.6 Total acres of forest cover in New England states (Alvarez, 2007)

Figure 4.7 Percent of total forest cover within each New England state that is certified by FSC or SFI (source: (Alvarez, 2007; James W. Sewall Company, 2012)

Maine has the highest percent of its forests certified out of New England states for a variety of reasons. The huge tracts of industrial private land are more feasible to get certified because of their size and ownership. Maine is dominated by privately owned land (Lilieholm, Irland, & Hagan, 2010). Large private timber owners in Maine like Time Inc., Sappi, Hearst, and Verso Paper have contributed to certified forests in Maine. Maine is experiencing a shift in woodland ownership that started in the 1980s, from industry owned timber to Timber Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs), which prioritizes multi-use (Lilieholm et al., 2010). Small private land, which is defined as less than 5,000 acres, holds much less forest certification than large private forests.

Also Maine’s government has played a positive role in influencing increase in certification. Multiple Governors have publicly supported forest certification, and the Maine SFI implementation committee has helped SFI prosper in Maine. The committee promotes specificity in adapting SFI standards to Maine, and it also promotes training programs that enhance foresters’ knowledge.

Major Similarities and Differences between FSC and SFI

Transparency and chain of custody are shared goals for SFI and FSC currently, but the two goals are not shared equally. SFI has recently increased its transparency but remains hidden when it comes to lists of stakeholders on their webpage. FSC has implemented chain-of-custody since its inception, and SFI started chain-of-custody in 2005 (Stryjewski, 2007).

Cost of these programs differ but are hard to quantify because of varying factors, such as land size and location. In the certification of forests maintained by the Bureau of Parks and Public Lands, the inspection costs for FSC averaged $0.17/acre and for SFI averaged $0.13/acre (Pressley, Cubbage, & Siry, 2003).

SFI and FSC differ in their ecological standards. For example SFI sets a limit of 120 acres for a single clear-cut, and FSC sets a limit of 80 acres for a single clear cut (Fernholz, Bower, Stai, Bratkovich, & Howe, 2011). SFI has historically had a bad reputation among environmental groups but pressure from environmental NGOs to have companies and individuals endorsing FSC has resulted in SFI adapting stricter standards.

SFI is more prominent in Maine than FSC because it is run by paper and pulp companies that operate in Maine. SFI also has fewer barriers to certification including standards that are easier to understand the standards, less expensive, more relaxed standards. SFI also has its own Maine board of directors that help adapt the program to Maine in specificity.

State of LEED

The Process

LEED certification, as outlined on the website for the US Green Building Council (USGBC), is a five-step process.

Rating System Selection

The LEED program has been responsive to stakeholder input since its inception and has grown more sensitive to economic and functional considerations over time as a result. One way it has done this is through the development of multiple rating systems to address needs specific to some projects but not others. The rating systems currently available under the most recent update include LEED for New Construction, Existing Buildings, Commercial Interiors, Core and Shell Development, Retail, Schools, Homes, Neighborhood Development, and Healthcare. Over 80% of LEED buildings fall under the New Construction rating system, so we will draw our specific examples from that rating system (Cidell, 2009).

Project Registration

After selecting a rating system, the project manager is prompted to confirm that the project will meet the Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs) of the specified rating system by the time the project application is submitted for certification. There is a $900 registration fee for members of the USGBC and a $1200 fee for non-members (USGBC, 2011). The registration fees are often implicated when organizations advertise “LEED equivalent” standards in their building projects (DeBlois, Pers. Comm.). Upon completion of this process, the project administrator gains access to the LEED Certification Application (USGBC, 2012a).

Table 4.10 Minimum program requirements for certification in LEED for New Construction (source: USGBC)



Must comply with environmental laws The project building or space and all real property within the LEED project boundary must comply with all applicable federal, state, and local building-related environmental laws and regulations.
Must be a complete, permanent building or space No mobile building or space may pursue LEED Certification.
Must use a reasonable site boundary The LEED project boundary must be made up of all contiguous land associated with and supporting the normal building operations, must belong to the same owner as the LEED project, can only be attributed to a single LEED project, and cannot be gerrymandered to unreasonably exclude sections of land.
Must comply with minimum floor area requirements No new construction of under 1,000 square feet may pursue LEED Certification.
Must comply with minimum occupancy rates The LEED project must serve at least one full time occupant.
Must commit to sharing whole-building energy and water usage data For a period of five years beginning on the first date of regular physical occupancy a LEED Certified project must commit to sharing energy and water usage data with the USGBC and/or GBCI.
Must comply with a minimum building area to site area ratio. The gross floor area of the LEED project must be no less than 2% of the gross land area within the LEED project boundary.

