Every Day is Earth Day for Small Business
Last year in April, we re-published a blog post from Tom Sullivan about how small business treat every day as Earth Day. Sullivan, who runs the Small Business Coalition for Regulatory Relief and previously served as Chief Counsel for Advocacy at the U.S. Small Business Administration, revisits the topic again this week in his SBCRR blog:
Earth Day will be celebrated throughout this week, which makes this a good time to recognize how small business owners protect the environment all year long.
Right now, we are counting on the power of small business as job creators to lift America’s economy. One particular small business sector is expected to do some heavy lifting this year: home remodeling. The new home sales market is flat, but the home remodeling sector of the housing industry is on the rise. According to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies (JHCS), spending on home remodeling is expected to rise 9.1% in this quarter. The anticipated $125.1 billion for home improvement spending in the first quarter will be the highest in three years and the center predicts an increase to $132.9 billion in the second quarter.
In remodeling, recent predictions of job growth seems to coincide with increased requests for green projects. The Joint Center’s report shows that homeowners who specified green features increased from 25 percent of all projects in early 2009 to more than 28 percent in late 2010.
One way remodelers promote green practices is to advise homeowners on ways to increase the energy efficiency in their homes. Tom Weiher, President of Carmel Builders in Milwaukee, capitalized on government rebates offered to homeowners for increasing energy efficiency in homes. He diversified his business model to include an energy audit and improvement program, and became an allied contractor with Focus on Energy, a state-sponsored program that helps residents install energy-efficient and renewable energy projects.
Chaden Halfhill, President of Silent Rivers in Clive, Iowa, started a development company called Indigo Dawn to jump-start a new, sustainable remodeling initiative called Green & Main. The initiative focuses on renovation of historical properties in the community with a concentration on increasing energy efficiency.
The environmental consciousness of remodelers goes well beyond energy efficiency. CG&S Design-Build, in Austin, Texas, recycled nearly 60 percent (139 tons) of its waste material, including metal, drywall, concrete, wood, lumber and cardboard, accumulated in 2009. CG&S is known for sustainable building practices and has made a companywide effort to recycle as much as possible on a daily basis.
CG&S employs nearly 50 people and brings in about $7 million in revenue annually, making their choice to recycle waste material a challenging feat with a huge potential for making a difference. The company headquarters has a large backyard lot to help them organize their recyclables. Ninety percent of work debris is taken to the yard and separated into dumpsters to be recycled. Although recycling adds some cost to the projects, so far, CG&S hasn’t heard many homeowner complaints. Most of the time recycling makes everyone involved feel good.
John Tabor, President of Tabor Design Build in Rockville, Maryland also recycles materials, and offers to donate kitchen cabinets and countertops from the original kitchens he’s remodeling to a local church, which donates them to families in need.
Tom Wells, owner of Thomas G. Wells Construction, in the Philadelphia area, writes a monthly column on sustainable remodeling for a local paper and speaks regularly at community events to educate homeowners on sustainable remodeling.
Neil Kelly Design/Build Remodeling, based outside Portland, Oregon, employs 140 people, and offers a monthly cash allowance for the sales staff and project managers to drive energy-efficient vehicles. Since a large part of the job is conducted traveling to and from client homes, they provide an additional incentive to those who drive energy-efficient autos.
Even the association that represents these remodelers promotes green practices. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) promotes Earth-friendly remodeling through its Green Remodeling education programs, and offers a certification program to remodeling industry members called the Green Certified Professional (GCP).
It should be no surprise that small business owners are environmental stewards. The same people who remodel homes, own shops on Main Street, and run small manufacturing plants are the softball coaches and school board members in most communities. Thank you, small business owners, for being our country’s job creators, community leaders, and environmentalists.