Businessgets environmental kudos

Published on Thu, Apr 8, 2004
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Business gets environmental kudos

by Meg Olson

Blaine orthotics manufacturer Northwest Podiatric has made protecting the environment part of doing business, and they’re doing it so well the Whatcom Watersheds Business Pledge Program is recognizing them as one of the most aggressive and consistent of their program participants.

“What’s remarkable about them is that they’ve gone so far beyond the call of duty,” said program representative Derek Long. “We try and recognize businesses like this that take a lot of initiative


Yvonne Carson, the purchasing agent for Northwest Podiatric and supervisor of the company’s pollution prevention and recycling program, said participating in the Whatcom Watershed Business Pledge Program made practical business sense for the company, giving them access to technical advice and a discount on disposing of things like fluorescent tubes. However, it was also part of the company’s tradition of being good neighbors. “We try to be very conscious. We want to be good people in our neighborhood,” Carson said.

In 1993, the company was first told by the state they needed a stormwater pollution prevention permit because water from their property on Fir Avenue flowed down a storm drain and into an underground stream that emptied into Drayton Harbor.

Carson worked with the department of ecology developing a plan that would keep pollutants out of their stormwater. “We thought we were doing the right things and found we weren’t,” she said. “We had to look at how we handle things.”

The company made changes in how they store some of their materials, such as plaster casts and solvents, looked at what products were being used by their landscapers to make sure they were low impact and started an employee cleanup program. Every week a team of employees patrols the parking, storage and landscaped areas around the Northwest Podiatric buildings, picking up litter.

Carson said she started the company’s recycling program concurrent with the development of their pollution prevention plan. It was on a trip to the disposal of toxics facility in Bellingham to get rid of compressor oil that she learned of the watershed pledge program, and that by signing up the company could get a discount disposing of fluorescent tubes. The tubes contain the harmful metal mercury, and need special disposal to ensure it doesn’t make its way into stormwater and groundwater.

Carson signed the company up for the business pledge program promising to voluntarily work on reducing waste and containing pollutants. “They came out to talk and gave me a couple pointers, Carson said.

Working from a to-do list developed through the program Carson has started recycling programs for a long list of things that leave the regular garbage and are either reused by another company or disposed of safely at special facilities. “Anytime we can look at disposing of something differently, we do,” she said, adding that staff have been energetic in implementing the programs so that they have become a comfortable part of the work routine.

Carson said the company was pleased to be recognized as one of the most conscientious out of the 500 Whatcom County businesses participating in the program. “We felt really good about that,” she said.
Other local businesses interested in signing up for the pledge program can visit www.watershedpledge.org or call Lisa Friend at ReSources at 715-8434.