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More businesses have been certified here than in any other city in Clackamas County

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PARTNERS GROUP - The Partners Group created an internal green team to help with sustainability initiatives, and the team quickly discovered the Clackamas County certification program.When Clackamas County debuted its Leaders in Sustainability certification program in 2014, more than a dozen Lake Oswego businesses jumped at the chance to sign up — from local restaurants and retail shops to the city's own Chamber of Commerce.

Two years later, that roster has grown even larger, with a number of new additions from all over the city.

"Lake Oswego has more organizations certified than any other city in Clackamas County, thanks in no small part to outreach by the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network," says Clackamas County Sustainability Analyst Alex Mihm. "But there's more to it than that. Of the 3,500+ people who work for certified Leaders in Sustainability in the county, over 1,000 of them work in Lake Oswego, and there are even more people who work in buildings that benefit from property managers achieving certification.

"That adds up to a lot of people who have taken what they have learned at work to other parts of their lives," Mihm says.

To become a certified Leader, a business must complete 13 core actions from a list of 90 on the county's application form, such as training new employees on sustainability practices and using clearly marked recycling bins. Applicants must also create a written sustainability policy and undergo a site visit from county staff.

Completing those requirements will qualify the business as a certified Leader in Sustainability, but there are two additional tiers — Silver and Gold — which businesses can reach by completing additional actions on the list. The certification expires after three years, so companies need to maintain their sustainable practices in order to renew their certifications.

A directory of all certified businesses, as well as instructions for new applicants, is available online at www.clackamas.us/recycling/work/map.html.

Taking the lead

A number of businesses along the Kruse Way corridor jumped into the program during the past two years, including Yakima Products, which moved into the former West End Building in 2015. The company received gold certification because of several sustainable upgrades made to the building before moving in, including adding exterior LED lighting and motion sensors for lights indoors.

PHOTO COURTESY OF OBEC CONSULTING ENGINEERS - OBEC Consulting Engineers made several changes to its building and purchasing practices, including installing low-flow faucets and switching to green cleaning supplies.Nearby on Meadows Road, OBEC Consulting Engineers received gold certification after taking several steps, including buying green cleaning supplies and installing aerators on sink faucets.

"Increasingly, clients were including points for sustainable practices in their requests for services," says John Kelly, a principal planner at OBEC. "That triggered a decision by OBEC to establish a sustainability committee."

The company also began setting all copiers to print double-sided by default, Kelly says, along with a few other practices to save paper.

"We were already recycling, so that wasn't something we had to change," he says. "But we used to invoice with paper invoices, and now that's all done electronically."

OBEC had an additional advantage in the process because it leases its Lake Oswego office from Shorenstein, another one of the companies that received gold certification. Shorenstein took several sustainability steps for its own management office as well as for all of its buildings in the Kruse Woods Corporate Park.

"If our tenants wanted to be Leaders in Sustainability, they would gain about 25 processes just because they're in a Shorenstein building," says Patricia Harvey, an assistant property manager at Shorestein.

The existing policies included the use of green cleaning supplies and a power management system for lights in all of the buildings, and Shorenstein officials say they've encouraged tenants to take advantage of the opportunity.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LAKE OSWEGO UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST - Lake Oswego United Church of Christ has a long-standing green team because of its watershed protection efforts. Team member Ken Gisch shows off the churchs backyard composting unit."We invited Alex Mihm to help us run a sustainability workshop for all of the tenants at Kruse Woods Corporate Park," says Jaxon Love, Shorenstein's sustainability program manager. "It's nice to kind of see the fruition of that idea."

Autodesk Inc. was another Shorenstein tenant that received gold certification, thanks to its electric vehicle charging stations and the fact that it publishes its sustainability targets online.

The local branch of The Partners Group also received gold certification last year after the insurance company's internal green team identified it as a possible goal. Janelle Austen, who founded the team, says the company created new sustainability and purchasing policies to build off its existing practices.

"I would say we were probably 50 percent of the way completed with the application when we started," she says. "And then it was just a matter of making some minor day-to-day changes and crafting some policies that matched what was already within our culture, which was sustainability and responsibility."

Rounding out the westside leaders, a pair of Lake Oswego business offices owned by Colliers International received gold certification for using high-efficiency HVAC, lighting and plumbing systems, as well as their location near public transit.

Finding lots of gold

In the downtown area, the Lake Theater and Cafe received gold certification, in particular for its work partnering with local suppliers for all of its menu ingredients and operating its own backyard herb garden.

Marylhurst University received gold certification for its existing sustainability policy, as well as taking steps to conserve energy by adding a power management program to make computers hibernate when not in use.

"We were pleased and a little bit surprised to find out how much we were already doing," says facilities staffer Coby Rutledge. "We had almost qualified for the (basic) certification based on what we were already doing, and decided at that time to make the gold certification our goal."

The New Seasons Market in the Mountain Park neighborhood was another new gold certification, along with a second location in Happy Valley. The stores were recognized for companywide policies that include offsetting 65 percent of its carbon footprint in 2014.

Lake Oswego United Church of Christ was certified at the gold level because of its use of an internal green team to coordinate carpooling and environmentally friendly supply purchases for church events. Team member Monica Honegger says many of the church's sustainability initiatives began years earlier during a project to add bioswales to the property.

The team members learned about the Leaders in Sustainability program when a county official visited the church and was impressed by the work the congregation was doing. Honegger says the green team now wants to make sure other churches realize they have the same opportunity.

"What we're really trying to work on this year is community outreach," she says. "We really would like to reach out to some of the other churches that are doing environmental activities in Clackamas County so that they could apply for this certification also."

Mihm says Clackamas County has been pleased with the results of the certification program and took steps last year to streamline the signup process to help participants achieve even more sustainable results.

"Of course, we're always looking to get more organizations certified in order to grow the positive impacts of the program, but we're thrilled with the range of organizations that have participated so far," Mihm says. "Participants have helped reduce the amount sent to landfills, conserved energy and water, and given their employees more reasons to be engaged and proud of their work."

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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