Category Archives: Buy Local

Sustainable Business Suggestions

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.

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Networking with Trail Business Owners: Recapping This Year’s GAP SBN Networking Event

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.

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Victory Gardens: Past & Present

Victory Gardens: Past and Present

Back in the 1940’s during World War II, Uncle Sam asked us to become more self-sufficient and produce our own fruits and veggies, as transportation to market was difficult during the war. Millions of people started Victory Gardens because of this need for self-sufficiency. Community members made a cooperative effort to help our nation in its time of need.

Today we have modern Victory Gardens.  Rather than a government plea to ration our food supply, these modern Victory Gardens are a grassroots movement to change our food system. Commercial agriculture has taken over America’s food supply and has nearly wiped out the small family farm. A significant cost to the commercial agriculture system is transportation and a larger shift to eating more locally and seasonally significantly reduces the transport costs.  Additionally, fresh produce from the garden is a great eating pleasure – everyone knows the sweetness of picking something and then having it on your dinner plate. If you want to read more about a modern victory garden then check out: http://www.modernvictorygarden.com/

With fresher produce in mind hopefully more Victory Gardens will be planted next year. Gardens come in many forms. Some people may enjoy the traditional row garden in the backyard but the sky is the limit when it comes to how creative you want to get with your Victory Garden. If you do not have the space in your yard for a garden, then container gardening may be for you. Flower gardeners may want to add some edible landscaping to next year’s beds. Some plants with edible elements and beautiful flowers to consider are Painted Lady Runner Beans, American Groundnut, Nasturtiums, and Pansies.  Families might want to do themed garden beds, such as the pizza bed (tomatoes, peppers, basil, or any of your favorite vegetable toppings), or perhaps the spaghetti bed (spaghetti squash, onions, garlic, and rosemary).  There is a garden for everyone to enjoy—so cook and can with this year’s harvest and start planning next year’s to include new varieties.

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How to Make Your Event a Little “Greener”

How to Make Your Event a Little “Greener”

Whether you are having a family get-together or a community-wide event, there are ways to help you save money as well as save the planet in the long run. 

First off, invest in any reusable products – From plates to gloves to tablecloths to containers!  Do you often use plastic tablecloths to cover the tables at your picnic, monthly meetings, or special event?  Next time consider opting for a few fabric table coverings that you can simply wash each time. They will last for years, unlike plastic tablecloths that will last for decades in a trash dump.  The same goes reusable plates and silverware.  You may not want to use your good china or daily dinning ware, but perhaps you could buy a set of durable, reusable plates (usually a heavy plastic) and utensils that you can use and wash for the next time.  These make better options than Styrofoam and other disposables. 

Planning to do a clean-up in the community or even at your own home or business? Will you be using gloves to collect the litter and trash along the way?  Invest in garden gloves rather than latex/plastic versions.  Much like fabric tablecloths and heavy plastic plates, these gloves can be washed and reused each time instead of being tossed in the garbage.  In any case, it’s always best to find a way to reuse a product before recycling or even throwing something away. 

Another thing to consider in planning your event is your location.  If you can, hold your meeting or festival outside using natural light.  Another option would be to hold an event in a room with plenty of natural sunlight where you would need no or very little artificial lighting.  All of these options can reduce your overall energy usage. 

Now on to the food! Every picnic or meeting has to have something to snack on! Why not try creating an entire meal from local farmers markets and fresh produce vendors.  Supporting local farmers supports the local economy. Many of these vendors have organic choices to make your meal even greener!

Finally, make getting to your event more environmentally friendly.  Encourage friends and family to walk, bike, or even use public transportation to attend your “green” picnic, meeting, event, or festival! 

These tips are just a start to help your organization, business, and family make small differences with a big impact on both the environment and your wallet!

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Stay Sustainable in the Summer

The cold weather has finally given away to warm, if not hot days, and we are all aching to get out of the office to spend time outdoors!  Read on to find out how to make your summer more sustainable.

Sustainable Vacations

With gas prices up and the economy still down, plan a low impact, high quality summer vacation.  Vacation locally and save time, save gas money, and reduce carbon emissions.

