Wendy Mclellan, The Province, Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Small businesses can make big changes to B.C.’s environmental performance by considering their own carbon footprint and how to reduce it.

 "Small businesses are the backbone of B.C.’s economy and any climate-change solution has to involve them in a meaningful way," said Ian Gill, president of Ecotrust Canada.

"Small businesses are absolutely essential to B.C. meeting its target for greenhouse-gas emissions."

After participating in a pilot project developed by Ecotrust Canada and the Pembina Institute, a group of 10 local firms have committed to cutting or offsetting greenhouse-gas emissions by 999 tonnes next year — the equivalent of removing 360 cars from the streets, Gill said yesterday.

The project was so successful, Gill said the non-profit organization and its partners will offer at least five more Carbon Neutral Workgroups next year to help small businesses calculate their carbon footprints and determine how to shrink or offset them.

"These are practical solutions to a real problem," Gill said. "A lot are doing small things that are big in aggregate."

Small Potatoes Urban Delivery, a Vancouver-based online grocery, has committed to cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions by 10 per cent with measures such as reducing vehicle idling, reorganizing delivery routes and initiating a power-saving program in its offices. The firm, which wants to be carbon neutral next year, will also buy carbon credits and change its invoices so customers can see how much they pay to offset the impact of their own purchases.

"Our ultimate goal is to be the most socially responsible grocery delivery company in North America, but right now we need local solutions for global warming," said SPUD president David Van Seters.

"I don’t think the average consumer thinks about their footprint from driving to the grocery store."

He said the pilot project helped the company consider the business case for making changes to reduce its environmental impact, such as the value weekly checks of the tire pressure on delivery trucks to save fuel.

And altering delivery routes to avoid traffic congestion saves the environment as well as time and money.

For the 10 businesses involved in the pilot project, transportation was responsible for most of their carbon footprint, at about 67 per cent, followed by electricity at 17 per cent and 11 per cent from heating.

Strategies to reduce their footprint include switching to energy-efficient lighting; cutting paper consumption; investing in energy-saving technologies and reorganizing logistics to save time and energy.

wmclellan@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Province 2007