Idaho Makes Stars of Enviro-Friendly Businesses

In September, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, R, unveiled Idaho GEMStars, a statewide public recognition program for businesses, agricultural operations, governmental agencies, school districts, nonprofit organizations and other companies that implement pollution prevention measures.

To be considered for Idaho GEMStars membership, an organization must meet 12 of 19 pollution prevention criteria, including:

* Adopting three measures to reduce waste generation;

* Taking measures to conserve office paper;

* Adopting an inventory system to avoid leftover, expired or unused materials;

* Monitoring, recording and posting for employees hazardous /solid waste generation rates; and

* Reducing the use of toxic materials in at least three ways.

Recruiting businesses to participate in pollution prevention measures is the main goal of the program. Once a business meets the criteria for Idaho GEMStars membership, perks include promotion of members in all GEMStars public service announcements and media releases, use of the Idaho GEMStars logo and decals, and a positive public image - when customers see an Idaho GEMStars logo associated with a particular company, they will know what the company had to achieve to earn this privilege. In addition, members will benefit from networking and information sharing.

A business can implement additional waste reduction measures to be eligible for Idaho GEMStars' Middle and Highest Tiers. Middle Tier requirements still are being established, and will involve best practices in specific industries. The governor's office will recognize Highest Tier members, who will be considered leaders, innovators and mentors in their industries.

Currently, five companies have applied for and met the criteria for membership in the Idaho GEMStars, and publicizing the program has just begun. Idaho GEMStars is advertising in newspapers and trade magazines, and recruiting other businesses through city chamber of commerce newsletters, public service announcements and members' websites. Within the first six months of its introduction, Idaho GEMStars' goal is to register 25 to 50 members.

Although Idaho GEMStars does not provide funding for companies to prevent pollution, the organization will help its members find grants and research other areas of funding.

The idea was the brainchild of former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt, R, who appointed a 20-member committee of business owners and environmentalists in late 1997 to design a pollution prevention program. As Idaho GEMStars becomes more well-known, the committee will review applications, keep documentation of program participation and develop a system to perform on-site evaluations of businesses.

Pollution prevention policies have economic as well as environmental benefits, according to some charter Idaho GEMStars members. Through participation in Idaho GEMStars, Albertsons - a national grocery chain with offices in Boise - recycled nearly 178,000 tons of cardboard in 1998 in their 984 stores, saving $13 million in disposal costs and generating over $13 million in revenue, according to Cynthia Forsch, Albertsons' director of corporate environmental affairs.

"Albertsons understands the relationship between minimizing environmental impact and enhancing the bottom line," she says. "Idaho GEMStars encourages businesses, ranches, neighborhoods and farmers to do the same."

GEMStars member Luper Brothers Automotive Inc., Lewiston, Idaho, also has reduced its waste costs and liabilities to become part of Idaho GEMStars, according to owner Jim Luper.

"Used oil produced from servicing cars and trucks used to be a large portion of our waste stream, and it was difficult to store and expensive to haul away," Luper says. But to meet the Idaho GEMStars criteria for waste reduction, Luper says the company invested in waste oil burners that all but eliminated those costs. Hot water spray cabinets to clean parts were purchased allowing the company to collect wash water, filter it and reuse it.

About Retreaded Tires Approximately 30 million retreaded tires were sold in the United States and Canada in 1998, with sales totaling more than $2 billion.

Of those tires:

* 3.1 million were retreaded passenger car tires;

* 7.6 million were retreaded light truck tires;

* 19.4 million were retreaded medium and heavy truck tires; and

* 800,000 were other retreaded tires (aircraft, motorcycles, farm equipment, etc.).

More than 640 million pounds of tread rubber was used by the U.S. and Canadian retread tire industry last year.

SANTIAGO, Chile - With the click of a mouse, interested solid waste managers can access the latest environmental news from Latin America, thanks to a new offering by Santiago, Chile-based Business News Americas (BNA).

BNA Environment News, the latest service of the 311/42-year-old English-language BNA, includes daily e-mail updates to subscribers on issues such as hazardous waste and recycling, as well as breaking news on environmental legislation, pollution control and other industry-related events. Web surfers can view lead environment news stories, but need to subscribe to BNA to receive e-mails and have access to the archives, which feature more than 150 environmental related articles compiled since the site was created in May 1996. In addition, the site's FactFile offers operations and contact information on more than 3,000 Latin American companies.

Recent BNA Environment News stories include:

* Environment Ministry Presents Environment Crime Law (Brazil);

* Garbage Recycling Plant Begins Construction in September (El Salvador); and

* Health Industry Discusses Solid Waste (Uruguay).

Other industries covered by BNA include telecommunications, mining, construction and e-commerce, but the environment has become a crucial coverage area as the new millennium approaches, says BNA public relations manager Aine Magennis.

While BNA's 44-member staff did not have the budget, manpower or resources to start an environmental section until about four months ago, "the environment is more important [than ever] right now, and Latin America is no exception," Magennis says via e-mail from Santiago. "There is a lot happening in Latin America that the global community is not aware of, and vice versa. We plan to be the link between Latin America and the rest of the environmental-related community."

BNA hopes the environmental news site also will lead to business opportunities, she says.

"Solid waste management offers some of the best opportunities for financial growth here in Latin America, especially for North American companies that already have the technology," Magennis says. "Some [Latin American] countries still are developing their laws and guidelines in relation to waste management, and it's important that U.S. companies keep up-to-date on these events."

BNA claims a circulation of 290 paying subscribers, with 4,600 people receiving BNA news through the site's promotional free trial, she says. BNA's website: