Everyone has a conscience.
These complex ethical and moral principals influence the decisions we make every day. As gas prices rise, natural areas disappear, and the economy collapses, the conscience may direct individuals to search for more sustainable methods of survival.
Joe rides his bike to work.
Martha decides to change to energy-saving light bulbs.
Nathan buys local produce during a Saturday market.
As it turns out, businesses are people too.
When this type of conscience transfers to a business’ policies and procedures, the results can benefit an entire region.
In the Columbia River Gorge several companies have taken their own conscious choices and revolutionized their business, creating local superpowers of inspiration for a sustainable future. The Dirt Hugger, Full Sail Brewery, and Wet Planet Whitewater Center have all taken good decision-making to the professional level.
Tyler Miller and Pierce Louis’ consciences told them to quite their jobs.
Following their intuition, these two individuals created Dirt Hugger, a locally-focused organic waste management system. Armed with a passion to reduce the tons of landfill mass, the company offers an environmentally responsible waste alternative for residents and businesses in the Columbia River Gorge.
Where did they get the idea? Taking out the trash.
Tyler and Pierce saw that tons of compostable debris ended up in the trash. They knew there must be a way to create a small scale processing facility and local network of contributors. If possible, the project would reduce more carbon than these two individuals could ever do alone.
“The business was founded on the principle of doing something that actually makes a difference,” claim the boys at Dirt Hugger.
Dirt Hugger also aims to replicate its process and facilities in other areas where a local composting site could benefit the local economy and environment.
Check out their video, summarizing how a simple idea and two motivated people can make a big difference.
Creating finely crafted beer is not uncommon in the Northwest. Brewing in a sustainable way? That’s a little more complicated.
Full Sail Brewery in downtown Hood River, Oregon has turned the art of fermentation into a environmentally sound and locally supported endeavor.
Using materials from the region, Full Sail beers contain 95% Northwest goodness. Waste from the process, in the form of spent grain, returns to the local agriculture cycle as feed for cattle.
Confronted with the increasing cost of energy and the desire to reduce their carbon footprint, the brewery optimizes time spent consuming energy with a condensed four-day work week. That’s one less day on the grid and a whole lot less energy consumed.
Rounding out their sustainable profile, Full Sail has been recognized as a top green business to work for in Oregon state. In 1999 the company divided up ownership, making it entirely employee owned. Pride in these practices shines from every employee’s face, knowing they are working toward preserving the incredible environment and community where they live and work.
Sustainable practices may be making their way into business models, but few companies have the data, experience and commitment to prove it. Wet Planet Whitewater Center, located in White Salmon, Washington, has taken their social and environmental responsibilities to the Sustainable Tourism Eco-certification Program (STEP).
Working with Sustainable Travel International (STI), a global non-profit transforming tourism into a locally stimulating and environmentally preserving industry, the rafting and kayaking outfitter has received the first Eco-Certification in the Columbia River Gorge.
Recognized internationally, the certification requires Wet Planet to provide hard evidence in multiple categories.
Monitoring waste, composting trash, using biodegradable and locally produced supplies, reducing energy and water consumption, and recycling everything possible helps the company reduce their ecological footprint. However, it is their community interaction and locally-minded business relationships that raise them up a bracket on the ladder of sustainability.
Wet Planet has hosted the White Salmon Symposium for the past five years, bringing together community members to raise awareness for the preservation of the Columbia Gorge’s natural resources.
The owners also make working with other local businesses a priority. From buying locally recycled office paper to hiring a graphic designer based in their town, Wet Planet consciously works toward building a strong and healthy economy.
Best of all, Wet Planet aims to reach the masses with their energy-saving and community-building strategies. Every guest at Wet Planet has the opportunity to off-set the energy required to travel to the outfitter by purchasing a Paddle Green tag. The company also hopes to produce information for clients to help implement their own sustainable practices.
Stay tuned for updates on Wet Planet’s eco-endeavors as they continue to refine and strategize new methods.
Businesses with a sustainable conscience are the grand daddy influencers for a bright and prosperous future. As a consumer, your dollar is your voice. Be sure to make conscious decisions when supporting businesses; your purchase may even contribute to a healthier economy and environment.
Susan Hollingsworth writes about business, tourism and adventure in the Columbia River Gorge.