Economy

"Our human destiny is inextricably linked to the actions of all other living things. Respecting this principle is the fundamental challenge in changing the nature of business."
- Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce

 

A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY
- = Sustainable Economy Initiatives = -

Green Star, Anchorage

Green Star is a non-profit organization in Anchorage, Alaska, which works with businesses and other organizations to make them more environmentally friendly.

Origins

Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, with a population of 260,000, characterized by a spirit of volunteering and community initiative. Green Star was started in 1990 by local businessman Steve Shropshire, when he was President of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, with support from the Alaska Center for the Environment and Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation. In 1996, Green Star became an independent non-profit organization, and expanded its areas of concerns from waste management to air quality. Green Star’s key tool is the Green Star Award, which is given to organizations which meet a set of 18 environmental standards. Since 1990, Green Star has grown to include 374 local businesses and other organizations. The program has also spread to three other areas of Alaska and to several towns in the mainland USA.

Aims and Objectives

Green Star is both pro-business and pro-environment. It is an membership organization which gives positive recognition and support to businesses and other organizations that voluntarily meet and exceed Green Star's standards of environmental responsibility.

Activities

Green Star’s core program is the Green Star Award. There are two awards – the Original Green Star Award, which covers general resource conservation, and the Green Star Air Quality Award, which was set up in 2000 to improve air quality in Anchorage. For each Award, there are six required Core Standards, and 12 additional standards, of which at least 6 must be adopted. The Core Standards focus on making pollution prevention a matter of policy:

1. Adopt, post, and circulate to all employees a Green Star policy statement.

2. Designate a Green Star Coordinator and/or team.

3. Provide three incentives or training opportunities that encourage management and employee participation in the Green Star Program.

4. Notify your customers of your efforts to meet the Green Star Standards.

5. Assist at least one other organization in becoming a Green Star participant.

6. Conduct an annual waste reduction assessment or air quality emissions assessment.

When a business, school or organization enrolls, it is given detailed information about each standard, and case studies of other organizations that have achieved the Awards. Personal help is offered, and quarterly orientation workshops are provided on topics such as energy efficiency, resource conservation, paper reduction and purchasing recycled products.

For the Original Green Star Award, organizations must achieve at least six of an additional 12 standards:

7. Practice conservation of office paper in at least three different ways.

8. Incorporate at least three energy-conserving changes in your organization.

9. Monitor, record, and post utility usage and waste generation.

10. Purchase materials and equipment that are environmentally sound.

11. Purchase recycled content and reusable products and materials.

12. Enhance your equipment maintenance program to improve efficiency and reduce waste in at least three ways.

13. Separate waste materials for reuse and /or recycling.

14. Practice proper handling and disposal of hazardous materials.

15. Reduce your use of toxic materials in at least three ways.

16. Establish a litter-free zone in the immediate vicinity of your facility.

17. Provide waste reduction, recycling, and energy efficiency information to employees.

18. Develop your own waste reduction method different from those listed above.

For the Air Quality Award (designed to improve Anchorage’s seasonal carbon monoxide and particulate matter levels, and not to focus on greenhouse gas emissions), these are the additional 12 standards:

7. Encourage the use of alternate means of transportation in at least three ways.

8. Encourage the use of engine block heaters by vehicle owners, at home and at work. (Electric block heaters reduce energy-wasting and polluting cold starts in Anchorage’s cold climate.)

9. Provide air pollution prevention tips to employees.

10. Post the results of your annual emissions assessment (see Standard #6), and invite suggestions for additional ways to improve air quality.

11. Establish a procedure for notifying employees on days when air pollution levels are high and suggest ways to protect health and reduce pollution.

12. Establish flexible shifts or "flex-time" to avoid rush hours, and allow employees to telecommute or work from home when feasible.

13. Reduce emissions from company vehicles in at least three ways.

14. Reduce emissions from furnaces, oil burners, and other equipment in at least three ways.

15. Reduce dust in facility parking lots and open areas.

16. Design facilities for safe and easy access by pedestrians and bicyclists.

17. Involve your organization or employees in community planning processes and actively advocate for improvements benefiting air quality.

18. Develop your own method to improve air quality different from those listed above.

When an organization is ready, it submits a written narrative as its application for an Award, plus any tables, charts or photos. These are peer-reviewed by the Green Standards Committee, made up of volunteers from existing Green Star Award winners, who know what it is like to apply the standards in their business or organization. The Committee also makes an on-site visit, and the awards are given out at the weekly Chamber of Commerce luncheon, with accompanying publicity.

Green Star also runs a Green Events program, designed to help event organizers practice recycling and waste prevention, and a Green Star Schools program, which encourages pollution prevention, recycling, energy efficiency and waste reduction by means of free trainings, workshops and on-site visits.

Structure and Finance

Green Star is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit society, with a full-time Executive Director, several part-time staff members, and an elected board of directors. Its budget for 2002 is $233,000, which comes from membership fees (15%), grants (31%), corporate sponsorships (16%), a government air quality contract (18%), and in-kind contributions (18%).

Performance

Green Star has found that businesses which are environmentally responsible have a stronger bottom line. The Green Star process enables them to save money through waste reduction, energy efficiency, reduced environmental liability and improved staff commitment. Some 374 organizations have become Green Star members, including 239 businesses (mostly larger companies), 55 schools, 51 government agencies and 39 non-profit societies.

Members

Award Winners

Businesses

229

77

Schools

55

13

Government agencies

51

29

Non-profit societies

39

11

Some businesses have been members since 1990 and not applied for an Award, while others apply for an Award within 6 – 12 months of joining. Green Star is currently working to group the data from the Standard #6 annual assessments to summarize their members’ collective achievements. An estimated 6,950,000 kWh are being saved by Green Star businesses each year due to energy efficiency changes, but the other waste streams are harder to quantify. Each year, a verification form is sent out to the Award winners to collect their "Standard #6" data, but only 1/4 to 1/3rd have been returning their data. Most of Green Star’s outreach efforts are geared towards new businesses and organizations, not existing members. Some members have gone on to achieve the ISO 14,001 environmental standard.

Within Alaska, the Green Star program has spread to the Kenai Peninsula (enrolling more than 70 businesses, with 3,300 employees), the North Slope, and the Interior, and there are also active chapters in Colorado, Idaho and Montana.

Future

Green Star is starting a new computer "re-purposing" (reuse or recycling) initiative, starting with a one-day drop-off every 6 months for businesses and residents. This will hopefully expand into a permanent program with partners in the computer retail business and local solid waste management.

There are also plans to improve our data collection from members, to assess the program’s effectiveness with more accuracy, and to expand the number of free site assessments, whereby Green Star’s staff conduct a thorough walk-through of new members’ businesses and provide a written report detailing environmental initiatives already in place, and suggested changes which could make the organization more environmentally friendly. Green Star can also help with the licensing of new chapters around the world, which pay $1,000 for the rights to the program, logo and startup materials

For further information contact :

Sean Skaling
Executive Director
Green Star®
630 E. 5th Avenue, Suite 201
Anchorage, AK 99501

e-mail: sean@greenstarinc.org
www.greenstarinc.org
Phone: (907) 278-7827


Written by Guy Dauncey, Sustainable Communities Consultancy, Victoria, B.C., Canada

guydauncey@earthfuture.com