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What’s your GreeneScore? Drury SIFE students will help you make the grade

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Editor of GREENE Magazine

In Branson, Tantone Industries leads us on the path to greener practices

Time was when those with developmental disabilities were too often identified by some rather ugly terms. There’s no need to rehash what’s past; suffice it to say that times have improved, and these days Tantone Industries Inc., a sheltered workshop in Branson, is showing all of us there’s a greener way to do business, both as a leader in recycling materials and now by operating greener. Or should we say Gold?

Tantone (the name is a word play for Taney and Stone counties, although Stone ultimately did not become a participant) is only the second business in Branson to successfully complete GreenScore, an entirely voluntary evaluation conducted by students at Drury University who are members of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).

First, the business or organization self-evaluates. Then the students make recommendations for operating greener, and finally assign a bronze, silver, gold or green, depending on how well the business scores based on some very common sense criteria. Tantone earned its goal status by implementing a list of greener practices.

Tantone Industries

Tantone clients unload recycled cardboard. In the inset photo, Kim Connell explains some of the services that Tantone clients provide, including sorted mailings, product labeling, collating, shredding, shrinking wrapping and drop-off recycling.

All this occurs as part of the Ozarks Center for Sustainable Solutions (OCSS) at Drury University and the Partnership for Sustainable Solutions in cooperation with the Missouri Environmental Excellence Campaign created in 1998 by the late Gov. Mel Carnahan.

OCSS is a non-regulatory program originally created and funded through a grant from the Air Pollution Control Division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. It has since expanded in both staff and program offerings to address a range of sustainability initiatives throughout the region. The program also serves as an extension of the Drury’s environmental programs, including environmental science, studies, and health, by connecting students to organizations seeking sustainable solutions. Lest anyone think this is just another government program, it is not. To keep the GreenScore designation, participants must undergo an annual evaluation.

“We’re not telling businesses what to do at all,” says Doug Neidigh, who brought the idea from Illinois, where he started a similar initiative. “We’re saying, ‘here’s a way to be greener.’ What they do is ultimately up to them and whether they think it’s worth it. “Each year you have to do something. You don’t have to reach another level, but you have to do something to maintain your certification.”

Each year, SIFE chapters around the world compete with one another. In fact, SIFE’s headquarters are in Springfield.

Judges have been complimentary of GreenScore. The program is one of the ways the Drury chapter competes – and sometimes wins.

One criticism was the effort was lack of public awareness, says Jake McCully, a SIFE member.

Tantone was one of the first businesses to achieve the designation in Branson (Connell Insurance is the other), in large part because of Tim and Kim Connell.

Kim is now the director of sales and community development at Tantone.

Tim previously served on Tantone’s board, but resigned to avoid any hint of nepotism when his wife applied. He still serves on the Developmental Connections board that funds Tantone, and is running as a reform candidate for Taney County commissioner (Eastern District).

“I came across Ozarks Greenscore after helping Tantone move towards white paper shredding,”recalls Tim Connell, who is the first Branson business leader elected to the Springfield Area Chamberof Commerce board. “As our area has evolved, it has always troubled me to see the amount of trash that we see on the side of roads or in our watershed areas. I had also noticed as we evolved more into younger group and family business in our area that the tourist were starting to look for green-friendly or green-certified establishments.”

With only eight employees and a client list of more than 40 employee/clients, there’s a waiting list of potential clients. To serve more clients, there must be more revenue.

Tantone has an amazing array of products. Its FireStarters are made by using recycled paper from the in-house shredding operation. (See story on page 36).

A visit to Tantone’s web site (TantoneIndustries.org) lists a dozen different materials that clients sort, bundle, bag and resell. Clients also make special order buttons; pick up and deliver mail from post office boxes; do commercial laundry; label various products; sort and bale recycled paper and cardboard, provide shrink wrapping, collating and operate a recycling drop-off service from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

General Manager Sara Baty recently unveiled a pilot project to pick up residential recycling Curbside in StoneBridge Village beginning in August. Now more than 30 years old, Tantone recently added 10,000 square feet of building space at its 1629 East Highway 76 location.

Some Tantone clients work a weekend schedule, virtually every one of them loves to come to work, and they’re more than happy to explain what they do, why they do it, and who their best friend is at work.

At Tantone, the steps just made common sense, says Kim Connell. For example, the work areas already had programmable thermostats, but they weren’t being used. Recycling was taking place, but they stepped it up. With many of its products and services aimed at helping other organizations, taking the lead with GreenScore made sense.

“Going through GreenScore certification has been a great experience for us,” Connell adds. “While we have been offering recycling services to the community since 2009 and have been doing some recycling of our own since long before that, it was a real eye opener for us to see all the areas of improvement we could make. We have been working hard for the last nine months to educate our employees and ourselves on ways to conserve energy, reduce the consumption of raw materials and be better stewards of our environment.We would definitely recommend to any business that they team up with GreenScore. Not only is it good for our environment, but you will make changes that will save your business money.” 

NOTE: When GREENE Magazine learned of the GreenScore program and its goals, a partnership with SIFE to recognize businesses that have completed their evaluation was proposed to show other organizations what could be achieved voluntarily. Reports on the progress of other GreenScore participants will be in future issues.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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