Green business education achieves new milestones in 2018

Polluted stormwater runoff is the #1 pollution source around Puget Sound. Businesses are helping mitigate that pollution.

Spill kit demonstration. Photo Credit: Enviroissues.

During heavy rainfall, water picks up pollutants from impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots. This water flows directly from storm drains to our waterways, harming the health of communities and aquatic life. Industries and municipalities are major originators of the oils, fuels, metals and other pollutants that ultimately contaminate Puget Sound waters. But some businesses want to change that and ECOSS provides the tools to do so.

In 2018, we visited over 1,400 businesses, delivered nearly 650 spill kits and provided spill training and prevention plans in more than 30 Puget Sound cities and counties. Spill kits help businesses keep spilled materials from reaching storm drains in streets, alleys and parking lots.

Outreach is personalized to each business. Photo Credit: Kelvin Kong / ECOSS.

And our offerings for stormwater management workshops and trainings nearly doubled in 2018. Seven industry-focused workshops reached almost 100 individuals and over 80 companies. And 18 municipal-focused workshops trained 625 municipal staff across 37 jurisdictions, agencies and businesses. These workshops help attendees understand permitting requirements, improve stormwater management practices and protect local waters and watersheds.

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Small Business Administration changes lay the groundwork for Green Growth

Last week the Small Business Administration announced special financing to small business entrepreneurs who go green using the SBA 504 loan program. For many borrowers the maximum amount changed from $1.5 million to $4 million (for an overall project of up to $9 million) if the project helps construct, purchase, or retrofit facilities to include energy saving technologies (a 10% reduction in consumption is required for retrofits). Generating alternative sources of power or working towards LEED certification are also new criteria for funding beyond the $1.5 million maximum for meeting the job creation criteria or a community development goal. While it may sound crazy to think about starting a business during a recession, that is exactly what some laid-off and unemployed workers have opted to do. Leaving a cushy corporate job to follow your dreams was a lot more difficult back when it seemed like getting fired or laid off was a remote possibility, but the recession has changed the climate—it may be just as risky to stay in a big firm as it is to try to strike out on your own. There are some benefits to starting a business during a recession, and some very recognizable giants of industry were formed during recessions. With the additional funds now available for small, green businesses, this may be the perfect opportunity to turn layoff lemons into green lemonade (or would that be limeade?) by starting a green business. The benefits don’t stop there; for example, Seattle City Light offers a host of services for businesses looking to conserve energy and resources, including incentives for up to 70% of installation costs of energy efficiency investments. While the sinking values of real estate are trouble for homeowners, it also means good news for those looking to invest in new property. Considering Brownfields for redevelopment might also expand opportunities for incentives and credits from starting a new green business. The best part—ECOSS is your free first stop for green business information. Connecting business owners to existing resources in their communities and providing technical assistance is the central focus of our For Business team, so contact us today.

-Audrey Chestnutt

Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC)’s Pollution Prevention Roundtable in Portland/Vancouver

Last week Todd and I had the opportunity to attend PPRC’s Northwest Regional Roundtable in Vancouver, WA and Portland. We met some folks from the city of Gresham, OR and talked to them about their stormwater and GREAT Businesses programs on day one at the Water Resources Education Center. The presentations centered around carbon footprinting and all the issues of counting and trading carbon emissions; it was pretty enlightening for me, and all the different viewpoints and complications have definitely given me food for thought in the coming weeks. Day 2 was in Portland, at the EcoTrust building. Todd and I joined a small group headed by Alisa Kane from the city of Portland and took a tour; the building was amazing! It was the first historic renovation to be awarded a LEED Gold certification, and has an ecoroof (that might have been a little more fun if we were in Portland in June instead of January). We met Jennifer Hancox from LeanPath and talked about her company’s unique approach to reducing food source waste through software tracking; it was pretty cool and we made sure to give her contact information to Aldan, since some of the folks he works with on composting might be interested in their software. We toured the City of Portland’s fleet services department and learned about past projects from PPRC and OMEP combining lean manufacturing principles with “green manufacturing” principles. It was a great opportunity to network and to learn more about what individuals, organizations and agencies are doing across the Pacific Northwest to help combat and prevent pollution. And finally, a big thanks to PPRC for providing scholarships so Todd and I could take part!

