Ask Eartha: Sustainability just makes good business sense |

Ask Eartha: Sustainability just makes good business sense

Tina Evans, associate professor of sustainability studies at Colorado Mountain College, lectures at a sustainability class last year.
Submitted photo/Colorado Mountain College |

I am a small-business owner who just moved to Summit County. I am looking for ways to incorporate more eco-friendly practices into my business model without it costing an arm and a leg.

Margaret, Breckenridge

A common misconception is that protecting the environment and economic growth are at odds with one another.

Protecting the environment was the top issue consumers cared about globally, according to a recent survey

This does not have to be the case.

In fact, more consumers are becoming environmentally conscious and using that awareness when deciding where to shop and who they want to give their money to.

According to BBMG, a brand and marketing firm, “U.S. consumers increasingly say ‘environmentally friendly’ describes them well (86 percent well, 34 percent very well).” Protecting the environment was the top issue consumers cared about globally, according to a survey conducted by Marketing Green. As such, it just makes good business sense to integrate environmentally sustainable practices in your business model. It does not have to cost an arm and a leg, but it does take a commitment.

As leaders of the community, business owners have a responsibility to set sustainability standards for other aspiring and incoming business owners to follow. In this way, businesses are invested in the community and its environmental health and protection. Business owners who practice environmental stewardship in their day-to-day operations are thinking about the long-term health of our community and not just about the bottom line.

Many businesses are already taking steps to becoming more sustainable. Restaurants and eating establishments are beginning to use recyclable or compostable food containers for take-out and to-go items. Businesses are switching over to environmentally friendly cleaning products — a hard shift for some that have been using the same cleaning products for years.

Some businesses start small and work their way up to bigger changes. Every little bit counts. An easy but significant change is switching out plastic flatware and disposable dishes for reusable ones in the employee lounge. Or setting up a recycling bin with a list of recyclable items posted above it. Creating an incentive program for employees to carpool or take public transportation is another way for businesses to encourage sustainable habits.

Consider joining the High Country Conservation Center’s sustainable business program, which is recruiting new businesses for 2014.

The towns of Silverthorne, Frisco and Breckenridge sponsor 10 businesses in each municipality to take on a green project of their choosing. The business receives a free sustainability assessment and free energy audit with a detailed report of how it can become more sustainable and more energy efficient. The staff at the High Country Conservation Center will provide coaching and advice for completing the project.

Finally, the business receives positive recognition for its improvements and great publicity as a sustainable business.

The businesses who went through the program in 2013 took on some challenging but worthwhile projects. Some of the businesses ended up saving money on their utility bills by doing energy-improvement upgrades such as air sealing and insulation, refrigeration and lighting upgrades.

If you or another business owner you know is interested in joining the program, please contact the High Country Conservation Center at (970) 668-5703 or email

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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