July 12, 2001
'House calls' help firms to conserve
By MATT FIKEJS
Business and Industry Resource Venture
In this online age, where environmental information fills the Internet, it is almost a surprise to find an organization that will visit a company and provide on-site recommendations. Yet, the Business and Industry Resource Venture has found that site visits can be as valuable as its telephone hotline and Web site.
The Resource Venture, a partnership of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and Seattle Public Utilities, has been helping companies prevent waste and set up recycling programs for over a decade. In January, it officially expanded its focus to include water conservation, stormwater pollution prevention and sustainable building. Since then, the group’s staff and consultant team have helped hundreds of local companies improve their environmental performance.
On April 5, following one of the driest winters on record, local water suppliers called for a 10 percent reduction in water use. The message was reinforced a month later by a joint Chamber/SPU letter to the Chamber’s 2,700 members. As a result of these and other outreach efforts, organizations ranging from the Port of Seattle to Woodland Park Zoo have contacted the Resource Venture for on-site water conservation assistance.
The Mayflower Park Hotel in downtown Seattle is one company that requested help. Working with the hotel’s general manager and water consultant Braco Resource Management, the Resource Venture conducted a water audit and connected the Mayflower Park with financial incentives available through the regional Water Smart Technology program. The program, sponsored by 26 local water utilities, covers up to half the costs of retrofitting businesses with water-saving equipment. After installing 171 low-flow toilets, the Mayflower Park is now annually saving more than a million gallons of water and has reduced its water and sewer costs by $9,000.
Companies are also increasingly aware of the stormwater pollution they may be creating. Runoff from business sites can carry pollutants into the city’s drainage system — ending up in our waterways — and can cause flooding by clogging storm drains.
In order to meet tighter state limits for stormwater pollution, the city of Seattle recently revised its stormwater, grading and drainage codes. To keep companies abreast of the new codes and ways that they can comply, the Resource Venture has been making presentations and giving workshops throughout Seattle. Stormwater consultant ECOSS (Environmental Coalition of South Seattle) has extended this outreach by conducting over 100 introductory visits to businesses in the Ballard/Interbay and South Park/Georgetown neighborhoods. Additionally, a new, free, confidential service called Stormwater Inspection “Dress Rehearsals” is now being offered to help companies that are soon to be targeted by SPU inspectors.
Driven partly by city of Seattle initiatives and partly by a greater awareness among the design and construction industry, the Resource Venture is also finding strong demand for its sustainable building services. Last month’s workshop on the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system, coordinated by the Resource Venture, was sold out. The staff has also been giving numerous sustainable building and buying recycled building materials presentations to architectural firms.
With many companies now familiar with job-site recycling, site visits for this practice have decreased; however, staff continue to visit projects needing assistance with Built Smart or Construction Works program requirements.
Matt Fikejs is program and marketing manager for the Business and Industry Resource Venture. For more information on the Resource Venture and its free services, visit the group’s Web site at www.resourceventure.org or call (206) 389-7304.
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