Celebrating Eleven Years of Making Green Work for St. Louis Businesses

Despite the many unprecedented challenges presented in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus, the St. Louis Green Business Challenge remained a leader of sustainability in the St. Louis region by continuing to deliver Triple Bottom Line results (fiscal, social and environmental) to businesses of all types and sizes across the bi-state area. Like the Clean Air Partnership, the Challenge is focused on encouraging and inspiring voluntary steps to help improve the environment and air quality in the region, and we’re pleased to highlight its tremendous impact by recognizing some of the impressive green innovations underway by several local organizations during this extraordinary year.

The Challenge is a program of the Missouri Botanical Garden and supports integration of sustainability measures into the kinds of everyday operational practices common to every business. As part of the program, participants identify and adopt strategies that improve financial performance and engage employees in voluntary measures to reduce environmental impacts. Since the program launched in 2010, 245 businesses, non-profits and municipalities have joined the Challenge. This participation has engaged over 155,000 employees and nearly 470,000 residents with ongoing sustainability commitment strong as ever, as 60% of these companies have participated in the challenge for two or more years and 45% for three years or more.

In 2020, 50 companies, non-profits, institutions and governmental bodies participated in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge. An astounding one hundred percent of these participants formed a Green Team to lead sustainability efforts, established a Sustainability Policy or Sustainability Guidelines, kept up sustainability communications with colleagues or constituents, and either started or maintained workplace recycling, even during remote working.

Prior to COVID-19 shutdowns, the Challenge’s kickoff seminar for their 11th season featured a resource fair that engaged 81 attendees with the green products and services of 16 Challenge companies. In the weeks following, COVID-19 would prompt a Challenge program shift from monthly in-person seminars to 32 weekly Virtual Brown Bag sessions, which showcased the work of 38 companies, Green Cities and community partners. All archived online, these half-hour virtual seminars included descriptions and related links for efficient sharing by Green Teams to their colleagues and constituents.

Over the course of the year, Challenge companies benefited from customized coaching and ongoing phone and email support provided by expert staff of the EarthWays Center, the Missouri Botanical Garden’s sustainability division. These services supported Challenge participants in evaluating and implementing sustainability options in ways that optimized outcomes, cost effectiveness and engagement, in alignment with each company’s goals and culture.

While in years past the Challenge reviewed submitted scorecards and tallied points at the completion of each program year to determine the overall winners, COVID-19 workarounds limited scorecard use this past season. Nevertheless, Green Teams across the program rose to the challenge of continuing to grow sustainable practices and 2020 participants all received the same award honoring commitment, persistence and resourceful action, in both routine operations and innovative projects. We’ll be profiling several of these standouts in the coming year so you can learn more.

Challenge 2021 registration opens on February 15. For more information on how to get your company or municipality involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge/Green Cities Challenge, contact program manager Jean Ponzi at [email protected] or subscribe to the Challenge’s weekly E-newsletter here. To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, be sure to check out our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

New Year, New Resolutions to Do Your Share for Cleaner Air

While every year we look at January 1 as a symbol of a fresh start and a chance to have our “best year yet”, this mindset feels more important than ever before as we move into 2021. Even though many of the challenges presented in 2020 have rolled over into the new year as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, now is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year and look at the things we can control as we determine what changes to make to improve ourselves and our communities going forward.

Making the choice to go green in the new year and resolving to adopt some eco-friendly actions can result in multiple positive changes to your wallet, your health and the region’s air quality. By adopting just one of many green lifestyle changes and incorporating sustainability into your daily routine, you can have a significant impact on helping people all over the St. Louis region breathe easier in 2021. Here are a few simple tips to consider for greening your New Year’s resolutions :

  • Walk, Bike or Take Public Transit – Since transportation-related emissions have always been one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, the choices people make on how to get around considerably affect air quality and the health of the region. Actions like walking and biking instead of using a vehicle for short trips or taking public transportation are all great ways to reduce harmful auto emissions to help keep the air quality in healthy ranges.
  • Green Your Home – When your appliances have reached the end of their useful lives, opt for new ones that are Energy Star® rated to maximize efficiency. Switching out incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, putting timers on lights and investing in smart power strips will also help to eliminate unnecessary electricity use. While reducing and reusing are the most effective ways to save money and natural resources, recycling is another vital piece of greening your home by helping to keep waste out of landfills and turning glass, paper, plastic and other items into new materials. Set up separate recycling bins in your home so it’s easy for all family members to participate and consider purchasing recycled products to help clean the air.
  • Think Globally, Buy Locally – Locally grown food offers countless benefits and also helps to reduce environmental impact. Imported food is often shipped hundreds and sometimes even thousands of miles to arrive at the supermarket. The greater distance the food has to travel, the more fossil fuels are consumed. Buying local produce reduces the amount of travel time for big transport trucks, ultimately improving the air quality by cutting back on air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Go Paperless When Possible – Because we live in a digital world, there are many places where you can opt out of paper — whether it’s your credit card bill or receipts at your favorite store. If given the option, sign up for online banking or choose email versions of receipts when shopping. If your job requires you to use paper, encourage co-workers to print on both sides of a sheet or use the back side of old documents for scrap paper or drafts to further reduce waste. Cutting back on your paper consumption not only helps save trees, but also cuts back on air pollution and water consumption associated with producing and transporting paper.

For more great tips on how we can all work together to achieve cleaner air in 2021, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. Have a happy and healthy New Year!