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Wednesday, Apr 24, 2024

The Green Group

Valley business owners and executives say there’s a financial case to be made for going “green.” Yes, the term has been overused and abused by some. But as public awareness increases about global warming and depletion of the world’s natural resources, so is the demand for things like recycling, energy efficiency, and clean renewable sources of power. The following companies in the greater San Fernando Valley area are among many committed to meeting that demand. Impress Communications Inc. Location: Chatsworth Founded: 1989 Number of employees: 75 Paul Marino just can’t get the term “reduce, re-use, recycle” out of his head. So he made the green rallying cry a cornerstone of his commercial printing and visual communications business. “I view environmental sustainability as the way of the future,” said Marino, president of Chatsworth-based Impress Communications Inc. “And it’s part of Impress being on the cutting-edge.” Impress obtained Forest Stewardship Council certification, meaning it uses paper products that come from sustainable sources. American Printer magazine also recently gave the company an Environmental Excellence Award. The company recycles 150,000 pounds of paper per month and launched a program to pick-up customer’s recyclable paper. It uses soy and vegetable based inks that emit a low amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ones that emit no VOCs. Year over year from 2008 to 2009, the company reduced its VOC emissions 49 percent, said Marino. Marino also invested in state-of-the-art printing equipment to boost production efficiency. One environmental perk of the new equipment is that it uses 100 percent of ink in cartridges so the company doesn’t have to send toxic waste to the landfill. “We try to do a lot of things that send the right message to customers and potential customers,” said Marino. In 2006, Impress moved its operations into a new building. The new office space takes advantage of natural light a far cry from Impress’ old digs. The floors are sealed concrete floors instead of carpet. And glass in the building is tinted to help keep it cool. In February 2009, Impress installed 58 new green approved lighting fixtures that have boosted the quality of light in the building and reduced energy costs substantially. The company also uses non-toxic building cleaners and staggers shifts to avoid using power during peak hours. Worth the investment? “Through the down economy we have sustained well,” said Marino. Solar Choice Solutions Inc. Location: Calabasas Founded: 2006 Number of employees: 15 Business has been heating up for Larry Glick, president of Calabasas-based Solar Choice Solutions Inc., especially since state and federal entities started offering tax credits for installing solar systems on homes and businesses. “Demand has increased dramatically,” said Glick, a construction veteran who moved to the San Fernando Valley three years ago specifically to launch his solar installation company. “I have gone from installing zero systems three years ago to 15 systems per month today.” The federal government is offering a 30 percent tax credit on the cost of solar installation. Southern California Edison offers an incentive in the neighborhood of 18 percent and Los Angeles Department of Water & Power offsets installation costs with a 40 percent credit. Technically, a business or resident can recoup upwards of 70 percent of installation costs, said Glick. And he has no qualms about collecting the tax credit directly from local agencies to help customers reduce their out of pocket expenses. “A typical photovoltaic system will last at least 30 years; manufacturers guarantee products for upwards of 25 years; and I guarantee parts and labor for 10 years,” said Glick, adding there are not many things in life with these types of guarantees. Glick also started a leasing program for companies, where credit-worthy businesses pay no up-front costs for installation. Then they pay the same amount they would pay for regular utility bills for approximately 10 years. At the end of ten years, they own the solar system and will no longer pay energy bills. The cost of a given system varies greatly depending on location, available roof space, and the amount of energy a given building and occupant consume. Commercial buildings tend to work best for solar because they often have large flat roofs that can house the solar panels. Solar Choice Solutions Inc. is actively hiring sales professionals and experienced and apprentice level installers. Glick considers these positions to be “green jobs” that will contribute to the Valley’s economy for years to come. Glick got into the solar business about 15 years ago and has done installations throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has a degree in electrical engineering and one in finance, and says the latter has been more useful than he ever imagined. “There are a lot of financial reasons to go solar,” he said. “Demand will increase as we see more government incentives. For me it’s a way to make a living and do something good for the environment.” ADG Eco Lighting A division of Architectural Detail Group Location: Agoura Hills Founded: 2004 Number of employees: 15 “How many people does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” jokingly asked Gerald Olesker, CEO of Agoura Hills-based ADG Eco Lighting. “None, if you do it my way,” he added. Olesker, a lighting industry veteran who has worked on more than 900 jobs worldwide, is passionate about the use of induction lighting. Invented by Nikola Tesla, he said, the induction lamp system uses a revolutionary technology of light generation that combines basic principles of induction and gas discharge. Void of electrodes, it delivers 100,000 hours of high quality white light. How’s that green? Induction lights last considerably longer than conventional lights, which reduces replacement costs and maintenance; mercury levels are lower than conventional lighting; and his products are manufactured right here in the U.S., which cuts down on costs and emissions related to shipping. The induction bulb uses 50 percent less wattage than metal halide and almost half the consumption than a high pressure sodium