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Modesto’s Going Green 

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There is a lot involved in helping the environment and—as a community—we have a responsibility to educate ourselves. With the current state of environmental affairs, it’s no surprise that businesses are facing more regulations.

“Businesses now are required by law to recycle,” said Vicki Rice, Recycling Program Coordinator. “It is based on how much garbage they generate. Our office helps determine who is responsible and we assist with compliance.”

And it’s not just recycling that’s important. Matters like water conservation, energy conservation, and more are accounted for by groups like Rice’s, utilities companies, and especially the Stanislaus Green Team.

“Any business or individual can come to our monthly Green Team meetings in downtown Modesto,” said Linden Coffee, Chairman of the Stanislaus Green Team, who also works for the American Recylcing Company. “They are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Kirk Lindsey Center at 9 a.m. Our goal is to have presentations every month to let businesses in Stanislaus County know what they can do to lower the cost of doing business in this county.”

In fact, businesses looking for more ways to go green have a friend in Modesto’s myriad agencies—such as the Utilities Department for the City of Modesto. Larry Parlin, the Director of Utilities, recommends that businesses request water audits from their department wherein a consultant would visit a business to educate owners on how to save water.

“We have the programs to support the conservation,” said Larry Parlin, Director of Utilities. “And we’re 85 percent metered. We have about 15 percent of the city doesn’t have meters, but in about five years the city will be completely metered.”

Just like there are regulations on recycling, there are state-mandated reductions in water—and that’s only one of the programs set up to support water conservation. There’s also the Residential Turf Replacement Program as well as rebates for businesses who install low-flow appliances. The least-popular program, of course, are the fines for water waste, wherein those who overuse water will be fined anywhere from $150 to $500. But as unpopular as water prices and fines might be, they’re integral to ensuring California’s groundwater stability— which Parlin has confirmed has been stable since conservation efforts started.

“We’re still in the drought, technically,” said Parlin. “We don’t know if things will go back to the way they were. In fact, we’re pretty sure things won’t go back to the way they were.”

For those conscious about conserving, Parlin had a few crucial tips. Check your meters and, if it still registers water running while all the water is off, it means you might have a leak on your hand. In terms of restaurants, don’t serve water unless it’s requested. Hotels should put up signs asking guests to use towels for at least one extra day. Check modestogov.com to find videos and more tips for conserving.

“They’re gonna save money twice because commercial and industrial customers are reducing anything they can reduce,” said Parlin.

Since conservation efforts were enacted, businesses have saved roughly 25 percent more water than before, and the city’s saved 30 percent. The per capita numbers are certainly looking more heartening, as well.

“It’s different in different parts of the state,” Parlin said, “we have a lot more outside irrigation use here than on the coast. Just to give you an example of what we’ve done here in Modesto: During the summer in 2013, we were about 250 gallons per person per day in summer. In the winter, it was about 125. This past year, we’re down in the summer to 177 gallons and in the winter we’re down to about 80 per day.”

And while Modesto’s reducing, the Solid Waste Division is spearheading an effort to ensure that recycling is also on the docket with the Business Recycling Awards.

“In my opinion the reward is in the recycling,” said Rice. “It is everyone’s responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and practice reduce-reuse-recycle each and every day. Businesses that are able to recover commodities like CRV, cardboard, and metals can realize monetary rewards when they turn those items into local recycling companies.”

Applications for the Business Recycling Awards are available to any commercial business, organization, or nonprofit group in the city and winners will be chosen in each of these categories: small businesses (i.e., fewer than 20 employees), medium businesses (i.e., 21 to 100 employees), and large businesses (i.e., over 100 employees).

In addition to the Business Recycling Awards, Modesto has a very active green waste program that permits residents to put out yard trimmings and leaves that don’t fit in the green can once a month according to their area’s schedule. The City of Modesto has several partnerships as well, like the Adopt-a- Park Program, Backyard Composting Workshops, Go-Green with the Modesto Nuts, America Recycles Day, and Earth Day in the Park.

The Team also provides free, 30-minute analyses of business facilities to assess them from an environmental perspective, focusing on how to save the business money through conservation. Businesses are given a binder with a 7-page checklist that’s sectioned into Recycling & Solid Waste, Water Conservation, Pollution, Energy, and Transportation. Completion of the checklist earns the business a certificate from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the Stanislaus Green Team.

“Anyone that is interested in going green is encouraged to come listen and, if they want, even present what their company is doing to be sustainable,” said Coffee. “In short, anyone can come visit the Green Team meetings. I believe if more people get involved in our monthly Green Team meetings it will help resurrect the REACON Team.”

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