County may expand its green business program 

Inside Eric Sevim’s auto shop in San Carlos, mechanics labor in a garage that seems as bright and clean as an operating room. Discarded detritus, from packing materials to scrap metal, find new life through recycling. Invoices are printed on both sides of the page.

Nearly 250 old lamps have been replaced with energy-efficient bulbs; the shop is also signed up with three recycling programs. And though he said he isn’t out to save the world, Sevim said the recent environmental face-lift at A+ Japanese Auto Repair, thanks to a pilot program started by San Mateo County officials in July, has worked wonders for his business.

"[The face-lift] was fairly easy. It was just a matter of getting our whole team together and saying, ‘This is what we want to do.’ It happened overnight," recalled Sevim, who said he recently received the San Carlos’ small business of the year award.

The six-month pilot program, called San Mateo County’s Green Business Program, has given eco-friendly makeovers to 16 auto shops, restaurants, hotels and offices. The program has proven to be so successful that San Mateo County supervisors may vote at their Jan. 29 meeting to expand it to a wider array of businesses countywide.

So far, county coordinators have partnered with officials from Burlingame, Daly City, Millbrae, Redwood City and San Mateo to cut waste and reduce energy. Supervisors are considering expanding the program to dental offices, contractors, printers and wineries.

Currently, there are 35 applications from businesses that want to enroll in the program, said Supervisor Mark Church, who introduced the plan to the board. To receive green certification, businesses must use energy-efficient fixtures and adopt strategies to prevent pollution and eliminate waste. Once certified, Green Business Program officials include the business in a green directory and give owners a window sticker and logo to include in advertising.

It is a powerful marketing tool to bring in eco-friendly shoppers, Church said.

"We live in a community where our residents appreciate businesses that are environmentally aware," he said.

The county started the program by making over its own backyard. In an effort to lead the way, the San Mateo County Public Works Department offices became the first government agency to receive green certification. The offices are home to the county’s RecycleWorks initiative and workers who coordinate the Green Business Program.

"The Green Business Program is the only regionally recognized program that addresses energy, water, waste and pollution prevention," said Jim Porter, director of Public Works.

tbarak@examiner.com

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