Green Business

Welcome to the Green Business Program Resource. The purpose of this resource is to help you learn about what a green business is and what it takes to develop one.
What is a green business program?

A green business program is a program that promotes and encourages the adoption of best management practices by businesses with the aim to reduce its environmental footprint. The program then verifies that those businesses meet higher standards of environmental performance and, if those standards are deemed sufficient, they are then certified as “green”. Green business programs usually involve a partnership of local governmental agencies and, in some cases, non profit organizations. Members of those partnerships then work together to help those small businesses comply with all environmental regulations by taking action to conserve resources, prevent pollution, and minimize waste.
How does a business benefit by being certified as “green”?

There are several ways a business benefits from green certification, which includes, but is not limited to: 1) free publicity from government publications that promote green businesses as preferred places to shop or dine; 2) a healthier relationship with regulatory governmental bodies, 3) recognition as an environmental leader; 4) an increase in savings by improvement of operational efficiency through reduced waste in all of its forms; 5) an overall improvement of employee morale, safety, and health; 6) a marketing edge over competition, and 7) satisfaction that becoming certified is simply the “right thing” to do.
What does a typical business have to do to be certified “green”?

This depends on your local green business program (if there is one). But typically, a green business program generally requires the following to be considered for certification:

  • Compliance with all environmental regulations;
  • Implementation of water conservation practices (where applicable);
  • Implementation of energy conservation practices (where applicable);
  • Implementation of waste reduction practices (where applicable);
  • Implementation of pollution prevention measures to improve overall efficiency and reduce overall waste generation.
  • Development and implementation of a continuous improvement plan;

Where can I see examples of green business programs and learn how they work?

There are many green business programs that are being developed or are already developed throughout the United States. Some green business programs are general in nature (they certify a variety of types of businesses) and others are industry-specific. The following list is a good example of what has been developed by various organizations and agencies throughout the United States.

New England States (EPA Region 1)
Mid-Atlantic States (EPA Region 3)
Southeast States (EPA Region 4)
North Central States (EPA Region 5)
Pacific Southwest (EPA Region 9)
Pacific Northwest (EPA Region 10)
National Programs
Additional Resources:


New England States (EPA Region 1) TOP

Environmental Leader Certification Lodging and Restaurant Businesses – Maine
The benefits of this green business certification program for restaurants and lodging facilities include the following:

  • Environmental Leader flag and decals to display at your property.
  • Environmental Leader logo to use for advertising (website, literature, decals, etc.).
  • A listing on the Maine Tourism Association and Maine Office of Tourism web sites and for members, a listing on the Maine Inn Keeper’s Association website, all of which identify your business as Maine certified environmentally preferable.
  • Free on-going technical assistance from Maine Departmental of Environmental Protection on how to continue to reduce environmental impact while saving money.

Cost: Free
Region Covered: State of Maine
Types of Businesses: Restaurants
Criteria and Process: 1) Complete the self-certification workbook by checking off all of the initiatives that your facility is currently undertaking, 2) Calculate your estimated score by adding up all of the checked boxes, 3) Send completed workbook to DEP, 4) Upon final scoring, an official letter detailing your point total will be sent with possible low-cost recommendations, and 5) DEP may send an inspector to verify compliance throughout the year, unannounced.

Green Restaurant Association – Massachusetts
The Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a national non-profit organization, provides services in research, consulting, education, marketing and community organizing. The GRA utilizes a collaborative strategy that involves restaurants, manufacturers, vendors, grassroots organizations, government, media, and restaurant customers. The GRA’s model provides a convenient way for all sectors of the restaurant industry, which represents 10% of the U.S. economy, to become more environmentally sustainable.

Cost: (for smaller restaurants) $700 – $1000/yr – (for larger restaurants) $1000 – $2000/yr.
Region Covered: U.S.
Types of Businesses: Restaurants
Criteria and Process: Green Restaurant provides a comprehensive and user-friendly method of rewarding existing restaurants, new builds, and events with points in each of the GRA’s environmental guideline categories, which include: energy, water, waste, disposables, chemical and pollution reduction, sustainable food, sustainable furnishings and building materials.

Certified Green Restaurants must fulfill the following: 1) accumulate a total of 100 points, 2) meet minimum points in each category, 3) full-scale recycling program, 4) free of polystyrene foam, and annual education program. Participating facilities have the liberty to attempt to achieve the following certification ratings: 1) 2-star (minimum 100 points), 3-star (minimum of 175 points), and 4-star (have at least tallied 470 points).

