By Linda Tiger
Editor’s Note: Linda Tiger spent 30 years in the foodservice industry in Southern California before reinventing herself as a sustainability and resource management consultant in 2011. She recently became a California Resource Recovery Institute Certified Resource Management Professional. Linda attended the CHOICES Sustainability Summit in May and shares her experiences and insights below.
I thought the CHOICES Sustainability Summit was an exceptional learning opportunity for anyone concerned about issues of business, conservation, supply-chain management and how “going green” can be good for the bottom line.
It was fascinating to have an opportunity to tour Disneyland and see the sustainable choices they have prioritized to help conserve their energy resources. Between water irrigation systems, landscaping materials, biodiesel transportation and cooking oil recycling, Disney has made multiple choices that are effective in meeting sustainability priorities, while maintaining a positive guest experience.
I liked the guest speakers at the CHOICES Summit as well – everyone who spoke and participated in the panel discussions shared a passion for environmental impacts that addressed the business and social needs of today and into the future. They all shared a common bond with regard to the economics of sustainability, reiterating that good environmental practices are, in fact, good business.
In many ways, the Summit was different than what I expected. First of all, I was surprised to find such diverse attendance – it was far from the “usual suspects” I tend to find at similar conferences. There were representatives from multiple industries, not just paper or manufacturing businesses. For instance, I had a great discussion with someone else who shares a background in foodservice – we talked about moving the industry away from polystyrene and toward paper-based packaging.
The most valuable part of the Summit for me was being able to implement what I learned as part of my consultancy. I work frequently with educational institutions, helping them choose sustainable products for building and construction, remodeling, supplies, etc. With financial constraints forcing schools and other institutions to make purchases based on budget alone, our Summit discussions about championing sustainability in a down economy were particularly useful, as I can now illustrate the cost-saving benefits of sustainability improvements.
For commercial enterprises, I believe the economic downturn has forced them to change the way they are doing business. It’s the beginning of a new paradigm; especially for large corporations that are becoming more conscious of how small decisions – like minimizing office waste – can pay huge dividends.
What may have begun as a “feel-good” proposition has now attained a higher priority level. Social and environmental awareness is now a common currency in business, with new opportunities for boosting profits while doing what is right for people and the planet.
There’s definitely a steady drumbeat of buzz happening here in Southern California (and across the country) about sustainability, and businesses are more open to the discussion now than they were several years ago. Thanks to companies like Boise, business and industry are now full participants in this discussion, and events like the CHOICES Summit will continue to educate business leaders about the importance of sustainability when making important business decisions.
Tags: lifecycle of paper