In The News

17 March 2015

A Conversation with Keith

Posted in In The News

As a Green Business Aide with the San Francisco Green Business Program (SFGBP) for the past 2 ½ years, I have worked on many projects such as coordinating Green Business outreach and awareness campaigns. Through our last campaign I had the pleasure to meet and recruit Thomas John Events, a catering and events management company. In conversations with the owner, Tom, it was evident that he was passionate about sustainability; one of the main reasons why I believed the company would be a good fit for the Green Business Program. After becoming a recognized Green Business with SFGBP in 2014 I sat down with Tom to get his perspective on the process and learn more about his path to the catering industry.

Thomas John Henderson aka Tom, owner of Thomas John Events, has had quite the interesting journey into the world of catering. He began working in the catering industry during high school, helping a relative who owned a catering business. “It was the perfect work for a high school kid,” said Tom, “with most jobs being on the weekend and great pay at the time”. After high school Tom was going to pursue a college degree in welding and metallurgy: subjects he had become very fond of during his time in metal shop. When this did not pan out, Tom came back to catering and worked his way up the ladder, eventually starting his own catering business. 

Thomas John

For the last 10 years he and the staff at Thomas John Events have been providing a client-centric approach to catering. There is a rooftop garden on Tom’s kitchen which produces 100% of the microgreens they use and consists of a soil-based hydroponic system. There is also a 1-acre farm located in South San Francisco which is used to grow specialty produce for corporate clients and events. The farm is managed and maintained by Thomas John Events employees who also operate a vermicomposting system to process a portion of their kitchen food waste. Vermicomposting is the practice of using worms to break down food scraps1.

Recalling his experience Tom remarked, "The whole process was quite the learning opportunity, from the effectiveness of efficient lighting and refrigeration, to the importance of composting and recycling." The catering industry has many different sources of waste, from the obvious food waste, to bottles, cans and various types of packaging. Tom mentioned he and his staff took tours of Recology and composting facilities to get a feel for the full life cycle of products.

SFGP through its high environmental standards and stringent criteria of measures developed by program staff with input from industry experts, utility companies, pollution prevention professionals, City inspectors and trade associations, allowed Thomas John Events to look at its entire operations: focusing on sustainability in all aspects of the company. Audits were performed for food safety and materials handling as well as wastewater discharge. In Tom's words, "These were largely educational and the auditors were always helpful and explained the return on investments as well as the cost-effectiveness of operating in the specified manner." Throughout the process the Green Business team was available via email or phone to answer any questions that arose and kept the business informed of their progress. "What I found most helpful is that when not in contact for a month the Green Business Program would reach out to us and ask how they could help us move forward or complete the next step."

Originally worried about the costs associated with participating in the program and making the required changes, Tom remarked, “Going through the process you find out that the return on investments more than outweighs the initial costs of implementation which tend to be minimal.” Tom believes the process was very worthwhile and has since recommended the program to several of his colleagues in the catering industry. “The green concept is just starting to gain momentum in the catering industry moving from a trend to the norm, with more clients and businesses are seeing value in sustainability.” This trend will hopefully spread to other industries in the near future. For businesses interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, join the San Francisco Green Business Program. In Tom’s words, “Just Do It”. To learn more about Thomas John Events visit To learn more about the SFGBP visit                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. CalRecycle. Vermicomposting. 1/27/2015

10 December 2014

Offsetting GHG emissions by Using Green Roofs

Posted in Program News, In The News

Learn about the benefits of green roofs

Green house gas (GHG) emissions are the driving force behind climate change. With more and more adverse effects being felt around the world there is an increasing need to find ways of mitigating GHG emissions. Green infrastructure can provide ways of alleviating some of the burdens from the GHG we all create.

"Vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier urban environments,"1 is how the US EPA defines green infrastructure. Depending on the size of the project, green infrastructure can have different purposes and benefits. At the city or county level, green infrastructure could be natural areas that provide habitat, cleaner air, and cleaner water. In a neighborhood or at a specific site, green infrastructure could be a stormwater system that imitates nature by absorbing and storing water. Some examples of green infrastructure are green roofs, permeable pavement, rain gardens and planter boxes. One, all or a combination of these elements can be used together depending on the extent of the project.

Green roofs provide the most diverse set of benefits enjoyed by the public and private sectors. Not only do green roofs help to provide stormwater management but also improved air quality and local job creation as well as moderation of urban heat island effect.2 The urban heat island effect is when built up areas are hotter than nearby rural area which can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.3 These are all beneficial to the public. For the private sector, a green roof can help provide increased energy efficiency, fire retardation and noise reduction.

