Tuesday, October 17 , 2017, 1:56 pm | Partly Cloudy 79º


Kitson Landscape Management, Towbes Group Are Going Green and Paying It Forward

The companies and their employees are committed to sustainable business practices focused on waste, water and transportation

Two years ago, the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County set out on a mission to certify local businesses for sustainable business practices relating to the operation of their businesses. In this time, the Green Business Program has been instrumental in helping local businesses improve the way they operate on a daily basis, benefiting employers, employees and the environment.

While the program doesn’t certify products and services, that hasn’t stopped the certified businesses from sharing what they have learned with their employees and customers.

This article takes an in-depth look into the accomplishments of two local certified green businesses — Kitson Landscape Management and The Towbes Group — that are paying it forward.

Since 1969, Kitson Landscape Management, a commercial landscaper in Santa Barbara County, has been specializing in the comprehensive landscape maintenance of office parks, shopping centers, retirement campuses, and municipal and industrial sites. Through its work restoring natural habitats, Kitson has a front-row view of the effects of the built environment on the natural world. As such, it recognizes the importance of reducing the ecological footprint of its corporate offices in Goleta. Its efforts have reduced waste, water and energy use, and increased alternative transportation use among the staff.

In order to reduce waste, Kitson employees compost food waste from their break room, and they recycle batteries, paper products and other recyclable items. Additionally, they have implemented an e-mail/PDF system for client proposals that dramatically reduces paper consumption and trips to the post office. They also purchase all paper goods with a percentage of recycled content.

Kitson recognizes that fresh water is a finite resource, and it has implemented water conservation efforts, including a drip irrigation system for the landscaping around its building. The irrigation system is operated by a weather-based controller with an on-site weather monitor.

To reduce energy use, the company has installed motion-sensing lights and a programmable thermostat for heating and cooling, but it encourages the use of windows in the office for fresh air, rather than air conditioning. These efforts benefit the environment and reduce energy costs.

While many of the water- and energy-saving efforts were already in place, Kitson did have to replace its office cleaning products with safer and environmentally friendly alternatives to meet the requirements of the Green Business Program.

The importance of a sustainable business permeates throughout the office, and the employees are exemplary in their use of alternative transportation. Kitson works to promote strategies to reduce the vehicle miles traveled by its employees, including providing ample bike parking, holding raffles, providing free bus passes and giving out bike safety items.

The results? A recent in-office survey showed that 73 percent of Kitson employees use alternative forms of transportation rather than driving alone to and from work. Additionally, Kitson recently built an exterior garden area to encourage its employees to bring their lunch to work rather than driving out to eat.

The Towbes Group, developer of quality residential, commercial, industrial and retail properties throughout Santa Barbara, also has committed to becoming an environmentally responsible business by utilizing green business practices. Like Kitson, it focused on waste, water and transportation.

To reduce waste in the office, disposable kitchen products have been replaced with ceramics and washable silverware. Recycling bins are provided at every desk, including the central workroom and conference rooms.

Within the office, the slogan “Scan When You Can” is found on office equipment to discourage copying. Green purchasing efforts include a policy to purchase only post-consumer recycled content paper products, and bulk product purchasing is centralized to reduce excessive packaging often associated with ordering supplies from office supply stores. These efforts, together with participation in the foodscrap program, helped Towbes achieve 85 percent waste diversion.

To become a Certified Green Business, Towbes upgraded its employee restrooms to be water efficient, replacing older toilets with new ultra-low flow models. Another significant investment was the replacement of older, less efficient lighting. Over time, these investments will pay off in significant water and energy savings and reduced costs.

The Towbes corporate office also promotes the use of alternative transportation by offering its employees fully subsidized transit fare, as well as bicycle raffles and carpooling rewards redeemable for local merchant gift cards. Bike storage and on-site shower facilities make it easier for those who must travel more than a couple of miles. Additionally, Towbes’ electric car “Towbie” is available to employees throughout the day for errands.

Towbes has been so impressed by the results of its Green Business Certification that it has extended their green philosophy beyond its corporate office to the commercial and residential units it owns and manages throughout the community.

We look forward to seeing both Kitson and Towbes paying it forward in the community and spreading the word about sustainable businesses practices to their employees and customers.

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

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