November 30, 2017
By recognizing and assisting sustainable businesses that operate as environmental stewards, the Vermont Green Business Program (VT GBP) is as important today as it was when it was launched 17 years ago. With the recent addition of Champlain Valley Apiaries, a manufacturer of honey products in Middlebury, and the Northeast Recycling Council, a Brattleboro-based non-profit organization working on sustainable materials management, the Program includes more than 230 businesses. Member businesses are diverse in size and operations and include hotels, restaurants, marinas, grocers, golf courses, and others.
“The VT GBP helps businesses to keep the triple bottom line framework of people, profits, and the planet relevant,” says Ed Antczak, Program Manager of the Vermont Environmental Assistance Office.
The recently completed annual survey confirms that VT GBP members minimize their environmental footprints through energy efficiency and water conservation measures. Members have upgraded to Energy Star appliances and energy efficient boilers, heat pumps, programmable thermostats, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Replacing old windows and exterior doors, and insulating pipes and crawl spaces, have reduced unnecessary energy loss.
In addition to scheduling preventive maintenance of their HVAC systems, some members have installed HVAC motors with variable frequency drives. Wireless thermostat controls that interface with property management systems, and air dryers in compressed air systems, further reduce energy costs.
To maximize their water conservation efforts, VT GBP members have upgraded toilets to low and dual flush models. They have installed half-circle sprinklers on turf areas, water-efficient showerheads, and ozone machines in laundry rooms. Some members harvest rainwater, thereby reducing costs and avoiding runoff and erosion. Some have reduced the use of road salt in winter months.
Others have converted to renewable energy by installing solar panels. Waste reduction, recycling, and organics management have proven to be relatively simple adjustments that reap environmental and financial benefits. Green purchasing of cleaners and other products such as reusable dinnerware and giving preference to suppliers whose products have environmentally friendly attributes also enhance the environmental stewardship of VT GBP members.
Members continue to purchase recycled content goods and many opt for compostable products whenever feasible. They also purchase items made of upcycled materials such as salvaged wood cabinetry.
Members’ focus on the triple bottom line is also evident in such practices as donating used bars of soap to Clean the World, a non-profit that sanitizes used soap, reforms it into bars, and ships them to developing nations to help combat dysentery and other diseases. Members have also installed bat boxes, providing bats with new dwellings to help stamp out white nose syndrome. Some have created employee gardens, enhancing employee health and emphasizing valuable work-related attributes such as teamwork.
If you are a Vermont-based business that wants to reduce operational costs, burnish your reputation for sustainability, and contribute to a clean and healthy environment, consider becoming a member of the Vermont Green Business Program. There is no cost associated with joining the voluntary program, and a walk-through assessment with the Program’s Coordinator will get you started on your way to being a recognized green business.
Written by Mary Ann Remolador & Robert Kropp of NERC