The Future is Green
Encore broadcast that originally aired May 21, 2009.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Is it easy being green? We'll explore how companies are adopting environmentally-friendly business practices, making green products and offering green services, and how consumers are responding to the greening trend.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We've all known for quite some time that being kind to the environment was a worthy endeavor. It was the right to do, it made us feel good, and it was a good thing to teach your kids. But nobody seriously thought you could make any money at it until now. Well-established corporations are introducing green product lines. There are green symbols popping up on well-known appliances and products. But even more intriguing, a whole new generation of 'green businesses' are starting to enter the marketplace. These companies do familiar things in a different way. Their catchwords are sustainability, non-toxic, and a reduced carbon-footprint. And it seems that the marketplace is finally ready. The Cone Consumer Environmental Survey recently found that even during this economic recession, 70% of Americans are paying attention to what companies are doing environmentally. This morning I'm joined by some local educators and entrepreneurs who are in the forefront of green business in San Diego. I'd like to welcome Heather Honea, professor of marketing at SDSU, whose research focuses on consumer behavior. Heather, welcome.
HEATHER HONEA (Professor of Marketing, San Diego State University): Thank you. Welcome.
CAVANAUGH: And Steve Bennett, director of business development at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He also works with UCSD's Rady School of Management on their Going Green executive education program. It's nice to see you, Steve.
STEVE BENNETT (Director of Business Development, Scripps Institution of Oceanography): Good morning. Thanks for having me.
CAVANAUGH: And Dawn Parker-Waites, founder of SanDiegoLovesGreen.com, an online resource for information on local green businesses. And good morning, Dawn.
DAWN PARKER-WAITES (Founder, SanDiegoLovesGreen.com): Thank you. It's great to be here.
CAVANAUGH: And we want to invite our listeners to join the conversation. Would you be more likely to use a company's products or services if they were green? Or maybe you're thinking about making your business more environmentally friendly. Join the discussion. It's easy to do. Just call us at 1-888-895-5727, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. Now to start the conversation, I wonder if we could all sort of come up with a good, workable, collective definition of what it means to be a green business, and I'm going to start with you, Heather.
HONEA: Well, you know, that's actually a challenging one. So even in the field of sustainability, you'll see a little bit of disagreement and discussion about what being green is. But I would say that there's an emphasis on either sustainability focused on reducing your impact in an environmental way through changing your energy practices or incorporating greener operations into your organization using greener products to clean your company or, you know, recycle paper in your copy machine. So there's a lot of variation in terms of what we would define as sustainable or being green, so it can be operational or it can actually be in terms of the actual products that you're producing.
CAVANAUGH: Steve, would you like to add anything to that definition so everybody knows what we're talking about?
BENNETT: Yeah, I think it's correct that it is a difficult question to answer. It means a lot of different things to different people. And I think to an organization, you can look two ways with it. You can look internal to your organization so by changing your own business practices to have a more healthy environmental footprint or impact by changing your energy consumption, you know, a lot of the things that were just mentioned. You can also look externally. So what are the things that you're doing with your products, with your product lines that have a positive impact on the environment, be it through emissions or things like that that you can represent to your customers and to your clients that you're being a good environmental steward.
CAVANAUGH: And, Dawn, I wonder what was the – what does the definition mean for you to include a business as part of your online resource as a green business?
PARKER-WAITES: Well, just like it was said earlier, there's three different types of green businesses, either product or service or the way you're doing business. Nobody's perfect yet. We're still learning a lot. There's a lot of technology coming out, innovations, changing. I really look at it as a business' intention. You know, is it in their – are you seeing it in – online, the way they present themselves, what they're doing? Are they really looking to educate themselves and shift their practices? It's easy if they have a green product or a green service that's directly answering a need for consumers or business-to-business and those kind of things. But if they're operating in a different way, we're still trying to come up with the standards and ways of measuring that, so it – right now, it – to me, anything is good. It's great that they're thinking about it, they're looking for ways of doing it, and that's what I'm focusing on.
CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, Heather, because your research focuses on consumer behavior. How have consumers driven this push toward more companies going green?
HONEA: Well, the segment of consumer that really drove this was – it's called the LOHAS segment, it's Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. And it was – I mean, it's primarily still made up of women sort of 35 to 55…
CAVANAUGH: Okay, so we're talking real demographics here.
