Businesses are taking more interest in environmental sustainability, and not just because it is popular with customers and good for the planet. It also can help their bottom line.
Bluegrass Greensource, a non-profit organization that works to promote sustainability in 18 Central Kentucky counties, expects a good crowd March 20 for its sixth annual awareness workshop, Go Green, Save Green.
"The workshop is designed to give you ways to save money," said Schuyler Warren, the Lexington-based organization's outreach specialist. "It's not just about doing it because it's the right thing to do. It's a smart business decision."
The full-day workshop, which about 100 people attended last year, features speakers on a variety of topics, such as improving energy efficiency, storm water management, recycling and waste reduction and sustainable construction and landscaping.
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It will include information about grants available to help cover the cost of some sustainability efforts.
Because the workshop is sponsored by Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, the cost of attending is only $25 for adults and $5 for students, which includes a "zero waste" breakfast and lunch from Dupree Catering and a drink ticket for a social event afterward at Blue Stallion Brewery. (Day-of registration is $40.)
For registration and more information, go to: Bggreensource.org.
"This workshop is a great way to get inspired," Warren said. "You can get some ideas, and then we can work with you to implement those things."
The focus of this year's workshop is energy efficiency, where the costs of improvements can be recouped through lower utility bills. There also will be a presentation by people who have been working on some remarkable energy-saving projects as part of West Liberty's reconstruction from a devastating tornado three years ago.
Other speakers will focus on less-obvious topics, such as how companies can make it easier for employees to bicycle to work. That reduces traffic, pollution and oil consumption for society, but it also can help businesses cut absenteeism and health care costs by helping employees become more physically fit.
The workshop will be at the new campus of Bluegrass Community and Technical College on Newtown Pike. Included are tours of BCTC's LEED-certified classroom building and nearby Lexmark facilities.
Last year's workshop inspired Good Foods Co-op on Southland Drive to plan a renovation of its parking lot this summer to incorporate permeable paving, said Rob Walker, a store manager.
The new paving should help solve the parking lot's storm water drainage issues, Walker said, as well as help protect Wolf Run Creek, which runs behind the store and has been the focus of extensive neighborhood efforts to improve water quality.
"That's going to be a great improvement," he said, adding that the store also is looking at money-saving strategies with energy-efficient lighting he learned about. "It's an excellent workshop."
Katie Pentecost, a landscape architect with Integrated Engineering, said last year's workshop gave her new information about sustainability grants, which some of her clients have been able to get for their construction projects.
"I got way more out of it than I ever thought I would," she said.
The workshop is part of a city-sponsored program called Live Green Lexington, which includes free year-around consulting services in Fayette County provided by Bluegrass Greensource.
But Bluegrass Greensource doesn't just work with businesses, and it doesn't just work in Fayette County.
For example, the organization has a series of workshops from April to June for residents of Clark, Scott, Woodford, Jessamine, Madison and Bourbon counties to help them learn how to install low-maintenance "rain gardens" to handle storm water runoff. The workshops are free, and residents of those counties may be eligible for $250 grants to purchase native plants for their rain gardens.
"The goal is to put a lot of options on your radar," Warren said. "Things change so fast. I'm a sustainability professional, and every year there are a couple of new things for me that I didn't know about."