Going Green: Business as Usual: “Green” a Growing Mission for
Westchester and Putnam Companies
May 24, 2012 01:15PM
The kitchen garden at the Garrison Institute.
All across Westchester and Putnam, businesses are taking a stand for the environment, from mom and pop operations to major corporations like Reckson, the commercial real estate owner/operator that since 2007 has recycled enough carpet and ceiling tile to divert 225 tons of debris from local landfills.
Natural Awakenings visited two of these green leaders to learn what drives them to embrace environmentalism as a business model.
At the Garrison Institute in Putnam …
… staff and guests at this learning and retreat center work together to implement sustainable best practices and sourcing. Its 1920s-era, 77,000-square-foot facility has been retrofitted with renewable energy and energy-efficient technology like motion-sensor lighting and a geothermal system for cooling and heating. The Institute’s chef prepares meals that are mostly vegetarian and organic, using locally sourced food as often as possible, while a small kitchen garden supplies herbs and vegetables. Even the facility’s fencing is made from bamboo grown on site.
“Pursuit of sustainability is integral to the Garrison Institute’s mission,” says COO Rob Gabrielle. “We are committed to understanding, measuring and minimizing the environmental impact of our own operations.” Gabrielle took a few minutes to tell us more about the how and why Garrison Institute went green.
Q. Why did Garrison Institute decide to take a green approach to operations?
A. It was a no-brainer for us from the start. Given our mission to use contemplative practice to promote both personal and social transformation, it was clear to us that we needed to do whatever we could manage to make our own footprint as light as possible and to show our many guests that a green lifestyle is feasible for everyone and involves a whole range of practices, from small and easy to large and challenging. Everyone can enter that continuum wherever they feel is possible for them.
Q. How does this environmental commitment improve your business?
A. We don’t really think that having a green commitment improves our business. We think it is our business. It’s central to who we are and what we seek to do.
Q. Are your employees receptive to learning about your mission? And how do you share that mission with your patrons?
A. Our employees work here because they connect with our mission—that’s who we hire. So they are all receptive to practicing green in daily life, both at work and at home. We also educate our many guests verbally and by example. I have to say that teaching by example is way more powerful. For example, when guests come here and enjoy our unbelievably delicious food, they go home thinking of ways they can eat lower on the food chain. And they know from their experience here that they don’t need to sacrifice beauty or deliciousness.
Q. Do you have any new goals or projects planned?
A. As a matter of fact, we’re re-looking at our green commitments now with an eye to see what we can improve. It’s an ongoing adventure that never stops. That’s the nature of green practice—you are constantly aware of your relationship with all-being and how to make that relationship better for all.
The Garrison Institute retreat center is located at 14 Mary’s Way, Rte. 9D, Garrison, NY. To learn more about the Institute and its mission, visit GarrisonInstitute.org.
At The Blue Pig in Westchester …
… a small but committed staff create artisan ice cream one batch at a time, using locally sourced ingredients. The shop’s fruit, herbs, maple syrup and honey all come from Hudson Valley farms; its milk comes from Hudson Valley Fresh, a local dairy co-op. Lisa Moir, owner and operator, says Blue Pig staff pride themselves in using no artificial flavors or colors and no high-fructose corn syrup. Moir explains how she brought her green sensibilities to this small business.
Q. Why did you decide to take a green approach to your business operation? Any major challenges?
A. Being environmentally responsible is a big part of how I live, and choosing to carry it into my business was the only choice I would make. The challenge was that I purchased an existing business. And since being green is all about choices in purchasing and procedural methods, it soon became evident to me that I was going to have to change all the vendors, ingredients, disposable products—we use compostable spoons—and create all-new recipes! In essence, I bought a name and then changed everything about how the business was run. Being “green” in the food world means using local products, growing things yourself (we have a garden on the roof), avoiding preservatives and artificial ingredients, and thus relying on labor to make things from scratch.
Q. How has this commitment improved your business, and what’s your community involvement in environmental causes?
A. I think it has helped my business create a new name for itself, and it has set me apart from many of the other ice cream stores in the area. We won the “Snail of Approval” award from the Slow Food Westchester group, which is all about community involvement and support. Our phone rings every day with people asking for directions to our place, from as far away as NYC and Rockland County. The store has become a destination for people in search of a unique product in a family-friendly environment.
Q. Are your employees receptive to learning about your mission? How do you share that mission with the community?
A. All the employees who work here are taught the “mission” of The Blue Pig upon their entry. We talk openly about conserving water while washing dishes, keeping the windows open instead of turning on the AC, and putting fruit scraps in the compost pile, in addition to the cooking and prep work involved in making ice cream from scratch. We call it “the 30-second commercial,” and we share it with our customers every chance we get!
Q. Do you have any new projects planned for the upcoming season? How is that rooftop garden project going?
A. Well, we are offering a few new products, using healthy ingredients in new ways. I recently made a nondairy coconut milk-based frozen dessert that is just awesome. And our gardens are doing great on the roof. We added a few more sections of herbs, since our lavender ice cream was a big hit. In the patio, we used some reclaimed old horse fencing to create more of a courtyard appearance. We have gardens filled with vegetables, too. We use those for our fall and winter soups.