Business Council of Westchester President and CEO Marsha Gordon posed a simple question last week to business leaders throughout the county.
“Who will step outside the box and lead the way?” Gordon asked when introducing the winners of this year’s Westchester Green Business Challenge awards at the organization’s second annual recognition event held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.
Representatives from 200 Westchester businesses were on hand for the May 31 ceremony, which recognized companies that used a multitude of innovative ways to save energy and help the environment. Founded two years ago as a private-public partnership between the county and the business council, the Westchester Green Business Challenge is a friendly competition designed to help all Westchester companies move toward environmental sustainability while saving money.
The leading example of green innovation is C.W. Brown, Inc. of Armonk, which was presented the Charles W. Brown Sustainability Award in honor of its founder, who passed away last year. The general contracting company had the first LEED platinum-certified building in Westchester, and its commercial buildings obtain 90 percent of their energy from solar panels.
“The whole goal was to set out and educate people,” said Tom Mannion, who worked side by side with Brown to increase the business’s sustainability. He said they were motivated to dispel myths about energy efficiency, such as it being too costly to implement or taking too much time to change.
Following C.W. Brown’s cue, companies throughout Westchester have sought greater energy efficiency and green practices. Robert Kalmer, the corporate services and facilities manager of the Blue Book Building and Construction Network in Jefferson Valley, described the process of converting the company’s corporate buildings to LED lighting as “long, but not terrible.” He said the change produced positive results and savings for the company, including extending the practice into a new parking lot, which has LED lights with motion sensors that turn on only when the parking lot is not use.
Dragonfly Hair Studios, located in Croton-on-Hudson, earned its award for Waste Management and Green Products by incorporating original organic methods. Those methods range from using all organic hair products without toxins, e-mailing receipts, serving coffee in ceramic mugs and encouraging customers to donate half-used shampoo bottles to the Battered Women’s Foundation.
“Anything we use in our personal lives (to go green), we bring to work,” said Faith Jones, a Dragonfly representative.
She explained that the employees learn waste management practices mostly by brainstorming with each other.
Another leader and award winner was the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, which was the winner in the Energy category. Burns Managing Director Dominick Balletta said the film center was one of the first participants in the Green Challenge. It was founder and Executive Director Stephen Apkon’s goal to be environmentally conscious, so the center’s Media Arts Lab was completed with entirely green construction, including a roof that provides the building with energy from a geothermal system. Similar to C.W. Brown, one of the goals at the lab is to combine sustainability and public environmental education.
There was also the hope that the creativity generated by the competition would inspire others to try more environmentally conscious practices.
“There are 35,000 businesses in Westchester. Imagine the impact we would have if everyone took the challenge,” Gordon said.
For a full list of the winners, participants and sponsors, visit http://climatechange.westchestergov.com/recognition-event.
By Sarena Malsin