Wilton Businesses can Earn “Green Business Designation”

Wilton can arguably be called one of the greenest towns in the state:  our town government’s commitment to open spaces; our community’s leadership role on the Norwalk River Valley Trail effort; the activities of Wilton Go Green (especially its annual Wilton Go Green Festival) and more are all markers of true commitment to the environment.

Now there’s another effort afoot that WGG is launching to help attain its goal of making Wilton the most environmentally sustainable town in CT. It has instituted a “Wilton Green Business Designation” for companies, businesses and organizations that demonstrate leadership in sustainable practices.

It’s one of the first initiatives that WGG’s new president, Peg Koellmer of Realty Seven, is rolling out.

WGG came up with about four dozen “sustainable practices,” or steps that business can take to make them more environmental. They split the actions into five categories–education, water, indoor environment, transportation and energy. By completing a certain number of actions in each of the categories, businesses can earn either a “Green” status or a “Platinum” status.

Koellmer acknowledges that some of the actions that involve changes to physical space may be harder for business owners who rent, so WGG worked hard at making sure the steps businesses could take were realistic.

“For the most part, when people don’t own their physical facility, it’s not like you can spend a lot of money or do things without permission of the landlord. So it had to be things that are actually doable for business owners.”

They also have started modestly:  to earn “Green” recognition, a business needs to complete 12 sustainable actions; for “platinum” it’s 20. It’s also a program that operates on the honor system; businesses simply check off which steps they’ve pledged to take in order to earn the designation. By doing so they get a certificate and a door decal to display publicly, “to show the public, clients and employees that they are committed to the practice of good earth stewardship,” according to WGG materials.

Koellmer says, many of the steps are easy to implement–it’s likely that many are things the businesses are already doing.  Even in her own business, Koellmer is making sure these practices are the norm, and she hopes that other businesses in town will find steps they can do.

“We made it so it’s doable. There’s nothing that’s not doable. I used my own business as a barometer, asking [about the action steps], ‘Is this something I would be able to do?'”

Koellmer has been a long-time, active member of the community in Wilton. Not only does she own Realty Seven, and has worked as a realtor for 26 years, but she’s also a former president of the Wilton Chamber of Commerce. She serves on the Wilton Social Services Commission and the board of the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and was president of the Trackside Teen Center board as well.

She helped launch the program at last night’s “After Hours” networking event that the Wilton Chamber of Commerce hosts regularly. They held the gathering at Naked Greens, whose healthy fare and active recycling program made it a good fit for the launch.

One of the things WGG is hopeful about is that as businesses take those small steps, the larger steps won’t feel as out-of-reach or unattainable.

“If you can do some of these things that seem relatively simple–for instance, having glass mugs instead of paper cups in an office–every time you pick up that glass mug, you’ll be reminded and aware,” Koellmer explains.

Some of the actions on the WGG checklist include:

  • Plan a strategy for the green initiatives you want to implement.
  • Repair all drips and leaks.
  • Post signs in restrooms and kitchens encouraging water conservation by turning off water between tasks.
  • Use low- or no-VOC paints.
  • Use recycled paper and/or paper goods.
  • Actively promote customers bringing their own bags.
  • Offer safe and secure bicycle parking areas for employees, customers and other visitors.
  • Use conference calls and video conferencing instead of travel, when possible.
  • Install LED EXIT signs.
  • Install programmable thermostats.
  • Match your company’s electricity use with 100-percent renewable energy:  cleanpowerperks.com/business/local/

Pictured above, L to R: Kevin Vallerie, Janeen Leppert, Patrick Russo, Peg Koellmer, Jerry Goodwin, Jana Bertkau, Victor Melendez, Dana Gips, Daphne Dixon, Patrice Gillespie.