Follow That Rabbit!

How an unexpected customer inspired Briter Products’ conservation efforts and benefited its community – plus 10 sustainability tips to save businesses money.

A giant checkered rabbit hopped by as we opened the entry door to Briter Products’ facility. Over the years, we have hosted many pets of RVers, but this was a first!

“This is Stashe. We have three bunny rabbits,” an RV owner told us, who was here for a LiFePO4 battery bank conversion. The rabbits were unbelievably soft and friendly, but sadly, one of them was sick.

We were about to start the battery installation.

“We will just need to see your inverter and the remote, and then we won’t need to be back in the coach,” we explained to the owners.

Stashe the rabbit

During the installation, the owners explored our facility. They found several varieties of naturally growing plants on-site that they said were medicinal to sick rabbits. They asked to take some of the plants with them as they traveled to the Pacific Coast. We were more than happy to share what we thought were weeds! We finished the installation, and the owners were grateful and remained in touch with us for years. We stayed caught up with a healthy Stashe on social media.

This experience inspired us: not only would our technical expertise and improvement initiatives benefit customers, but so would stewardship of our facility’s land. Now, every Earth Day, we focus on more opportunities to be good stewards of what we have.

Since the environmental calamities of the 1960s, Earth Day has served to raise awareness of the necessity of safeguarding our natural resources and their natural processes. Often schools, governments and nonprofits have taken the lead in environmental stewardship, but businesses have had to balance community contributions and environmental impact against time and resource limitations – and their bottom lines.

From the Ground Up

Briter Products is located in northern Indiana. Not only is this area the RV Capital of the World, but it also has a uniquely rich soil composition. We decided to try to rehabilitate a section of wasted land – land that didn’t have dandelions, and in which a worm couldn’t be found. It was fill-dirt, gravel and construction debris. A 40-by-40-foot section was marked off, and we began to remove big pieces of asphalt to add in grass clippings, compost, clean cardboard from our operations, coffee grounds and anything we could find to “make a soil.” In time, we were able to grow and share herbs, cantaloupes and cucumbers with everyone who visited our facility, including RVers and their pets.

During this time, we realized that we were saving money on the landscaping, because grass clippings and fall leaves did not have to be hauled away. We also saved money with our recycler because we were using most of the cardboard that we generated. We stopped using fertilizers and pesticides, opting for safer methods of pest control. Through the Indiana University South Bend Center for a Sustainable Future, students were able to come and monitor changes in the soil and its pollinators. From March to November last year, we were able to share produce from our land with everyone.

Pears from the Briter garden.

Beyond the savings, it made sense to integrate environmental initiatives, because of our customers’ awareness of businesses reducing their negative impact on the environment. In a survey by The Roundup.org, 78% of consumers feel that sustainability is important, and 55% of customers say they are willing to pay more for eco-friendly brands. Surprisingly, it has also become a part of brand identity, with an unbelievable 84% of surveyed customers saying that poor environmental practices will alienate them from a brand or company.

As an indicator of the nature of this global effort, there are many ways businesses can participate in environmental stewardship efforts:

  1. Energy-efficient operations: Using less power via energy-efficient technologies and practices, such as using LED lighting, installing solar panels or utilizing smart thermostats, can reduce energy costs, consumption and minimize carbon footprints.
  2. Waste reduction & recycling: Using less helps to reduce waste, as well as recycling. Recycling centers are now incredibly high-tech, with some using infrared technology to sort materials in seconds with density evaluations. Implementing recycling programs, composting practices or incentives for employees to reduce paper use, or bringing reusable containers, are programs that some organizations currently employ. On an industrial level, there are businesses who broker excess material from production to companies who could use those materials as part of their products.
  3. Environmentally safe products: Sustainable and environmentally friendly options for materials, supplies and equipment can help reduce negative environmental impacts and create healthier environments. These can include using eco-friendly cleaning products, recycled paper or packaging, or energy-efficient appliances.
  4. Water conservation: Small businesses can adopt various water-saving measures like using low-flow faucets and toilets, detecting and repairing leaks promptly, and collecting rainwater for nonpotable uses. In northern Indiana, both St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties have Soil and Water Conservation Districts. These offices are brimming with the latest research and resources to assist with conservation efforts.
  5. Transportation programs: Encouraging employees to carpool, bike or use public transportation can reduce carbon emissions and save gasoline expenditures. Many organizations offer electric vehicle charging stations or incentives for employees who choose eco-friendly transportation options.
  6. Supporting local & sustainable suppliers: There is a saying in Elkhart – “A hard-to-find RV part can be found in Elkhart!” A common characteristic of the RV industry is suppliers are often local. Sourcing locally not only reduces transportation costs but also supports the local economy.
  7. Environmental education & awareness: Providing rich information and clarifying the connections between environmental efforts and company goals, can help to inform, support, educate and inspire employees. City sustainability offices, as well as local Chambers of Commerce, may offer educational programs to help educate employees.
  8. Collaboration with local environmental organizations: Environmental organizations offer benefits that businesses can use to demonstrate their environmental stewardship. Some offer badges to include on websites and social media; others organize cleanup campaigns. These collaborations can become content for social media, grants and ad campaigns.
  9. Compliance with environmental regulations: Small businesses need to stay updated on local, regional and national environmental regulations. As an example, the Inflation Reduction Act has provisions for energy reduction, via incentives for solar system installations to reduce reliance on the grid and fossil fuels. There are federal, state and city incentives available for the adoption of solar technologies. Projects may even be able to combine incentives.
  10. Data collection & communication: Sharing progress on sustainability goals, annual environmental reports or providing transparent information about the business’s efforts toward environmental stewardship can inspire others and build trust with customers and stakeholders. In our case, sharing apples, pears and other produce created very strong memories.

Though stewardship practices may vary based on conditions and goals, businesses are important contributors to Earth Day activities and celebrations. We will never forget cute Stashe hopping around. We’re incredibly grateful that our “weeds” helped Stashe become healthy enough for further travels with her owners. Our resulting sustainability efforts then saved us money, while providing food and other resources. Imagine the possibilities for your business. Sustainability practices, once implemented and supported, can support a cost-effective, enjoyable and healthy environment for all.

Avanti Lalwani 

Avanti Lalwani is CEO of Briter Products, a South Bend, Indiana, manufacturer and installer of custom RV solar systems and lithium batteries, and the 2023 winner of the “World’s Greatest Battery” award.

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