Green business good business

David Miller, left, chairman of the Alpine Bank green team, and Su Kentz, a customer service representative at the downtown Grand Junction location, promote recycling as part of an enviromental management system. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle).

David Miller quickly dispels what he considers the myth that green business practices aren’t good business practices.

Efforts to save energy, water and other resources also save money, Miller says. Moreover, businesses that strive to protect the qualify of life of the communities in which they operate engender customers who feel the same way and gain a competitive advantage.

“You end up ahead of the game,” says Miller, an assistant vice president who serves as chairman of a green team at Alpine Bank in Western Colorado.

Miller is scheduled to talk about integrating environmental and business strategies at the Sustainable Opportunities Summit and Expo at the Marriott Denver City Center. The summit, set for April 11 and 12, will bring together experts from around the world to discuss ways to promote a more sustainable economy.

“We are delighted that David Miller will be joining our diverse group of speakers at this year’s summit,”

says Pete Dignan, executive director of CORE, a nonprofit association in Colorado that promotes sustainable business practices. CORE will host the summit along with the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado.

“We expect over 500 attendees who are truly interested in sustainability as a driving economic force and look forward to hearing from Mr. Miller about Alpine Bank’s initiatives and solutions.”

In addition to Miller’s presentation, the conference will include the presentation of awards for which a sustainability program at the Fruita school for eighth- and ninth-grade students is a finalist. What started out as a modest recycling program at the school has grown into comprehensive effort that includes not only recycling, but also energy efficiency and composting.

Miller will join in a presentation on April 11 about how diverse companies have integrated sustainability into their cultures and gained competitive advantages in the process.

Over the past eight years, Alpine Bank has implemented an environmental management system (EMS) that offers a comprehensive approach to conserving resources and reducing the environmental effects of bank operations. The EMS involves a wide range of initiatives at each of the 37 Alpine Bank locations in Western Colorado, Miller says, everything from recycling to energy efficiency to purchasing environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.

By scanning checks and other documents and transmitting them electronically, Alpine Bank eliminated a fleet of courier cars and significantly reduced paper consumption. The bank replaced incandescent and older fluorescent lighting with new fluorescent lighting that uses half the electricity and produces less heat. The bank also examines and upgrades heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to achieve more efficiency. To further reduce its so-called carbon footprint, the bank purchases all of its electricity from renewable energy sources.

Besides eliminating the courier fleet, Alpine Bank is well on its way to achieving a number of other goals by 2012, Miller says: reducing energy and paper use 20 percent from 2006 levels and reducing water use 10 percent.

Alpine Bank promotes green initiatives in other ways, Miller says, donating money to local environmental groups and projects from the proceeds of a check card program. The bank donates 10 cents for every transaction in which customers use the environment loyalty card. The environment card is one of the most popular cards in a program that also supports arts, education and community projects. Rate-discounted green loans are available for individuals and businesses that purchase fuel-efficient vehicles, build energy efficient homes or buildings or undertake renovation projects that improve efficiency.

Alpine Bank is the first — and so far, only — U.S. bank to earn ISO 14001 certification, an internationally recognized standard for environmental management, Miller says. The bank also has earned a gold level award from the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program and membership in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Leadership Club.

At the same time, though, Alpine Bank has cut costs and gained market share through its efforts, Miller says. “We make make more money and connect with the community because we take a stand.”