Seaside works to make better environmental business choices By Christian Wagley
Seaside has always been a pioneering place, with more than 35 years of innovation in creating a lovable and enduring town by the sea. But to stay on the leading edge of town-building, it must continue to adapt to the new demands of an ever-changing world.
Part of that is the reality that in order to have a living planet today and for our children, we must dramatically change our society to one that is restorative rather than merely extractive. That includes how we do business — what we buy, where it comes from, how it is sold, and what it takes to bring it all to market. Consumers are increasingly demanding products that are environmentally better, and businesses must respond in order to remain relevant and profitable.
With a holistic blending of commerce and environment in mind, I’m looking forward to a special opportunity as I work with Seaside merchants and the Seaside Community Development Corp. (SCDC) to create a green business plan to guide retailers and town center maintenance and operation. To get things started, a little while back I spent an exceptional fall week immersed in the operations of Seaside’s retailers and town center, gathering information and interviewing merchants and town staff about their practices related to energy and water use, landscape and common area maintenance, waste and recycling, and more. I was amazed at the high quality of merchants and town staff, all of whom recognize the town’s very special role as a place that so many look to for inspiration.
Every retailer I interviewed is already doing something to improve the environmental performance of their business. Some have made environmental practices a central part of their business, taking strong steps to reduce waste and to source products that are friendlier to the planet, and all offer high quality products that endure — a very green feature. Those maintaining the common areas have also implemented some greener practices in cleaning, maintenance, and landscapes. Yet there are still major areas where improvements can be made, and everyone expressed a strong desire to do more.
A committee of merchants — called Green Ambassadors — was recently formed to create a green business plan. I’ll be working with the ambassadors, homeowners and SCDC staff to provide the technical expertise needed to make the best decisions on practices and products that have the greatest impact.
We will especially look for opportunities where there is synergy, in taking steps that not only improve environmental performance but do additional things such as simplify maintenance. Helping merchants and town operations reduce waste, add more reusable products, conserve energy and water, find environmentally-superior products, and ultimately improve both their environmental and financial bottom line — that’s where we will focus.
Some of the items already discussed include a renewed effort to find comprehensive recycling and waste reduction solutions and the possibility of water fountains/bottle refill stations in common areas. Many more improvements will rise from the work of the Green Ambassadors, which will include developing measurables to chart progress and issuing an annual report to share the improvements.
Seaside enjoys the advantage of being inherently green. As a place built around people rather than speeding cars, travel by foot and bicycle is favored. We know quite well that such places tend to use less energy and water, less land, and cause less pollution of air and water.
This fact means that the work of the Green Ambassadors can happen at a very high level of impact, allowing our favorite little town by the sea to expand its role as a pioneering community that reflects the very best of our intellect, creativity, and care for the larger world.
Christian Wagley is principal of Sustainable Town Concepts, working with communities to improve their environmental performance.