Greenhouse gas law represents opportunity for business

Every year, Californians generate 92 million tons of waste. Much of that waste represents inefficiency, missed opportunities, and lost potential. I know the true value of eliminating waste. My family has built a business based on the idea that ending waste by reducing, reusing, and recycling is financially smart, creates jobs, and just makes sense.

So too does AB32 — the historic global warming bill mandating a 25 percent reduction of global warming pollution by 2020. This law, now in the early implementation stages, represents an incredible opportunity for business leaders across the state to innovate, increase efficiency, spur productivity, and become more responsible corporate citizens.

Nearly twenty years ago, pollution from landfills and limited space for overwhelming amounts of trash led to the passage of AB 939 which mandated a 50 percent reduction in waste going to California landfills (up from the then 10 percent diversion rate). A hue and cry went up: Impossible! Too expensive! Economy wrecker! Chicken little refrains from old business thinking. Today, Marin County recycles more than 75 percent of all waste collected because we have abandoned old ways of thinking and we relentlessly pursue innovative paths to zero waste. We recycle 547 tons of waste daily; in 2006 our recycling, composting, and furnishing biomass energy feedstock resulted in avoided indirect greenhouse gas emissions of 78,330 metric tons of CO2 equivalent – comparable to taking 16,955 cars off of the road. Across the state, Californians have met the 50 percent diversion goal because generating less waste means consuming less energy and resources, which equals more prosperity.

The lesson from AB 939 is not rocket science. Historically, both waste and energy use were seen as linked to economic prosperity. Sacramento leaders had the courage and vision to see a different future for garbage then and for energy now. As a businesswoman, I am convinced that California’s top business minds can and should do what we do best — lead the way in fully supporting AB 32 along with the new innovation, new investment, and new green jobs it will bring.

Dragging our feet in the transition to an economy built on efficiency and clean energy will only cost more in the long run. How can anyone watch the price of gas over the last three years and not recognize the fundamental economic principle underlying nonrenewable resources: scarcity sends prices ever upward. What’s more — the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t buy. Energy efficiency has been one of the major drivers in California’s economy for the past 30 years. Billions of dollars saved by consumers as a result of energy efficient appliances and buildings mandated by state are spent elsewhere, on goods and services that are lifeblood of our state’s economy. As we move forward in maximizing efficiency, our economy will thrive. In the long run, Californians will have more of their paychecks to spend on things other than utility bills.

The urgency of this challenge demands immediate action — we are already feeling the negative impacts of global warming. Rising temperatures are hitting the Western United States particularly hard. A recent study from the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization found that compared to the 20th century average, in the last five years the West has seen a rise in average temperatures that is 70 percent higher than the rest of the world. These high temperatures are putting tremendous stresses on California’s agricultural industry, fishing industry, wine industry, our outdoor sports industries, and the tourist industry.

Marin Sanitary is dedicated to reaching ever-higher recycling rates because reducing waste is a win-win-win for our company, California, and the globe. The sky is the limit for California business leaders who approach AB 32 with an open mind and an eye for innovation. My family business is living proof that companies in California can not only survive, they can thrive, innovate, turn good profits, and become better corporate citizens by reducing waste and global warming pollution.

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