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Green Business Alliance helps businesses contribute to a more sustainable community

About 150 people dropped off their electronics to be recycled rather than throwing them in a landfill during a Jan. 13 event organized by Tucson Clean & Beautiful. (Courtesy Local First Arizona)

Editor’s note: Updated 6.28.20 to reflect additional businesses signed up for the certification program and to add the Pima Association of Governments as a supporter.

Local First Arizona has been a champion of sustainability in Southern Arizona for many years. The organization recently created further opportunities for positive change in the community by forming the Southern Arizona Green Business Alliance.

LFA created the alliance to help regional businesses find programs and resources that can assist them with their sustainability strategies. “It made sense for the community to sort of have an umbrella to put all the programs into one place,” says Claire Kaufman, Local First Arizona’s Southern Arizona sustainability  program manager.

The alliance consists of three main programs.

The entry-level program, offered to both local and non-local businesses, is a certification program for those looking to make their businesses more sustainable. The second program is SCALE UP, which LFA created in 2018. It provides a seven-week workshop course in sustainability for local businesses (see www.azjewishpost.com/2018/lfa-helps-local-businesses-save-money-energy). The last program is the Tucson 2030 District, which is for building owners in Southern Arizona who want to commit to a 50% reduction in energy, water, or transportation emissions.

So far, 20 businesses have signed up for the certification program and 13 are fully enrolled. The enrolled businesses are Delectables Catering; For the World; Literacy Connects; House Trevethan, LLC.; Tucson Clean & Beautiful; Frozen Delight; Boxhill & Co., LLC; Westgate Garden Design; Western Sky Communications; Locals Only LLC;  Sonoran Oasis Landscaping; Iskashitaa Refugee Network; and BICAS. By becoming a part of the alliance these local businesses have made a commitment to a greener Tucson.

“I think it will help us be more thoughtful in both our business and our personal lives,” says Katie Gannon, executive director of Tucson Clean & Beautiful. “Just to be conscious about what our footprint is and how we’re impacting the planet and the community.”

Tucson Clean & Beautiful is a non-profit community platform for environmental businesses. It has promoted sustainability for a long time, and staff are excited to see where the alliance will go. Especially in this time of COVID-19, Tucson Clean & Beautiful is looking to create a safer Tucson.

“We’re looking at reusable portable hand washing stations that we’re making ourselves,” Gannon says.

Donna-Maria DiFiore is another business leader with a longtime focus on sustainability. DiFiore, owner and operator of Delectables Catering and Venue, has worked with Local First in the past and was thrilled when this opportunity was presented.

“The programs that Local First produces are always spot on and hit the local target on all points,” DiFiore says. “Their sustainability programs benefit our businesses and our Tucson community.”

Like most in the alliance, DiFiore has not been able to get started on the certificate checklist items due to only recently becoming a member, but her company implemented many sustainable practices long ago.

DiFiore composts most of her waste. All coffee grounds, tea leaves, and egg shells are added to compost for landscaping, and vegetable scraps are collected as food for local pigs. Her business also has low-flush toilets installed, a timer for the exterior lights to turn off, and water harvesting buckets for her lawn among other ecologically minded practices.

Despite all the work she has already done, she is looking forward to learning even more from the alliance and seeing its impact on the community.

Other supporters of the alliance include the Office of Mayor Regina Romero, Tucson Water, Tucson Electric Power, City of Tucson Environmental Services, Pima Association of Governments, and the Tucson Department of Transportation.

“I think it’s really positive to know that these big utilities in the most populated city in Southern Arizona are really supportive of this program,” Kaufman says. “We’re making sure that throughout the program, all of those entities have different initiatives to help businesses be more sustainable.”

Tucson Water hopes this partnership will aid in spreading the word about its incentives to help businesses increase water efficiency and save money. It offers three specific rebates to its commercial customers: rainwater harvesting, commercial toilet rebates, and urinal rebates.

Tucson Water Public Information Specialist Fernando Molina says participating in these rebates can earn businesses points toward the alliance certification. “We offer all the different rebates that are available as well as water audits so that businesses can better understand how they’re using their water and perhaps identify where they can make improvements,” he says.

Molina  also commented that Mayor Romero has been eager to provide more sustainability resources for businesses. This alliance is a step toward that goal.

Romero wants the alliance to not only benefit the economy and environment, but also highlight the community’s commitment to “being a world class destination to live, work, and thrive,” she says.

“I think with our mayor getting behind it, it’s going to be really exciting to see how she promotes it so that the community gets on board,” DiFiore says.

Romero will definitely motivate local businesses to consider the alliance, says Kaufman, but she believes the community will begin to motivate itself.

According to Kaufman, larger out of state businesses don’t have that personal connection to the environment that most local businesses do. “Local businesses generally really care about their community,” she says. “Owners are sending their kids to these schools, they breathe the air, they drink the water. They live here.”

Sofia Moraga is a journalism student at the University of Arizona.