TELLURIDE – Zia Taqueria, a locally owned Durango restaurant, provides the perfect backdrop for an interview with green business guru Kent Ford, who set up Durango’s Green Business Roundtable, now in its eighth year of operation.
Zia purchases food from local suppliers, owns a greenhouse and uses wind and solar power – and its environmental efforts represent only a small part of the changes taking place in Durango businesses, Ford says.
Over the years, Ford says, Durango’s Green Business Roundtable has seen Durango businesses evolve, partnerships established, the establishment of a strong environmental network – and a nod to the city as a “Green Power Community” from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ranking it twelfth in the nation for Green Power purchasing (the only Colorado community recognized).
Ford comes to Telluride Friday, Feb. 5, to spread his knowledge and expertise, speaking to Telluride’s first Green Business Roundtable.
The Telluride Roundtables will take place on the first Friday of most months at the Wilkinson Public Library, 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., free and open to the public. For the first meeting the library will provide breakfast.
“I feel my job coming to TNCC and leading this first one is to give them a big broad idea of what we’ve done and what works,” said Ford.
Telluride’s Roundtable will mimic its Durango counterpart’s goal to “Network, Inspire, Educate, Improve,” providing local business owners an open forum for ideas, networking opportunities and tools for becoming more environmentally sustainable.
“We will bring ideas to the business community that might be helpful to them in terms of greening their business,” said Colleen Trout, Education and Finance Coordinator at TNCC.
Ford, a producer at Performance Video in Durango and a volunteer board member at the San Juan Citizen’s Alliance, started the Green Business Roundtable upon discerning a need for green business networking in the Durango area.
The monthly program, which Ford says runs like a topic-focused Rotary Club, has found immense success. Monthly speakers bring in 75 to 100 people to the time-driven yet casual lunch-hour setting formatted for busy business owners.
True to the historical origins of a “round table,” a setting first used by King Arthur to establish equality at the knights’ table, the Green Business Roundtable is strictly open, nonpartisan and non-hierarchal.
“The idea of a “round table” is more symbolic than realistic,” said Ford. “I think it does imply that everyone’s a stakeholder, and [that] we’re very strictly nonpartisan.”
Roundtable speakers range from local experts and business owners to visiting environmentalists, all speaking to their passion and expertise. Environmental organizations are on the agenda, but Ford also seeks out participation from local businesses’ whose owners have found environmental and economical success. Attendees have come to expect a broad coverage of pressing topics: green building, energy, transportation, local agriculture, buying locally, and recycling.
“I think everyone wants to be environmental. You read in international polls, and everyone says they care for the environment and want to take care of it,” said Ford when asked what draws in participants initially.
It’s easy to see the effect the Roundtables have had on Durango. Businesses have stepped up to invest in alternative sources of energy and conservation, as well as forged local partnerships. Locals have made the choice to buy locally – thus making a lifelong investment in the community.
“The simple things aren’t rocket science,” summed up Ford.
Some Roundtable attendees have gone on to run environmental movements like Local First or the Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency (4CORE). Local First is a campaign for buying locally; 4CORE, promoting conservation, energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy, was modeled upon Green Business Roundtable speaker Randy Udall’s program in Carbondale.
“Our speakers – and our goal – is to raise the high-jump bar, so to speak,” said Ford, by “helping people understand there’s a lot they can do.
“I think in Durango we’ve done really well. Everyone has stepped up and rallied behind what they can be doing better,” said Ford
Nationally, green business programs have taken off. With a focus on networking and bettering communities, programs like the Green Business Roundtable are in high demand. Green Drinks and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) are two examples of national programs focused on green business networking.
“I think there’s a I’ll scratch your back and you’ll scratch mine. I learn from you and you’ll learn from me,” said Ford of the Roundtable atmosphere.
TNCC will follow the basic format of Ford’s program for Telluride’s Roundtable, with a focus on adapting its concepts to Telluride. To that end, surveys are now available at TNCC and at Wilkinson Library to garner feedback and expectations for subsequent discussions that currently have no set agenda.
“We can certainly tailor it to our community’s needs, and we’ll learn as we go along what topics people are interested in,” said Trout. “We’re really trying to create an education program that helps [our businesses].”
Telluride’s Green Business Roundtables are partially funded by the Telluride Foundation, but TNCC is hoping for local sponsorships to provide anything from monthly breakfasts to lodging for speakers.
For more information, to donate or to take part in the survey, contact TNCC at email@example.com or 970/728-1340.