Monday, May 21 , 2018, 5:08 am | Fair 52º


Local Businesses Demonstrate How Saving Energy Saves Money

Allen Associates, Blackbird Architects, Silvergreens and Santa Ynez Valley Marriott lead way

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

As part of the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County, local businesses are encouraged to reduce their energy consumption and shave pounds from their carbon footprints. In this big task they are not alone; both Southern California Edison and PG&E offer free energy audits so that the businesses can figure out how to spend less every month on electricity.

All of the businesses that have gone through the Green Business program have made notable reductions, but four businesses have gone above and beyond.

» Four years ago, when Allen Associates moved its operations to an office at 835 N. Milpas St., Suite D, from owner Dennis Allen’s home, the company decided to remodel the new space using the same green-building principals use in Allen Associates’ building projects. This included installing Solatube skylights and new windows to provide more natural lighting, converting all lighting fixtures to more energy-efficient products, and painting the walls with nontoxic finishes. Once the company reduced its energy consumption, it decided to offset a portion of its electricity use with solar power. A five-kilowatt photovoltaic array supplies 40 percent of the total energy needs of the leased office space. The company even took the desire to reduce its carbon footprint one step further, by adopting an alternative transportation policy that encourages employees to bike, walk, take the bus, drive a high-mileage car or truck, carpool, ride an electric or gas scooter, or motorcycle to work. The company also motivates its employees to work at home. When employees use one of these alternative methods, they are eligible to participate in a monthly “Clean Commuter Drawing” for a $100 prize.

» Blackbird Architects, 235 Palm Ave., is another notable business in the green building world. The company’s philosophy directs employees to conserve resources and be sensitive to the environment. This philosophy is evident not only in the work the company does — Green Building Guidelines are used for all projects — but also in how the office is run. Blackbird’s office building, Van Atta Design Studios, has won several awards for design excellence and environmental responsibility. The studio uses 50 percent less energy than a conventional office building through ventilation and natural lighting.

Blackbird and Van Atta Associates share their building as well as a ride-sharing program developed for their employees. A hybrid vehicle is used as a staff pool car for transportation to meetings, and employees routinely run errands by bicycle or on foot. Secure bicycle parking is provided for the many employees who ride to work, and a spare bike is kept in the office for errands. Flexible schedules and telecommuting are encouraged to reduce vehicle trips. With all these options, the employees find it easy and enjoyable to actively pursue sustainability goals and keep the office running smoothly.

» One of the first certified restaurants in the Green Business program is locally owned Silvergreens, 791 Chapala St. The goal of this business is “to be involved, contribute and give back to our community.” The company recognizes that part of giving back is simply to not take more than it needs. The restaurant was designed to Built Green Santa Barbara standards, and achieved the highest certification rating of three stars. Much of the food-service equipment and appliances are Energy Star-certified, and Silvergreens utilizes lighting systems that are energy efficient. Silvergreens has also eliminated the use of Styrofoam to-go containers, uses biodegradable products, and even features organic coffee from a local coffee roaster, Goleta-based Green Star Coffee. As part of becoming a certified Green Business, the restaurant’s management developed a Commuter Benefit Package for employees, featuring a prize raffle for those who use alternative transportation and offering pre-purchased bus passes to staff who choose to ride the bus to work.

» The Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, 555 McMurray Road, Buellton, is the first hotel in Santa Barbara County to complete the Green Business program certification. Hotel staff embraces the goals of the program, and look at all aspects of their property’s operation for ways to improve efficiency and minimize impacts to the environment. This makes the management happy because they’re saving money.

“I am very excited about our drop in energy and water consumption, our savings in trash, our new carpool program, our new free lights, and our new bulk soap and shampoo program,” said hotel general manager Mike Hendrick. “I feel these efforts will change the way hotels do business. If you or your business are not seriously considering doing this program, you are wasting money.”

The many key measures the Marriott has undertaken include energy efficiency and water conservation. The Marriott has upgraded lighting throughout the hotel and installed controls on vending and ice machines to reduce energy use. Landscaping around the property is monitored closely for water efficiency, and new native and water-wise plants have been added throughout the campus. Employees are encouraged to rideshare and the hotel now runs a monthly raffle for participating staff. And a new project is under way: older sliding-glass doors in guest rooms are being replaced with energy-efficient double-paned windows.

Click here to learn more about reducing energy use in your business.

— Megan Birney serves on the steering committee of the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County on behalf of the Community Environmental Council.

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