Valle Verde is a nonprofit retirement community in Santa Barbara that seeks to enhance the independence, well-being and security of seniors through the provision of housing, health care and supportive services.

Situated on 60 acres on Calle De Los Amigos, the community has always, in its 43 years of existence, looked beyond the provision of services to its members and attempted to effect changes within society. Accordingly, the community — with more 350 residents and 200 staff — embarked on an ambitious path beginning in 2004 to become a model, sustainable community with an overall goal of carbon neutrality by 2021.

Valle Verde’s Green Initiative is a series of steps that benefit the environment by:

» Reducing electricity, natural gas and water consumption

» Producing 58,000 kw through photo-voltaic energy

» Using Built Green remodeling practices to upgrade senior living apartments

» Recycling more than 15,000 pounds of office paper, cardboard boxes, pallets and miscellaneous packaging materials every year

» Chipping more than 12,500 pounds of green waste per year to use as mulch

» Composting about 936 cubic yards of food scraps annually

» Using drought-tolerant native plants and climate-controlled irrigation with reclaimed water to reduce water usage

» Using reclaimed water for landscaping

» Eliminating paper waste by employing electronic medical records

Additionally, through a collaboration with its food supplier, Valle Verde purchases up to 85 percent of its produce from local farms. This win-win collaboration not only supports local growers, it also reduces transportation pollution and provides residents with fresh nutritional produce. The success of this local food program with Valle Verde prompted its food supplier to market the program nationally to its other customers.

Valle Verde’s economic benefits continue to expand by greening its campus. These are measured in utility costs that on average save it more than $210,000 per year. A sample breakdown of savings includes:

» $4,000 to $5,000-plus per month in electrical savings

» $10,000 per year for the use of solar domestic and space heating water

» $1,250 per year by using back-up flash water heaters

» $5,100 per year by replacing two aging 1,000,000 BTU boilers

» $800 to $1,000-plus per month in water costs

Every year, Valle Verde expands its Green Initiative, reduces energy use and waste, and reaps increased cost savings as various programs become more efficient.

Valle Verde has received the following awards and certification for its campuswide program:

» Certified Santa Barbara County Green Business (Administration Offices)

» CalRecycle Waste Reduction Award 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010

» International Council on Active Aging 2010 Green Award

» City of Santa Barbara Solar Energy System Recognition Award & Certificate 2007 and 2009

» AAHSA Leading-Edge Care and Services Award 2008

» Central Coast Magazine Green Award Nominee 2008

» Santa Barbara Green Award 2007

— Toby Ayars is a publicist.