Eco-Friendly Businesses Find a Home in Cache Valley

Bill Oblock carefully gauges the reaction of new customers as they bite into his flavorful breads and pastries. “Once they get it into their mouths‚ it’s like ‘ah-ha!’” he says.

The classically trained chef turned baker has tantalized the taste buds of Cache Valley since opening Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread two years ago.

Oblock uses only organic flour and other all-natural ingredients to prepare the baked goods. But his breads and pastries aren’t the only parts of the bakery that are all natural. In fact‚ Oblock used natural‚ or “green‚” design in building the bakery.

Local architect Joyce Popendorf designed the bakery with a solar wall on the south side and the geoexchange system‚ which is Oblock’s pride and joy. The system takes 55-degree water from a 140-foot-deep well and extracts the water’s energy potential to heat or cool the building.

“The system is really efficient‚” Oblock says. “It’s more expensive up front to install‚ but in 10 years the system will be paid back. Then it will be free energy.”

When delivering baked goods to Salt Lake City‚ about 90 miles away‚ the bakery uses a van powered by natural gas. The gas costs about $1 a gallon and is very efficient on the engine.

“I wanted to have a business that is sustainable‚ but it goes further than that‚” Oblock says. “My two goals are to offer incredible bread and pastries and to be environmentally sensitive.”

Crumb Brothers is just one of several environmentally conscious businesses in a region known for being environmentally responsible. The Cache Valley – with its majestic mountains‚ and crystal-clear lakes – offers many other examples of people and companies with a “green” vision of protecting natural resources.

Computer scientists at Autonomous Solutions‚ Inc.‚ for example‚ have developed the intelligent software behind a self-guided farming vehicle for John Deere. Using a GPS receiver‚ the vehicle follows an optimal path in the field. The technology minimizes tillage erosion‚ reduces emissions and conserves fuel by requiring fewer “clean-up laps‚” according to Autonomous Solutions president Mel Torrie.

Each unmanned tractor also features sensors that detect animals and other obstacles in the vehicle’s path. “It is an environmentally friendly mission for John Deere‚” Torrie says.

At Utah State University‚ researchers at the Swaner Green Space Institute are doing their part for the environment through the school’s department of landscape architecture and environmental planning‚ which offers education and scientific research in responsible planning that incorporates community values‚ sustainable growth and the conservation of open space.

Director Tamara Shapiro refers to the institute as an “interface” between the school and those interested in preserving land or appropriately developing land. “We want our students to be good stewards of the environment and their communities‚” she says.

Even the city’s transportation system thinks “green.” Since 1992‚ the Logan Transit District has provided free public transportation throughout the area.

The countywide bus system‚ including the Cache Valley Transit District‚ carried an estimated 1.7 million riders in 2005.

“We’re trying to encourage people to ride the bus system at least once a week to improve our air quality‚” says Todd Beutler‚ Logan Transit District manager. “Free fares are definitely something we take a lot of pride in. Our mission as a system is to bring communities together.”

Beutler points out that the diesel-powered buses‚ which log some 70‚000 miles a month‚ are more fuel-efficient than automobiles. He adds that the fleet is well maintained to limit pollution. In addition‚ all 20 buses are wheelchair accessible‚ and all are equipped with bicycle racks.

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