Todd and Alisa at the EcoTrust Building

Todd and Alisa at the EcoTrust Building

-Audrey Chestnutt

ECOSS attends Carbon Footprint Workshop, enjoys free breakfast

On Wednesday, I attended a carbon footprint workshop at the Rainier Square Conference Center in downtown Seattle. The event was hosted by the Seattle Climate Partnership (SCP), Sustainable Business Consulting and Cascadia Consulting Group (CCG), and featured a case study of Homestreet Bank. You know what’s great about morning workshops and seminars? Pastries. When I arrived, Charlie was just starting his talk about SCP, so I grabbed a Starbucks cinnamon roll and took a seat.

I looked around and found that the audience consisted primarily of staff from local businesses, but members from government and environmental groups were also present. After Charlie finished speaking, he introduced CCG’s Anisha Shankar, who gave a presentation on the SCP Carbon Calculator. The calculator is designed to help businesses determine their carbon footprint, which Anisha defined as the “impact, in carbon emissions, of business activities.” She went on to say that the common sources of carbon emissions for most businesses include building energy, employee travel (operational and commute mileage), materials usage and solid waste practices. I’ve looked at the Carbon Calculator before and have been impressed with its user-friendliness and versatility: the tool can be applied to businesses of many sizes across a variety of industries.

When Anisha finished, she introduced the Marketing Director from Homestreet Bank, who gave a great presentation on their carbon reduction efforts as a member of the SCP. I think his presentation did a good job of showing the challenges and opportunities of carbon footprint reduction, and I liked that he talked about the specific, concrete changes Homestreet has made in their efforts, such as turning their computers off at night and getting Zip Car service for their employees. By the end of the presentation, I was done with my cinnamon roll and had several new ideas for implementing carbon reduction strategies at ECOSS.

Last year, ECOSS signed the SCP pledge to reduce our own carbon footprint. Currently, we’re in the process of gathering data on our building’s energy use and our employee travel, and we’re assessing the way we select and use our office materials, like printer paper. The idea is to collect a year’s worth of data (which can be done either by evaluating a backlog of records, or by multiplying a single month’s data by 12) to serve as the baseline year for our carbon footprint. This takes a little digging through utility records and the like, and in areas where we don’t have hard figures, we’ll have to make smart estimates. From there we can set reduction targets and devise strategies for meeting those goals. It’s likely that our efforts will include a combination of staff education, modified day-to-day practices in the office, workplace sponsored incentives, and, perhaps most important, a reliable tracking system. Hopefully, we’ll reduce our carbon footprint and serve as an example for the many businesses and organizations we serve, while doing our part to be a little easier on the environment.

Learn more about Seattle’s Climate Protection Initiative and how the city is reducing it’s carbon footprint:

If you have questions about joining the Seattle Climate Partnership or about carbon footprinting in general, feel free to email Charlie Cunniff (ECOSS’ founding Executive Director!) or call 206-386-9748 at the Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment.

-Aldan Shank

ECOSS Green Gains – Fox Plumbing and Heating

I recently worked with Fox Plumbing and Heating to help them improve their solid waste stream. Through outreach in the South Park neighborhood, I met a Fox staff member interested in adopting office recycling at their business. At the time, Fox was recycling only cardboard and disposing of many other recyclable materials, including office paper, in the garbage.

First, I noted the sizes of Fox’s waste containers as well as their frequency of pickup, and later calculated costs for various combinations of garbage and recycling containers by size. After determining the optimal combination, ECOSS contacted the waste hauling service and enrolled Fox in the new waste program.

Fox now recycles office waste that previously was sent to a landfill, making their operations better for the environment. In addition, the company realizes monthly savings from having downsized its garbage container.

Does your business need similar services? Contact me for more details.
Click here for a listing of waste hauling services in Seattle.

-Aldan Shank