Local program spotlights green boomer businesses

Lynn Miller and Adam Wallis, production manager at Vancouver Sign Group, display recent LED install for Goodwill at company's facility in Vancouver.

The Clark County Green Business Program recognizes and celebrates the achievements of green businesses.

These businesses demonstrate that going green is not only good for the environment but, good for the bottom line, improving employee morale, increasing operational efficiency and maintaining a positive public image.

The Green Business Program helps local business leaders find ways to cut costs, conserve resources, educate employees, reduce waste and be good neighbors in the community.

This month, The Messenger interviewed two local business leaders, both over age 50, who are actively involved in the Green Business Program: Scott Campbell, governmental and community affairs manager for Waste Connections in Vancouver, and Lynn Miller, co-owner with husband Dick of Vancouver Sign Group.

Scott Campbell, Governmental and Community Affairs Manager, Waste Connections Inc.

Scott Campbell, 60, is a trash talker. He even heads up a group of Waste Connections Trash Talkers who help support the local humane society. When the subject turns to sustainable business practices and waste management, he is dead serious about his company’s commitment to “going green.”

Waste Connections Inc. provides waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling services in Clark County and throughout the U.S. and Canada. As governmental and community affairs manager, Campbell handles issues related to solid waste, recycling and transportation at the local, state and federal legislative level. 

Campbell said that since its inception, Waste Connections has given back to the community. “A large part of my job is being in the community,” explains Campbell, “working with a lot of charities and nonprofits.”

We asked Campbell about his company’s commitment to green practices.

  • Why did Waste Connections get involved in the Green Business Program?

They have a list of qualifications and we meet all of those qualifications.

We converted our truck fleet to CNG (compressed natural gas) and switched from paper route books to iPads.

At all our facilities in Southwest Washington, we’ve switched to more efficient lighting.

We seek out ways to responsibly recycle or dispose of hazardous materials such as paints, solvents and insecticides … things like that.

We use durable goods in the office as opposed to plastic forks, paper plates or cups. We also have a policy in place to limit printing, and we always print on both sides of the paper.

We installed skylights to use natural light as much as possible in our main office and use washable dishtowels instead of paper towels.

We also have a policy to buy products made from recycled materials. All of our cleaning products are nontoxic, and food waste is composted.

  • As a long-time waste management company, what changes have you seen in the public’s waste management and recycling attitudes?

The biggest change was when we went from a three-bin system to a cart system, so now everything is commingled except glass. What we found is we have more participation. If you make it easier for the public, they’re going to recycle more.

Markets are really tough. They are in a downward spiral … and have been for quite some time. There’s no value in the commodity. Whereas cardboard used to be $200 a ton, it’s now only worth $30 … and that’s after you put all the processing in it such as separation of materials.

It’s a global market, and China (a major importer of recycled materials) has infrastructure that is becoming more self-sufficient. They’re using a lot of their own material, so they are less dependent on our material. Also, numerous domestic mills have closed through the years. But we are fortunate to be so close to the West Coast, where we are able to move most of our materials.

Our belief as a company is people want to recycle. We should provide those recycling options, and we’ll continue to do it.

  • How do green practices of your company benefit society?

Probably the big things are our food scrap collections and making composting available at schools and businesses. We also provide tours at our transfer stations that show the community the importance of reducing their waste and the correct way to recycle. There’s certain things you need to do. For example, you can’t put something that’s garbage into recycling and think that it is going to be recycled. It’s not going to happen.

We do presentations with schools, community groups and businesses about recycling and reducing waste. Our sustainability efforts include volunteering for the Adopt a Road program and Friends of Trees plantings. We are involved with trainings for Columbia Springs and the county’s compost recycling program. We are also involved in all the trade associations including the Washington State Recycling Association, Washington Refuse and Recycling Association, Association of Oregon Recyclers and Solid Waste Advisory Council.

  • What will the future of waste management industry practices look like?

I think you are going to see product stewardship, where the manufacturer is going to be responsible for taking the original material pulled back. There is also a big push for reduced packaging on products. We are always looking at new and different ways to recycle tougher types of materials such as mattresses and carpet pads. That’s why we are in schools. We are educating the younger generation on what’s recyclable, how to reduce your waste and reuse your materials.

For further information about Waste Connections, go to www.wasteconnections.com.

Lynn Miller, Co-Owner, Vancouver Sign Group

Lynn and Dick Miller own Vancouver Sign Group, an industry leader in innovative sign design in the Vancouver and Portland areas. The company recently expanded its market area to include the entire western United States.

Vancouver Sign Group has been designated a Clark County Green Business since 2011. Community Service has always been an important part of the company’s culture. In addition to participation in Rotary International, Evergreen Little League and Greyhound Pet Adoption Northwest, Lyn Miller serves on the boards of Boys & Girls Clubs of SW Washington and Bridge the Gap, a program serving local foster children.

In this interview, Lynn Miller explains how the company’s green business practices benefit society.

  • What are the green practices at Vancouver Sign Group?

We recycle all of our signs, including all of the metal and whatever else we can recycle. We also recycle wood signs and wood pallets.

  • Why do you install LED lights in your sign projects?

LED lights are low voltage. They last for a long time and are very cost effective. We are one of the few sign companies, maybe the only company, in the Northwest that specializes in retrofitting signs that have fluorescent lights or neon into LED signs. We refurbished the Columbia Theatre sign in Longview. We are also retrofitting all the Parr Lumber signs to LED and close to 200 Starbuck signs.

  • How did you get involved in the Green Business Program?

The Green Business Program approached us, and our bookkeeper at the time took charge of it and then got us involved. We saw the value in it, so we started modeling the practice. We have been involved since 2011 and were one of first companies to participate. We also do the trophies and plaques for the Green Business Program awards program.

We recycled our transformers, ballasts and fluorescent lamps, and that was of interest to them. They came in with Waste Connections staff and literally went through our garbage. That process made us aware what could be recycled that we weren’t recycling and also what couldn’t be recycled.

  • What do you see as the main advantage of going green?

Well, we are helping the environment. We are proud of being a green business, and teaching our staff what’s right and what’s not right — what not to throw into the garbage and how you can recycle it.

  • How does your focus on “lean construction” eliminate waste and achieve extremely high material yields?

It’s the way our shop is set up to make it the most time-efficient, cost-efficient way of fabricating a sign. The design comes from the sales team, then to designers and then to foreman who distributes them. The way our shop is designed, we start out with      the construction, then welding, then installing the LED lights and then painting before the sign is completed…all designed to start upfront and then go out the back door.

  • Vancouver Sign Group is involved in many community activities. What is the philosophy behind your community involvement?

We care. We give back. We have a true passion for children and the underserved child. I am the board chair for an organization called Bridge the Gap. We fund-raise and provide everything to the foster child that the foster parent can’t and the state does not, whether it’s tutoring, soccer cleats, music lessons, instruments, birthday presents, cake, senior prom dresses or tuxedos.

For further information about Vancouver Sign Group, go to www.vansignco.com/2015