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Green Certification for businesses in Sunnyvale

Businesses can receive certifications that they are conserving energy to provide them incentives to do so.

Photo of Green Ops Homestead
9 6

Written by

Homestead High School Green Ops

How are you connected to Sunnyvale?

  • I visit Sunnyvale regularly.

What type of applicant are you?

  • Team

Stage of Development.

  • Early concept or idea (<few months of work)

What problem are you aiming to solve? (100 words)

Most of the energy usage in Sunnyvale comes from businesses. This proposal will offer one possible solution to help reduce that usage.

Tell us more about your climate strategy or solution (500 words)

This proposal aims to implement a certification system to reduce energy usage among businesses in Sunnyvale in a fairly easy way that also contributes to Sunnyvale's economy.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (100 words)

We believe that addressing the sector that uses most of our energy in Sunnyvale, and making it easy to do so, would effectively reduce energy usage as an overall community.

Explain how your idea would be implemented in Sunnyvale (700 words)

Sunnyvale would establish a variety of criteria that could certify a Green business, such using devices that automatically turn off, switching from natural gas to electricity, not using air conditioners, building a rooftop garden (we have submitted proposals on how to accomplish the last two ideas), etc. There would also be energy usage requirements for each level of certification. Businesses can apply to receive a one star certification if they meet one criterion and the energy usage level, two stars if they meet at least two criteria and the energy usage level, and three stars if they are a zero net emissions building. For example a business that receives 100% of its energy from solar power would qualify to receive a three star certification. At minimum, a business would have to present its past few energy bills to prove that it has reduced its energy usage to the required level and show proof of purchase of new technologies/strategies. Once a business is approved, they will receive a business certification sticker and a digital file that they can post on their website. Businesses can continue to apply to receive a higher level certification if they meet more requirements after their first certification. Every year or every few years, Sunnyvale would require certified businesses to submit recent energy bills to ensure that their energy usage has not increased and they can maintain their certification.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (250 words)

The main benefit is that this provides an incentive for businesses to reduce emissions. Like "People Love Us on Yelp" stickers, customers would gravitate more to businesses with certification stickers, so companies would have motivation to save energy, which would decrease overall energy usage. Eventually, this would also encourage competition between businesses to save energy, which would also help us further decrease energy usage. Businesses will also save money on energy bills, so even if they spend money initially on implementing energy saving technologies, they would be making profitable investments. Also, hopefully we can encourage consumers who live outside of Sunnyvale to support Sunnyvale's businesses due to Green Certification, earning more revenue for Sunnyvale overall. Additionally, Sunnyvale could post lists of certified businesses on its website, which would help advertise for businesses who are conserving energy and increase likeliness that consumers support them.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of people affected. (250 words)

The scale of this idea mostly depends on how many businesses participate in the program. The more businesses that are certified, the larger the impact will be. Overall, the largest cost to Sunnyvale would most likely be the labor needed to establish the program, approve businesses, and update the lists of businesses. Hopefully, the process would not be extensive so that business will not be intimidated by the process and minimal labor is required to sustain the program. Other than that, another barrier would be business' disinterest in the program, so we would have to educate them on the benefits of participating. Ideally, every business in Sunnyvale would be three star certified, which would eradicate the largest contributor to energy usage in Sunnyvale. This is unrealistic, so hopefully, Sunnyvale can be as close to this ideal as possible.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (500 words)

Other than staff to maintain the program, this concept should not be extensively expensive or time consuming to operate. If approving businesses is not a difficult process, the City could even recruit younger paid or unpaid interns to carry out this task to reduce labor costs.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (300 words)

First, Sunnyvale would have to decide what criteria qualify as being a Green Certified business. Then, Sunnyvale would have to distribute this information to businesses/make a webpage. The site would have to include information such as what qualifies as a Green Certified business, how to apply to become a Green Certified business, and the economic/environmental benefits of being a Green Certified business. Once the process is in effect, a few Sunnyvale employees would have to review applications/visit the businesses and distribute certification stickers. We would also have to print and design the logo. We have included a sample design above and would be happy to let the City of Sunnyvale use this logo or to design a new one based on feedback. Also, we have heard that Linkedin has a zero emissions building, so hopefully we can try to ask them for advice on what businesses can do.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with our partners?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

We are a club that promotes environmental awareness and sustainability on the Homestead High School campus and in the community. Throughout the year, we have different initiatives and activities to get the student population involved in the environmental movement. Facebook-https://www.facebook.com/hhsgreenops/

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. From a range of 1-5, how interested/compelled are you to bring this idea into your own life or into the city?