HONEA: Yeah. And it's driven a lot by decisions relative to family and health and very commonly it started in, for most people, in the category of food. So they're looking to make better decisions relative to the health of their family and they may not even be particularly knowledgeable about what it means to be organic but if there's risk or there's benefit to their children, they're going to go ahead and buy the organic option. And so that's where we saw a lot of the initial sort of monies flowing. And then as people start to buy organic foods then they think, well, maybe I should be thinking about the personal hygiene products I use and whether those are safe, and then is the cleaning product that I use in my house good for my kids? And then should I be spraying in my backyard? And so it sort of snowballs from an initial decision that may not really be based on a whole lot of understanding of what it means to be green or organic or those types of things. So…
CAVANAUGH: We have asked several local entrepreneurs who are doing – who are getting their green businesses started in San Diego to call in and tell us about it. You just talked about cleaning services, and we have the president of Pure Cleaning Services on the line, Elizabeth Bates. She's called in to tell us about her business. So good morning, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH BATES (President, Pure Cleaning Services): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: What is Pure Cleaning Service (sic)? What's different and green about this cleaning service?
BATES: Well, first and foremost, we use all non-toxic, environmentally friendly products. And we also try to do as much paperless as possible. And, of course, we're avid recyclers. We also purchase carbon credits to help offset the energy – our website, our office, company vehicles, and we also support local small vendors as much as possible.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, and I want to talk more about carbon credits, but in speaking about Pure Cleaning Services, your business, Elizabeth, why did you decide to start up a green cleaning service?
BATES: Well, I always knew that I wanted to have my own business and I also knew that I wanted to do it in an environmentally and socially responsible way. And my personal experience is that a few years ago I worked as a housekeeper at a ski resort in Germany and we used a lot of traditional chemicals there, the traditional toxic chemicals. And because I was using these five days a week, I got a peek at the cumulative effects that they can have on you.
CAVANAUGH: Hmm. What were…
BATES: And I was…
CAVANAUGH: …those effects?
BATES: Oh, I went home with a headache every day. My immune system was weakened. Eventually, I just – I couldn't tolerate the exposure. You know, I was scrubbing with one hand and I had my other hand over my nose and mouth because I couldn't even breathe these in anymore. And so eventually I left that position. I moved to San Diego and a few years ago I met a woman who had started a green cleaning products company and that's really when everything came full circle.
CAVANAUGH: And I wonder how – I know that you're feeling better. How have your customers responded?
BATES: Oh, it's fantastic. And we've had some customers who approach us – approached us just as a cleaning service, as something that you would know that we are green and then we'd go in and we'd clean their home and they're like, oh, my gosh, these products really work. You know, like, yeah, they do really work. You know, they're – they're fantastic products and they're just as effective but they don't carry the same risk.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you so much for calling in. I've been speaking with Elizabeth Bates. She is president of Pure Cleaning Services. We're talking about green businesses in San Diego. And, Steve, one of the things that you do is, you teach people who are executives in established businesses how to take their businesses green. So what is it that you tell them?
BENNETT: Well, you asked sort of why now? Why at this point in the market are we hearing a lot more about the green movement? And I think a lot of that sort of links back to the acceptance over the last several years, probably three to five years, of the sort of well accepted climate science. And the businesses that are starting to take a look at these things, they're trying to figure out where to spend their money so there's consumer behavior. Where are sort of – where's the general population looking to spend their money but then there's also where are investors looking to put their capital? It's investors in sort of start-ups, it could be home – I mean, it could be individual investors or private investors, but it's also corporations themselves are looking at how to invest their own money. So the things that we look at or that we're trying to focus on is trying to help those businesses understand how to make those smart investments. So if you're looking at trying to purchase a group – a farmland, you know, acres of farmland in the Central Valley or something like that, before you go and make an investment that you're looking at at a 10 to 20 to 30 year time horizon, you probably want to have a better understanding of how the water resources in those areas are going to be 10 to 20 to 30 years from now, so trying to link, trying to help that – the business person who's making that investment have a better understanding of all of the factors that are going to play into the time horizon of that investment.
CAVANAUGH: And I noticed while I was speaking with Elizabeth at the cleaning service, that when she mentioned carbon footprint that you began to shake your head, you know, nod in agreement. I wonder if that is perhaps one of the things that established businesses want to do, reduce their carbon footprint by carbon credits. Is that one of the easiest things that – easiest changes that they can make?
