Receives a $28,000 grant from state

By Pat Shaver

A group that formed in Cedar Rapids has one overall goal: sustainability.

Kitty Edwards, a purchasing manager who works for Quaker Foods and Snacks, a division of PepsiCo in Cedar Rapids, said when she was assigned to help initiate more sustainable practices for the company, she was curious about how other local businesses handled it. She wondered what worked and what didn’t.

Part of PepsiCo’s mission is to be good stewards for the company, and to also be good stewards to the local community, Ms. Edwards said.

She contacted the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce with an idea. She wanted to get a group together of local business leaders to discuss and encourage sustainability.

“The idea is to share best practices. How do we apply concepts that are working across the Corridor,” Ms. Edwards said. “I threw a couple straws out there just to see if anyone would grab at them.”

The chamber supported the idea. Since the group started in March, it has continued to grow.

The Sustainability Alliance held its first meeting about two months ago and now has representation from about 40 area businesses. Its next meeting is planned for June 22, where members plan to establish a mission statement, said Ms. Edwards, who helped create the group.

“It’s been so positive and exciting. We continue to hear about people who want to be a part of the group. The response has been so positive,” said Julie Stow, vice president of special events and member services for the chamber.

The chamber itself wondered about how to be more sustainable, and it’s part of the organization’s mission to bring business groups together, said Kari Stillman, vice president of marketing and communications for the chamber.

“It was a natural fit in supporting the business community, providing economic development support and bringing positive impacts,” Ms. Stillman said.

“My vision is more of a pull as opposed to a push. What we want to do is present what the group is doing in a way we can communicate to a larger community and make it as simple as possible, Ms. Edwards said. “So that they will want to come in, pulling them in on their own.”

Along with sharing ideas, she said, the group will help initiate and educate the community on sustainability practices.

The group recently received a $28,000 grant from the Iowa Energy Office. The grant required a $40,000 match, which includes donations and in-kind services. The group was able to secure the grant in about one month.

Organizations contributing to the grant match are: Allegra, City Carton, Coe College, DC Taylor, HR Green, JP Gasway, PepsiCo, Rockwell Collins, Stamats Communications, the University of Iowa, Van Meter Industrial, Whirlpool, Yellowbook and the chamber, according to Ms. Stow.

“The $28,000 will be used for outreach, education and resources for our community to be at zero landfill,” Ms. Edwards said. “Also a big component would be how we track that. How do we know that they’re being successful.”

The group is still in the forming stages, Ms. Edwards added. Plans are for the group to have two events a month, with at least one a meeting. They will establish a mission statement and goals for the group at the next meeting.

“This group has so much passion. We don’t want to lose it. You hear of groups that grow and then they flounder, like a fish out of water. We don’t want to be that group,” Ms. Edwards said. “How do we continue to grow the need of the group and grow participation?”

So far, the sustainability group has had involvement mostly from Cedar Rapids businesses, but also a few from Iowa City and Amana.

“We are very diverse, and with that we bring a lot of different skills,” Ms. Edwards said. “I think it’s going to be a very good thing for the community.

For more information on how to get involved, contact Julie Stow at the chamber, (319) 398-5317.