A Green Gab Podcast – Recorded Live at the St. Louis Home & Garden Show
Eric Schneider is gabbing about the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, a joint program of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Started in 2010, the program has worked with over 150 businesses and organizations in the St. Louis metropolitan to adopt sustainable business practices. 44 percent, or 77, of these companies have participated in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge for three or more years and 13 companies have been in the program all seven years of the program. 160,000 employees are represented by the companies in the program. The St. Louis Green Business Challenge is the only Green Business Challenge in the U.S. which is a partnership between a Chamber of Commerce a botanical garden out of 40 similar programs around the country.
Check out part of our recording session with Eric on our Facebook Live Video.
The St. Louis Green Business Challenge helps companies implement the triple bottom line of economics, social and environmental practices into their businesses. The Challenges focuses on the earth and its plant-based and how we need to take care of the earth to take care of ourselves. It helps to deliver bottom line savings and how we grow businesses in St. Louis. It’s a merger of the green economy growth and environmental growth which has made the challenge special here in St. Louis.
St. Louis is like this hidden gem when it comes to sustainability. We have great resources which people don’t even realize are available. In other parts of the country, such as the east and west coasts, there are public policy drivers which are forcing business or even individuals to get greener via regulations. In St. Louis, it’s all voluntary. What makes the Green Business Challenge so fun is that it is volunteers energized by the concept of improving. It’s become contagious in a wonderful way!
Eric has been with the St. Louis Regional Chamber for 16 years and worked with past CEO Dick Fleming to initiate the St. Louis Green Business Challenge. Eric went to a conference in 2008 where he learned about the linkage between the green economy and overall economic growth. He was inspired by the fact that for metropolitan regions to grow they need to grow their green economy in 3 areas, Green Entrepreneurship, Green Workforce, and Green Innovation. At the time Eric was working in Public Policy at the Chamber, but was personally interested in the interaction between business and the environment. It also worked with what Dick wanted to do in terms of economic development.
Nuts and Bolts of the St. Louis Green Business Challenge
The St. Louis Green Business Challenge is about helping companies adopt sustainable business practices in their daily operations. There are a variety of levels for companies and organizations of all types and sizes to get into the Challenge. It’s basically working through a scorecard of options or a menu of options based around 6 categories. Based on the amount of progress, determines the level the company achieves and all who participate in all categories with some progress earn an award.
- Outreach – contains actions to build green teams, internal and external communication about sustainable strategies, purchasing policies & partnerships
- Energy – actions to conserve energy in lighting, heating and office equipment, as well as the use of renewable energy
- Indoor Environmental Quality– actions to improve room temperature, air quality, green products and storage
- Waste – actions to improve waste & paper reduction and to increase the recycling of office materials, food service and electronics
- Water – actions to promote water conservation, stormwater management and sustainable landscaping
- Transportation– actions to promote workplace commuting, designated carpool parking, bicycle commuting and business travel
Through the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Challenge also provides a site visit to the Green Team from the Resource Advisor, Jean Ponzi (you can also listen to Jean, better known as Green Jean, on the Green Gab podcast – see Resources for link). She meets with the Green Team to do a Sustainability 101 talk. She tours the building with on the spot tips for recycling, green cleaning, daylighting and more. Its sharing best practices with a combination of hands-on support and networking. Monthly meetings provide information and resources. Challenge participants, especially those who can’t make a meeting, can also get the presentations and resources on the St. Louis Green Challenge web site.
What is a Green Team?
A Green Team is people interested in improving their company. It is typically led by someone in the facilities department, an office manager, or someone in marketing, as these tend to be the people who are most engaged in the Green Business Challenge. The most successful teams have members across departments. Especially with big companies, including IT (information technology) or other technology departments helps think about how much energy an IT group or web server uses. HR (human resources) is good one for involvement as well. As newer, younger, employees expect companies to do good in the community and to have more of a public purpose, instead of just making money, a Green Team offers this connection. “Green Teams are a great way to get younger people engaged and have social giveback.”
Not only businesses participate in the Green Business Challenge. Universities, school districts, non-profits, cities and municipalities also want to take that next step in making a change.
Over the seven years of the program, 44 percent of companies have participated in the Challenge for 3 years or more. And the networking that has happened has been a surprise. The Challenge is creating a core group of people who are sharing best practices and are growing together.
Green Gab Podcast with Green Jean Ponzi, Resource Advisor for the Challenge