Intuit Sustainability Project Highlights

 

CAGBN and Intuit Efficiency Mini-grants:

 

Sustainability Project Highlights and Impact Stories

 

Sustainability is at the top of every Green Business’s agenda, but with the day-to-day reality of running a business, sometimes the financial resources aren’t available to complete efficiency upgrades. For this reason the California Green Business Network (CAGBN) partnered with Intuit, a financial software company, to launch a mini-grant program, financially supporting small businesses in sustainability projects beyond Green Business Certification. By supporting small businesses in adopting environmentally friendly measures, the program aimed to promote sustainability while also benefiting businesses through cost savings and increased efficiency. This project has assisted 61 eligible businesses in reducing their environmental impact. 

The awarded businesses cover a diverse range of industries and services, including restaurants, cafes, salons, preschools, breweries, healthcare providers, galleries/studios, retail shops, real estate, consulting firms, churches, schools, and more. The businesses described vary widely in ownership and focus. They include BIPOC-owned, woman-owned, LGBTQ+-owned, employee-owned, and family-owned establishments. 

The completed projects range from energy efficiency upgrades to waste reduction initiatives and sustainable transportation solutions. Some examples include, electric bike purchases, LED lighting and insulation installation, HVAC and energy efficiency upgrades, and electric hot water pumps. These projects demonstrate a commitment to sustainability by implementing energy-efficient technologies, reducing water and waste, and transitioning to eco-friendly transportation options.

 


Project Ropa

 

Project Ropa, located in Gardena, CA, woman-owned, operates as a Los Angeles Certified Green Business. Their business redirects unused clothing, deadstock fabrics, and other textile waste produced in Los Angeles away from landfills and carbon-heavy recycling centers. These items are then distributed directly to individuals experiencing homelessness, extreme poverty, or housing insecurity. They annually recycle and upcycle approximately 50,000 pounds of post-consumer textiles.

To further reduce waste and their carbon footprint, they used the grant money to purchase more eco-friendly hangers and storage containers made from sustainably-sourced wood and biodegradable materials. These upgrades not only contribute to waste reduction, but also enhance the boutique feel of their Mobile Clothing Closet, reducing trauma and stigmatization associated with homelessness and poverty. Moreover, they were able to upgrade the takeaway bags provided to clients, offering portable and sturdy backpack bags as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags. These bags serve as a dignified alternative for individuals to carry their belongings, providing a sense of security and reducing the reliance on disposable plastic bags.

Through these efforts, Project Ropa anticipates preventing 500 plastic hangers, 25 plastic displays/totes, 1000 plastic bags, and 5,000 pounds of textiles from being discarded into landfills. They also work with local recycling partners to recycle unusable plastic waste produced.

Overall, Project Ropa’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond clothing redistribution, aiming to foster a more environmentally conscious and socially responsible society by minimizing textile waste and supporting vulnerable communities in Los Angeles.

 


Petroglyph

Petroglyph, Inc., a woman-owned ceramic lounge, located in Santa Cruz is dedicated to focusing on environmental sustainability and cleaner operations. Their grant project involved implementing several upgrades to enhance energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact. These upgrades include installing air filters in the kiln room and office, replacing light bulbs with LED ones, upgrading faucets for better water regulation, and introducing green toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaners.

Additionally, staff members received education on recycling and the company’s environmental ethos. Petroglyph, Inc. also provided bike tools and bus passes to encourage alternative transportation methods among employees.

Although it’s challenging to quantify the exact reduction in water and power usage due to fluctuating rates and consumption patterns, the implemented green upgrades have been beneficial. The replacement of T-12 incandescent bulbs with T-8 LED bulbs in the kiln room and storage area, is estimated to save approximately 29.2 pounds of GHG emissions per week. Furthermore, with the new aerators, they are saving approximately 21 gallons of water per week!

Overall, these efforts demonstrate Petroglyph, Inc.’s commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability, aligning with their mission to provide family entertainment while minimizing their ecological footprint.

