Nine local businesses complete the necessary steps to earn official Green Core Company status
It may be only March but a noteworthy graduation ceremony takes place next week. On Thursday, March 24, the first group of local businesses that participated in the Green Core Company program will receive official recognition of their efforts to go green. The new program marks a collaboration among the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Onondaga Community College, the Syracuse University Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) group, and the handful of local businesses that made changes to earn sustainability certification.
“I led the development of the certification program here in Central New York after I had seen examples of it in other locations,” says Frank Cetera, a certified business adviser at the SBDC. “And with the movement we have here in Syracuse toward all things green, I thought it would be the right time to have our business community look at the realities of being green and be able to clearly identify what that means.”
Cetera hooked up with the 24 SIFE students after learning about how they had worked with two local businesses two years ago to help with energy upgrades. He was referred to the SU faculty adviser to SIFE, Amanda Nicholson, assistant professor of retail management at SU’s Whitman School of Management, and they started talking. “She was very interested in what I wanted to accomplish, to bring these students into the businesses themselves and help the businesses with the process of the green business assessment.”
That assessment included a checklist the businesses needed to run through before they could be certified. At the same time, the sustainable changes at each of the businesses varied from company to company. “We have students at nine different businesses,” explains Sierra Fogal, an SU senior and president of SIFE. “We go through a matrix which includes really easy things like recycling or printing on double-sided paper to a lot more involved things like changing landscaping supplies. Each business can implement the items as they see fit, but the SIFE students are also checking to make sure the business are truly complying.”
The first group of graduating businesses includes air-quality testing specialist Bluepoint Evironmental, Roji Tea Lounge, Sustainable Office Solutions, the Syracuse Real Food Co-op, Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union (SCFCU), db Design, Syracuse Center for Peace and Social Justice, the Tech Garden and Divine Renewables.
SCFCU assistant treasurer Christina Sauve explains that the credit union’s desire to be more environmentally aware melds nicely with its business model. “It’s something that lines up with the credit union’s stated values of being eco-aware and paying attention to the impact we have on community and future generations,” she says of the process that began last spring. “The students came in and worked on a few different projects like taking the multiple copies of catalogs and flyers we were getting and calling those companies and letting them know we only wanted one electronic version.” During this process the credit union also received a blue ribbon recycler award from the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency.
In addition, staff at the credit union’s 800 N. Salina St. administrative branch have started composting its food waste and taking it to a community garden on nearby Isabella Street; changing printer settings to print double-sided copies; purchasing rechargeable batteries and the recharging kits; and communicating with the cleaning company about wanting it to use environmentally friendly cleaning products. “We also stopped using plastic utensils and throwaway plates at our events,” Sauve notes. “We had a meeting with our partners, and brought all of our own plates and silverware for the food. They were very surprised by that.”
Located in 40 countries and 584 U.S. college campuses, SIFE is one of those programs that gives you hope for the future—this generation of students really gets it. “I heard a quote that we’re the last generation that’s going to have any say over what’s happening to our planet,” says Fogal, who is heading to Rwanda after graduation in May to help with entrepreneurship efforts there. “Do we know if that’s true? No, but it very well could be true. I think it’s great seeing our generation helping the generation above us become sustainable.”
In addition to the front-line changes these students are making inside Syracuse businesses, last year they placed second in a national SIFE competition among those 584 teams. “Part of the process of making sure you’re making as much of a difference as you can is to have this competition,” Fogal explains. “We had to put together a 24-minute, completely scripted, completely memorized presentation about all our projects. We were really excited coming off that second-place finish.”
Further, these efforts aren’t at all pie in the sky. “We received money for the team, a nice trophy, bragging rights, and jobs,” says Fogal, majoring in entrepreneurship and marketing with a public communications minor. “There is a whole network of SIFE companies that hire just SIFE students.” After her year in Africa is over, she has a job waiting for her at Unilever.
Knowing what go-getters these students are, it made sense to Cetera to include them in his greening efforts. “Through the SBDC we offer free and confidential advice and services for businesses,” he says. “We identify or accept businesses that come to us looking to participate in these programs and we decide the best manner to implement their ideas. We refer them to the SIFE students, or SIFE can identify businesses over time as well, initiating the contact with the business.
“It’s a two-way street,” he adds.
“The overall goal of getting a business certified will proceed through a thirdparty coalition that I’m developing and that is coordinated through the SBDC office with the participation of students as volunteer consultants. We help the business and provide realworld experience for the students.”
And now that the pilot Green Core project is nearly complete, Cetera seeks a new group of businesses to go green. “We’ll be doing some more media outreach,” he notes, “as well as relevant community events such as the ESF Green Building Conference, the Center State CEO Business Showcase and this summer’s upcoming Blue Rain Ecofest.”
The Green Core Company graduation ceremony takes place Thursday, March 24, at the Center State CEO Business Showcase inside the Toyota Exhibit Center at the State Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Blvd. For more information on the Green Core Company program or the Small Business Development Center, visit http:// sbdc.sunyocc.edu.
Money where their mouth is: Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union assistant treasurer Christina Sauve reports immediate benefits from adapting sustainable practices inside the business.