Organizations that value human, economic, and natural resources are slowly but surely being recognized as a crucial element in improving society and the environment for current and future generations. Consumers are searching for sustainable organizations and businesses with the preservation of these valuable resources in mind. The Great Allegheny Passage Sustainable Business Network (GAP SBN) is a network of businesses that recognize this growing consumer desire and caters to it by serving as an informational and organizational resource to consumer and business alike.
Launched in late 2009, the GAP SBN is a free and inclusive organization for all businesses in the Great Allegheny Passage Trail Towns. GAP SBN members are making environmental changes in varying degrees; however, these businesses are unified with a common goal: to support the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Being a part of the Sustainable Business Network allows for member businesses to be examples of sustainability for the community. Members are encouraged to post and share practices with customers, as well as each other, to promote an atmosphere of cooperation and encouragement.
Currently there are 17 charter GAP SBN members in 9 towns along the trail from Pennsylvania to Maryland. The SCA Trail Town Outreach Corps (TTOC), the organization managing the GAP SBN, performs a qualitative sustainability assessment for each member to assess the company’s status as a green business. The assessment audits the physical structure of each business as well as the behaviors of the owner and staff. Recommendations for structural and behavioral changes are made by TTOC in the form of a comprehensive Sustainability Assessment Report.
Businesses follow up by completing an Implementation Plan outlining how they will integrate the recommendations in the short- and long-term. A Sustainability Statement must be written by the member, affirming their commitment to gradually implement sustainable changes in their buildings and business model, as well as working cooperatively with fellow members and other area businesses to accomplish larger sustainable goals. The Sustainability Statement helps the business owner by guiding decisions towards the best avenues to becoming more sustainable, and allows TTOC to see how to best aid the business in this endeavor.
GAP SBN members have used this process to strengthen already existing practices and to create new ones at varying levels of sustainability depending on experience, knowledge, and cost; examples include:
• Confluence Cyclery began with sustainability in mind when the owners, Brad and Maureen Smith, renovated a run-down historic building using radiant floor heating, new spray-foam insulation, and a waterless urinal.
• Backyard Gardens owner, Vicki Marietta, sources local produce and products and is always on the lookout for creative re-use ideas to save on cost and reduce waste.
• Savage River Lodge built their business model on sustainability by re-using building materials, designing cabins for energy efficiency, and producing biodiesel to supplement energy usage.
• Hanna House B&B is dedicated to reducing waste by recycling glass and plastic, composting food scraps, and using home-made cleaning supplies.
TTOC coordinates an annual event to bring the businesses together to discuss the common issues and seek solutions as a network. This year on October 27 the GAPSBN charter members will be recognized at a Trail Town Program Work Group meeting in Ohiopyle. Dinner will follow the recognition ceremony.
Those interested in joining the Great Allegheny Passage Sustainable Business Network are encouraged to subscribe to the GAP SBN blog (www.gaptrailsbn.wordpress.com ). The blog updates members on sustainable business tips and pertinent local events; there you can find a list of current members as well as the membership application. We are also on Facebook: “Great Allegheny Passage Sustainable Business Network.”