Certification Application Submission

LEED is a documentation-based verification program. Each rating system is essentially a list of documentation requirements, and each certification application must be accompanied by certain documents, attestations, data, or other information in order to sufficiently demonstrate that each minimum program requirement (MPR), prerequisite, and credit has been satisfactorily fulfilled (GBCI, 2012). MPRs are minimum requirements that a project must possess in order to be eligible to begin the LEED certification process (USGBC, 2011). Prerequisites are similar to MPRs in that they are required and count for no points, but they are more specific to topics. Topics are the broad groups into which credits are organized. They include sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation in design, and regional priority. After each MPR and prerequisite is attended to, designers and project managers adapt building plans with attention to the LEED rating system in order to achieve as many credits as possible within each topic. Upon the completion of the of the project’s construction, a project administrator submits the compiled documentation and a review fee which varies depending on the size of the project.

Table 4.11 Prerequisites for certification in LEED for New Construction (source: USGBC)




Sustainable Sites Construction Activity Pollution Prevention Requires the creation of an erosion and sedimentation control plan for all construction activities related to the project.
Water Efficiency Water Use Reduction Requires the employment of strategies that use 20% less water in aggregate than the water use baseline calculated for the building.
Energy and Atmosphere Fundamental Commissioning of Building Energy Systems Requires that heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R) systems; lighting and daylighting controls; domestic hot water systems; and renewable energy systems be installed and calibrated according to the owner’s project requirements, basis of design, and construction documents.
Minimum Energy Performance Requires a demonstration of improvement in energy efficiency through a Whole Building Energy Simulation, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE) Advanced Energy Design Guide, or Advanced Buildings Core Performance Guide.
Fundamental Refrigerant Management No chlorofleurocarbon (CFC)-based refrigerants may be used in the HVAC&R systems of LEED Certified projects.
Materials and Resources Storage and Collection of Recyclables Requires the provision of at least one dedicated area for the collection and storage of recyclables including, at a minimum: paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastics, and metals.
Indoor Environmental Quality Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance Requires that ventilation comply with ASHRAE standards or Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN) standards.
Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control Requires the prohibition of smoking in and within 25 feet of the building or the provision of specific smoking areas to limit exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

Application Review Process

GBCI conducts a technical review of the information and documentation submitted with a LEED certification application to determine whether all MPRs, prerequisites, and attempted credits have been fulfilled. The application review processes vary in requirements, schedule, and policies based on the applicable rating system and certification program (GBCI, 2012). In the case of LEED for New Construction, there are 100 possible base points in addition to the required MPRs and prerequisites. LEED Certified projects need to achieve between 40 and 49 points, Silver projects between 50 and 59, Gold projects between 60 and 79, and Platinum projects need at least 80 points (USGBC, 2012b).

Certification Decision

Following the conclusion of a final review, GBCI issues a decision regarding the certification or denial of a project. The project administrator has the opportunity to appeal the decision within 25 business days. Each appeal may address only one MPS, prerequisite, or credit, and only the first appeal is free of additional cost. With no appeal, the results become conclusive. Any third party can make a certification challenge within the first 18 months of a LEED certification if they believe the LEED project has achieved MPRs, prerequisites, or credits through fraudulent documentation. Once this period of time has lapsed, the LEED Certification is awarded for the life of the project (GBCI, 2012).

LEED in Maine

LEED Certified buildings and spaces have been on the rise in Maine since 2004. Education projects taken together are the leading type of LEED project in Maine, with commercial projects coming in a close second. One potential reason for the growth in the number of LEED Certified schools is the 2007 Loans for Energy Efficiency Improvements in Municipal and School Buildings Law. This law established a program that helps to finance energy efficiency improvements in schools, thus helping to set the stage for LEED certification. Perhaps with similar legislation in other areas, the other project types might begin to increase in LEED certification.

Figure 4.8 Growth in LEED Certified buildings in Maine by project type (source: USGBC)

New England Comparison

Maine has the third greatest number of LEED Certified projects in New England with 78 compared to 466 in Massachusetts and 127 in Connecticut. Maine would appear at first to be lagging far behind Massachusetts and Connecticut, but consideration of population would suggest otherwise. Maine is the largest state in New England in terms of size, but its population is smaller than those Massachusetts and Connecticut. We considered the per capita number of certified projects in each state and found that Maine is slightly above the New England average but still in third place overall.

Table 4.12 Comparison of New England state populations and total LEED Certified projects



% of NE

LEED Certified



Per capita











































Avg   0.0057

Another factor likely to affect the number of LEED Certified projects in the state is government involvement. Vermont, for example, enacted the Energy Act in 2009, which requires that state agencies reduce their overall consumption of energy and increase utilization of renewable energy (VSA Title 10 §6523, 2009). Vermont also redesigned its Commercial Building Energy Standards (CBES) with more stringent minimum efficiency standards. The most recent version of the standards requires that the design and construction of buildings be certified by the designer as compliant with CBES. This process is similar to LEED but restricted to energy efficiency (VSA Title 21 §268, 2011). In enacting regulations that make the next step to seeking LEED certification a shorter one, this law aids the spread of LEED adoption.