  1. Spend the week on the Great Allegheny Passage, riding from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.  If you are adventurous, continue from Cumberland to D.C. on the C&O Canal Towpath.  Visit www.atatrail.org for trip planning suggestions.
  2. Spend a weekend or a week hiking and backpacking on the Laurel Highlands Trail.  This 70 mile trail runs from Ohiopyle State Park to near Johnstown.  Visit the Laurel Ridge State Park website for more information: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/laurelridge.aspx.
  3. Explore Pennsylvania State Parks.  Camp or stay in cabins during the night and hike, swim, fish, and relax in beautiful Pennsylvania during the day.  http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/index.aspx

Whether you are spending a lot of time outside or you serve customers that are visiting our region to enjoy the natural wonders here, you can use these tips to promote sustainable lifestyles.

From a personal perspective:

  1. STAY HYDRATED THE SUSTAINABLE WAY Use refillable water bottles.  Bottled water costs about 2000 times as much as tap water.  Bottled water is not safer to drink than tap water.  The EPA strictly regulates tap water quality under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The FDA regulates bottled water, yet cannot require certified lab testing or violation reporting.  In addition companies are not forced to disclose where the water they bottle comes from.  http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater
  2. BUY LOCAL Farmers’ markets are starting up for the summer.  Buy locally produced and grown foods this summer.  Local, fresh produce tastes amazing and is energy and resource efficient.  Most produce grown in the US is shipped an average of 1500 miles before being sold.  Produce grown in other countries is shipped even further.  Buying local will reduce the energy use attributed to shipping and will help build local economies.  If you live in Fayette County, get a Buy Local card and receive discounts at local stores.  You can also save $5 at Fayette County farmers’ markets if you are one of the first 20 people to arrive.  http://www.localharvest.org/buylocal.jsp                                 http://www.faypenn.org/economy.jsp?pageId=2161392210281306139485965
  3. WATER EARLY OR LATE  Water your plants in the early morning or the late afternoon to reduce the amount of water that evaporates on these hot summer days.

From a business perspective:

  1. Offer customers to fill up reusable water bottles in your sink.
  2. Encourage customers to buy/use reusable bags rather than just giving them a plastic bag.  Consider charging for bags like companies such as Aldi.
  3. Promote local farmers’ markets to customers.
  4. Invite customers to dispose of any packaging from purchases in your store so they are not tempted to litter.  Recycle what can be recycled.
  5. If you sell food, buy locally produced and grown food.  See above for advantages.
  6. WALK, BIKE, OR CARPOOL Enjoy the nice weather or the company of a co-worker, and use alternative transportation to get to work.  Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help reduce tropospheric ozone pollution (formed when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from car exhaust interacts with sunlight).  http://instaar.colorado.edu/outreach/ozone-oceans/ozone.html

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Buy Local—Eat Local—Support Local

 

Yummy! Trail Town Ice Cream Now Available

Summer Solstice is just upon us. This time of year is my favorite because it’s the fresh eating season. Nothing is more refreshing than ripe fruits and veggies from farm stands—and ice cream on hot summer days!

As of this week Trail Town Ice Creams are in our towns along the Great Allegheny Passage and there is a flavor for everyone along the trail. This launches the program’s second year on the ground and it is all about being local.

Kerber’s Dairy of Irwin, PA is making five of the six Pennsylvania town flavors while Queen City Creamery in Cumberland is making the two Maryland flavors. Kerber’s Dairy originally had a herd of 300 cattle but have since sold their cattle and now have their milk sources from all local farmers.

