ROCHESTER — Cate Stacy knows Rochester business owners have more on their minds than protecting the environment.
“It’s not something that’s at the forefront of what they have to do,” the Mayo High School junior said. “I know this is a rebound year for a lot of companies, so it’s not exactly top of the agenda for them.”
However, the Rochester-Olmsted County Youth Commission member is working to ensure those who help protect the environment as part of their daily business practices are recognized.
The commission recently launched the Green Business Recognition Program, an idea Stacy brought back from a meeting with other youth commissioners across the state.
The pilot program aims to recognize local businesses that adopt environmentally friendly practices.
Companies rank on a variety of actions related to how they dispose of solid waste and recycling, make purchases and use energy, as well as a variety of other choices they make every day.
In an effort to recruit the top 10 participating companies this spring, seven have already signed up to be ranked for bronze, silver and gold recognition that can be displayed in their storefronts.
Recognized for current efforts
Paige Jehnke, owner of Janky Gear, 204 N. Broadway Ave., was the first to be recognized, but said she wasn’t trying to be a trailblazer.
The bronze award winner said she sees it as a good thing to do.
“Since we reuse completely, it’s a perfect fit,” she said of the outdoor clothing and gear consignment store she opened last year.
Abe Sauer, owner of Old Abe Coffee Shop, 832 Seventh St. NW, recommended Stacy contact Jehnke after he was approached about participating in the program.
He said many local businesses are already making choices that benefit the environment, but they are not always recognized. He said the Youth Commissions program is one way to ensure that recognition, especially among teenagers and young adults.
“Statistically, they’re more interested in environmental awareness and making consumer decisions about it,” he said of younger customers.
Stacy, a client of Old Abe, agreed that business involvement could send a message.
“Abe has also been very supportive of youth-led initiatives in our community,” she said. “This is one of my favorite places to eat in Rochester, so I’m thrilled to highlight their eco-friendly practices.”
The program is being launched alongside the Rochester Energy Benchmarking Program, which is entering its fourth year with 90 participating companies.
Participation in the city’s program, which tracks energy use data and helps identify potential energy efficiency opportunities, is required to earn Silver or Gold recognition in the Youth Commission program .
This is how Central Bark, 1720 Second St. SW, became the first company to earn a silver medal.
The franchise’s independent owner, Lenny Hoisington, said he initially joined the benchmarking program to make its operation as efficient as possible, then Rochester’s sustainability coordinator, Lauren Jensen, suggested joining the program of the youth commission.
He said it was a good choice because he recognized many of the things the company was already doing, from researching energy cost reduction and using environmentally friendly products, to effort to buy locally when possible.
Jensen said Central Bark was a business that came to mind when she started working with Stacy and other youth commissioners on the Green Business Recognition Program.
“It’s just another way of giving companies credit for the things they do or try to do,” she said.
Participants said it is also a way to move the effort forward.
Jehnke said she plans to discuss the city’s benchmarking program with her owner to see if her participation will increase her reward level and draw other Queen City Center businesses into the recognition program.
Sauer said completing the program, which asks business owners to award points based on specific practices, encourages making environmentally responsible choices.
“There were things on it that reminded me of things I wanted to do in the past,” he said.
Other companies already participating in the Youth Commission program are silver award winners Benike Construction and bronze award winners Fiddlehead Coffee, Olmsted Medical Center and The Reading Center/Dyslexia Institute of MN.
“Olmsted Medical Center scored high enough to win gold, but is not a benchmarking participant, so Lauren and I have been working to get them listed,” Stacy said.
To participate in the Youth Commission’s Green Business Recognition Program, business owners can contact the Youth Commission at [email protected]
Participating companies will be recognized at an EarthFest 2022 event in April.