Greening Main Street

Many workers don't think about conserving energy at work. After all, they aren't paying the power bill. Who cares if I leave the lights on or the computer on?

Phil Pennino of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. says that kind of thinking is shortsighted. Pennino, speaking at REXPO VI , an annual green-energy workshop in Stockton on March 11, said reduced energy costs and less consumption translate to an improved bottom line.

PG&E is committed to increasing the use of renewables from 14% of its current portfolio to more than 20% over the next decade. As incentives, the utility offers rebates to businesses and individuals who conserve.

In San Joaquin County, for example, 6,675 applicants between 2007 and 2009 received almost $30 million in rebates and saving 67,699 kilowatts of power. "If you buy a new dishwasher," Pennino said, "You might be able to get rebates."

Chris Bonnet, owner of American Recycling in Modesto, said businesses can cut their landfill costs and save money through a recycling program."We go into your trash and find stuff," Bonnet told participants at REXPO.

He saved one mid-sized company $12,000 per month in "tipping fees," which are charges to use landfills. Shrink wrap, office paper and plastic strapping are among the items that can be recycled more than they already are.

Stockton is proving to be a model of green for other cities. Its Commute Connection ride-share program accommodates 8,862 registered commuter and 132 van pools. The average commute distance: 29 miles one way, said Yvette Davis of San Joaquin Council of Governments.

The city even has a program for toilets - or rather replacing old ones with new high-efficiency ones that use less water. The new program will pay for the installation of 500 toilets, saving the equivalent of 1,000 households of water, said Sharene Gonzales, Stockton's water conservation manager.
(Photo of Paul Johnson, executive director of San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization adressing panelists.)