Berkeley Leads Bay Area Cities In Number of ‘Green Businesses’

Friday August 01, 2003

According to the latest figures from the Bay Area Green Business Program, Berkeley leads the region by a long shot in certified environmentally-friendly businesses. 

A total of 27 restaurants, auto repair shops, dentists and other businesses have taken steps to conserve water and energy, recycle and prevent pollution, earning certification as an official “green business” from the program, operated by the Association of Bay Area Governments. 

Oakland ranked second with 17 certified businesses, followed by Concord, in Contra Costa County, and Novato, in Marin County, with 15 each. 

“Berkeley businesses have really stepped up to the plate,” said Pamela Evans, director of the Alameda County Green Business Program, the local wing of the broader Bay Area program. “Their combined efforts have ensured that tons of waste are diverted from landfills, fewer dangerous chemicals are drained to the Bay and thousands of dollars are saved due to energy and water conservation measures.” 

The broader program, launched in 1996, includes six of the nine Bay Area counties—Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara and Sonoma. San Francisco County is expected to join by year’s send or early in 2004, according to Ceil Scandone, regional coordinator for the program. 

Art Ratner, owner of Art’s Automotive on San Pablo Avenue, said “a swarm” of city and county officials descended on his shop in 2000 when he decided to certify as a green business. 

“They find things in your business that you are not even aware of,” he said. 

Ratner said the shop moved to water-based solvents, ratcheted up its water conservation efforts and hastened the shift to low-energy light bulbs as a result of the process. 

Ratner said the green business seal makes a difference to about one in 50 customers. 

“It’s one more reason [to patronize the shop]—and that suits me fine,” he said. 

Jennifer Cogley, eco-business coordinator for the city of Berkeley, credits Thimmakka’s Resources for Environmental Education, a non-profit based in both Oakland and Los Angeles, for the recent rise in the town’s certified green business numbers. 

The non-profit’s Greening Ethnic Restaurants program has attracted a host of new businesses to the certification process since March 2002. 

“Our success is built on conducting language- and culture-specific outreach to minority ethnic businesses, a hard-to-reach population,” said Ritu Primlani, who heads Greening Ethnic Restaurants. “We help to create a model that says that environmentalism isn’t just for people who are fluent in English and can afford it.” 

Primlani projects that, over the course of five years, the first 30 Bay Area restaurants her program has helped certify, in Berkeley and beyond, will redirect solid waste from landfills to recycling equivalent to 22.8 Boeing 737 aircraft filled to a maximum capacity of 79 tons. 

For a list of green certified businesses, see the Bay Area Green Business Program’s web site at www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/enviro/gbus/.