Not that hard being green
With all due respect to Kermit the Frog, time has proved the adorable amphibian wrong. Contrary to the Muppet’s memorable lamentation in 1970, it’s actually pretty easy being green nowadays.
To be fair, when Kermit sang about how “it isn’t easy bein’ green,” he was referring to what he saw as his unremarkable skin color, and not about how hard it is to protect the environment.
As it turns out, however, 1970 was the same year that Earth Day was first celebrated — and that occasion is about our collective and individual responsibility to care for the only planet we have. Today, there are lots programs out there to help us do that.
One of them is the Santa Clara County Green Business Program, part of the California Green Business Network. Santa Clara County was one of the founding members of the network, a program now emulated in many other jurisdictions. The program helps small and medium companies obtain green certification — more than 830 County businesses so far, including 80 or 90 in the past year (including recertifications).
The program has racked up some impressive metrics over the years, and the people running it are always looking to help more businesses go green.
Last year alone, certified businesses in Santa Clara County:
- Conserved more than 11 million gallons of water, or the equivalent of 17 Olympic-size pools.
- Saved enough natural gas (a heat-trapping fossil fuel) to warm 20 homes for a year.
- Avoided pumping almost 67 million pounds of planet-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of planting over 100,000 acres of carbon-capturing urban trees.
- Saved enough electricity to power nearly 2,000 homes for a year.
- Diverted 29 million pounds of waste from landfills.
Doing well by doing good
Taken together with everything people do to tend the planet, this program is good for everyone. But small and medium businesses are often, by necessity, more concerned about surviving the next fiscal quarter than the next millennium. Here, the news is great, too.
The Santa Clara County Consumer and Environmental Protection Agency says the green businesses added about $4 million to their bottom lines, mostly in the form of lower energy and trash bills.
“I can save money and help the environment at the same time,” says Jamil Shaikh, who owns the green-certified Moffett Laundrymat in a Mountain View strip mall. “You can’t go wrong with this; it’s a win-win situation.”
Shaikh has been a greenie for a long time, and now he’s an evangelist for the Green Business Program. He says getting certified as a green business was not very hard (got that, Kermit?). A fair number of his customers say they come to him specifically because they know he’s certified. The stickers and signs he put up on his windows and walls, provided by the County, tell them so.
“The bottom line is you may pay more up front,” says Nicole Nguyen, the County employee who walks businesses through the certification process, “but in the long run, it’s better for the environment, better for your business, better for your employees, better for your customers.”
Free and voluntary
Shaikh, for example, had to change out his laundry detergents, start using less-toxic cleaning products, install energy-efficient lighting and switch to energy- and water-efficient front-loading washers. Now he’s pocketing the money from the energy and water savings, which over time will more than pay for his upfront costs.
“Certification is not only voluntary, it’s free,” says senior management analyst Lisa Rose, Nguyen’s boss. “People are very open to doing it for a number of reasons, whether it’s for environmental reasons, to promote themselves as being a green business, or for money savings.”
Bill Grimes, Recycling and Waste Reduction Division Program manager, adds that Santa Clara County doesn’t just let a company ride forever on the same green improvements, but makes sure certified businesses stay current with environmental regulations as they change.
“We’re always trying to assist them in finding ways to be more environmentally sustainable, more green in their operations.”
Clean and green
Green businesses are certified to be compliant with regulations and best practices regarding:
- Hazardous materials
- Hazardous waste
- Stormwater runoff
- Wastewater disposal
- Water and energy conservation
To apply: Call (408) 282-3180 or email at SCC.GreenBusiness@cep.sccgov.org.
Author: Chuck Carroll