State program encourages businesses to green up
By Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | December 09,2012
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Jon and Betsy Anderson, owners of Betsy’s Bed & Breakfast in Montpelier, were among the first innkeepers in the state to earn the Green Hotel designation.
For Sheldon Ghetler and his wife, environmental awareness extends beyond their personal lives to the way they run their business.
“We’ve been recycling for many years,” said Ghetler, who along with his wife Francy Anderson, owns the Stone Hearth Inn & Tavern in Manchester.
That environmental consciousness, in turn, led the Ghetlers to participate in the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership — a voluntary program that has more than 200 members.
The effort is a joint program run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Small Business Development Center.
Peter Crawford, director of the SBC’s Environmental & Regulatory Assistance Program, said the program solidifies a well-known fact about Vermont.
“I think environmental stewardship and sustainability are part of our image and part of our brand,” Crawford said.
The membership includes hotels, restaurants, marinas and an assortment of other businesses ranging from manufacturers to retailers.
Businesses that receive the designation meet a set of standards that go beyond existing environmental regulations. They establish conservation measures that range from installing energy-efficient lighting and low-flow shower heads to buying recycled paper goods and non-toxic cleaning supplies. Businesses also agree to adhere to environmental best-management practices.
Both the Stone Hearth Inn and its 80-seat restaurant qualified for the “green” designation. For example, Ghetler said all the food waste from the tavern winds up being used for feed by a local pig farmer instead of going to a landfill.
In 1998, Betsy’s Bed & Breakfast in Montpelier was one of the first lodging establishments in the state to receive the Green Hotel designation.
On the inn’s environmental checklist: Recycling waste in each guest room and giving guests the option of not changing towels and sheets on a daily basis.
Innkeeper Betsy Anderson said reducing the impact on the environment is also good for business.
“Some guests have specifically mentioned they came to our business because we were identified as a Green Hotel and that was important to them,” Anderson said.
Crawford said a Conde Nast survey found that, all factors being equal, eco-conscious consumers will choose to stay at a “green” hotel.
Adopting the Partnership’s standards also saves businesses money in areas including lower energy costs, he said. Although many businesses realize that implementing energy efficiency is good for the environment and the bottom line, Crawford said, that’s not so obvious in other areas like purchasing paper products made from recycled material.
In the past, the cost of adopting environmentally friendly business practices was a deterrent for some businesses. But Crawford said cost today shouldn’t be a factor.
“It certainly used to be,” Crawford said. “Truthfully, 10 to 15 years ago there was greater cost.”
For example, he said, the cost of buying eco-friendly products has come down in the last five years and they are now comparably priced.
Taking an innovative approach to recycling, Crawford said Foley Distributing, Casella Waste Systems and a New York paper mill have come up with a closed-loop recycling model called The Power of Three. Casella recycles paper and cardboard from Foley customers and delivers it to the SCA Tissue mill in Glens Falls, N.Y. From there, the waste is turned into post-consumer paper products and returned to Foley to be redistributed to its customers.
The Vermont Business Environmental Partnership includes 109 hotels, 12 restaurants, four marinas, three golf courses and 69 general-sector businesses. In addition, a number of businesses are designated Environmental Leaders for meeting even higher standards.
Participating companies include both large and small businesses ranging from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Waterbury to Henderson’s Tree Service in White River Junction.
The standards are available on the program website: www.vbep.org