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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

John Imes: Small Business Saturday and Main Street Green every day


By John Imes
On Main Street, small businesses showcase the very best of communities across Wisconsin. When friends and family visit, they aren't shown the cookie-cutter big-box stores or mega shopping malls, but the traditional business districts with local shops, boutiques and restaurants that are a focal point for retailing and socializing.

Main Street businesses are also increasingly making a commitment to more sustainable business practices to improve our environment and strengthen the region as a whole. "Main Street Green" is a new initiative focused on cultivating, educating and supporting those businesses and commercial districts that will serve as models for more sustainable development.

On Saturday, Nov. 24, Small Business Saturday will be nationally recognized. After people rush to the mega-stores on Black Friday, we shop and show appreciation for the small businesses in our communities. Think Monroe Street, Atwood/Willy, Shorewood Hills, Hilldale Mall, the Regent Street neighborhood, and State Street in Madison, plus small businesses in Monona, Middleton, Mount Horeb, Cross Plains and on main streets all across the state that will bustle on Saturday, and personally, I cannot wait to be a part of that movement.

Traditional environmental improvement unfortunately still relies on "command and control" regulations oriented towards large corporations – A system that's ineffective for engaging small businesses and communities on ways to improve economic and environmental performance

At WEI, we work with Main Street businesses that are ready to move forward with more sustainable operations. These leading "ecopreneurs" are implementing innovative best practices to benefit the community and environment in many ways.

For example, by utilizing the Main Street Green Checklist, a stewardship tool that sets effective, yet achievable goals relating to eight major environmental topics, participating businesses will be able to:

- establish a baseline of their current energy, solid waste, water consumption and stormwater impacts
- pursue energy efficiency goals
- incorporate water-saving strategies
- shift their purchasing practices to more local and environmentally responsible choices
- educate their customers, employees and the public about actions they can take to reduce their environmental impact

Moreover, businesses are encouraged to go above and beyond the minimum to achieve higher point totals for further market distinction and better environmental outcomes.

Main Street businesses, no matter the size of the town, define our culture. As staples of each community, they serve as leaders, whether for responsible business practices, fair prices or customer service. We want these businesses to do well because of their connection to the community and to each of us.

So on this Saturday, please support our Main Street small businesses and make sure you buy local and act local everyday by supporting Main Street Green businesses that have a stronger commitment to improved environmental performance. Spread the word about your experiences. Because with a great environment and economy we can all "do well by doing good."

-- Imes is a small business owner and executive director for WEI, a state-wide nonprofit that develops and promotes programs that are great for the environment and economy. For more on Main Street Green, please visit http://www.weigogreener.org

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