The business community in Marion County is going green and Alan Pennington is helping to show them the way. Pennington, a Waste Reduction Coordinator with Marion County, works with the County’s EarthWISE program, assisting businesses in their efforts to embrace environmentally friendly practices.

Pennington started working for Marion County in August and now his days are consumed with EarthWISE as more and more businesses learn about and are interested in the program. So far approximately 35 businesses have received the EarthWISE certification, indicating that they have met the program’s pre-established criteria in the areas of recycling, waste reduction and prevention, environmentally preferable purchasing, energy efficiency and conservation, water pollution prevention, outreach and education.

For some businesses, the certification process is easy and they meet the criteria right away. But many discover they have changes to make before they can become certified. In fact, Pennington says that some businesses are so off the mark, “it’s like they are on another planet.” These businesses benefit the most from Pennington’s guidance and expertise. According to Pennington, businesses generate half of the solid waste in Marion County. “We’ve got to put a dent in that in any way we can,” he said.

With a long history of promoting environmental awareness, Pennington is a natural to be the one to steer businesses toward the EarthWISE certification. Before going to work for Marion County, he taught sixth grade science and math in Dayton for four years, admittedly with a “strong environmental bent,” and before that he worked for the City of Salem as the Water Resources Outreach Coordinator.

Originally from Arkansas, Pennington came to Oregon after teaching at the American School of Barcelona (Spain) where he met his wife, an Oregonian. He has found Oregon and particularly Salem to abound with opportunities to help support the environment.

“Marion County has the best recycling rate in the entire state,” Pennington says. “There’s something about the people here.”

Pennington also notes that there is a good combination of education and opportunities in the County, with organizations like Garten Services making a vital contribution to the recycling options in the area.

Living in Barcelona also gave Pennington an appreciation of the environmental opportunities in the U.S.

“If you look at Europe, they don’t have the rural heritage anymore that we have,” he says, “And I really missed that. We still have wildness in this country; even in Oregon we have wildness.”