Be open to green opportunities  

photos courtesy Port of San Diego

When it comes to implementing green policies and practices at your business or organization, much of the success depends on being flexible, open to change and willing to work with like-minded businesses. That’s a lesson from the Port of San Diego and its Green Port Program. The port achieved a number of its goals for the first year of the program, but was willing to adapt and partner.

The Green Port Program covers six areas: water, energy, air, waste management, sustainable development and sustainable business practices.

Kelly Makley, associate environmental specialist in the port’s Environmental Services Department, said the port intended to have a green purchasing policy in place by the end of 2008. “It was one of those things that was taking a lot longer than we thought, but it ended up being a good thing,” Makley said.

Working closely with the port’s Procurement Department, the goal was to assess and consider environmental impacts during the procurement process and make selections that would have the least detrimental impact on the environment. “We thought it would be easy,” Makley said. “We started working on it and realized how much it was going to change the way the Procurement Department does business.”

Rather than tossing out the whole idea, the port was flexible and decided to test its plan internally, trying out some products, such as recycled paper and toner cartridges as well as some hybrid vehicles. “We’ll take this year to test it out internally in the Procurement Department, so when we go to the (port) board at the end of 2009 or in early 2010, we’ll have the data to give them,” Makely said.

And then there are the surprise opportunities that make going green a truly worthy endeavor.

One of the Green Port Program’s most exciting initiatives, Makley said, was forming a partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric. The two signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on energy issues. The public utility company conducted an energy audit and created an Energy Road Map with recommendations for how to retrofit the port facility to make it more energy efficient.

SDG&E recommended about $120,000 of retrofits, including changing out light fixtures and using a Vending Miser, a product that manages power usage of a vending machine by monitoring temperature changes and whether someone is in the same room. Modifications to outdoor lighting and the some use of solar panels also were on the list of recommendations.

The best part is SDG&E offers loans to fund these retrofits. For example, Makley explained, SDG&E would loan the port $1,000 for a new energy-efficient light fixture. The savings on the port’s energy bill goes back to SDE&G to repay the loan. Once the loan is repaid, the port will start seeing that savings on its bill.

“SDG&E is interested in working with public entities,” Makley said. “SDG&E has to increase its renewable energy use, so it’s trying to be proactive and work with people like us to be more efficient.”

The port also partnered up with Nissan and SDG&E to showcase Nissan’s new line of electric cars. The port hosted a news conference on its Broadway Pier earlier this month and community leaders took the vehicles for a spin. San Diego is one of the first markets to try out the new electric vehicles. And Makley said she expects the port will test a couple. By adding 13 hybrids to its fleet last year, the port has saved 550 gallons of fuel.

In your company’s efforts to go green, what surprise encounters have you had? Did you partner with another business or organization to achieve your green efforts?

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