The Sustainable Business Council Blog

Sustainability, buying local add green to community
September 1, 2008, 6:42 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

With so many eco-efforts, initiatives, organizations and interests all seeming to sprout up at once, it seems timely to harness all of the green energy swirling around Missoula into one holistic vision. The Sustainable Business Council (SBC) is leading the efforts to do just that.

Membership is growing in all categories: individuals, businesses and nonprofits, and the Buy Local campaign is in full swing. As a result of the inexhaustible energy of SBC’s co-founder, Susan Anderson, and a talented and diverse board, SBC is now taking a definitive green step forward.

With that bold statement, I couldn’t be more pleased to announce SBC’s new sustainability director, Genevieve King. She’s a small business owner committed to the triple bottom line (people, planet and profit), a former student in the University of Montana’s School of Journalism and now the leader of a transformative community organization.

I’m also honored to be sharing this column from here on with Genevieve – read on to hear her vision of a just and sustainable Missoula community and look for our column to take an innovative twist from next month forward.

Thank you Lisa, for the warm welcome. I am so excited to be sharing the page and I am honored to be a part of such an amazing organization. The SBC is doing big things, and I am proud to be on board.

Missoula, Montana – The Garden City. A place of awe-inspiring beauty, redolent with the hum of a growing community. When I was attending the School of Journalism here in the ’90s, Reserve Street was just starting to expand north. My friends and I would feel the need to escape to what we considered a “real city” and take the drive west to Spokane for our shopping excursions and socializing. My, but the times have changed!

Missoula has rapidly become a thriving little metropolis. The rich diversity of businesses, art, entertainment and incredible one-of-a-kind outdoor adventure opportunities make up the city we know today. Missoula also happens to be a progressive, environmentally conscious grass-rootsy kind of town.

From the reusable grocery bags in every store (I heard they even have them at Wal-Mart!), to the knitted caps that glide along the Kim Williams Trail, to the Subaru wagons decorated with phrases like “Save The Blackfoot” and “Support Organic Farmers,” Missoulians have embraced “green.” But what exactly is green?

There are many shades of green. There are the so-called hardcore greens, who opt to live completely off the grid and use only sustainable resources in every aspect of their lives. There are those who are concerned about, and dedicated to, lessening their carbon footprint and who wholeheartedly attempt to control their impact by incremental personal behavioral changes. Then there are the “incidentally greens.” They tend to frequent the bandwagons driven by the latest catchphrase. Whatever hue your green may be, we are excited to meet you on the path toward a better tomorrow.

Sustainability means different things to diferent people, but our focus is the business kind of green. Here at the SBC, we support all companies that would like to pursue more environmentally and socially sustainable practices while maintaining or enhancing their economic viability.

The sustainable business movement is the new frontier for driving long-term economic development and enhancing competitive advantages. Eco-friendly workplaces yield dividends in recruitment and retention. In fact, 81 percent of U.S. respondents say they would prefer to work for a company with a good reputation for environmental responsibility.

So what does this mean for Missoula? It means we are in a very special and beneficial place at an incredibly unique time in history. We have the chance to develop in a much healthier fashion than many communities, as we are driven by the inherent determination and “greenness” of our passionate small-town citizens and entrepreneurs, yet propelled by the powerful energy of what is becoming a global movement.

Luckily there’s an opportunistic side effect to the economic woes we’re currently suffering. Going green has become the vehicle by which business can recoup and reinvent themselves, and communities can become healthy and vibrant again.

One way of participating in this healing process is by keeping your money in your community. You can break the chains (literally) by choosing to patronize locally owned businesses rather than sending your hard-earned cash to some corporate headquarters.

A recent economic impact study done by a business alliance network shows out of every $100 spent in a chain, only $13 stayed in the local community, whereas $45 remains in the local economy when money was spent with a locally owned business. There are many more reasons to shop locally and SBC’s Buy Local campaign hits to the heart of this message.

They say the quality of one’s life is not determined by the number of breaths taken, but by the number of moments that take one’s breath away. Missoula takes my breath away. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the SBC’s momentum. Let the green times roll!

– Lisa Swallow and Genevieve King