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Sonoma County honors 19 firms for achieving green certification

Homeward Bound of Marin recently completed a $9.3 million, renewable-energy-supplied job training center for the homeless called The Next Key Center.

The Novato facility opened Nov. 3, and includes 32 studio apartments and a commercial kitchen that provides employment training for residents. The building features a rooftop solar energy system that generates about 70 percent of its electrical needs and heats about 60 percent of the hot water used each day.

The project was financed through a unique Immediate Public Opportunity funding structure created by Homeward Bound, which is the first nonprofit to launch this kind of arrangement. Renowned investor Warren Buffett was the first to buy into the IPO at $32 a share, followed by other famous names including musician Sammy Hagar, Giants pitcher Russ Ortiz and more.

“We are ready to generate returns on their investment for years to come by empowering people to achieve independence,” said Homeward Bound Executive Director Mary Kay Sweeney.

Officials with the nonprofit said the center is financially self sustaining through a catering business and dessert enterprise operated by the group, as well as a conference space that can be rented out to the public for events.

The center is located at 1385 N. Hamilton Parkway in Novato. For more information, visit www.hbofm.org or call 415-382-3363 ext. 213.

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Bonterra Vineyards of Hopland helped convert more than 2,000 acres of golf turf into natural habitat and save more than 190 million gallons of water after completing its month-long “greening the green” project.

Through a partnership with the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, the organic grape growers recruited 100 golf courses in 25 states to join the cooperative.

“Partnering with Audubon International was a natural fit for us. Bonterra uses a lot of the same water-management and habitat strategies at vineyards,” said Don Freytag, global brand director for Bonterra.

The project hosted by Audubon International provides training for earning a green golf certification through environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, chemical-use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management and outreach. Currently about 13 percent of the nation’s courses are enrolled in the program.

Bonterra helped promote the program by paying the $200 registration fee for the 100 courses that signed up between Sept. 16 and the middle of November.

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Seventeen Sonoma County businesses were recognized Dec. 9 by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for their efforts in becoming certified green businesses.

Through the Bay Area Green Business Program, more than 1,400 businesses have been certified green since the program’s inception.

Nearly 40 businesses in Napa County have been certified, 30 total in Sonoma County and 65 in Marin County.

The businesses honored were Bank of Marin, Chateau St. Jean, Clone Digital Print & Copy, Dauphine Press, Digi-Type, Environmental Dynamics, Exchange Bank, Friedman’s Home Improvement, Jordan Winery, Mrs. Grossman’s Paper Co./Paragon Label, North Bay Self Storage, Pisenti & Brinker LLP, Portola Systems, Simi Winery, Solar Works, Sonoma Index-Tribune and Sonoma Wine Co.

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Napa Valley College has taken yet another step in the greening of its campus. It has installed six Ice Energy’s Ice Bear hybrid cooling systems. Ice Bear systems reduce the daytime power and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“As a public education institution, we believe it is important to make campus improvements that both lower costs and promote sustainability in our community,” said Dan TerAvest, director of campus planning. “California’s colleges spend undue amounts of money to keep classrooms cool and comfortable. Napa Valley Community College found a way to lower the cost of cooling and reduce our carbon footprint without compromising comfort.”

The systems were installed in the school’s Child Development Center and employ an ice storage system that shifts 95 percent of peak-time electricity to evening hours when it is cheaper and more energy efficient to produce.

The new systems will save the college $5,100 per year at current utility rates, and the college has obtained a rebate from Pacific Gas & Electric’s “Shift & Save” program.

Previously, Napa Valley College installed photovoltaic panels to increase energy efficiency, and according to college officials, it is looking into wind power for the future.

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Submit items for this column to Ashley Furness at afurness@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or Jenna Loceff at jloceff@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4259 or fax 707-521-5292.