This story originally appeared in print as part of “ROI on Eco”

Being eco-friendly doesn’t have to begin and end inside the walls of your business. Danielle Fox, community conservationist with the City of Columbia, says being cognizant of the greenery on your property is another way to reduce your footprint.

Populating your grounds with native plant species, while more costly upfront than buying non-native plants, can pay off environmentally and fiscally in the long run.

Fox says that, since native plants are suited to growing in this climate, they cultivate deep root systems so they don’t need to be watered as much, don’t require fertilizer because they’ve adapted to the soil, and have co-evolved natural defenses against local insect damage, so they don’t require pesticides.

“It’s extremely simple, beneficial to the environment, and also beneficial to the businesses in helping them save money,” Fox says. “Native plants not only support our ecosystem by providing food for the insects that the birds, mammals, and other animals rely upon, but they also help the soil health and water filtration, which helps with stormwater mitigation issues with their extremely dense and deep root system.”

The most beneficial type of plant varies location to location, but Fox says her office and the Missouri Department of Conservation can help point interested parties in the right direction.

The city is currently in the midst of a project to restore about 20 acres of land throughout the city with native four-season grasses and perennial wildflowers.

 

Five Steps to Creating an Eco-Friendly Business Culture

 

Barbara Buffaloe, sustainability manager for the City of Columbia, has five main recommendations for business leaders looking to inspire confidence in environmentally conscious practices:

 

  1. State your goals: Let your employees know about your intent to run a sustainable business, one that keeps in mind the “triple bottom line” of social, ecological, and financial success.
  2. Take stock: Measure your energy usage and compare it to similar-sized businesses in your field.
  3. Set reduction goals: Find areas in which you can improve the most, then set tangible benchmarks to hit.
  4. Implementation: Concept and execute projects that will help your company meet those reduction goals.
  5. Advertise: Put on events celebrating your successes, or hold meetings to talk about areas in which you faced difficulties.

 

“What that does is helps show your path of where you are on this trip, and then it also gives opportunities for your employers or consumers to know that you’re on the right track, or it shows adjustments that might need to be made,” Buffaloe says.

Since 2015, the city has recognized the accomplishments of sustainable companies through its Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement Awards. Buffaloe says her office usually gets between 10 and 40 submissions a year in the five award categories: the Mayor’s Award, Environmental Stewardship, Innovative Best Practices, Pollution Prevention, and Resource Conservation. Dana Incorporated was one of the Innovative Best Practices winners for 2017, and Fretboard Coffee won for Resource Conservation.

Businesses can nominate themselves or be nominated through a form on the city’s sustainability website (como.gov/sustainability/awards). Deadline for 2018 submissions is December 31, 2017.

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