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Expert calls for 'resource efficiency'

Urges local businesses to rely on less energy, reuse ?wastes?

Faced with rising energy costs and warnings of drought, area businesses have an opportunity to rethink the way they operate, according to a Portland State University researcher.

Bob Doppelt addressed the issue of resource efficiency before a group of area businesses Tuesday during a workshop held at Bear Creek Corp. Employment and Education Center.

Director of the Center for Watershed and Community Health at PSU, Doppelt led Tuesday's workshop, presenting research on the value, costs and barriers associated with adopting more ecologically efficient business models.

That's the message, Doppelt said, that we have an opportunity in this region to really increase the competitiveness of our economy and the economic well-being here.

Rising energy costs could expedite operational changes in manufacturing methods, which might mean the difference between a company's survival or failure.

Using less energy to accomplish more, using fewer or different raw materials more efficiently to produce the same or better products, and finding innovative ways to produce marketable products from material previously considered waste, are all avenues to more efficient operation, Doppelt said. Local companies were used as case studies for successful use of resource efficiency models, including Golden Fields Construction & Design, which specializes in green building techniques, and Rogue Pacific Lumber, which markets recycled lumber products.

John Fields, of Golden Fields, said his business decisions are based as much as possible on environmental responsibility. In the case of residential construction, he said, smaller houses are more efficient and consume fewer natural resources to support.

But the luxury housing market doesn't necessarily operate on efficiency principles, he said. Realized dream homes are usually larger and contain more amenities, which require more energy to heat, cool and maintain.

Fields said he tries to educate his customers, suggesting they opt for better workmanship in exchange for less overall square footage.

The workshop also included a look at environmentally efficient business practices adopted by Bear Creek Corp., Southern Oregon Goodwill Industries and Schrodt Designs.

We first asked, are companies doing this? Doppelt said of the research. We found a lot of companies saving money right here in this community. But what we're missing is (the chance) of making this a major focus for the region.

A partnership is necessary to overcome roadblocks to change, he said.

Everyone is going to run into barriers, he said. The private sector will need government to remove regulatory barriers sometimes. Government will need the political support to do that.

Edith Forrester said she attended the workshop to see how current ideas on waste reduction and management could be applied at the Ashland Community Food Store to make its operation more efficient.

It was very good too to hear about local people who are doing this, how they are applying principles, Forrester said. I'm really grateful. In our hearts everyone knows where they need to go. But nobody knows what to do.

The more information we can get about (practical applications), the more we can make progress.

Diane Amarotico considered the information at the workshop valuable but said consumers hold the key to changing the way businesses operate and produce products for the market.

We really wanted to know what was going on generally in the area, said Amarotico, whose son owns Standing Stone Brewing Co. in Ashland.

We need to change the way we live, she added. I was sitting there today, looking at all the paper they gave us. We each had our own plastic bottle of water.

It's the way we live. And we're talking about reducing waste.

Reach reporter Shari Downhill at 776-4463, or e-mail