Experts from the Garden’s EarthWays Center are cultivating a culture of sustainable thinking and practice across the St. Louis region’s business sector through its leadership of the St. Louis Green Business Challenge.
Launched in 2010 by the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the Challenge was delivered as a Chamber-Garden partnership through 2017, and is now managed solely by the Garden. More than 200 businesses of all types and sizes have “taken the Challenge,” including Fortune 500 and other corporations, locally owned enterprises, universities, cultural institutions (such as the Garden, of course), arts organizations, and municipalities. The companies involved represent over 150,000 employees directly engaged with sustainability.
Challenge companies use scorecards and other resources to help them “green up” the kinds of day-to-day operations common to every business. They work on building energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, purchasing, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, promoting alternative transportation—even boosting the biodiversity of workplace properties. Each company chooses measures that will be most efficient, cost-effective and impactful from the scorecard options. EarthWays staff coach the companies to identify actions that will work best with each participant’s business goals and unique company culture.
Sustainable innovations specific to each business are encouraged. Strong support is provided by both customized coaching from the EarthWays team and peer-to peer sharing of resources among Challenge company personnel. Examples of innovations that are changing the ways companies work include investment in hybrid vehicles for a company delivery fleet and the creation of collaborative workspaces.
Challenge companies are also helping to grow a community-wide sustainability culture. Company Green Teams provide learning resources for their fellow employees that range from workplace Eco-Fairs, to lunch-and-learn presentations, to useful Green Tips included in company communications.
The EarthWays Center also helps match up company volunteer interests with community environmental action needs. Service options can range from a day removing invasive bush honeysuckle from a natural area, to joining a stream cleanup, to staffing Zero Waste tents at a festival, here at the Garden or around town. The hottest volunteering ticket in St. Louis is recycling collection for the St. Louis Cardinals “4 A Greener Game” initiative—which includes free admission to a home game! Employees of Challenge companies log hundreds of service hours each year, with many hours now contributed to environmental activity.
Green Business Tours are a highlight of each Challenge year, especially when company Green leaders get to learn how sustainability works first-hand at sites like a landfill or a recycling plant. This year Challenge participants will have the opportunity to visit both a recycling and water treatment facility.
Every company that completes the Challenge is recognized with an award and a page in the program’s annual book of Accomplishments and Innovations. Paging through a book from any of the program years will give an impressive overview of how many ways businesses are making sustainability work, across St. Louis.
Opportunities are available through mid-summer for both companies and municipalities to join the 2018 program at two levels: Challenge Apprentice and Green Cities Challenge. Learn more at www.stlouisgreenchallenge.com and contact program manager Jean Ponzi at email@example.com or 314-577-0246.