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Lighting Up the Green Issue

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Farley is so right. The excessive indoor lighting all night in virtually empty office buildings in downtown Richmond is just plain crazy. A lot of the exterior lighting is also unnecessary. This is such a simple thing to correct and would have a material impact on energy saving.

David M. Long
Richmond

My consulting group helps to run Virginia Green, the statewide program to promote green practices in the tourism industry. With nearly 1,100 participants statewide, we have been very successful in other regions of the state — but not Richmond.

The main thing that has held us back in this region seems to be the lack of commercial recycling. Virginia Green participants are required to have a comprehensive recycling program in place. Richmond businesses that we approached all complained that it was too difficult to arrange for recycling because the local haulers can’t provide service with the narrow alleys and lack of space.

So in March — spurred by the desire to encourage recycling downtown and throughout the Fan and Carytown, where space constraints were the worst — my group created the Richmond Recycling Cooperative. Its purpose was to broker cooperative deals with local recycling haulers that would enable businesses to recycle. We successfully brokered a deal to provide “cart-based” (i.e., city-trashcan-sized) recycling at a price that would make it cheaper than typical solid waste. It seemed like a no-brainer for us — we weren’t really going to make money off the deal (the plan was always to spin it into a nonprofit), but it would help move the region forward and allow businesses to join Virginia Green.

Fast forward to today: Nearly every business we approach says that it definitely wants to recycle. But most have lots of excuses as to why they can’t get started, and those certainly include the fact that the service isn’t completely free. For the good businesses that we have talked into recycling, there have been plenty of difficulties – most due to a basic lack of commitment to make the operational changes that are necessary to have an effective program.

Bottom line is that I guess we were wrong. We thought that if we made cost-effective, commercial recycling available that Richmond businesses would fully embrace it. We know that they ideally “want” to recycle, but most don’t seem ready to go to any trouble to change the way they operate now. And if Richmond businesses can’t even commit to recycle, I don’t really think they’re ready to embrace sustainability.

Tom Griffin
RVA Green Management Services/Richmond Recycling Cooperative

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