Sounding Off: Going 'green' can make you some green

Daily Pilot

When most entrepreneurs start a business, their top priorities are usually in the area of getting start-up capital, finding talented workers or reaching customers. I took a different route.

Five years ago, I started a zero-waste packing and moving product business with football-field quantities of recycled diapers, worn sneakers, leftover bleach bottles, used aluminum cans, bottle tops and used cereal boxes.

To me, these discards were the key to an entire new way of doing business, and they address a problem every business owner hates: waste.

This business became my life's work because I am passionate about the service we provide — a better, cheaper and faster way for people to pack and move, with less damage to the environment. My business, Rent A Green Box, saw results quickly, and in the process we have created a new industry in America, green jobs and contributed dollars and stability to our local economy.

But not all businesses in California are enjoying the same success. In the face of high unemployment rates and an uncertain economic future, some say we can't afford to move forward with California's historic energy and climate law, Assembly Bill 32. Considering the immense economic cost of our dependence on oil and constantly fluctuating fossil fuel markets, we can't afford to remain reliant on expensive, unsafe and dirty energy.

As a small-business owner, I am constantly making operational shifts to reduce costs and take advantage of opportunities to improve my bottom line, profiting from transforming a more polluting "traditional" industry. The more eco-friendly improvements I made, the more I saw that everything I did was interconnected.

I started with a line of green moving boxes made from recycled plastic to replace cardboard, and now run the largest fleet of bio-fuel vehicles in the country. Trucks that run on vegetable oil reduce carbon by 78% and save me more than $560,000 annually on fuel costs.

Not every business owner is as preoccupied with going green as I am. But anyone who has owned a fuel-efficient car, installed a compact fluorescent light bulb or an Energy Star appliance knows that using less energy means more money in your wallet. Factoring the environment into daily operations at any business can create happier, more committed employees, less waste in the community and more capital investment to grow.

The fear that green technologies are a burden on the economy is false fear. Cleaner technologies are integral to job creation and economic growth. Once implemented, these new clean technologies create operational and cost savings that hit the bottom line and create more profit than the old way of doing business.

More than 1,000 green jobs have been created in Orange County since 1995. The green jobs sector has grown by 50% between 1995 and 2008 here, faster than the California average of 36%, according to an annual study by a recent Orange County government report.

The idea that energy costs will somehow skyrocket as a result of AB 32 is also a false fear. According to an independent economic analyses done by the Brattle Group, the average small business in California spends 1.4% of its revenues on energy-related costs, and will see a minuscule 0.3% increase in 2020 with the implementation of our state's climate and energy legislation. That .3% increase is similar to the fluctuations in energy prices that many businesses naturally experience due to the ebb and flow of the volatile fossil fuel markets.

By incorporating energy efficiency and alternative energy technologies into my everyday business practices, I've saved an estimated $945,000 on gasoline costs and $135,000 on electricity costs over the past four years. I've also saved 358,000 tons of carbon, generated 54 new jobs and created a whole new industry and a cleaner, greener way of doing business.

Creating environmental solutions through smart and efficient business is my mission. And it took a lot of work, but it was certainly worth the effort. For those who don't think that it's the right time for AB 32, I would caution that without a healthy environment, we're all out of business.

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