 


Fruition Brewing

 

Fruition Brewing, a woman-owned establishment in Watsonville, CA, understands the importance of minimizing their carbon footprint in order to do their part, and lead by example. They do this by reducing their waste and energy consumption in their operations, and by featuring organic and small-batch beers and food from local farmers and businesses.

In 2019, during their initial construction, budget constraints led them to utilize second-hand sinks for their small brewery and kitchen. While aligned with their commitment to sustainability, these sinks, though mostly in good condition, experienced significant wear and tear. Despite efforts to capture small leaks for plant watering, a faulty faucet incident led to a night-long water wastage incident, resulting in the loss of thousands of gallons of clean water.

With the help of a grant, they collaborated with a local plumbing business to replace the faulty faucets with durable ones, requiring the procurement of hard-to-find parts due to the age of their large industrial stainless sinks. It is estimated that they were able to save 5-7 gallons a day by making this change!

“We are excited to look at our next few water bills, and compare to when they leaked. We’re especially excited not to have to worry about the water accidentally left on flowing all night long ever again!”

 


 

The California Green Business Network expresses pride in all green businesses, all of the grant applicants, and is committed to seeking additional opportunities beyond certification to support the business community. “What happens when a company and a nonprofit that both support small businesses like Intuit and the California Green Business Network partner?  You get large economic benefits to small businesses and substantial environmental benefits. It’s a win for everyone. We hope to do more partnerships like this in the future.” Jo Fleming, Executive Director of CAGBN

If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website here.

 


This Efficiency Mini-Grant is a partnership between Intuit and the California Green Business Network. Funding is generously provided by Intuit. Intuit remains committed to supporting programs that help communities make sustainable choices. Intuit applies its unique approach to problem-solving and innovation to create new sustainability solutions for our small business customers, which make up half of the US and global economy.

 

 

Ditch the Plastic, Embrace Reusables

Ditch the Plastic, Embrace Reusables: Make a Green Difference in Dining

Plastic Blog

 

Each year in the United States, 561 billion disposable foodware items turn into 4.9 million tons of waste. According to CalMatters, 85% of plastics are not recycled. They get dumped, litter our environment, and pollute our waterways and ocean. The Mindaroo Foundation has data that shows that plastic production from fossil fuel sources is expected to grow exponentially. We will soon be trading in our pollution from burning fossil fuels for energy and transportation to drowning in plastic pollution. For all these reasons, regulations and changing consumer preferences are pushing food facilities to reduce single-use plastics. But figuring out how to do that can be hard. 

We sat down with Jakki Castorena-Davila, Bilingual Sustainability Manager with the Monterey Bay Area Green Business Program, to get her expert opinion and insights about the changes food facilities are making, challenges they face and how to overcome them, and implementation tips to ensure employee and customer support. 

Jakki currently manages the Turn the Tide on Plastic program funded by EPA Region 9 pollution prevention grant, which aims to help food facilities switch to reusable foodware and fiber-based to-go containers in the Monterey Bay Area. 

What benefits might businesses experience by embracing sustainable practices and reducing their reliance on single-use plastics?

Jakki: Waste reduction is a key benefit, which leads to cost savings in both purchases and waste disposal. Our outreach has demonstrated that businesses using reusables for indoor dining cut down on trash and expenses, averaging $6,000 per business annually. Customers prefer reusable foodware as it reduces microplastics in food and minimizes the side effects of substances like PFAS, a “forever chemical”.

What are “forever chemicals”?

Jakki: PFAS is an acronym for “polyfluoroalkyl substances”. PFAS are commonly referred to as forever chemicals because of their persistence in the environment.  They don’t go away, but they do move around. PFAS are human made chemicals that are most often used for water or grease resistant products (non-stick cookware, single use foodware, water repellant clothings, firefighting, etc.) They accumulate in the blood and organs of people and animals and move around the food chain. Exposure is linked to cancer, liver damage and birth defects. BPI or CMA certified compostable products ensure that PFAS is eliminated as well.

Can you share examples of successful initiatives implemented by businesses to reduce single-use plastic? 

