On Friday July 22, 2011, the Human Impacts Institute attended Building and Sustaining SMART Businesses: The Green Effect Forum’ at Columbia University. It was part of an on-going forum series that aims to educate entrepreneurs on how to best position their business for sustainability and growth, leveraging SMART strategies (Sustainable, Measurable, Actionable, Responsible, and Transformational). The audience listened to a variety of speakers discuss key issues in sustainability such as the state of energy consumption among the commercial/industrial sector of the economy and programs throughout New York City that offer small businesses help in conserving energy and saving money.
Panelists from Columbia University, Envirolution, and U.S. Small Business Administration discussed the current state of sustainability initiatives in New York City, and the various programs relating to energy use, water and waste available. Nilda Mesa, an Environmental Steward from Columbia University talked about improvements the institution has made in its effort to be more sustainable. The Climate Action Plan is Columbia’s strategy to reach this goal. It aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions at the Morningside Campus and residential properties.
Areas of focus for these reductions in energy use have been the data centers where the computers are held and lighting which has been replaced with Energy Star appliances. Mesa stressed Columbia’s mission of efficiency as opposed to renewables. Other efforts on campus include the switch to green cleaning suppliers which are healthier for the staff, Green Supers, low V.O.C paints and recycling cooking oil used on campus. In addition, Columbia has four buildings in construction throughout New York City that have been registered as LEED buildings with the U.S. Green Building Council. Man-Li Kuo Lin, the Business Development Specialist at the U.S. Small Business Administration gave business owners in the audience information on a variety of loan programs that are offered to businesses looking to be more sustainable.
The third speaker was Antuan Cannon, Director of Business Development at Envirolution. Envirolution is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of sustainability leaders. It runs an Energy Efficiency Training and Internship Program called the Win-Win Campaign. Cannon discussed the green industrial revolution which he defined as the redesigning, rebuilding and repowering of all the major systems of our society, including: food, transportation, building, supply chain, energy, etc. This transition will be locally based, powered by clean and renewable energy, resource efficient, and waste elimination, as well as fair, just and fully accountable. Cannon emphasized the great deal of opportunities for a green market in New York City because of the extensive amount of energy used in the 900,000 buildings and 200,000 small businesses. He also talked about the importance of policy initiatives as market drivers for New York City Energy Efficiency Policy at the Federal Level, State Level and City Level. PlaNYC is a City Level initiative focused on greener, greater building laws applicable to buildings over 50,000 square feet. It includes instating a New York City Energy Code, energy auditing, retro-commissioning, lighting upgrades and sub-metering.
Representatives from Con-Edison and NYSERDA were also at the forum. They discussed the energy audit programs that both services provide. The incentives for the program are very rewarding for small businesses and are worthwhile to look in to for owners. Andrea Schaffer, the principal at City Matters LLC as well as a private Consultant in the solid waste industry, addressed the issues associated with waste management. She discussed the lack of recycling in the NYC region and greener work spaces. She also mentionedMaterials for the Arts which provides thousands of NYC’s artists, cultural organizations, public schools and the Human Impacts Institute with donated reused supplies to run and expand their programs. Other green initiatives she mentioned include textile Collection and Colgate-Palmolive.
Brigette Walsh, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Services Intern