New Location, Cause for Hemp & Co.

The space is newer and greener and Hemp & Company has decided to use its new Government Street digs as a launch pad for a new environmental award.

The 15-year-old Victoria retailer, which works to expand awareness of organic and eco-friendly clothing, nutrition and bodycare, has launched the Eco-Hero contest in order to shine a light on entrepreneurs, volunteers and community leaders who make a positive mark on the environmental landscape.

"We wanted to recognize people who are involved in environmental issues and we thought what would be a good way to support them and get the community thinking," said Bill Finley, who runs Hemp & Company with wife Lorna Knowles. The company will be taking nominations until Nov. 23 for individuals and then the community will be able to vote for their favourite between Dec. 1 and Jan. 31. The winner will be announced Feb. 5 and will win an "awardrobe" of Hemp & Company gear.

"There are not many initiatives likes this, that award eco-heroes," said Jill Doucette, founder of Synergy Enterprises, a firm that works with companies to improve their green practices and worked with Hemp & Company to develop the award idea.

Doucette said the contest will mean environmental leaders are profiled in the community and lauded for what they do, whether it be land conservation, developing innovative technology or rallying the community behind a cause.

"Hemp & Company loved the idea of connecting with environmentalists that share their vision," she said.

Finley said that environmental bent is a huge driver behind the store, now open at 1312 Government St., two blocks from the old location at the corner of Government and Fort streets.

"I'm an environmentalist more than anything else. I've been on the protests and hugged the trees and all that and it's all well and good, but I always felt a little unsettled as it wasn't proactive," he said. "This business came along through my son [Mike Finley] and it felt like a business where you could do something and hopefully make a difference in the world." The new store makes a difference as well. It is smaller than the last locations. It has 1,300 square feet of retail space and includes a number of features that "green" the place up.

The work and lease-hold improvements on the space within the newly renovated New England Hotel, an 1865 building, led to the company recording the highest score for a retail business on the Island from the Vancouver Island Green Business Certification program.

"When I completed the assessment at Hemp & Company, I was truly impressed," said VIGBC program manager Craig Sorochan. "They have integrated sustainability into everything from their light fixtures and flooring to the products on their shelves." Finley said most of the initiatives had been done in the old store as well - a heavy-duty recycling program, no plastic bags and the like. But the new store also includes wood reclaimed from an old aircraft hangar in Comox used for flooring, recycled lighting fixtures, LED lighting and a heat pump for heating and air conditioning.

"We thought of all the things we could and did whatever we could within the fine budget we had to create a space that was as green as the products we are selling," he said.

Doucette said the company has been a "long-standing pioneer of environmental initiatives and products. They have always been on that cutting edge of the next environmental solutions and very supportive of local business."

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