The Evolution of Green Businesses in New York with Manhattan Chamber of Commerce’s Laura Bucko

June 11, 2014

green-is-good-manhattan.jpgJOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so honored to have with us today Laura Bucko. She’s the Vice President and Director of Communications for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Welcome to Green is Good, Laura. LAURA BUCKO: Thanks so much for having me, John. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Before we get talking about all the great things you’re doing at the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, can you share please the Laura Bucko story and journey leading up to your position at the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce? LAURA BUCKO: Sure, I’m happy to. I’ve been with the Manhattan Chamber for 10 years and started with them as an Office Manager and after two promotions, I’m now Vice President and Director of Communications. Before then, I was in the job I moved to New York for was I worked at a literary agency called Harold Ober Associates, where I represented authors and worked to get them published. Previously, I got my education at Smith College, where I majored in English and have a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, worked a few years as a teacher and then moved to New York. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Awesome, and so thank you for being with us today and for our listeners that want to follow along online while listening to the show, it’s www.manhattancc.org. What does the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, the MCC, do and what’s your role there, Laura? How does it interrelate with businesses in New York City and in Manhattan? LAURA BUCKO: We’re a chamber of commerce and function much as other chambers do. We’re a 501(c)6 membership organization. We advocate for, connect, and educate the small business community of Manhattan and we also work in conjunction with other borough chambers, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island but we’re all separate organizations. I’m the VP and Director of Communications. That means I work with our sponsors and our membership and I work on overall strategic programming and ways to engage the members. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re on Green is Good today for a reason, because there is a nexus between green and sustainability and the MCC and its business members. Can you share a little bit about where green and sustainability intersects with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and its members? LAURA BUCKO: Sure, happy to. Back in 2008, we were starting to see a bigger influx of members who worked on energy efficiency and recycling and organic products and organic food and we started to see that maybe we should put these members together and start talking so I launched a green business committee, ended up being very popular for the chamber. We started out with 10 members in a room and have up to 250 members and it was also a time when green and sustainability were being talked a lot about in the city. Mayor Bloomberg had very strong initiatives in that regard. There was Plan 2030, which was plans for New York City and how to make it more sustainable over time and how to plan for climate change and changes in population growth and other plans in the city. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. Since 2008, how many members have joined the green business committee of the MCC? LAURA BUCKO: I have about 250 on my list and those are made up of members who are green businesses as well as those who are just regular businesses trying to have better sustainability practices that they can share with their employees. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, that is amazing. How does it function within the MCC? Do you have separate Green Business Committee events and functions and how do they interrelate differently than the regular members? LAURA BUCKO: We sure do have a lot of different programming for the Green Business Committee. We have quarterly events where we have members get up and talk about their business and what their business is and other people can ask questions. We also have several different subcommittees and this is the only chamber committee that has subcommittees as well as its general committee and the subcommittees include, we have Green Finance, which is a group that talks about usually retrofits for buildings and how to finance these changes and updates. We also have a Green Design and Construction Group that’s been hosting tours of LEED certified spaces and we also have a Green Energy Group that meets to discuss regulations and different business opportunities around that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, green is taking on a huge life of its own and role at the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce? LAURA BUCKO: Well, it certainly has. It’s a whole industry unto itself and there are a lot of members that saw that early on and are very passionate about it and it has been a very important sector for the chamber. JOHN SHEGERIAN: No kidding! What kind of showcase events can you share with our listeners that the Green Business Committee has had? LAURA BUCKO: Not only do we do general networking events and small committee events. We’ve also had some larger events. A few years back, we did a Greener New York conference that was hosted by Con Edison and it was organized by our partner at Action Environmental, which is a major waste removal and recycling company. We also had a green film festival that was a lot of fun to organize and it was focused around issues around food. We showed clips from the films Food Inc, Fresh, Flow, and Gasland and then we had a panel discussion about organic food and the local food movement. Then finally we had a clean transportation summit that focused on electric cars, car sharing, bike sharing, and waterways and that was organized by our member, Tom Gwendeni of E3 Think. Now, he’s just won a bike sharing contract for Hoboken so now we look forward to seeing his work there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, that’s great. You said Action and some of the other members so this is touching every other industry like you said and there’s Green Financial. There’s green in the waste and recycling industry so for our listeners on the island of Manhattan, can everyone have a role? If they want to green their business or they already are doing things that are in the sustainability space, everyone can become a member? LAURA BUCKO: Oh, absolutely. Everyone can become a member of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce as long as they’re interested in doing business in Manhattan and anyone can take part in this committee as long as they’re interested in learning more about green and sustainability and it definitely touches on every industry. We see it most in design and construction; and around energy related but for instance, there’s a whole initiative to green restaurants and so we have one member who’s a specialist on that and helps members to save energy as well as composting and other ways in which they can become greener and more sustainable. