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Spokane businesses consider sustainability startup

Tue., Sept. 21, 2010

‘Think local’ message hits home

A Bellingham network that supports business, community and environmental sustainability has grown to 650 members and a budget of $1 million in seven years, co-founder Michelle Long said Monday in Spokane.

The unemployment rate, traditionally higher in Whatcom County than in Washington as a whole, is now lower, she said. The survival rate for small farms is double the state rate, and business startups are also more likely to succeed.

Long said three of five residents recognize “Think Local, Buy Local, Be Local” business signs, and say they are more likely to shop at those stores. An advertising campaign with those results would be a sensation, she said.

Long is also the executive director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies that encompasses Bellingham’s group, Sustainable Connections, and 79 others in the United States and Canada that collectively have 22,000 members.

She defined “sustainable” as the human consumption of resources at a rate no greater than the rate at which they can be replaced.

Measures include environmental impacts, innovation, business resiliency, livable wages and community contentment.

When Bellingham decided to attain U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certification as a Green Power Community, with at least 2 percent of all energy consumption from renewable resources, the community reached 12 percent in nine months, Long said.

She said change occurs fastest at the local level, where it can be more inclusive.

“We’re like innovators, a petri dish,” Long said.

Following her presentation at a Sustainable Local Investment Partners lunch, a nucleus of small-business owners formed to explore starting a sustainable community effort in Spokane.

Mountain Gear owner Paul Fish said employee Wyeth Larson will attend a training session in Bellingham next month, along with Don Tilton of Ecowell, Tanya Riordan of Hula Hut, Deb Di Bernardo of Roast House Coffee and Bruce Gage of Eco Depot.

Fish said they want to explore ways to make Spokane businesses successful in a way that enhances community sustainability.

“I have not seen that many business people excited in a long time,” he said after Long’s presentation.

Interested business owners can e-mail wlarson@mountaingear.com.



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