Local First Arizona launches green certification to encourage sustainability in local businesses

Local First Arizona has a new environmental certification to encourage sustainability among local businesses in the state.

The Local First Arizona (LFA) Green Business Program is a certification for locally-owned businesses of all sizes that want to reduce their impact on the environment.

“The Green Business Program is the result of our work to better understand the successes, challenges and opportunities that local businesses have with incorporating sustainability into their operations,” said Helene Tack, director of sustainability initiatives at LFA.

Businesses wishing to participate must answer a checklist of questions focused on waste diversion, energy consumption, water conservation, pollution prevention, wastewater management, transportation emissions and creating a sustainability culture in the workplace, according to LFA.

The checklist is followed by an in-person visit from someone at LFA who will evaluate the work site for sustainability measures and create a report based on their findings. After that, LFA works with each individual business to develop a custom sustainability plan, and the organization also provides hands-on assistance to help participants achieve their goals.

“For businesses just starting to work on sustainability, it is often hard to know where to start, and without the staff or resources to get their programs running it can be overwhelming,” Tack said. “This program allows us to develop a plan for each business and assist them in implementing practices that can lessen their environmental impact while lowering their bottom line.”

According to LFA, research is done on costs, potential savings and rebates, how to engage staff and communicate actions with stakeholders.

Once businesses reach a designated number of measures, they are certified and added to the online directory and mobile app, “making it easier for conscious consumers to find them,” according to LFA.

The other goal of the initiative is to acknowledge local businesses that are already making great strides toward being more sustainable.

“We also see many independent businesses that are excelling at sustainability, and this program provides an opportunity to shine the spotlight on them,” Tack said.

Businesses that already completed the pilot program have made a number of positive sustainable changes, including installing water saving devices, starting new programs to encourage sourcing foods locally, diverting waste, working on alternative transportation and creating written policies for sustainable practices.

“Our participation in the Local First Arizona Green Business Certification Program has been an eye-opening and educational process,” said Tracy Dempsey, owner of Tracy Dempsey Originals.

Dempsey’s confectionary shop on University Drive in Tempe sells unique, homemade candies, baked goods and desserts to local customers and restaurants across the Valley. The shop co-locates with ODV Wines, a locally-owned vendor of Arizona wines.

“While we have always made an effort to recycle, reduce waste, monitor our water and power use, it has been so helpful having another set of educated eyes to take us through the steps of putting even better practices into place,” Dempsey said. “The Local First team makes it so easy to participate by connecting us with other parties involved in the program and providing information to help us improve our effort.

“We believe businesses and business owners need to evaluate their environmental impact and can be leaders in educating their employees, fellow business owners and customers in ways to do so.”

The Arizona Green Business Program is open to independently-owned office, retail and restaurant businesses in Tempe and Phoenix. LFA plans to add more business categories and cities in the future.

Funding for the program is provided by the City of Tempe Innovation Fund and the City of Phoenix Reimagine Phoenix initiative.

For more information, business owners can visit LocalFirstAZ.com.

Graham Bosch

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