In today’s economy, more than ever before, there is increasing incentive for businesses to ‘go green’ outside of the obvious goal of planetary protection.
“Businesses are very smart and make the connection between environmental and economic sustainability,” explained Frances Gilliland, Coordinator of the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County (GBP). “We do not have to make the pitch that ‘doing right by the environment is doing right by business.’ They understand that.”
The California Green Business Network
The California Green Business Network (CAGBN) was officially launched in 2008. As ‘green’ business programs were beginning to sprout up in different counties across the state, a loose affiliation of members would often come together to share stories, ideas and resources. After seeing increasing opportunities, the group officially incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. The California Green Business Network has now categorized over 20 different business sectors and provides unique checklists for each business type to gain certification as they collaborate throughout the state. The impact of this network has been tremendous.
This year the 2,800 certified businesses in the CAGBN have reduced 822,677 metric tons of CO2 emissions, saved 124,312,888 gallons of water, and reduced fuel use by 13,523 gallons, saving over $30 million! For a list of additional achievements, click here.
Holding California Green Business certification has distinct advantages beyond the fundamental economic and environmental outcomes. Statewide recognition gives consumers confidence when they are choosing which businesses to support.
“Our online statewide directory receives most of our traffic, and about two thirds of the 10,000 people who visit our website every month are looking to shop green,” said Jo Fleming, CAGBN Executive Director. “People want to shop green and they want to know they are voting with their dollar…people are looking for that ‘green stamp.’” This publicity brings businesses new and loyal customers and sets them apart from their competition.
The Green Business Academy – Going Green in Santa Barbara County
In Santa Barbara County, the GBP provides businesses with the tools and help necessary to join the growing network of Certified Green Businesses who are increasing their sustainability efforts while saving money along the way. There are now nearly 100 certified businesses in Santa Barbara County. “We provide the framework and resources so that businesses can ensure their impact is meaningful,” Gilliland remarked.
Under the Program, greening a business includes five key components: energy conservation, water conservation, reduction of solid waste, pollution prevention, and employee awareness. Some conservation strategies being employed by participating members are simple, and can include going paperless, installing LED lighting or switching to environmentally preferred janitorial products. Others are more intensive. Additionally, by training and incentivising employees towards other environmentally conscious practices such as using alternative transportation options, businesses can increase their impact outside of the workplace.
“Often times, it’s the employees who come up with the best ideas on how to save energy – when employees get engaged they take what they learn home with them,” said Gilliland.
To start down the path of certification, businesses must register here. In order to become fully certified, businesses will be asked to attend the Green Business Academy, a four-month series of workshops that bring together ‘cohorts’ of interested businesses as they work through their checklists and gain all the tools to achieve certification. The Academy gives businesses an opportunity to be a part of a bigger community as they get to know one another and work through the greening process together.
Noteable GBP-certified businesses that have gone through the certification process include the Towbes Group, Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, Hardy Diagnostics, Allen Construction, Marborg Industries and the Shoreline Cafe, one of the Program’s first certified restaurants. Successful case studies such as UCSB’s Dining Services exemplify how businesses can thrive throughout the process. Even GBP Partners like Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce have taken the path to certification!
“The benefit to people participating in the Academy and our workshops whether they are an employee or a manager is that they will learn how to green any operation, which is vital knowledge in any business environment,” commented Flemming.
The Green Business Program is hosting two kickoff workshops on Wednesday, October 7 in Santa Maria and Thursday, October 8 in Santa Barbara.* These workshops will serve as an introduction to the checklist and the certification process. Experts will provide an introduction to two of the Program’s conservation topics: energy and solid waste/recycling. Following the workshops, there will be two webinars before a final gathering of all participants to wrap up and cover any outstanding issues before becoming officially certified. Businesses can sign up for the workshops here.
“The workshops provide an opportunity to get to know and learn from each other,” emphasized Gilliland. “We are building a community that can assist each other and make connections in a very meaningful way.”
For those interested in the expanding effort to use business as an agent for conservation, the Green Business Program is for you. To learn more, contact the GBP today.