The Haywood County Chamber of Commerce’s Green Initiative is one of those projects that is good on many different levels, not the least of which is the admirable goal of reducing the impact the business community has on the environment.
The Green Initiative, which is being headed by Haywood Community College President Dr. Rose Johnson, is aimed at establishing a methodology by which businesses can earn a “green designation” from the chamber of commerce. A chamber committee has been working for months to set up the criteria, and the categories include recycling, water and energy.
Those businesses that earn this designation will benefit in many ways. Aside from doing what is right, it is likely that many potential customers will appreciate their efforts and choose to do business with them. As this program is formalized, more businesses will likely follow suit and try to earn the designation. That’s a direct benefit that makes the investment to attain the green designation worthwhile from a business perspective.
The fact that the chamber of commerce has put in the time and effort to set up the Green Initiative speaks well of the organization. In too many cases those in the business community pit profit and sustainability efforts against one another. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the opposite is true. Companies that save energy and cut waste make more money, and though it’s impossible to have zero impact, it is a worthwhile effort.
This initiative is one component of a critical mass of sustainability efforts currently being implemented in Haywood County. These include:
• The county Economic Development Commission is formalizing a list of tax incentives for green energy companies to entice them to open shop in the county. The catalyst for that effort was the request for a tax break by a huge solar farm being built near Canton, a project that will be among the largest of its kind in the Southeast once completed.
• Haywood Community College and Dr. Rose Johnson are taking steps to make that institution a center for environmental learning. Staff members are working to implement course offerings that infuse the college’s forestry, wildlife, construction, nursery and other programs with cutting edge sustainability courses and practices. In addition, the college is working to make itself a leader in all these resource-saving areas.
• And Stephen King, the county’s solid waste director, has been a part of the Green Initiative and is a champion of recycling efforts. He has brought great ideas that have helped the county recycling program and is also working to tap the methane at the county’s landfill and harness it for energy use.
There will be intangible benefits for Haywood County for being at the forefront of the green movement. Some areas in the Northeast and out West may be further along, but Haywood County and others in this region are staking a claim as a leader in the Southeast. That is good for quality of life and for businesses.
The chamber’s Green Initiative taps into a truth that’s very important for those of us living in this region. The forests, streams and air are what make this place special, what give the mountains their special, almost spiritual appeal.
“Natural resources are part of the beauty of where we live. That’s why people come here,” said Laura Leatherwood, director of Community and Economic Development at HCC and a participant in the Green Initiative. “We want people to live it personally but we need our business community to live it as well in their practices as they do business throughout the day.”