BENNETT: That's one of the things that has sort of developed over the last couple of years, is that marketplace is out there and it's becoming more well accepted. There are carbon credits on a number of exchanges and through a number of services that you can buy.
CAVANAUGH: Explain just a little bit what that is.
BENNETT: So a carbon credit is essentially a place that you can go and buy an offset for your emissions. So if you run a fleet of vehicles or things like that, you can go out and you can purchase essentially a piece of paper that is supposed to guarantee that that amount of carbon is being saved somewhere else.
BENNETT: And that's the – I think that's the issue right now, that the market is trying to understand, is how do you verify? How do you make sure? And this is an issue I'm sure we'll get into at some point but there's a, you know, it's not – it does a disservice to your customers and to your business to say you're green if you're not actually trying to understand how to change your practices and actually, you know, walk the walk as opposed to just talking about being green. And I think that's one of the issues with carbon credits, is trying to understand exactly what are you doing and exactly how is that impacting some other place.
CAVANAUGH: And as Dawn was saying, this is a work in progress. Let me take another call. Nathan is in El Cajon. Good morning, Nathan.
NATHAN (Caller, El Cajon): Good morning.
NATHAN: Well, I love that you've taken this on as a topic. I just wanted to also bring it up. I love that there's all these new entrepreneurs coming into the green sector and I also wanted to remind the listeners in San Diego that San Diego has been on the forefront for the last 20 years. I worked for the nation's greenest restaurant here in San Diego about 15 years ago now and that's down at UCSD. I don't know that it's still the nation's greenest restaurant but it had that title before green was cool.
NATHAN: And for the last five years now, I've run a business that is – run its fleet of vehicles on bio-diesel. And now we are focusing and specializing in water conservation and sustainable landscaping. And waterwise…
CAVANAUGH: What is your business?
NATHAN: …waterwise irrigation service.
CAVANAUGH: What is your business, Nathan?
NATHAN: Oh, Waterwise Irrigation Service.
NATHAN: And we install sustainable landscapes. We reduce people's water use sometimes completely by redirecting their gray water to water their landscape. And we also have other practices that reduce their water by about 40% and as well as offsetting their carbon footprint by planting plants that help clean the environment and also do consultation with how to basically reduce the compost trash waste on their property and…
CAVANAUGH: Well, Nathan, excuse me, but you were green before green was cool, you're telling us. Are you happy to see that there are – you're not alone in the world anymore?
NATHAN: Oh, absolutely. And it's interesting that they brought up that food was first. I actually worked in that restaurant through a nutrition program that I was taking at Grossmont College and green was all about food at that point in time. And going organic, everybody considered being kind of a nutball as a vegetarian and, you know, they just thought, oh, it's, you know, crazy ideas. You know, this'll never catch on. And now…
CAVANAUGH: Well, Nathan…
NATHAN: …you can go into any grocery store anywhere in the United States, even in the midwest, and go buy organic produce and organic frozen meals. So, it is catching on. I'm very happy.
CAVANAUGH: Nathan, thank you so much for the call. From nutball to entrepreneur. We are going to continue our conversation about green businesses in San Diego. We have to take a short break. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.
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CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. And we're talking about and to some of the people who are in the forefront of green business in San Diego. My guests are Heather Honea, who is a professor of marketing at SDSU. Her research focuses on consumer behavior. Steve Bennett, who works with UCSD's Rady School of Management on their Going Green Executive Education Program. And Dawn Parker-Waites, founder of SanDiegoLovesGreen.com, an online resource for information on local green business. And we are taking your calls, asking you what kinds of green businesses you'd like to see spring up in San Diego. The number is 1-888-895-5727. Dawn, I want to ask you, why did you want to start this online service for green businesses here in San Diego?
PARKER-WAITES: Well, I was really inspired last year around Earth Day. I saw a Earth Day special with Al Gore and actually Sandra Bullock and she had a restaurant down in Austin that had – Everything she did, from her tables were reclaimed from a barn, and sustainable products. And all the to-go packaging was all biodegradable, made from sugar cane and potato starch, the utensils, and I was just so inspired by the innovation that was coming out, I started searching in San Diego for businesses because I – I just, as a mother, and I wanted to give my business to local San Diego ones that were doing the same thing, and I quickly found that it was very difficult to find them. There was no single resource. There was no place, and it was very hard to find information. If you weren't first educated to know what to search for, you – you didn't enter the terms so it became – It was a very difficult process to find resources and rebate information and all the different events and classes you can take on organic gardening or composting. So I just really saw a need for it in our community and I took our savings that we had and I just invested in web designer and spent about three months building it up and researching and contacting people.
CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering just about how many businesses are now on SanDiegoLovesGreen.com?
PARKER-WAITES: I believe we have over a hundred at least, and I have a lot more to contact and interview and talk with since Earth Fair this year.
CAVANAUGH: I can imagine, yeah.
PARKER-WAITES: I took a big break because we did a number of things for Earth Week this year, too. We co-produced San Diego Green Jobs and Career and another policy event, so I just now, this month I need to start contacting the new ones that I found out because there's new ones every day. You hear about great ideas and…
CAVANAUGH: I see that list growing and growing.
CAVANAUGH: We have another caller on the line. Barry is in Hillcrest. Good morning, Barry.
BARRY (Caller, Hillcrest): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, how can we help you?
BARRY: Well, I'm one of the owners of Pizza Fusion in Hillcrest and we're an organic pizza restaurant that has also built very environmentally and sustainable business practices into our daily operation. And we love SanDiegoLovesGreen website, by the way.
PARKER-WAITES: Thank you, Barry.
CAVANAUGH: How easy was it for you to do this, Barry? Did you really have to go out of your way for both the menu items and to run your business in a sustainable way?
BARRY: You know, not really because there are bottom line benefits to business owners to do these things. We have built in the highest Energy Star rated appliances that we can put in, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, you know, high efficiency a/c units, which basically cut, I think, our – a comparably sized restaurant runs about 40% more of a utility bill than we do. So there are bottom line impacts to small business owners to implement sustainable business practices into their daily operations.
CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you so much for the call, Barry. Barry of Pizza Fusion in Hillcrest. Steve.
BENNETT: And I think Barry hit on one of the things that is why this has become such a more focused issue recently is that, I think, businesses are understanding that it's great to be green, it's good to have a positive environmental impact, but you can save money by doing a lot of things that are just simple no-brainers.
CAVANAUGH: Is that something that's new? I mean, the whole concept of being more environmentally friendly and responsible used to mean that you had to spend a heck of a lot of money to try to do things differently. Is this idea that you can actually save money by going green new?
BENNETT: Well, and I'd be interested to hear what Heather has to say about this, too, but I mean, to me, I think it – from a – it links to energy now in a way that it might not have linked to energy in the past and a lot of that, I think, is because of the focus on carbon emissions and things like that. And so people are focused on efficiency now and there are easy ways to save money just through changing your energy consumption practices. I think that might be one of the things that's relatively better understood now than before.
HONEA: Well, I think one of the issues is as, you know, population expands, as we have climate change issues, as resources become more scarce and, as a result, more expensive, these all kind of converge to make a lot of things make financial sense that in the past weren't an issue. I mean, as we fill up our landfills, there's cost associated with having things that don't biodegrade anymore, and so to the degree that all those things start to cost people money, it makes more financial sense to do it an alternative way. And so sustainability ends up being, you know, more cost effective now than it was in the past but primarily because there are costs escalating for resources and we're running out of space to do certain things, so certainly now there's a much great benefit because we can't do the things we've done in the past. So…
CAVANAUGH: And in your consumer research, Heather, are people more likely to maybe just want to spend a couple of cents more for something that they know is going to be friendly to the environment?
HONEA: You know, it depends on the category of consumer, and the – There's – In sustainability, there's a level of personal sustainability that people are concerned about. So even when a lot of consumers are making certain decisions, they're thinking about, well, what's the benefit to me and it is that worth a couple more cents? And for most consumers, it is. So the new – I think, though, there's generally a shift in consciousness once you start paying attention to you a lot more in those domains. Then you start thinking about, well, what are the other consequences that exist, whether it's for my children's future or my neighborhood or my friends' kids and these types of things, so you start to extend out in terms of applying those ideas so then it does start to be worth a couple more cents for everybody's sort of benefit. But I think for a lot of people, it starts at home and that's a fine place for it to start but for most consumers that's where the initial ideas or consciousness come from but then it generally gets extended. Once you start paying attention, you can't help but pay attention more so…
CAVANAUGH: We have another local green entrepreneur on the line, in fact, a vice chancellor of facilities for San Diego Community College District. The West City is a new green campus and David Umstot, who is Vice Chancellor of Facilities for that college is on the line with us. Good morning, David.
