Hybridge Communications Management Group's office in Charleston, West Virginia is a little misleading. It's too cozy, inviting even, to be a hardcore computer networking, support, and telephone systems company. The lights are pleasantly dim and two employees, Terri Conway and Stephen Haynes, are jovial. But the proof is there. On one wall there's a rack full of blinking, whining computers. One desk holds the company's ever-growing collection of outdated hard drives and storage systems (they should start a museum). In addition, on the floor there are a half-dozen lifeless computers.
These dead computers are part of why Hybridge is an ideal candidate for the Center for Economic Options' new Green Business, Green Jobs Accelerator program. The Accelerator is a matchmaker of sorts. It assists customers looking to support environmentally friendly businesses with businesses that are acting friendly toward the environment. Besides pairing resources, the Accelerator will be a database of information on how to operate businesses, qualify for sustainability certifications, and will become a go-to source for green businesses for everything from market opportunities to employees.
As a green business, part of the service Hybridge offers to customers is to help them use electronic equipment very efficiently, and then to keep it in use as long as possible through maintenance and upgrades. They are also working to recycle computers, and that keeps some nasty stuff out of the environment. "There are more and more computers and they're more expendable and replaceable more quickly these days," says Hybridge's Terri Conway.
Computer recycling is a very useful service Hybridge offers its clients. Making sure their data is safely destroyed and that all of the parts and pieces, which are fairly toxic, are destroyed in a responsible, environmentally safe manner is important to many of their clients. "We can't think of a better win-win situation for our customers and our community. We get to serve both of them by doing this type of work and these types of initiatives," says Terri.
The Center for Economic Options (CEO) is thrilled to have businesses like Hybridge enrolling in the Green Business Accelerator. They know the Accelerator is a model that can work. Consumers are increasingly looking to work with sustainable companies, and companies can tap into this multi-billion dollar a year green market. "The green economy is out there," says Pam Curry, executive director of CEO. "There's money to be made. And to make the money, the business has to be responsive to the customer."
Businesses interested in being a part of the Accelerator program will find it easy to do so. CEO recognizes that the idea of going green may seem daunting at first. Curry says she wants to ease those fears. "There are many different shades of green for the businesses." says Curry.
The process of joining is straight-forward. "When someone decides to become a member, they'll need to certify that they will be taking steps to green their business in some way. The first stage will be 'How am I going to save money by putting in place energy efficiency methods?' The certification is saying the business is agreeing to do that, at a minimum," says Curry. "Then, on down the road, there'll be greener levels of certification. That will help the customer." And that will provide extra incentive for a business to become increasingly sustainable.
The first steps to a greener business are easy, says Curry. "The same steps you take in the household, you translate those to businesses." This includes using compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs, installing low-flow water-saving connections in the kitchen and bathroom, making sure your insulation and weather stripping are sufficient, recycling and reusing waste, and using non-toxic cleaning supplies. "It sounds pretty straight forward, but if you think about it there's quite a bit of savings to it," says Curry, “Any business or job can be green.”
Through the Accelerator, businesses will be organized into industry sectors such as local, sustainable foods, green building and renovation, and technology and services, and are encouraged to meet and connect with other businesses to explore collaborations and business opportunities. Along the way, CEO will be collecting information on consumer trends, and entrepreneurial opportunities to pass along to the businesses and will offer custom training and technical resources through the website and in communities. Pam Curry's excited to get it out there. "It'll be fun to get it started. It's time."
To learn more about CEO, please visit www.centerforeconomicoptions.org.