Published: Monday, November 17, 2014 at 5:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 14, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.
Use this light bulb. You can’t build there. Start separating your trash. That useful chemical is now banned.
By now, companies are used to dicta from government regulators and eco-activists that restrict when, where and how they can operate their businesses. For some, the burden of complying with environmental rules becomes a burden that they can’t economically bear. Others have challenged regulations that they say are overcautious or based on bad science.
But many businesses in Volusia and Flagler counties are starting to see the other side of the equation — the benefits of going “green” of their own volition, adopting changes that aren’t required by law. And they often find that making changes to benefit Mother Earth has an equally salutary impact on their bottom line.
The movement is spreading across Volusia and Flagler counties. Edgewater residents can now get pastries with a side of environmental friendliness at the city’s new Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, one of only three Dunkins in the nation to carry certification from the U.S. Green Building Council as a “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” building. Most local LEED-certified buildings are owned by governments, but Kohl’s in Port Orange and Palm Coast are among local businesses with the certification. The Daytona Beach Kennel Club won gold LEED certification for, among other things, using low-emissions paint, adhesives and sealants and using water-efficient landscaping, according to the building council’s website. And even older buildings have been upgraded to meet LEED standards: Gibbs Plaza on Woodland Boulevard in DeLand got its LEED credential for improvements including increased energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy sources and retrofitted plumbing, the council says.
Other changes go to the heart of a business’s function. Hudson Technologies in Ormond Beach spent $2 million to upgrade its use of chemicals, eliminating solvents only recently proven to contaminate groundwater and threaten human health — well in advance of any regulation. NASCAR requires drivers to use fuel that is at least 15 percent ethanol. AVEO Engineering, a Czech company that contracted earlier this year to build a hangar and aircraft-lighting manufacturing facility at the Flagler County Airport, is going green from the ground up, including charging stations for electric vehicles, solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system.
Companies are investing in this technology as a point of pride. But in some cases, business owners say the more environmentally sensitive option also makes financial sense. Increased energy efficiency, for example, can lead to lower power bills. Reclaiming water can cut utility costs. Even a simple and seemingly small thing — like mandating that employees use both sides of paper when printing, or going paperless altogether by switching to tablets and other portable devices, can save significant cash.
Then there are the undefinable benefits — the increased loyalty employees feel when their bosses take eco-friendly measures, and the local goodwill created when a corporation takes steps, on its own, to improve the environment for its customers and itself.
That good karma — the simple recognition that businesses are essential members of their communities, and are taking responsibility for making that community a better place to live — may produce the kinds of results that heavy-handed regulation could never achieve.