Mid-Atlantic States (EPA Region 3) TOP

Virginia Green – Virginia
A network of tourism-related organizations and programs that are committed to protecting and promoting the environment. Virginia Green Lodging was the first established program in the Virginia Green Network, but criteria are now being developed for all sectors of the tourism industry, which include, but are not limited to: lodging, welcome/visitor centers, wineries, attractions, travel organizations, partners, restaurants, conference centers, golf courses, campgrounds, convention center, and parks. Minimum “core activities” have been developed for each of these sector categories, and they are encouraged to become as “green” as possible!

Region Covered: State of Virginia
Types of Businesses: Certification available for lodging, welcome/visitor centers, wineries, attractions, travel organizations, partners, restaurants, conference centers, golf courses, campgrounds, convention center, and parks.
Criteria and Process: 1) fill out application and send to Virginia DEQ, 2) DEQ will draft a profile of your facility, and 3) your facility gets certified.

SB NOW – Washington, D.C.
The Sustainable Business Network of Washington, DC (SB NOW) aims to help make organizations more environmentally sustainable while also reducing their operating costs. The program promotes water conservation and quality, energy conservation, waste reduction and recycling, pollution prevention, environmentally-friendly procurement and training. The program offers checklists, practical steps, ideas and resources to help “green” a small business or facility. There is also a guide that is offered along with a certification process developed and administered by SB NOW, which offers third-party validation of a company’s commitment and achievement regarding its environmental goals to its customers and employees. Getting certified also allows the company to green its brand and differentiate itself in the marketplace.

$350-$4,000, depending on square footage, lasts 2 years.
Region covered: Greater Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area, with plans to expand nationally.
Types of Businesses: All types of businesses in the DC area.
Criteria and Process: Click here to view the criteria and process for certification.

Southeast States (EPA Region 4) TOP

Florida Department of Environment Green Lodging Program
The Florida Green Lodging Program was established in 2004 by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with the intent of recognizing and rewarding environmentally conscientious lodging facilities in the state. Through this rapidly growing program DEP encourages the lodging industry to conserve and protect Florida’s natural resources. The Florida Green Lodging Program is unique in that it covers an all-inclusive list of environmental initiatives that are specific to protecting and preserving Florida’s environment.

Cost: Free
Region Covered: State of Florida
Types of Businesses: Hotels and other lodging facilities
Criteria and Process: 1) Identify an Environmental Champion, 2) Obtain approval from appropriate management and submit an admission application, 3) Create a “Green Team”, 4) Conduct an Environmental Assessment, 5) Establish goals and identify environmental improvement projects, 6) Schedule an on-site designation review, 7) Maintain a One Palm status to advance to the next level, and 8) Continue to monitor and evaluate the program

North Central States (EPA Region 5) TOP

Green Lodging Michigan – Michigan
Green Lodging Michigan is a joint program through Michigan’s Energy Office and the Department of Environmental Quality. It is designed to promote Green Lodging throughout the state by encouraging hospitality facilities to adopt cost-saving “green” practices. It is a voluntary program that establishes environmental guidelines for the hospitality industry to conserve natural resources and prevent pollution.

Cost: Free
Region Covered: State of Michigan
Types of Businesses: Hotels and other lodging facilities
Criteria and Process: The process of becoming a Green Lodging Facility is quite simple. First, a facility should download and return the Green Lodging Application to the Energy Office. After applying, the facility may then begin the certification process by completing the self-assessment packet.

There are three certification levels that can be obtained: Green Lodging Partner, Green Lodging Steward and Green Lodging Leader. The Partner level is reliant on a self-assessment and achieving a set of minimum requirements. The Steward and Leader levels must satisfy the minimum requirements and a specific amount of points. They also are contingent to on-site verification. Certification is valid for three years. To become recertified, a facility must resubmit a self-assessment checklist after the three-year period.

Pacific Southwest (EPA Region 9) TOP

Environmental Finance Center, Region IX (EFC9)– Region IX
The Environmental Finance Center, Region IX, based at Dominican University of California, is working for healthier communities through cleaner business, by advancing the environmental industry and promoting pollution prevention, source reduction and energy efficiency. The US EPA, with Cal EPA/DTSC approval, named EFC the Region 9 Green Business Program Coordinator. In this capacity, EFC9 assists US EPA, Cal EPA/DTSC and the Bay Area Government Business Programs in their Green Business Program expansion efforts.

