The onset of COVID-19 has brought out the best and the worst in us. I’m not just talking about people, I’m talking about the planet. When thinking about the environment during these tough economic times, one must consider the juxtaposition of economic growth and stewarding the environment. Many will tell you that the two can not equally serve our needs, while others are adamant that they can.
I am of the belief that for many businesses, it’s a simply out of sight, out of mind issue. For example, saving a few bucks by packaging goods in Styrofoam is the path of least resistance for Joe Retailer, even though there are now numerous healthier, and in many cases equally cost effective, measures to implement. But that relatively simple fix might take time to research… and changing ordering habits usually happens when products are no longer available, or cheaper alternatives are found. This is why so many business owners simply turn a blind eye. Why fix what’s not broken?
Well, the planet is broken, which is why we must consider reevaluating our “set in stone” ways. In the end, these types of sustainable considerations will result in ripple effects that will have more positive impacts on customers, the planet, and – likely -the business at hand.
Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable (SBR) feels that it is important to shine a light on Western NY business leaders and entrepreneurs that are taking the time to do the right thing. Each year, the SBR hosts a business roundtable that acknowledges these shining stars via a Recognition Award Ceremony, along with their sustainable efforts. There is also a series of interacting networking sessions to tune into.
In 2020, the virtual Zoom events will focus on “resiliency and sustainability” – both of which are top of mind during the COVID crisis.
- Supply chain resiliency
- Climate leadership in a post-COVID-19 world
- The value of leadership during uncertain times
- Moving towards a future of net positive impact
As for this year’s Recognition Award Ceremony, the following organizations are being recognized for their outstanding work in sustainability:
- Gold Level: Curbell Inc., Niagara Malt, Perry’s Ice Cream, Triad Recycling, Wendel
- Silver Level: Buffalo Zoo, Goldfarb Financial, Harmac Medical Products, Inc., Erie County
- Bronze Level: Montante Solar
At the same time, three companies and one individual are recognized in specific categories. Those include:
- Most Innovative Sustainability Project is awarded to Niagara Malt. Niagara Malt has installed a wood pellet boiler and a hydronic heat exchanger to tackle the energy intense process of malting. Malting at Niagara Malt was originally supported by an all-electric system, creating extremely costly electric bills. Niagara Malt soon took action by installing the boiler system, which reduced the company’s electric use by 65-75% and uses wood pellets (which is considered carbon neutral by the EPA). In addition, in 2018 Niagara Malt installed a solar rooftop system from Solar Liberty, which they had met at the 2018 SBR Summit. Through the combination of the initiatives, Niagara Malt has generated a total of 20.28 MWh of electricity, saving an estimated 14,258 kg of CO2 emissions. As of March 2020, Niagara Malt has generated an excess of 1,240 kWh of electricity.
- Community Impact Award is awarded to Montante Solar. Montante’s project is the “Solar Park 2”: 7 MW Community Solar Array located on Grand Island, NY. The project broke ground in March 2019 and is currently operational. This is the largest community solar array in WNY and produces 8,930,000 kWh annually, which has the capacity to power over 1,000 homes in the area. Montante partnered with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to plan around the protection of natural habitat and wildlife during construction. It built a bridge that spans over the state wetland that runs through the site in order to connect the two halves of the site and not disrupt the habitat. Furthermore, Montante integrated native plant species into the design and planted them among the solar panels to increase habitat for native pollinators, and also cut down on maintenance to the vegetation in the array.
- The Board of Directors Choice Award honors Perry’s Ice Cream. Perry’s most recent project is their 20-year continued upgrade to energy efficient lighting was the upgrade of their truck garage lighting in 2019. The purpose of this project was to reduce energy consumption – it replaced nine 400-watt HID fixtures with nine LED 162-watt high bay motion sensor light fixtures. The original light fixtures consumed an estimated 7,488 kWh annually, while the LED fixtures only consumed an estimated 3,120 kWh annually, a 58% annual energy saving. Perry’s installation of LED light fixtures in their Akron truck garage is in addition to their continued upgrade to more efficient lighting and their newest policy to replace light fixtures with LED technology when replacements are needed. Perry’s has also implemented a new energy efficient heating process for heating their 20,000-gallon tank used for cleaning. They capture waste heat generated from their ammonia compressors that are used in their refrigeration process to heat the water used for cleaning, which needs to be heated to 140 oF. The heat captured from the compressors is able to heat the cleaning water from 50 oF to 90 oF, saving 40 oF of heat that would otherwise be generated through the use of natural gas. Through this process, Perry’s has saved 213,581,200 BTU’s annually which has saved 165,564 CCF of gas annually. This has avoided the release of 9.1 metric tons of CO2 annually.
- The 2020 Eric Lindstrom Sustainability Star Award goes to Zandra Cunninghum, CEO of Zandra Beauty, for her exemplary efforts to build a business based on sustainable products manufactured in Western New York. Zandra Cunningham is a true inspiration for all youth (and others!) to take action and make things happen for themselves and their communities. Her journey to create natural products started when she was only nine years old. Zandra Cunningham handcrafted her own skincare as a result of her dad’s refusal to buy her beloved lip balm. With the assistance of her family, she started her business a few days shy of her 10th birthday. Today, Cunningham operates her skincare and beauty line from Buffalo, NY, where she manufactures natural skincare products as an alternative to commercial products with unhealthy ingredients. Zandra Beauty is committed to sustainable practices; the company’s mission is to create premium, sustainable, plant-based skincare products without all of the unnecessary “yucky stuff and chemicals”. Zandra Beauty is now worth over $1M and some of the world’s biggest retailers including Target and Walmart are now carrying the company’s products as part of their efforts to respond to increasing consumer demand for healthier beauty products.
“Organizations recognized at the Summit embody their SBR Member Pledge to become thriving and resilient businesses as they reduce material waste, protect our waterways, optimize use of energy, and invest in our communities with an overall goal to reduce their footprint and become role models in the business community.” – SBR
We can all learn a lesson or two from these exemplary people and businesses that refuse to accept status quo when it comes to protecting the planet. These are the role models that we need as a community, to demonstrate that Buffalo is serious about its ability to be an eco leader and change-maker that rivals the best of them.
2020 Summit Reimagined – The Value of Business Resilience
Start: September 22 @ 2:00 pm
End: September 23 @ 4:00 pm