Green laurels for local businesses

Showcase honors their commitment to the environment

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter



If you go

What: Green Business Showcase and Reception — learn from local companies that are implementing business practices that conserve resources and protect the environment, then hear the stories of businesses being honored for their green accomplishments.

Where: Artillery Barracks, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 600 Hatheway Road, Vancouver.

When: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Cost: $10, includes hors d’oeuvres.

An energy-saving hospital, a wine bar that reuses bottle corks to block out sound, and an office that dramatically reduced its paper use are part of a group being recognized on Wednesday for green company practices.

Seventeen Clark County businesses will be honored, along with nearly 50 companies to be mentioned for commitment to protecting the local environment and developing sustainable ways to reduce emissions, waste and energy.

Clark County's Environmental Services Department will host the $10 public event, the third annual Green Business Showcase and Reception taking place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Fort Vancouver's National Historic Site's Artillery Barracks, 600 Hatheway Road, Vancouver.

"Each business has completed the program," said Sarah Keirns, sustainability specialist with the county's Environmental Services Department. "What we highlight is the best of the best or the unique approach."

Examples include Niche Wine Bar, 1013 Main St., Vancouver. In addition to saving its wine corks to build a sound barrier for the venue, its employees rarely drive personal, gas-powered vehicles to work.

"Their employees either walk, skateboard or ride their bikes, so that's kind of fun," Keirns said, adding that the practice not only reduces carbon emissions, but also frees up street parking in the downtown core.

Another participant, the nonprofit Educational Opportunities for Children and Families, reduced its use of copier paper by implementing an electronic purchasing and filing system.

The office's paper consumption was reduced by 10 cases per month, Keirns said. The change also saved money over time.

"As you can imagine with a nonprofit, every little bit of savings counts a lot," said Keirns, who works with small teams of the company's employees to help outline goals and implement individual strategies.

The county works with companies of all sizes, ranging from mom-and-pop businesses to the 1,150-employee Clark County arm of Legacy Health System. Energy savings was one of the hospital system's primary environmental goals, according to Keirns.

"(Legacy) partnered with the University of Washington on an energy study to reduce their energy consumption," she said.

Business participants at the event will showcase and discuss the methods they used to implement sustainable practices. Environmental protection is the ultimate goal of the program, jointly run by the county, the City of Vancouver, Clark Public Utilities and Waste Connections.

"We have some requirements that all businesses need to adhere to," Keirns said.

The program starts with a business waste audit, in which the company has its garbage sorted to see whether it contains recyclable items.

Although recognition comes after a year of participation, the companies often remain in the program for its cost-saving solutions and as a way to boost morale among the employees, called green teams, which help implement strategy.

"It is about continuous improvement and always seeing a greener, more efficient option," Keirns said.