"I used to bake my own bread until I found Vital Vittles."
--Helen, Berkeley

News & Articles

Kass Schwin Firms help environment
By Eve Mitchell
Tri-Valley Hearald, March 14, 2006

While those annoying white Styrofoam containers are darn near ubiquitous for take-out food, that's not the case at my Thai restaurant in Fremont.

The eatery is using cardboard containers when possible as an alternative to Styrofoam. It's just one of many things My Thai has done to be among the latest Alameda County businesses or public agencies to go officially green. The green certification from Alameda County's Green Business Program means the designees have not only met required environmental regulations but have taken additional environmentally friendly steps, such as conserving energy, water and other resources.

Some 219 businesses and public agencies have been certified since the program began a decade ago. My Thai and the 17 other newest designees, including Chez Panisse restaurant and Vital Vittles Mill & Bakery in Berkeley, will be honored at an event Thursday.

Among other steps taken to be more green, My Thai put in energy-efficient lighting and started using environment-friendly cleaners.

"We've stared using recycled paper for the fax machine. Some of the to-go containers, we've moved over to boxes," said John Cassidy, manager of My Thai restaurant.

I take-out food can be served in containers that aren't Styrofoam, is it possible for bread to be bought bare?

It is if you stop in at the Vital Vittles Bakery, which has been selling bread that way to walk-up customers for years.

"If they don't want the plastic bag, they can come here and we can put it in paper for them. Or they can bring their own bag," says Kass Schwin, president of Vital Vittles.

The Berkeley bakery has made use of sustainable practices since it was founded in 1976, she said.

Getting the green designation is a way to validate the bakery's way of doing things, Schwin said.

"We've considered ourselves certified green since we started th business. We do all organic products," she said. "There's always been a reuse, reduce, and recycle mentality here."

After the bakery sought green certification, it was discovered that i needed to upgrade its storm water drainage system. "That was the thing we had to do differently," Schwin said.

Another business to become green certified recently is Mellow Mong Green Teas (www.mellowmonk.com), a Livermore-based home business that sells green tea grown by small family farms in Japan.

"The certification fits into the whole point of our business, which is sustainable family agricultural," said Paul Kotta, who owns the business founded in late 2004 with his wife, Akimi.

Kotta said using recycled paper and putting in energy-efficient windows in his home helped him get certified.

Pam Evans, coordinator for Alameda countyís Green business Program, said many businesses opt to go green because "it really fits in with their values." The certification process provides a third-party designation that says "this company has sustainable business practices," she said.

Once the certification is obtained, it has to be renewed every three years.

The program works with small-to-medium sized businesses, providing technical assistance to help them become green.

Besides Alameda County, green business certification is available in Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties. More than 600 businesses in the participating counties have become green certified.

The Bay Area Green business program was developed with the assistance of the Association of Bay Area Governments to help businesses and public agencies comply with environmentally friendly measures that go beyond compliance.

For more information about becoming a certified green business in Alameda County, visit www.greeenbiz.ca.gov or call Evans at (510) 567-6770.

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