Troup Alive & Green

Forum message: Sustainable business boosts profit, and people

By Jackie Kennedy


Since LaGrange is home to the industry touted as one of the world’s most sustainable, why not LaGrange?

That was the question posed by Jim Hartzfeld at Tuesday night’s Sustainability in Business Forum hosted by Troup Alive & Green (TAG) at Del’avant.

Keynote speaker at the event, Hartzfeld serves as managing director of InterfaceRAISE, a corporate consulting resource created to educate businesses seeking sustainability. InterfaceRAISE is a venture of InterfaceFLOR, the modular carpet tile company started here by West Point native Ray Anderson in the 1970s. Today, the global company produces carpet tiles on five continents but may best be known for its mission to become entirely environmentally sustainable.

Since 1994, Anderson has led Interface on “Mission Zero,” the company’s goal to eliminate by 2020 any negative impact it may have on the environment. Indeed, by 2009 Interface had reduced its industry-wide greenhouse gases by 44 percent and was sending 80 percent less waste to landfills, according to Hartzfeld, who said, “Mission Zero drives everything we do at Interface.”

Interface is recognized as a world leader in corporate sustainability and Anderson, as a business sustainability pioneer.

“I spend my time sharing the Interface story on mostly what my colleagues here in LaGrange have done,” said Hartzfeld. “LaGrange is the home of Interface but sometimes I think it has no idea of what it does throughout the world.”

Along with operating textile plants on five continents, Interface sells modular carpet throughout the world. “And what is inseparable now from modular carpet are the company’s ideas on sustainable business,” said Hartzfeld.

In addition to eliminating waste and choosing renewable energy sources, companies that desire to reduce their impact on the environment must engage people in the process, according to Hartzfeld. “And not just talk about it but bloody do something about it,” he added.

Approximately 200 citizens participated in the forum, which kicked off with an exposition of local green businesses and culminated with the keynote address and a roundtable panel addressing sustainability issues. Panelists were Kay Durand, executive director for Troup County Center for Strategic Planning, who discussed local initiatives to support a sustainable community; Renee Warrick, managing partner and founder of Clean Green 4 West Georgia, who spoke on solar energy opportunities; and Suzanne Burnes, assistant director of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ sustainability division and manager of the division’s Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia.

Todd Stephens of Troup Alive & Green was impressed with turnout for the event, which included representatives from 19 “green” businesses which took part in the expo.
“It shows our community has a great interest in addressing our sustainability issues,” said Stephens. “Local businesses are leading us into a new age of responsible stewardship. After the program, I think everyone was feeling the commitment to changing our habits for the betterment of our community.”

Along with local attendees, a delegation from Gainesville was on-hand at Tuesday’s event. On Wednesday, a TAG delegation traveled to Gainesville where a similar forum was conducted with Hartzfeld again keynote speaker.

“Economic indicators project a growth in Troup County in the next few years that will be similar to what Gainesville and Hall County experienced over a decade ago,” said Stephens. “There are lessons to learn from our sister city about how to deal with this type of rapid growth. Both communities share so many similarities, it was obvious that our respective leaders needed to come together to counsel each other in these chaotic times. Our communities share a common pursuit of stewardship and sustainability.”

Stephens, who coordinated the LaGrange event, envisions it becoming an annual part of TAG’s Earth Week celebration. “We already have plans in mind for next year,” he said.

Next year’s event will include evaluating success of initiatives brought forth from this week’s forum, which included a challenge from TAG to make a positive change for the environment in the coming year.

“Choose a project, set a goal, at business or at home, whether it’s setting out recycling bins or reducing energy consumption,” said Master of Ceremonies Jim Thornton. “Whatever it is you choose to do, the challenge from TAG is to make a change, track your results, and let us know of the impact.”

Hartzfeld issued a challenge of his own, encouraging the local community to be “seeds for change.”

“We did not leave the stone age because we ran out of stones but because we found a better way,” he said. “We will not leave the oil business because we run out of oil but because we find a better way. We must find a better way. Interface was founded in LaGrange…Why not LaGrange?”

For more about TAG and Troup County’s participation, click on the links:
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