DAVID UMSTOT (Vice Chancellor of Facilities, West City Campus, San Diego Community College District): Good morning, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: I was reading about this project and it really is quite impressive as a green campus. Tell us a little bit about what's green about West City.
UMSTOT: Well, West City is one of our continuing education campuses here in the San Diego Community College District. And it has actually won an honorable mention award, which we'll receive next month, at a sustainability conference to be held up at UC Santa Barbara. But as far as the particular elements of this project, once again, kind of coming back to sustainability and reduce, reuse, recycle, well, we recycled more than 90% of the demolition and construction debris on this particular project. All the concrete and asphalt on site was basically ground up and reused as a base for all of our surface parking. And we separately handled all of the metals, cardboard packaging and drywall separately, so all that could be recycled. And actually all of the lumber that was recovered from the existing buildings was shipped south of the border for use in Mexico.
CAVANAUGH: And that part is impressive in the fact that, of course, the construction was done in a green manner but the building itself has a lot of innovations in it like recycled newspaper was used for something, and there's something about the walkways that lessens the amount of runoff. Tell us about that.
UMSTOT: Oh, there's some very cool green features. Probably the overarching thing that probably I should highlight is the energy efficiency of the building itself in that Title XXIV is the Energy Code here in California that buildings need to be designed to and we're more than 40% better than the requirements called out by the Energy Code which, you know, translates not only into dollars but it reduces our greenhouse gas emissions and is the right thing to do. Now with respect to the reused materials, we've done a lot of very interesting material selection for the building in that we're using carpet with recycled content. We're actually using recycled newsprint, for countertops in all the restrooms. People might wonder, you know, how do you do that…
UMSTOT: …but there's actually a resin that binds all the newspapers together and this stuff is almost bulletproof. It is extremely hard and is a good reuse of newsprint. We're reusing recycled plastic in our screen materials, similar to a Trex material that they use on decks. And we've used recycled tires for our playground matting in the children's play area that we have here on campus. And, believe it or not, we actually have a bunch of pressed board material made out of, literally, chaff and other types of waste products from the drain extraction process from the midwest.
CAVANAUGH: And, David, I wonder, because of the success of this building, do you have other plans to make other college campuses greener?
UMSTOT: We do. Our board has actually set a policy where we have a green building policy and each of our new buildings, which we're constructing under our $1.55 billion dollar bond program will be a minimum LEED Silver certified building. And, furthermore, they've also adopted a sustainability policy so we have some very good guidance and policy from our board in which we're moving forward with our implementation.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you so much for calling in and telling us about this.
UMSTOT: My pleasure.
CAVANAUGH: And David Umstot is Vice Chancellor of Facilities for San Diego Community College District. He's just been telling us about the new green campus, the West City campus. And, Steven, you wanted to make a comment.
BENNETT: Yeah, this is a great point. In the recent executive education program that Rady did with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, we had – IBM was a part of the instruction. And one of the messages that came out of IBM was you have to do it yourself before you can really sell it or before you can really teach it. And, you know, I think an example of the universities around town and the colleges around town that are sort of embracing this themselves to implement sustainability as a part of their own practices and then to try to get out and teach sustainability or to teach this stuff, I mean, UC San Diego, of course, has a number of these initiatives as well. So it's live it before you can teach it or sell it…
BENNETT: …I think is a great message that's come out.
CAVANAUGH: And we do have another business owner on the line, a Vice President of Toyota of El Cajon, Greg Kaminsky is here because he's working on LEED certification for their new dealership. Greg, good morning, and thank you for being here.
GREG KAMINSKY (Vice President, Toyota of El Cajon): Good morning, and thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Why did you decide to convert your dealership into a green building?
KAMINSKY: Oh, we felt it was the right thing to do. We've been operating the – operating out of a dealership here in El Cajon since 1990 and saw this as a great opportunity for us to expand and – and I think growing in this climate, it provides for a real great opportunity for us to gain marketing opportunities.
CAVANAUGH: Well, Greg, I wonder if you could give us a brief description of what you're doing to change your site to a green site.
KAMINSKY: Sure. We have acquired a former Home Depot structure that was approximately 124,000 square feet, and plan on utilizing that as our new facility. So it really is a reuse of an existing building and we see that as the greatest attribute of this project.
