Sebago Lake
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Businesses Mobilize to Protect Local Water Quality

Photo Credit: Chris Pinchbeck

Thanks to the vast tracts of unbroken forests around Sebago Lake, just 20 miles upstream of the Portland, Maine metropolitan area, the city’s residents, visitors, and businesses are fortunate to enjoy some of the purest drinking water in the entire country.

But with just 11 percent of these watershed forests protected, Sebago Clean Waters (SCW), a coalition made up of a regional water utility and nine conservation organizations — including the Open Space Institute (OSI) — is working to accelerate the land protection that will not only ensure clean water, but also support the local and state economy.

Now, a growing and broad array of local businesses is raising funds for SCW — demonstrating that companies are increasingly aware of, and committed to investing in, the woods and waters that are essential to their success.

“It’s absolutely marvelous to see forward-thinking businesses independently standing up in support of the essential role the Sebago watershed plays for greater Portland,” said Jennifer Melville, vice president at OSI. “Portland’s outstanding water is getting the credit it’s due as the secret ingredient in supporting a wide array of successful businesses.”

SCW’s work attracts business support for a range of reasons. Some are interested in protecting the pure water source that is crucial for their products, others in encouraging the healthy, outdoor lifestyle of their employees and communities, and still others are focused on corporate responsibility through environmental sustainability.  

Lone Pine Brewery is one model Portland-area business that has donated to support Sebago Clean Waters and land protection around Sebago Lake.
Lone Pine Brewery is one model Portland-area business that has donated to support Sebago Clean Waters and land protection around Sebago Lake.
Photo Credit: Lone Pine Brewery

One especially enthusiastic business sector is local craft beer breweries. After all, it’s widely known that water from Sebago Lake is the most important element in the great-tasting craft beverages made in Portland-area breweries.

Currently, five different breweries (Allagash Brewing Company, Rising Tide Brewing Company, Lone Pine Brewery, Foundation Brewing Company, and Bissell Brothers Brewing) donate portions of proceeds from sales of beer, craft seltzer, memberships, and even Nalgene water bottles in support of forest protection around Sebago Lake.

"Safeguarding forests is key to clean water, which is vital not only for brewing, but for the quality of life we enjoy here in Maine,” said Jason Perkins, Brewmaster at Allagash Brewing Co. “It's why we're dedicated to giving back to the Open Space Institute and its partners in Sebago Clean Waters—to help preserve our water and land for generations to come.”

In addition to the breweries, the United Soccer League to Portland, an up-and-coming business working to bring professional soccer to Maine, has supported SCW through sales of their first apparel collection. From the outset, the founders have been intent on positively impacting their community and saw in SCW an opportunity to strengthen their commitment to the environment.

In addition to proceeds from product sales, SCW has also received grant awards from business partners. Sappi, an international paper company with locations in Maine, gave SCW $1,000 to use for outreach through its “Ideas that Matter” program. The Woodard & Curran Foundation, an employee-led nonprofit formed by a national engineering firm with a Portland office, awarded SCW a $10,000 “Giving While Living” grant for its work protecting water and the environment. Both these awards occurred because employees advocated for support of SCW’s efforts.

Support for SCW from businesses is not limited to financial contributions; businesses have been key partners in increasing awareness of and interest in SCW's work. Partner breweries display the SCW logo on their products, feature information about the coalition on their websites and social media, and invite SCW to distribute materials and interact with attendees at brewery-sponsored events. SCW is also engaging employees of business partners in volunteer opportunities ranging from donation of photography services to trail work with watershed partner organizations.

As businesses and the public continue to gather a drumroll of support for SCW, OSI continues its on-the-ground land protection work. To date, OSI has partnered in the protection of more than 4,000 acres within the watershed, helping to secure projects like Tiger Hill Community Forest.

“Just as forests are the key to clean water, there is a growing realization that strategic land protection is key to enjoying economic prosperity,” said OSI’s Melville. “So by helping to protect land, these businesses are indeed giving back to themselves, and to their own future success.”

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