Going green, in more ways than one
Sustainability, once a term integral only for saving the environment, could now be the centerpiece of businesses across the country.
But, not all companies engage sustainability in an honest fashion. That practice is called "greenwashing," a false or exaggerated declaration of eco-friendly practices, designed solely for the purpose of promoting a business. As more Americans consume with a conscience, the practice of marketing green trends as a major selling point could grow. Fortunately, some businesses practice what they preach.
Holly Caughron who runs a green-based marketing firm in Salt Lake City, has the often difficult task of separating fact from fiction when it comes to these businesses and their green habits. Her firm, Green Rising: Marketing for the Eco-Minded, consults some three to five businesses at a time on establishing themselves as truly green. In some cases, she will even take on clients who have not really adapted green practices and nurse them through establishing these eco-minded procedures before she actively markets their ventures.
Green Rising is less than a year old and began as something of a passion project for Caughron. Her hope, when she created the company, was to find a way to make green practices digestible for the consuming public. She wanted to be "sure that this stuff is easy for consumers to understand," she said. Moreover the businesses gave her an opportunity to push the green movement forward through making it more commercially viable. "As soon as businesses get behind (these types of movements, they take) off exponentially," she commented.
Recycle Utah, which is based in Park City, also works to find the true agents of sustainability by creating a yearly list of local businesses that maintain some sort of recycling or Earth-friendly practices. That list is ranked by the efficacy and extent of each business’ recycling and green programs. Most of the businesses on the list are hotels and condos, but a few are restaurants.
To determine where each business will be ranked, Recycle Utah uses a rubric they created. Ultimately, said Lola Beatlebrox, they don’t want to discourage any recycling operation and want to acknowledge everyone for their efforts, but this "roadmap," as they call it, allows them to reward some businesses for their superior performance.
The roadmap ranks programs by levels 1 to 4 with requirements specific to each type of business. Level 4 is the most advanced group on their list, and so far, the Treasure Mountain Inn is the only member in that group. To attain a level 1 rank, a business must offer a basic recycling collection point and/or a hazardous materials protocol if applicable. Most of the businesses who have applied to the Recycle Utah ranking program fit into the level 1 category. To climb up the list, businesses have to offer low contamination rates and involve staff in their recycling. Preference is also given to enterprises that produce as little waste as possible. Offices, for instance, that reduce the amount of paper they consume can use this practice to their advantage on the list.
Past using this list as an advertising opportunity, some business can actually cut their expenditures by adhering to green practices.
Squatters Roadhouse Grill, for instance, uses sugar cane-derived boxes and silverware for take-out orders. The silverware, however unorthodox it may appear saves the company money while simultaneously promoting green ethics. Sugar cane is biodegradable.
The Trail’s End Lodge also has instituted some Earth-friendly practices partially because they save money. Their on-property pool is not chemically treated with chlorine, but rather it is conditioned with natural salts that are broken into sodium and chlorine through a version of electrolysis. The initial investment cost the lodge $2,500, but they say they have saved some $1,200 a year since and have not had to dispose of potentially dangerous chemicals.
Other green practices at the lodge were instituted because they had little choice in the matter. They began to recycle bottles because guests simply took to the practice of leaving bottles on countertops, so recycling, by default, became standard practice. According to Joel Moskal, general manager of the lodge, they simply had to meet customer expectations.
Soon, all of the properties operated by Premier Lodging, some 800 units in Park City, will carry nothing but organic shower products and coffees for all of their guests. "It’s good marketing with the guests when they check in (to offer recycling and Earth-friendly practices)," said Moskal.
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