Two years ago, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay kicked off the new Businesses for the Bay Membership Association. Its mission is to encourage businesses to take voluntary, innovative and measurable actions that improve water quality and the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams, as well as raise public understanding of the valuable role its members play in environmental restoration.

The association is an opportunity for businesses to network, share ideas, make their voices heard and work together for a cleaner and healthier Chesapeake watershed.

The program can be tailored to meet the goals of each business by helping to promote environmental efforts that are important to them, their associates, their customers and their communities. Working together benefits everyone and B4B is based on the idea that diverse voices at the table lead to diverse ideas and solutions.

Engaging and helping to inform the business community is at the heart of Businesses for the Bay. The membership association is made up of approximately 50 business members of all sizes and from various sectors: coffee roasters, cleaning companies, lawn care businesses and real estate firms. Through B4B, businesses can learn about the Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and how their actions can make a positive impact.

As employers and deliverers of goods and services, the business community can influence public action in a big way.

B4B also promotes important partnerships and discussions. The Alliance has formed a strong network of more than 45 diverse governmental and nonprofit networking partners that participate in the group’s events, network with businesses and share information.

One of our most robust partners is the Virginia Turfgrass Council, which joined B4B in 2016. This partnership has allowed us to enrich the dialogue about watershedwide topics and initiatives within the turfgrass industry. We regularly discuss the importance of properly maintained lawns, and appropriately selecting and applying pesticides and fertilizers so that none of them enter sensitive ecosystems. We encourage homeowners to only hire landscape companies that are properly certified pesticide and fertilizer applicators.

I have been invited to, exhibited at and been a presenter at four turfgrass conferences. Each has brought new and excited “green” enterprises into Businesses for the Bay. 

“The Chesapeake Bay’s rich history and its economic and environmental importance are not lost on persons who care for lawns and landscapes,” said VTC Executive Director Tom Tracy. “Encouraging industries to join B4B enables the VTC to give professionals throughout the region a great opportunity to get involved with like-minded companies, to network and to get recognition for the great work they do.”

Lawns and Gardens Plus, a member in Virginia Beach, evaluates landscape needs and uses best management practices to achieve impressive results for both clients and the environment. “We at Lawns and Gardens Plus are proud to be a member of B4B and a part of the solution in protecting the Chesapeake Bay,” said H. Wes Bray, its president. “We understand that we all have a role, big and small. We are enthusiastic in our daily task and efforts to work with our clients and industry partners to achieve those goals.”

Founding member MowCow Lawn & Landscape – GrowCow in Fairfax Station, VA, offers “Save the Bay” options to their customers because they are concerned about the Chesapeake Bay, especially nutrients and sediment that may run off their clients’ lawns.

One member, Project Green, is an organic-based lawn care company dedicated to sustainability, community and quality.

Our newest B4B member, Cypress Creek Golfers’ Club in Smithfield, VA, is the first golf course to join the association. It has committed to installing, maintaining and monitoring wildlife habitat structures as well as picking up trash before it ends up in the local creek. 

I was recently given the opportunity to raise awareness about local environmental issues in a new audience when Virginia Beach member Agronomic Lawn Management, Inc., which coordinates employee volunteer days to remove trash from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, invited me to talk on the “Ask the Expert” Radio Show on 790AM last December.

The Alliance isn’t the only entity promoting the benefits of the association. “While there will almost always be varying opinions about the value/concern of turfgrass and the environment, it is very exciting to see the positive, collaborative relationship that has developed between VTC and the Alliance,” wrote Mike Goatley, extension turfgrass specialist at Virginia Tech, in Become one of the Businesses for the Bay!, an article published in Virginia Turfgrass Journal, May-June 2017. You can read Goatley’s article here.

It will take commitment from all segments of society — small companies, corporations, community and watershed groups, local governments, universities, farmers and landowners — to restore and sustain the health of the Chesapeake watershed and local communities.

Are you interested in learning more about how to engage your employees and be recognized for your business’ environmental efforts? Throughout 2018, in a partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Program, we’ll offer five free webinars — each based on one of the five themes of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Participants will learn tips and tricks about the themes and how Businesses for the Bay members are working toward accomplishing them. 

Join our next free Lunch and Learn webinar at noon May 16 to learn about the many ways a business can help support local wildlife and a strong economy. 

For information on other B4B events, or to register, visit businesses.allianceforthebay.org/events. If you would like to be a part of Businesses for the Bay or join our mailing list, contact Corinne Stephens at B4B@allianceforthebay.org, visit businesses.allianceforthebay.org or join the B4B LinkedIn group.