In an effort to reduce impact to the environment by local businesses, the Ashland Conservation Commission is revitalizing its Green Business Program. Robbin Pearce, the city's water conservation auditor and inspector, is coordinating the effort.

Pearce will help local businesses look at ways to reduce water usage. She enlisted the help of a group of individuals, whom she refers to as the "Green Team."

'The Green Team'

Larry Giardina, conservation analyst and inspector for the city, helps businesses identify the most appropriate conservation measures to reduce energy waste.

Risa Buck, waste reduction educator for Ashland Sanitary Recycling, spots solid waste shortcomings and then helps implement new practices to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Lisa Freeman, with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in Medford, promotes ways to prevent pollution and reduce hazardous waste and air emissions, among other things.

"New to the program is the 'other' category," said Pearce. "That applies to what a particular business does specifically to address sustainability issues unique to their business."

Green perspective

Pearce said any Ashland venture can be green.

"It's not so much what they do, but how they do it. A green business could be one person working out of a truck or a franchise. We have a bed and breakfast looking into the program, along with doctors, churches, hotels and architects. There's no limit to businesses that can practice sustainability."

Pearce plans to address Ashland's Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club and other business groups soon to promote the program.

"I don't think many business owners are aware of the program, or that the city has incentives and information available for businesses that want to make a difference in their environmental impact to the Earth," she said.

A Web site listing all the participating businesses will be available in January.

"I think many consumers will make decisions about where to stay, where to eat, where to shop and what doctor to see based on a business' sustainability practices," Pearce said.

Embracing green ideas

Local business managers seem open to the promotion of green business perspectives. Shop 'N Kart manager Eric Chaddock likes the city project.

"It's an exciting program. All businesses need to do a better job being aware of their impact on the environment and trying to minimize it. Grocery stores, as a general rule, make a pretty big impact due to their size. We have about 30,000 square feet and use a lot of electricity. We're looking into adding solar panels. We've ordered new coolers that are much more efficient. We also just ordered 12,000 reusable bags for customers and the minute they come in we'll no longer carry plastic bags.

Chaddock believes the Ashland community has a heart for embracing green projects and is a leader in environmental causes.

"This community is so great about stepping up to the table to do what's right for the environment," he said. "Ashland has always been way ahead of the pack. We didn't join the program because it was an economic decision; we joined because it was a decision that would help us sleep better at night."

United Bicycle Institute, 401 Williamson Way, an Ashland trade school that trains students from all over the world in bicycle mechanics and custom bicycle frame building, also participates in the program.

Ron Sutphin, who owns the school with his wife Denise, has adopted improvement options to bring the business more in line with environmental conservation goals.

"The very nature of the business, having to do with bikes, is pretty green. But in addition, we've installed an 8 kilowatt solar array system on our roof, saving tens of thousands of pounds of greenhouse gases. And we're into recycling anything and everything possible. We're pretty militant about it, really."

Sutphin added that he's the only employee who drives a vehicle to work because of the long commute.

"But all of the other six full-time employees ride their bikes to work. We're pretty serious here about sustainability."

Annie Hoy, outreach and owner services manager for Ashland Food Co-op, said the top tier of the co-op's mission statement declares they will be a socially responsible business.

"We implement as many sustainable practices as possible. We're avid recyclers, use rechargeable batteries, have low-flow toilets and sensors on all the faucets and purchase green tags to offset 17 percent of our electrical usage.

The co-op took advantage of the city's incentives through the Green Business Program by installing 45 solar panels on the roof this year.

Hoy said making the changes at the co-op was the right thing to do.

"We're facing a global climate crisis, and anything we do is going to slow it down. For us, it wasn't just good business, it's good citizenship."

Other Ashland businesses participating in the program are: Ashland Sanitary Recycling, Brothers Restaurant, Dagoba Organic Chocolate and Standing Stone Brewery.