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What to expect from the Site Visit:

Green Business staff will go over the pollution prevention portion of the checklist with you and ask you to furnish supporting documentation for all measures checked off.

During the site visit, our staff may need you to:

  1. Submit your janitorial product inventory. This should contain the following information:
    • Product name and manufacturer
    • Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS or SDS) from the manufacturer. The MSDS is a document that contains information on the ingredients in a product, potential hazards and how to work safely with the chemical product. You will be able to obtain this list from your janitorial service company if you do not have cleaning products stored at your business. You can also look for the janitorial products in the workplace and note the ingredients listed on the label.
  2. Safely dispose of old and unwanted hazardous materials. Businesses that generate less than 27 gallons of hazardous waste per month (or less than 220 pounds) are eligible to use a disposal program called the Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG) program. Contact the VSQG program at (415) 330-1425 for more information. Examples of hazardous waste you might have include paints, inks, oils, automotive chemicals, spent fluorescent lamps, etc.


Please use the following resources to help your business implement and meet the San Francisco Green Business toxics and pollution prevention standards.

  1. Clean Air
  2. Company Owned Vehicles
  3. Safe Disposal of Universal Waste
  4. Purchase EPEAT Certified Computers, Laptops and Monitors
  5. Cleaning Products
  6. Paints
  7. Integrated Pest Management
  8. Carpet
  9. Aerosol Cans
  10. Lighting
  11. Chlorine Free Paper
  12. Remanufactured Toner Cartridges
  13. Rechargeable Batteries
  14. Low VOC Ink
  15. Building Material
  16. Wastewater

  1. Clean Air spareair
    San Francisco and the Bay Area offer many ways to get around the city that don't involve driving a car. Leaving your car at home reduces carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) emissions. Encourage your employees to walk, bike, or use public transit to get to work.
    • Use the Emergency Ride Home program provides a free or low-cost ride home in cases of emergency for employees who use alternative transportation.bikelight
    • Join the Bay Area Spare the Air program and notify your employees of Spare the Air days.
    • Commuter Benefits saves your employees 30-40% on transit passes--if your business has 20 or more employees nationwide, you are required to enroll in a Commuter Benefits program.
    • Post bicycle route maps, transit schedules, and commuter ride sign-ups.
  2. Company Owned Vehicles
    If your business uses company owned vehicles such as a fleet of trucks for deliveries, you will need to complete the Clean Fleet Toolkit. This toolkit also contains information on how to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% during your 3 year Green Business recognition. For more information, contact the Green Business Program through General Inquiries.
  3. Safe Disposal of Universal Waste ewaste
    Universal Waste includes electronics, batteries, light bulbs, aerosol cans, thermometers, and other toxic products prohibited from landfill or recycling collection. Be sure to have a collection and safe disposal plan for your business, and use Recycle Where if you are unsure where to drop off a specific item.
  4. Purchase EPEAT Certified Computers, Laptops and Monitors
    When your purchase new electronics for your business, be sure to get productepeatlogos certified on the EPEAT registry
    EPEAT products meet strict environmental criteria that address the full product lifecycle, from energy conservation and toxic materials to product longevity and end-of-life management. Most major electronics manufacturers now offer EPEAT certified options.
  5. Cleaning Products
    In order to be recognized as a Green Business, organizations must use low-toxic cleaning products. Commonly used janitorial cleaning products contain ingredients that may cause harm to human health, indoor air quality and the environment. Avoid the use of disinfectants unless you are operating a medical facility or a food service establishmentMost commonly available disinfectants contain hazardous ingredients, and require 10-20 minutes to kill germs. Since over 90% of actual disinfection is accomplished simply by cleaning away dirt, there are very few situations that really require the use of disinfectants. Click here for a fact sheet on disinfectants and antimicrobials. 
    • Since it's hard to know what many "green" (or natural, environmentally friendly) product claims mean, please follow the guidelines below to meet program standards:
    • Use These Cleaning Products & Avoid These Cleaning Products                          
  6. Paint 
    Paint can contain toxic heavy metals, while the solvents can consist of toxic petroleum-based products that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs can combine with other pollutants to create ozone and poor indoor air quality. Buy and use latex or water-based paints, finishes, and varnishes rather than oil-based paints. Buy zero- or low-VOC paints.paint-can
    • Every major manufacturer has a zero- or low- VOC line. Amazon Paint offers 50% post consumer recycled content paint at competitive prices. Sherwin-Williams and Kelly-Moore offer zero or close to zero VOCs emission recycled content paint.
    • Other options for less toxic paints are listed here and at SF Approved.
    • Find a product certified by Green Seal as meeting their GS-11 standards for paints.
  7. Integrated Pest Management
    Pesticides are designed to kill living beings, such as weeds, insects, rodents, or fungi. That means these chemicals are inherently more dangerous to people, pets, and wildlife. An integrated pest management (IPM) approach emphasizes preventive and non-chemical techniques and applies least-toxic pesticides only as a last resort in order to reduce pesticide use while effectively managing pests. San Francisco Green Businesses must implement IPM methods to manage pests.
  8. carpetCarpet
    When buying new carpet or replacing old ones, choose carpets made with natural fibers, recycled nylon or low VOCs. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are chemicals that under normal room conditions vaporize and enter the atmosphere. They contribute to indoor air pollution and can be found in carpet backing and paint. Buy carpets recommended through SF Approved, or choose from these options: FiberWorks, Shaw Floors, Bentley Mills, Mohawk Carpet, Tandus, Ruckstuhl, and Milliken Carpet.
  9. Aerosol Cans

