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Water-Wise Businesses Provide Blueprint for Green Solutions

Learn how four companies are making a difference with water conservation, efficiency and clean practices

If you don’t think about water on a daily basis, you should. Not only is water the very basic building block of life, its availability, quality and cost greatly affect the economy and security of our world. Because of its ubiquity in our everyday lives, water is often taken for granted when in reality it is a limited resource that must be used wisely. As global climate change continues to threaten our already stressed freshwater sources, the efficient use of valuable water supplies has never been so pertinent. Water conservation is especially important to places with semi arid climates like Santa Barbara County, where periodic droughts and the high cost of water are common occurrences.

Efficient use of water ranges from personal habits to cutting-edge technologies, including responsible design of landscapes and turning off the water when you brush your teeth to the appropriate choices of appliances and irrigation equipment that can actually save water for you. The Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County helps businesses integrate environmental responsibility, such as water conservation, into their operations in a manner that is sustainable and economically sensible. This article will focus on four certified green businesses from various industry sectors that have emerged as water conservation stewards and the steps they have taken to reduce their water consumption.

Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, 6020 Foxen Canyon Road, has recently remodeled its tasting room to ensure a smaller water footprint. The company planted drought-tolerant natives and has installed water-conserving fixtures in its tasting rooms. With the help of the Green Business Program, Riverbench learned it can use its water bills to monitor landscaping water use and check for leaks. Riverbench recognizes that by being environmentally responsible, it will produce a superior product while simultaneously protecting the environment, conserving natural resources and maintaining the long-term viability of its vineyard. The staff in the tasting room at Riverbench has made a considerable effort to reduce the winery’s water footprint through free and easy everyday practices.

Van Atta Associates, a landscape architectural firm at 235 Palm Ave., believes that sustainable design is synonymous with quality. The firm practices design of the highest quality, created with common sense and an economy of means. The company has implemented significant measures to promote water stewardship, most notable by utilizing the landscape features of the office. The office landscape uses native plants to create urban habitat and conserve water. Vines climb walls and fences to maximize the amount of planting. Much of the concrete was removed and parking surfaces were made to be both permeable and planted to reduce storm-water runoff. The office roof material is recycled glass, designed to be a graphic representation of a watershed. The water from this mini urban watershed is taken through a downspout to a runnel and into a re-circulating fountain with fish and plants that serves as a biological filter for the runoff. These features not only make for a water-smart business, but for a quality place to work where employees enjoy the landscaping as much as the local butterflies.

McDonald’s, 3940 State St., has also taken numerous steps to reduce water consumption. The restaurant upgraded many fixtures in its restrooms, including installing waterless urinals, and has upgraded its irrigation system. In the first few months after introducing these water-conserving measures, McDonald’s saved approximately 79,000 gallons of water — enough for an average person to shower more than 3,000 times! Owner David Peterson couldn’t be happier with the results: “Many small efforts can make a big impact, and we are proud of the results we have achieved through our partnership with the Green Business Program.”

At the Shoreline Beach Café, 801 Shoreline Drive, owner Steve Marsh knows that water conservation and environmental responsibility is not only healthy for the earth, it’s healthy for the bottom line. The Shoreline participates in the city of Santa Barbara’s Clean Creeks program and Marsh has developed a system to capture wash water from cleaning restaurant mats to easily keep the water from ending up in the storm drains. This is especially important, given Shoreline Café’s close proximity to the ocean. Additionally, as part of the Green Business Program, restrooms were upgraded to include dual-flush toilets, making it easy for everyone to conserve.

Some of these businesses started off with water sense, some were new to the concept, but under the guidance of the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County, they all have become water conservation stewards and can teach us all about saving water. Click here to learn more about water conservation or click here to join the Green Business Program.

— 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.

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