October 24, 2019


Imagine this: 1,164 football fields full of empty, 15-ounce plastic containers.

That’s the reality of the 552 million shampoo bottles that end up in landfills and oceans each year – and it’s one of many staggering facts that prompted local business owner Stephanie Beltnick to start being part of the solution for a “greener” tomorrow.

“I have kids, so I definitely want to do what I can,” she says, adding that even biodegradable products have been found to stick around longer than expected. “I think all of us need to be conscious of what we are putting in a landfill because it’s not breaking down like we are educated to believe.”

As owner of Water Works Salon and Spa in Mt. Pleasant, Beltnick says her business produced about five to six bags of trash per week. Now, since implementing recycling and other changes a year and a half ago, it’s down to one bag or less. Recycle bins throughout the salon make it easy to recycle items like hair foils that previously went in the trash, and they use only aluminum-packaged hair color tubes that can be recycled.

“Now we have a system. We just know where things go,” she says.

The salon sells its own line of hair products in recyclable containers ($1 from each sale goes toward plastic cleanup from waterways), and an in-house refill station for customers reduces plastic use. Beltnick is also working to develop a new technology for shampoo bottles.

“I’m trying to pioneer something different,” she says.

Employees and clients – especially millennials and younger – like supporting these efforts, too.

“The staff is very proud to know the impact our business is having,” she adds.

Water Works Salon and Spa sells its own line of hair products in recyclable containers, and an in-house refill station for customers reduces plastic use.

Water Works isn’t the only local business becoming more environmentally friendly. At Krapohl Ford and Lincoln in Mt. Pleasant, solar panels installed in late 2016 are providing a significant portion of the company’s electricity. They’re now considering installing more, says general manager Mark Smith.

Despite initial uncertainty about how the panels would perform, “Everything has worked exactly as they said it would,” he says.

It was a major investment, but the cost-savings has panned out. Smith estimates they’ve saved about $20,000 per year so far, which is exactly what was predicted.

At Krapohl Ford and Lincoln in Mt. Pleasant, solar panels installed in late 2016 are providing a significant portion of the company's electricity.

“It was definitely an investment but it’s along the same lines as putting in LED bulbs,” he says, adding that they also recycle oil by reusing it in their oil-burning furnaces, and recycle paper and cardboard products. “And I like the message it sent – at the time, electric vehicles were just coming online and somebody in theory could charge their vehicle at Krapohl Ford with power that came from the sun.”

But the cost savings is only part of the motivation behind Krapohl’s investment in solar panels, which generate energy from the sun and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Besides being in the car business, I’m definitely an environmentalist,” Smith says. “Most environmental initiatives are also money-saving. We’re always looking for those ideas, especially if it makes good business sense.”

Despite an initial investment, these solar panels at Krapohl Ford and Lincoln in Mt. Pleasant have saved the company an estimated $20,000 per year since being installed in late 2016.

Plus, many customers appreciate the efforts.

“I’d say it sends a positive message and it definitely attracts some customer base that care about that,” he says. “We’re definitely happy with it. We’d love to do more.”

Another area business working to be more green is one you might expect – and not just because it has “green” in its name. GreenTree Cooperative Grocery prioritizes sustainability by emphasizing local and organic products, selling bulk foods and spices, recycling all eligible materials, and other efforts.

“Part of our commitment to local is for the economy but also reducing the number of miles food has to travel from farm to table,” says general manager Sarah Christensen. “Our deli packaging is made from recycled and/or compostable materials. In our bulk department, we encourage folks to bring in their own containers to reduce packaging.”

Customers at GreenTree Cooperative Grocery are encouraged to bring in their own containers to fill with bulk goods to reduce packaging materials.

By finding a local farmer to take all of the store’s food waste, GreenTree has significantly reduced its trash output.

“They come weekly and pick up our food waste and use it for composting materials on their farm, which is something we were pretty excited about,” she says. “We also have the Wooden Nickel program, where we encourage people to bring their own bags, and if they do we offer a wooden nickel that they can donate back to GreenTree or another nonprofit.”

To encourage customers to bring their own bags, Green Tree Cooperative Grocery has implemented a Wooden Nickel program.

Last year alone, that program led to about 10,000 fewer bags being used. It’s all part of the member-owned store’s values, Christensen notes.

“Concern for the environment has been one of our values at GreenTree since the beginning, since 1970,” she says. “Keeping that in mind when we make purchasing decisions or planning decisions is important to us and it’s been expressed by our shoppers and owners as a value that they share and they want to see us actively integrating into our business.”

And it’s an issue that’s top of mind for many people, Christensen says.

“I feel like everybody has seen the plastic ocean picture at some point. There’s a consciousness about single-use plastics and energy usage and we hear that in the aisles, people mentioning to us why they’re making the choices that they’re making,” she says. “I think there's definitely a heightened awareness.