Government and Sustainability

Environmental group says Michigan businesses favor Clean Power Plan

A manager at BarFly Ventures explains why they rely on clean and green energy.

August 14, 2015
| By Pete Daly |
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About 90 percent of more than 400 Michigan business leaders surveyed support reducing carbon emissions to help meet the federal Clean Power Plan, according to Environmental Entrepreneurs.

E2 released results of its survey in early August and held a phone-based news conference in Detroit, during which a representative of Barfly Ventures in Grand Rapids answered questions about that company’s support of clean energy.

E2 says its survey shows Michigan businesses support the implementation of a plan tailored to Michigan to further reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

On Aug. 3, President Obama announced the EPA Clean Power Plan: new carbon pollution standards for power plants that the White House press office termed “a historic step in the Obama Administration’s fight against climate change.”

E2 was founded in 2000 as an affiliate of the Natural Resources Defense Council and describes itself as an independent, nonpartisan group of business leaders nationwide who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity.

The White House press office said the Clean Power Plan will provide public health benefits through its goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030. The reduction would be measured against emissions levels recorded in 2005, and the strategy includes increasing renewable energy for generating power and greater efficiency in electricity use.

The survey in Michigan was conducted by FM3 and Public Opinion Strategies and was commissioned by E2.

E2 said about 90 percent of Michigan business leaders favor a state-based plan to reduce carbon emissions to help meet the standards in the federal Clean Power Plan. Almost 70 percent said they supported the federal Clean Power Plan, and 49 percent said they strongly support it.

Under the plan, carbon emissions from existing power plants will be reduced by about 32 percent, in part by increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“The naysayers who claim that cutting carbon pollution and increasing clean energy is bad for business should talk to the businesspeople we talked to in Michigan,” said Gail Parson, E2’s Midwest advocate.

“Nearly 70 percent of Michigan small business owners and executives support the Clean Power Plan — and for good reason. They know increasing clean energy and energy efficiency will create jobs, reduce energy costs and drive economic growth,” she said.

Among the survey’s top findings, according to E2:

  • Four in five support existing state standards to ensure power companies deliver a certain amount of renewable energy such as wind and solar.
  • 90 percent support expanding utility programs to help consumers be more energy efficient.
  • Three in five believe renewable energy will create jobs.
  • 83 percent of Michigan business owners and managers said Michigan can have a strong economy and clean environment at the same time.

Grand Rapids-based BarFly Ventures is a growing hospitality business that has taken environmental causes to heart. It has a sustainability manager — Autumn Sands — and recycles or composts up to 90 percent of the waste produced at its bars and restaurants.

The company was founded by Mark Sellers in 2008 after he opened HopCat on Ionia Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids; now there also are HopCat locations in Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing and Indianapolis. A new HopCat opened this summer in Madison, Wisconsin, and another is slated to open in November in Lexington, Kentucky. BarFly Ventures also includes Stella’s Lounge, McFadden’s and Grand Rapids Brewing Co., all in Grand Rapids.

“We put an emphasis on sustainability and green business practices,” said Sands, who spoke at the news conference call on the importance of clean energy and what it means for businesses in the hospitality industry.

“As a restaurant-brewery-bar group, we spend a lot of time thinking about the source of our food, the source of the ingredients in our beer, where all the waste is going,” said Sands.

“It only makes sense that we would also consider where our energy is coming from, how it’s created or extracted, and the impact it has on our environment and our community,” she added.

Even the spent beer-processing grain from the two BarFly brew pubs is composted. Sands’ work now involves finding business partners in the new locations that will enable BarFly to recycle and compost there, too.

BarFly is not a member of E2 but has supported the work of the NRDC in the past.

Sands said the staff at BarFly Ventures are not energy experts, by any means, “but we need energy to run our businesses and to power our restaurants and breweries, to make beer and cook food.”

“It is important to us to at least ask the questions: Where is our energy coming from? What impact is it having?” said Sands.

“We do a lot of work with clean water organizations, being that we produce beer at two of our locations. We realize that beer is 95 percent water, and you can’t brew beer without clean water,” she said, adding energy production often tends to have “a direct impact on clean water.”

“The state of Michigan is surrounded by 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, so realizing that it’s all relative, it makes it even more of an important consideration for us.”

 

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