CAVANAUGH: And did the fact that Toyota markets the Prius have anything to do with your idea of taking the whole building green?
KAMINSKY: Sure, they've really led the way. Their hybrid technology has really taken off and led a lot of people to this movement and we see it as, again, a real great strategic opportunity to market to folks, you know, not only here in east county but throughout our San Diego County. And we're excited about the fact that we will be the first LEED certified dealership here in San Diego and most likely in Southern California.
CAVANAUGH: And, I read, in El Cajon as well.
KAMINSKY: Exactly, yes.
CAVANAUGH: How do you plan to recoup the costs of the conversion?
KAMINSKY: Well, there is a slight premium and we approximate it to be about seven or eight percent. And we think our return will come in five to six years and I think, again, going right back to that marketing opportunity, no one else is doing this here and we see it as a real viable way of making a big difference.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I thank you so much for telling us about it.
KAMINSKY: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: That's Greg Kaminsky, Vice President of Toyota of El Cajon. They're working on LEED certification for the conversion of their dealership. And we are talking about green businesses in San Diego and, Steve, again you're shaking your head during that. People have to really look at this as not just a good thing to do but something that their businesses can sustain. And when Greg was talking about how they're going to make up the costs, he had a business plan for it.
BENNETT: Yeah, it's important to quantify. I mean, what're you paying to do this now? How – What's the time horizon on recouping that investment? How do you expect it to impact your energy bills? You know, if you're the first in the market to do it, how do you expect it to impact your sales? You know, those things are – It's very important to tackle those issues before you go down this line. So it's nice for me to hear that the people who are calling in – I think it was Barry in Hillcrest, earlier, who talked about, you know, he's quantified his energy savings. You know, these are things that businesses need to do before they make these decisions. You don't just do it because it's popular, you do it because you can, you know, you can pencil it out.
HONEA: It's sustainable.
BENNETT: It's sustainable.
CAVANAUGH: I've heard that before. We have a whole number of listeners who want to get in on this conversation so I'm going to take a short break. When we return, we'll be taking a lot of calls about green businesses in San Diego. Our discussion will continue on These Days here on KPBS.
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CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. And we're talking about green business in San Diego, how to get one started, how to make one pay for you, and all the places you can find green businesses here in San Diego. Dawn Parker-Waites is one of my guests, founder of SanDiegoLovesGreen.com. It's an online resource for information on local green businesses. Steve Bennett is here. He's Director of Business Development at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He also works with UCSD's Rady School of Management on their Going Green Executive Education Program. And Heather Honea is a professor of Marketing at SDSU, and her research focuses on consumer behavior. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. We have a number of listeners who've been waiting very patiently to get involved in the conversation and let me go now to Scott in Poway. Good morning, Scott.
SCOTT (Caller, Poway): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, hi, how can we help you?
SCOTT: Well, I just – I think it's really important, this discussion about buildings and making buildings greener. It's very important. Actually, did you know that buildings in the United States consume more than 30% of our total energy and 60% of our annual electricity. So that's a real…
CAVANAUGH: No. No, I didn't.
SCOTT: …that's a really big deal. And some of these folks have been talking about the LEED program.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, what is that?
SCOTT: And the LEED program is – it's created by the U.S. Green Building Council, which is a group of architects, builders, scientists, and it is a way that you can actually certify your building or the way that you operate your buildings…
CAVANAUGH: Right, and you…
SCOTT: …on a point system.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay.
SCOTT: Now, our company, Emerald Impact, helps companies achieve that. So some of the items that we work on in certifying the buildings are the actual site, the quality of the site, so that has to do with how much heat the site gives off, light pollution, and the habitat. We also look at water efficiency, so how the indoor plumbing works, water efficient landscaping, and also some of the heater ventilation and air conditioning systems. Another category is energy and atmosphere so that has to do with the technology of making your building more energy efficient, optimizing how you use your systems that use electricity and how you performance – how you can measure the performance…
SCOTT: …of those systems.
CAVANAUGH: So, Scott, the LEED program has a number of different certifications, right? Silver and platinum…
CAVANAUGH: …and that all means how energy efficient and how sustainable the building project is.
