World economy could fall off a cliff if businesses don’t embrace sustainability
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The local business community tackled the topic of sustainability with gusto during this week’s annual Sustainabiz conference in Frisco, as local entrepreneurs shared hands-on lessons of how they’ve applied green principles to their own operations.
At its heart, the concept of sustainability isn’t really that hard to understand — It’s about meeting today’s needs without compromising the future, and about a value system that integrates natural systems with human activities.
The U.S. EPA offers some common sense information and definitions of sustainability here.A key thing to keep in mind is that you can’t really discuss sustainability at the local level without a global context, because we are, literally, all in this together. Check out the United Nations Environment Programme for for the wide-angle view.
The trick for businesses is to embrace those lofty goals while still managing to achieve very down-to-earth day to day targets, several speakers said at the conference, which was co-hosted by Our Future Summit and the Summit Independent Business Alliance.
“It’s critical to get business involved in sustainability, otherwise the world economy is going to fall off a cliff in the next few decades,” said Graham Russell, executive director of CORE Colorado, opening the conference with references to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to illustrate that all is not well.
“In the broadest framework, it’s the capacity to endure, to do well now without borrowing from the future. And there’s a lot of evidence that we’re not operating that way,” said Eric Drummond, a former Manitou Springs mayor who described how that town consciously chose a sustainable development path.
“We can do better … in the energy world, as a society, but it will take a great deal of collaborative, conscious effort, Drummond said.
In one of the early panels, a quartet of local business owners described how their sustainable efforts are working and how they fit into the larger picture.
Roger Roberts, owner of the Ten Mile Cafe in Breckenridge, said watching the incredible amount of waste during 30 years in the restaurant industry made him decide to turn his cafe into a zero-waste operation, starting with composting food.
“It does cost a bit more, but it’s worth it,” Roberts said. “It’s just a small percentage of the bottom line, part of the cost of doing business. It’s worth it for the way it makes me feel, the way it makes the people who work here feel and the way it makes customers feel,” he said.
Roberts tries to make his customers aware of his efforts with signs in the cafe, and he said at least half the customers want more information. As well, some of his employees have started to become more conscious of recycling at home, he added.
Local resident Sandy Briggs urged the Summit County restaurant community to take Roberts’ idea and run with it, suggesting that Summit County could become known as a destination that has the greenest restaurants around.
On the same panel, Todd Rankin, owner of Cornerstone Real Estate in Keystone, discussed the challenges of implementing sustainable practices in a business environment, including reducing the use of paper and buying renewable energy credits to offset energy use.
Other sessions at SustainaBiz including presentations on green marketing, as well as very specific information on how to take advantage of various local, state and national renewable energy programs to help save money.
If you missed the conference, never fear, because the Summit Independent Business Alliance offers some of the same information to local businesses on an ongoing basis. Visit SIBA’s website to learn more and get information on upcoming workshops and events.
Filed under: business, Environment, Summit County Colorado Tagged: | CORE Colorado, green business, Our Future Summit, Summit County business, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, sustainability