There seems to be a misconception out there that the bicycle industry is somehow an "eco friendly" industry by nature, that somehow, the act of getting people to ride bikes is good for the environment, and therefore the business of selling bikes is therefore "green business".
While cycling in and of itself (as opposed to driving) is ONE small way of reducing our impact on the planet, the bicycle industry is just as environmentally UN-friendly as any manufacturing industry out there. Overseas production (and it's consequent diesel-powered transport), toxic materials, excessive packaging, petroleum usage (yep, even YOU, self-righteous bicycle commuter, are using petroleum products! Where do you think those tires come from? And if you say rubber trees, you're way, way, off). Even in the shop, mass, MASS waste production (where do all those punctured tubes and spent tires go?), environmental pollution (aerosol sprays and heavy solvents are run of the mill in any repair shop) and heavy energy use are all part of everyday operations.
So what are we doing about it?
Throughout the years, Box Dog Bikes has always tried to maintain a low-level of environmental impact, from the early days of selling only refurbished used bikes, to maintaining a steady, but loosely organized waste reduction program. Talk of getting a "Green Business" certification has always been part of the shop culture, but it was not until recently that we've actually taken the leap towards certification. The move was in no small part due to former worker owner Jack Decker, who introduced BDB to the Dominican University's MBA in Sustainable Enterprise (or "Green MBA") program. Through Dominican University, Box Dog Bikes was paired up with two students who directly facilitated the process of achieving San Francisco Green Business Certification.
Now, I'm just about as cynical as anyone out there (it's not something I'm proud of, just the way I am), so when I first heard of the Green Business Certification, I kind of scoffed, thinking it a sort of "Green washing", something Businesses do to look good in the public eye, and that, with our present environmental standards, we'd breeze through the certification and be "green" within a few weeks.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
The SF Green Business Certification requires strict adherence to a number of environmental policies that reach deep into the heart of the daily operations of the business, from water consumption, to waste disposal, to energy usage. The requirements address aspects both big and small within the business and dictate everything from the faucets on our sinks, to the types of lights we use in the shop (so far we've replaced all incandescent bulbs with CFLS, installed low use led floods in our window displays, and we've yet to replace a few fluorescent fixtures on the main shop floor) all the way down to what type of ink we use to print our business cards. I was completely floored by the depth and scope of the guidelines laid out by the SF Green Business program, and realized just how much work we yet had to do towards reducing our environmental impact on the world.
It's now been several months since my first meeting with the students from the Green MBA program, and as a shop, we've completed 75% of the 62 (yep, 62) individual requirements for the Green Business Certification, which we hope to be awarded by August of this year.
The most important thing to me about the Green Business Certification is that it shows that there is ALWAYS more to be done towards reducing our impact on the world, and that even after getting our certification, Box Dog Bikes will strive to take greater and greater steps in the protection of our planet.
So what are YOU doing this Earth Day?