The city is home to 30 certified green businesses, with more on the greener path. Residents and merchants are equipping their buildings with solar panels, investing in low-flow toilets and buying hybrid cars.
On Sunday, the Green Chamber of Commerce will host "Greening Richmond," the third environmentally minded workshop this month. The event is aimed at teaching people how to reduce carbon emissions believed to contribute to global warming.
"I don't have a lot of money. I can't go out and buy a Prius, so the question is, what can you do?" said organizer James Carter. "There's some basic stuff people can do that doesn't cost a lot of money: energy-efficient lights and appliances, using cars less."
Richmond's push to go green follows a nationwide trend. Within the past five years, green manufacturing and distribution companies such as LC Biofuels, which stores and distributes vegetable-based biodiesel fuel, and Excellent Packaging and Supply, which specializes in everyday biodegradable disposable products, have flocked to the city.
"The green economy is taking off so much that cities are clamoring to get as many businesses as they can," said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who is a Green Party member. "We in Richmond have a unique prerequisite, and that's space. We have railroad, an intermodal transportation station and the port."
Five years ago,
"In the last year, I've been swamped by businesses who want to be certified," Bedell-Waite said.
City leaders are taking more steps to become greener. The City Council this year declared Richmond a "green business economic development zone" and is exploring possible incentives to offer green businesses.
Students armed with hard hats are equipping houses with solar energy installations through the city-sponsored construction-training program RichmondBUILD. City fees for home solarpanels have been suspended until June.
The city joined ICLEI, an international association of governments that vows to reduce global warming. The mayor's office is compiling information on Richmond's carbon footprint that can be used to develop a plan for reducing those levels.
Locally, Richmond is far from alone in the drive to become greener.
West County Wastewater District plans to install 4,000 solar panels as early as December to power its treatment plant. The move will eliminate more than 3.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and 897 pounds of nitrous oxide emissions a year, said E.J. Shalaby, district manager.
Officials are partnering with two companies -- El Solutions and Solar Power Partners -- that will build the facility, own it and sell power to the district for less than what PG&E charges. The district expects to save as much as 15 percent a year on energy bills, Shalaby said.
Meanwhile, El Cerrito school officials are equipping the new high school with solar panels.
And last year, West County residents recycled 22,324 pounds of household batteries -- more than in Central and Eastern Contra Costa combined.
Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or email@example.com.
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