Saturday, March 15, 2008
Business coalition vows to go green
The Roanoke Business Environmental Leadership Coalition launched Friday.
The latest from The Ticker blog
A dozen of Roanoke's largest employers pledged Friday to add private sector clout to public campaigns to make the city "cleaner and greener."
That's "green" as in environmentally friendly.
Carilion Clinic, the region's largest employer, is on board. As is Steel Dynamics Roanoke Bar Division, the city's largest consumer of natural gas and electricity. Robert Sandel, Virginia Western Community College's president, said the college hopes to emphasize green building principles for a multimillion-dollar building on campus.
Businesses that are part of the newly created Roanoke Business Environmental Leadership Coalition have signed on to consider how to adapt and adjust operations to emphasize conservation, recycling, monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions and other green practices.
The coalition's chairwoman will be Gwen Mason, a member of the Roanoke City Council. Stan Breakell, president of Breakell General Contractors, will be chairman.
Mason and Breakell announced the new coalition during a news conference Friday at Hotel Roanoke.
"I've never met a Roanoker who didn't want our city to be progressive," Mason said.
Breakell said there can be sound business reasons for embracing environmental sustainability. Reducing energy consumption is an especially timely goal, he said, during a time of escalating costs for gasoline and other energy sources.
Recycling is not only the right thing to do, he said, but also offers an opportunity to reduce costs for hauling and dumping trash in landfills.
A company like RGC Resources, parent company of Roanoke Gas, makes money when people consume natural gas. But John Williamson, president and chief executive officer, said some states have adopted "decoupling" rate structures that can reward a utility if its promotion of less energy use results in reduced consumption.
Joe Crawford, vice president and general manager for Steel Dynamics Roanoke, formerly Roanoke Electric Steel, said the company recycles old vehicles as its raw material for steelmaking. It has taken other steps through the years, he said, to control emissions and increase the efficient use of energy at the plant, which uses electric arc furnaces as well as natural gas to melt and manufacture steel.
Bill Tanger, a spokesman for Berglund Automotive, said the car dealership joined the coalition because of the company's awareness "of the importance of conservation issues."
He said Berglund, like most car dealers, relies on large paved lots, a contributor to storm water runoff and other environmental problems. He said the company is considering the use of porous pavement. Berglund can also plant trees, he said, and promote the sale of hybrids and other vehicles with low gasoline consumption.
Other coalition members are: HSMM AECOM; Gentry, Locke Rakes & Moore; J.M. Turner & Co.; Lanford Bros.; SunTrust Bank, Western Virginia Region; Orvis; and Fralin & Waldron.
Meanwhile, Skip Decker, manager of Roanoke's Division of Solid Waste Management, said the city's recycling program can reduce its costs by increasing the tonnage of paper and bottles and cans it transports to Cycle Systems.
The department has been working with city schools and collecting their recyclables, he said, as well as doing the same for about 40 businesses. The division makes nightly pickups at Hotel Roanoke, for example, he said.
Like Breakell, Decker also noted that businesses save money by recycling.
In addition, Solid Waste Management hopes to someday bring back its composting program, Decker said. And it is working with Rockydale Quarries Corp. to try to find a use for crushed colored glass, which many recycling centers no longer accept, he said.