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Active Sole reduces carbon footprint

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

When it comes to green, a little effort can go a long way and

Active Sole is doing its part.

"We’ve always been pretty involved with recycling," said Scott Wilson, Active Sole owner.

His loyalty to greening the Earth deepened after he moved to Park City from Baltimore two years ago. He observed more of a commitment in the community to recycle and wanted to take part in it.

"There was that mindset in town," Wilson said. "We recommitted to collecting bottles, newspapers and cans."

When he opened Active Sole, a local shoe store, he watched Al Gore’s film, "Inconvenient Truth," which convinced him even further.

"When we first opened the store we made sure we could recycle," Wilson said.

Active Sole is reducing waste via checkout. Customers are asked if they want their boxes or if they would prefer the store keep them and ensure they are broken down and taken to Recycle Utah.

"They are allowing you to take what they are selling and leaving the packaging behind. Instead of walking out with packaging and pieces of paperboard, they are saying, ‘bring your own bag and we keep the rest,’" said Insa Riepen, executive director.

Riepen says Wilson is also working with manufacturers who have already reduced their packaging. She calls this "pre-recycling."

By working with green manufacturers and then recycling their packaging, it decreases the carbon footprint two-fold.

"It’s a dual approach, both of which are phenomenal," Riepen said.

Wilson makes about one trip a week to Recycle Utah with a collection of customers’ boxes.

"I applaud them for sending a very strong environmental message out there," Riepen said. "If we were all able to do that, we wouldn’t send so much to the landfill. They are just wonderful to work with."

All of the employees at Active Sole are asking customers if they want to leave the packaging. In January, Wilson started taking a tally and he says more than 90 percent of customers participate.

"Very few turned us down," Wilson said.

Some of the customers are taken aback at the request.

"Some people have been surprised or confused because no one’s ever asked them that before," Wilson said. "One customer has been a little suspicious but we haven’t gotten any negative comments. Most people say, ‘this is a great idea’ and ‘I’d wish others would do it.’"

In about two months, Active Sole has delivered "around 200" boxes to Recycle Utah.

"It’s significant," Riepen said. "The volume of the boxes, if you throw all of them into an eight-yard garbage can, it would fill that bin and then some. He’s not sending any volume to the landfill. We have to reduce the volume of stuff in the landfill. Anything that we can keep out is enormously valuable."

Riepen said Three-Mile Landfill is limited in what it can take. At the current rate, it will be full within a decade.

"We are running out of room," Riepen said. "We have to start thinking fast and furiously. We are estimating eight to 10 years left in the canyon landfill."

Wilson says it takes him an extra hour a week to recycle boxes from his business, but the small inconvenience is worth it.

"The cost is minimal," Wilson said. "The benefit we get is something that sets us a part from other businesses. Customers get a sense that we are buying into the community and not just getting a buck off of people."

Active Sole is currently looking for other opportunities to help the environment like using wind power. Wilson welcomes any suggestion to be more eco-friendly.

"A lot of businesses aren’t thinking green right now," Wilson said. "I hope this is something other businesses in town will pick up on. It’s very easy; it doesn’t take a lot of space."

Wilson says if other businesses follow similar practices, "it could have a tremendous impact."

"In Summit County, if every business were to look at packaging coming in and reduce it right there, that would be a 50 percent reduction of garbage," Riepen said. "If you then buy products that are recyclable and get them recycled, that would be a 90 percent reduction. If every business were to do that, do the math, we could last way longer than 10 years."

"This is absolutely wonderful in what (Wilson) is doing," Riepen said. "He’s selling a good, solid product and he’s reducing the carbon footprint with his shoes."

Riepen hopes other businesses will follow.

"Set the tone, raise the bar, be the locomotive in this and not the caboose," Riepen said. "Tell them how you want your wares packaged.

"That’s how it works in California and Europe and other companies. Japan doesn’t have any garbage."

If businesses want to organize better practices, or do something similar, they can call Recycle Utah to get set up. For more information call Recycle Utah at 649-9698 or The Active Sole at 575-7653.


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