August 3, 2006
Conservation program saves money, landfill space
By AMITY LUMPER and MATT SCHOELHAMER
Cascadia Consulting Group
For Seattle businesses, resource conservation is not just about doing right by the environment. It’s also a means for improving the company’s bottom line — businesses lose money every day when valuable recyclables are sent to the landfill or water is not used wisely.
As an example, Seattle businesses spend more than $15 million per year on garbage disposal, but over half of what is thrown away could be recycled for a fraction of the cost. Additionally, implementing more water-efficient behaviors and devices could save businesses 20 percent or more on combined water and sewer bills. Businesses that implement more sustainable practices are also eligible for discounts from the city of Seattle — including subsidies for food waste recycling and rebates on water-efficient toilets and showerheads.
Seattle Public Utilities’ Resource Venture program provides free information and assistance to all Seattle businesses that are interested in using more sustainable practices. For the past 15 years, Resource Venture has been helping all types of businesses, including Nordstrom, Pacific Science Center, Starbucks and Canlis Restaurant.
Resource Venture offers assistance in five key areas: waste reduction and recycling; water conservation; stormwater pollution prevention; fats, oils and grease management; and green building. The program provides free technical and financial assistance, on-site consultations, and awards for top-performing businesses.
Seattle’s Crowne Plaza Hotel recently demonstrated how businesses can benefit from Resource Venture’s services. The 34-story downtown hotel contains 415 rooms, six meeting rooms, a restaurant and bar. Until recently, the hotel incurred almost $60,000 in annual waste costs.
After consulting with Resource Venture, Crowne Plaza’s management implemented several effective and inexpensive initiatives over a six-month period that reduced its solid waste volume by about 70 percent and its total waste costs by nearly 60 percent.
The hotel reduced paper waste by asking guests if they’d like to receive a morning newspaper, instead of automatically receiving one. The hotel also cut down on garbage disposal by starting a food waste recycling program in its kitchens, as well as expanding its mixed paper, plastic and aluminum recycling. As a result, the hotel over six months increased its quantity of recycled materials by nearly 130 percent, and went from sending 250 cubic yards of waste per month to the landfill to 64 cubic yards.
“In a recent meeting with 50 of our hotels from across the country, we were the only ones with our waste costs going down,” said Bruce McCurdy, food and beverage director at Crowne Plaza.
Resource Venture’s Web site offers extensive information on how to use resources more efficiently, including implementing waste reduction programs such as Crowne Plaza’s. The site contains a database of recyclers for more than 200 materials, from the mundane to the specialized and exotic. It also has publications on a wide range of topics, including improving recycling programs, minimizing waste and educating employees about conserving resources.
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