Sustainable Issaquah launches local economy project

Sustainable Issaquah this week launched the Issaquah Sustainable Economy Initiative.

Inspired by the challenge of securing the economic, social and environmental characteristics of Issaquah in the many decades to come, community group Sustainable Issaquah is about the launch its most ambitious project to date.

A recent report by Sustainable Seattle described the dollar flows and economic linkages of food-related businesses in the Central Puget Sound region. The analysis showed that locally directed spending by consumers more than doubled the number of dollars circulating among businesses in the community. This means that a shift of 20 percent of our food dollars into locally directed spending could result in a nearly half billion dollar annual income increase in King County alone and twice that in the Central Puget Sound region.

The report also showed that the more dollars circulate locally, the greater the number of community linkages and the greater their strength. More and stronger linkages provide for a healthier, more diverse and resilient local economy.

The report concluded that locally directed buying and selling connects the community’s resources to its needs resulting in relationships that serve to restore the land and regenerate community.

With that in mind, Sustainable Issaquah this week launched the Issaquah Sustainable Economy Initiative.

Over recent months, Sustainable Issaquah committee members have spoken with business owners to discuss effective ways to promote and support Issaquah businesses who contribute to the local economy.

“How we spend our money involves a choice about the kind of community we want to live in and the future we want to have,” said Sustainable Issaquah’s Chantal Stevens.

Over the next few years the community group, well known for its establishment of the Issaquah Flatlands Community Garden and the support of carpooling initiatives in the Issaquah School District, will inventory, list and promote local businesses that also strive to contribute to a sustainable economy.

A Sustainable Issaquah project intern will meet with local business owners to gather answers to a survey which includes a number of sustainability indicators. The end goal is to develop a directory, and/or map, that draws attention to suppliers which tick a number of boxes on the Sustainable Issaquah checklist.

Stevens said that included a wide range of criteria, from where the business was registered to how it treated its employees and its efforts to be environmentally friendly.

“There are two components to the questionnaire – what is ‘local,’ and what is ‘sustainable,'” Stevens said. “It was really the local components that got us started, and those questions are about getting an indication of whether a business has strong local routes.”

That section of the survey will ask whether the business is privately owned, where the majority of the ownership lives, and whether it is governed by a corporate headquarters situated out of the state.

“We don’t want absentee owners,” Stevens said.

The sustainability portion of the survey will explore the businesses efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, their contribution to local charities and community groups, the use of local materials, engagement in recycling and other environmental mitigation programs, and whether it provides additional support and opportunities for employees and their families.

“It is about identifying the types of places we really want to see in Issaquah,” Stevens said.

With more than 2,500 businesses in Issaquah, the Sustainable Issaquah project intern will begin by making contact with owners in the several business clusters, including Front Street, Gilman Village, the Issaquah Highlands, and strip mall complexes along Gilman Boulevard. Sustainable Issaquah will also develop an online survey, to make the initiative as accessible as possible for owners and entrepreneurs.

The incentive for businesses to take part is that, if they are doing the right thing by the city in which they operate, they will be highlighted in the community.

“The goal is to develop a system that promotes the business in a way that works for them, and at no cost,” Stevens said.

Are you a local business owner? Want to get involved? Contact Chantal Stevens at sustainableissaquah@gmail.com., or visit sustainableissaquah.ning.com


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