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California City Solutions: GreenBiz Cupertino Helps Local Businesses Achieve Sustainability Certification

January 15, 2016
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
 
The 2015 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. GreenBiz Cupertino was submitted in 2015 for the League Partners Award for Excellence in City-Business Relations award category.
 
GreenBiz Cupertino launched in September 2010 to boost sustainability and support the local community. The city created the program after certifying multiple city facilities in 2010. This experience lead city leaders to realize that for small to medium sized businesses, the process for Green Business Certification can be overwhelming with little support or guidance.
 
GreenBiz Cupertino is the city’s free support service to assists local businesses in pursuing Green Business Certification under the statewide California Green Business Program. The program recognizes businesses that surpass regulatory compliance by implementing practices to conserve energy, water and other resources, reduce waste, and prevent pollution. In 2010, working toward goals outlined in the Sustainability Element of its General Plan, the city certified seven facilities through the Bay Area Green Business Program, a regional affiliate and founding member of the California Green Business Program. This process involved navigating a long checklist of close to 200 energy, water, and materials measures.
 
While the city had the in-house capacity to tackle the process, staff understood that many small businesses may not. Participation in this regional program was low and the drop-out rate was high. City leaders thought that creating GreenBiz Cupertino would help address this issue and bring the benefits of green business certification to the business community (the majority of which are small to medium-sized).
 
GreenBiz Cupertino acts as a pro bono consultancy for businesses that want to be environmental stewards but do not know where to start. The program offers free certification assistance and differentiates businesses for their environmental leadership.
 
The city’s service program includes:
  • Assistance with the arduous certification application;
  • Access to free equipment including low-flow water-saving fixtures, environmentally preferable product samples, indoor recycling and composting containers;
  • Connection with regional no-cost services including free energy and water audits, rebates for energy and water conservation projects, waste management consultation, etc.; and
  • Public recognition for achievements, including recognition events, networking and training events, and marketing channels including increased web presence and green business discount cards for residents. 
GreenBiz also advances Cupertino’s broader environmental and economic development goals. The program serves as a direct outreach outlet, regulatory compliance support service, and economic development service for local businesses. It not only educates businesses on how to improve operations, but can catch regulatory issues before they impact a business’ bottom line or the local environment. These measures also contribute to the city’s greenhouse gas reduction goals outlined in Cupertino’s Climate Action Plan.
 
Although the city has an aggressive portfolio of business requirements including green building, water efficient landscaping, construction demolition debris, and mandatory recycling ordinances, few offer the opportunity to address business’ operational environmental impacts. Because commercial electricity and natural gas use accounts for 31 percent of Cupertino’s total emissions, GreenBiz teams with commercial partners to co-design facility improvements that reduce energy use and associated costs and emissions.
 
GreenBiz’s main objectives are to:
  • Increase number of certified businesses in Cupertino;
  • Recognize business environmental leaders and advance economic development goals; and
  • Strengthen the city’s quality of life. 
Collaboration helps the GreenBiz program reach its objectives while helping its partners to reach their service goals as directed by the Public Utilities Commission or boards of directors. GreenBiz works with the a number of organizations such as  PG&E, Recology, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Silicon Valley Energy Watch, Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, Cupertino Chamber of Commerce, San José Water Company, Santa Clara County, Acterra, US Environmental Protection Agency, Ecology Action (Right Lights), Clean Water Fund, and ICLEI USA.
 
GreenBiz is Cupertino’s direct connector to small businesses, and helps create strong city-business relationships, build access to a strong assistance network, and align policy development across business and community goals. The city has engaged over 200 businesses in GreenBiz and has more than tripled its number of certified businesses. Actions taken toward certification achieve real resource savings: the Bay Area Green Business Program estimates that certified Cupertino businesses annually save 1,338,744 pounds CO2 from entering the atmosphere, 592,848 kWh of energy, 1,736,176 gallons of water, and 3,447,622 pounds of waste from going to the landfill. Conserving energy, water, and materials translates into cost savings for businesses; the above metrics parallel an estimated $593,859 saved among all participants. The city’s model helped increase certified businesses from just 10 in 2010 to more than 50 by 2015, with another 15 in progress. The city of Cuperitno received the 2013 Business Environmental Award in the category of Environmental Project for its GreenBiz Cupertino program. View a video with more information about the program online.


 
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