There are various stakeholders responsible for carrying out environmental sustainability. While it might be reasonable to encourage consumers to make smarter choices, those choices cannot be made unless businesses are providing sustainable choices in the first place. As demand for environmental stewardship increases due to the various effects of climate change, the supply is certainly being met by businesses in multiple regions and states.
In particular, small-to-medium sized businesses have control that larger corporations may find hard to adopt because they are on a smaller scale and typically serve the immediate community. The Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance (VCREA) has created the Ventura County Green Business Program (VCGB) as a part of the California Green Business Network (CAGBN) to encourage and certify local businesses taking the steps to increase environmental sustainability in their everyday operations.
The Ventura County Green Business Program (VCGB) is a free and voluntary certification program for businesses located in Ventura County to showcase to their customers that they meet or exceed environmental regulations in the areas of energy and water conservation, reduced solid waste production, and pollution/emission prevention. The program reduces the business’s costs and therefore increases profits, as well as provides positive publicity through the certification. The cost of greening operations is up to the individual business in what they have already done to “go green” and what they’ll need to do to become “certified,” as with all other aspects of running a business. The program recognizes businesses that go above and beyond required measures to serve as models of sustainability.
The VCGB Program is a three tier system: Participant, Certified, and Innovator, and participants must be re-certified every three years. To become a Green Business Member some basic information is requested through a registration form. After the form is reviewed, the business will be given information on rebates and practices that can be adopted according to the business-type. If a business does not qualify, they will be given information on steps to take to qualify. Technical assistance will be provided for necessary upgrades such as the installation of LED lighting systems, establishing waste-sorting methods, and re-evaluating supply-chains. Furthermore, the County offers workshops for community members and business owners to learn more about the program and what can be done to run a sustainable business. Since the program is open to any type of business, the recommended changes can vary depending on the industry.
http://www.caenergyhub.org/members/updates/418 (accessible to LGSEC members only)
The program had a soft launch in August 2017 and began full operations in January 2018. To date, 78 businesses ranging from garment cleaners to restaurants to label-making companies in Ventura County have received Green Business certifications. For a business like garment cleaners, methods that reduce the use of chemicals is common. For restaurants, omitting single-use plastics, creating compost waste bins, and controlling food surplus are common steps taken. Businesses promoting eco-conscious lifestyles such as gardening stores, healthy eateries/cafes, and construction companies have been certified while also selling products that enforce the meaning behind the label.
Energy efficiency is almost always encouraged by installing sensor LED lights and timed/sensor water fixtures. Since California is in a drought, water-reducing methods are another area that businesses must consider to obtain the certification. Another improvement these businesses make is educating their employees on how to uphold eco-friendly methods while working and providing alternative transportation methods to encourage emissions reduction associated with commute.
CAGBN is state sponsored and is funded in part by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under assistance agreement G14-EA-001 to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). VCGB receives support from CAGBN, the VCREA local government partnership, staff has been awarded and seeks grants to help expand and further the program, and receives additional support from our local jurisdictions.
CAGBN is a part of the Green Business Engagement National Network, a network comprised of eight states adopting Green Business Certification programs. VCGB certified businesses are listed on the National Green Business Tracker search engine through the CABGN website. VCGB partners with local governments, energy partnerships, special districts, non-profits, utilities, waste haulers, and the chambers of commerce.