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Thursday, April 21, 2011 02:17 pm

Green Business Network aims to make recycling pay

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Small business owners in Springfield will soon be able to advertise their sustainable business practices as members of the Green Business Network of Springfield [See “Selling sustainability,” by Rachel Wells, Illinois Times, Aug. 5, 2010].

The Green Business Network has been meeting together for more than a year to promote recycling and other sustainable business practices in the land of Lincoln. The group has a six-member board of directors, with each board member involved in a different sustainable business project. They are currently working out a membership signup and state certification for businesses that choose to recycle.

The nonprofit organization includes community volunteers, and representatives from the Green Center at Lincoln Land Community College, City Water Light and Power and Bunn-O-Matic. Members have met a handful of times since it began last summer, and up until now, businesses interested in becoming involved with the Green Business Network of Springfield, like Maldaner’s restaurant, had no official membership. That is set to change soon with a certification and membership meeting to be held within coming weeks. Membership and certification will allow businesses to set themselves apart.

“Our main mission is to educate and assist other businesses in embracing sustainable business practices,” says Wynne Coplea, manager of waste and recycling for the City of Springfield and one of the board of directors for GBNS. “Not only for the environment but it’s also good for their business, to differentiate them from their competition.”

The network started with an idea of making it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to recycle, and is poised to begin three initiatives including the better bag project, cardboard, and battery recycling. Some businesses, like Bunn-O-Matic, already recycle some or all of these materials, but the goal is to help smaller businesses recycle as well.

Michael Higgins, owner and chef at Maldaner’s restaurant, is hopeful that the network will have a positive impact on his and other businesses in Springfield. He has attended meetings for Green Business Network of Springfield since the group met last summer and plans to sign up for membership in the network, which he sees as one part of an overall environmentally friendly trend in business, in Springfield and the surrounding area.

“People will look to you for an example,” says Higgins. “You can look out there and see what the trends are,” he says. “Why not be a leader in those trends?”

Higgins says that recycling at one’s business can be a “cost issue.” Bob Kobylarz, vice president of sustainability at Bunn-O-Matic and a member of the board of directors at GBNS, agrees that cost can be a “legitimate question because in these times with the economic pressures there’s a lot of alligators biting at these business leaders.” But he says that recycling and doing the responsible thing for our environment is a “true win-win.

“It can be a business strategy win at the same time it can be an environmental win,” he says. “There’s no negative in that equation.”

Kobylarz and employees at Bunn-O-Matic have found ways to recycle that actually can create a stream of revenue for companies, like using cardboard instead of plastic foam to package goods. The Springfield-based manufacturer currently recycles 35 different materials, including dry cell batteries, cardboard, aerosol cans and fluorescent light bulbs. Lunchroom materials like paper plates and plastic foam cups have been replaced with a compostable material.

The network is near a decision on a potential hauler that would pick up cardboard and other materials for small businesses at an affordable rate.

For more information about the Green Business Network of Springfield, go online at www.gbns.org.

Contact Holly Dillemuth at hdillemuth@illinoistimes.com.

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