According to the International Green Roof Association green roofs have three distinct forms: extensive, semi-intensive and intensive, which are differentiated mostly by the depths of their growing medium. Extensive green roofs are characterized by a mineral substrate layer [that] is not very deep, usually about 2 ½ – 7 ¾ inches. A semi-intensive green roof is a mixture of the extensive and intensive forms and has, a deeper substrate level commonly 4 ¾ - 10 inches. With intensive green roofs the substrate layer tends to be 6 – 15 ¾ inches but can be as much as 40 inches if on an underground garage.4


Across the world there are many examples of green roofs. Green roofs or sod roofs in Northern Scandinavia have been around for centuries. The modern trend started when green roofs were developed in Germany in the 1960s and has since spread to many countries. This relatively new method of creation for modern green roofs is a system of artificial layers placed over roofs to support growing medium and vegetation. In 2010, the Victorian Desalination Project was built with a "living tapestry" of 98,000 Australian indigenous plants over a roof area spanning more than 279,862 square feet and was the largest Australian green roof project at the time. In Canada, in 2008, the Vancouver Convention Centre installed a 261,360 square foot living roof of indigenous plants and grasses on its West building, making it the largest example of a green roof in the Canadian region.5 Q-Architecture, one of the recognized Green Businesses of the San Francisco Green Business Program, was recently awarded for their work and ongoing efforts in China and Hong Kong. One of their most recent projects is scheduled to be one of the largest examples of a green roof in Asia: the 14,280 square foot green roof for the A-Shoes Mall in Dongguan, Guangdong Province.

A Shoe Mall

There has been a surge in green roof projects here in the United States as well. One of the largest stretches of extensive green roof can be found at Ford Motor Company's River Rouge Plant, Dearborn, Michigan, where 450,000 square feet of assembly plant roofs are covered with sedum and other plants. Built atop the Millennium Park Garage, Chicago's 1,067,220 square foot Millennium Park is considered one of the largest intensive green roofs in the world.5

Many people say, "I would like to get a green roof but I do not think I can." If this is the case and you live in a place that is not a good candidate for a green roof, there are a number of things you can do to "green" your rooftop. Look into cool roof products, which are made of a highly reflective type of paint, a sheet covering, or highly reflective tiles or shingles designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof.6 Putting potted plants on your roof can have some of the positive water-absorbing and cleaning effects of a green roof. Collect rain water in a barrel and reuse it, or install a solar hot water heater or solar panels to help with save energy. Promote the benefits of green roofs in your community by asking your neighborhood library, school, or congregation to consider getting a green roof.7 These options provide the same benefits as a green roof, i.e. stormwater management, improved air quality and moderation of the urban heat island effect. All of which contribute to decreasing GHG emissions and hence lessening the impacts of climate change. By "greening" roofs we can stop a great deal of the GHG from entering the atmosphere where it does the most harm.


1. "What is Green Infrastructure?". US EPA, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2014
2. "Green Roof Benefits". Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2014
3. "Heat Island Effect". US EPA, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2014
4. "Green Roof Types". International Green Roof Association, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2014
5. "Green Roof". Wikipedia, The Online Encyclopedia, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2014
6. "Cool Roofs". US DOE, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2014
7. Novey, Joel. "Is a Green Roof Right for You?". Green America: Living Green. Green America Magazine. July/August 2007. Web. 10 Nov 2014
8. Gr-Compenents. GIF. About Green Roofs. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2014
9. ShoeMall_GreenRoof. PDF. Q-Architecture. Email. 8 Dec 2014

31 October 2014

Water Recycling: Answer to Water Scarcity?

Posted in Program News, In The News

Learn more about water recycling

The amount of water on Earth has remained constant for millions of years. When ocean water evaporates it comes back as rainfall and the cycle continues. With less than one percent of the world’s water available for human use, the U.N. warns that half the world population will face water scarcity by 2030.1 Accelerated by climate change, population growth and the scarcity of fresh water resources such as rivers and lakes, especially in the arid regions of the world the need for additional water supplies is critical. One viable resource is recycled or reclaimed water.

But what is recycled or reclaimed water? The US EPA defines water recycling as reusing treated wastewater for beneficial purposes such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, and replenishing a ground water basin (referred to as ground water recharge) 2. In this instance the terms recycled and reclaimed are used synonymously.

Water recycling is most commonly described as either "unplanned" or "planned." An example of unplanned water recycling is when one city draws its water supplies from a river that has received wastewater discharge from the cities upstream. Water from these rivers has been reused, treated, and put back into the water supply numerous times before the last downstream user receives it. Planned projects are those that are developed with the goal of reusing recycled water for some beneficial purpose.2

The history of recycled water is an extensive one. For nearly 100 years, highly treated reclaimed water has been used in the United States.3 In San Francisco recycling water dates back to the early 1900’s when partially treated wastewater and groundwater were used to turn the Golden Gate Park area from barren sand dunes into the lush garden spot you see today. Los Angeles County's sanitation districts have provided treated wastewater for landscape irrigation in parks and golf courses since 1929.4

There are many places to see examples of water reuse outside the US as well. Israel treats 80% of its sewage (400 billion liters or 1 trillion gallons a year), and 100% from the Tel Aviv metropolitan area is treated and reused as irrigation water for agriculture and public works.5 The second largest waste reclamation program in the world is in Spain, where 12% of the nation's waste is treated.6 And as Australia continues to battle the 7–10-year drought, nationwide, reclaimed effluent is becoming a popular option. Two major capital cities in Australia, Adelaide and Brisbane, have already committed to adding reclaimed wastewater to their dwindling dams.

