Lindsay Eason

Lindsay Eason

Businesses share ‘green’ initiatives

Local businesses are taking the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce and B.C. Hydro Power Smart Conservation Challenge from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31.

Local businesses are taking the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce and B.C. Hydro Power Smart Conservation Challenge from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31.

The program, the first in the province, focuses on workplace conservation, and highlights the importance of employee education.

Three businesses and Green Step, a Kelowna-based energy and green advisor company, made presentations about what they are already doing, and offered ideas for the future at the Using the Right Framework for Sustainability breakfast meeting Sept. 1.

“You are all leaders in this city for your interest in energy conservation and the environment,” chamber of commerce manager George Duffy told attending business owners and representatives of area organizations.

Dave Weatherill, owner of Briteland, discussed products his company has developed to help businesses become greener.

“There has been a world-class paradigm shift in how people look at the environment,” he said. “We shred all our outdated files and give them to chicken producers for bedding which is eventually composted and put back into the land. But that’s just the start.”

With traditional hot composting, he explained, 35 per cent of the  pile goes back into the atmosphere as carbon gases and methane. Weatheril has been working with vermiculture (using worms to cold compost food waste with no odours or gases) at Seaton Secondary School, where students use the project in a variety of ways, developing products for sale. The new Bokashicycle, an anaerobic, acidic fermentation process for all organic waste, used at the IPE last year, is the subject of a film by Bruce Mol.

“It can take a steak bone to soil in two weeks,” said Weatherill, who is working with the  City of Chicago on recycling food waste. He is making environmentally friendly cleaning products for everything from electronics to mill equipment and train locomotives, to plumbing grease traps, all being used locally.

“We want to keep enjoying the beautiful place up there for a long time to come so we are taking a lot of initiatives, large and small,” said Robin Baycroft of Silver Star Mountain Resort. “We get our soap and shampoo from a local business and all the food and beverage containers are bio-degradable. People now have the option of beeswax product for their skis. We are also reducing our printed products, electricity use and fuel consumption. We are revegetating and constructing to stop erosion. We want to make sure there’s memories to be made for many more years up at Silver Star.”

Tolko Industries, with operations in Canada’s four western provinces and head office in Vernon, was the recipient of the 2008 B.C. Hydro PowerSmart Employee Awareness Program award.

“We are an environmentally responsible and innovative company,” said Bob Fleet, vice-president of environment and forestry. “We are a member of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement which brings together companies and environmental agencies to work together for the highest value and sustainability of forest resources.”

He also spoke about Tolko’s reforestry program, the use of pine beetle kill wood and the sales of other wood products, including recyclable Aspenware utensils and guitar construction. Energy efficiency teams work at each site to reduce energy and oversee the co-generation of power and steam for use in the plant or re-sale.

Lindsay and Darrell Eason of Green Step talked about what they have seen in their consulting business, focusing on how businesses can make small and large, short-term and long-term changes to make themselves more ecologically viable.

“Any framework for a sustainable company must give employees a voice and have a way to measure results,” said Lindsay Eason.

Darrell Eason said there are many benefits to sustainable development, including being more attractive to investors, staying ahead of regulations, gaining and keeping customer loyalty and finding new markets.

“Business plans should include establishing a green team which includes senior management, or good ideas will not be implemented, establishing a framework and vision, as well as how things will be done and evaluated,” he said. “Measure, do, measure, celebrate. And let the public know how and what you are doing. I think a lot of businesses fall down in this way. Be proud of what you are doing.”

He urged companies to be aware of the LiveSmart Small Business Program, which offers a variety of services, including business energy assessment and advice, rebates for some installations, grants and funding for projects.

“Take the small, green steps that you can take. These will be unique to your business and your community,” added Lindsay Eason.

The Vernon chamber and B.C. Hydro Power Smart Conservation Challenge are asking businesses to complete a minimum of four conservation activities and report and demonstrate them, to be eligible for prizes. Suggested activities include: turn off lights and office equipment; replace inefficient equipment; provide weekly conservation tips; and/or start green teams to come up with other ideas.

For more information about the challenge or to register, contact the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce at 250-545-0771 or e-mail info@vernonchamber.ca.