Woodbine artist Melinda Byrd said she has always been environmentally conscious, so when she heard about a burgeoning alliance of local green businesses she was immediately interested.
“Several years ago, when I was really starting to develop the work in my studio, I posted on the wall of my studio about 15 different ways of doing my art that are environmentally friendly,” Byrd said. “That was my commitment to live that way. So when I heard about this Green Business Network, I thought it was right up my alley.”
The Carroll Green Business Network is a certification program that launched in late May, according to co-founder Don West, and is designed to both help businesses become more sustainable and provide consumers a way to identify green businesses.
“A significant section of the buying public are willing to seek out greener businesses and might even pay a bit of a premium for those sorts of products and services,” West said. “We’re hoping this will become a marketing tool for these businesses, a win-win all the way around.”
The idea for the network was first hatched a year ago, a joint project between a number local nonprofit organizations including WasteNot! Carroll — of which West is also a co-founder — The Sierra Club Catoctin Group, Sustainable Living Maryland and Venturing Crew No. 202, a co-ed part of the Boy Scouts of America that focuses on environmental restoration.
Each organization contributed ideas about how businesses could become more sustainable and efficient, according to West, eventually developing a scorecard that business owners can download and work through to score the performance of their business in four areas: solid waste management, environmentally friendly purchasing, energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation.
Various practices in each category are worth a certain number of points toward a total, West said, with a higher score reflecting a greener, more efficient business. Examples include recycling batteries — worth two points — and composting organic waste, worth five points.
“We want businesses to get in and then work to improve,” West said. “There will be three levels for the business based on their score ... The first level is 50 to 99 points, while level 2 is 100 to 149 and level 3 is 150 to 200 points.”
According to West, an interested business can go to www.planetcarroll.org to download the scorecard, and after filling it out and returning it along with a payment of $25 dollars — $50 for businesses with 100 or more employees — will receive a visit from a Green Business Network volunteer who will verify the score and make suggestions for further improvements.
Once certified, the business will receive a certificate and a window decal indicating their score, with the certification good for two years.
“This being a two year term, the hope is that these business will reevaluate themselves and earn a higher score after incorporating some of the practices into their business,” West said. “We will work with them, try to make them more green, and then they can market that to their customers.”
As of press time, five businesses had joined the network since it went live at the end of May: Byrdcall Studios in Mount Airy, Lowe’s Hardware of Westminster, Interior Harmony LLC Acupuncture and Feng Shui in Westminster, Fern Rodkey Electric Inc in Taneytown and West’s own Double Diamond Construction Corp in Westminster.
West said that he had been in touch with at least three other businesses that were considering joining the network, many of them for financial reasons rather than just a desire to be greener.
“It’s wonderful to conserve, but for many businesses, it’s a bottom line issue,” West said. “They realize that they’ll save money with greener practices.”
At Lowe’s Hardware in Westminster, Store Manager Curtis Byrum said joining the Green Business Network just made sense to him, both as a business manager and someone who cares about the environment.
“Not only does [conservation] make you aware of the environment,” Byrum said, “it can put money back to your bottom line if you pay attention. A lot of people don’t understand that.”
Lowe’s of Westminster joined the Green Business Network on July 5 with a score of 74 — the same score as West’s own construction company — and Byrum said he found they were already doing a lot of conservation on their own.
“When the economy took a dip about 10 years ago, that caused us to be more conscious about saving money,” Byrum said. “We have coolers up front where we keep drinks for our customers, but we took the lights out of them; they’re just not needed. It adds ups over the course of a year.”
Byrd joined the Green Business Network on July 18 — with a score of 117 — after designing the network’s logo, a stylized sycamore leaf, which will also serve as the design for the window decals that members will display on their windows.
“I really hope a lot of other businesses will participate,” Byrd said. “I’d love to see and support other businesses that are participating in this program. It will be nice to find out who they are so I can put my money where their conservation is.”