1 - Not Interested - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 25%

4 - 25%

5 - Very interested - 50%

2. From a range of 1-5, does this idea provide benefits aside from reducing carbon emissions?

1 - Low co-benefits - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 25%

4 - 25%

5 - High co-benefits - 50%

3. From a scale of 1-5, what do you feel is the feasibility of this idea to work well in Sunnyvale?

1 - Not feasible - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 0%

4 - 25%

5 - Very feasible - 75%

4. From a range of 1-5, what is your hunch about how much this idea will cost the Sunnyvale community to implement properly?

1 - High cost to the community - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 25%

4 - 50%

5 - Low cost to the community - 25%

9 comments

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Comment
Spam
Photo of Everywhere Tuniphlex
Team

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Spam
Photo of Ursula Syrova
Team

I second Barbara F's comments and think there are definitely possibilities around helping Sunnyvale staff reach out to businesses and help them through the extensive criteria. The list of items businesses must address can be intimidating, so assistance is helpful. Cupertino developed an assistance model to make the process easier and a similar approach could be developed for Sunnyvale. Staffing is the issue. Certifications are a great leverage point.

Spam
Photo of Barbara F
Team

Apparently, Cupertino uses a Climate Corps fellow, rather than a group of volunteers, to help businesses with the Green Business Certification process. Sunnyvale could model a similar program on Cupertino’s. Sunnyvale has hired such fellows, in the past.

Spam
Photo of Green Ops Homestead
Team

Thank you so much for all of the feedback and suggestions. We would definitely like to discuss this further, if possible. By the way, our email address is hhsgreenops@gmail.com if you would prefer to communicate via email.

Spam
Photo of Barbara F
Team

I’d be happy to talk in whatever format. Barbara.fukumoto@gmail.com

Spam
Photo of Barbara F
Team

After talking with others, I’ll offer a couple other ways of spreading awareness and participation in the Green Business Certification program...

—Include Certification information with each permit renewal or perhaps provide a volunteer visit to each applicant
—work with Silicon Valley Clean Energy to help promote and support the program, since it is in line with SVCE’s goal of reducing GHG emissions.

Spam
Photo of Barbara F
Team

@GreenOpsHomestead. Great to see that you have identified energy use in the business sector as an important area!

And the idea of a certification program is also excellent. Your criteria for certification show a lot of thought.

Your idea is so on-track that a Green Business Certification Program has already been established by Santa Clara County’s Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Division. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/rwr/greenbiz/Pages/Green-Business.aspx
Our program is part of the statewide Green Business network.

The program addresses energy use, water conservation, use of toxics, and waste minimization. (Of course energy use and water use and waste all impact greenhouse gas emissions.) When businesses apply for recertification the requirements are ratcheted up.

The City publishes the list of Green Certified Businesses annually. Currently there are 33 Green Certified businesses in Sunnyvale. You may have noticed stickers on some Sunnyvale businesses, such as For Other Living Things pet store on Mary and Fremont and Noca Dental, also on Fremont, near Wolfe. There are many others.
https://greenbiztracker.org/business/search?from_lp=ca&do=1&category_id=&state_id=2&county_id=&city_name=Sunnyvale&city_id=&zip=&name=

Since the program, website, criteria, etc. are already established, and since the County provides a staff person or two, perhaps Green Ops could develop ways to encourage more organizations—including schools— to enroll. For example, at one point at least the City of Cupertino trained volunteers to work with businesses to walk them through the application process. Perhaps the City of Sunnyvale could also develp such a program. Perhaps participating businesses could be promoted more broadly in city communications. Perhaps volunteers could stage events such as flash mobs to thank the businesses for making the effort or bike caravans to green businesses to draw attention to these businesses?

There is even a Green Certified Business checklist for schools. Last time I checked only one Sunnyvale school was Green Business Certified. What if Green Ops could get Homestead High School Green Business Certified or led an effort to get all Sunnyvale schools Green Business certified? https://www.sccgov.org/sites/rwr/greenbiz/Documents/School_Sample.pdf

Spam
Photo of Green Ops Homestead
Team

Hi Barbara , my apologies, I was not aware that such a program already existed, but I am glad that one does. I really like the ideas of how to promote the program though, and hopefully, I can discuss some of them with our other officers. Hopefully, we can also ask our our advisor/administrators about becoming a certified school and then help other schools as well. Thank you so much.

Spam
Photo of Barbara F
Team

No apologies needed. I think yours may be the only—or at least one of the few—submissions directed at businesses. Yours was an excellent and well-developed idea. The fact that most city residents are not aware of the program points to the need for better promotion. Two county staff are limited in what they can do, even with periodic pushes from city staff. So I’d say you have identified a real need.

Link to the City of Cupertino’s GreenBiz Cupertino program: http://www.cupertino.org/our-city/departments/environment-sustainability/green-business/greenbiz-cupertino