Kelowna's green business honoured

When you're talking about turning over a new leaf, it's fitting to make it green.

Or at least that was the case for  local entrepreneur C.J. Wilkins.

Wilkins, who was the recipient of the Kelowna Green Business Award for innovation, was coming off a lengthy stint working in public relations for the Albertan oil and gas industry when a couple   revelationary  "moments" spurred an eco-friendly transformation.

"We had a sour gas plant explosion, and I had to phone the hospital and find out  about the worker who was injured," he recalled, after the Wednesday afternoon award ceremony where four businesses were honoured for being green by the Chamber of Commerce and SIFE Okanagan.

"I decided to focus my efforts then, on creating change."

It meant moving west, for one thing, and figuring out a new way to make a living, for another.

"We moved to the Valley and decided to buy a sign shop," he said, noting he and his partner bought Optic Signs and Marketing Inc.

"We didn't have a clue what we were doing."

It's  that "naivety" that gave them the best fresh start they could hope for.

Realizing that the materials used for his print company were toxic they decided to go a new route. They purchased the only printer in the B.C. Interior that used water-based eco friendly ink.

It cost more to purchase the equipment than it did to buy the whole business, but it was a worth investment, said Wilkins.

Not only is his conscience clean, the environment is a little better off and the choices he's made have paid off. He can now boast a loyal clientele eager to make more environmentally conscientious choices with everything from signs to wallpaper.

Although Wilkin's story highlighted the big financial risk needed for a totally green transformation, everyone honoured had made sacrifices to support their business ideals.

Lisa McIntosh's Urban Harvest Delivery has been operating for 12 years, delivering high quality, locally grown produce to homes throughout the Central Okanagan.

The business has been acknowledged many times as a success—this time winning the Sustainable Leader of the Year award— but McIntosh pointed out that the biggest lesson they've learned over time is that sustainability is not just about green practices.

In her case, it also required stemming growth so they could maintain a high quality product.

"We wanted to be part of a good food system, link growers with eaters and create jobs for ourselves," she explained.

"There are so many directions we could expand ourselves, but we can't be everything for every body."

It's that understanding, she said, that's kept the business a pleasure to maintain.

Four Green Business awards were handed out by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and Students In Free Enterprise Wednesday. In addition to the aforementioned awards, Cintas Canada Ltd won in the large business category and Sunshine Farms won the small business category.

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