Green Albany Project Celebrates Program’s First Anniversary

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday June 02, 2006

Officials from Alameda County, the Albany Chamber of Commerce as well as Albany residents and small businesses got together at the Albany City Hall Tuesday to talk trash. 

The event, which was co-hosted by Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and the Albany Chamber of Commerce, celebrated the one year anniversary of the Green Albany Project, which aimed at helping Alameda County meet its goals of diverting 75 percent of its waste from landfills into recyclable products. 

Congresswoman Barbara Lee recognized the efforts of the City of Albany, the Waste Management staff, county services and local businesses that have contributed towards the success of the project. 

“It’s a new day, a new possibility,” Lee said. “How often do you see Waste Management working with the city to promote greenery? Albany has proven to be a leader once again.” 

Supervisor Carson also lauded the project and acknowledged how Albany was setting the standard in terms of the future. 

“It works and it pays,” he said. “It is the morally and environmentally sound thing to do.” 

Albany mayor Allan Maris called the project a “milestone” and said it would pave the way for less landfill and more parks and open areas in the city.  

The Green Albany Project is the first of its kind in the United States and is staffed by a team of student environmentalists who are working with the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Albany, and Stopwaste.org. The project itself is funded by Stopwaste.org and is sponsored by the city and the Albany Chamber of Commerce. 

Twenty-six local Albany restaurants compost and recycle their food scraps and materials, saving nearly 150 tons of waste from entering landfills. In 2006 Albany’s businesses will divert 290 tons of its solid waste toward recycling and composting programs, organizers estimate. 

The brainchild of James Carter, former director of the Albany Chamber of Commerce, the project’s goal is to make the Albany business district the greenest in the nation. 

“The project doesn’t just save energy, it saves money too. Up to 80 percent of restaurant waste is organic,” he said. “One of the best things about this project is that people actually want to shop and dine at places that recycle.” 

Paul Revenaugh, the owner of Sunny Side Cafe on Solano and Curtis Street, was one of the first to join the project. 

“It’s great for the environment and cheaper,” he said. “I save more money recycling than by just dumping the trash in the garbage bin. The whole process is very addictive and I just want to keep the momentum going so that it spreads to other businesses.” 

Bryan Mathews, senior program manager for stopwaste.org, added that Alameda County needed to have a compost facility of its own as currently all the waste was being recycled in other counties. 

David Arkin, an award-winning green architect and member of the Albany Chamber Board of Directors, spoke at the event about the benefits of green building in Albany. 

“This project shows that businessmen can also be environmentalists,” he said. “The goal of green building is also to protect the environment, to harmonise with the site and to build as little as possible.” 

Mia Kitahari, student intern for the project said: “I never thought l would be this excited about trash, but here I am. I think it’s really good to put the word out there that environmentalism can actually be good for business.”