Region covered: US EPA Region IX which includes California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii
Types of Businesses: Any government agencies and non-profit organizations in the region interested in establishing a Green Business Program.
Criteria and Process: Click here to contact EFC9 for details concerning criteria and process.

Green Business Program – Arizona
ADEQ has partnered with AAA Arizona, Automotive Service Association of Arizona and the City of Mesa to certify auto repair shops under the Arizona Green Business Program. The scope of this program includes not only Pollution Prevention (P2) activities, but also Resource Conservation (energy, water and recycling) efforts.
This voluntary program gives automotive service facilities an opportunity to promote an environmentally friendly approach to car repair. “Green” automotive shops set high standards for pollution prevention and resource conservation — standards for other industries to follow. Automotive facilities that receive the Arizona Green Business certification can display a sign with the Green Business logo, showing customers that they are doing their part to protect – and clean up – our environment.

Free. Renewal based on a yearly-basis.
Region covered: State of Arizona.
Types of Businesses: Automotive repair services.
Criteria and Process: Cleaning and Degreasing; Waste Fluids; Housekeeping; Energy Conservation; Water Conservation; Waste Reduction. The process includes filling out an application, following and implementing as many steps on the pre-certified checklist from ADEQ; and AAA Arizona will inspect your facility for certification or re-certification.
Green Business Program – Hawaii
The Green Business Program is a partnership between the Departments of Health; and Business, Economic Development, and Tourism; and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, working together with to assist and recognize businesses that operate in an environmentally responsible way. The program helps businesses to go beyond compliance to conserve energy, water and other resources, and to reduce pollution and waste. This program also provides valuable opportunities for industry members to share information on practices that have been implemented which save money and conserve our precious natural resources.

Region covered: State of Hawaii
Types of Businesses: Small and large businesses in any area.
Criteria and Process: There is a 3-step process to receive certification: 1) Fill out application, 2) implement what is required by the Green Business checklist; and 3) inspection.

Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) – California
The Bay Area Green Business Program verifies that businesses meet higher standards of environmental performance. Its partnership of government agencies and utilities helps local businesses comply with all environmental regulations and take actions to conserve resources, prevent pollution, and minimize waste. It offers motivated businesses and agencies an easy-to-use framework for improving environmental performance. Over 1,000 businesses and public agencies have been certified since 1997. There are nine participating counties in CA that are part of this coalition: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.

Cost: Free
Region Covered: CA counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.
Types of businesses: Auto services, printing, hotels, restaurants, dentists, wineries, office and retail operations, garment cleaners, remodeling, and landscape design and maintenance.
Criteria and Process: Regulatory compliance, pollution prevention, waste reduction and energy and water conservation. Criteria may be different from county to county. The process includes application verification by a utility or local agency representative from storm water, air quality, hazardous waste, etc.

Green Business Network – California
This network of green business programs includes those participating in the Bay Area network as well as other counties outside of the Bay Area in California. Network members meet each year at the Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network (WSPPN) conference to discuss goals and strategies for the statewide network. Participating counties in this network include:
Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Monica, Solano, and Sonoma.

Cost: Free
Region Covered: CA Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Solano, and Sonoma.
Types of businesses: Auto services, printing, hotels, restaurants, dentists, wineries, office and retail operations, garment cleaners, remodeling, and landscape design and maintenance
Criteria and Process: Regulatory compliance, pollution prevention, waste reduction and energy and water conservation. Criteria may be different from county to county. The process includes filling out an application that is verified by a utility or local agency representative from storm water, air quality, hazardous waste, etc.

Pacific Northwest (EPA Region 10) TOP

Green Star – Alaska
Green Star is a non-profit organization, based in Anchorage, Alaska, that encourages businesses to practice waste reduction, energy conservation and pollution prevention through education, technical assistance, and an award-winning voluntary “green business” certification program.

Cost: Free, lasts two years.
Region Covered: State of Alaska
Types of Business: Schools, Government agencies, industry and small businesses.
Criteria and Process: 1) Enroll in the Green Star program, 2)Participate in a site assessment, 3) Implement the Green Star Standards, 4) Submit your Standards Achievement Report and Gain Approval of the Standards Committee, 5) Receive your Award, and 5) Maintain your Award.