There are also some innovative systems that you can view yourself that are closer to home. The EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park is one of only two buildings in San Francisco that treats its own wastewater. Going beyond conventional treatment, the processes at the EcoCenter involve irradiation and the incorporation of a constructed wetland for further purification.7 You can sign up for a free tour by clicking here. Another tour you can take is at one of the SFPUC wastewater treatment plants. For information on when the next tours will be given follow the link. With California being squeezed dry by drought, we should all look for ways to utilize all the water resources we have. Recycled water could provide one potential way to offset the large water demand of Californians.


1. Monks, Kieron. From toilet to tap: Getting a taste for drinking recycled waste water. CNN World, 1 May 2014. Web. 8 Oct. 2014

2. Water Recycling and Reuse: The Enviromental Benefits. US EPA Region 9, n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2014

3. Sustainable Solutions for a Thirsty Planet. Water Reuse Association, n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2014

4. Reclaimed Water. Wikipedia The Free Encylopedia, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 8 Oct. 2014

5. Rabinovitch, Ari. "Arid Israel recycles waste water on grand scale." Reuters Africa, 14 Nov. 2010. Web. 8 Oct. 2014

6. Lidman, Melanie. "Israel is the world's leading waste water recycler." The Jerusalem Post, 6 Aug. 2010. Web. 8 Oct. 2014

7. The EcoCenter at Heron's Head Park. Port of San Francisco, n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2014

8. Diagram of Municipal Wastewater Treatment. 2002. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Sewage Biosolids - Managing Urban Nutrients Responsibly for Crop Production. Web. 8 Oct. 2014

20 March 2014

Goal to Reduce Water Usage by 10%

Posted in In The News

Learn tips and strategies to conserve water

Goal to Reduce Water Usage by 10%

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) officially asked all customers of the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System to voluntarily curtail water consumption. The goal is to reduce overall usage by 10%. While last month's storms brought much needed rain and snow to our region, they did little to address the lack of precipitation over the past few years. Precipitation at Hetch Hetchy to-date is still only 34.7% of annual normal precipitation.


Even though San Francisco has low per capita water usage relative to other areas, everyone should continue to conserve water as the best way to protect our vital water supply.


Here are three major upgrades you can do at your home and business to save water:




  1. Replace your old toilet, the largest water user. New high-efficiency toilet models flush at 1.3 gallons or less compared to older models, which use up to 7 gallons per flush. Cash rebates are available!
  2. Replace your old dishwasher with an Energy Star qualified model to save an average of 1,300 gallons of water over its lifetime.
  3. Install low flow aerators on bathroom and kitchen sinks to reduce indoor water use by ~4%. Free aerators are available!

And don't forget about all the ways to save water that don't require a toolbox - take shorter showers, turn off the faucet when not in use, and only run your clothes and dishwashers with full loads. All these little steps can add up to a lot of water!

Click here for more tips from the SFPUC.


12 March 2014

Last Chance to Receive Incentives for Lighting Controls!

Posted in In The News

Contact SF Energy Watch today

Last Chance to Receive Incentives for Lighting Controls!

Beginning on July 1, 2014, important changes to Title 24 Building Code will take effect, which include stricter energy–efficiency standards that will impact SF Energy Watch’s qualifying energy efficiency products for incentives. If you have been considering installing lighting controls in your building, now is the time to contact SF Energy Watch. Particularly, bi-level lighting parking and garage lighting have potential to generate significant energy savings. Take advantage of these valuable incentives while there is still time! To learn more, visit:

24 May 2013

Congratulations to Heath-Newton LLP, our newest Green Business!

Posted in In The News

Congratulations to Heath-Newton LLP, our newest Green Business!

Heath-Newton LLP has just been recognized as a Green Business! Congratulations!


Heath-Newton LLP specializes in family law, asset protection and estate planning, and has a strong track record of successful resolutions with minimal cost and disruption. Read more in their directory listing.

28 November 2012

Locus Energy, LLC is now a Green Business!

Posted in In The News

Locus Energy, LLC is now a Green Business!

Locus Energy has just been recognized! Way to go!

14 November 2012

Congratulations to Recurrent Energy and Enfinity America Corp, our newest Green Businesses!

Posted in In The News

Congratulations to Recurrent Energy and Enfinity America Corp, our newest Green Businesses!

Recurrent Energy and Enfinity America Corp, both in the solar energy field, are now Green Businesses! Congratulations!

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