City to host workshop on green-friendly practices

By By Anna Patrick
Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — From the type of overhead lights used to the amount of materials recycled weekly, tabulating a company’s carbon footprint is a complex procedure. Because of those complexities, adopting greener practices — whether for a small restaurant or large hotel — can seem like an unclear, daunting task.

An upcoming workshop in Charleston aims to clear the haze on what it takes to improve a business’s sustainability efforts. Organizers also hope to assist local business owners in adopting greener business practices.

The Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau is sponsoring a half-day workshop titled “Green = $$$ Green $$$” on Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. Registration is still open for businesses to attend the free event, which will take place at the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council headquarters, 321 Virginia St. W.

“Really our goal is to make all of our businesses in Charleston successful,” said Alisa Bailey, president and CEO of the Charleston CVB.

Bailey said the workshop was designed to assist businesses in the tourism industry with achieving sustainability goals in order to meet growing demand from travelers. Thanks to increasing awareness, more travelers are aware of the environmental impacts that trips impose and, therefore, seek to support businesses that have adopted green practices, she said.

“According to TripAdvisor, 79 percent of travelers appreciate green practices when they travel,” Bailey added. “Some even will pay more for green practices. Fifty-one percent of meeting planners, which is very important to Charleston, will plan meetings and hold meetings only in convention centers that have sustainable practices.”

She added, “It’s the right thing to do to help us with our environment. It’s also the smart thing to do because it cuts your bottom line.”

Bailey said this workshop, in its inaugural year, is free and open to any business anywhere — even if the business doesn’t consider itself to be in the tourism industry.

“They are going to learn easy things they can do quickly to help them. … We’re doing this to help businesses be more financially successful.”

Emmett Pepper, executive director of Energy Efficiency West Virginia, said he will speak at the workshop about “how saving energy can really make a difference to the bottom line for businesses.”

Pepper said it’s common for individuals and businesses to act as if they’re helpless when it comes to managing their electricity bills. “They’ll see it and think, ‘That’s the bill.’”

Pepper will share ways for businesses to take control of their energy bills and implement cost-reducing energy practices.

To gain greater control in all areas of sustainability, Greg Adolfson, sustainability officer for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, will share the DEP’s new “itravelgreen West Virginia” sustainability rating system.

For the past seven years, Adolfson has been working to develop the itravelgreen project with the assistance of enviroIndex, an Ontario, Canada-based company specializing in sustainability calculations.

The online rating system has yet to be released, but Adolfson said when the program launches — which is expected to be in July — businesses in the travel and tourism industry throughout West Virginia will be able to apply.

Businesses that successfully enter the program will be able to track their environmental, socio-cultural and economic performance after answering a series of indicator questions, and will be able to set achievable goals to improve sustainability efforts.

Businesses in the program will receive a sustainability rating based on a one-to-five system granting leaf icons, one leaf being the lowest rating, five leaves the highest.

Adolfson said he will share with workshop attendees the idea that “If you use less but you don’t take away quality, then you will make money over time.”

Bailey expressed excitement over the marketing possibilities the itravelgreen program will bring.

“We’re going to take those leaves and we’re going to put them on the individual listings of the person’s website. They can use it in their marketing and they can aspire to get all five leaves.”

Other speakers to the green workshop include: Doug Arbogast, rural tourism specialist for the West Virginia University Extension Service; Bill Willis, program manager at Appalachian Power; Jill Watkins, owner of Watkins Design Works and vice chairman of the West Virginia Chapter of the U.S. Green Builders Council; and Jen Pettigrew-Burns, co-organizer of the West Virginia Sustainable Business Council.

Bailey acknowledges that adopting sustainable business practices is a long process, but hopes that the Green Workshop will help local businesses get a start on the path to reducing their carbon footprint and improving environmental sustainability.

“It’s not to say that a customer isn’t going to come to your business if you aren’t green. But if you are green, it adds an underlying message, if not an overt message, to the customer that you care about your destination. You care about Charleston, you care about your business and you are aware of your impact.”

For more information and to register for the Green Workshop, call 304-344-5075 or email brittany.trippett@charlestonwv.com.

Reach Anna Patrick at anna.patrick@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4881.

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