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there who just joined us, we’ve got Laura Bucko on. She’s the Vice President and Director of Communications at the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and to follow along and see the work she’s doing there, you could go to www.manhattancc.org. What are some of the other organizations that you partner with? LAURA BUCKO: We partner with many organizations, not just for the Green Committee, but throughout the chamber but some of the ones we’ve partnered with the Green Committee are New York Energy Week. That’s actually coming up. Wall Street Green Summit, Columbia Business Global Alumni Club, Green Festival Conference. That’s been held at the Javits before, but I believe it was just at Pier 92. Earth Day New York, the Go Green Conference, the Better Business Bureau for their CSR events, and we also partnered recently with the Taiwan Green Cleantech Delegation and Conference. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, so you give your members a lot of opportunity to interrelate in a much bigger platform than just here in Manhattan by giving them these opportunities at all these different conferences. LAURA BUCKO: Absolutely. Green is a global issue and we have delegations come in from other countries. They want to hear about our green practices, how they can adopt them in their countries so there’s opportunity for international business in the green and sustainability field. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s great. I’m on your website right now and your green section is just so chock full of information on the Green Committee resources. It’s just amazing. How much does it cost to join the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce as just a member and then to join the Green Business Committee? LAURA BUCKO: So, it’s just $125 a year to become a member and that’s for an individual as well as for a sole proprietor. It doesn’t cost anything to join the committee. However, if a member wants to be identified on our website as a green business member, then that’s an additional $100 to be listed in that area of the website and see that additional visibility. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s wonderful. You have so much content here with regards to recycling and waste management, green cleaning, food sourcing, energy efficiency, these are just to name a couple so you cover so many different sectors. It’s actually very impressive. My gosh! LAURA BUCKO: That was put together by some of our experts on sustainability throughout the chamber so definitely some people in the know. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s great. I see you give an award for Green Business of the Year every year so can you talk about some of the recent winners in most recent years? LAURA BUCKO: Sure. We give this as part of our annual business awards breakfast, so we give about 10 different awards and one of the awards is green business of the year. Our most recent one was EcoLogic Solutions, which is green cleaning products and the President is a man named Anselm Doering, who was with us from the start of our Green Committee. Some of our other recent winners have been Action Carting Environmental Services, a recycling company, Boost Organics, which is a health food restaurant and it’s 100% organic, ABC Carpet, which has a really thorough sustainability program, and Green Apple Cleaners, which is a green dry cleaner. They only use water and CO2 in their dry cleaning. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, that is just amazing. Again, what’s more important than the clothes we wear in terms of our intimacy with being green and being sustainable and having our dry cleaning done without chemicals and being done in a sustainable way? What an important service that the dry cleaning service you just mentioned can give to the people on the island of Manhattan. LAURA BUCKO: And, he has such a terrific story. It’s led by a man named David Kisner and he is a survivor of testicular cancer and he decided to put this company together when his wife was pregnant and he was getting treated for cancer and he really wanted to make sure that their home environment was as green and chemical-free as possible so we were very impressed with what he did with his business. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, that is impressive. How many locations does he have in Manhattan? LAURA BUCKO: I’m not sure. I want to say it’s about six or seven. I’d have to check. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, it was a great business success story and the community has responded accordingly. LAURA BUCKO: Absolutely. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is just great. That’s a great story actually. What are some of the other committees? I know you mentioned them a little while ago. Besides the Green Business Committee, which I love talking about because we are on Green is Good, what are some of MCC’s other committees that members can take part in and participate in? LAURO BUCKO: Just to give an overview because committees are such an important part of the chamber. We have a Global Business Committee, Women’s Business, LGBT Business, Young Professionals, Tech and Innovation, Healthcare, Entrepreneurs and Professional Development Committees and then we also have business referral groups that are one person per industry to help members to get referrals and to grow their business. