Celebrating Eight Years of Sustainable Commitment by the Ames Business Community

Hello All! 

It’s Lydia and Lucia, the Smart Business Challenge Interns! To kick off the new semester, we wanted to tell you about our most recent event, the Smart Business Challenge Recognition Luncheon.

On January 20th, the City of Ames hosted the fifth annual Smart Business Challenge Luncheon. The event was originally planned to be held in-person at Reiman Gardens, however, it was moved to Zoom in consideration of COVID-19 safety precautions. Although we would have loved the opportunity to connect with each other in-person, holding the luncheon online had its own unique benefits, such as a specially delivered lunch from Wheatsfield (one of the Challenge’s platinum members) and the ability to rewatch the event retroactively (via event recordings, available on the City of Ames Smart Business Challenge website).

The Smart Business Challenge was first introduced in 2014, in conjunction with Ames’s sesquicentennial celebration, and in partnership with Iowa State University and the Ames Chamber of Commerce. The overarching goal of the Challenge is to celebrate the efforts and dedication of businesses toward the vision of ensuring a sustainable community for current and further generations. The Challenge is focused both on highlighting achievement in sustainability efforts, as well as connecting businesses to resources, experts, and expertise to further assist their mission and goals for a sustainable future. The Smart Business Challenge Luncheon is an opportunity to recognize outstanding sustainability commitment and achievement on a yearly basis.

This year’s luncheon hosted members from throughout the Ames community, coming together to celebrate the accomplishments of our Challenge participants and City leadership. The event kicked off with a warm welcome from Mayor John Haila and a video overview of City of Ames sustainability initiatives and accomplishments over the past year, including waste diversion programs, such as  Rummage Rampage  and the Food Waste Diversion Program, and alternative energy initiatives, such as SunSmart Ames, Resource Recovery Center, and EV charging stations. Additionally, Don Kom, City of Ames Director of Electric Services, and Curtis Spence, City of Ames Power Plant Manager, gave insight specifically related to the City’s electric utility, detailing ongoing and newly initiated sustainability efforts related to community energy systems and resources.

This year’s keynote speaker was Yuill Herbert, one of the founding partners of the Sustainability Solutions Group, currently working with the City of Ames on the community’s first Climate Action Plan. With the City Council’s recent approval to adopt the Climate Action Plan’s Science Based Fair Share Goal, a goal based on a “fair share” contribution to the global effort in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Yuill’s keynote, titled “The Opportunity for Businesses in Ames”, provided comments focusing on opportunities and considerations for our business community in achieving these milestones. The Science Based Fair Share Goal aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85% by 2030, based on 2018 levels, and net-zero emissions by 2050, requiring a community effort to achieve.

The Smart Business Challenge serves as an opportunity for businesses to connect with city and community resources in furthering their commitment to sustainability. In joining the Challenge, businesses work with the team to complete a comprehensive checklist, covering ten different areas representing environmental, economic, and social sustainability. The checklist encompasses three levels, which highlight a commitment to education and awareness (bronze), incorporation of products and practices (silver), and formulation and implementation of policies and procedures (gold). In completing the checklist, businesses can earn bronze, silver, gold, or platinum certifications.


As of the start of 2022, there are 37 members of the Smart Business Challenge. In the past year, two new businesses joined the Challenge – Back Alley Plants and Z.W. Mercantile. We are still finalizing some details and are excited to announce new certifications soon, so stay tuned! 
Additionally, we have been working to recertify many of our participants, including Duck Worth Wearing and The Loft, both of which have been recertified at the platinum level. The recertification process happens every three years, as a way to collect more current and accurate information on updates businesses have made that could enhance their checklist. This process also enables the team to be able to research new resources and ideas for the businesses to use in order to further their sustainability goals.

For more information about the Smart Business Challenge, the Challenge participants, or how to sign-up, visit the Challenge webpage on the City of Ames website or reach out to us by emailing amessbc@cityofames.org. If you have a favorite business, you think would be a great addition to the Challenge, please let us know. We are excited to continue celebrating and assisting all of our impressive businesses who ensure a sustainable Ames!

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