Cover Story

Living Large

Motivated by conscience and economics, entrepreneurs in Lafayette are seeing the big picture and embracing the green movement.

By Katie Macdonald

Lafayette was one of the first cities in Louisiana to adopt curb-side recycling, and based on the bins lining our streets on pick-up day, the participation rate is high.

Motivated by conscience and economics, entrepreneurs in Lafayette are seeing the big picture and embracing the green movement.

By Katie Macdonald

Photos by Robin May

Lafayette was one of the first cities in Louisiana to adopt curb-side recycling, and based on the bins lining our streets on pick-up day, the participation rate is high. Increasingly, solar panels atop roofs are not an uncommon sight, and the market for eco-friendly homes that incorporate vanguard building materials and energy-saving features is moving beyond niche.
Once considered the domain of hippies, eco-consciousness is becoming mainstream consciousness. And its many facets - from local businesses recycling and using energy-efficient products to the growing array of hybrid and electric vehicles on car dealership lots (see our News, LivingIND and Eats pages for more green-oriented coverage) - usually share one thing in common: economics. It costs less in the long run to be energy efficient, to compost, to recycle. It isn't so much about high-minded ideals anymore. Saving the planet also means saving money.
Lafayette businesses, too, are beginning to embrace green concepts, and UL Lafayette is a national leader in energy research that in the near term will complement our 20th century fuel models and in the long term could supplant them.
From farm-to-table and baking with a conscience to living large in a small space, Lafayette's entrepreneurs are also going green.

JP MacFadyen of Great Harvest Bread Co.

Reaching for Green

Eco-conscious Lafayette business owners say start small.'

By Katie Macdonald

Photos by Robin May

A famous frog once said: "It's not easy being green." But according to some local business owners, it is certainly worth it.

From recycling and buying local goods to installing energy-efficient utilities, several businesses across Acadiana are embracing environmentally friendly practices in what is referred to as the "green" movement. However, because of the higher costs generally associated with green practices and a lack of distinct guidelines, the decision for businesses to become green is not always simple or easy.

For Marcella Morrison, an Oregon-native who recently opened M.E. Salon at 507 Kaliste Saloom Road, building a green business is a gradual process. Since moving into her salon six weeks ago, Morrison has made changes, like recycling bottles and packaging and installing energy-efficient lighting. Despite the improvements prompted by her West Coast past, Morrison expresses frustration with the lack of information.

"We aren't really there just yet. It's been hard to find information on companies I would go to [to become green]," Morrison says.

The process of becoming green can be daunting, echoes Michelle MacFadyen, co-owner of Louisiana's first certified green restaurant, Great Harvest Bread Co.

Fueled by personal convictions to become more environmentally conscious, Michelle and her husband, JP, sought out a third-party organization, the Green Restaurant Association, to guide their restaurant toward more environmentally sustainable practices.

Founded in 1990, the GRA is a nonprofit certification agency that provides member restaurants with a concrete list of green objectives. In order to be certified, restaurants must accumulate 100 points in seven distinct categories, such as water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable food and chemical and pollution reduction. Also, every year restaurants must continue to increase their points with additional improvements.

"Green Restaurants caught my eye because it is a nonprofit and looked like the most objective certifier out there [for our business]," Michelle says. "It's difficult to get through the greenwashing,' where companies slap a green sticker on a product without proving measurable effects."

In order to navigate through the greenwashing, the GRA provides a consultant who helps the MacFadyens work with current vendors to provide greener options.

Working with local vendors is important for both Michelle and the association because it promotes local businesses and decreases fuel emissions, but it does require some extra work. Michelle and her GRA consultant research ways she can use her current vendors to obtain more environmentally friendly products.

"When we hit some dead ends, our consultant gave us some muscle to say, We know you have this product.' If more people asked the question, I feel like there would be more services," Michelle says.

Since joining the association in 2010, Michelle and JP have made several recommended improvements, like installing LED lighting and faucet aerators, which reduce water waste by lessening water flow.

Great Harvest Bread Co. also utilizes Lafayette's commercial recycling program through the Recycling Foundation, a privately owned, for-profit responsible for managing the city of Lafayette's recyclables.

The Recycling Foundation services approximately 200 businesses in Acadiana, including schools, banks, restaurants, print offices and churches.

According to Recycling Foundation manager Mauri Robicheaux, businesses that recycle experience a 30 percent reduction in waste stream.

"It costs less to recycle than to throw products away," says Robicheaux.

The Recycling Foundation offers different options for commercial recycling, including 96-gallon wheeled containers and dumpster service.

"It is a paid service. Businesses that want to recycle only need to call our office and we send someone out to do a site survey and work out a plan. We will even pay businesses if they generate 2 to 3 tons of paper or cardboard," says Robicheaux.

Great Harvest Bread Co. generates four bins of recycled goods each weeks, most of which is packaging.

Michelle cites the inconvenience factor as the main reason businesses do not go green.

"They think, Why are we fixing this or that when it's not broken?'" she says. "It may cost a little more in the beginning, but in the long run we will save money."

Morrison agrees with Michelle, saying that although green changes are worth it, it is inconvenient for businesses to become green in Lafayette - a stark difference from the last city where she lived.

"In Seattle, it was mandatory for businesses to recycle," she says, referencing a 2005 ordinance that prohibits businesses from disposing of paper, cardboard or yard debris in the garbage. "They would go through your trash and fine you if you didn't recycle."

Despite Lafayette's commercial recycling program, Morrison says her business does not generate enough recyclable material to justify roadside pickup.

"I'd have to drive all the way over to the recycling facility to drop it off myself. And the last salon I worked in didn't have recycling services either."

Lafayette also differs from Seattle in that the Recycling Foundation does not commercially recycle glass products, which affects a variety of businesses, including restaurants and bars.

Recycling glass is not cost-effective, according to Robicheaux. "Currently, we grind down the glass from residential recycling into sand and give it away for free. If we had a vendor, then we could possibly recycle commercial glass."

Despite these challenges, both Morrison and Michelle express excitement about the future of the green movement in Lafayette, and offer advice to other businesses.

"Start small. Get informed. Find out why it is worth it and then look into ways to change," says Michelle.

To sign your business up for commercial recycling, call Mauri Robicheaux at (337) 234-0066.

Green Building

While Great Harvest Bread Company and M.E. Salon were limited by preexisting buildings, Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center was able to incorporate several energy-efficient features in its new complex at 4801 Ambassador Caffery Parkway.

According to Director of Community Relations Elisabeth Arnold, the hospital was specifically built with technology and features that reduce energy and water consumption.

"We use a building automation system that allows us to monitor and quickly flex our energy consumption throughout the hospital each day," Arnold says. "And we've decreased our water consumption with low-flow toilets and automated sinks."