Do you use environmentally friendly practices in your shop? Although some might consider it trendy, most businesses realize that environmental awareness is good policy.

As you set up shop for the upcoming season, there are some things you should keep in mind. Pierce Flynn, the national program and communications director of Surfrider Foundation, says it begins with a philosophy: “We’re all in it for the long haul. In the end, what will benefit the planet is going to benefit business.” Flynn says that it’s the long-term process your shop can reap the rewards from.

“If you surf the popular movement of ecology with your shop, it’s going to bring benefits to you,” he says. “People will trust and be loyal to your shop if they know you have a real investment in the overall scheme of things.”

To begin, Flynn suggests appointing someone on your staff as eco-manager to oversee the business’ practices. “Make it that person’s responsibility to coordinate environmental programs, promotions, and environmental buying.” One book that he recommends is 50 Simple Things Your Business Can Do To Save The Earth (Earth Works Press Inc.).

Another simple step businesses can take is to use recycled materials wherever you can¿paper, bags, packaging, even in window displays. “You can combine stuff from older displays for a really creative new one, and you save money, too,” Flynn says. Front-shop recycling is important also: set up bins for discarded paper, plastic, and aluminum. An easy way to save money and be efficient is by using energy-efficient lighting.

There are other sources you can look to for help in promoting better practices. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a program called WasteWise that focuses on three areas: waste prevention, collection of recyclables, and increased buying of recycled products.

“The way EPA looks at it, the most important thing is preventing waste in the first place,” says Program Director Lynda Wynn. Using paper as an example, she explains that if you turn a piece of paper over and use the back side before you recycle it, energy has been saved, pollution reduced, and natural resources conserved.

“Also, by supporting companies’ efforts to experiment with low-impact materials both in fabric and in packaging, more companies will be inclined to follow,” she says. Recycled-cotton and hemp clothing are two environmentally friendly products your shop can carry.

It’s also important to make environmental information readily available to your staff and customers. Contact your local sanitation office or the National Recycling Coalition for more information about starting a recycling program. For other environmental information contact the Surfrider Foundation or the Sierra Club and ask them about supplying educational pamphlets or books to display at your business.

Obviously, there is much room for creativity with an eco-business, and because we are always learning, starting with the world around you is the first step.

Andrea Peters spent last winter in Crested Butte getting back to nature. She will be writing a regular environmental column this season.

SIDE BAR Try calling one of these organizations for more information.Greenpeace(415) 512-9025National Recycling Coalition (202) 625-6406Sierra Club (415) 776-2211Surfrider Foundation (714) 492-8170Environmental Protection Agency(202) 260-2090