In Massachusetts, Executive Order no. 484 requires all state buildings, including public universities, to abide by standards related to energy efficiency, water conservation, and building design, among others, that correspond with but are in some cases more stringent than those of LEED (Patrick, 2007). Compared with Maine’s most recent executive order related to sustainable buildings, this rule is more likely to result in LEED certifications due to its stringency and clear, decisive language. Additionally, the Green Communities Act of 2008 in Massachusetts encourages green building design through updated codes, training, and assistance, thus combining regulation and incentive in a single piece of legislation that is more powerful than comparable Maine laws (Session Law Chapter 169, 2008). These elements at least partially explain why Massachusetts is so far ahead of Maine in LEED Certified projects.

Another potential reason Maine might trail behind other states in LEED Certified projects is the nature of LEED credits. Many credits within LEED rating systems, such as those related to public transportation, year-round use of bicycles, and rooftop gardens are just not feasible in Maine due to the climate and lack of infrastructure (Briggs, 2007). Even recycling is difficult in some areas where there are fewer businesses providing the specific recycling services required by LEED. Every credit that is inaccessible or especially expensive to a project in Maine works against the project because it limits the choices remaining for a designer and drives up costs. The lack of sensitivity to the needs of Maine’s people and environment may function as a drawback to advancing the adoption of LEED in Maine.

Figure 4.9 Number of LEED Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum projects in each New England state



Maine is an interesting context for the study of voluntary certification because of the variety of resources and human interests on which certification programs focus in the state. Lakes, forests and the built environment form a unique but broad profile of subjects covered by certification programs of various scopes.

Voluntary certification programs work in place of, or in concert with, federal and state laws in Maine. While certification programs benefit from regulations and incentives that correspond to their own standards, their emergence is in part due to a perceived lack of sufficient legislation. Direct government funding can also play a role in the establishment of these programs, as we see in the case of LakeSmart. The lack of flexibility of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and demand for program expansion, however, precipitated the transfer of LakeSmart to the Maine Congress of Lake Associations (COLA). Government, therefore, still plays an influential role in these voluntary programs. It can necessitate these programs through a lack of legislation, support them through incentives for adoption, regulate partially in order to bring potential adopters one step closer to the standards, and replace programs entirely through the use of regulations that are more stringent than program standards.

Voluntary certification programs are a means of verifying sustainable practices and comparing them with a standard established through the collaboration of experts and other stakeholders. They emerge in response to a demand for verification and are thus reliant on a public that is educated in regards to sustainable choices. In the case of LakeSmart, this is demonstrated by the fact that a homeowner will not request a property evaluation without some awareness of lake water quality conservation practices. Forest certification provides an example of how the preferences of educated consumers drive competition between different programs and changes in standards.

Voluntary certification programs in Maine are most effective when they are specific to Maine’s unique social, economic, and natural environment, responsive and adaptive to input from experts and stakeholders, and transparent. LakeSmart, for example, is well-suited to addressing the needs of shoreline property owners of southern Maine because it is not accountable to any other area. LEED is responsive to stakeholders through several extensive standards updates and transparent through the accessibility of all its evaluation materials online, though its lack of specificity in the case of Maine’s location and climate is problematic. A secure and neutral source of funding guarantees that programs will not be forced to shut down prior to fulfilling their demand due to exhaustion of funds. It also safeguards against a loss of credibility resulting from the acceptance of funds from a potentially biased sponsor. Needless complexity tends to add costs to the program that are not balanced by increased efficacy. Finally, programs have more credibility when the assessment process is not hampered by excessive variability in the evaluation process, as demonstrated by the negative feedback LakeSmart received in regards to several such incidents.



Table 4.13 Comparison of four voluntary certification programs based on six criteria







Maine-based North American program with Maine Implementation Committee International Program with US standard US origins, 9 LEED systems for project types

Responsiveness and Adaptability

Constant revision with attention to stakeholders and experts Stakeholder involvement, ability to file complaints Stakeholder involvement, meetings with community members, ability to file complaints Standards regularly revised, several LEED updates since origin


History of problems during evaluation process Maine annual report since 2007 and monthly newsletter, standards accessible via web All certificates reviewable online, relatively vague public annual reporting starting in 2000 Evaluation materials available online


7 page evaluation form with straightforward 0-3 point scale for point assessment Standards available outlining 118 indicators, 14 principles, option of 1st – 3rd party certification or chain-of-custody Standards available outlining 192 indicators, 10 principles, option of chain-of-custody Costly documentation onus, but fairly straightforward, extensive point-based assessment

Source of Funding

Formerly state government, now nonprofit organization Non-profit, primary source of funding is pulp and paper industry Non-profit, donations from private charitable foundations Adopter pays fees for evaluation process and submits own documentation

Assessor Credibility

Formerly low due to varying results among evaluators and public distrust of state employees Formally trained foresters, loggers, ecologist, Master Logger Certification Formally trained and accredited third party certifiers – Expert foresters and ecologist Potential variability in assessments

Potential Scenarios

Due to their relative newness in the field of environmental sustainability, the future of voluntary certification programs is uncertain. The following three scenarios represent possible futures for Maine’s certification programs.

