Category Archives: inspiration

Support Your Business with a Sustainable Garden

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.”
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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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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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Greenest Building to be Built in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is racing forward in the world of green. The proposed $400 million, 40 story PNC Tower to be built in the PPG Plaza in Pittsburgh is planned to be the world’s greenest building. The tower will supposedly consume 50 percent less energy than a typical office building, and will reduce energy costs by about 30 percent. Construction is planned to begin in 2012 and should be complete by 2015. Horray to PNC and Pittsburgh for green innovative leadership.

Check out the full story at

Although you probably don’t work in the greenest building in the world, you can do your part to cut every costs as well. Don’t forget to replace burned out light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent bulbs, use energy saving settings on your computer, use power strips for electronics so you can easily switch them off at night, and use natural light as much as possible. Stay tuned to the GAP SBN blog for more tips.

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Reuse with Freecycle

Checkout http://www.freecycle.org for an easy way to reuse! This nonprofit organization connects you with local freecycle groups, allowing you to easily post items you want to get rid of, but don’t want to trash or recycle. You can also browse online postings of items that people in your community are trying to get rid of. Get rid of stuff for free, get stuff for free – pretty sweet deal.

We strongly encourage companies to join freecycle at work, http://quickbase.intuit.com/freecycle as a way to enhance your company’s corporate social responsibility. Remember the triple bottom line ~ People, Planet, Profit.

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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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Filed under Business, Buy Local, Creative re-use, Green on the GAP, how-to, in Southwestern PA, inspiration, Local Food, Outdoor/Bicycle Outfitters, recycle, Reduce, Resources, Restaurants, Retailers, reuse, Triple bottom line