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METRO TALK HOW GREEN IS SPOKANE? A Look at Our Green and Clean Community


by Kevin Dudley M


aybe it started globally with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Or maybe it started in Spokane


with Expo ’74 and its environmental theme. Whatever it is, a movement toward “greening”


the environment through sustainable business practices and developing new green technologies and products has been on the rise. Consumers, clients, stockholders and more


are driving the change. Companies from almost every industry are jumping on board – not just those in the energy or environmental sector. “It really has to do, I think, with a deeper,


broader understanding that there’s a business case with being green,” says Spokane Mayor Mary Verner. “To me it’s always made sense: what’s good for the environment is good for the economy.” In Eastern Washington and Northern


Idaho, more companies are evaluating the three P’s – products, practices and procedures – to determine how they can be green and sustainable. The City of Spokane, in conjunction with


Avista and other community organizations, has adopted an Energy Plan that shows its proactive approach to making Spokane greener. The City has committed to reducing electric and natural gas usage five to ten percent by 2020 by revising its practices and procedures. Currently, the City consumes $8.6 million


of energy per year, says Verner. That led to the formation of the Energy Plan, as well as retrofitting City Hall and other city-owned facilities to improve energy efficiency. “We had a city motor pool that had 29


regular combustion engine vehicles and we’ve reduced that to three hybrids,” says Verner, while adding that the City has a Nissan Leaf on order. The green movement means businesses


have to get on board and find ways to make products and adopt practices that are green and sustainable.


32 SPOKANE CDA • July - August • 2011 Which brings us to the Spokane Indians


Baseball Club. When one thinks of baseball and being


green, one might think of the outfield. But the local minor league baseball team has moved sustainability practices up in the batting order when it comes to being green. The team expanded its recycling program


and introduced Recycle Man, a new mascot of


sorts that encourages recycling. The


team’s home office is powered completely by renewable energy. The team also made a subtle change that


actually has a big effect. By moving the start time of games at Avista Stadium from 7:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., the Indians use less lighting, which conserves energy—and also saves money. The green movement is an opportunity for


many of the clean energy and energy efficiency businesses


in Eastern Washington is one such example. and


Northern Idaho to create new technologies, products and services, or to grow the current market share. FlyBack Energy


This startup makes products that utilize a technology called Magnetic Energy Recovery (MER), which means it captures energy lost in an electrical circuit. The products reuse that lost energy and transfer it back to the energy user—a warehouse lighting system, as one example. This helps reduce waste, which will— once again—save money. John Overby, President and CEO of FlyBack,


is understandably confident in his company’s products. “The use of our technology is going to be huge, because (it) will make renewable energies much more efficient,” he says. Overby, who was first introduced to FlyBack


while working at Sirti, thinks the key to being green and sustainable as a business is innovation. “That’s how our country got to where it is,”


he says. “For the last 50 years, the reason our country got on top is we out-innovated the


world.” Greater Spokane Incorporated help found


the Consortium of Leading Energy Efficiency Northwest Companies (CLEEN | NW) three years ago to advance the industry in the greater Spokane region. This group aims to position the region as globally significant in the clean energy and energy efficiency industry. “We wanted


to develop an effective,


comprehensive network of clean energy and energy efficiency companies, complimented by workforce development, education and government organizations with the capabilities and desire necessary to try and grow the industry,” says Gary Mallon, Greater Spokane Incorporated’s Technology Industry Manager. “Our underlying goal has always been to help advance business growth in the sector, with the result of creating good, sustainable jobs over time.” That collaboration and cooperation


component to the group is critical, according to Mallon. “Advancing and supporting K-12, higher education and workforce development initiatives is logical even though CLEEN | NW may not be the primary driver,” he says. The group knows the industry will change


over time, which will lead to a change in focus and presentation. Topics like corporate sustainability practices, product sustainability and clean and green certifications will be more prevalent in the future, says Mallon. The original founders of CLEEN | NW


include Avista, CH2MHILL, McKinstry, Paine Hamblen, Sirti (now Innovate Washington) and the City of Spokane. All of them helped determine the direction of the group. Mallon says other companies have become involved in the last couple of years. “I see the potential of the group evolving


over time,” says Mallon. “In fact, I would be disappointed if it didn’t grow and change. We encourage a diversity of opinion within the group, although civility is strongly encouraged.”


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