The yummy flavors along the GAP can be found in locally owned businesses and the profits made go right back into the local economy. While in West Newton you should venture over to The Trailside and have a scoop of Yough Ness Monster, vanilla ice cream with praline pecans, chocolate chucks and a caramel swirl. Connellsville’s Youghiogheny Mud is for the chocolate lover in all of us. Brownie bites and walnuts in a river of chocolate ice cream—and to top it off with a crunchy twist it is being sold at El Canelo Mexican Restaurant as fried ice cream. After another 17 miles what could be better than a pit stop in Ohiopyle—go to the Kickstand and grab a scoop of Cherry Rapid Delight, cherries and chocolate-covered pretzels in vanilla ice cream. Gobbling up your ice cream while taking in the beauty of the falls—what could be better? Once you get to the turkey foot in the rivers—you are in Confluence. A trip on the GAP would not be complete without a visit to this quaint, patriotic town. Sister’s Café is the place to try Gobble Berry, cherries and white chocolate cake crunch in blueberry ice cream. Rockwood is where this project’s roots begin when Judy Pletcher of Rockwood Mill Shoppes. The flavor is a mix of pretzels and chocolate-covered peanuts in maple ice cream. Somerset County is known for its maple so I should come to no surprise that both Rockwood and Meyersdale have a maple base. To give you a little variety, Meyersdale’s Donges Drive-In sells Maple City Marvel sandwiched between two maple gob cakes. This flavor is simply delicious as it is a rich maple ice cream with real Somerset County maple syrup swirled in it. Trail Town Inn and Frostburg Freeze will be carrying Bobcat Blast, Oreo pieces and raspberry swirl in black raspberry ice cream. Cumberland is where you leap from the Great Allegheny Passage to the C&O Canal Towpath. When you are there you need to stop at Queen City Creamery to try Lover’s Leap, Chocolate-covered peanut butter-filled pretzels in chocolate ice cream.

Eat your way along the Great Allegheny Passage!

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Paper in the Office

Reducing paper use, and reusing and recycling paper will not only save your business money, but will also reduce your businesses environmental footprint.

Approximately 7 million hectares of forests are destroyed a year and 80% of the world’s original forests are gone. In addition to accelerating major losses of biodiversity, deforestation is a culprit of climate change, destroying valuable carbon sinks and releasing carbon dioxide into the air when the wood is burned for fuel or decomposes.
As a business there are many steps you can take to decrease the burden that paper production has on forests and to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions attributed to deforestation and paper production.
As the mantra reduce, reuse, recycle suggests, the first step to reducing your environmental footprint is to reduce the amount of paper used at your office. Follow these tips to reduce paper use:
•Pay bills online.
o Visit the website associated with the business or company that bills you, and you will find a paperless billing option.
•Stop junk mail.
o Return first-class mail to sender. Cross out the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write “refused: return to sender.”
o You can stop mail from the following credit agencies, Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis by calling 1-888-5 OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688) 24 hours a day. Most mail you receive will have an 800 number listed. Call and simply request to be removed from the mailing list.
•Before you print, use print preview.
•Print double sided.
o Under printing properties, choose double-sided or duplex option.
o For printers that require manual duplexing, print the odd pages first, flip (with the back of the first page on top) and print even pages.
•Narrow margins and single space on every document possible.
•Email agendas rather than printing.
•Bookmark webpages instead of printing.
•Share a master-copy of hard documents.
•Edit papers on the computer rather than printing and editing.
•Use emails to send announcements and newsletters.
•Send and receive faxes via personal computers to avoid printing.
•Eliminate cover and divider pages.
•Keep electronic records.
•Rather than using paper dining products (cups, plates, napkins, and paper towels) invest in dishware and cloth napkins.

As you probably guessed, reuse comes next. There are a few easy ways to reuse paper in your office:
•Use paper that has only been printed on a single side as scratch and note paper.
o Collect these partially used papers in a clip-board or bind them to create a notebook.
•Reuse folders and binders. Label in pencil or white out old labels.

Finally, recycle, recycle, recycle.
According to the EPA, recycling one ton of paper would save enough energy to power the average American home for six months, save 7,000 gallons of water, and save 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
The EPA also reports that recycling paper instead of making it from new material generates 74% less air pollution.

•Set up a paper recycling station in your office.
o Next to the printer makes recycling easy, although don’t forget to reuse paper that has only been printed on one side.
•If your office does not recycle paper, check to see if there is a paper-retriver bin nearby: http://www.paperretriever.com/. If there is no bin nearby, consider being the sponsor of a bin, which could earn your organization money.
•Purchase recycled paper products such as office paper, toilet-paper, paper-towels, napkins, plates, etc.
o Optimally, your office should purchase 100% post-consumer recycled paper products.

Finally, use the paper calculator (http://www.edf.org/papercalculator/), to calculate environmental savings resulting from your paper purchasing choices.

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