SCOTT: That's correct. But if you can get your building certified, even at the certified level, you've really gone a long way towards making your company green. And also, really, greening your bottom line because some of the folks have been talking about how it saves companies money in operations. So I was at the U.S. Green Building Council meeting last night and Carl Bradley, the facility manager, Director of the Sweetwater School District, who are building nine LEED sites…
SCOTT: …in the area, he said something that was really profound. He said, we must become sustainable or perish. And I think that the way that water is becoming more scarce and energy is becoming more expensive, it's really a mandate for companies to go green and…
CAVANAUGH: Scott, thank you so much. I have to stop you because we have so many callers who want to get in the conversation. But thank you for telling us. Be sustainable or perish, that's pretty profound, he's absolutely right. Christian is on the line now in Mira Mesa. Good morning, Christian.
CHRISTIAN (Caller, Mira Mesa): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Good morning.
CHRISTIAN: Hi. I just wanted to call in because I'm a social entrepreneur here in the San Diego area and I wanted to tell you and your listeners a little bit about what we're doing. I'm a social entrepreneur and I travel to the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. I have a company here out of San Diego called Rainforest Natives. And we're a company that works with artisan jewelry that's made out of seeds and fibers from the Amazon rainforest. And what we're doing is we're making a huge impact on a global level where we're creating ecological and fair trade alternatives of employment for indigenous people that live in the Amazon…
CHRISTIAN: …and this is in an effort to curb deforestation and keep trees standing in the Amazon rainforest.
CAVANAUGH: So you actually go to the Amazon to see that you're keeping those trees standing.
CHRISTIAN: I work directly with co-ops in the Amazon…
CHRISTIAN: …and I have relationships with people there on the ground. And what we're seeing happen is a really big revolution there where people are no longer having to cut down trees for the survival of their families. And when you live in a desperate state of poverty, you do just about anything for survival and to keep your children fed, and what we're doing is we're really making a huge impact on a global level by going there and bringing these products to the market here in the U.S. And at present, we're working with some pretty large companies. Whole Foods Markets carries our products almost nationwide. And the products are available at the La Jolla and Hillcrest store here in San Diego.
CHRISTIAN: And we're also working with Six Flags this summer and lots of different independent spas and boutiques around the country.
CAVANAUGH: Six Flags, wow. Christian, thank you so much. I appreciate the call. Let's take another call from Frank in Bay Park. Good morning, Frank.
FRANK (Caller, Bay Park): Good morning. I'd like to commend the community college district on getting the awards on their buildings but, on the other hand, as a student there and somebody seeking to do a second career in renewable energy, they offer absolutely zero courses in photovoltaic design and installation and other renewable type careers. And I've been in contact with the Board of Trustees, the chancellors, and they just say there's grant money out there but they don't have anything on the books. So on the one hand, it's – you know, it's wonderful they're doing this but it'd be really nice to be able to see something in this county where people could go to a community college district and get some nationally recognized training, which is pretty much available in any other county in this state. So thank you.
CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that, Frank, and, Heather, you wanted to comment.
HONEA: Well, I was just going to comment that we had an MBA team do sort of an analysis of San Diego's conversion to a green economy this last fall and one of the interesting things that came out of the study is that while we have a lot of great educational institutions in San Diego, the number of specific programs focused on training people actually to take careers that would be sort of in the domain of sustainability is relatively low, particularly in what we consider the professional white collar. So we have a very skilled and trained labor force who knows how to install photovoltaics and the electrical for it so we have the I.B.E.W. here who does a number of apprenticeship programs and these types of things. But at sort of the colleges at – around – we have a number of people who have the skills necessary but we don't really have the specific focus on sustainability that would prepare people truly for green careers. And we, you know, we have starts at UCSD and we have a sustainability program here at SDSU with a high amount of interest from students, but we don't really have an emphasis in the curriculum on it yet. So people want to do something and they're trying to figure out where can I go to get trained to do this, to know how to do this and, you know, the – it's actually interesting. And it was a surprise to me because I anticipated we'd have such a high level of secondary education degrees here that we didn't actually have more in place in San Diego.
BENNETT: It's a difficult curriculum to write because…
BENNETT: …it really it sort of cross disciplinary. And you've got people who know engineering that need to understand a little bit about chemistry who need to understand a little bit about climate science who need to understand about work flow practices and things like that. I think it's a challenge for – it's a challenge for any sort of typical teaching institution, especially a university which often focuses on each of these things individually. In order to put together a true green education or a green jobs program, you know, something that trains green professionals, you've got to cross these lines. And I think that's something that I think, you know, teaching institutions today are just sort of starting to figure that out and it's – it changes the business model for teaching as well.
