Last summer I met Richard Halpern, founder of EcoApprentice. EcoApprentice was just getting started and was looking for companies that had an ecochallenge that needed solved. He was searching for a project that would require significant time and effort for a team of students from Portland State University to solve. I realized this was a great opportunity for Grand Cru Wine Tours to tackle a project that I had not been able to accomplish on my own.
When we started our company, we joined Sustainable Travel International. Their guidelines have provided a framework around which we could design our sustainability efforts, helping us to make sure we consider as many aspects as possible. They also offer ecocertification, a goal we hoped to someday accomplish. Unfortunately, as a fledgling small business the paperwork, planning, and details this required were more than I had time to take on. However, with the help of four excellent students from Portland State University’s MBA program, the goal became achievable.
I met with Richard and the team in October to kick off the ecochallenge. I outlined the requirements to the team and they started helping me work through all of the calculations, process improvements, measurements, and policies that we needed to fulfill the 26 criteria required for certification. The team then went on to examine the scored criteria. They reviewed the work we had already completed to determine which criteria we had met, and helped to identify short and long term goals. They also helped design an efficient waste tracking process and identified ways to decrease our water usage. The team went above and beyond my expectations by creating an in-depth marketing plan for us. They conducted market research, identified target markets and opportunities to increase our branding, and did some competitive analysis.
EcoApprentice created a valuable link between my business and the PSU team that would not have happened without this resource. With this help, we were able to complete the required criteria and submit our initial application for ecocertification to Sustainable Travel International. Our first ecochallenge was a success. Our goal is to become Oregon’s first eco-certified wine tour company, and we are now one step closer to achieving that goal. We look forward to being able to use ecoapprentice to post more ecochallenges in the future to help find new innovative improvements.