As a fourth generation business owner, Mark Foley Jr., has grown up with green and sustainability. While his company, Foley Distributing in Rutland, Vt., wasn’t founded until 1973, its parent firm dates back more than 130 years. One of the primary businesses in the Foley family of companies is a linen and textiles rental service, which demonstrated to Mark and his predecessors that it’s better to reuse — whether cloth tablecloths or old copy paper — than to throw away.

This environmental awareness is why Foley Distributing has always looked for efficient and sustainable ways of distributing and developing cleaning products. Within five years of the company’s founding, executives started partnering with manufacturers to reuse some of their clients’ recyclable waste — an extremely forward-thinking move, especially given that in the late 1970s few states were recycling.

Today, Foley Distributing is able to control the product throughout its entire life with a closed-loop recycling program called The Power of Three. The program is a partnership between Foley Distributing, Casella Waste Systems, a Rutland-based solid waste management company servicing the Northeast United States, and towel and tissue manufacturer SCA Tissue.

Here’s how it works: Casella collects disposed paper and cardboard from Vermont businesses, schools and other facilities. These recycled products then travel a short distance to a SCA Tissue plant in South Glen Falls, N.Y. where they are converted into towel and tissue products. To close the loop, Foley Distributing then sells these paper consumables back to the same facilities that used the recycled materials these products were created with.

“We knew there was a marketplace and a need for sanitary disposable products, but at the same time, we recognized that people cared about the lifecycle of the products they used,” says Foley Jr.

In Foley Jr.’s opinion, environmental initiatives shouldn’t just benefit the environment, they should make good business sense. With the Power of Three closed loop recycling program, he is most proud of the efficiencies it creates for the entire supply chain.

“The better the model can be, the more likelihood the economical component will allow for sustainability to be more widespread,” says Foley Jr. “For example, when you look at the price of green products, the tighter the system can be, the more economically viable the products can be, the more widely they’ll be accepted in the marketplace.”

The inventiveness of closed loop recycling earned Foley Distributing two esteemed accolades this year: The 2012 Vermont Governor Award for Environmental Excellence and the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Business of the Year.

“We’re humbled, but at the same time pleased that our efforts have been recognized,” says Foley Jr. “Hopefully its recognition of not just a year’s worth of efforts, but a company’s lifetime of work.”