Saint John Businesses Celebrated For Environmentally Friendly Practices

Kannon Animal Hospital owner Michiko Gehrig. Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle Today

SAINT JOHN– Members of the Saint John business community were celebrated on Wednesday for their efforts on becoming for green and sustainable.

Ten businesses received Business Sustainability and Environment Awards from Sustainable Saint John, an organization that helps businesses and organizations in the city become more environmentally friendly.

ACAP Saint John, Clow Canada, ConnexionWorks, Commercial Properties, Honey Do’s, Kannon Animal Hospital, NexGen, Port Saint John, Hemming’s House Pictures and the Saint John Airport all received awards for their efforts to make their operations more green and sustainable.

For example, Kannon Animal Hospital was recognized refurbishing their building to include solar panels, going paperless and promoting eco-health over the last year. Owner and veterinarian Michiko Gehrig says being sustainable has been a goal since they first opened five years ago.

“Our logo is a pawprint that’s actually made of leaves so that was our main goal – to be sustainable and use as little carbon as possible in the business practice. We’ve been doing that ever since we opened,” said Gehrig.

“Everything we did, there was always a thought, ‘is this sustainable? Or what is the most environmentally friendly way to do this every step of the way?’ ”

In the beginning, Gehrig says the business focused on small things it could do sustainably, such as reusing materials and locally sourcing for its building renovations. But now that the business is profitable they are able to take things a step further, such as installing solar panels.

“Over the last year, the biggest thing we did was install solar panels that tie into the grid,” said Gehrig. “So we’re generating energy for ourselves, but any excess will go back into the grid for others in the community.”

As a small business owner, it’s easy to feel like your contributions don’t make a difference. Gehrig’s advice to other business owners looking to become more sustainable is to feel good about starting small.

“When you’re little, you always think you can’t make a difference, but I think you can,” she said. “Even if it means recycling or reusing, even though it seems like a small thing, it makes a huge difference because it takes a whole bunch of little things to make the whole.”

Chris Peterson, the vice-chair of Sustainable Saint John, says businesses both big and small in the city have been embracing sustainability as a good business practice over recent years. Being environmentally conscious was once viewed as a charitable act.

“It started off with some awareness and you had passionate individuals within an organization that was doing things just because it was the right thing to do. It really started to get embedded around philanthropy within companies and put into that bucket,” said Peterson.

“Over the last five to 10 years, what you’re seeing in Saint John and the sustainability community around the world has been this understanding and awareness of the actual business value of that. That’s being driven by a combination of appreciation of the cost savings that come along with the employee engagement side and also the expectations from customers .”

Gehrig says she also sees the sustainability movement growing in the city too. Both Kannon Animal Hospital and the other companies honoured are setting an example.

“This is starting to gain momentum, that’s what I really like. I like being that really small part of that bigger thing that’s starting to gain momentum.”