America’s Green Cities (Part 2): The West Coast and Hawaii

The U.S. Small Business Administration has called out more than a dozen cities nationwide for launching initiatives that encourage sustainable business practices by providing resources, opportunities, and financial incentives. Last week’s post looked at some of the programs available in Denver and green cities east of the Rockies. This week, let’s take a look at what their West Coast counterparts have to offer.

Berkeley, California
In Berkeley, the Office of Energy and Sustainable Development (part of the city’s Planning & Development Department) offers cash incentives to individuals in Berkeley for greening their homes or businesses. The “Money for Energy Efficiency” (ME2) program, funded by federal stimulus money from the U.S. Department of Energy, targets all types of buildings. It aims to lower the cost of energy-efficiency improvements and ultimately help save money on utility bills; improve building comfort, safety, and durability; and reduce carbon footprints.

Eugene, Oregon
The city of Eugene maintains both an Office of Sustainability and a 13-member Sustainability Commission, whose efforts encompass three broad areas: economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental health. As part of its official Sustainability Program, the city drives job creation for businesses of all sizes and maintains a green building program. Every other month, the mayor recognizes a local enterprise for taking “Bold Steps Towards Sustainability” in business decision-making; the award includes ample free radio advertising.

This island capital maintains strict waste-disposal laws, but the Department of Environmental Services is at the ready to answer small-business owners’ questions — and help them comply. The ctiy’s website offers guidelines for how to set up a recycling program and conduct a waste audit, as well as links to peer consultants, model programs, and more. “Most Oahu businesses are affected by one or more of the city’s mandatory recycling laws or regulations,” department officials explain online. “Recycling at work can reduce costs as well as reducing waste.”

The city of Portland runs recycling, clean energy, sustainable food, green building, climate protection, and other green programs. Its BEST Business Center, a partnership with regional utilities and government,  provides “a one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and organizations in Portland that aim to be greener and more profitable. “We provide a free on-site evaluation of your operations in the areas of energy, water, waste and recycling, purchasing, green building, and transportation,” officials explain online. Afterward, businesses receive a customized report with recommendations for greening their business and a slew of getting-started resources.

Richland, Washington
“Why Conserve?” ask Richland officials. “Conservation efforts save businesses money!” The city’s website provides resources for recycling and waste reduction, with an emphasis on reuse whenever possible. It provides links to the 2 Good 2 Toss network, which helps people sell and donate items statewide, and a downloadable PDF of local secondhand and antique stores. In addition, a division of Richland Energy Services Department runs energy-efficiency programs for residential and commercial customers for new construction and remodeling upgrades.

San Francisco
The city and county of San Francisco’s Green Business Program sets “stringent criteria” for what constitutes green. Working together, its environmental agency, department of public health, and public utilities commission help local businesses adopt sustainable, profitable practices by providing resources and tech support. The program also promotes participating organizations to potential customers. In addition, San Francisco participates in the Bay Area Green Business Program, which comprises nine counties in Northern California. The program offers incentives and recognition to businesses for saving water and energy, reducing waste, preventing pollution, and shrinking carbon footprints.

In its quest to make green building a standard practice, Seattle offers myriad resources to small businesses, from sustainable design strategies to professional development courses and lecture series. The city’s publicly owned utility prides itself in providing affordable, sustainable energy — and offers financial incentives to small businesses that want to install more efficient lighting. “Small businesses use energy mostly for heating and cooling, lighting, office equipment, and any specialized machinery required for the business,” say officials at Seattle City Light, who offer six tips for reducing energy consumption. The suburb of Kirkland also offers incentives through its Green Business Program.

Does your city offer incentives for being a sustainable small business? Tell us about your favorite program in the comments section below.

About Rebecca Smith Hurd

Rebecca Smith Hurd is a veteran freelance writer and editor who, like you, runs her own small business. A savvy sole proprietor, Hurd is always on the lookout for new ways to make her operation smarter, greener, and more profitable.Follow Intuit’s sustainability efforts on Twitter (@intuitgreen)!
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