San Diego’s New Green Chamber of Commerce
Organization wants to be a national hub for sustainability
By Eilene Zimmerman
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has traditionally been seen as the friend of Big Business and not exactly a friend of environmentalists. Recall that several companies—like Apple and Nike–left the Chamberto protest its opposition to carbon Cap & Trade legislation.
Three years ago, the Green Chamber of Commerce was born in San Francisco but since then it has added only one chapter—Las Vegas—a city not really known for its green business community.
Yet the Green Chamber’s executive director Melinda Cheel was quoted as saying, “the fact that Las Vegas is ready for a Green Chamber of Commerce is evidence that the commitment to green business is moving beyond the obvious early adopters and is on its way to being commonplace throughout the United States.”
This year, San Diego established its own Green Chamber of Commerce—The Green Chamber of San Diego County. The organization got it start in Solana Beach, when a few members of the board of Solana Beach’s Chamber decided it would be wise for the county to create a separate Chamber focused on green business.
David Steel, CEO of the Green Chamber here, says one reason for the need to separate was that San Diego has, “incredible potential to be the hub for all green chambers of commerce.” For example, he says, San Diego’s ranks as the top city in the state for solar panels installed on homes.
Steel is right. San Diego has the greatest amount of solar power in California, with 2,267 solar roofs, totaling 19,452 kilowatts, according to a report by Environment California. We’ve also got a burgeoning alternative energy industry—including a plethora of companies racing to develop a viable biofuel from algae oil, electric vehicle companies Aptera and V Vehicle Co. and the coming installation of 2,500 electric charging stations by the company Ecotality.
California also leads the nation in green jobs. A survey by the state’s Employment Development Department released in April reported the state has more than 300,000 green jobs and another 171,000 jobs are held by those who spend at least part of their time on green products and services.
It’s no surprise, then, that businesses here are intrigued. About 450 people attended the Green Chamber’s launch at the Belly Up Tavern. In about two weeks, the Chamber moves to its new headquarters in a green building in Kearny Mesa. Business “started joining immediately,” says Steel. Right now the local Green Chamber has 160 members, with between four and five new members joining each week, he says.
The good news for San Diego businesses wanting in is that they don’t have to be in a green industry to be a part of the new Green Chamber. Steel says any business willing to make a sustainability commitment—as outlined by the Chamber—can be a member. In return they get help with their visibility and credibility, can attend networking events and receive help in continuing to make their companies more sustainable.
They also get to wear that Green Chamber seal of approval on their corporate sleeve.
The goal, says Steel, is to have the Green Chamber of San Diego County become a model for Green Chambers nationwide. “Green chambers aren’t very common yet,” he says. “There are about 8,700 Chambers of Commerce across the country, but only two or three others focused on sustainability.”
Ultimately, Steel would like this chamber to evolve into the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce. “San Diego is a natural place for that,” he says.”It almost certainly wouldn’t be headquartered in Washington D.C. It would come out of one of the green hubs for business. That would identify us as a leader in green business, which would be great for San Diego.”
About the author: Eilene Zimmerman is a journalist based in San Diego who writes about a variety of topics, including business, social and political issues and family life. Her work has been published in national magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, FORTUNE Small Business, CNNMoney.com, CBS MoneyWatch.com, Wired, Harper’s, Salon.com, Slate.com, Psychology Today and others. She blogs at www.TakingMyOwnAdvice.com. More by this author