County certifies 13 green businesses

Program to promote, demonstrate routes to industrial sustainability kicks off

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

 

Clark County Green Businesses

Columbia Credit Union

Columbia Machine Inc.

Corwin Beverage Company

Frito-Lay

Heathman Lodge

Kadel’s Cascade Auto Body

NuStar Energy

Nut-Tritious Foods Inc.

Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas

Sustain-NW

Tapani Underground, Inc.

Vancouver Sign Group

Wells Fargo

LEARN MORE

Additional information about the Clark County Green Business Program is available at

clarkgreenbiz.com.

photoNut-Tritious Foods owner Ken Condliff talks to Virginia Douglas, owner of The Chocolate Zone, one of the other small ventures that shares kitchen space with him in Vancouver. Nut-Tritious Foods is one of 13 members in the Clark County Green Business Program, launched this week.

(/The Columbian)

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When the Clark County Green Business Program began to take shape last year, Jill Sughrue knew she wanted to be involved. Sustainability is her job, after all.

As owner of Sustain-NW, a Vancouver-based consultant geared toward environmentally friendly practices, Sughrue helped county officials craft the program’s criteria. She even made presentations to some businesses looking to participate, she said. Then someone pointed out that Sustain-NW probably qualifies as a member business itself.

“I said, ‘I would certainly hope so,’” Sughrue said. “I would like to think I practice what I preach.”

Not surprisingly, Sustain-NW made the cut. Sughrue’s venture is one of 13 founding members of the program -- a wide-ranging roster that includes a large manufacturing company, banks, small start-ups and everything in between. The county’s Environmental Services department officially launched the program this week, with a kick-off hosted by another member business in Vancouver’s Heathman Lodge hotel.

Among the relatively young businesses to join the program is Nut-Tritious Foods, a nut-butter maker founded three years ago. A look inside the company’s kitchen

just off Mill Plain Boulevard shows one reason why: You won’t find a trash can anywhere.

That’s because Nut-Tritious recycles or reuses all of its waste, sending nothing to the garbage, according to owner Ken Condliff. The company takes its recycling off site to a local transfer station. Condliff said sustainability has been a big part of his business, and his efforts have evolved as it’s grown and relocated multiple times.

This week’s event highlighted a variety of practices the program’s businesses have used. One member used goats to control vegetation on its property. Another operates in a LEED gold-certified building. Most have made efforts to reduce their waste or boost their energy efficiency.

“There are so many companies doing so many good things,” Condliff said. “That’s exciting to hear.”

For Vancouver manufacturer Columbia Machine Inc., those efforts predate the Clark County Green Business Program, said Kevin Litterell, the company’s safety and environmental director. Columbia Machine first started making strides through a Bonneville Power Administration-sponsored incentive program a few years ago, he said.

The company, founded in 1937, has done a lot to revamp its facilities recently, Litterell said. The list includes converting to more-efficient lights, revamping its paint disposal system and outfitting workers with new energy-saving welders, he said.

Many of those measures have saved money, Litterell said. Others, like a more stringent stormwater monitoring system, have been more costly. But part of the company’s motivation is simply “doing the right thing,” he said.

“It’s been a really neat deal, and it’s a really good learning experience,” Litterell said.

Before joining the county’s program, businesses are put through an assessment process that looks at six categories: energy, stormwater, water and wastewater, toxics reduction, community engagement and waste reduction. After that, a final verification process makes it official.

Business leaders often think environmental commitments cost money, Sughrue said. Sometimes that’s true, but not always -- other actions pay off financially over time, she said.

“What they don’t realize is, you have to look longer than three months,” Sughrue said. “Some things take a while to build up.”

Businesses don’t have to completely transform their operations overnight to make a difference, Sughrue said. She offered a phrase she’s used for clients of Sustain-NW:

“Progress,” she said, “not perfection.”

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro;eric.florip@columbian.com.