Connie Brown is caught on the horns of a dilemma.
On the one hand, she and her husband Matt would like to turn their Brown Cow completely green, but the cost of being eco-friendly could change their bottom line from black to red.
The Brown’s ice cream parlor on Madison Street, the Brown Cow, already boasts the use of biodegradable plastic cups, and together with a neighboring business they share the expense of having their cardboard hauled away for recycling. Likewise, everything except the dry wall and paint used to remodel their new location, due to open in mid May, is either recycled or reused. All of their equipment is used, the woodwork is from a salvage yard and the light fixtures are from an old hotel.
But their biodegradable cups are tossed into regular trash bags because the more environmentally-friendly bags cost twice as much, according to Matt Brown.
The annual celebration of Earth Day on April 22 serves as a reminder for all of us to try and lessen our impact on the planet and its resources. Locally, more strides are being made toward that end, but it can still be an expensive and cumbersome proposition.
“I want to leave the earth a better place for my kids,” Connie Brown said.
Businesses in Forest Park are left to contract with waste haulers on an individual basis, unlike residents here who pay the municipality to handle their recyclables. Store owners have to pay extra to have cardboard, plastic and clear glass recycled.
Isaiah Estell, the wine buyer at House Red, said his shop pays a private hauler for their clear glass to be recycled.
Commissioner Mark Hosty manages a bar at the corner of Circle and Madison streets and said he would love to recycle the thousands of beer bottles that his business contributes to the waste stream every year. The problem for Hosty is that beer distributors, which previously charged a deposit for their brown bottles and reused them, no longer accept the empty bottles. He’s been unable find a recycler who will.
“Sometimes it’s hard to be green,” Hosty said.
But business owners are making an effort.
Liz Doyle at Blue Max Coffee opted to use non-disposable plates and dinnerware, paying for a dishwasher instead of adding to landfills. Gaetano DiBenedetto installed a water filtration system in his new restaurant, which eliminates the need for buying water in plastic bottles. Cec Hardacker, who runs Two Fish Art Glass with Tonya Hart, ticked off a list of programs they’ve had in place for years that include using compact fluorescent lights and taking their workplace recyclables home where they will be picked up by a municipal hauler.
Heidi Vance and Jayne Ertel at Team Blonde reuse cooking oil to fuel their diesel cars and stock many items made from recycled material. One handbag they sell uses the plastic from 10 soda bottles.
“There are companies out there whose mission is to provide eco-friendly products,” Vance said. “They’re not just riding a trend, and there’s more and more to choose from.”
One initiative on which Connie Brown is working is based on M2’s success with cooperative advertising. What she has in mind is a buying cooperative in which, by banding together to make purchases of green products in large quantities, the merchants can leverage for significant price reductions, allowing her husband to buy biodegradable bags for his biodegradable cups.
But saving the earth simply is not a money making proposition right now, said several business owners.
“For me, I do it out of principle,” Vance said.