Bird House on the Greenway, a birdseed, feeder and wildlife gift store in the Shops at Piper Glen, recently won the Sustainable Small Business Award from Mecklenburg County’s Wipe Out Waste Ambassador program.
The Business Recognition Awards recognize Mecklenburg County businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to building a stronger community through waste reduction and recycling measures.
“This year’s winners were chosen by previous winners, which makes the awards even more meaningful because they are selected by their peers,” said Ryan Johnson, senior environmental specialist with Mecklenburg County Solid Waste.
“The awards banquet happens at the end of the year, but we have a group of businesses, large and small, that meet several times a year to network, share information, and learn from one another about how to implement successful waste reduction and recycling programs in their companies.”
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For Bird House owners Jay Jackson and Carol Buie-Jackson, building a sustainable small business was a natural progression of their already “wild” lives.
“I’ve always loved animals and I’ve always loved to garden,” said Buie-Jackson. “Twenty years ago I wasn’t much of a birder, but Jay loved birds, and I thought he wouldn’t complain quite so much about my gardening if I planted things that attracted his birds.”
Once the birds started coming, she added more native plants to attract other animals. Soon after, she got their Matthews yard certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat. Then came the worms. Buie-Jackson started raising red wigglers, composting with worms, watering her plants with worm water and fertilizing them with worm casings.
Vacations were spent kayaking and birding with Buie-Jackson even participating in a rattlesnake rescue when she found the creature tangled up in an old wire fence.
She was a founding member of HAWK, the first local chapter of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, and recently served as chairwoman of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.
I’ve always loved animals and I’ve always loved to garden.
Carol Buie-Jackson, co-owner of Bird House on the Greenway
As for going green, she is on her second Chevrolet Volt and figures she visits a gas station about three times a year.
Four years ago, when the couple decided to start a business, they made a decision to minimize their environmental impact as much as possible. After years of protecting and preserving the natural world around them, nature and ecology were already second nature.
“We contacted a local company to make our store fixtures and cash wrap, which are made from sustainable materials like bamboo and recycled sunflower shells,” said Buie-Jackson. “Display tables, slat wall, etc. were purchased from local liquidators to give old items a new life.”
Packing materials are reused when possible and extra Styrofoam peanuts are donated to the UPS store. Large pieces of cardboard and plastic are offered to customers – free of charge – for weed control in their gardens or to cover patio furniture.
Merchandise is thoughtfully selected and ordered to minimize shipping and ensure natural, recycled materials where possible. Instead of throwing away damaged merchandise, the broken items are offered to customers who may be able to use them in some way. Damaged goods are disassembled where appropriate and parts are stored in case they can be reused later.
Pallets are recycled, some pieces go into bird houses built by Girl Scouts and some have gone into a park bench at Squirrel Lake Park. Customers bring in their egg cartons to be donated to local farmers and wine corks to be donated to the S.C. Aquarium, which sells them to a cork recycler as a fundraiser.
Shopping bags are optional, and when gift wrapping is desired, the store uses printed bags made of recycled paper for a donation of $1, which is forwarded to the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.
The store is staffed by habitat stewards certified by the National Wildlife Federation who will take as much time as needed with a customer to give advice on creating wildlife habitats, answer questions and laud the benefits of native plants. The store also organizes monthly bird and frog walks along Four Mile Creek Greenway to reconnect people with nature.
Buie-Jackson said she hopes the green practices of Bird House on the Greenway and the example they set will inspire customers and businesses alike to take better care of their little corner of the world.
“If you start in your backyard and see birds, squirrels, chipmunks and box turtles – even in the suburbs – you may start thinking in a different direction,” said Buie-Jackson. “You start realizing the impact – both good and bad – that you are having on the environment.”
“Our store was established with a passion to help people connect with nature. Our belief is that if people come to know, love and appreciate the wildlife in their own garden, they will seek to become better stewards of the environment.”
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wipe Out Waste winners:
In addition to Bird House on the Greenway, seven other companies were honored with Wipe Out Waste Ambassador Business Recognition Awards.
Those companies are: Metrolina Greenhouses, Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year; Planet Recycling, Inc., Recycling Service Provider of the Year; Central Piedmont Community College, Institutional Recycling Program of the Year; Bissell, Sustainable Multi-Tenant Property of the Year; Healthy Home Market, Sustainable Business of the Year; Bosch Rexroth Corporation, The Pacesetter Award; and Waste Management, Special Recognition Award.
If you want to find out how to get your business involved, visit www.wipeoutwaste.com