EcoBiz – Oregon
The Ecological Business Program, or EcoBiz, was created by a collective of Oregon cities and agencies which focuses on efforts by small businesses to minimize environmental impacts. The program prefers pollution prevention practices as the best way to reduce environmental impacts and thus continues to offer certification to small business and facilties that utilize pollution prevention practices to reduce their impacts in air, water and solid waste. The EcoBiz program is credited as being one of the first “multi-media” certification programs in the country.

Region covered: State of Oregon
Types of Business: Businesses in the automotive and landscaping industries (only in the greater Portland area).
Criteria and process: Certified businesses go beyond compliance with local environmental requirements and implement pollution prevention efforts in their work sites. Businesses are certified through an intensive application and evaluation process. During the certification process, businesses are evaluated in the areas of: 1) Hazardous waste management, 2) Air quality and pollution, 3) Spill prevention and response, 4) Product and waste storage, 5) Cleaning procedures, 6) Purchasing/inventory management, 7) Recycling procedures, 8) Employee involvement and training, 9) Drainage Systems, and 10) Energy And Water Use.

EnviroStars – State of Washington, King County

The EnviroStars program was created in King County, Washington as a service of the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in 1995, and has since been adopted across the Puget Sound region, with programs now offered in Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Pierce and Whatcom counties. EnviroStars was designed to give small businesses incentives and recognition for reducing hazardous materials and waste, in order to protect public health, municipal systems, and the environment.

Cost: Free
Region Covered: Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Pierce and Whatcom counties. in Washington State.
Types of Businesses: any business that generates hazardous waste, from car repair shops, colleges, dental offices, dry cleaners, landscapers, marinas, printers, government facilities, and manufacturers, to zoos.
Criteria and Process: 1) Determine eligibility of business for certification?, 2) Complete an EnviroStars application worksheet, 3) Schedule a free, on-site consultation, 4) Complete tasks agreed to in the visit, to ensure you meet all qualification criteria.

National Programs TOP

EarthRight Business Institute
This institute is dedicated to helping companies achieve environmentally sustainable business practices. By utilizing the Green Business Certification, Training, and Supply Chain Management programs, EarthRight members demonstrate to consumers, employees, and business partners that they are seriously committed to the environment.

Cost:$1,000-$40,000, based on annual revenue.
Region Covered: U.S.
Types of Businesses: Any private company in any sector.
Criteria and Process: Three tiers. Minimum requires compliance, assessment of environmental impacts, sustainability plan, executive commitment, green team, monitoring program; Upper tiers require meeting reduction targets for emissions and resources. The process includes submitting an application with supporting documentation, management and employee interview, and facility inspection.

Green Business Alliance’s “Greenify”
Green Alliance provides guidance on how to “greenify” daily practices at home and in the office. By “greenify”, the alliance means adopting environmentally sensitive practices. Green Alliance is comprised of green business alliance, green home alliance and the greenvisibility directory. Green Alliance helps companies “greenify”, through a certification process, for better business and homes. The Green Business Alliance serves companies or homes across the nation.

Cost: $475 and up, depending on business size, lasts 1 year.
Region covered: U.S.
Types of Businesses: Businesses of all types and for residential units.
Criteria and Process: Broken into six categories: supply room copying and printing; office space; general business practices; renewable energy certificates; outside area; and kitchen break room and bathroom. The process includes paying a fee for proprietary guidelines and must self-verify criteria that have been met. Company officer sends notarized affirmation and application which is then reviewed by staff.

Green C Certification
The stated goal of American Consumer Council’s (ACC) Green C Certification program is to encourage and recognize Green practices among businesses and organizations throughout North America, and promote Corporate Social Responsibility that preserves and enhances the earth. The program is designed to incentivize businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to operate in an environmentally efficient manner, by recognizing those deserving organizations that meet ACC’s environmental compliance and CSR criteria with ACC’s Green C Certification.

Cost: $3,000-$5,000, lasts 3 years.
Region covered: U.S., Worldwide in 2009.
Types of Businesses: Includes businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.
Criteria and Process: Three levels of recognition for compliance; pollution, waste management and waste prevention; energy conservation and efficiency; water conservation and efficiency; employee, supplier and consumer education; green community enhancements; and societal impact. The process includes an application, a review, and on-site inspection for highest tier, which is Emerald.

