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Knoxville Regional
Transportation Planning Organization

400 Main St, Suite 403
Knoxville, TN 37902

phone: (865) 215-2500
fax: (865) 215-2068

PlanET Perspectives:

Sustainability Pays Off for ET Businesses

By Amy Nolan
Editor, Greater Knoxville Business Journal
Posted 09/18/2013

My introduction to sustainability came in the 1970s when my stepfather insisted that our household recycle newspaper, glass, plastic and cans, which he stacked, shattered and crushed in our garage before placing in large bags. This was before recycling centers and curbside pickup, so he’d scout for a charity or business that had discovered a way to profit from what we were throwing away, and load the station wagon to deliver the trash that would become another organization’s treasure.

Although this was the era of “hippies,” my stepfather wasn’t one of them. He was a Republican-voting small business owner who had been tapped to serve on a committee to site a new landfill in our county. As a community leader, he learned first-hand how much garbage our community generated and wrestled with the decision on where to put it. He viewed recycling as good business, important to the health and continued well-being of the community in which he operated a business and raised a family.

Today, PlanET is engaging East Tennesseans of all backgrounds and political persuasions to envision a sustainable future for us all. I’m happy to say that many in the business community have taken a proactive approach to incorporating sustainable business practices that have and will continue to serve our community well into the future. The more than 100 businesses that have participated in the Greater Knoxville Business Journal’s GoGreenET challenge have similar motivations. They are making their operations greener because it makes sense for their businesses and the communities in which they live and operate in East Tennessee.

Mark DeNicola, CFO of Thermocopy, came up with the idea of to serve as a business-to-business resource for East Tennessee companies looking to make their operations more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. His interest in making a wider community impact followed Thermocopy’s own efforts to reduce its waste and energy use, and its creation of environmental impact assessments for clients that outline document solutions that help them reduce landfill waste and energy use. He wanted to share how these environmental practices reduce costs, thereby making organizations more competitive in the marketplace and our community more sustainable.

Mark recruited the Knoxville Chamber and the Business Journal as partners, and we remain so today in a program that has greatly expanded from its origins. Its centerpiece is the GoGreenET Business Recognition program in which we encourage organizations to take the GoGreenET challenge by doing an in-house survey to document – and, perhaps, inspire – their own environmentally friendly practices. The Business Journal features several organizations in its annual Green issue in May. A networking reception is also held in May where we highlight outstanding achievements of GoGreenET participants and share best practices. And the website is updated frequently with news and information from across Tennessee and a directory of participants in the annual GoGreenET challenge.

We’ve learned through the program that there are many shades of green. For linen and uniform supplier Alsco Inc., being green meant investing in a new system to recover and reuse heat and water used in cooling the hydraulic motors that spin the larger washer cylinders. For Kelsan, a distributor of janitorial equipment and supplies, green meant installing new lighting in its offices and 80,000-square-foot warehouse. For financial services firm Asset Planning being green means that its employees volunteer to clean up a nearby stream.

These actions all benefit the business themselves, and they keep East Tennessee a place where we are proud to do business and call home. I hope you’ll check out and watch for the launch in January of the 2014 GoGreenET Business Recognition program.

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Copyright 2013 by Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission
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