Published June 19, 2012
Volume 20, Number 6

Green Business Certification Offers Multitude of Benefits      

The pioneering Bay Area Green Business Program (GBP) was launched 15 years ago to offer an environmental performance certification for small- to medium- sized, locally-based businesses that want to make their operations more sustainable. GBP certification is a way for companies to satisfy their own commitment to green principles while reassuring customers that they are doing their part to minimize their carbon footprint.

“We have industry specific checklists for over 15 sectors, from small manufacturing and office/retail to automotive shops and dentists,” explains Pamela Evans, coordinator of the Alameda County Green Business Program.

The program is much more than a campaign. It provides guidance and advice on implementing specific sustainability measures that businesses and agencies can adopt to conserve resources. It also provides materials to help the companies that have attained certification promote that fact to the public. A search feature on the GBP website allows consumers to find participating businesses by category or location, a valuable marketing tool.

Unlike some other environmental recognition programs, the Bay Area Green Business certification takes a comprehensive look at resource use, as its wide network of relationships attests. “Our partnership with more than 35 government agencies, utilities, and business service organizations does several things,” Evans remarks. “We directly involve technical experts in the program areas--energy conservation, water conservation, waste reduction, pollution prevention, and environmental compliance--so that GB candidates get their information straight from the horse’s mouth–and at no cost to them.”

For example, when it comes to evaluating new, “greener” cleaning products, Evans has a series of reliable tips and guidelines, such as looking for third-party product certification, specifically those from Green Seal, EcoLogo and Design for the Environment. She cites useful websites:  the City of San Francisco’s  Department of the Environment, www.sfapproved.org , and www.goodguide.com , which also has a smart phone app. Evans warns against using  “antibacterial” hand soaps and aerosol products, both of which have harmful environmental effects. Knowledgeable local vendors she mentions include Give Something Back, thegreenoffice, Radston's and Blaisdell's.

On the issue of office lighting, Evans points out that PG&E’s Linear Fluorescent T12 Lighting Rebate expires at the end of the year. The rebate provides financial incentives for replacing the older T12 tubes with the more efficient T8 models. Businesses that don’t know which model they have installed can do a fairly easy visual check. The older T12 tubes are 1.5 inches in diameter, while the newer T8s are notably smaller, just an inch in diameter. Lighting typically accounts for 30 percent of a company’s energy bill, so the upgrade can also reduce operating costs.

Property managers are a good resource as a company goes through its certification checklist. “They know about the required measures, and often, if they are a progressive, proactive company, they will have already made the changes asked for regarding lighting, HVAC maintenance, low-flow toilets, water-efficient landscapes, and good outdoor cleaning practices,” Evans observes.

Over 3,000 Bay Area businesses, utilities, nonprofits, and public agencies have been certified since 1997, more than 500 of them in Alameda County. The Bay Area model has been adopted in other parts of the state, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Thousand Oaks, and Santa Barbara. For information about greening your business, visit www.greenbusinessca.org


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