Contributed Column

Thinking Green 

by Marge Keough 

An Integrated Bottom Line

There is a movement afoot in Vermont and across the nation. This June, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) held its fourth annual conference at Champlain College in Burlington. The conference brought together 475 people from 37 states, six Canadian provinces and six nations from around the globe to share ideas about creating an economy that preserves community character and vitality, promotes economic justice and protects ecological health and diversity.

Entrepreneurs and innovators shared many inspiring success stories and strategies for conducting business with an “an integrated bottom line,” whereby equal value is given to people, planet and profit. We heard many win-win examples of successful strategies used by businesses that consider how to have a positive impact on communities and the environment as an integral part of business.

In Vermont, the growth of local living economies is evident in the number of thriving and growing small businesses and farmers’ markets across the state. Growing a local economy typically goes hand-in-hand with promoting green businesses and thriving communities as people support the businesses that support their environment and communities.

From a solid-waste perspective, a business that localizes its operations likely uses less packaging, less fuel, fewer tires and less motor oil, thereby reducing its waste output. Other green practices businesses can incorporate into their operations include embracing the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. In addition to an efficient waste management and recycling program, purchasing non-toxic cleaners and recycled products, and buying local, can add to a greener bottom line. An added benefit is happier and healthier employees, customers and communities.

From a climate change perspective, businesses can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by recycling; composting; using energy-efficient equipment, lighting and vehicles; incorporating green building practices into facility maintenance; keeping equipment properly tuned and maintained; minimizing transportation for employees and products; and by purchasing and using renewable energy.

From an economic standpoint, localizing business keeps more dollars in our communities as employers and employees purchase goods locally. Businesses that take the next step by investing in local and socially and environmentally responsible endeavors further multiply their positive impacts in their communities.

The small, innovative, entrepreneurial and environmental culture of our state paves the way for Vermont to take a leading role in our nation. Following are steps any business can take toward greening up the bottom line:

• Adopt a mission statement that sets the stage for embracing green and/or sustainable business practices.

• Adopt a purchasing policy whereby there is a commitment to purchase recycled-content, non-toxic and local products whenever feasible. Some businesses even commit to spending up to 10 percent more for environmentally preferable purchases.

• Implement an efficient waste management program. Be sure to incorporate the waste-management/recycling program into job descriptions — this is important! — and reward employees for their successes in reducing waste.

• Offer incentives for employees to car pool or use alternative transportation to work.

• Assess the efficiency of your facility. When possible, make changes in lighting, equipment, building design and more, with an eye toward reduced energy consumption.

• When undergoing renovation or construction, consider deconstruction services to salvage reusable and recyclable materials. Use green building materials and designs whenever possible.

• Invest in your community.

Each of the points listed above will likely generate positive responses from employees, customers and your community, thus adding to the success of your business. 

Following are a few resources that are well worth checking out:

The solutions for depleting resources, climate change and more, lie in our actions to promote successful and sustainable businesses and communities. •

Marge Keough is Business Outreach Coordinator at Chittenden Solid Waste District in Williston. 

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