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April 7, 2008

Focus: Local companies preach — and practice — the gospel of 'Green'

You might expect environmental action from a radio station called The River, where solar panels provide roughly enough juice to power the on-air Haverhill studio.

In fact, Ron Bowen, operations manager/program director and morning show host, says The River's biggest mission is to get the word out about greener living.

Like the radio station, companies across the region are taking steps toward environmental responsibility. Among the leaders is Londonderry-based yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm, which has held environmental responsibility as a core business value since it was founded in 1983.

Nancy Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm's vice president of natural resources, says that the company started with the idea that "businesses didn't have to contribute to environmental degradation."

At The River, on-air "green tips" began running several times per day about a year, giving listeners advice about being more environmentally conscientious. The solar panels were added when the station decided to take its environmental action "to another level."

"We wanted to walk the walk and talk the talk," Bowen said.

So far the response has been positive, ranging from listeners who e-mail their own green tips to advertisers and record companies that are eager to align with an environmentally friendly radio station.

For example, the musician Jack Johnson, who recorded his new album using 100 percent solar energy, wants to team up with The River on its summer initiatives.

Among those initiatives is bringing The River's environmental action into the community by compiling an online directory of recycling programs in Metro Boston.

"We actually want to go out and host recycling drives and kind of get a street team of people that would help us do everything from street cleanups to beach cleanups," said Bowen.

Stonyfield Farm has also already taken an activist role. In 1997, it became the first U.S. manufacturer to offset 100 percent of its emissions through carbon offset programs. The company has recycled more than 18.5 million pounds of paper, plastics, cardboard, food and metals, and its efforts to minimize solid waste have prevented more than 16 million pounds of materials from going to landfills or incinerators.

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