When my wife and I opened The Livingston Inn a little over three years ago, we knew we wanted to do it sustainably and use organic and natural products whenever possible. But it was hard to see what a “green” business might look like in the midst of bringing a 160-year-old home back to life. Certainly, we could say we would commit to sound environmental practices. But how would we take action on that commitment day-to-day?
By Madison’s standards, we live in a very old house, one that is also a designated city landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This means there are some limitations as to what we can do to the house in the spirit of environmentally-friendly practices. Most of that comes from an ongoing challenge with energy efficiency such as the inability to replace windows or add solar paneling. The energy efficiency component of eco-friendly is what we found daunting when making sure we could be a green business. From the beginning, though we have found little ways to work with this majestic home and strive toward improved energy efficiency. Our biggest gains have come from purchasing energy-saving appliances and mechanical systems and maintaining them so they operate cleanly and effectively. My wife and I believe even these changes are an important step in reducing our carbon footprint.
An easier task when we opened was our commitment to organic and natural products. This was something we knew we could accomplish and would not waver from in our commitment to running an eco-friendly business. At the same time, it took some effort to find the right products and vendors who could deliver consistency and meet our standards for cleanliness and high-quality meals. Three years later I can tell you we are very pleased with our local suppliers and the products available in the Madison market. Organic eggs and dairy, locally grown produce, and very effective natural cleaning products are among our many successful discoveries. And we’ve found our guests appreciate the simplicity of things like perfume free, fair trade, and farm-to-table.
After all this effort to make sure we could do it right, we are proud to announce we earned this summer a Travel Green Wisconsin certification. The certification is a state-sanctioned program that recognizes and promotes green businesses across Wisconsin. We looked at applying previously but weren’t quite sure if we were ready (again, we struggled with the gap between saying you’re green and then actually doing it!). Finally this year we felt all the pieces were in place to make this commitment for the long term. My wife and I recognize we still have work to do but we are so pleased with this first step to become part of a community of eco-friendly businesses.
For us, it wasn’t easy to get here but well worth the effort. Our many thanks to community partners, suppliers, guests, and friends who helped us achieve this special recognition.