Creating a Second On-Season

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.

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Filed under B&Bs, Business, how-to, in Southwestern PA, Restaurants, Retailers

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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Recycling Bottle Caps

Are you looking to increase your businesses’ sustainability?  While one big improvement for businesses is implementing a recycling program, this can be taken another step further.  Plastic caps, one of the Earth’s least commonly recycled items, are inevitably used at your business.  While throwing these caps away has long been standard behavior, Julia Joseph, owner of the Ohiopyle Bakery & Sandwich Shop, suggested a remedy for this practice.  Joseph participates in Caps Can Do®, a program that is dedicated to plastic cap recycling, promoting education, increasing awareness and providing solutions to the problems that littered plastic caps cause to Earth’s inhabitants.

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By the Power of the Bike!

It may seem the most obvious thing in the world to say, but appealing to bicyclists is an excellent strategy to sustain your sustainable business. Here is a reminder, and some opportunities to attract bike traffic that you may not be aware of.

Bicycles are a tremendously sustainable way to travel, and many avid bicyclists know and value that fact. The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) provides access to a tourist market that will not only want your services when they get off the trail but may be all the more interested in them because of your sustainable practices. You will want to let these bikers know you’re out there, make them want to come, and make it easy for them to do so.

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Slow Down and Think Locally

Running a business can be stressful and overwhelming, so here are some green thoughts to help you balance out your workload. “Going green,” as they say, has many aspects, all revolving around synchronicity, localization and holistic approaches. The recent Farm to Table Conference hosted in the Pittsburgh Convention Center encompassed all of these, cutting out the middleman of corporate industry. All these attributes of being healthier, better for the environment, and so on, are all good and dandy, but are not accessible to all. Going to this event myself, tasting expensive cheese that I can’t afford was bittersweet. Smaller amounts of organic whole food is needed to fill you up than when consuming processed fillers with often empty calories, but all in all it’s often hard to be thrifty and buy organic. Spending more on health now is saving on hospital bills later.

With the fast paced food and lifestyle Americans lead, it’s often difficult to take the time to slow down. The one thing that comes to mind is “America, be patient.” The regurgitation of “you are what you eat” is overwhelmingly omnipresent. Sometimes we automatically rebel against things forced down our throats, but if we can get past that in this situation, we will not regret it. Being the kid in elementary school made fun of for having a whole wheat sandwich and raw foods in place of “Lunchables”, the sweet revenge of health is now mine. Although I’m no spring chicken, I feel the difference of what I put into my body. This isn’t a lecture, only a hypothesis. It is not scientific, only backed up from the guttural instinct of listening to self. Once someone is tuned in to what their physical and mental self needs, you then can better predict the onset of disease, stress, and be in a better position to take preventative measures.

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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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Homemade Body Lotion: Green and Cost Effective Alternative

By this point in the Sustainable Business Network game, I’m sure you’ve already swapped your old light bulbs for CFLs, stopped using Styrofoam and maybe started biking to work.

…So kudos to you, and all alike, but why stop with your business?

It should be pretty clear that sustainability starts at home, down to the very basics: like cleaning supplies and personal care products such as body moisturizer.

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March 23, 2012 · 11:04 am

Sustainable Soap

Used soap bars create millions of pounds of waste in landfills each year. When you add to this pile by discarding your own leftover soap slivers, you’re not only increasing the amount of waste and pollution in the world, you’re also throwing your own money away.

What can you do with pieces of soap that are too small to use? More than you would think! Leftover soap slivers can be used to make liquid soap, new soap bars for your own use, or even soap bars for people in developing countries.

How to make liquid soap out of used soap bars

Josh Baum of outlines several easy steps for making new liquid soap out of used bar soap.

