[Noozhawk’s note: This is the third in a series on the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County. Click here or click here for previous articles.]

One of the more classic environmental messages is to reduce, reuse and recycle, but with the help of the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County, local businesses are recognizing that waste reduction is also a great way to save money.

At its core, waste reduction means consuming less and reducing waste to the landfills. Businesses that engage in these practices can save money on purchasing and on disposal costs. Furthermore, waste reduction is good for the health of the planet and of humans because it lessens the need for new landfills and minimizes mining for new resources. It also saves energy, and stimulates the development and use of new, greener technology.

Waste reduction isn’t just about purchasing and tossing out less — it is also about purchasing products that are better for the environment. That is why the Green Business Program requires businesses to purchase recycled content products. Here are four local businesses that have taken steps to reduce their waste stream:

» AECOM Environment is a consulting firm with offices around the world; its local office at 5075 S. Bradley Road, Suite 203, in Santa Maria consults on numerous environmental measures, such as, greenhouse gas inventories, climate change mitigation and adaptation, energy conservation and renewable energy. Given its specialties, being part of the Green Business Program was an easy choice. Although not an obvious resource user, offices can generate tons of waste in their everyday operations. AECOM Environment set out to lead by example and reduce waste in every way possible. The company purchases recycled-content materials, recycles office paper and other office supplies such as printer cartridges. But employees also compost food scraps from their break room and at staff lunches. Since there is no local composting service, several staff members take the food scraps home to their personal worm bins. Driven by a purpose to enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments, AECOM Environment has shown commitment to making the world a better place.

» Be Green Packaging, 121 W. De la Guerra St., takes waste reduction to heart in its product and operations. This local company makes tree-free, compostable food container packaging and runs its office in Santa Barbara in an environmentally responsible way. The mission of Be Green Packaging is to design, develop, manufacture and distribute tree-free, compostable food container packaging worldwide and its express intent is to reduce the reliance on forested and petroleum-based raw materials. Employees recycle and compost, and buy as many post-consumer recycled products as possible — from file folders, to paper, to paper towels, and even toilet paper. Be Green Packaging products are available locally at Whole Foods Market.

» The staff at Le Reve Organic Spa & Boutique, 21 W. Gutierrez St., is making waste reduction a lifestyle. The staff is dedicated to green purchasing, including all paper products they use in the day spa and in promotional materials they design. They have also switched to compostable water cups, and are continuously looking for new and better containers and packaging. They recycle all possible materials, and have recycling bins located inside the spa to make recycling easy for clients and staff. By minimizing waste, Le Reve balances the well being of the human body with economic sustainability and the health of the planet. Le Reve owner Shannon Neels couldn’t be happier with the Green Business Program. “The benefits of becoming a certified Green Business include the obvious as far as saving money on utilities and then the bigger benefits like being able to spread the word, be part of a like-minded community, educate, and having that great feeling of being pro-active and making a difference at Le Reve, in our homes, and in our world.”

» Isla Vista Food Co-Op, 6575 Seville Road, is the only community-owned natural foods co-op in the county. The Co-Op has made it its mission to educate customers in all areas of “green” and to use the store as an excellent example for others to emulate. The Co-Op’s mission, as a natural and organic foods consumer cooperative, is to provide the residents of Isla Vista and neighboring communities with reasonably priced foods, products and services that promote a healthier lifestyle and environment. One of its more successful customer-based programs is the “Bring Your Own Bag Fund” that gives customers an incentive to bring their reusable bags. Instead of refunding customers five cents for bringing their own bags, the Co-Op drops five cents into its “community fund” that is then given to local nonprofit organizations as grant money. The fund helps the Co-Op reduce purchasing of plastic bags, educates its members about the issues with plastic bags, and gets to give back to the community.

Together, these businesses are showing how a classic environmental message — reduce, reuse, recycle — can be implemented in today’s competitive marketplace. Even more, they are creating a market niche for themselves and helping their customers better understand the need for and benefit of waste reduction.

— Crissy Haley is an intern with the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County and a master’s candidate at the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. Megan Birney serves on the steering committee of the Green Business Program on behalf of the Community Environmental Council.