Companies work to build a better business environment

08/11/2011 1:20 PM

08/12/2011 2:44 PM

Roger Scholfield learned he could cut waste in his business over a cup of coffee.

The owner of Scholfield Honda started having quarterly meetings he called "One Thing." He invited employees to bring one thing the car dealership could do to cut waste and be a better steward of the Wichita community.

The discussion started with coffee.

"A lot of sales companies are fueled by caffeine," he said. "What are the receptacles for coffee? Styrofoam -- one of the worst things for the environment. So when we started these 'one thing' meetings, the first thing was 'Boss, what are we going to do with all this Styrofoam?"

Changing to recycled paper coffee cups proved one step in a rethinking of business that's led Scholfield Honda to win two clean air awards from the City of Wichita and spurred the creation of Green Biz Wichita.

Scholfield and Dixie Larson from the accounting firm Kennedy and Coe helped build Green Biz as an alliance of local companies committed to better environmental business practices.

In its second year, the nonprofit, volunteer organization has attracted 85 members, including The Wichita Eagle-Beacon Publishing Co.

Such practices can help Wichita, which ranks last among the nation's largest 55 cities in sustainable environmental policies.

“People and individuals can certainly do a lot of things, but businesses impact the environment a lot more," Scholfield said.

Companies are now even using "going green" to gain competitive advantages.

"Businesses are about a decade ahead of local governments in these areas." said Kay Johnson, environmental initiatives manager for the City of Wichita.

Wichita business are developing policies to guide their decision making on environmental issues, including Spirit AeroSystems, Hawker Beechcraft and Boeing .

Kansas City (.pdf). has such a policy.

Wichita does not. The city is developing a plan, however, through the Visioneering Wichita Environmental Sustainability Alliance.

Larson said Green Biz Wichita found dozens of companies already trying to implement better practices.

"They were just being pretty quiet about it," Larson said. "We decided, why not stop being quiet about it?"

Scholfield said even reducing a company's waste by 12 to 15 percent can have a big impact.

“It’s not a political agenda. You don’t have to be a tree-hugger," Scholfield said. "You don’t have to rebuild green. We’re just trying to give people a simple list of things they can do to help the environment."

It starts by recycling paper, ink cartridges, plastic and bottles.

"All businesses have to do is start paying as much attention to what they send out the door, as to what they bring in," said Sebastian Zahr, Scholfield's alternative fuels manager. "It's really all about looking at the big picture."

Scholfield worked out a deal with Waste Connections to take unsorted recycling, much as the company does with its Recycle Bank curbside home program.

"Except we don't get recycle bank points," Scholfield said with smile.

As a personal incentive, Scholfield also pays his employees' residential recycling bills.

Last year, Scholfield said, his company recycled 7,950 pounds of paper -- the equivalent of 53 trees -- along with 19,623 gallons of oil, 20,842 car batteries and 53,437 pounds of tires.

Most of the motor oil gets reused in the Scholfield service center.

The dealership uses old oil from oil changes in cars to heat its garages in the winter.

The rest goes to Universal Lubricants, a Wichita family-owned business, which puts it through a re-refining process. The recycled oil comes back to the service center, which can put it back into cars, as a "green" option.

Nearly half the customers pick the "Generation Green" oil, Scholfield said. Universal also sells its recycled oil under its ECO Ultra product line.

“When given the choice, a lot of people will choose an environmental product, just because they want to do something good," he said.

It's a choice easily made over a cup of coffee.

Watch our video about recycled motor oil:

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