    Avoid using aerosols
    Elimination of aerosol cans will help businesses meet SF Green Business standards. In addition to the product, up to 40% of the contents in an aerosol container can be propellants. While consumer products may be just as hazardous when dispensed from other containers, the use of aerosol containers may increase the likelihood that exposure will occur. Pump spray bottles are less likely to cause direct health hazards because they lack propellants and deliver the product in larger droplets that are less able to penetrate the lungs.
  10. Lighting

    "Green Tipped" low mercury fluorescents
    In order to meet SF Green Business standards, businesses must use energy efficient lighting (please see the Energy Conservation Resource Guide). However, several types of energy-efficient lamps contain mercury and/or lead and toxic heavy metals. Unfortunately, national fluorescent lamp labeling regulations do not require manufacturers to indicate how much mercury is in their lamps. To address this issue, use SF Approved lamps, including:
    • LEDs and low mercury CFLs instead of incandescents.
    • LED Exit Signs
    • Low mercury & energy-efficient T8s (and T-5s). Low mercury fluorescents lights can often be identified with green tipped ends.

    When switching to linear T-8 fluorescent lamps, use electronic ballasts that are extra-efficient and have the NEMA Premium designation on their label to the greatest extent practicable. Acceptable brands of extra-efficient (NEMA Premium Efficiency) ballasts include GE UltraMax or UltraStart, Sylvania Quicktronic High Efficiency (QHE), Advance Optanium (Instant and Program Start), Universal Ultim8, or equivalent.

  11. Chlorine Free Paper
    Chlorine-containing bleaching agents are often used to turn paper and janitorial products bright white. The bleaching process can generate various chlorinated pollutants which tend to persist in the environment for a very long time. Look for brands that are unbleached or that are whitened using a chlorine-free process. (These products are sometimes labeled PCF for Processed Chlorine-Free.) 

    In order to qualify for SF Green Business recognition, businesses must use office paper with recycled content. Choosing recycled paper that is also chlorine free will enable applicants to qualify for double credit. The EcoLogo certification label is a good indicator of Chlorine Free Paper with sufficient recycled content.

  12. Remanufactured Toner Cartridges tonerrecycle
    Each year, millions of empty toner and inkjet cartridges used in laser printers, fax machines, and copiers are discarded into landfills as hazardous waste. However, used toner cartridges can be remanufactured for reuse up to four times. Remanufacturers inspect empty cartridges for damage and then repair or replace broken parts, thoroughly clean the reusable components, and refill the cartridge with new toner. Remanufactured toner cartridges are often cheaper than new cartridges and are sold by most office supply stores (including Office Depot and Staples). Green Business applicants receive credit for using remanufactured toner cartridges, or can use recycling and send-back programs.

    • Find a manufacturer or vendor that sells remanufactured toner cartridges, such as the San Francisco Green Business Cartridge World.
  13. Rechargable-batteryRechargeable Batteries
    Over 3 billion batteries are sold every year. All batteries are considered corrosive, and if they leak they can cause burns to eyes and skin. Depending on the type, batteries can contain a variety of heavy metals that can leach from landfills. This contaminate soil and pollutes surface water and groundwater. If incinerated, these toxic chemicals can be released in the air. For these reasons it is important to choose products whereever possible that operate without batteries or use rechargeable batteries, except for emergency equipment. If you must buy batteries, buy nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-cad) and lithium rechargeable. Do not buy nickel cadmium (Ni-Cad) batteries due to shorter life span and higher toxicity. Keep batteries in the charger unit until you need them so they do not drain.
  14. Low VOC Inkvegink
    Printing inks may contain heavy metals and potentially hazardous solvents. These ingredients can be toxic, flammable and may contain VOCs. Improper disposal of spent inks can cause serious contamination of surface water, ground water, or soil. Green Business applicants receive credit for using vegetable-based inks in their printing materials (business cards, letterhead and marketing material). Ask your commercial printer to print with vegetable inks on chlorine-free paper with recycled content. This will qualify applicants for double credit.
  15. Building Material
    Photo courtesy of USGBCUtilizing green building products and practices in building and remodeling projects results in higher quality, financial savings, environmental protection, better indoor air quality and increased employee morale. Search Build it Green's Directory to locate suppliers and service providers of green building products within the Bay Area. One way to know that a building meets or exceeds green building criteria is if it is part of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems. LEED promotes a whole-building approach, referencing standards in six categories: site sustainability, water efficiency, energy management, materials, indoor environmental quality, and innovation. For more information, visit the SF Environment page on Green Building.grease-FOG
  16. Wastewater 
    Restaurants are a significant source of FOG (fats, oils, and grease) because of the amount of grease used in cooking and other food preparation work. FOG can be a major problem for San Francisco's sewers as well as the surrounding bay and ocean. Use preventative measures to properly manage FOG and reduce future problems and save money.
    • Restaurants and other food service establishments should review the SF Public Utilities Commission FOG Control information for the FOG ordinance requirements, fact sheets, and maintenance logs
    • greasecycleImplement Best Management Practices (BMP) during daily operations to keep FOG out of drains leading to the sewer. Install and maintain (where required) a grease trap or interceptor that can handle the FOG residue generated by your establishment.
    • Participate in the SFGreasecycle program to have your used oil picked up for free and converted to biofuels.