Good for the Environment = Good for Business in Montana

What do a big box-retailer, a coffee house, and an automotive shop in Montana’s beautiful capital city have in common?  The Tri-County Green Business Program.

The Tri-County Green Business Program is an innovative effort that helps local businesses roll up their sleeves and take on energy and water -efficiency projects in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. Aided by a $300,000 EPA Climate Community Showcase grant, the green business program got off the ground just two years ago. Since then, it has taken on a life of its own, providing expertise and grants to area businesses. To date, the program has funded over 150 projects and has certified 13 businesses as green leaders.

The Climate Showcase Communities Program is a great example of our efforts to help real people make a real difference in their community. The program helps local governments work directly with businesses and residents to implement greenhouse gas reduction projects. Today, 50 Climate Showcase Communities across the United States are reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions — and saving money. These include projects related to renewable energy, residential and commercial energy efficiency, waste management, transportation, and land use.

Any business can take steps to be greener; sometimes it just takes a little nudge to help a business owner turn what looks like a good investment on paper into a reality.

In Helena, Kit and Vi Johnson at J4 Automotive on South Lane Avenue now have energy- efficient lights and motion sensors in their auto body shop, and a high-efficiency air compressor powers the tools. Kit and Vi also recycle oil and antifreeze and heat the shop with used oil.

Nord Johnson at Firetower Coffee House now uses 100% recycled content paper products and serves organic coffee in locally fired mugs at his bustling location on Last Chance Gulch Street.

At Blackfoot River Brewing, Brian Smith installed LED lights that have slashed energy use. And the grain leftovers from the beer-making process are now shipped to area livestock owners for feed.

The greening, and the saving, is just beginning. Last year, 45 businesses in Lewis and Clark County conducted energy and water efficiency audits, with several yielding common-sense opportunities for newly installed water heater traps, pipe insulation, and faucet aerators. The result: an annual cost savings of $21,526.

I recently had the opportunity to visit some of these businesses. It always makes me feel good when I walk into businesses and see green options, certifications and products. I know I am doing a good turn for the community and the environment by patronizing these establishments.

I’m proud to see EPA providing a boost to dozens of businesses in Helena. EPA is now supporting five Climate Showcase Community projects in our region. We hope to support many more communities help local businesses be as green as they can be!

Tell us what your business is doing to improve the environment and save money.

Shaun McGrath is the administrator of EPA’s Region 8 office in Denver, where he directs the Agency’s operations in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, and 27 tribal nations. Shaun has extensive experience in both the private and public sectors. He joined EPA from Wheelhouse Associates, where he worked to help local and state governments advance clean energy and environmental goals. Previously, Shaun served on the Boulder City Council, and was elected as mayor of Boulder in 2007. He spent more than a decade working with the Western Governors’ Association, serving as a program director on a number of environmental issues including climate adaptation, water and drought.