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Posted: June 01, 2010

Planet-profit report guest voice

The business of sustainability is booming

Janna L. Six

Sustainability is booming in Colorado! Community leaders across all sectors and regions of Colorado are incorporating sustainability concepts and practices in planning and shaping economically viable, vibrant and quality places to live in Colorado. That's the analysis from the authors of a report on a series of Sustainability Roundtable meetings in 2009 involving more than 350 business, nonprofit, government and education community leaders.

Staff for the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado collected a comprehensive list of successful sustainability initiatives that benefit the triple bottom line - people, planet and profit. Based on the experiences of roundtable participants, successful projects seem to share these common factors:

• They are generally built by collaborations among organizations from multiple sectors.
• Strong leadership at both the organizational and individual levels drives momentum.
• They are based on comprehensive plans with written, tangible goals, often bound and guided by a town's comprehensive plan.

Participants resoundingly agreed that the economic viability and resiliency of a community is dependent on nurturing locally owned and operated businesses. Some communities have set up "buy local" campaigns that offer discounts or coupon books for local products and services. Business networks have been established to link local, sustainable businesses. Local networks support businesses by providing green consulting services for best sustainable practices, networking opportunities, marketing, incentives and awards.

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

One example of success that people are familiar with is farmer's markets, which are well-attended all across Colorado. They not only offer fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers, organic meat and dairy products, but live entertainment and local art. They have become true community events. The Colorado Farmer's Market Association maintains a comprehensive list of Colorado farmer's markets on its website: www.coloradofarmers.org.

Farmer's markets are just one aspect of sustainable projects in the food and agriculture sector. The types of food initiatives and community efforts already in place are as diverse as the geography of each region in Colorado. These projects include goat dairy farms producing cheese; community supported agriculture (CSAs) that connect consumers with farmers to purchase produce year round; community gardens; beginning farmer programs and many others.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/GREEN JOBS

The concept of "green jobs" has become an important part of the new-energy economy dialogue and can be defined broadly as any job that is good for people and good for the economy, while still ensuring good stewardship of the Earth. Workforce development programs throughout the state are expanding their outreach to develop the education and training needed for workers in emerging green job sectors.

Housing Resources of Western Colorado is a good example of success in the green jobs sector. It has become a hub for green jobs through its weatherization and educational program across eight western Colorado counties, providing energy-saving measures such as furnace tune-ups, window replacements and insulation improvements.

OTHER SECTORS

Enthusiastic roundtable participants also described booming sustainability programs in other sectors, like recycling, renewable energy, education, transportation, tourism, open space and water conservation. Despite the many sustainability successes, roundtable participants described three barriers to sustainability: lack of political will, financial disincentives, and marginal commitment to sustainability policies by the general community.

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado will continue to address these barriers through policy proposals, education and collaborative conversations with businesses, governments, nonprofits and educators. In the last six months, Colorado has received more than $20 million in federal grants for green jobs, energy efficiency and renewable energy. The money is currently being allocated. Watch for the sustainability trend to continue to grow exponentially.
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Janna L. Six is the education director for the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, which works to advance economic, environmental, and social sustainability in Colorado by building cross-sector alliances and networks. Learn more about the Alliance here.

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