Seattle Public Utilities working with small-business owners to save energy, money
Seattle Public Utilities expanding Get on the Map program for minorities who own small businesses.
Seattle Times business reporter
Exequiel Soltero had two reasons for taking advantage of Seattle Public Utilities' latest green initiative: the prospect of saving money and improving his Mexican restaurant's recycling practices.
Called Get on the Map, the Seattle utility has spent the last year working with ethnic minorities such as Soltero who own a small business to make changes, such as installing an energy-efficient dishwasher, faucet and toilet, to save energy and money.
Soltero says he has saved an additional $1,250 on his garbage bill by recycling and composting at Maya's, his Rainier Valley restaurant. His 16 employees have been trained to separate waste according to material — paper, bottles and cans, glass and cardboard — instead of "dumping all the trash in the disposal or the garbage."
The restaurant also composts all food scraps in a bin.
"Now, we only use compostable takeout boxes and utensils for catering," he says, mentioning that customers are also appreciative of their environmentally friendly practices.
Philip E. Paschke, a program manager at the utility, says the restaurant also was able to reduce its water use by nearly 152 gallons, or 16 percent. This resulted in more than $1,000 in yearly savings.
The utility offers rebates for a wide range of commercial-kitchen equipment, he says, and can offer low-flow aerators for free. "Always look for the WaterSense label or in the case of dishwashers, Energy Star, which will be both water and energy efficient," advises Paschke.
Susan Sanchez, deputy director of the customer-service branch at SPU, oversees the program, which is designed to reach customers who haven't taken advantage previous conservation programs. It has bilingual specialists who visit the businesses and train employees in their native language.
Another business to take advantage of the program is Rabbit Meadows, a rabbit and small animal shelter in Lake City. Longtime volunteer Zoe Kluge says the nonprofit runs on donations, so saving money on its utility bill was critical.
The shelter recycles everything and composts food scraps, including animal waste. It uses durable instead of disposable products and reuses supplies and furniture. It has cut down its garbage to almost nothing.
The rabbit shelter also has installed water-saving faucet aerators and monitors its water bill for abnormal use from leaks or other problems.
Once a business signs up with Get on the Map, they are recognized on the SPU website according to rank of number of environmental actions. The business is then promoted through local media and at community and business events.
SPU has spent $61,425 on the program in the past year and has budgeted another $54,095 for the current year.
It plans to expand into the University District and Rainier Valley after starting in Martin Luther King Way, Othello and Lake City.
"Get on the Map is about outreach to smaller businesses, so we are targeting core business districts throughout the city," says Michael May, a public-relations specialist at SPU.
May says the program will help the city reach its goal of diverting 60 percent of the residential and commercial garbage that is currently going straight to the landfill by recycling and composting.
"For every ton of waste we send to the landfill, it costs us $41 per ton. Any of that tonnage we can divert is less expensive for us and will cost the business less in utility bills," May says.
Atia Musazay: 206-464-2718 or email@example.com