Introducing The Las Cruces, Green Chamber Of Commerce.

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Elisa Cundiff works for Energy Concepts, a New Mexico Solar Company. She is also a member of the newly formed, Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico we have just formed a Green Chamber of Commerce, representing the business interests of local, sustainably-minded companies. Already, over two hundred companies have signed on in Las Cruces, and over five hundred across the state of New Mexico. A Chamber of Commerce exists to provide a collective voice for a group of business owners. But, because of the rate structure, large utilities and interests are better represented than the everyday business person. This is really becoming evident on a national level with the US Chamber of Commerce. The US Chamber of Commerce is the strongest lobbying group in the United States against climate regulation. Which is causing some companies – Nike and Johnson&Johnson included- to revoke their membership.

Here in Las Cruces, and in small towns across the country, the experience is being mirrored on a municipal level. There are a growing number of emerging business people who feel either a responsibility or an economic interest in making more green-friendly decisions. These are people who are open to innovative ideas, and who realize that community and environmental projects won’t break your business. In fact, we tend to feel that if you business model requires exploiting your local communities, that your business model is already broken.

National trends –

Knowing how to incentivize more sustainable business practices has been a polarized international debate for the last decade. The Kyoto treaty and attempts to instate carbon-trading policies have failed in the face of numerous business related criticisms. But, there are encouraging projects that are finding innovative ways to reward and encourage sustainable and community supportive business practices.

  • Carrot Mob – a network of consumers who buy products in order to reward businesses who are making the most socially responsible decisions.
  • Farmsreach – a web platform seamlessly connecting local producers and local restaurants.
  • Sustainable Connections – a forum where local businesses come together to transform and model an economy built on sustainable practices.

Where possible, the solution is to link community resources by providing better platforms for commerce, while at the same time finding ways to reward business owners who invest in the community, their workers, and environmentally sound practices. These tactics and others, will hopefully help strengthen local economies, provide better living wages, and convince a full spectrum of business owners to tweak their business models. In fact it’s already happening. Take Bellingham, WA where Sustainable Connection’ Think Local First campaign has fundamentally changed the buying habits of their community. Thanks to their work people are buying local and reinvesting in their community. Everybody wins.

And the truth is, money can be made. Lots of money, in fact, from doing good things in the world. Here are a few examples of highly profitable, eco-minded companies:

  • New Belgium Brewery Perhaps the perfect company to profile for creating an incredibly successful product while taking numerous steps to heighten their green profile. This Fort Collins, Colorado based Microbrewery has outfitted their main building from head to toe with green design, wastewater treatment, on-site energy production, and wind-powered electricity.
    – Fat Tire also uses 50% less water than the industry average, their building is lit with solar tubes, they send their spent grain to a local cattle farm for feed, and by recycling, they are able to divert 98% of their waste from the landfill.
    – Additionally, they are members of 1% For the Planet, whose members donate 1% of their profits to environmental non-profits and they give their employees really rad Fat Tire bikes to encourage healthy, carbon-free transportation.
  • Google:
    – measures and takes continual steps to reduce their impact on global warming.
    – Supports public policy addressing climate change
    – Created a nonprofit supporting state and federal efforts to increase energy efficiency.
    – Spent over $45 million in solar, wind and geothermal ventures in 2008 as part of a renewable-energy initiative they began that year.
    – Presented a $4.4 trillion plan to wean the United States off of coal and oil by 2030.

The list of highly successful companies aggressively engaged in green campaigns goes on and on: Trader Joes, Toyota, Stonyfield Farms, Whole Foods, Honda, Ikea, and Nike to name a few. And often being green makes some serious financial sense. New Belgium pays very little for their energy costs, and Google will save billions of dollars with their new energy efficient data centers. In fact, a huge number of Venture Capitalists are throwing their money behind green energy projects.

And these guys aren’t in it for the idealism of saving the planet (though I personally think that’s a fine reason), they’re in it because they think they can bank on green. Vinod Khosla, the top venture capitalist ever made his fortune anticipating big moves in computing and networking. Today he speaks about climate change, biofuels, solar power, and clean coal, because renewable energy is where he’s predicting the next fortunes will be made.

Local Trends

In New Mexico, we are perfectly positioned to create Green Gold. When US Secretary Stephen Chu visited New Mexico State University this summer, he pointed to the extraordinary sun, wind and geothermal resources at our fingertips. We have some of the world’s best research facilities in the state, and we have a population with a uniquely community-focused identity. Naturally, many residents support local businesses and green initiatives.

However, here in Las Cruces, our development battles are a small town cliche. Even the municipal elections have become a heatedly divisive battle between the Las Cruces Home Builder’s Association backed candidates, and those pushed by a more liberal-leaning alliance pushing for smart growth. The like-minded regular Chamber of Commerce is not yet compelled to get on board, nor to represent the voices of sustainably focused business people. Thus we’ve created the Green Chamber of Commerce. We hope as an organized alliance of business owners, interested in both commerce and the Triple Bottom Line, that we might help to bridge this gap.

The Green Chamber is not intended to be a divisive organization. We believe that we can encourage and educate those who feel frustrated or confused by the Green movement. We believe we will prove to them that a few investments and small shifts in their business model can be beneficial to the communities we live in while still making a profit.

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Comments

  1. I’m the environmental “point man” for Temple Beth-El, Las Cruces, and would like to invite the President of the LC Green Chamber of Commerce to talk about the Chamber’s programs at one of our Wednesday morning breakfast club meetings. Please send me her name and a phone number or email address so that I can contact her. We have an active “Greening Temple Beth-El” program that may be of mutual interest and benefit.
    Many thanks,
    Phil Alkon

  2. Hi Nan,
    Thanks very much for the contact information, and I’ll get in touch with Elisa Cundiff. I’d also be happy to acquaint you with some of our greening activities at Temple Beth-El if you like. Please send me a phone number or email address.
    Phil

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