By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
April 09, 2013 - Tom Bowman, chairman of Bowman Design Group and one of the newest members of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s Green Business Council (GBC), will use his experience creating energy and consumption efficiencies at his company to lead sustainability workshops for small businesses starting this summer.
After successfully creating a sustainability plan for his own business – saving $9,000 per year after cutting the company’s greenhouse gas footprint by 65 percent in less than a year and a half through energy saving opportunities – Bowman presented the idea to GBC Chair Kent Peterson, vice president and chief engineer of P2S Engineering, Inc.; GBC Incoming Chair Clay Sandidge, partner of Muni-Fed Energy, Inc.; and new GBC member John J. Ryan, principal and managing director of Raygen Energy.
“The idea of the Green Action Workshops is to bring a structure to sustainability that is easy to manage and to engage small business owners to make a pledge to do it,” Bowman told the Business Journal. “Also, literally in the workshop, writing their own green business plan so they know what to do, what to measure, how to measure it and what the results are likely to be. We hope they will all join the council as well.”
The four men collaborated on the concept, which was presented and approved by the GBC Board on March 19. Since then, the program has been branded Green Action Workshops and the Aquarium of the Pacific’s President/CEO Jerry Schubel offered the conference room at the Aquarium for the pilot workshop, scheduled June 1.
“The Green Action Workshop provides Long Beach a great opportunity to continue its greening efforts and become the nation’s leading city of sustainable small businesses,” Schubel said in an e-mail. “We are a city of small businesses. We are a city small enough to be manageable, but large enough to capture national attention. The partners leading the effort are the right ones, and Tom Bowman is an excellent communicator and facilitator.”
According to Bowman, each workshop will begin with an orientation explaining what environmental challenges impact the region and by how much. Once that framework has been laid, small business participants will decide individually – or by collaborating with other workshop participants – what their energy efficiency priorities are.
“It’s everything from environmental performance to employee wellbeing to the community that you’re in,” Bowman said. “A lot of small business owners care about all of those things, and there’s no reason to divide them out.” Once priorities have been outlined, participants set both long-term and annual goals and establish guidelines for measuring progress toward those goals.
Bowman will then assist individuals in finding options for energy savings, resource reduction, employee commuting, business transportation and other possible priorities. Those options may include grants, rebates and other resources available to small business. According to Ryan, a sustainability plan is a cost-saving measure that can also be green. “Ultimately it has to make good business sense,” Ryan said.
While there is no direct regulation of small businesses under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32, there is an impact because of the cost of utilities rising, according to Peterson. “That’s why we’re reaching out to people because you can do something about it,” Peterson said. “You can help reduce your costs. Even though costs will be going up on a per-unit cost, you can be more efficient.”
“We made energy consumption a co-top priority with every business decision we were going to make anyway,” Bowman said of his business. “When it was time to replace equipment, we made getting the most energy efficient product equal to getting the quality, cost, performance product we need. It runs all the way through. It can be as simple as that for a lot of businesses. We can make a lot of progress that way.”
Moreover, GBC members can participate in these workshops to learn how to become better stewards. “We are energy companies,” Sandidge said. “We’re out pushing these ideas and concepts and energy-saving measures on our clientele. We had better be doing it first and foremost; living it, breathing it.”
Jesse Torres, director of the Los Angeles Regional Small Business Development Center Network and the lead center at Long Beach City College, met with the four GBC members on April 2 to discuss the project. “The approach proposed by the Green Business Council is intriguing,” Torres told the Business Journal in an e-mail. “We have seen the impact that a cohort style program that includes customized training and practical application can have in advancing business owners towards their goals. I think that a program that seeks to cut a business’s operating costs, reduce a company’s carbon footprint and build a community for green and clean tech businesses would be attractive to many local entrepreneurs.”
Bowman, Peterson, Ryan and Sandidge agreed that this GBC project and others in the works are supporting the growth of the council and Long Beach businesses. “Taking great ideas and turning those ideas and concepts into reality is what I think we as the green business council want to facilitate incubating,” Sandidge said.
“We’ve had great leadership. We’re moving into great new directions. We’ve got great new members coming on that have innovative concepts and ideas. I think the coming months are going to be a prime example of some of the things we are doing to create change in our community.”
To learn more about participating in either the pilot workshop or future workshops, contact Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Business Councils Judy Nelson at 562/432-8128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.