BOONE – Boone City Council has heard presentations and received petitions in favor of banning, taxing or regulating single-use plastics in the city, but at its last meeting on April 13, the city spoke out in favor of exploring solutions to encourage companies to use more sustainable practices.
George Santucci, the city’s manager of sustainability and special projects, said the city is considering voluntary and incentive-based approaches for businesses to use less single-use plastic. In the coming weeks, Santucci said subgroups will meet to begin exploring options.
At the town council meeting, council discussed plastic bans. Although Santucci said other municipalities in North Carolina, such as Asheville, have considered this type of legislation, it has never been done before in North Carolina and other municipalities have been “told by their attorneys that ‘they were on fragile ground’.
Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill spoke to City Council regarding plastic pollution, including studies of plastic removed from the passive waste collection device at Winkler Creek, and supported plastic reduction regulations for the city. Hill submitted a statement to the Watauga Democrat, explaining that his organization, MountainTrue, and its partners at the Southern Environmental Law Center have found that a plastic ban in Boone is possible, contrary to the city’s analysis.
“The North Carolina Solid Waste Law clearly gives the City of Boone the authority and mandate to implement programs and other actions to ‘protect human health and the environment,'” Hill wrote. “Because the presence of microplastic pollution harmful to human health and the environment has been documented in our area, the City of Boone not only has the power to act, but it has a legal obligation to protect its residents.”
Hill wrote that Boone City Council’s voluntary efforts do not address the scale of the problem and delay the passage of real and effective laws. He said MountainTrue has already prepared and ready to adopt a model ordinance based on best practices from across the country that combines a ban on single-use plastic purchases with a 10-cent fee for paper bags.
A similar ordinance passed in San Jose, Calif., saw customers bringing their own reusable bags to stores increase from 4% to 62%, and plastic pollution in storm drains was reduced by 89%, Hill wrote. He added that it has also created a 50% decrease in disruption and downtime for municipal solid waste operations from plastic bags.
Ultimately, Hill said MountainTrue has shared its research, model ordinance and reduction strategy with city staff and looks forward to future meetings to present its case and give Boone City Council the opportunity to take action to reduce plastic pollution.
Although the city won’t regulate single-use plastic soon, Santucci said the city is considering creating a green business certification with the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.
David Jackson, president and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber brought together a group of about 50 different professionals from various areas of the business world to try to understand what a Green business certification might entail and what benefits businesses receiving the designation might receive.
“Different businesses and different classes of businesses may want different things,” Jackson said.
While some companies may have more developed physical structures, for example the ability to capture rainwater, this may be more important for a company looking to show outwardly how it subscribes to sustainability while other companies, like those in professional offices, could focus on sustainability. At work.
He said the group recognizes that sustainability is different for Boone’s wide variety of businesses and that a one-size-fits-all certification won’t work, so having a diverse crowd of professionals in the group to think about green business certification is important.
Jackson said there’s a lot of room for crossover with students and App State groups in this process, such as with the university’s energy center and through the impact clinic run by Walker College of Business. He said these groups could help address assessment tools that could be used for certification.
“They take a pretty broad approach to looking at a business and all the different tactics or policies that may be in place, from recycling in the workplace, to the products you order, whether they’re biodegradable, where you offer a workplace flexibility, incentives, health insurance, welfare benefits,” Jackson said.
Going forward, Jackson said small groups will meet in the spring and summer to address different elements of the larger plan, and in the fall they look forward to meeting and considering steps to implement. their plan.
Some businesses in the community have also gone through similar processes and can help provide insight, Jackson said. Some local businesses have received B Corps certification, designated by an international nonprofit organization that sets standards to help change economic systems by measuring a business’s environmental and social impacts, and Jackson said these companies might have ideas for what standards Boone might adopt. use to assess the sustainability of companies.
Additionally, Jackson said the chamber has a group of communications specialists meeting to discuss how to communicate about the program and clear up confusion about what a green business certification would be like.
“They’ll help explain it in a way that people really see it for what it is and make sure there’s no greenwashing involved. We don’t want it to be just a sticker that you throw out the window and call yourself green and then turn around to do the complete opposite,” Jackson said.
Ultimately, Jackson said he wants community members to understand that the chamber is only at the beginning of this project. As spring and summer progress, Jackson said he hopes the group gets more foundations under their leadership and they look forward to making an impact in the future.
Marisa Mecke is a member of the Report for America body for Mountain Times Publications. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.