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Saving the Environment Is Big Part of These Business Plans

Local business owners described the greening of their own operations — and how other companies can follow suit — at the recent Bright Green Future Conference, which was held at UC San Diego.

Of the 50 speakers and panelists at the Nov. 5- 6 program sponsored by San Diego EarthWorks, about a half dozen are members of the year-old Green Chamber of San Diego County, an organization which launched less than a year ago and now counts 160 members.

“Several were chosen to discuss the tools needed for businesses, government officials and others to implement green initiatives the next day, next month and next year,” said Dave Steel chief executive officer of the Green Chamber, one of four in the U.S.

“Many are mainstream businesses that have established enterprises — or reformatted their operations — to be more Earth-friendly,” said Steel, referring to San Diego companies such as EcoPackStore and Spirit Graphics & Printing Inc., whose owners were at the event.

Conference Themes

Major themes at the conference included green building techniques; waste reduction; starting a green business; green job training at local community colleges; and transportation innovations — such as electric vehicles. More than 50 speakers were on the conference panels at UCSD’s Hahn University Center.

One was Sidnee Chong, founder and owner of EcoPackStore, who said speaking at the conference was not only a way to increase her company’s profile to a sympathetic audience, but also an avenue to express her passion for the business, which she formed 18 months ago with backing from family and friends.

Previously, Chong worked as an international account manager for the Asia-Pacific region at Evertek Computer Corp. “I saw too much packing and shipping material being dumped on water and land overseas,” said Chong, who decided that she could find a better and less wasteful solution in an environment that would share her vision: San Diego.

Sending a Message

EcoPackStore sells nontoxic packing tape in various sizes, from a few rolls to cases. It also sells biodegradable packing peanuts made from wheat, and compostable tableware. Chong said the products are priced competitively to make it easy for customers to improve their shipping operations.

Chong said maquiladoras, export assembly plants operating near the U.S.-Mexico border, and several schools in the Los Angles area are avid buyers of the eco-friendly tape, which she calls the company’s “bread and butter” and which she buys from various manufacturers.

She said the business is even reaching out to UPS and FedEx to let the big shippers know they can refer clients to the EcoPackStore if they that want to use green packaging.

“We actually ship materials across the country now,” said Chong, referring to how the business is branching out from San Diego, and hopes to turn a profit for its investors by its third year.

Living a green lifestyle — or going green at work — can begin in small, easy-to-manage ways, said Steel, who also runs his own business called SmarterLight.com, an e-commerce business which sells light-emitting diode products for the holiday and home lighting markets.

Recycling is a huge, obvious place to begin environmentally friendly initiatives at work, as well as encouraging car pooling and undertaking energy audits, said Steel.

Improving Communication

As corporations and government agencies across the world move to green their operations, focus is also being drawn to the way they communicate, especially with printed materials.

Helping lead the charge on this front locally is Thomas Ackerman, a Green Chamber member, and fourth-generation San Diego printer, who said his business is looking at all the ways to help businesses “clean up” this process, starting with his own footprint.

A panelist at Bright Green Future, Ackerman touted his Chula Vista company’s journey from a heavy user of toxic chemicals and water to a process that is chemical- and nearly water-free printing

As an owner of a sustainable business, Ackerman said he had to look at all areas of his operations, starting with the physical plant. The investment getting to an eco-friendly point was substantial, but it strategically positions the company for the future.

Steel said Ackerman is “by far the greenest printer on the planet,” as evidenced by the processes and products he uses and the certifications his company has obtained from organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council

As for the chamber, Steel said any business owner wanting to make moves toward sustainability can be a member.

The Green Chamber’s next event is at the Hotel Solamar on Nov. 18. More information can be obtained at greenchambersd.org.

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