On a cool Bay Area evening on January 29th, 2015, I took a Cal Train trip to Cupertino, CA, to formally launch Cupertino’s Green Building Challenge. After months of planning for this day, the day had come. This was my first time in Cupertino and my first Green Business Challenge event since taking over the role at ICLEI in October 2014. I was very excited to put faces to email addresses that I had been corresponding with for the past several weeks and to meet some of the participating businesses to understand why this was important for them to be part of.
Cupertino, CA, along with Houston, TX, West Palm Beach, FL, and Lexington, KY, had all been awarded Green Business Challenge Implementation Packs from for the Green Business Challenge’s corporate sponsor, Office Depot, in May 2014. The Implementation Packs, valued at $20,000, help local governments create or enhance an existing green business engagement program in their community. Cupertino was already an active participant in California’s Green Business Certification Program and viewed the Green Business Challenge as an additional way to engage local businesses and get them on the track to CA certification.
Cupertino had decided to launch their Challenge in January 2015, so Amanda Leonis, Cupertino’s Climate Corps. Bay Area Fellow, and I began planning for the Cupertino launch in November. We set up calls with the other Green Business Change awardee cities that had already started their Challenges so that Cupertino could learn lessons and best practices from the other cities. Collaboration between cities is essential to running a successful Challenge; almost anything you can think of, another city has tried or at least thought about as well and is happy to share their experiences. Come January, we were ready.
When I arrived at the Cupertino event, it was great to see so many business and property owners in attendance that were genuinely excited about the Challenge. The launch was held at the Whole Foods Brewery in Cupertino, which had just opened and was offered a free drink ticket to the attendees of the Challenge launch, which was a great way to break the ice and get participants talking and engaged with one another. Many of the participants were already a couple of beers into good conversation about progress they were already making, steps they were planning on taking, and generally getting to better know their peers. Cupertino was represented by their Assistant to the City Manager & Sustainability Manager, Erin Cooke, and Michela Gentile, Cupertino’s Environmental Programs Lead. The Cupertino team engaged attendees in networking activities and got them registered for the Challenge through the online platform. There were several prize giveaways end everyone walked away at the end of the evening buzzing with excitement around the program.
Over the next months, I worked with Amanda to support the City of Cupertino, but they took a great amount initiative in building up the program. Keeping businesses continuously engaged throughout the entirety of the Challenge can be difficult, but Cupertino truly excelled with the task at hand. They did a tremendous job of continuously engaging their local businesses through workshops, mini-challenges, in-person visits, and regular check-in emails.
Cupertino completed its Challenge this past Tuesday,July 7, 2015 and I can’t help but be proud of all of the effort, collaboration, and results that came out of the Cupertino Green Business Challenge:
- 25 participating businesses
- 9 businesses green certified through the CA statewide business certification program
- Aloft Hotel was recognized for its total annual savings of 21,620 kWh from new efficient lights and 36,766 gallons of water from low-flow faucet aerators, in addition to already saving 539,000 gallons of water from low-flow toilets and showerheads in all l120+ guest rooms
- Cupertino Soap war recognized for creating their own all natural product to replace their on-site aerosols, replaced their lawn with a low-maintenance vegetable garden and used old newspaper in their shipments to customers to reduce packaging compared to other cushioning material.
- Collectively, the 25 participating Cupertino businesses are saved 30,290 kWh from implementing more efficient lights, 637,412 gallons of water from installing low-flow water fixtures and reducing 19,352 lbs. of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
Cupertino and its local business are a great example of how a program like the Green Business Challenge can excel at producing concrete results with strong city leadership. Erin, Amanda and Michela have done a tremendous job with the Green Business Challenge and can serve as a model to other cities looking to engage their local businesses in their sustainability and climate action plans. Just as they were supported by past Challengers to help them create their Challenge, we will use the lessons of Cupertino to carry success into new Challenge cities.
Daren Cheatham is a Program Officer for ICLEI USA.