By Lauren Glendenning, published in the Vail Daily 8.11.2020
Brought to you by Walking Mountains Science Center
From straws made out of avocado pits and citrus peels to gift-wrapping ribbon made with pure cotton fibers, water-based glue and soy-based ink, many of the products used at The Bookworm of Edwards have a common purpose: environmental sustainability.
Thanks to constant innovation in the world of sustainable goods, Bookworm Programs Manager Makena Burner is always finding exciting new ways to keep The Bookworm’s Actively Green certification in check.
“If you’re willing to put in the extra work and a little more time, you can find some really cool (sustainable) stuff out there,” said Burner, who chairs the store’s Actively Green committee. The Bookworm is the first business in Eagle County to be recertified Actively Green, the Walking Mountains Science Center’s sustainable business training and certification program. And the daily habits that helped the store reach this milestone aren’t as complicated as you may think. “There are so many little changes you can make,” Burner said. Thanks to hands-on guidance from the staff at Walking Mountains, Burner said businesses already have all the tools they need to aim toward certification.
“Sustainable” as a philosophy
A major part of Nicole Magistro’s mission for The Bookworm is for it to be a community-first bookstore. That meant serving the community while also listening and responding to its needs. “The pride we take in being part of our community — for us, it’s worth the effort and it’s worth it to make the world a better place,” she said. “Why not be a part of that?”
That’s really what sustainability is about at The Bookworm. Sure, it’s about environmentally conscious practices, but it’s also about the greater mission of why those practices truly matter. “We try to make our community a better place all the time,” Magistro said. The nature of the book industry tends to be socioeconomically conscious, Burner said. The store is already invested in the shepherding of knowledge and ideas, so there’s this understanding and desire to look for more ways to evolve and lead.
That’s how Burner found products such as printer paper that’s made from trees grown in rice paddy fields, which typically serve as dead land outside of rice production. The nutrients in the soil from the rice helps the trees grow quickly, and every time you buy the paper a portion of the proceeds goes toward planting more trees. “A product or method you used three years ago might not be the most sustainable way anymore,” Burner said. “We’re constantly seeking out new information and new supplies. You have to go out of the box and dive in a little deeper.”
The little things
Focusing a portion of your business’s efforts on being Actively Green doesn’t need to equate to a massive undertaking in terms of effort or expense. Many of the efforts that helped The Bookworm achieve its certification and recertification were things they were already doing. The cafe team, receivers and green team employees are in constant communication when decisions are being made about a new product. For an organization that doesn’t do a lot of paperwork or administrative work, the Actively Green checklist and documentation might seem daunting, but the reality is it’s not that complicated.
“It’s a really powerful thing to be able to share that certification with your industry and community and it gives people the opportunity to rise to the next level in your organization,” Magistro said. “I think finding a passionate leader within your staff is a key element, and another piece of advice is to bite off small chunks one at a time. Big projects happen when you do little things.”
Some of the little changes really add up, too. When The Bookworm stopped automatically printing receipts and instead asked customers if they wanted receipts, the store cut paper usage by 50 percent, Burner said. “All these little changes — switching out light bulbs, making sure faucets don’t leak, using one detergent over another, putting signs out to help with customer education — make a big difference,” Burner said. “You can strive to change one thing every month if that’s the pace you want to take it. Going green is often this big scary concept, but really it’s just little changes over time.”
Is your business Actively Green?
Actively Green is a sustainability training and certification program for all businesses in Eagle County. Participants learn how to make sustainability actionable in day-to-day operations and create action plans to drive success. The Actively Green standard is “Recognized” by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and includes criteria based on many other accepted principles and guidelines including those developed with input from the U.N. World Tourism Organization.
There are currently 64 certified businesses in Eagle County, and 232 businesses trained in Actively Green practices. For more information or to get started, visit walkingmountains.org/ag or call 970-827-9725.