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Posted: March 01, 2009

Sustainability spotlight: Boulder Valley Credit Union

Boulder Valley initially invested more than $90,000 in its green makeover

Kyle Ringo

Sustainable practices:

Some companies say they’re green, but you walk into their offices and see aluminum cans in the trash and employees drinking their morning coffee from Styrofoam cups. None of that happens at Boulder Valley Credit Union. When the credit union’s management decided to go green a few years back, it committed to doing it fully and not making it a bogus piece of marketing that would be abandoned six months or a year later. It went well beyond the standard environmental practices in use these days by many financial institutions such as offering checks on recycled paper, e-statements and online bill pay.

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Top: Jason Bauer, Bob Alexander, Steve Carr, Chris Davis; Bottom: LeAnn Faulkner, Jamie Pohlman, Sheryl Sims

Boulder Valley initially invested more than $90,000 in its green makeover. Those costs included employee training, building improvements such as solar panels for its branches, new windows and window shades, new eco-friendly lighting and building the website wecarecolorado.com. “Basically we sat back and said it’s the right thing to do,” said Jason Bauer, vice president of marketing and e-commerce.  “We wanted to set an example. There is no financial institution that has really set the example. We were all out there greenwashing, you know? We were lying to the public just to get the business. So that’s what we decided to do, do the right thing.” Every employee’s work station at the credit union is equipped with a trash can for recyclables and a smaller trash can connected to it for trash. The company does everything from eliminating the use of Styrofoam cups and other environmentally unfriendly products to starting a compost pile outside and hanging notes in the bathrooms asking that the lights be shut off when the room is empty. “We wanted to make sure that when somebody walked into our branch they said, ‘Wow, they are committed to this,’” Bauer said.

Green from green

In tough economic times, many companies might balk at the sizable initial investment required to go completely green like the credit union, especially when the savings from those investments won’t be fully realized for a decade or more. Bauer estimates it will be 15 to 20 years before the credit union’s solar panels and new windows and energy-efficient light bulbs have paid for themselves in energy savings, but other changes are saving relatively small amounts here and there. Bauer estimates the credit union saves a few thousand dollars a year in using environmentally friendly products such as toner and ink.

The real impact on the bottom line has been through an increase in partnerships with other businesses and new personal accounts that come with those deals. “You can make an argument that through our marketing, we are connecting with people who the green speaks to,” Bauer said. “We’ve had lots of people who became members who said, ‘I’ve been looking for another way to be green, and now I can do that with my bank.’” 

Carbon cachet:

The credit union’s primary business focus is partnering with other area businesses, which offer credit union memberships as a benefit to employees. In the 15 months prior to instituting its green policies, the credit union signed three new partners. In the past year, it has signed 40, Bauer said. Maura Eurton, commercial and inside sales manager for Standard Renewable Energy, uses the credit union for her personal banking as well as a source of financing for clients who need it.

Eurton, 24, of Louisville said the credit union first caught her eye two years ago when she noticed it offered low-interest loans for energy efficient upgrades, photovoltaic systems and hybrid vehicles. “I always just kind of want to support organizations that are doing the right thing, and they’re totally doing the right thing,” Eurton said. “It’s completely because they are environmentally responsible that I went with them.”

WHERE: BOULDER   |   FOUNDED: 1959   |   WWW.BVCU.ORG

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Kyle Ringo is a Colorado native who has covered business and sports and the business of sports in the state for two decades for Cobizmag.com and a variety of publications. He covers the University of Colorado in his day job in Boulder at the Daily Camera. Contact him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @KyleRiingo.

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