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Port of San Diego helps businesses ‘go green’

The Port of San Diego is a pioneer in helping its tenants “go green” with free resources and information that encourage businesses to reduce their water and energy use while saving money.

The port partnered with San Diego Gas & Electric last year in the “Green Business Challenge,” the first of its kind on the West Coast. The energy-efficiency and sustainability program provided tenants with an online tracking tool, informational workshops, and a peer-to-peer information exchange on reducing their environmental footprint.

During the 2011 challenge, 49 participating retailers, ship-builders, hoteliers, marinas and restaurants received more than $134,000 in rebates and incentives from San Diego Gas & Electric that helped pay for energy upgrades. The efforts saved enough energy to power 70 homes for one year, about $156,000 in savings.

Together, the businesses implemented more than 375 green strategies, from lighting retrofits to recycling and composting.

A number of businesses took advantage of SDG&E’s on-bill financing program, which is a convenient and affordable method for financing the cost for energy-efficient upgrades, such as LED lighting. SDG&E offered a zero percent loan, which tenants can repay on their utility bills.

Participating tenants reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 843 tons, the equivalent to removing 160 cars from the road for a year.

The successful go-green initiative is continuing as the Green Business Network, a continuation of the challenge with a long-term focus and 60 participating businesses.

Lou Smith, Chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners, has praised the Green Business Challenge and the Green Business Network because they are enabling businesses to improve the environment, while also improving their bottom line.

"These are the types of programs that make the future better for everybody who lives here,” Smith said.

The Green Business Network is an integrated energy efficiency and sustainability effort spearheaded by the port and SDG&E. Like the challenge, network members include port tenant restaurants, marinas, hotels, ship-builders and attractions.

By taking advantage of the free technical assistance, monthly training on green business tactics and sharing best-practices with fellow businesses, participants can expect to reduce their environmental impact.

All participating businesses are provided information on how to track their energy efficiency efforts. They are encouraged to take advantage of SDG&E initiatives and professional development and training courses, along with one-on-one assistance from the port.

For example, participating businesses recently gathered for the “Green Share: A Peer-to-Peer Event” where attendees shared their environmental success stories and exchanged tips on ways to reduce energy and water use.

In August, a workshop designed for restaurant operators was held. Titled “Port Restaurants Go Green: How to Save Money, Water and Energy,” the workshop provided information on what to look for when buying refrigeration and cooking equipment.

The San Diego Marriott Marquis Hotel and Marina was one of the participating businesses at the workshop.

“The Marriott has had a long history of wanting to be green and we’ve had several initiatives we have done over the years,” said Jerry McHugh, director of engineering for the Marriott.

The hotel has more than 1,300 guest rooms, 75,000 square feet of meeting space and a 446-slip marina.

For the past five years, the Marriott has been undergoing a green renovation, converting all of its mechanical equipment with new electronic devices — including a $5 million elevator and escalator update — to control and save energy.

“Our current corporate goal is to reduce utility consumption by two percent but currently we are on track to reduce it by five percent,” said McHugh. “Reducing energy use on the San Diego bay front helps reduce pollution and meet environmentally friendly standards.”

With the help of SDG&E, the hotel installed energy-efficient lighting in its front drive, lobby, pool area, guest rooms, and meeting space. In all, the project has saved the hotel 130,000 kilowatts per year, equaling about a $16,000 savings.

Port tenants and subtenants interested in joining the Green Business Network or receiving information may contact greenport@portofsandiego.org for more information.

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