Local collaboration on sustainability, as practiced by the Green Needham Collaborative, is a model that can work for businesses as well. I made that connection in this article about Green Needham that was published in the June, 2010 issue of InBusiness, the monthly publication of the Newton Chamber of Commerce.

The Green Needham Collaborative is a community-based group bringing together people and organizations to build a more sustainable community through collaborative efforts on energy and the environment. In less than four years, Green Needham has established itself as the visible public face of sustainability efforts throughout the community through outreach and been able to undertake a range of innovative projects. This has been possible because “collaborative” is a defining characteristic, not just a name. From the start Green Needham participants have included residents, students, businesses, representatives of the municipality and the schools, local colleges and community organizations.

Engaging and leveraging all of a community’s resources is the best and surest way to achieve community-wide change. Projects move forward more quickly when the team includes key stakeholders and a wide variety of resources and skills. Outreach is more effective because a diverse set of participants ensures reaching a wider set of constituencies in the community – either directly through a group’s involvement in a project or indirectly because individuals have multiple affiliations.

Effective collaboration and out reach are also hallmarks of many successful businesses, large and small. So whether business owners and managers are interested in the increasing the sustainability of their own operations, improving the “environment” in which they do business, strengthening their connection with employees and customers or even selling green products and services, getting involved in Green Needham or one of its projects is a good fit.

A few of Green Needham’s projects, in which Needham and Newton businesses are already active, include: :

The 10% Challenge – Launched in 2009, this Green Needham flagship project supports Needham residents in reducing their energy use and carbon footprint by 10%. An interactive on-line checklist provides users a simple way to make an energy-saving plan while calculating how many pounds of CO2 would be kept out of the atmosphere by each action. Over 460 households participated in the 2009 Challenge through schools and community organizations, collectively committing to actions that would remove almost 4 millions pounds of CO2 from he environment. The 2010 goal is to increase that total to 1,000 households, which would represent 10% of all Needham households.

Renewable Energy at Needham’s Recycling and Transfer Station – A meteorological tower installed at the RTS will gather wind data over a one year period to determine feasibility and develop a business case for the installation of a wind turbine. A preliminary site survey has indicated that the site could also generate up to 1 MW of electricity from solar photovoltaic arrays.

Home Energy Efficiency Improvement Seminars – These 2 ½ hour seminars featuring domain experts from local businesses are aimed at making it much easier for Needham residents to identify and implement high-value home energy efficiency improvements. We are targeting the key barriers preventing people from taking advantage of opportunities that would reduce their energy use, save money and increase their comfort and the value of their homes.

Collaboration and Sustainability work for business too