The latest Battle in Seattle isn’t being waged by protestors in the streets. Instead, local officials have set a lofty goal for fighting the effects of climate change. In 2010, the Seattle City Council designated achieving carbon neutrality as a top priority. Business owners are leading the way, because cutting waste — whether it’s water, energy, packaging, or even food — makes economic sense.
“We’re an active member of the Seattle Climate Partnership, as are hundreds of businesses in Seattle,” says Bob Donegan (pictured), president and CEO of Ivar’s, which operates a total of 69 venues including seafood bars, restaurants, and stadium concessions. “Our first goal is to find out what our carbon footprint is and reduce it,” says Donegan. “Ivar’s conducted its carbon footprint evaluation from June 2007 to May 2008 and the company’s footprint at that time was 1,629 metric tons of CO2e annually, or 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per employee. Ivar’s hasn’t conducted a new evaluation, however it plans to do so in 2012,” says Donegan. “[Reducing] CO2e doesn’t penalize our flavor or our costs.”
Donegan predicts concern over climate change will migrate towards the nation’s heartland. “Inspect what you expect,” Donegan says, and that action will raise awareness in people and their behavior will change. “Set up green bins in restaurant kitchens to capture the waste. Immediately, you start thinking about it in a different way. With a broad group of consumers in Seattle, people understand that. They bike to work. Everybody — an overwhelming percentage of the market understands carbon footprint — how it’s calculated, and how you measure it.” (Click here for a carbon footprint calculator to try out yourself.)
Examples of the city’s commitment to green practices abound. Like Ivar’s, other businesses have implemented similar waste-reduction measures in Seattle, where local laws also restrict the use of non-compostable restaurant food packaging. For example, Swedish Medical Center realized double-digit reductions in discarded food waste, using a food-waste tracking system developed by LeanPath, a Portland, Ore.,-based firm that helps managers spot overproduction.
Unico Properties, a real estate company that oversees 15 million square feet of commercial property in Seattle, won the BetterBricks Award in 2011 for the firm’s energy-reduction accomplishments. The company earned LEED certifications for more than 40 percent of the eligible buildings within its portfolio. Sellen Construction achieved a 90-percent-plus rate of sustainability certification on the firm’s construction projects, diverting 95.3 percent of the company’s construction waste from landfill.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Climate Protection Initiative, launched by Mayor Greg Nickels in 2005, pledges that the city will meet Kyoto Protocol targets for the U.S., while simultaneously investing in a green economy. Boeing’s 747-8 Freighter, built in Everett, Wash., 30 miles north of Seattle, flew its inaugural flight to the Paris Air Show in June, powered by 15 percent biofuel. The 2030 District, a joint private/public alliance, is yet another climate-protection effort underway in Seattle. The ad-hoc group of utility companies, engineers, design firms, and property owners and managers intends to help Seattle firms reach the 2030 Challenge to the construction industry to meet a fossil-fuel reduction target of carbon neutrality by 2030.