Green Seal Certification
Green Seal is a non-profit organization devoted to environmental standard setting, product certification, and public education. Green Seal’s mission is to work towards environmental sustainability by identifying and promoting environmentally responsible products, purchasing, and production. Through its standard setting, certification and education programs, Green Seal:

  • identifies products that are designed and manufactured in an environmentally responsible manner;
  • offers scientific analyses to help consumers make educated purchasing decisions regarding environmental impacts;
  • ensures consumers that any product bearing the Green Seal Certification Mark has earned the right to use it; and
  • encourages manufacturers to develop new products that are significantly less damaging to the environment than their predecessors.

The intent of Green Seal’s environmental requirements is to reduce, to the extent technologically and economically feasible, the environmental impacts associated with the manufacture, use and disposal of products. Set on a category-by-category basis, Environmental Standards focus on significant opportunities to reduce a product’s environmental impact. Green Seal provides certifications for the following types of businesses as well as a number of products.

Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services
Fleet Vehicle Maintenance Operations
Green Lodging Certification

Green Seal also has green business standards in development for Residential Cleaning Services, and Restaurant and Food Service Operations.

A Green Seal Laureate Program has been developed in response to the need for companies to proclaim their sustainability in an honest and credible way. The Green Seal Laureate Program is tiered to inspire leadership. It recognizes and rewards accomplishments and encourages continuous improvement. Factors that are considered in identifying potential participants include overall environmental leadership in the company’s sector and specific areas of exceptional environmental performance.

Cost: Click here to see a list of fees.
Region Covered: U.S.
Types of Businesses: Green Seal works with manufacturers, industry sectors, purchasing groups, and governments at all levels to “green” the production and purchasing chain.
Criteria and Process: Click here to view a detailed description on how to get certified by Green Seal.

The Sustainable Green Printing PartnershipThe SGP Partnership is an independent third-party registration organization formed in June 2007 as a collaboration between Printing Industries of America, Flexographic Technical Association , and Specialty Graphic and Imaging Association; with the primary goals of defining sustainable green printing and identifying steps that help the printing industry establish sustainable (or green) manufacturing and business practices.

Cost: Application Fee — $600; Annual Renewal — $300; audit — $3000 plus expenses. Members of any supporting organizations of the partnership enjoy a 50% discount.
Region Covered: U.S.
Types of Businesses: Printers
Criteria and Process: Click here to view a detailed description on how to get certified by the SGP Partnership.

The Institute for Green Business Certification
The Institute for Green Business Certification provides environmental management and sustainability consulting to businesses, organizations of all sizes, professional and college sports stadiums as well as youth sports complexes and public venues in North America and around the globe!

$1,990-$3,990, last 2 years.
Region covered: World-wide
Types of Business: manufacturers, industrial firms, service providers, automotive shops, printers, food and beverage companies, hardware stores, hotels, restaurants, landscapers, cleaning services, attorneys, engineers, marketing consultants, florists, grocery stores, gift shops, transportation, stadiums, health care and more!
Criteria and Process: Ten business practice categories including regulatory compliance, energy and water conservation, environmentally friendly purchasing, and recycling. The process includes an initial on-site review, gap analysis, consultation on missed standards, and final inspection.


The ABCs of How to Develop a Green Business Program – Webinar
Description: Green Business Programs (“GBPs”) are being successfully implemented by local jurisdictions in California and other states. By certifying and promoting businesses that operate in an environmentally responsible way, GBPs conserve resources, prevent pollution and help consumers shop consistently with their values.

The last decade has seen tremendous growth (and enthusiasm) for GBPs. Several jurisdictions are in the process of establishing their own GBP, while others are expressing interest and are considering developing one too.

This webinar is specifically designed to provide an introduction to jurisdictions that are interested in launching GBPs and, in addition, will serve as a great refresher for upcoming GBPs as well.

The topics that will be discussed at this webinar include:

1. Background/Intro to speakers/virtual panelists & agenda
2. Definition & Standards – What does it mean to be a Green Business?
3. Successes – Statistics of #GBs, environmental savings from pilot study
4. Partnerships – How to set up a GBP in your area? Who to include?
5. Funding – What sources of funding are most GBPs relying on?
6. State Support – Role of CA DTSC and CA Green Bus. Network members
7. New GBP Projects- Tracking and measurement database
8. Resources – sample MOUs, SOPs, sector specific resource guides etc.
9. Q & A

Speaker 1: Pamela Evans, Alameda County’s Green Business Certification Program
Speaker 2: Josephine Fleming, Environmental Innovations

If you would like to have your green business program considered for inclusion to this list, please send information to