Regular light bulbs out, LED light bulbs in. Less paper printed, more documents emailed. Biodegradable cleaners. Solar panels. Recycling.
All across the Silver State, businesses are searching for more and more ways to go green. Not only because it’s good for the environment, it can boost sales, too. After all, 66 percent of global consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands, according to a 2015 Nielsen report.
Though Nevada businesses are taking major strides to lessen their carbon footprints, the state doesn’t have a way to fully measure and capture its eco-friendliness. What’s more, consumers don’t have an easy way to pinpoint which businesses use eco-friendly practices.
Until now, that is. Thanks to two Environmental Protection Agency grants, Western Nevada College in Carson City is launching a statewide green business program and a database for collecting outcomes that measure environmental performance for the state, WNC announced in mid-June.
The total amount for both grants is nearly $600,000, Dr. Georgia White, professional and applied technology director for WNC, said in an email to the Nevada Appeal.
“WCN’s interest in launching a green business program is based on a wider economic development concept of conservation economics,” White said. “Basically, the focus is to grow local economies while minimizing the impact on the overall environment.”
The program, White said, will allow students to participate in internships in which they work with businesses that are documenting and reporting on the implementation of the best practices of green businesses.
Added White: “This will provide students another context and framework on which to attach classroom education.”
Nevada-based environmental nonprofit greenUP! is partnering with WNC to recruit businesses to be part of the pilot program. Donna Walden, president of the greenUP! Board, said the state’s increased focus on sustainability has fueled the need for the green business program and database.
“(Sen.) Catherine Cortez Masto has a huge platform on sustainability, Gov. Sisolak has a platform around sustainability, we have businesses focused on sustainability,” Walden said. “This is a way we can all see what’s happening across the state in terms of how all of our efforts are combining to produce some very specific results.
“Everything that’s happening independently is significant. And this is a way to collectively capture the good, fine work happening in the state of Nevada.”
Currently, Walden said, agencies throughout Nevada collect and document environmental stats using spreadsheets — “the old-fashioned way,” she added.
Through the database, however, businesses can fill out an online environmental checklist to see how green they are. The calculations reveal outcomes such as greenhouse gas emissions reduced, energy saved, gallons of water saved, tons of waste diverted from the landfill and hazardous materials reduced, among others.
Businesses in the program are also provided resources and tools to help them reduce their carbon footprint and boost their environmental score.
Once Nevada businesses have completed the environmental checklist, they are recognized or certified and added to an online directory at nv.greenbiztracker.org.
“The public can go to the website and determine where the green businesses are and they can frequent those businesses,” said Walden, noting that people can search for businesses by city or even sector — from Food & Drink to Finance & Real Estate. “It’s really an asset to everyone in the state. We’re lucky to be a part of this program. It doesn’t matter who does what, we’re all doing this on behalf of the state.”
At least 35 green business programs in six states across the country use GreenBizTracker, including California, Colorado, Illinois, Arizona, Washington and Nevada.
WCN’s announcement comes two months after Gov. Steve Sisolak on Earth Day, April 22, signed into law a bill mandating the state reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
It also comes months after Nevada’s Division of Environmental Protection awarded $20,000 in funds to greenUP! to launch Carson City’s new Green Dining District; that project aims to provide recycling guides to 30 restaurants on Carson Street encouraging them to eliminate straws and Styrofoam containers and to compost food waste and practice energy saving measures.