A contest to encourage environmentally friendly and energy efficient practices at area businesses concluded Thursday as the winners of the Better Business Challenge were announced.

“This is the culmination of a year-long effort to bring awareness to environmental stewardship,” said Teri Kent, manager of the Better Business Challenge. “We wanted to galvanize the business community.”
 
In all, 106 area businesses and nonprofits entered the competition last June. Ten volunteer judges reviewed all of their efforts and handed out 14 awards on the event’s “green carpet” at the Paramount Theater.
 
Kent said the challenge was an opportunity for participants to save money by integrating environmentally sustainable practices into their operations.
 
The Blue Moon Diner won the “Restaurant Superstar” award for their efforts to increase recycling and composting. They also replaced their dishwasher sprayer with a more efficient model.
 
“We have always welcomed input from our customers, but the Challenge has directed those suggestions in ways that have really helped inspire us to action,” said Laura Galgano, the diner’s owner.
 
The “Stridemaker” award went to Woodward Properties for going paperless. That enabled them to save $3,000 worth of printer toner each year and avoid using several thousand sheets of paper.
The Albemarle County Service Authority achieved a 40 percent water reduction in its facilities by installing low-flow faucets and establishing a no idling policy for its vehicles.
 
“We have been thrilled at the success of these businesses,” Kent said. “They found creative ways to reduce waste and use less energy, tapped into the latest innovations to save water and established best practices to get the biggest bang for their buck with all of these operational improvements.”
 
Cynthia Adams, the executive director of the Local Energy Alliance Program, said the widespread participation in challenge demonstrates this community’s interest in saving on energy costs.
 
“We had over 100 attendees at our [lunch seminars] on energy efficiency and lighting and did multiple presentations for the employees of challenge participants,” Adams said.
 
Kent, who runs the environmental advocacy group Better World Betty, said she wants to launch another contest in the near future. A meeting on that topic will be held at CitySpace beginning at 11:30 a.m. on July 26.
 
The “Ripple Effect” award was given to the Church of the Incarnation for creating an environmental stewardship program for youth. This involved introducing rain barrels and composting in to their community garden.
 
The nonprofit GreenBlue won two awards. They received one of two “kilowatt crackdown” awards for reducing energy consumption and another for reducing waste by 40 percent by introducing composting.
 
The JAUNT para-transit agency won the challenge’s “Green Leader” award for demonstrating leadership by installing a rain garden to reduce runoff water into Moores Creek and adding timers to vending machines.
 
Virginia Eagle Distributing won the “Top Innovator” award for installing solar panels on tractor-trailers to charge their powered lift gates. The company earned back its investment within five months, according to Kent. Virginia Eagle also saved $33,000 by recycling cardboard six-pack containers.
 
The venue for Thursday’s gala also participated in the event and was awarded one of several “Better Business Champion” slots for replacing its marquee lights with cold cathode bulbs which use only three watts and should last 25,000 hours.
 
“The Better Business Challenge encouraged all of us to consider the environment as a factor in best business practices,” said Jason Williams, facilities manager at the Paramount Theater.
 
Carpet Plus was a “champion” both for creating “Re-cork Cville,” a wine cork recycling program, and for tinting their windows to save energy.
 
Alloy Workshop adopted a policy not to use lights in its offices by installing five solar tubes and relying on three skylights.
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