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Support sustainability - our future depends on it.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By David Funk and Rusty Rexius For The Register-Guard

Let's talk money. Let's also talk about social well-being and the environment.

Revenues of $126,000 - not bad for the sale of materials no longer of use. That's what Market of Choice made when it sold its discarded cardboard to Weyerhaeuser in 2005. It also diverted about 2,000 tons of waste from the landfill and prevented approximately 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That's what recycling the cardboard did for the environment.

Another business increased its sales by half a million dollars. GloryBee Foods estimates it generated that much through its investment of $50,000 to $100,000 for third-party organic certification.

Local companies in the green building industry pay salaries averaging $42,000 a year.

These are just a few examples of benefits local companies have found through their use of "sustainability" practices.

To help more local firms understand and benefit from this growing field, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, with support of the Eugene City Council, launched the Sustainable Business Initiative in June 2005. Led by a 16-person task force, the purpose of the SBI is to identify, support and propose steps that by 2020 can make Eugene one of the nation's most sustainable midsize communities.

The heart of the SBI strategy is strengthening the economy by supporting local businesses and expanding high-quality jobs that use sustainable measures. Sustainable practices, products and services generate economic, social and environmental advantages that help small and large companies, as well as local governments, respond to the challenges they face and capture competitive advantage.

Some of the challenges originate outside our region. For example, as our understanding expands of the risks associated with global warming, we will be under increasing pressure to reduce our fossil fuel-related greenhouse gas emissions. Risks associated with uncertainties in the supply and affordability of oil continue to grow, as do the challenges posed by increased global competition.

Other challenges are home grown. Our unemployment rate is higher than in other parts of the state. Our median household income is lower. One solution is high-quality job growth applicable to a variety of skill levels.

During the past year, the SBI Task Force has developed recommendations for the Eugene City Council, other public agencies and the local business community. The recommendations will be presented to the City Council on Sept. 25.

The SBI recommendations emphasize the role of the city of Eugene and other local governments in setting bold goals, providing leadership and in building the market for sustainable practices, products and services through their decision-making and purchasing policies.

The recommendations also challenge the private sector and nonprofits to expand the use of sustainability measures and help the public understand the value of sustainable practices.

Examples include:

Ask the city to commit to sustainable practices and to support businesses that produce sustainable products and services by establishing a city office of sustainability and a citizen commission, and adopting bold climate change, zero waste and other goals, plans and partnerships.

Ask businesses or nonprofits to develop plans to help all businesses apply or expand sustainability measures and to educate the public about local companies that use them or produce sustainable goods.

Ask local governments and educational programs to work together to provide education, training, technical assistance, and financing for local businesses and workers interested in sustainability.

These recommendations provide only a starting point for our community's transition toward sustainability. The SBI Task Force asks citizens to learn more about the recommendations and then to encourage your place of work, recreation or worship, as well as your city councilor, to engage in them. We can - and should - build on what we've already begun. Every citizen and the environment will benefit.

David Funk and Rusty Rexius are co-chairmen of the Sustainable Business Initiative. The group's final report and recommendations can be found at www.sustaineugene.com, or obtained at the Eugene city manager's office.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 22, 2006
Words:655
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