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Guest Column

Sustainability: Good for Economy and Ecology

guest_photo9By Guest Columnist LYNNETTE YOUNG
CEO of Damespoint Consulting, which manages Sustainable Atlanta

What does “sustainability” really mean? And how does it apply to what we do everyday? Can businesses working together accomplish sustainability for themselves as well as our city?

Good questions. And ones we get asked often at Sustainable Atlanta. So let me start by sharing what green business is all about, and then I’ll let you in on some really good news!

Sustainability is fast becoming one of the most popular words in our language. What it means is that we meet our current needs, whether for food, water, shelter, transportation or energy, in ways that leave the planet in better shape than we found it. More simply, sustainability is all about bequeathing a healthy, clean, resource-rich future to our children and grandchildren.

And while it’s no secret we’ve got a way to go in creating this newly sustainable world, there is good news too. The evidence shows that aligning business policies and procedures with a corporate commitment to sustainability can pay off handsomely!

Take Atlanta-based Coca Cola expanding its recycling and reuse goals with Coca-Cola Recycling, the enterprise formed to achieve the Company’s mission to recover and recycle the packaging materials developed and used by the Coca-Cola system. And there is UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company which combines a series of best practices to operate the largest green fleet in the transportation industry. Interface Global, a leader in sustainable business policies and practices reports having added hundreds of millions of dollars to its bottom line since focusing on energy efficiency and green product and process innovations.

These companies have blazed a trail for businesses demonstrating that sustainable practices can reduce costs, provide rich new opportunities for innovative products and services, help to balance our precious ecological systems and grow the customer base with a breed of well-informed, eco-conscious consumers for businesses of every size and type.

Patterson Services provides recycling services for construction sites. This small company recycles china (toilets and sinks), wood waste and recycles more than 1,000 tons of concrete each day.

Pull-Apart is a used auto parts company here in Atlanta. It helps reduce waste and promote reuse of resources by finding use for old car parts.

A local restaurant, Six Feet Under-Westside Pub & Fish House, has become the first restaurant in Atlanta to use wind energy to generate electricity to help power its business.

Here in Atlanta, there’s a veritable green revolution underway. From Atlantic Station, the Beltway and the explosion of energy-efficient LEED buildings around town to the establishment of recovery and reuse businesses and renewable energy powered enterprises.

With project direction and high impact strategies provided by Sustainable Atlanta, the City of Atlanta has to date saved over one million dollars through its own ambitious sustainability projects – smart programs that we challenge Atlanta businesses to consider adopting too!

These include:

• Reprogramming heating and air-conditioning controls to ensure that these systems shut down as often as possible when buildings are unoccupied. This effort has already added up to $120,000 in energy savings for the City Hall building alone.

• Tele-working and compressed work week programs which were launched last month. Studies prove that programs like these increase workplace productivity, reduce traffic congestion and save employees money.

• Engaging all city employees in greening operations and cost reduction through energy and water conservation, recycling, and commute alternatives. The city expects this campaign to capture additional annual savings of $500,000.

So here’s Sustainable Atlanta’s challenge to the business community: Join Atlanta’s green revolution! Embrace sustainability legitimately and in every way that you can. And remember, over the long run, the most sustainable businesses and cities will ultimately be the healthiest and most desirable ones – the ones that attract the best minds and the best qualified employees.

So join us in leading the way to a more sustainable Atlanta rich in resources and opportunities for generations to come.

Ms. Young is CEO of Damespointe Consulting, the management entity for Sustainable Atlanta. Prior to launching Damespointe, she served chief operating officer for both the City of Atlanta and the City of Baltimore. Ms. Young is a graduate of the University of Maryland and has completed studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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