Though Evanston is increasingly inclined to give sustainability a “green” light, local entrepreneurs can find themselves at a standstill when navigating the route to environmentally sound business practices.
They should find a forum for their concerns and ideas at BASE, the new Business Alliance for a Sustainable Evanston. The group’s public kick-off is scheduled for 6:30 to 9 p.m. on May 18 at BooCoo, 1823 Church St.
“Business owners who feel a responsibility for improving environmental stewardship and social progress will find a home at BASE,” says Ms. Horvath, BASE co-founder and board member and owner of Ethical Planet, a vegan general store on Davis Street.
Take the restaurateur who contacted Fran Horvath recently to ask where to find the corn-based carryout containers his environmentally conscious customers were requesting. “If he had a group, he would have a roomful of people to give him information,” says Ms. Horvath.
Some organizational tasks are already complete; BASE has incorporated and is in the process of obtaining 501c3 non-profit status. The intent is to be “inclusive, not exclusive,” says Ms. Horvath. “All [local business owners, residents and enthusiasts] are welcome, no matter how ‘green’ you currently are.
“Perfection isn’t required, just a desire for progress,” she adds.
Ms. Horvath has operated the Ethical Planet store for two and a half years, but she began to appreciate the benefits of connecting with like-minded people when she was flying solo as a Web-only business. The Healthy Living Festival, which was launched four or five years ago and morphed into BASE, was an effort by Ms. Horvath and Jen Glickstein to give small-business-owners like them ideas about how to market themselves.
Some 20 or 25 vendors attended the festival the first year. “It was fun,” says Ms. Horvath, “and the networking among the vendors was the best part.” The second year, participants endorsed the idea of meeting more regularly. Ms. Horvath and Ms. Glick responded by starting a networking group. They required only that each attendee be truly independent rather than part of a business franchise or chain.
After several successful years, the “unofficial network turned into an official group,” says Ms. Horvath. They temporarily suspended networking meetings, and a six-member board went about the business of building a foundation for the organization they called BASE.
In addition to Ms. Horvath the board members are Jonathan Netzky, whom she calls a “green guru”; Scott Suchowolek of the public relations firm Umbrellas on the Beach; Phyllis Marder, a health-and-wellness coach with Gratephyl; attorney Nancy Oddi-Jaffe; and Dan Cox of the marketing group Greater Than.
They adopted a mission, “the long-term reduction of our carbon footprint and natural resource consumption through providing resources and thoughtful products and services.”
And they decided their first priority would be to establish a certification program for member organizations.
“We are not trying to duplicate the Chamber of Commerce,” Ms. Horvath says. While members will continue to benefit from networking, “[Certification] is key,” says Ms. Horvath. “It will make us different from everyone, and powerful. To know someone is BASE-certified is very important.”
The criteria for certification are embedded in the BASE logo. It resembles a molecule, one large circle with seven satellites. Ms. Horvath suggests that as soon as a business conducts a self-inventory, it will be able to display the BASE circle.
The privilege of displaying the satellite emblems will be reserved for businesses with certification in each area. Like scouting merit badges, the satellites will indicate achievement in such fields as recycling/waste reduction, water consumption/conservation, energy consumption/conservation, food (sourcing and preparation), environmentally friendly procurement/purchasing, transportation and footprint reduction.
The BASE website, www.BASEevanston.org, elaborates on each category by suggesting ways to move toward sustainability. Under Recycling/Waste Reduction, for example, the goals include “refill/recycle printer cartridges,” and “buy products with less packaging/buy in bulk.”
Identifying the right organization to perform the certification is a challenge, says Ms. Horvath. The board of BASE wants to be sure the fee, which will be paid by individual businesses, is affordable.
Many other details remain to be worked out. But Ms. Horvath is optimistic about the potential of the alliance to arrive at solutions. “The whole thing is about cooperation, working together,” she says.