The Lures of Green-Washing

The expansion of sustainability-geared markets depends on assurances of authenticity, but the profit margin for such industries grows substantially if these assurances can be made with less stringency. Claims of sustainability not backed by credible verification, also termed green-washing, are already widespread in markets that utilize sustainability as a selling point. This may not be intentional, however, as green-washing may just as easily result from a program that is not specific enough in its standards. What helps to achieve the objectives of the program in one case may not in another case, and with a uniform standard these situations are addressed in the same way. In order to avoid this scenario, widespread demand for sustainable practices in industry must be paired with skepticism.

Certification as Insufficient

Not all voluntary certification programs will accomplish their objectives. Overly complex programs lacking transparency will likely fail because of the difficulty stakeholders will face in engaging with them. Without stakeholder input there can be no meaningful revision, a necessary step in ensuring a program’s adaptability and responsiveness. Programs unresponsive to changes in the environmental issues to which they apply will likely be replaced by more responsive programs or other policy mechanisms such as government regulations or incentives. Remaining programs will likely be those that prove most effective at accomplishing their objectives. If extractive industries continue to deplete resources at their current rate, certification programs will be insufficient at preventing significant environmental degradation and the result may, to borrow an example from forest certification, look like green islands surrounded by denuded landscapes.

The Replacement of Certification

Voluntary certification programs are “soft law” in that they help bring about change without “hard” regulation, but they also have the potential to raise awareness of environmental issues and shape demand. An unprompted decline in certification programs is not likely to occur because they are supported by growing trends in environmental awareness, the demand for credibility in the market, and the desire of individuals to be recognized for costly, environmentally sustainable actions. There is potential for their replacement, however. These programs currently function either in place of or in addition to state and federal legislation, but one potential outcome of increasing efficacy is greater public awareness regarding issues of sustainability. If public support of legislation were to follow this trend in environmental awareness and result in regulatory standards that coincide with pre-existing voluntary standards, certification programs would have to increase the stringency of their standards or face obsolescence. Greater regulation results in greater enforcement costs; this is inefficient because it fails to utilize the resources that individuals and industry are willing to devote towards certification.


The role served by voluntary certification programs is an important one, as these programs bring awareness, standardization, and verification to issues of sustainability. They function in place of or in addition to regulation and benefit from other policy mechanisms such as incentives, but they utilize resources that individuals and companies are willing to contribute to the pursuit of more environmentally sustainable practices. Their future is not guaranteed, but as long as they continue to fulfill a need they will likely continue to be supported by experts, stakeholders, and industries. In Maine in particular, these programs have the potential to fill a useful niche formed by a lack of regulation in some areas of environmental sustainability. Increased specificity and sensitivity to the unique environment and people of Maine will help these programs to be more effective in the state of Maine.

Policy Recommendations

Certification programs serve a similar function to regulations, yet they do not require public funding for enforcement mechanisms. It is in the best interest of government organizations, therefore, to continue to support the adoption of effective and meaningful voluntary certification programs with direct funding, incentives for adopters, and regulations that coincide with but do not replace their standards.

As voluntary certification programs emerge in response to a demand for verification, it is the responsibility of consumers to continue demanding verification of environmentally sustainable practices from industries. Provided there is a demand, companies will continue to fund these programs through the payment of evaluation fees.

In non-commercial programs such as LakeSmart, it is of utmost importance that individuals are educated regarding environmentally sustainable choices, as this education is what drives program adoption. Thus, we recommend program resources be allocated towards education and outreach in the early phases of new certification programs until they are firmly established.

Finally, the programs themselves are more effective when specific, responsive, transparent, and user-friendly. The developers of these programs should therefore aim to maximize these qualities in both new and pre-existing programs.

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Personal Communications

Andy Shultz, Maine Forest Service, Landowner Outreach Forester

Dale DeBlois, Colby College Physical Plant Department, Environmental Program Manager

Margaret Shannon, Maine Congress of Lake Associations, Executive Director

Pat Sirois, Maine Forest Product Council, Director of SFI in Maine

Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP, Director of Communications