Between May when the weather gets warm and when it starts to get cold in November, the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) brings thousands of potential customers through the towns along it’s length. During peak summer months and holiday weekends tourist destinations like Ohiopyle can be awash with visitors and their dollars. Finding ways to maintain and increase this seasonal traffic is a great way to increase profits, but the problem becomes what to do during those months of the off-season. For established businesses strong local patronage during the trail season is a bonus and the off-season brings slower but still good levels of business. The issue is really for those businesses that depend on the trail customers.
One man gathers what another man spills. Some organic farms have started to pick up on money saving strategies such as collecting designated scraps from local restaurants, and adding them to their compost. In this mutually beneficial relationship, the business saves on their garbage bill, and the farm gets free compost. In the way that nature’s living organisms play off of each other in an ecosystem, this is the most fundamental form of sustainability.
Are you looking to cut costs and make your business more self-sustainable? For any business in the service industry, growing your own produce and herbs can make both a significant cut in your expenditures, and make available the freshest possible produce for your patrons.
Where should you turn to learn organic gardening techniques for your business? One adventurous and hands-on opportunity is to participate in WWOOF, which stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.”
This year’s GAP SBN networking event, held this past Tuesday, November 8 at the Levi Deal Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Meyersdale, provided a friendly and supportive forum for sustainability-minded business owners to discuss the current progress, ongoing challenges, and future direction of the GAP SBN. The event began with a short update on the network from project leader Phillip Wu, who discussed the new assessment-based rating system, the recently-launched website, and the new members that have joined so far this year.
Next, project leader Emma Strong introduced Carl Knoblock, director of the Pittsburgh office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, who discussed how co-operative purchasing can help businesses save money while curbing their environmental impacts. In a case study, Carl presented the system that his own manufacturing company created, which he called “cluster purchasing.” This system involved a small group of businesses, decided by geographic location, size, and needs, that agreed to order common products together, trade hours of specialty staff (like HR or marketing personnel), and exchange materials and utilities based on need. For example, one company within Carl’s system was paying to discard lightly-used rags similar to what another business was paying to have delivered. By assessing what businesses where ordering and paying to discard, they were able to save money by ordering and disposing together. Then, could have more leverage and negotiate better rates with their suppliers when their orders are large.
After hearing Carl’s insights, attendees discussed their own business’ needs that could be met by a co-operative system and what it might look like. Because the GAP SBN is geographically spread out, it was decided that a regional or town-by-town approach would be most effective. Also, attendees agreed that cardboard recycling and reuse was daunting and recognized this as a good place to start. The discussion was productive and informative, and Phil and Emma came away with good ideas of the major needs of the business owners. After the discussion, Levi Deal Mansion co-owner Jan Dofner led the group on a tour of the historic house that began with an overview of the business’s sustainability efforts. The tour ended with delicious appetizers and desserts brought by the attendees. Discussion continued over the food and included more thoughts on co-operative purchasing as well as anecdotes about working in trail-related businesses. The event provided a lively forum for getting to know fellow business owners along the trail and for sharing stories and tips.
After the event concluded at the Levi Deal Mansion, Morguen Toole Company (a recently-opened lodging, dining, and event facility in Meyersdale) invited attendees to visit and tour the historic building. The tour, led by co-owner Andrea Hoover, gave attendees the chance to ask questions about the building’s impressive renovations and how the owners manage the many and varied facets of the business. Again, discussion turned towards the successes and challenges working in the tourism industry, and the business owners found that they shared many of their concerns. Each attendee left with contact information from the other attendees, a better sense of camaraderie between the Trail Towns, and excitement for the future of the GAP SBN.
Doing things that are good for the environment does not have to mean shelling out a lot of your hard-earned money. In fact, you can save a lot of your money by helping the environment—and you won’t even need to spend a dime. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Replace your expensive chemical cleaners with your own homemade mixture of baking soda and vinegar. You’ll not only save money, but you and your loved ones won’t have to breathe in all those toxic fumes. Clean drains, sinks, ovens, floors, and more. See http://www.natural-healthy-home-cleaning-tips.com/vinegar_baking_soda_cleaning_recipes.htm for some tips.