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. So, if you and I met today for the first time and you’re pitching me on joining MCC, what are the business benefits, whether you’re a green business or just a regular widget manufacturer here in the great island of Manhattan? Why should an individual or organization belong to the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce? LAURA BUCKO: I will have to say that MCC is the greatest deal in town. You get so much for your money and it is really a way for individuals to market and grow their business and that’s what most of our members are joining for so you can grow your business by attending our networking meetings, participating in a committee, volunteering at MCC events and helping to man our tables at expos. You can meet potential clients, potential partners, and grow your whole base of contacts. We also work to educate the businesses about legislation that might affect them and also about current business trends that they need to know. In addition, we provide benefits such as discounts at Office Depot and UPS and other companies so services that you need to run your business and mostly, connecting our members is what it’s all about. We put people together so that they can talk and do business and help grow their business in the meantime. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. And when did the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce actually start? LAURA BUCKO: In 1920. It was actually the Yorkville Chamber of Commerce on the Upper East Side and grew into the Upper East Chamber and in 1994, became the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce so we’ve only recently taken on that platform and when our President, Nancy Plaguer, took on the Manhattan Chamber, it was 200 members and now we’ve grown to 1,000 members and now we say we have 10,000 members and subscribers overall when we do our outreach in the community. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How many members do you have today? LAURA BUCKO: Ten-thousand members and subscribers are on our outreach list. Every time we send out an email, it goes to 10,000 people, so we have a very wide outreach in the community. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How often are you messaging to them? Is it once a month? Once a week? How often do you send out a message to your list? LAURA BUCKO: Several times a week. Some members think we message them a little too much because we just always have so much information to share and want to give our members every opportunity possible. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s just wonderful — 10,000 members! That’s incredible. What’s in the future? You’ve been around since 1920. You’ve been the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce since 1994. What does the next two or three years look like for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce? LAURA BUCKO: We’re going to be continuing to grow our platform with the chamber and we’re taking on more advocacy issues. Recently, we took on the Paid Sick Days Initiative and although in the end it did not go the Chamber’s way, it did help to get our voice out into the community. We’re also taking on the horse carriage issue in New York City and we are for keeping the horse carriages as they are, small businesses in the city. We are always involved in many different initiatives. We have a World Trade Week going on right now in May. We also have Marketing Week going on in June. We have a very special kickoff event for marketing week, Meet the Founders of the Online Fashion Revolution, with the founders of Gilt Groupe, Birchbox, Bopple Bar, and Rate the Runway so there’s really innovative companies. We also have two new series that we’re doing. We’re doing our Innovation Showcase, where we’re doing a section on biotech. That’s actually next week and we just launched our new executive series. We did a section last week called Grand Review that was very well attended and then of course, in November, we always have out big business awards breakfast that we’re just taking nominations for so we really hope people will come to our website, take a look at that, and nominate some great businesses in New York City. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s fantastic. We’ve got about three minutes left and I just want to go back now and talk a little bit more about the Green Business Committee so for our listeners out there, how do we get more people to join the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Green Business Committee? You talked a little bit about the benefits of becoming a member of just the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Now let’s interrelate that with green. What’s the real pitch? If you and I were on an elevator today, Laura, what’s your elevator pitch to say hey John, you’ve got to also join and be involved with the Green Business Committee and want to make the planet a better place? LAURA BUCKO: Sure, so if you’re a business that’s interested in green sustainability, you should join the chamber and start coming to some of our green events and our subcommittee meetings. You will meet some of the most interesting passionate people who are just doing fantastic work and have such interesting stories and it’s a great way to see how green sustainability is so important to business overall and to all of our business planning. I think it’s essential for everyone but especially for businesses who care about this particular issue. I think you’ll meet a whole group of like minded people who you did not even realize were out there and I can’t talk passionately enough about how wonderful this group is and the great contacts and resources you will meet there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Because of you, I’m going to now join the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the Green Business Committee. LAURA BUCKO: Oh, I hope you do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We are going to and we’ll have a lot of your members on Green is Good then because they deserve to be on our show and we look forward to joining and we look forward to having you back on, Laura, to tell more of the great stories that you’re getting to platform and share at the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and with your Green Business Committee. For our listeners out there that want to learn more about Laura’s great work and the great work of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce or to join the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce or the Green Business Committee, it’s www.manhattancc.org. Thank you, Laura, for being an inspiring green business ambassador. You are truly living proof that green is good.