Reduce at home, at work and on the go.

Since waste reduction is the highest priority in the solid waste hierarchy, Marion County Environmental Services reminds the community that it’s much better – and less expensive – to not generate waste in the first place than to have to recycle or dispose of it afterward.

Pringle Creek Community is a prime example of what one business can do by being dedicated to everything “green.”

“We are a fully sustainable residential development located in the heart of Marion County,” says Jonathan Schach-ter, director of development for the Salem community that offers a selection of lots and homes developed to “the highest build quality and green certifications.”

“We are proud to have become an early EarthWISE-certified business in 2010 and to have continued our quest to reduce our environmental footprint through two subsequent recertifications,” he says. “We are now certified through 2020.”

Pringle Creek Community encourages other businesses to become EarthWISE certified, “to demonstrate their commitment to their customers and community,” Schachter says.

EarthWISE stands for Workplace Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise, and is a free environmental assistance program offered to all businesses in Marion County. Pringle Creek Community had the honor of becoming the 100th EarthWISE business by making a commitment to environmentally friendly practices.

Today, 171 businesses have been certified, says Alan Pennington, waste reduction coordinator for Marion County Public Works, Environmental Services.

“These businesses go through a long self-assessment, get a visit from us and a write up on what we see would be more beneficial to them, and then are certified,” Pennington says about the certification process.

“In our efforts to move forward with sustainability, we thought it was a great way to stay educated in best practices and to lead the industry in ‘green’ efforts,” says Kristi Reed, director of sales and marketing for The Grand Hotel in downtown Salem. “It’s important that we support the efforts of our local community. With The Grand, Bentley’s and the Salem Convention Center, we have the potential to create a lot of waste. Anything we can do to eliminate that amount, we will do. Marion County is a leader in the state of Oregon with these efforts, and we are proud to be a part of that.

“We plan to continue with our efforts and adjust as the market changes,” Reed says. “Staying educated within the EarthWISE segment remains important to our future success. It’s a great program, and everyone should get involved.”

Bruce Wadleigh turns old wood into new creations at Barnwood Naturals in Salem. He says Pennington sought him out after reading in a newspaper article about how his company recycles everything possible, including the sawdust from his wood products.

“Alan took the time to educate and help me meet the EarthWISE standards,” Wad-leigh says. “He explained how certification would benefit my company and the planet.”

Barnwood Naturals has been certified for the past 10 years, and Wadleigh plans to renew his certification.

“It just makes sense,” he says. “Current and future plans include further reducing our purchase and use of plastics. I believe plastic production/ waste poses the most immediate threat to our environment. I would love to discover a safe, eco-friendly way to reuse or remold plastic in design and art.”

Pennington credits businesses with about half of all waste incinerated in Marion County, hence the need for the EarthWISE program.

“We’re tasked for solid waste, everything that leaves somebody’s property,” he says. “We help patrol what goes in the burner.”

Two landfills operate with the county: Brown’s Island Demolition Landfill, which handles items that are not going to rot naturally, such as fiberglass and inert items; and a landfill just north of Woodburn Premium Outlets that handles all ash from waste burned at the Covanta energy-from-waste facility in Brooks.

“The problem is we’re over capacity,” Pennington says. “We have to figure out what we’re going to do with all this waste. We’re going to try to capture everything we can that doesn’t need to go into the landfill. There is a real opportunity in Brooks for a lot of materials that might have gone to Brown’s Island to be pulled out and dealt with. A whole lot of things don’t need to be buried or burned.”

With recent changes in China no longer accepting the amount of waste from the United States and other countries, Pennington says going “green” is even more important.

“When you look at the volume of stuff getting recycled, this only impacts about 2 percent of our recycling,” he says of China’s move.

Small plastics are the hardest to recycle and now must be kept out of the recyclables.

“Just bottles and jugs,” he says of what plastics to put in the green bins. “Clean, dry and empty. No lids.”

Recently, Pennington’s department hosted an EarthWISE Sustainability Luncheon at Broadway Commons in Salem to promote the program to area businesses. Planned Green Awards were handed out at the luncheon, which Pennington hopes will motivate people to participate in EarthWISE.

“It is important that people call us who think they are not ready to be certified,” he says. “These are the people we want to talk to, to help figure out what they can do to save resources and, hopefully, save some money.”

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