- Reduce junk mail while conserving trees by visiting CatalogChoice.org to stop unwanted catalogs from reaching your mail box. Also, most junk mail you receive will have an 800-number listed. Call and simply request to be removed from the mailing list.
- Save your old coffee grinds—you can mix them into the soils of both your indoor and outdoor plants to make a great fertilizer. Also, water your plants with leftover coffee from the coffeepot; the coffee provides your plants with much-needed nitrogen.
- Get an energy audit done on your home to find out where you could save money and be more energy-efficient. Some utility companies provide energy audits for free or at a discounted rate. To find an energy rater near you, visit http://www.resnet.us/trade/find-raters-auditors. Also, browse the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to find out what incentives and grants you could be qualified for to reduce your energy use. You can also perform an energy audit yourself—see http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/DIY-home-energy-audit.
- Save an average of $90 a year on your electricity bills by shutting down your computer at night. If your computer takes a long time to start up and shut down, choosing the “Sleep” and “Hibernate” modes on your computer will save you time and are almost as good for your pocketbook as shutting down your computer entirely.
- Use cold water when washing your clothes and linens to save $60-$100 a year on energy costs. 90% of the energy used by washing machines goes into heating, and most loads do not need hot water to clean effectively. In situations where hot water is necessary, for example, to kill dust mites in bedding or to clean heavily soiled items, you can still use cold water in the rinse cycle.
For more information:
“Home Energy Checklist” from the U.S. Department of Energy: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/services/energy_aware_hec.html
“Office Checklist” from the U.S. Department of Energy, for your small business: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/services/energy_aware_oec.html
Image: Salvatore Vuono (http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=659)
The Great Allegheny Passage Sustainable Business Network welcomes its two newest members, ArtWorks Connellsville and El Canelo Mexican Restaurant, both prominent Connellsville businesses.
ArtWorks Connellsville sells a wide variety of regional artwork including jewelry, handmade soap, watercolor paintings, photography, handmade bowls, and more. In addition, ArtWorks Connellsville holds a summer art camp for children ages 6-14. ArtWoks Connellsville will also be the site of a Re-Create/Re-Use store opening in October. The Re-Create/Re-Use store will collect items that would normally be discarded, such as fabric scraps, foam, and promotional items. The Re-Create/Re-Use store will hold classes where students will learn about various artists and will use materials at the store to create art.
El Canelo Mexican Restaurant in Connellsville, PA serves local residents and is a destination for trail users. The authentic cuisine offers a delicious selection for many dietary types, serving vegetarian and gluten free meals. Service at El Canelo is hard to beat, with staff always going the extra mile to make dining there a pleasant experience.
Next time you are in Connellsville, PA stop in at these two businesses to learn about their commitment to the Great Allegheny Passage and sustainability.
Green walls are the way to go!
To keep your business and home safe, you must put a roof over your head, but what about a green roof. Over the last few years, green roofs and now green walls have been a trend in helping improve the environment as well as your business. Adding a green roof to your business can also add new life to your community. Literally! Green roofs create new gardens and ecosystems on places that one would never think to find growing produce or even a butterfly sanctuary. Green roofs are set up to help control rainwater, but also increase the diversity of the concrete jungle. By definition, “green roofs are the result of a complete underlying roof build-up system, providing continuous, uninterrupted layers of protection and drainage. Free drainage covers the entire roof surface, avoiding problems associated with walls and pillars built off a roof deck.” http://www.greenroofs.com/Greenroofs101/concept.htm
Investing in a green roof will help reduce the costs of your heating and cooling bills, reduce storm-water runoff, and bring new life to your building (both wildlife and new customers as well!).
In more recent years, green walls have been popping up on buildings in addition to roofs. Green walls take the same concepts as roofs but make them vertical. Both roofs and walls help insulate buildings for sound and remove pollutants from the air; making your business that much fresher! Depending on the size of your building, green walls also offer the opportunity to create artworks using various designs made out of natural green plant life.
Check out these sites for more info: