CITYWIDE — Angela Lund, owner of Baby Daze Boutique, runs a green business.
Her store provides new and used items for children up to the age of 6, and does a consignment-style swap for parents when their children have outgrown a product that’s still in good condition.
“The whole thing is recycling,” Lund said. “It keeps them out of the landfill, let’s you reduce the products bought and reduce the money spent.”
However, Baby Daze didn’t qualify for certification as a green business in Santa Monica because only she and her mother, Kit Rentsch, staff the boutique, and the certification through City Hall has a three employee threshold.
Today, Lund has the green business seal of approval proudly displayed in her store courtesy of an initiative begun by the Small Business Development Center at Santa Monica College, which recently leveraged federal grant money to expand the program to cover mom-n-pops.
“We’re filling in the gap within the city of Santa Monica to certify home-based businesses with two or fewer employees,” said Steven Sedlic, a business advisor with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
The trouble with small and home-based businesses was that they didn’t have the same kind of purchasing habits or other infrastructure that a restaurant or larger business seeking the green certification had, said Shannon Parry, a sustainability coordinator with the Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment.
“Chemical purchases, waste generation, water and energy use, those were behaviors that small businesses take much more at the scale of the individual rather than the corporate purchaser,” Parry said.
The natural divide happened somewhere around five employees, and after that there was no list of criteria developed for smaller businesses, she said.
That left a big gap.
“Imagine how many home-based businesses there are, and how many would like to get certified because they are aligned with our ethos,” Sedlic said.
The SBDC formed its checklist using the same “guts” as Sustainable Works, a nonprofit specializing in environmental education that works with City Hall, and most other organizations that specialize in making businesses more eco-friendly.
Employees like Sedlic then go to the business and inspect their bathrooms, closets, packaging materials, cleaning items and appliances to see where there’s room for improvement.
Lund, who describes herself as an eco-conscious person, already had the energy-efficient light bulbs on board and the right kind of cleaning products, but SBDC inspectors came up with a few changes for her.
“I did install an aerator in my faucet and added some stickers reminding people to turn off lights and use less water,” she said.
Lund upped her stationary game, using paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer content.
It was pretty easy, she said.
“Mostly, it was just small changes to what I had already going,” she said.
Those kinds of small changes are important to the environment, but they can also help out the bottom line.
Consumers are becoming “values aspirational practical purchasers,” according to consumer marketing group BBMG. In English, that means they buy with intention, seeking out products that do no harm and even give back to the world in some way.
“The real purpose is to get certified so they can market themselves as green,” Sedlic said. “They’re facing increasingly skeptical consumers who are turning to the web to see what makes a company green and how they are able to use that moniker. We are the third party that verifies these claims.”
There are others out there, but some are fly-by-night operations that charge hundreds of dollars for a seal of approval that could be meaningless when the company closes down, Sedlic said.
“We want to lock out all of these fake certifiers that are coming into the market and are doing it just for money,” he said.
Certifying with the SBDC is free, although making some of the alterations they require may funnel some cash to a hardware store, and it’s open to businesses large and small in the Los Angeles area.