Truckee’s Cedar House Sport Hotel was the setting for the first annual Keep the Sierra Green (KSG) Exemplary Business Awards for 2009. Born out of a shared vision and collaborative partnership between Truckee’s Recycling Coordinator Nichole Dorr and Incline Village General Improvement District’s (IVGID) Resource Conservationist Madonna Dunbar, KSG recognizes businesses focused on ecological and economic practices in the north central Sierra and foothills. The program has grown into a partnership between the Town of Truckee, IVGID, Nevada County Recycles, Placer County, the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Green Building Association.

Any business located within the town of Truckee, eastern Placer County, Nevada County, Incline Village or Crystal Bay may participate in the regional program, but the annual award goes only to businesses that score highest on an eight-page application. The form is no walk in the park. To qualify as a Keep Sierra Green business, applicants are required to recycle, develop energy, pollution and water conservation programs, define how company purchasing practices are eco-minded, create employee awareness procedures, and complete energy and waste audits. The form also awards points for voluntary programs as well.

Lynne Cody, Nevada County recycling technician, opened up the ceremony by declaring, ‘We want to set the bar really high and all of you are the first to be recognized…you are the true green leaders in your communities.’

As attendees noshed and tension built among the applicants awaiting the announcements, Eli Meyer, president of the Sierra Green Building Association, reminded the crowd that the Keep the Sierra Green program is ‘not about greenwashing – it’s about setting a benchmark for people in the community.’ ‘Greenwashing’ occurs when companies pose as friends of the environment, but their actual practices and products don’t match up to their claims. Kym Fabel, manager of the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce added, ‘All kinds of people and businesses are looking to be green. Green is big.’

But Cody and the KSG committee keep standards very high. In other words, posers need not apply. So who is really green? The winners are…

Truckee Tahoe Airport District (TTAD) captured the title among the program participants within the Town of Truckee for meeting all the mandatory requirements with flying colors and going above and beyond as well. Innovative lighting technology throughout the facility, solar-powered taxiway and beacon lights, noise reduction programs, recycling waste fuel, conserving 1,500 acres at nearby Siller Ranch and registering their greenhouse gas emissions as members of California’s Climate Action Registry put TTAD over the top.

Granlibakken Conference Center and Resort in Tahoe City and Integrated Environmental Restoration Services (IERS) based in Lake Forest took the honors among Placer County businesses. Granlibakken exceeds in waste stream reduction, energy conservation, water conservation and habitat restoration and management. In addition to being a designated Fire Safe Community for their efforts in treating and restoring the forest habitat on more than 25 acres, the resort has also completed all of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Lahontan Water District Best Management Practice (BMP) requirements. They also continue to upgrade their facilities with energy efficient lighting, windows and appliances with the help of Sierra Pacific Power’ s Utility Energy Forum.

IERS, a contracting and consulting firm specializing in restoration, watershed assessment, ecological monitoring and storm water pollution prevention projects, helps other companies to protect water quality by educating and inspecting job sites for proper storm water pollution prevention practices and BMPs. But they also work to ensure that their own business practices are exemplary by implementing a variety of innovative and sustainable practices. IERS captures and reuses pine needles and wood chip waste to rebuild soils at disturbed sites as well as reusing and recycling old job site materials. They train contractors on strategies for salvaging and reusing valuable topsoil on construction sites. IERS has implemented procedures and projects to reduce their carbon footprint by using a scorecard metric system to track energy usage, vehicle miles traveled and waste amounts and then set goals to reduce waste in all categories. They placed first in Lake Tahoe’s ‘Bike to Work’ week in 2008 and conducted a thorough winterization assessment of their offices, which resulted in numerous energy conservation measures.  

On the North Shore, the KSG competition was fierce and the winners were big. The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort and Casino, with more than 500 employees, is the largest business accepted to date in the Keep the Sierra Green program. The hotel has extensive programs to reduce energy and water consumption and achieved a 20 percent recycling rate in 2008, diverting more than 151 tons from landfill disposal. Energy saving efforts conserved 1,750 million BTUs, equivalent to the household energy use for one year of 17 residences. Employee training includes a worldwide, proprietary training program, providing instruction in areas of water and energy consumption, solid waste reduction, and pollution prevention and carbon emissions reductions and the effort seems to be paying off.

The Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences (TCES) in Incline Village also took home an award. The world-class center for scientific research is the first building in the Tahoe basin to achieve a platinum LEED certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system. Photovoltaic roof panels already provide 10 percent of the building’s annual energy demand and there are plans to add more. Potable water use was reduced 65 percent through drought tolerant native plant species, water-efficient plumbing fixtures and rainwater collection for toilets. The building has high levels of recycled content from local sources and the concrete in the structural frame substituted 25 percent of the cement with fly ash, a byproduct of coal combustion in power plants. More than 85 percent of the construction waste was recycled and building users are required to follow comprehensive waste reduction and energy saving practices. The center’s education program has offered green building tours to more than 10,000 visitors since opening in 2006.

Each of the winning businesses received heaps of applause and a very unique award certificate mounted distinctively on the front of a recycled green computer circuit board.

Check out the KSG program online at keepthesierragreen.org and see if your business has what it takes.

~ Discuss this article with the author. Email bingalls@moonshineink.com.