Crystal’s Green Team steps up efforts

THOMPSONVILLE – Magazines printed with soy-ink on recyclable paper; compostable cups and containers made from yellow corn; a focus on serving local and organic produce; a golf course care that is environmentally conscious. All these and more are among the business practices at Crystal Mountain that are good for Mother Earth.

Last month, Crystal took a formal step toward organizing its environmentally friendly systems by creating the "Green Team", a group of departmental representatives joining together to generate ideas, share information and develop protocols with the intent of becoming better stewards of the environment.

"Different departments within the resort have, over the years, independently employed various green practices," explains Joan O'Neill, Crystal Mountain's Communications Director and Green Team member. "It just came naturally, we only have to look outside our windows to see the natural, pristine northern Michigan beauty that we're responsible for protecting. The Green Team was formed as a result of these individual efforts."

Currently, a multitude of projects are in various stages of development and implementation throughout the resort. The team's monthly meetings provide members with a sounding board and an informal reporting structure so that ideas can be explored easily and progress made within a definable time period. No doubt, the facilitation of communication across departments has helped to streamline the process.

Eating and drinking

The largest department at Crystal Mountain, that of food and beverage, also has the potential to create the most garbage. Several ideas are beginning to take shape to lessen the waste that is inherent in the running of the resort's restaurants and food outlets.

This fall, the use of compostable beverage cups will be put into practice. Made of yellow corn, the cups appear to be quite standard, resembling rigid, clear plastic. However, that is where the similarity ends. These cups, made by NatureWorks PLA, biodegrade within 50 days, according to Kristin Kiteley, Crystal Mountain's Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage.

Aside from being compostable, NatureWorks PLA products, according to their website, are made from material of up to 20 to 50 percent less petroleum than plastic packaging, which is significant not only because fossil fuels are a rapidly depleting and non-renewable resource, but also the production releases significantly fewer greenhouse gases than do plastic containers. By the beginning of the resort's busy winter season, Kiteley plans to replace as many other plastic containers as possible with alternatives in natural packaging.

"With the movement at Crystal Mountain toward using more local produce and organic foods where possible, it makes sense to provide convenience foods such as salads and sandwiches in sustainable packaging," explains Kiteley.

Crystal Mountain is also a sponsor of the Michigan Land Use Institute's "Taste the Local Difference" program, which promotes the use of locally grown foods in the region.

Accessibility to commercial recycling is another of Kiteley's goals. The resort already recycles office paper, cardboard and newspapers; but Kiteley would like to step this up by working with interested Benzie County restaurants to create a commercial recycling site for aluminum, glass and plastic. Currently only residential recycling is available in the area.

A different type of print

Beginning this fall, Crystal will become part of an ever-growing movement when it employs a commercial printing company that uses soy ink to print on recycled paper for its semi-annual marketing magazine, Mountain Life.

According to the Soyink.com website, "Soy ink contains non-toxic soybean oil, the same oil that's found in cooking oils, salad dressings, margarine, mayonnaise and thousands of other foods, and since soybeans are a sustainable resource produced by nearly 400,000 American farmers, it is an abundant and available product."

In the coming months, Crystal Mountain plans to change over more of its brochures, pamphlets and other marketing collateral to soy ink printing on recycled paper.

Energy across the board

The fuel crisis became a much-discussed topic at almost every water cooler in the nation last month, when gasoline prices hit all-time highs.

To combat the pinch that many employees were feeling at the pump, Crystal Mountain's Human Resource Department initiated an employee ride sharing board. Interested employees were offered the opportunity to post information about their driving habits in a common area to facilitate potential carpool relationships. Though numbers were not available at this time, the idea has widespread appeal to employees that travel from as far away as Williamsburg or Cadillac to get to work.

Energy independence and alternative fuel sources are instrumental in changing the way we live, according to Jim MacInnes, Crystal's President and General Manager. A proponent of alternative technologies as the inevitable solution to the recent oil crisis, MacInnes embraces these technologies as good business practice, as well.

"We need to strongly encourage energy conservation and be open to allowing other technologies such as solar, wind, clean ways to burn coal, and yes, perhaps even nuclear to help us work around oil dependency," says MacInnes. "At this point, no one technology alone will do it."

Maintaining the greens

The operation of two golf courses provides Crystal Mountain the opportunity to make important decisions about how it handles everyday environmental concerns that are inherent in the golf industry.

Currently the resort, under the leadership of Golf Course Maintenance Superintendent Adam Ikamas, is close to obtaining certification in the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program. This program, according to the Michigan.gov website, "partners the efforts of the turfgrass industry, state agencies, Michigan State University, and environmental advocacy groups to advance the environmental stewardship of the turfgrass industry and to recognize environmental achievements."

Out of an estimated 900 Michigan golf courses, only 51 currently have this certification.

Principals of this program include the protection of water quality, wildlife habitat and native species; promotion and communication of best management practices to control potential sources of pollution; and a commitment to the protection of natural resources on the property.

"There are not many regulatory laws for turf management," explains Ikamas. "Golf courses are generally exempt from regulation because of their small size. The MSU program is a way for us to become self-regulated."

Cost of going green

Though businesses might place a high value on positively affecting the environment, the bottom line still needs to be examined when assessing the value of effecting change. How does a business look at its profit margin while being as proactive as possible about environmental stewardship?

"When we switched our magazine to a soy-based ink, there was no price differentiation at all. The same with the recycled paper we switched to," explains O'Neill. "But there are instances where there is an increased cost, organic foods, for example. The way we look at it, however, is that it is a long-term investment. You cannot be in the line of work that we are and depend on the natural setting that we do to attract guests and not take steps toward preserving it for future generations. We depend on the environment as much as it depends on us."

As the Green Team continues to meet over the next several months, one thing is certain, change is imminent.

"This is our first organized effort toward being better stewards, so we've just taken the first small step in creating a company-wide strategic plan," concludes O'Neill. "As Crystal's Green Team meets more and learns more, we'll develop a specific, yet always evolving, plan." BNTRAVERSE CITY – Red Management has joined a nationwide TRAVERSE CITY – Red Management has joined a nationwide effort to help the environment by partipating in the Energy Star program.

This voluntary partnership sponsored by the EPA helps homebuyers, businesses, and other organizations save money and reduce air pollution by upgrading their homes to use energy more efficiently.

Red Management has joined EPA and more than 2,400 builders, manufacturers, and retailers throughout the United States to help reduce pollution by building more efficient products.

Soon after joining the program, Red Management had its model home in Midtown tested to ensure compliance with the program's standards. As a result, the Riverwatch condo, located at 247 Midtown Dr., was awarded the ENERGY STAR.

Red Management's homes offer an assortment of energy-efficient features including increased levels of insulation, efficient windows, high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, and tightly sealed air ducts.

Such features can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent, according to Sam Rashkin, Director of Energy Star for New Homes.

For information about Energy Star labeled homes and other products, call 888-STAR-YES, or visit www.energystar.gov.

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