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Operating as an environmentally friendly business is not a fad. More and more Hispanic entrepreneurs are doing it because being conscious of your impact on the environment not only makes good business sense, but it's what a growing number of customers and clients want to see.
Latinos are acutely aware of environmental issues because they, along with African Americans, are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to live in areas negatively impacted by businesses not following environmentally friendly practices, says a recent study by Cornell University.
Another study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication finds that Hispanics worry about the environment at higher rates than their non-Hispanic peers.
Here's what some Hispanic small businesses are doing to make sure that they are caring for the planet as well as their customers.
There may have been a time when being an environmentally conscious company meant taking a big hit to the bottom line, but that's no longer true, says Leah Márquez-Peterson, an entrepreneur and former president of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce in Arizona.
In her current capacity as a commissioner on the Arizona Corporation Commission, Márquez-Peterson and her fellow commissioners look at how utilities are operating in the state and what they can do to be more efficient. "[The United States is] moving into a clean energy economy and businesses that operate in those industries have great opportunities," she says. "There's so much innovation and technology coming down the pipeline."
Author and sustainability expert Graciela Tiscareño-Sato says that claiming that it's too expensive to operate in a more environmentally conscious manner is an excuse that doesn't work anymore.
"People love to say that it's too expensive when they don't want to do the work to find out what the options are," she says. After all, she explains, most business suppliers are willing to negotiate. "In the end, it usually is the same or even cheaper [to be eco-friendly]. You just have to look. Don't just default to [saying that ] it's too expensive."
No Planet B
But why operate as an environmentally friendly business? It's not just to 'feel good' anymore, says Tiscareño-Sato, author of the book Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them. "There's no other planet we can all go to. This is it. Anyone who is starting or growing a business now has a higher awareness of that," she says.
Being an eco-friendly business doesn't limit you to working in the energy industry, or any other, for that matter. Imagine a successful car wash that doesn't use a drop of water. That's the premise behind Green Shine, with branches in the United States, Central America, and the Middle East, where water is particularly scarce. "I combined my love of cars with my love of the environment," says founder Juan Pablo Sagastume.
Salazar Packaging, in suburban Chicago, was started by Dennis and Lenora Salazar, a husband and wife team with almost four decades of experience in the packaging industry who wanted to have a business that was part of an environmental solution. "If you can use more eco-friendly packaging materials and save money in the process, why wouldn't you?" they say on their website. The company uses 100% post-consumer recycled packaging.
Rocío Romero is a St. Louis-based designer who crafts prefabricated homes that are both minimalist and sustainable. Her home accessories, such as end tables, fire pits, candle holders, and coasters, are made to complement the natural surroundings. "It's a brilliant solution of sustainability applied to housing without sacrificing beauty and design," offers Tiscareño-Sato.
GC Green is a general contracting firm in San Diego founded by Navy veteran Elizabeth Pérez and whose company slogan is "Sustainability Equals National Security." The company's customers range from single-family homes to commercial and government buildings.
"You can be small, or even grow bigger, and still be an environmentally friendly business," says Tiscareño-Sato. "There's no downside to it."