We love hearing about local businesses that are on a mission to save the environment – or at least the part they affect. Businesses play a key role in the green movement not only by providing important products and services, but through educating patrons and setting a socially responsible example.

Tony Bakker from the Charleston Battery is doing all of that by implementing sustainable practices throughout Daniel Island’s Blackbaud Stadium. And because education is one of his key goals, I thought I would share his story with you. Enjoy!

GGC: First off, what is the Charleston Battery and what is your role?
BAKKER: The Charleston Battery is a professional soccer team that plays in the United Soccer League’s Division One, a league that is one step below Major League Soccer. I am the majority owner and CEO of the organization.

GGC: When did you first realize that, as an organization, the Battery needed to focus on sustainability and impact reduction?
BAKKER: We’ve been concerned about the environment as an organization for a long time. We’ve always encouraged our employees to recycle in the office and we have tried implementing recycling in the stadium before with our fans. Early last year we just felt that we could do more and that the time was right for the Charleston Battery to start a much broader “green” initiative.

GGC: What is the overall goal of the Battery’s green initiative?
BAKKER: We are focused on trying to reduce our energy consumption and our environmental impact as much as possible. The Sustainability Institute conducted an energy audit of the stadium last summer and have given us a comprehensive blue-print to work from. We have already implemented many of their suggestions and plan to implement more over the next few months. One change that we’ve made and which we’re very excited about is the switch to a geothermal HVAC system for our office building which has resulted in significant energy savings already. We’re also committed to spreading this message to as wide an audience as possible, not just locally with our fans here in Charleston but also nationally via the TV broadcasts that we have in place for 2008.

GGC: I recently read that you have contracted to install solar panels at the stadium – how did this get started, and what impact will it have?
BAKKER: This was recommended as the third stage of the Sustainability Institute’s overall plan for us. They felt it was important that before we looked at creating energy, we should be operating as efficiently as possible first. We’ve made sure that the panels will be fully visible to everyone in the stadium and also that they will be featured prominently on our TV broadcasts on FOX Soccer Channel. It’s a fairly large installation, the projection for them is to create about 25,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually – enough to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the air by as much as 20 tons each year.

GGC: What green projects do you have planned for 2008?
BAKKER: Every project I’m involved in going forward will be a “green” project. For example we are renovating the former degaussing on Concord Street as our residence and will be aiming for LEED silver or gold certification. My business partners and I are also developing a Hilton Garden Inn on Daniel Island which will be a LEED silver project, possibly the first “green” hotel in the state. We are also opening a new restaurant downtown this summer – The Buccaneer – which will be certified by the Green Restaurant Association, again possibly the first in the state.

GGC: How do you plan on using what you’ve done with the Battery as an example for other local businesses to follow?
BAKKER: We plan to document everything we’ve done on our web site and have signage around the stadium explaining what we have done. Our staff will also be available to give those interested a tour of our facility at their convenience.

GGC: You’re obviously doing a lot to reduce the Battery’s impact, but what is the last thing you did at home to reduce your family’s impact?
BAKKER: After doing the obvious easy things like replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, increasing the thermostat from 72 degrees to 78 degrees this summer, turning computers and lights off when not in use, etc. (which has all helped to reduce our energy use by 20%), we have just had an energy audit done by the Sustainability Institute and are working on a plan to implement their suggestions

GGC: What do you think about the current state of the green movement in Charleston?
BAKKER: I think we took a giant leap forward in 2007. There is so much more awareness now about climate change and sustainability than ever before. I have high hopes for the Mayor’s Green Committee which is chaired by my good friend James Meadors, who is doing the renovation at Concord Street. I’m also personally involved with two great organizations – the Coastal Conservation League and the Sustainability Institute who have both taught me a lot about the issues at hand. Your web site is a great resource, by the way, for creating awareness. I’m cautiously optimistic about what the future holds as many Charlestonians, particularly the younger generation, are concerned about climate change and want to learn how they can lesson their impact on the environment and plan for a more sustainable future.

GGC: Is there anything you’d like to promote while you have a captive green audience?
BAKKER: Come out to Battery games this summer, not only to see some greater soccer, but also to check out what we’re doing. Please let us know if there is something else you see that you think we should consider doing at the stadium!

I’d like to thank Tony for taking the time to share his story with us. If you have any followup questions for Tony or anyone at the Charleston Battery, please let us know below in the comments field below – After all, this wouldn’t be 9 questions if the 10th one didn’t come from you!



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