Fire Adaptation and Resilience for Businesses

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Let’s face it, fires are scary. The California wildfires have devastated entire towns in California, and climate change will cause these events to occur more frequently with more intensity. It is now more important than ever to cultivate our community’s fire resiliency and adaptations. We all receive a lot of guidance about how to prepare for wildfires as homeowners, but have you ever considered how your business should prepare? Here are some tips for businesses to become more fire resilient and help their community adapt: 

Make sure your business is proactive and prepared for a fire on-site. 

  • Don’t forget the basics! Make it an action item to routinely check fire alarms and fire extinguishers. Consider replacing old safety equipment and investing in smart technologies (as needed).
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest fire safety guidelines and have a plan. If you are an employer, make sure all employees are made aware of what to do in the event of a fire and how to safely utilize your equipment in their onboarding process. It can be hard to figure out where to start, but you can find many helpful resources online that can break it down in a digestible way. For instance, check out this resource “Recommended Fire Safety Training Procedures for Employers in 2020” here for some inspiration on how to be more prepared. 
  • Did you know that many office/retail fires are caused by the same sources as home fires? Click here to see more information from the U.S. Fire Administration regarding workplace fire safety.
  • Keep your employees and patrons healthy. Fires in our communities create pollution both outdoors and indoors. We normally recommend servicing your heating and A/C at least twice per year, but consider checking and changing air filters more frequently if the season brings a lot of smoke to the region. This will also save you money!

Prepare your business for a wildfire.

  • Create defensible space. Keep vegetation far from your building. Select landscaping materials that are drought-friendly and less vulnerable to wildfires. Not only does this increase fire safety, but it also helps you save money and water!
  • Use non-flammable materials for signage, roofs, and decks if possible.
  • Screen vents with non-combustible metal mesh.
  • Sign up to receive public safety alerts and access emergency checklists and other resources from your local CalFire and your local utility company. Sign-up for CALFIRE alerts.

Go above and beyond!

  • Become (or support) a “1% for the Planet” business. Visit onepercentfortheplanet.org to see a list of businesses and how to join. These businesses are fighting to combat climate change, which is a catalyst for worsening wildfires. They even have a specific list of nonprofits directly working with wildfires here
  • Participate in team-building while adapting. Remember–you can donate more than your dollar! You can also give in the form of staff time. Participating in climate adaption volunteering is a great way to give back to the community while providing your team with a bonding experience.

 

Learn more about how your business can help combat climate change and worsening wildfires by becoming a Certified Green Business.

California’s Drought: What YOUR Business Can Do to Help

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As California businesses pull themselves back together following the statewide shutdowns, it is important to come back stronger than ever and be proactive in addressing our problems. One struggle that hasn’t gone away is the drought. Leaky infrastructure at your business such as faucets, toilets, and irrigation not only waste water, but wastes your hard earned money with increased water bills. Fortunately, there are many simple things your business can do to help conserve California’s precious water. We’ve compiled a list of water conservation tips to help you conserve water and help your business operate more efficiently.

Be leak-free

Be leak-free! According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a leaky faucet dripping at a drip per second wastes 3,000+ gallons per year! Leaks in fixtures like toilets, showers, or sprinkler systems can be water vampires – wasting water and money! Learn more through this handy infographic.

Switch to low flow

Switch to low flow. Reduce the gallons used at your business by installing high efficiency toilets (e.g., those flusing at 1.0 gallons per flush or dual flush), showerheads flowing at 1.5 gallons per minute (GPM) or less, and low-flow faucet aerators (.5 GPM for handwashing and 1.5 GPM for kitchens). These changes are easy and cost-efficient, you may have already completed a water tune-up during your Green Business certification and if you haven’t, contact your coordinator.

Drought tolerant

Incorporate drought-resilient landscaping. If you have landscaping, go as drought-resistant and native plant-heavy as possible. Check out CalRecycle’s site here for more information! Use drip irrigation instead of spray sprinklers. Water during the coolest hours of the day. You can go above and beyond and install smart sensors that take into account weather conditions and moisture levels for any irrigation needs. Learn about xeriscaping here.

Water Saving

Are you utilizing your local resources? Contact your local water utility and ask what rebates are available. Many jurisdictions have rebates available for water conservation upgrades such as installing low-flow toilets and removing turf!

Finally, remember that the energy-water nexus is a big deal! In fact, around 12 percent of California’s total energy use is related to water. Energy Upgrade CA has some energy saving tips to implement in your business and home at

Want to go beyond the tips above? Support organizations fighting against California’s drought. The Water Education Foundation has a great compilation of options.

Make sure your business is doing everything it can to fight the drought by getting certified as a Green Business.

Foodware: Cultivating New Habits

There are many environmental issues that people can avoid–they can drive an electric car to avoid fossil fuels on their commute, or electrify their homes to move away from natural gas. However, avoiding food and its associated complexities is more difficult. Our lives are centered around our eating habits, and we are all deeply connected to our food. This rings especially true in the context of the global pandemic when many of us turned to the comfort of takeout meals as a simple joy during dark times. In turn, the use of disposable food ware items, most of which are not recyclable or compostable, are on the rise. It’s not easy to forget about food, but it is all too easy to look past the impacts of our habits as consumers and businesses.

Foodware 

Disposable foodware and single-use plastics have been around for decades. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 increased the consumption of single-use plastics, including disposable food service ware. This creates a problem for our waterways, public health, and landfills which are already bursting with more waste than they can handle.

So what can you do? 

