From sunlight to styrofoam, Columbia businesses share sustainability tips

To become more efficient and eco-friendly, the first thing businesses should do is look at their operations and see where they can reduce waste and energy expenditures. This was the main message from businesses at the Green Business Get-together event organized by Logboat Brewing and the Columbia Office of Sustainability.

The event, held June 6 Logboat’s brewery near downtown Columbia, featured recipients of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement Awards or businesses that helped companies win those awards.

One of the awards sat at the booth of the Simon Oswald Architecture. The Columbia-based firm helps businesses design facilities in order to reduce their costs. For example, planning the orientation of a building can cause its direct sun exposure to be less, reducing the amount of energy required to cool the building. In another case, just reducing the size of a facility may significantly lower the cost.

“For example, for Columbia Public Schools’ administration building, we looked at how their meetings are scheduled, so we could actually build fewer conference rooms for them than they thought they needed to use the building,” said Nick Borgmeyer, a project manager at Simon Oswald.

The company redesigned its own building and was able to reduce costs to sustain the facility from $3.28 per square foot to $1.09, Borgmeyer said.

By contrast, another business at the event, Columbia’s Hair Therapy salon, pays a premium to stay eco-friendly. A few years ago, the salon formed a partnership with Green Circle Salons, a company addressing waste in the styling industry, to deal with hair clips and color tubes, among other materials.

“We’re able to send these off to them, and they can process them, and they repurpose them either into, like, countertops or just different things that can be recycled or repurposed,” said Jim Olson, marketing director of Hair Therapy. “We send off all our styrofoam, packing peanuts, gas station cups, all the styrofoam that normally gets thrown away.”

The company pays $250 to get its waste recycled. Meanwhile, the salon tries to save money by reducing the use of water: all shower heads have efficient nozzles, which increase the pressure without utilizing more water.

Logboat, one of the organizers of the event, also tries to save money by reducing the water it uses. The water used to cool down one beer tank gets recirculated to cool another one. The company also tries to reduce waste by recycling everything possible.

“All of our packaging materials are 100% recyclables,” Logboat CEO Tyson Hunt said. “We are using cleaners in our in the tap room that are biodegradable, basically good for the environment to go into the waste stream. We stopped using plastic straws.”

In addition, solar tubes at Logboat’s facility take sunlight and magnify it to reflect it down into the facility for illumination. Inside the taproom at Logboat, everything wooden in the bar is made from reclaimed timber. The next step for the company will be installing solar panels.

“There is an upfront cost, but the city … has good rebates, and there’s a federal tax credit as well,” said Dan Shifley, the owner of Dogwood Solar. “Typically, what we’re seeing is when you account for the upfront costs, minus the rebates or tax breaks you get back, you’re actually paying a lower cost per kilowatt hour than you are now through the utility.”

There may be other ways for the city to help businesses that want to be green.

“Our municipal electric utility offers free assessments for businesses to think about reducing their energy intensity, and they also offer rebates and loans,” said Barbara Buffaloe, Columbia’s sustainability manager.

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