CAVANAUGH: That's very interesting. Jane in Imperial Valley is on the line. Good morning, Jane.
JANE (Caller, Imperial Valley): Hi. Yeah, I actually live in east San Diego County. I'm an instructor of Environmental Science in Imperial Valley College, by the way. But for years, I've been trying to get a permit to build an earth-based house made out of earth. It's called Super Adobe in Dehesa. And it's a house that was developed at Cal Earth Institute in Hesperia and designed by Nader Khalili and, of course, the San Diego County has been totally closed minded about even checking the plans even though they've had seismic tests done, it qualifies as a green building, and it's low cost, and a very important thing is, it's fireproof. And I think our architecture needs to be designed according to the local ecosystems and we know that fire is a part of the ecology in the brush lands in Southern California. And so these structures actually get stronger when they're subjected to fire; they have no internal wood or metal frame and so they also have a really low carbon footprint to build. So…
CAVANAUGH: Jane, I want to stop you, if I may, because I've gotten the gist of what you're saying here and thank you so much for your call. I'm wondering, we've been talking about larger buildings being built in a sustainable way. What about residential home construction? Is there any movement there for sustainability or for green construction for regular people's houses?
HONEA: There absolutely is. I'd say two of the key challenges for the individual consumer is that while there's significant returns on green buildings, it requires an up-front capital investment, so whether you're putting solar in or a gray water system, those are all things that you have to have an initial cash outlay, which is harder for the individual consumer to manage. So the programs that allow people to sort of pay those off through their, you know, property taxes can be quite advantageous. So that's one side of it. The other side is the sort of management and administrative issues of getting things through. So I have a personal story here of trying to get my gray water system permitted which…
CAVANAUGH: Oh, yeah.
HONEA: …it took – it's finally permitted but it took a good, you know, six to nine months to get to the right people that come – could come out and look at it and knew what needed to be, you know, managed and whether I needed a backflow device, and these are challenging for the individual consumer.
BENNETT: And this is something that Dawn and I were talking about before the program, which is there are policy issues here that if they were streamlined, could really help things out quite a bit. And I know you were mentioning an organization that's starting to form to try to…
BENNETT: …address some of that.
PARKER-WAITES: Yeah, the Sustainability Alliance of Southern California, and it's serving as a touchstone for organizations and individuals and we're really looking to gather together and have more of an influence in directly affecting policy here in San Diego to getting things like solar installations streamlined, the whole process, permitting process, and these other things, and really speaking in – as one voice and letting our elected officials know that these are issues that are important. Climate change is serious. It's the most serious issue that we've ever faced as a civilization and it is – there's a lot of issues to cover and so, yes.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to try to get in one quick last caller, if I may. Micah is on the line. Good morning, Micah.
MICAH (Caller): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, how can we help you?
MICAH: Well, I just was calling in. I'm an environmental organizer with the Electricians Union, Local 569, and in listening to the discussion, you know, we have a workforce. A lot of people don't realize but our folks have been training on the foundational skills that are needed for this new green economy for – for years. We've been doing solar training since '99. We're developing a state of the art energy efficiency training right now to meet the new standards. We have an energy efficiency lighting program that we're doing. And the great thing about our training program is it's an apprenticeship program that's really boosting the middle class because when people start our program, they have healthcare from day one, their family has healthcare, we contribute to their retirement, so, you know, our – we have a workforce that's ready to go. We have contractors who offer the highest quality, so just wanted to add that to the discussion that you all are having.
CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you so much for calling in for – with that, Micah. We're talking about – we've been talking about everything from solar panels to rainforests to jewelry to pizza, all the green businesses in San Diego. I want to thank all of my guests and all my callers so much for contributing to this conversation. Thank you Heather Honea and Steve Bennet and Dawn Parker-Waites. Thanks for coming in and talking to us about this.
PARKER-WAITES: Thanks for doing the show.
BENNETT: Thank you.
HONEA: Thanks a lot.
CAVANAUGH: And you can hear this segment again or you can find links to some of the local organizations we've talked about on our website at KPBS.org/TheseDays. And stay with us. Hour two of These Days begins in just a few minutes.
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