Utilizing reusable foodware is always the first line of defense against take-out-related waste. Here’s some good news: properly sanitized reusables are oftentimes safer than single-use items, which are rarely properly sanitized. In instances where using disposables is absolutely necessary, there are some guidelines to help you choose the option with the smallest environmental impact.  

As a business, the best option for take-out containers is natural fiber-based, compostable items. These are typically made of fibers such as paper, sugarcane, and bamboo. You may not be able to find fiber-based alternatives for all items. San Mateo County’s “Foodware Aware” website has a great list of alternative products. Check with your distributor for more options.

If your jurisdiction has curbside compost collection, getting certified compostable products, like those certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), is important. There is a dual benefit to BPI-certified fiber-based items, not only are they guaranteed to break down in an industrial compost facility, they are also guaranteed to be free of fluorinated chemicals, sometimes called “forever chemicals.” These include polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).

The proper sorting of compostable foodware is crucial. When these products end up in an anaerobic setting like a landfill, their degradation contributes to methane emissions.

If you own a business that utilizes disposable to-go ware, consider making the switch even if your jurisdiction does not currently require it. Cities and counties across the state are accepting the need for this long-overdue change. If the headache of the transition is holding you back, there are amazing organizations that can help. For example, ReThink Disposable helps prevent 21 million disposable packaging items from entering waste streams annually (over 260,000 pounds!). Some businesses may even qualify for rebates to assist with the overhead cost of purchasing reusable service ware (up to $300). Click here to learn more about the requirements of the rebate program. 

Businesses: Are you interested in learning more about the potential outcomes of your business or organization making such transitions? Take a look at the case studies for the San Carlos Youth Center and Manila Eatery in Colma, California. They can help you better understand the costs, annual waste reduction, savings, and more! If you’d like assistance in the journey, consider getting certified as a Green Business and ask your coordinator how you can reduce your plastic footprint. Learn more here.

Consumers: Your habits and actions make a difference! When dining out/getting to-go, try to bring your own reusables with you.  Support local government ordinances that initiate these changes. Vote with your dollars and support local restaurants providing safe and environmentally conscious options. Every bit counts. 

CA Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program

California Small Businesses: There is a new grant opportunity in town!

Grants from $5,000 to $25,000 will be available to eligible small businesses and non-profits impacted by COVID-19 starting in September 2021. Review the materials now and draft your application to be one of the first new institutions/businesses to apply. If you’ve already applied for this grant funding and are on the waitlist, there’s no need to reapply.

California’s small business relief program is holding two additional rounds of new funding:
Round 8: Non-Profit Cultural Institutions Only
Application window: Friday, Aug 27th – Wed, Sept 8th
Open to small non-profit institutions that meet eligibility criteria.
Round 9: New and Waitlisted Applicants
Application window: Thursday, Sept 9th – Thursday, Sept 30
Open to small businesses that meet eligibility criteria.
 
 
Interested in more ways to help your business thrive? Learn more about how becoming a Green Business can help you save money on utilities and provide your business/non-profit with up to $500 in rebates at greenbusinessca.org/why-get-certified/
 

Pledge to Reduce: Plastic Free July!

Katy Perry knows that sometimes we all may feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind. Whether or not that simile is relatable to you, we can all agree that no one wants to see that plastic bag floating down the freeway. 

The United States generates the most plastic waste per capita in the world at 286 pounds per person per year. Meanwhile, less than 10 percent of American plastic waste is recycled. We are in a plastic waste crisis where “recycling” plastic often means sending it abroad where it is then dumped in the ocean! Rather than relying on recycling, we must reduce demand.

Be part of the solution and join the California Green Business Network as we participate in Plastic Free July! This movement started as a charitable organization in Australia and now counts 177 countries as participants. The global pandemic led to a massive spike in single-use plastic use. It is now more important than ever to reduce our plastic footprint. 

Here are measures your business or organization can take to be part of this movement towards a more plastic-free world:

  • Single-use items add up! Utensils, coffee cups, condiments, napkins, straws, bags, etc. Bring your own reusable alternatives with you! If you own a business that offers these items, provide them to customers only upon request. Promote and support customers bringing in their own, clean reusable containers, bags, and mugs. You can even offer reusables to customers as to-go ware for a small deposit. 
  • Be safe and save money with reusables! Properly sanitized reusable items can be even safer than unsanitized single-use items, and they save money! When searching for new items, try to take into consideration the packaging vendors use.
  • When reusables are not an option, opt for recycled content paper products or BPI Certified compostable single-use items. 
  • Keep everyone hydrated without waste! Provide reusable containers and water stations for staff and customers. This can include reusable water bottles and cups that are washed and sanitized. 
  • When making purchases for the office or home, try to select stores with a bulk section. Not only does buying in bulk often cut down on cost, but it also generates less plastic waste than buying smaller pre-packaged items. 
  • Assess the situation. Do a bin audit of your home or office to help you determine what is being thrown in the bins the most. Analyze what’s in your trash and recycling bins to figure out where you can improve.
  • Clean a beach! Find a local cleanup event where you can participate in teambuilding while removing plastic litter from the environment. Check out great sites like Volunteer Match to find local opportunities. 
  • Looking for more ways to participate in Plastic Free July? Go to PlasticFreeJuly.org to learn more. 

Remember: Tackling the plastic crisis successfully is not about one person practicing zero waste perfectly. It is about all of us practicing it imperfectly.

P.S. If you own a business that serves food, check out this helpful article by The Surfrider Foundation on how to reopen while safely using reusables.