Ready to boost your triple bottom line?Community members given an opportunity to get practical knowledge on how they can be better stewards of the environment.
By: Beth Probst, Living North Magazine
What happens when you put workers from a carwash, restaurant, non-profit, school district, sign business, chamber of commerce, church and seven other businesses together? The answer will be revealed during a free, community wide public showcase October 8 at Greysolon Plaza in Duluth.
Last October, 14 organizations from all walks of life, came together to embark on a year long training provided by Sustainable Twin Ports based on The Natural Step. Their goal – to learn how being more sustainable can improve their bottom line while allowing them to be better stewards of the environment.
The Natural Step is nothing new. International superstar companies including McDonalds, Nike, IKEA and even Wal-Mart have implemented portions of The Natural Step with huge returns on their investment. This project, called the Early Adopters, is unique in that it encouraged 14 diverse organizations to commit to a year-long formal training with Natural Step trainers.
"Communities all over the country have been using The Natural Step framework for years, including Ashland, Bayfield and Madison, Wisconsin. The Twin Ports has the added distinction of being 'formally trained' by The Natural Step Canada,” says Tracy Meisterheim, Early Adopter Project Coordinator. “Their experienced trainers provided first-hand knowledge, tools, consulting and direct access to the international network of TNS professionals. We feel very fortunate to have had the funding support to be the first community in the country to have this formal training opportunity."
Funded by the A.H. Zeppa Family Foundation and the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, the program was free to participate in but organizations had to commit a substantial amount of staff time. Together, these organizations learned The Natural Step, which allows businesses, non-profits, cities and even individuals to develop a framework for making solid choices that benefit their bottom line, the community and the environment. The training gave teams a new perspective on what being “green” means.
“We learned that it is possible to make a difference and that this process will add money to our bottom line,” says Tammy Hippchen, member of the Twin Ports Testing team. “We also learned that sustainability is a process. It is more than one thing. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it is something that has to happen.”
Now, each organization is ready to go public with their plan and talk about their experience. Action items range from changing light bulbs – seems simple unless you’re in charge of a city and that means about $100,000 in savings – to intense recycling programs, removing pop machines, implementing carbon fasting during lent, and dreams of building a green building.
“The public showcase is our opportunity to let you know what we’ve been up to,” says Terry Groshong, member of the City of Duluth team. “This has been an improvement on our bottom line, which means taxpayers in the City of Duluth’s bottom line will improve.”
In addition to showcasing the works of the Early Adopter Teams, former IBM executive and expert on the business case for sustainability Bob Willard will speak on the citizen’s perspective on living in a sustainable community. Sponsored by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, this is an opportunity for community members to get practical knowledge on how they can be better stewards of the environment.
“Everyone can play a role in reducing their carbon footprint and being better stewards of the environment,” says Meisterheim. “But sometimes knowing where or how to start is the largest hurdle. The planning tools featured at this presentation will show you how to make decisions that have positive impacts on the environment, our community and your bottom line. With some practice, everyone can help create a sustainable Twin Ports and that’s what it’s really all about.”
‘Going green’ is not just a fad, it’s about being an innovative and responsible community leader - don't be left behind! Future trainings opportunities will be announced and a Q&A with current participants will answer your questions.
For more information, go to www.sustainabletwinports.org