bulb to produce virtually the same amount of visually effective (or pupil) lumens. It emits considerably less heat, which can reduce air conditioning costs. The company also specializes in the installation of low energy LED lighting. ADG Eco Lighting takes a holistic approach, said Olesker. It assesses client’s aesthetic and functional lighting needs, conducts an energy audit, and determines how clients can achieve the fastest possible return on investment. The company’s retro-fit of a high-end auto dealership is one example. The client reported that it is saving $122 per year per fixture, which is the result of reductions in air conditioning, energy and maintenance costs. The client also noted that induction lighting brings out the rich colors in cars on the showroom floor, which helps sell more products. Financial savings to clients is good for everybody, said Olesker. “Tremendous savings on the client side and more revenue on our side mean that we can create more green jobs,” he said. ADG Eco Lighting’s primary customers include commercial industrial property owners, real estate investment trusts, and individuals or corporations with large real estate portfolios. The company is also developing a program to recycle all of the lighting material and metals it pulls out of buildings during retro-fit jobs. It offers a lease program where clients pay little money up-front for product and installation. “I feel like as a small entrepreneurial business person, and American manufacturer of decorative and functional lighting, I had a responsibility to promote this technology,” said Olesker. Pentadyne Power Corp. Location: Chatsworth Founded: 1998 Number of employees: 48 In 2008, Pentadyne Power Corporation was named one of one of the fastest growing private companies in the San Fernando Valley, and it ranked No. 162 on the Inc. 500 list. The high-tech firm grew 1,533 percent from 2005 to 2007, with revenues increasing during that period from $600,000 to $9.8 million. Growth has slowed during the recession and Pentadyne has had to make some cut-backs, according to company officials. Regardless, revenue has increased every year since 2006. “As people are more conscious of the need to be green it has clearly been a benefit to us,” said Marc Campion, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Pentadyne. “But in a bad economy people can only go green if they can afford it.” The company manufactures and markets advanced flywheel energy storage systems. In plain English, it makes energy storage units that provide an uninterrupted power supply to keep things like servers, communications equipment and medical devices running 24/7. Think: potentially life saving uninterrupted electricity during something like a roaming black-out or natural disaster. The green hook is that the compact, self contained units are an alternative to lead acid batteries, which is a typical stand-by for uninterrupted power supply. The product lasts about 20 years longer than lead acid batteries, requires less maintenance, is cheaper over the long-haul though maybe not up-front, and it doesn’t use virgin lead and sulfuric acid. “Our technology is very space age,” said Campion. Pentadyne shipped its first commercial production flywheel in 2004. To date, it has sold more than 700 of these units worldwide. It also has a multi-year direct supply agreement with a Department of Defense contractor for the purchase of more than 500 flywheel systems. Campion said Pentadyne is not the be-all end-all of green companies. But it’s replacing something lead acid batteries- that’s very un-green, he said. And to the extent the company continues to grow in the San Fernando Valley, it will be adding high-tech green jobs to the local economy. “Green is still fairly nascent,” said Campion. “But I think the green economy will come back (as the recession eases) and it’s going to be huge.” Simply Mumtaz Events Location: Burbank Founded: 2005 Number of employees: 7 Think about how much trash the average children’s birthday party generates. Now multiply that by a few hundred and throw in promotional pamphlets, signage, and chotchkes and you’ll get an idea of how wasteful corporate special events and meetings can be. “It just piles up,” said Joella Hopkins, owner of Simply Mumtaz Events in Burbank, a special events and meetings management and production company. But therein lays an opportunity. Hopkins specializes in planning “green” events for associations and corporate entities. To the best of her ability, and within budget, she uses organic, seasonal and locally sourced foods. Signage and pamphlets are all done on recycled paper and with non-toxic inks. And she strives to recycle and compost as much waste as possible. Regardless of whether the client is interested in touting the event as green, Hopkins includes elements of environmental responsibility in the planning. “We always give clients a green option,” said Hopkins. “They may not care before the event, but when we show them post event how much waste they reduced, they’re like ‘Wow, we did that,’ and they want to do it again the next year.” The company’s first green event was a gala for the local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. Hopkins served as much organic food as possible, made centerpieces out of fruit that attendees could take home, and served beverages that gave proceeds to save the rainforests. Guests received trees in a box that could be planted after the gala. An event she produced for the International Special Events Society was very close to being zero-waste, she said. Waste was recycled or composted, energy generated from renewable sources, and d & #233;cor made out of recyclable or re-usable materials. Hopkins also walks the walk in her own office. She decorated the interior with paints that emit low amounts of volatile organic compounds, installed renewable bamboo floors, practices energy conservation, recycles ink cartridges and other waste, and purchases 60 percent of her energy from clean and renewable sources such as wind and solar. “What piqued my interest in ‘green’ is the fact that it wasn’t being done in the industry,” said Hopkins, adding that first event helped her develop vendor relationships she counts on today.

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