Recent Business Forward event highlighted green investment opportunities.
Green is good for business! That was the mantra repeated several times at the White House Business Council luncheon hosted recently at 212 Market Restaurant by Business Forward. Business Forward, a national organization, brings business leaders from across America to advise Washington on how to create jobs and accelerate our economic recovery.
Among other issues, the organization focuses on business solutions to ameliorate climate change. Mayor Andy Berke welcomed participants and declared the city’s support for businesses that recognized economic and community values embedded in making green investments. We met Erik Schmidt, the new director of sustainability. Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger was also in attendance.
Speaker Heather Toney, EPA Southeast Regional Administrator, touted the value of lowering our national carbon footprint. She urged the support of EPA’s Clean Power Plan that will require states to come up with ways to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. “If you know an asthmatic child struggling to breathe, you want your state to work for cleaner air,” she said. She noted Chattanooga’s positive spirit and expressed pleasure at hearing our stories of green innovation.
Those stories included 212 Market owner Sally Moses telling about risking a downtown location, supporting local farmers, using environmentally friendly products, recycling, and adding solar panels before being green was cool. We heard about EPB’s office LEED renovation and providing employee access to locally grown food. The Tennessee Aquarium conducts research and educates visitors about the need to save our native watery ecosystems. Michael Walton of green|spaces advised businesses to take climate change seriously and invest accordingly.
In a green context, business success mostly means moving away from use of air-polluting energy, primarily electricity produced from burning coal with its health risks. The federal rules are now out for comments by Oct. 16 before expected enactment this December (epa.gov). In fact, Ms. Toney headed back to Atlanta for public hearings, during which several hundred citizens gave their opinions and advice in five-minute segments before an EPA panel. Outside, several more hundred people marched in support of the rules. Inside, a few coal industry supporters lamented the economic tribulations they envisioned such rules would cause (and, could it be, the loss of their own jobs?).
All businesses can go green to help both their bottom lines and the environment. Look for ideas at the American Council for Efficient Energy Economy (aceee.org). Energy efficiency holds out the promise of getting the biggest bang for your buck. There are many ways to do it: Trees strategically planted can reduce air conditioning costs while also sucking up extra carbon and stormwater. Use of task lighting or daylighting plus switching over to LED lights is advantageous. Put solar panels and/or green plants on your roof. Think about ways to reduce waste; waste/inefficiency is a hidden tax on any business. Buy locally where possible as this reduces air and water pollution associated with transportation. Use environmentally friendly cleaners. Recycle everything possible, including electronics. Purchase recyclable items. Make it possible for employees to bike to work.
Chattanooga has a cutting-edge start on this Business Forward idea, but it requires long-term thinking. Our encouragement of entrepreneurial innovation, such as the recent Low Impact Development (LID) Challenge contest, the use of green or reused building materials in new urban development, or the upswing in local farmers markets are all signs that green is good for business. Let’s lead the way.
Be There: The Chattanooga Climate Festival, Saturday, Aug. 16, 4-9 p.m. at the Crash Pad, 29 Johnson St.