  1. Let slivers of soap bars that are too small to use dry completely (to discourage growth of mold or mildew). Keep all your slivers of soap in a plastic zip-top bag or a Tupperware container and seal them. Continue collecting soap slivers in your bag or container until you have at least a half dozen slivers.
  2. When you have enough soap slivers, put them in a blender. Add just a tiny bit of water. Then blend the soap on a medium setting for about 20 seconds.
  3. Add more water a little at a time as needed to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. Blend the mixture for about 20 seconds after each added dose of water. Only add water in small amounts to avoid diluting the soap too much. Blend thoroughly.
  4. When the soap is of a good consistency, empty it into a plastic squeeze or pump bottle (such as a leftover empty bottle from a store-bought brand). Now you have your very own bottle of free hand soap!

How to make new soap bars out of used soap bars

Another contributor details how you can create new soap bars from your used soap slivers.

  1. Just as you would with making liquid soap out of used soap slivers, you’ll want to gather up all your completely-dry soap slivers in a plastic zip-top bag or a Tupperware container.
  2. Once you have a good number of soap slivers, dump them onto a cutting board, mincing them into very small pieces with a chef’s knife. Transfer the minced pieces to a Pyrex container and add just enough water to coat the bottom of the container.
  3. Cover the container with plastic wrap, and microwave it in 15-second intervals. In between the intervals, stir the mixture with the butter knife until the water is very hot and the soap has formed a paste.
  4. Pour and scoop the soap paste into a muffin tin, soap/cookie molds, or cupcake wrappers. Once the molds cool, you have yourself some free new soap bars!

Donating your used soap bars to help sanitation needs in developing countries

Are you up for a noble cause? Why not donate your used soap bars to needy people here and abroad?

Clean the World, a nonprofit charity based in Orlando, Florida, can take your used soap and turn it into safe, sterilized new soap at its Recycling Operations Center, to be shipped to domestic homeless shelters and impoverished countries around the world.

Families, students, corporations, churches, and civic groups can get involved by participating in a community soap drive. It is simple, inexpensive and helps saves thousands of lives.

Get a soap drive started by registering at

Clean the World suggests a 7-14 day collection program. They also encourage groups to:

  • Gather friends and family members to help support the collection efforts.
  • Set up teams to see who can collect the most soap and to make it fun and challenging
  • Set up a high-traffic collection area and give periodic updates on the amount of soap collected to encourage more contributions.
  • Alert the media, create awareness for collection efforts, and contact local news organizations to help spread the word.

After you have collected all your soap, send it to the Clean the World Foundation (400A Pittman St. Orlando, FL 32801). Box it, weigh it, and include this product donation form with your shipment. Clean the World does not pay for your shipping costs but notes that encouraging others to help cover these costs can be part of a successful soap drive.

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

Green Cleaning 101

Cleaning is something we do in our daily lives, so the cleaning methods we use can add up pretty quickly. Commercial cleaning products can be expensive to so making some Clean Green mixtures will be easy on the environment and your pocketbook. The most common ingredients you will need for these green cleaning supplies are water, vinegar, salt, baking soda, and lemon juice.

Wood Polish—Mix 2 parts olive oil and 1 part lemon juice. Apply with a soft cloth.

Vinyl—Straight lemon juice rubbed on the stain.

Windows—4 tablespoons of lemon juice in a gallon of water. Some people say to use old newspapers but a lint-free rag or old cotton t-shirt will do.

Paint Odors—Small dishes of vinegar randomly placed in the area where you are painting will absorb the fuses.

Metal Cleaning—For copper or brass antiques make a paste of equal parts salt, vinegar, and flour. Rub on, let dry, rub off—it’s that easy! A slice of lemon dipped in salt then rubbed onto tarnished metal, and then rinsed and dried is another easy way.

Fireplaces—Soot stains on the exterior can be lifted away with a paste made of cream of tartar and water. Rub it on, let it dry, and rub it off! Throwing some salt in the burning fire will also help loosen soot and make maintenance cleanings easier.

Bare Floors—1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon warm water. If your vinyl or linoleum still needs a little shine boost straight club soda is the ticket for a little extra shine.

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