Category Archives: Green on the GAP

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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Filed under Business, Buy Local, Green on the GAP, in Southwestern PA, inspiration, Triple bottom line

Easy (and Free) Ways to Go Green and Save Green

Go Green and Save GreenDoing 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:

http://www.squidoo.com/easy-green-tips

http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/latest/green-tips-10-easiest

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/beat-the-heat-wash-in-cold.html

http://www.livescience.com/6082-energy-saving-tips.html

“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)

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Two New Members!

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.

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Filed under Business, Green on the GAP, in Southwestern PA, Restaurants, reuse

Make sure you have a roof over your head – and double check that it’s green!

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:

http://agreenroof.com/

http://greenroofs.org/index.php/about-green-roofs

http://www.greenroofs.com/

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Rainwater 101

Rainwater 101

In the hot summer months, learn how to harvest the rainwater we are lucky to receive.  This will not only save you money, but will help to reduce water pollution in bodies of water and will aid in water conservation. 

Problem 1: You have probably noticed the puddles of water that form on sidewalks, roads, parking lots when it rains, or water rushing down streets during a heavy downpour.  Since impervious surfaces, or solid surfaces, prevent water from penetrating through the ground to groundwater, rain water has nowhere to go but down.  Rainwater washes down these impervious surfaces, carrying debris and pollutants (oil, salt in the winter, litter, cigarette butts, etc.), and ends up at the lowest point, usually a stream or river. This water also often flows into storm drains which drain into nearby bodies of water.

Problem 2: Rainwater often causes sewage overflows into streams and rivers.  This can happen because of two different phenomena.  First, many sewage pipes are old and cracked, and when it rains heavily, rainwater can leak into the pipes, overload them, and cause sewage overflows.  Another culprit of sewage overflows are combined sewer systems, where rainwater and sewage flow in the same pipes.  When it rains heavily, or these pipes are overwhelmed quickly (because of water rushing into them from impervious surfaces), they overflow sewage. 

Problem 3: As the effects of climate change are becoming more and more pronounced and the world population continues to grow, conserving our fresh water supply is becoming more important than ever.  Droughts are becoming more severe, and many of our fresh water sources stored in glaciers and ice caps are melting, reducing our supply of drinking water.  In addition, larger populations mean less water per capita.   Water conservation needs to become part of our everyday lifestyle.

The easiest way to begin using rainwater is by installing rain barrels.  Rain barrels attach directly to downspouts, diverting water from stormwater drains to your lawn or garden.  You can buy ready-to-use rain barrels (search online) or you can craft your own out of old food barrels (pickle barrels, etc.) You can save rainwater by closing the spigot until you need to water, or you can follow common practice and simply keep your spigot open all of the time, allowing water to freely drain onto greenspaces.  Check out some of these websites for helpful tips:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGFDlkJOdaM

http://www.rainbarrelguide.com/

http://www.aquabarrel.com/

http://www.ninemilerun.org/rain-barrel-initiative/

In addition to rain barrels (or even as a complement to rain barrels), you can plant a rain garden near a water source (gutter, runoff area in your yard, etc.) in order to keep rainwater out of your sewer system.  Rain gardens are usually a shallow basin garden planted with native plants and grasses that like wet feet.  Divert your overflow or your hose into your rain garden or simply disconnect your downspout and let rainwater flow into a rain garden. 

http://www.raingardennetwork.com/build.htm

Bioswales are another form of stormwater management which can either function as a more narrow, long rain garden, or a more complex filtration system which slows the flow of water into sewer systems.  Like rain gardens, they are planted with native plants and grasses that can handle a lot of water, but do not need to be watered often when during dry spells.

http://www.upperdesplainesriver.org/bioswales.htm

Some people get creative with their rainwater use, including those who use rainwater to flush their toilets!  Jump on the bandwagon and begin using your rainwater for good.

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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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Filed under Business, Buy Local, Green on the GAP, how-to, Local Food, recycle, Reduce, reuse, Triple bottom line