The green team
Program makes it easier for local businesses to become sustainable
The Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency, aka 4CORE, wants to help you and your business save money, save energy and go green.
Last year, the local nonprofit launched its Green Business Certification Program in partnership with the City of Durango. The program works with businesses aspiring to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce waste and optimize overall operations in an effort to achieve more environmentally friendly business practices.
For businesses, that’s a good thing. Recent consumer surveys indicate that many prefer to patronize businesses prioritizing sustainability, care about the environmental impact of the products they purchase and specifically look for more sustainable options.
Colleen Wilcox, 4CORE’s green certification program manager, agrees. “The majority of customers are aware of whether or not a business they’re walking into is sustainable,” she said. As a popular tourist destination, Durango attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors each year, many of whom likely favor businesses committed to sustainable practices. “People recognize the importance of patronizing businesses that go the extra mile to do something different for the earth,” Wilcox added.
4CORE offers four levels of Green Business Certification – Bronze, Silver, Gold and the highest level, Platinum. Each level reflects varying points earned across 14 categories that include such things as energy efficiency, climate and carbon footprint, waste and transportation. Within each category, businesses can choose from a range of criteria or tasks to accumulate points. For instance, under the energy efficiency category, business owners can earn points by adopting LED lightbulbs (10 points), conducting a Building Performance Institute (BPI) energy audit and blower door test (15 points), or developing an energy conservation plan (10 points).
Businesses can attain points through simple or more complex tasks. For example, under the climate category, they can complete easier tasks like calculating their carbon footprint and purchasing carbon offsets or do something more extensive, like installing solar panels.
What if your business already utilizes solar panels? Then, those points automatically contribute to your overall points and percentage score.
In addition, participating businesses can receive various rebates from the City of Durango, LPEA and Atmos Energy, depending on the tasks implemented. For example, if you get a BPI energy audit and implement at least one of its recommendations, Wilcox said, LPEA will refund almost all the audit’s cost. The City of Durango also offers rebates that assist with initial costs of participating in the program while other rebates help offset the cost of easy, eco-friendly upgrades such as installing WaterSense aerators into bathroom faucets, signing up for composting through the City’s partner, Table to Farm Compost, or installing a bike rack.
For business owners interested in Green Business Certification, the process begins with a self-assessment, examining the sustainability tasks listed under each of the 14 categories. From there, certification-level goals can be set, measured and tracked. 4CORE assists with this initial stage by providing a complimentary business walk-through and consultation.
“This gives us baseline information about where the business currently stands in relation to each of the 14 assessment categories,” Wilcox explained. “We can then calculate which, if any, of the certification levels the business is currently at and set goals from there.”
Coaching and resources from 4CORE are provided throughout the process. Participating businesses also receive marketing services from 4CORE, including a listing in Durango’s Sustainable Business Guide, recognition from the City of Durango, a listing on Visit Durango’s Responsible Tourism page and shoutouts on 4CORE’s social media pages. Certified businesses will also be prominently displayed at the downtown Durango Welcome Center.
Last month, 4CORE hosted its first annual Green Business Awards Ceremony, celebrating eight local businesses that achieved various levels of certification during the program’s first year. Durango Outdoor Exchange was one of three local businesses that reached Platinum level for its sustainability efforts. These included installing an electric vehicle charging station and roof solar panels, which generate almost enough energy to offset the store’s annual electric bill.
“We have operated our business with three guiding principles that drive our operations and decision-making. Those are community, adventure and environment,” Durango Outdoor Exchange president and co-owner Chase LaCroix said in a statement. “By obtaining a Platinum Green Business Certification, we are living our values by protecting the environment.”
LaCroix also commented on the usefulness of 4CORE’s certification process. “I most enjoyed having a platform to review how we operate our business objectively and to understand where improvements can be made,” he added.
Other businesses around town achieving Platinum Certification include: Columbine Landscaping Co., a woman-owned landscaping company specializing in ecologically minded designs; and Desert Sun Coffee Roasters, an organic, fair-trade roaster committed to supply chain sustainability.
Dorothy Parker Design was one of four local businesses achieving Gold Certification, along with The Sweaty Buddha, Phoenix Physical Therapy and Manna the Durango Soup Kitchen. For Parker, sustainable business practices have always been a driving force in her entrepreneurial journey. “Sustainability has long been a top value of mine,” she said. “I want to communicate through my business my commitment to sustainability and set clear, measurable metrics as part of my goals. It made sense to partner with 4CORE to develop and improve upon these objectives,” she added.
Sage Fresh Eats closes out the list of green-certified businesses, achieving Silver Certification for its dedication to sustainable practices, such as more environmentally friendly take-out packaging and cutlery. You won’t find Styrofoam take-out containers here.
As 4CORE enters the second year of its Green Certification Program and works with four new businesses striving to become green-certified, Wilcox feels a sense of warmth and camaraderie within the community and participants. “I am so excited to be in this role,” she said, smiling. “I can be the glue, bringing these businesses together to share their challenges and helping each other become more sustainable. I view my role as pulling together the leaders in this movement, which will ultimately contribute to making Durango a green city.”
For more information on 4CORE’s Green Business Certification Program, visit www.fourcore.org. For a complete listing of sustainability-focused businesses around town, visit www.sustainabledurango.com ?