Green Business Barbados
In spring 2009 the Future Centre Trust of Barbados (a local non-profit organization) held a visioning retreat where invited participants gave their insights into the future of a Green Barbados Business educational resource.
During this retreat, green business emerged as a critical area of focus for the Trust based on community input. At the other end of the spectrum, in the public domain, the National Strategic Plan, The Green Economy Document and The Sustainable Development Policy, all of which were published by the Barbados Government, referred to a green business program as key to creating a local green economy.
In light of this ‘bottom up’ grassroots initiative and the ‘top-down’ public interest, a public/private partnership was created, and the Green Business Barbados program was born.
There are many green business programs all over the world; the most common of these are ISO 14001 geared more toward manufacturers and the Green Globe program tailored toward hotels.
Both of these programs have international standards and require global products and services that in many cases are unattainable and not affordable for local businesses and organizations.
Also, many products have historically been imported for green programs many of which could easily be manufactured right here at home. As a result of this information, the potential for this kind of plan to encourage market growth and entrepreneurship in the green economy is exponential.
The Green Business Barbados program has five component areas; four of which can provide niche markets where Barbadians can benefit. Not only is it more environmentally friendly to buy local products (because they are not imported and do not require tonnes of fossil fuels to arrive on our island), it is also better for the local economy to keep the money at home.
Waste Reduction and Recycling
Barbados has become a regional leader in recycling, fueling the green economy right here at home and providing green jobs and training to Barbadians.
There are many recyclers on the island all of which have been enjoying success in the past few years due to local environmental awareness.
Now it is time for this part of the market to focus on waste reduction – ‘reduce‘ and ‘reuse‘ options when chosen first, reduce the need to use resources and thus the need to recycle large quantities of materials.
If these goods and services consider economies of scale within their business plan, an even more sustainable product could be achieved. An example of this is producing reusable shopping bags out of materials remaining from a manufacturing process that would otherwise have been discarded.
Goods and services within this component could include; reusable shopping bags (made from leftover materials from sail making, crocus bags and so on and locally grown cotton), recycle bins (made from a plastic or metal drums that would otherwise have been discarded), etc.
Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy
This field is one of great potential for Barbados thanks to our tropical location and the potential for the efficient harvesting of solar energy due to our high levels of solar radiation.
In addition to solar, there is also great potential to develop other forms of energy including; bio fuel and biomass, tidal and wave power, wind power, and others.
Concerning energy conservation, there is a market for energy efficient appliances and energy neutral products such as hand pushed lawnmowers and other non-electronic and gas-powered home tools.
Also, there is also a need and a market for energy efficient products such as LED lighting, high powered/new generation hand dryers, etc.
Out of all of the water in the world, only 3% is fresh water, most of which is frozen in glaciers. This leaves less than 1% available for human, plant and organism consumption.
With the world population increasing by 1 million every four days the stress on water is becoming one of the significant human health issues of the century.
Barbados is the 15th most water scarce country in the world according to the United Nations panel on Water. The state has an approximate population of some 270,000 registered inhabitants (soon to be confirmed thanks to the upcoming census) and hosts one million visitors annually to its shores.
This human demand highlights the need to conserve water and protect water quality is apparent and urgent.
There are many ways to conserve water much of which begins with human behavior change when it comes to water usage and cultural attitudes.
Efficient technology such as low flow sink and shower faucets, drip irrigation, pressure reducing valves, water filtration systems, and rainwater harvesting projects will assist in this conservation effort.
However, it is the human choice to conserve through many daily measures which will all play an integral role in reducing water consumption on our island.
Pollution Control and Management
In the 1960’s Rachel Carson wrote the book called ‘Silent Spring‘ that revealed to the world the toxic chemicals that are present in our environment and our food.
She was the mother of the modern environmental movement and brought to light how many simple products that we use on a daily basis are not just unhealthy for our use, but also for ecosystems as a whole.
This component addresses the need for our businesses and organizations to consider their emissions and their direct impact on the physical environment.
Within the new green economy, there will be a need to procure more Eco-friendly cleaning products to reduce the environmental impact that everyday business and household outputs have on the environment.
These products should be locally made and should include things like; dish soap, laundry soap, shampoo, hand and body soap, disinfectants and all other cleaning agents.
Pollutants not only come from our businesses and homes they also come from our gardens, agricultural practices, and golf courses. To reduce these impacts, there is a need to supply stores and homeowners with organic solutions to the traditional ways of dealing with weeds, pests and the like.
Many of the fertilizers, pesticides, and poisons that we use haphazardly are not just bad for the environment when they inevitably get into our ground aquifers they are also bad for human and aquatic consumption and cause bio-accumulation leading to all kinds of adverse health effects. In the new green economy, there will be a demand for new innovative and organic solutions to these current issues.
Emissions contribute to air pollution by not only expelling CO2 (one of the primary greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change) but also harmful particulates into the air.
The need to reduce emissions on the island caused by our number one choice for transportation, the single occupancy vehicle, is very much needed to improve air quality.
A legislative change could facilitate a market shift toward the need for more transit options such as ferry shuttle systems, a light rail system, more walk able pedestrian environments and so on.
Similarly, the local car market has begun to recognize the need to reduce emissions by selling small fuel-efficient vehicles, Hybrids, and natural gas in addition to a locally based solar transport project. There is significant potential for the expansion of this market according to trends in the world market.
Overall, the possibilities for expanded environmentally aligned products in the local market, thanks to entrepreneurship and a recognition that we are on the move into the green economy, are rife.
Local businesses can build on the interest provided by this new generation and seek to fill the gaps in a limited locally available product range.
Barbados has shown it has innovators and creators that can rival the best in the world on many levels. It only takes a thought to become a reality (and a lot of self-employed hard work!) to create a viable, locally produced complimentary product to a growing local market.
We challenge you Barbados – can we become the hub of the green product revolution for the region.