Jakki: I’ve worked closely with restaurants in the Monterey Bay Area over the past year, assisting them in transitioning from single-use foodware to reusable alternatives. You can check out some of their case studies that go into detail about their switches and savings.

Red’s Donuts in Seaside is a great example to share. By taking stock of single-use items and transitioning to reusables, they achieved $12,239 worth of savings for a year. Similarly, Deja Blue in Seaside initially switched to reusable plates and utensils for dine-in, leading to an estimated $16,991 annual cost reduction, encouraging the owner to switch all dine-in foodware to reusables.

For restaurants already using reusables and compostable foodware for to-go orders, I suggest exploring creative ideas to further reduce single-use plastics. Tacos California Grill, for example, successfully eliminated single-use paper packaging by switching to refillable condiment containers. Most notably, they started a reusable container takeback program for their regular customers and were able to further reduce single-use plastic on their to-go orders.

What are the common challenges or barriers faced by businesses when attempting to transition away from single-use plastics? 

Jakki: Owners and managers often hesitate to change a process that has worked well for their business historically. Many businesses rely on single-use items for their convenience and because customers want something easy and quick.

There may also be an initial cost barrier to switching their operations, despite long-term savings, especially for reusables or businesses might not have the time needed to make the changes. People are busy and businesses have a lot of things to keep track of. Switching up common practices can require some initial effort. But, that is why we are here and why I do the work I do. I help make it easy for businesses to switch to reusables by offering technical assistance and guidance along the way. 

How do you help businesses change their operations?

Jakki: To facilitate a transition, I recommend starting with a simple task, such as replacing a popular dine-in item like disposable cups, plates, or sauce cups, with a reusable option. This not only demonstrates the benefits but also helps businesses save money by purchasing fewer items, reducing trash, and shrinking their garbage pickup bin size.

Start small and practical. Pick at least one item to switch out and assess the cost difference over one month or several months depending on the business’s procurement cycle. Once the feasibility is demonstrated, we extend the change to other single-use items. Creativity is crucial—think of innovative ways to reduce plastic usage. You can find many items in this foodware alternatives purchasing guide

Engage your employees! This might include identifying an employee that may already have an interest in sustainability or the environment and support them in developing solutions to reduce single-use plastic. It may also include doing training for employees or integrating sustainability-related topics into new-hire processes. Communicate with your customers! We can provide signage to communicate with your customers. Let customers know that you have certain items by request or that their reusables are accepted. 

It’s essential to tailor solutions to each business’s needs, educate them about the benefits of transitioning, and explore feasible options to eliminate single-use items. Ultimately, waste reduction comes down to educating the business, their employees, and their customers on how their choices impact the environment and how they are at the forefront of change. This allows them to put sustainability as a priority, and will, in turn, help them have a healthier, more sustainable work environment while saving money.

How do you convince businesses that don’t have a lot of dine-in customers to make the switch to reusable items?

Jakki: It’s about shifting perception. The key is breaking the notion that reusables are only for businesses that are primarily dine-in. Even for businesses primarily serving to-go orders, offering reusable items for dine-in customers can help normalize reusable foodware in the fast-food industry. There are even reusable services for to-go orders! 

To truly move to reusable foodware for to-go will require larger societal acceptance. Customers like the convenience of to-go. Some start-up companies are leading the way on reusable to-go ware. For example: “Re:Dish, Turn, and Okapi. While these are somewhat niche at the moment they will likely expand. 

In your experience, what role do local ordinances play in influencing businesses to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics? 

Jakki: Government regulations and policies are indeed powerful drivers of change. Investing in outreach and technical support programs significantly aids businesses in making these changes. For example, while the Monterey Bay Area currently lacks specific policies mandating reusables, the impact of compostable ordinances has had a substantial, positive impact on the reduction of single-use plastics in the area. It is very important to include education and outreach to businesses to achieve maximum compliance, ideally in their native language. Having someone explain the ordinance to them, and their options, helps build trust with businesses and supports compliance. 

Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Jakki: Reducing single-use plastics when providing food may seem hard, but it can also be an opportunity for businesses to reduce costs long-term and become an environmental leader in their community, and their customers appreciate it.

If you need advice on how to proceed or would like to get certified as a green business, enroll here or contact your local Green Business Coordinator to see what resources and assistance they can offer.

Picking the Right Sustainability Path

 

Green Business, B Corp, Sustainable Development Goals Or ISO;

 

Picking the Right Sustainability Framework for your Company

 

Authored by: CAGBN Executive Director Jo Fleming

Operating sustainably can save businesses money and help them gain and retain top talent. More importantly, it sets them apart from their competition. Businesses are increasingly seeking a sustainability framework and third party certifications to communicate their achievements in a meaningful way. Climate Pledges and pay to play self-certifications are meaningless. However, verified and measured actions are something a business can broadcast. It’s hard to know what sustainability framework to pick at first. In this article, CAGBN Executive Director Jo Fleming dives into the differences to help you decide what path is best for your business.

California Green Business Network:

This certification, based in California, has sister programs all over the country. This certification is free in most of California. You get a free sustainability consultant that connects you with all the rebates and services available in your specific municipality. While the program is geared to small and medium sized businesses, many large businesses have used it as a framework for their sustainability program. The best part? Included in the process are environmental outcome metrics such as greenhouse gas emissions saved, kWh saved, water saved, etc. so tracking and touting success is easy.

The certification in California is broken down into 3 tiers: Entry-level, Certified, and Innovator. The entry level tier is a short 12-14-item checklist that includes the big items that often involve utility savings and rebates. It is a no-brainer to do this tier, but you don’t really get much out of it other than cost savings and rebates. The Certified tier is where you get all the bragging rights and free public recognition. It is a longer checklist of ~50+ measures, depending on your industry. The measures are mainly environmental in nature. After a business is certified, they are added to a directory and promoted throughout the region and State. The Innovator tier includes more community and worker well-being measures and yields significantly more bragging rights and more free publicity through the Green Business Network. The Innovator Tier points businesses toward B Corp certification.

B Corp

This growing worldwide certification is gaining traction and for good reason. There are currently over 3500 certified B Corps in 150 different industries in over 71 countries. The B Corp Certification considers people, planet, profit and equity. You’ll need to have your ducks in a row. You’ll need your company’s finance person on hand to supply significant financial data, your HR person for employee data and you’ll need to have significant environmental data. But the process alone gives a roadmap for what is possible. A minimum score of 85 is required to pass but it doesn’t mean your company needs to stop there. You can use the online assessment tool to guide your company’s assent to sustainability. Expect a few follow up questions and calls from the B Corp assessor and use them to guide you in how you might move the sustainability needle.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the world’s shared plan to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet by 2030. They were adopted by 193 Countries in 2015 during the Paris Climate Treaty. There are 17 of them and they can absolutely be guiding principles for your company’s corporate social responsibility.

ISO 140001 Environmental Management System

ISO 14001 is an internationally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system. It helps organizations improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste, gaining a competitive advantage and the trust of stakeholders. ISO is not a certifying organization. Third party consultants/auditors will need to be hired to gain certification, making this one of the more pricey and extensive certifications. The once popular gold standard of the nineties and the early 2000s now seems more geared toward Environmental Health and Safety than Sustainability. However, many of the steps that you take in your EMS will give you the data you need for parts of other frameworks. If you have a separate EH&S department, this could be their framework. Alternatively, it could be used to gather data and come up with standard operating procedures that lead to less waste and more efficient use of resources. Be careful not to fall into the SOP quagmire. All too often, professionals spend too much time developing SOPs instead of actually driving beneficial and profitable change.

Size plays a factor in which framework is right for your business. Small and medium sized businesses are better suited for the California Green Business Network Certification. Larger businesses may wish to examine the SDGs or ISO. B corp certification, while extensive and expensive, can fit both small and large businesses although their framework seems mostly geared toward larger businesses.

If you are uncertain, start on the simplest sustainability journey. Get Certified as a Green Business. That certification will help you along the way with the rest.