Steamboat Springs Real estate agents, restaurateurs and lodging companies met Thursday to discuss a common goal: sustainability.
Business people of all kinds pooled their brainpower and experience at the first networking luncheon for the Sustainable Business Program, run by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. Through the program, businesses put together plans to become more environmentally friendly. They can earn rankings from green to gold, depending on their progress.
Lyn Halliday, principal of Environmental Solutions Unlimited, helps each company craft a plan.
"Whether you're recently certified or just enrolling, it's important to remember that this isn't the end - it's the beginning," Halliday told the group gathered for lunch at Rex's American Grill & Bar.
Thirty-six businesses and organizations are enrolled in the program, and about 45 people attended Thursday's meal. Smartwool, which has earned a gold ranking, sponsored the luncheon. Mark Satkiewicz, vice president of sales, said it was important for businesses to not only reduce their impact on the environment but also to share information with the community and each other.
"To almost every question on how to do something, the answer is probably in this room," Satkiewicz said.
The group discussed how members would like to share those ideas, suggesting an e-mail list and an online forum. The chamber offered to handle communications and to organize a quarterly meeting for the businesses.
"We have a full year under our belt now," Halliday said before the luncheon. "It's time to raise the bar, add value and see where the group wants to go."
Those who attended looked backward as well as forward, sharing stories about their companies' accomplishments and tossing out suggestions. Efforts included switching to lights that use less energy, recycling fluorescent bulbs, ramping up recycling efforts and encouraging employees to carpool or use alternative transportation.
John Sanders of Colorado Group Realty offered to pass along a spreadsheet he created to analyze the financial benefits of his company's environmental efforts.
Participants jotted notes as others threw out ideas, and chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall filled up large sheets of paper with suggestions. Enthusiasm ran high.
"There are about 50 people I want to talk to for about an hour apiece right now," said Jeff Troeger, a professor of business and sustainability at Colorado Mountain College. "We need to be looking for ways to take all this knowledge and be able to share it so we don't have to reinvent it ourselves."
CMC is not yet a member of the chamber program but is throwing itself into sustainability education, said Troeger and Terry Hunter, who heads the resort management program at CMC's Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs. The school plans to offer sustainability-specific curriculum this fall, Hunter said. CMC will take core classes such as English composition and economics and add an environment element to some sections, he said.
"Environmental economics would be a basic economics course, but the focus will be on the environment and sustainability issues," Hunter said.
The college has a sustainability club and has installed solar panels on one of its dorms, Hunter said. The 14-campus CMC system has more than 20,000 students, Hunter said, and the Steamboat campus hopes to spread its sustainability efforts to others.
Troeger said it is crucial to get students thinking about the environment.
"Our business is education," he said. "We're trying to help communicate to a new generation of students : and trying to get them to see what challenges and opportunities there will be in their lifetimes."
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