Greening Main Street Businesses

From eco-Andersonville in Chicago to "H Street Grows Green" in Washington, D.C., more and more Main Street districts are finding value in sustainability. Find out how going green can benefit your commercial district economically, socially, and environmentally.

eco-Andersonville: Green Business Certification

Andersonville retailers offer special discounts to customers who purchase and use the eco-friendly Andersonville tote bag when they shop.

Credit: Linda S. Glisson

Adapted from article by Andrea L. Dono in the April 2009 issue Main Street News.

Only a 20-minute cab ride from downtown Chicago, the Andersonville neighborhood feels like a small town worlds away from the Windy City's skyscrapers. The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and the Andersonville Development Corporation (ADC) have spent years successfully positioning the commercial district as a haven for independent businesses. Now the neighborhood is adding environmental sustainability to its economic development strategy.

With help from area universities, residents, and business and property owners, ADC decided that creating a green certification program for small local businesses would be an innovative way to promote sustainability in Andersonville.

"The eco-Andersonville Sustainable Business Certification Program, which officially goes public on Earth Day, April 22, will provide business owners with resources, incentives, and technical assistance to help them adopt sustainable business practices and let their customers know they care about the planet," says ADC Program Manager Sara Dinges.

The Sustainable Business Certification Program will also offer accountability, since completing a certification program means a business has adopted certain green practices. "Certification both has weight with the public and guarantees real environmental impact," says Dinges. It also gives ADC the ability to track data and record the progress local businesses are making in meeting sustainability goals.

Through this sustainability initiative, certification will be awarded for achievements in three areas:

  • People: by creating a sustainable workplace and giving back to the community;
  • Planet: by reducing usage of energy, water, and hazardous materials; maximizing recycling and reducing waste; and improving air quality; and
  • Prosperity: by adopting best practices for business visibility, and accounting for the welfare of the planet in products sold and purchased.
Andersonville?s Urbanest focuses on products that promote green living, such as furniture crafted from reclaimed wood pieces and sustainable bamboo, organic cotton bedding, and soy candles.

Credit: Linda S. Glisson

Andersonville businesses interested in certification must complete an application and pay a $30 fee. The application identifies their readiness for the program and collects baseline data. Each applicant is also asked to set one sustainability goal, such as "to re-evaluate supply purchasing and shift 5 percent of inventory to environmentally friendly products."

"We hope that this program will create an exchange of information among business owners," says Dinges. "We look to them as our teachers. They are the ones who are doing all the work to become more energy efficient, less wasteful, and more sustainable. We want to see what works for them and then act as a conduit of resources for other business owners who want to take similar actions."

Once certified, businesses will be given a window decal, permission to use the eco-Andersonville logo, a listing on the Andersonville website and in its neighborhood guide, and materials for distribution to the public. At the time of certification and Main Street News Cover - 2009/04throughout the year, ADC will promote its local sustainable businesses and market the community. It also plans to use the local chamber of commerce's social media tools such as Twitter, Flickr, blog, and Facebook to promote the program and the businesses.

To read more about eco-Andersonville and other sustainability initiatives and practices, look for the upcoming issue of Main Street News.

H Street Grows Green

The H Street Main Street program in Washington, D.C., is just beginning to go green. To launch its new H Street Green Initiative, the program is hosting a cocktail reception on April 22 to bring together local business owners as well as the Main Street program's partners, DC Greenworks, a local nonprofit that provides training and resources for connecting the economy with ecology, and Green Living Consulting, which helps businesses and households adopt eco-practices.

This networking event will discuss ways to "green" the community and will announce a grant from the Deputy Mayor's Office for Planning and Economic Development to build green roofs for business owners in the corridor while training local youth. What's more, the commercial district will also participate in the Mayor's Green Summer Job Corps program, which has pay for local youth to build environmental art installations along the H Street N.E. corridor this summer.

To give business owners an opportunity to shape this initiative, a district-wide survey will soon be distributed to gauge their interest and need for going green and capture ways businesses are already practicing sustainability.

"We are very excited by all the interest we have already received for this initiative," says Anwar Saleem, executive director of H Street Main Street.  "And we hope that 'H Street Grows Green' will lead to sustainable redevelopment of this diverse neighborhood and its emergence once again as a vibrant and vital economic community, as well as one of the greenest in the country."

The goal of these programs is to help the H Street business community realize the increased benefits of being an environmentally sustainable as well as a vibrant and economically successful Main Street commercial district.