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Be Green with the Stanislaus Green Team 

SGT APRIL HEADER
Sooner – not later – the State of California will come knocking on local businesses’ doors.

The state will have one simple question: What have you done to go green?

These kinds of proposals are already in the pipeline, or approved in some cases. Take AB32 – the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 – which requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It’s a harbinger of things to come, regulations which could drastically impact local businesses.

“It’s creeping up on them. Those types of mandates are coming,” said Rikki Keenan-Schmeeckle, Stanislaus Green Team Director with the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.

That’s why the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s Stanislaus Green Team exists, Keenan-Schmeeckle explains: to alert businesses of upcoming mandates, to teach them how to become more green, and to ease the transition to an environmentally friendly way of doing business – before the state steps in.

The Stanislaus Green Team’s general membership holds monthly meetings at the Kirk Lindsey Center in Downtown Modesto, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the third Thursday of every month. All are welcome – Chamber member or not – to learn about what it takes to be sustainable, and what other area companies are doing to go green.

“We want to educate the attendees on what’s going on in our neighborhood,” said Linden Coffee, a sales representative with American Recycling Company, LLC and Chairman of the Stanislaus Green Team.

Past presenters have represented Pacific Gas & Electric, the Modesto Irrigation District, and even Frito-Lay. Those talks – and the ensuing discussions – will hopefully inspire more businesses to go green.

And when businesses want to go green, they simply need to call the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and ask for the Stanislaus Green Team. Keenan-Schmeeckle will schedule a free 30-minute REACON (Recycling Energy Air Conservation) Team visit to the interested business.

The REACON Team, comprised of local environmental experts who have invested in making Stanislaus County greener, drops off a comprehensive, Environmental Protection Agency-approved checklist. Fill out that Green Team Assessment, and the business becomes Green Sustainable Business Certified.Eco Bulb

It’s not a rubber stamp of approval. The checklist is seven pages long, covering everything from solid waste management to water conservation and energy efficiency.

But, already, five local businesses have been certified as green. Those businesses run the gamut from a local law firm to internationally recognized manufacturers.

Through it all, the REACON team is there to help businesses find answers, partners and resources to become more green.

“We want to be a network for answers,” Coffee said, urging anyone with questions about going green to call.

Like all Stanislaus Green Team programs, REACON visits are 100 percent free and fully sponsored by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce. Even better, those free Stanislaus Green Team programs save businesses money – even if they don’t complete the entire green checklist.

“That’s the important part,” Rikki said. “The reduced cost of doing business.”

Boyd Corporation’s Modesto factory is now saving $14,220 per year with a new recycling program, thanks to the Green Team. That’s amounted to $74,000 in savings since 2008.

And recycling goes beyond bottles and cans; some local businesses like Frito-Lay are even recycling starch out of water. Not only does that sort of recycling reduce landfill and wastewater fees, it often creates a product that can be sold to other businesses.

Eco TreeThe greatest benefit of all might come in the form of public relations. Going green is great marketing tool, often bringing in new business and media attention.

The REACON team conducts a green ribbon cutting at every Green Sustainable Certified business. Elected officials, employees, and the community are all invited to the ceremonies.

For Crystal Creamery’s ribbon cutting, more than 70 people were in attendance – including the Mayor of Modesto, Garrad Marsh.

“Word is spreading fast,” Keenan-Schmeeckle said “The marketing is really paying off for companies.”

Newspaper, magazine and television coverage comes along with green certification. That media coverage has drawn the attention of U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), who planned a special trip just to tour the Frito-Lay plant after learning about its green certification.

It’s not only decision-makers who like hearing about businesses going green. Consumers are increasingly basing their purchasing decisions on a company’s environmental friendliness.

“You’ve got to meet the market where it is,” Keenan-Schmeeckle said.

And there are other, more subtle benefits to going green. One local business said an auditor noticed their green certification hanging on the wall during an inspection, instantly changing the inspector’s mood.

“It didn’t cost them a dime,” Keenan-Schmeeckle said. “It’s free.”

The green certification is in such high demand that the Stanislaus Green Team has been invited to Merced County, with notable institutions like the Hilmar Cheese Company and the University of California, Merced seeking certification.

It’s been a period of rapid growth for the Stanislaus Green Team, which was founded by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce in November 2012. In just a few short years, a place has been developed where the county, cities, local agencies, and businesses can come together to collaborate – and find solutions.

And that collaboration might be the best part of going green.

“It’s great to see the buzz catching on,”
SGT April FooterBy Alex Cantatore

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