Local companies go ‘Green’ and save money with Worcester Sustainable Business Leader Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 26, 2011

WORCESTER- Over the past several months, a new Worcester-based organization has helped companies take action that saves money while becoming more environmentally - friendly. From devising individualized strategies that aid companies in becoming more energy efficient, to helping employers shift their thinking to conserve and become better green stewards, the Worcester Sustainable Business Leader Program (WSBLP), a nonprofit organization, is making strides and certifying those businesses that are making a difference.

The WSBLP was launched in March of 2011 and is mirrored after Boston’s successful Sustainable Business Leader program. The mission of the organization is to support locally-owned and independent businesses by reducing their operating costs, improving their business practices, and reducing their environmental footprint. The program was brought to Worcester by a partnership between the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston, Clark University, and Worcester Local First. In addition, students from around the world volunteer as interns for the program.

WSBLP works with companies to help them achieve goals of energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction and create an ongoing corporate culture of improved environmental business practices. After several months of completing a thorough planning process with the WSBLP team, companies are eligible to become certified as Sustainable Business Leaders.

Just last week, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), based out of Washington, D.C., announced that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts overtook California as the #1 energy efficient state, with Michigan and Illinois as the most improved. The work of the WSBLP is in alignment with our state’s goal of increasing energy conservation awareness for business and residents.

On October 14th, a group of six local independent businesses were honored at Worcester City Hall as the first participants in Worcester to receive certification as Sustainable Business Leaders. WSBLP Director Will O’Brien, Laury Hammel (founder of the first Sustainable Business Leader Program), Mayor Joseph O’Brien, Bill Bean, WSBLP Program Manager, Pat Bird, a Clark graduate student and WSBLP interns were on hand at the ceremony.

Companies that received certification included: Community Realty; Thomas J. Woods Insurance Agency; Viva Bene Ristorante; Kenmore Diner; Absolute Green Energy, and Worcester Airport Limousine, of West Boylston.

“Working with WSBLP was a great experience. They were able to help show us different ways that are simple to help reduce our energy cost while getting more involved with cutting down on day-to-day waste,” said Maureen Raillo, of Worcester Airport Limousine.

WSBLP certification is available to any business in the Central Massachusetts area that has a commitment to becoming more sustainable. Through the program, companies will not only reduce their own carbon footprint, they will also see substantial savings by reducing energy, waste, and water; connect with incentive programs; receive valuable public relations; and partner with local green vendors.

“We provide companies with proven processes that foster sustainable behavior,” O’Brien said, adding that most changes recommended are low to no cost, but show cumulative results.

“There’s a huge opportunity to reduce operating costs and minimize a company’s impact on the planet. This will enhance a company’s brand and ultimately its revenue,” O’Brien continued.

Jennifer Solin, of Community Realty, said the reason her company became certified was because they are committed as a real estate company to have as little an impact as possible on the environment.

“We did it because we know the difference that small changes can make in a business and community. The actions we took from the WSBLP lead us on a path to fulfill that commitment,” Solin said. “I have been recommending other businesses to take part in the WSBLP. They are a great group of people who take you step-by-step through earning your certification.”

Community Realty switched from regular copy paper to recycled sugar cane waste paper (a byproduct from post sugar cane processing) and replaced paper/plastic/Styrofoam cups with washable glasses and mugs in the office. Additionally, with the owners’ home and most clients near the office, they also took a bigger step of selling a car and replacing it with a “Zip Car,” a subscription service providing access to a car when you need it without all the costs of owning it yourself. Together those actions delivered notable cost reductions and carbon impact.

Worcester Airport Limousine took action as well, installing power strips on computers, printers, and calculators, along with shutting down stations when they were not in use.

“One of the large items we tackled was to rewire some light fixtures, creating separate zones for different areas. This enables us to only have the lights on that are needed versus an entire area always being on,” Raillo said.

Restaurateur Cyrus Mizrahi, of Viva Bene Ristorante, another new Sustainable Business Leader, was thrilled to learn of a program that could help him make his restaurant more efficient.

“Being in the restaurant business for almost 25 years, I’ve always been thinking about programs such as efficient methods of energy consumption, energy savings, and recycling. I had difficulty locating the resources and identifying the methods. Finally, the WSBLP helped me to start the ideal programs and guided me through the procedures,” Mizrahi said. “I am forecasted to save almost $3,000 a year on the lighting upgrades alone and 70 percent of the cost of that change was paid through incentive programs”

Kathy Ethier, Green Team Leader for Absolute Green Energy said,“ Not only are we helping to save the environment in our product offering, we are increasing those savings though this program and will save a significant amount of money in lighting, energy and recycling as a result.”

Companies that are interested in being a part of the program can expect to invest about 20 hours over a six month period. The process starts with a kick-off meeting to learn about the program and meet with the WSBLP management team. From there Bill Bean, Worcester SBLP Program Manager and President of Green Planning and Coaching, takes over, according to O’Brien.

“Bill does the bulk of the work from here. He does a walk-through of the company, identifies mini-initiatives, and develops concrete actions in a practical plan that is easily implemented,” O’Brien said.

“My job is to work with each company and build a customized Action Plan. We start with simple tasks that are consistent with their culture, that can save them money, save resources, and position them as a sustainable business leader in the community,” Bean said.

To become WSBLP certified, a company must complete 80 percent of the items on the Action Plan.

“It is an educational process,” Mizrahi added. “And a business, no matter what the size, can benefit from the cost savings programs of WSBLP.”

WSBLP intern Minnie Bui from Vietnam noted the educational value for the students participating in the program.

“We will become the change agents and help to lead Worcester in sustainable business development,” Bui said.

After the ceremony Mayor O’Brien remarked, “Seeing the specific changes that these companies made and the impact that it had on their businesses and the community

confirms that “going green” is well within the reach of small businesses in our city, and WSBLP can make it happen. This program makes sense,”

The next group of WSBLP participants is being recruited at this time. To obtain more information on the WSBLP for your company, visit www.sustainablebusinessleader.org or email O’Brien at will@worcestersblp.org.


email: sblp@sbnmass.org    |    phone: (617) 395-0250

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