What makes the Certifiably Green Denver program so special is that you really have to *earn it*. The City of Denver has engineers and program leaders that inspect, review annual performance and statistics, and continually review green business efforts. How did we do it? Through a program to first and foremost ensure our infrastructure began with the best and most efficient technology, including motion detection lights in low-traffic areas, low-flow faucets where feasible, and a kitchen that can be lit with natural light (no need for electric powered lighting) 75% of the year. If you ever want to tour the Serendipity commercial kitchen, just ask!
We were truly “born green” with a CEO/owner that has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver. She earned the degree and went straight to work for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technology. We dare to say we are the only catering company on the planet with such a pedigree!
Through water, energy and waste reduction measures, sustainability education and instituting policies and practices to “walk the talk”, we want to earn our designation, everyday. Some examples of our efforts: we are insistent on 95% kitchen food waste composting, using only EnergyStar-rated appliances and LED lighting, having strict green office practices, driving eco-friendly vehicles and delivery vans. Our fleet is made up of, among other models including a Prius, Mercedes-Benz vans with “Bluetec” technology; meaning, they are the world’s most advanced diesel vehicles. The vans have engines that reduce nitrous oxide (NOx) — one of the notorious greenhouse gases — and are extremely fuel efficient. 20% of our full-time staff ride their bikes to work everyday. We could write a whole other blog on the sourcing of our food – and will do just that in the next couple of weeks! Stay tuned.
The Certifiably Green Denver program assists local businesses with environmental, and sustainable practices. The program guides companies through the very best in energy efficiency, water conservation, natural resource management, alternative transportation, and green businesses management. As part of the Department of Environmental Health, the Certifiably Green program is ideal for any business planning on going green, or just needing tweaks in their environmental practices– helping Denver become more green, business by business.
We asked Janet Burgesser, Certifiably Green Denver program manager, a few questions about the program and tips for anyone at work, or at home for going more earth-friendly.
How long has the Certifiably Green program been around? How much has it grown since the beginning?
The program was established in 2009. Growth was somewhat slow at first. We started with auto repair shops, and certified two shops. The next year we added restaurants, and brought the number to six. Each year as word spread we added more businesses in several different sectors including offices and retail, printers, manufacturing facilities, etc. We are now up to 127 fully certified businesses. We have worked with over 1,450 businesses assisting with anything from energy efficiency, water conservation, waste minimization, and transportation options.
What is the biggest change you have seen in local green businesses?
Just the way our local small businesses and the local communities have begun to embrace the entire idea of sustainability. The technology associated with resource conservation is rapidly changing for the better, and it’s important that we are knowledgeable about the best technology available to assist businesses in making the right decisions.
It seems like everybody wants to be more earth-friendly these days, what is the best place for a business to start when going green?
The food/catering/restaurant industry can be tricky when going green. What is the biggest challenge food businesses face when trying their best to be earth-friendly?
For dine-in restaurants, one of the biggest challenges is getting the right lighting in the dining area. The older CFLs and LEDs weren’t real conducive to the ambiance the restaurateur wanted. We are finding however that the newer LEDs are getting much better. Another huge challenge with the industry is back of the house recycling and composting. It takes a lot of dedication and dogging staff to get the waste product in the right bin. Making the recycling and composting bins very visible with signage and making it convenient is a key aspect.
Any particular Denver neighborhood that has more Certifiably Green businesses? If so, why do you suppose that is?
Union Station has the most certified businesses, but the Highlands and Uptown have a bunch of momentum primarily due to the great support and recruitment efforts from some of our business owners. The collaboration has been key!
Any tips or ideas on what we can be doing differently at home to help the environment?
Take advantage of the residential resources that are out there, in particular the Denver Energy Challenge, and Denver Recycles. Support the small businesses in your neighborhoods. Keep it local. Buy products that are sustainable and responsible to our environment. Educate and challenge your kids to take part in purchasing healthy and local foods, policing the recycling at home and turning off electronics and lights when not needed.
Thanks, Janet – you have always been such a great friend and partner in our efforts to ensure we continue to earn the badge of “Certifiably Green Denver” catering company.