Living

Keys GLEE to help ‘green’ firms

Carole Stevens, executive director of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, Nicole Medina, Green Living & Energy Education board member, and Erica Garrick-Rodriguez, president of the chamber, pose Monday with the chamber's new green business certification.
Carole Stevens, executive director of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, Nicole Medina, Green Living & Energy Education board member, and Erica Garrick-Rodriguez, president of the chamber, pose Monday with the chamber's new green business certification.

With a few changes — different light bulbs, an extra degree on the thermostat and fewer ceiling fans running — the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce is saving nearly $25 on its monthly electric bill.

The Keys Energy audit that led to those changes was part of the chamber’s green business certification, a new program offered by Keyswide environmental nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education.

The Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce on Big Pine Key and the Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens at May Sands School in Key West participated in a pilot for GLEE’s program, which starts Nov. 1.

GLEE wants to help businesses reduce their impact while tapping into a growing consumer consciousness about environmental issues, particularly in the sensitive Florida Keys.

“The Green Business Program is our response to the many requests we’ve received over the years from those who want to green their business operations but don’t know where to begin,” GLEE President Alison Higgins says. “We’re offering a simple template that will help reduce waste and conserve resources, while trimming the cost of doing business.”

The pilot program, which began last spring, was perfectly timed for the chamber, which was planning to “green” itself at the urging of its president, Erica Garrick-Rodriguez of Chicago Title.

Carole Stevens, the chamber’s executive director, says the energy audit was just part of a process that also included a drastic reduction in paper use — “the paper we’re saving is unbelievable,” she says — and a big jump in recycling.

In addition to cutting down on printing and printing on two sides, what paper the chamber’s four employees do use goes into the recycling bin now instead of the trash.

“We hardly have any trash,” Stevens says.

The lack of trash has created a bit of a dilemma, however. Recycling pickup costs the chamber $23 a month, but it hasn’t yet figured out how to cut its $67 monthly bill for regular trash.

Stevens says she’s waiting until season to see how much trash is generated by visitors before she looks for an option other than the small bin the chamber has for its once-a-week trash pickup.

Turning the temperature up to 79 degrees hasn’t been a problem, nor has turning off the fans in the visitors center or switching to compact florescent bulbs, she said. As electronics break, they’ll be replaced with more energy-efficient models.

One of the tips Stevens picked up from the energy audit was that running one ceiling fan around the clock can cost $11 a month. Now she’s waiting to see whether more judicious use of the six ceiling fans at home makes a difference on her bill there.

“We’re very excited to be part of GLEE and to be a green business organization,” says Stevens, whose chamber has 210 members from throughout the Keys.

The certification process, while somewhat time-consuming, was worthwhile, Stevens says, and not difficult. She says she’ll definitely recommend it to her members and is willing to help others through the process.

GLEE program director Bridget McDonald points out that the launch coincides with steps local governments are taking to address climate change and sea level rise, and will complement programs such as the Climate Action Plan adopted by the Key West City Commission.

Interested businesses can grab a set of free downloadable tools from GLEE’s Web site, www.KeysGLEE.com, to get started.

Once a business implements the program, GLEE does an on-site assessment to make sure the standards have been met. The on-site assessment costs $50 for GLEE members. The $150 fee for non-members includes a one-year GLEE membership.

Businesses receive a printed certification, as well as a window decal and an electronic logo that identify them as a certified Green Business Partner to customers and the community.

The business also will be listed in GLEE’s online green business directory, which will serve as a resource for visitors and residents looking for earth-friendly businesses, products and services.For more information, call GLEE at 809-3509.

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