Boise Mayor Highlights Sustainability Practices of Local Businesses

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The offices of CSHQA designed and moved into a renovated warehouse on Broad Street with a platinum LEED certification as their target. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The offices of CSHQA designed and moved into a renovated warehouse on Broad Street with a platinum LEED certification as their target.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter gathered with representatives of the U.S. Green Building Council Idaho Chapter, Republic Services, Energy Seal, Boise Centre, CSHQA and the Owyhee to commend sustainability efforts of local businesses. The gathering took place on the porch of CSHQA—an architectural firm that renovated its own office space from an old warehouse across from the Ada County Courthouse.

"We as a city have been at this for quite some time," Bieter said. "We've long been looking for opportunities to expand our sustainability." 

He took this as an example to showcase Boise businesses that are going green. For CSHQA, the architects designed their whole office with the goal of a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification. Its parking spaces are built with bricks and sand to allow storm water to percolate into the ground, its toilets are low-flow and its office is heated with geothermal-radiant floors. 

In the clean and modern-looking architectural office, it's not hard to imagine the building is energy efficient. But the executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council Idaho Chapter, Charlie Woodruff, pointed to some other businesses making a difference in the realm of sustainability.

One of them was Republic Services, the trash-and-recycling pick-up company for Boise, Eagle and Meridian.

"It's an honor to be asked here today as the trash company," said Rachele Klein of Republic Services. "You don't usually think of trash in terms of sustainability, but far from it." 

Republic Services has changed large pieces of its operation to fit into the mayor's goal of minimizing the city's carbon footprint. For example, 87 of the trash collectors' 105 garbage trucks now run on natural gas, a cleaner fuel than diesel. The company also trained all its drivers on techniques that help save fuel, like accelerating and decelerating slowly, checking air pressure in the tires daily and not letting the engine idle for longer than three minutes. 

"That saved over two gallons per truck per day," Klein said. "That's 210 gallons of fuel saved daily."

Republic Services also covers their trash daily with a tarp, where they used to use six inches of dirt. Now, they only use the dirt once every three or four days, saving 30 truck-loads of dirt per day—plus cutting back the fuel, carbon emissions, labor, and excavation required for that process. Klein said that will also increase the lifespan of the Ada County Landfill.

Another business highlighted for its sustainability efforts was the Boise Centre on the Grove. Mary-Michael Rogers explained how to make a convention center fit into an energy-efficient world, even though the building wasn't built with any LEED certification in mind. 

"Most of what we do, you may not see or be aware of," Rogers said. "Conventions bring in pounds upon pounds of paper and waste products. Trade shows bring in pounds of cardboard. So we make recycling very easy."

Boise Centre offers co-mingled bins for recycling in convenient locations to make recycling as easy as throwing something away in the trash.  

"We collected 32,610 pounds of recycled materials in 2013," she said. And sending that recycling off was a quarter the price of trash collection.

The convention center also installed light sensors in its 20 conference rooms that are linked to heating and cooling, so if the lights aren't on, neither are those energy-sucking systems. Most of their wine glasses are taken to Usful Glassworks, where they're repurposed as glasses used in restaurants around the Treasure Valley.

Lastly, Clay Carley, property developer of the high-profile Owyhee renovation and owner of Old Boise, talked about the importance of revitalizing old buildings in a sustainable way.

"Today, to take an old building that exists already and reuse it saves an incredible amount of energy, even if you replace it in a carbon-neutral sense," Carley said. "Reusing these buildings keeps character in the town."

The Owyhee, slated to open July 9, champions many of these energy-efficient techniques, as well as some new ones. Carley said it's one of the first buildings to harnesses geothermal water underneath the sidewalks to keep snow from piling up. Carley said another goal of the Owhyee apartments is to bring people who would normally have to commute to live in the downtown area.

Mayor Bieter ended the conference by stating it doesn't take a complete overhaul of someone's business to integrate green ideas that help reduce the city's carbon footprint.

"Sustainable practices aren't a burden on businesses. They're an opportunity," he said. "You can make sustainability practices part of your DNA. It's not an add-on, it's not something you do after you've done everything else. It's something you do every day. It's part of the very core of your practice."


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