Vienna Businesses Take Sustainability Challenge

Challenge promotes environmentally friendly behaviors.

Courtney Beazell, Marketing Manager at Caboose Brewing Co., is a self-described “freak” when it comes to recycling. She said her mother raised her to be that way, and she chooses to support businesses that value the environment like she does.

“Whenever I see [environmental] certifications for businesses, I’m more willing to patronize, because I know that they’re doing good things in the community, and they’re doing good things for the planet,” Beazell said. “I’m probably not alone in that.”

For the second year in a row, Vienna businesses are challenging themselves to act more sustainably as part of the Community Enhancement Commission’s (CEC’s) Vienna Sustainability Challenge, a self-certification process that allows businesses to examine their sustainable behaviors and push themselves to do better each year. To self-certify, businesses complete items on a checklist to earn points, and those that reach the point threshold by Aug. 1 will be recognized at a regular Town Council meeting.

“We want businesses and nonprofits to see that it’s a win-win for both the environment and them,” said Desiree Di Mauro, CEC member and lead for this challenge. “The sustainability piece is a win for the whole community, but it also should help [businesses] because sustainability done right means you’re going to lower your own costs.”

LAST YEAR, seven Vienna businesses were recognized by the CEC: Caboose Brewing Co., Caffe Amouri, Cycle Chi, Joanne Ehreth Burke CPA PLLC, Purple Onion Catering, Social Burger and The Sustainability Guys. To recertify, these businesses must earn more points this year than they did last year.

Sammy Thompson, a student representative with CEC and employee at Social Burger, said a lot of Social Burger’s points came from things they were already doing.

“One big thing I noticed was a lot of the workers there are walking to work, not driving to work, so that got us a lot of points,” Thompson said.

Social Burger also gets a lot of its products locally – the meat comes from Buffalo River Ranch outside Charlottesville, which is owned by a former Vienna resident. The business also has reduced its waste by serving burgers on recyclable papers. They are additionally looking into using paper straws to be more environmentally friendly.

Other local businesses are also finding ways to reduce waste: If it weren’t for a creative practice at Caboose Brewing Co., a lot of the business’ waste would consist of spent grain, a byproduct of the process of brewing.

“Farm animals can actually eat that,” Beazell said. “It’s food; we use it in our crackers. Then we donate some of it to local farms, and they can feed their animals.”

Caboose Brewing Co. also uses herbs in its food from its own herb garden just outside the building, donated and maintained by DePaul’s Urban Farm. Caboose has also installed touch-free appliances in the restrooms and serves drinks in glasses rather than disposable plastic cups.

DI MAURO said she hopes the wide range of businesses that got certified last year – from a brewery to an indoor cycling studio – will make it clear that businesses don’t have to have an environmental product to participate in this challenge and improve their green behaviors.

“Any business or nonprofit can make its operation more sustainable,” Di Mauro said. “You don’t have to be like The Sustainability Guys; you can be a coffee shop or sell scooters and still be more sustainable.”

While even more businesses push themselves to certify this summer, perhaps other people in the community will choose to support their commitment to sustainability, as Beazell does.

“If you’re enjoying the product that [a company] is making, and then they’re also doing good for other things, it makes you more inclined to support them,” Beazell said. “They’re doing more than just being your favorite brewery or favorite restaurant.”

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