Green Cash, Justice: Energy efficiency good for profits, people

Danielle Drake-Flam/ For the Gazette Above: Bob Chapman, executive director of Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, gave local businesses a presentation Monday on energy effeciency and reducing energy usage at the Great Lakes Research Center.

HOUGHTON — Going green is good for business and promotes justice, local business owners learned at a Monday seminar on energy efficiency.

At Michigan Technological University’s Great Lakes Research Center, Bob Chapman, executive director of Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, discussed ways in which small business owners can smartly invest in energy efficiency and take steps to reduce energy usage.

Chapman opened up the panel by discussing the reasoning behind energy efficiency investment, explaining there needs to be not just a change in light bulbs but a change of heart for all.

“There’s a big justice issue here,” Chapman said, “The simplest way I’ve seen it put is the people (who) are the least responsible for the problem are the ones that are going to be the most hard-hit by the problem. Somehow, that doesn’t seem right.”

For the entreprenuers who were not convinced that increasing energy efficiency could increase their profit, Chapman used example models such as Patagonia, Tom’s and the Whole Foods Market to demonstrate his point that many big businesses that have made it a priority to go green and even went as far as to label themselves as “green companies” have actually outperformed their competitors.

Danielle Drake-Flam/ For the Gazette More than a dozen local small-business owners attended and were informed how going green is good for their bottom line and promotes environmental justice.

Chapman explained the steps that business owners can take to become more climate aware in seven short bullet points which included tracking energy use and getting specialized help if needed.

He closed out the event by providing business owners with several long-term financing companies that are designed to help businesses finance for energy improvements.

Being a business owner himself, Chapman admitted to getting caught up with the daily trials and tribulations of shipping, accounting and payroll, which distract from issues like climate change and energy efficiency. However, he urged audience members to make them a priority.

“As someone who has been a small-business owner, I know, there’s a lot of things that are coming at you all the time,” Chapman said, “So, if this is seen as one more thing…the idea of being green cannot be one more thing; it’s got to somehow be woven into the way we do business.”

The audience included more than a dozen local business owners, including David Camps, owner of Blue Terra Energy. Camps said he was there because he wanted to continue forming connections with local business owners as well as learn how his business can help reduce climate change.

“I was just interested in seeing what was going to be presented here,” he said. “I own Blue Terra Energy, and we are just out there slamming the solar and LED lights, and so I wanted to see what was going on…so I can stay in touch with the needs of the community and local businesses.

“Our planet is in trouble. There’s a lot of science supporting that, and it’s coming on faster now.”

The event was sponsored by the Keweenaw Climate Community, the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce and the Keweenaw Young Professionals with the intent of encouraging local action against climate change.