Last November, the voters of Richmond earned their progressive stripes by choosing Green Party candidate Gayle McLaughlin as their mayor.
Now she’s leading the charge to recast the city’s smokestack image by increasing incentives for new green businesses. Witness the City Council’s recent resolution declaring Richmond a “green business economic development zone.”
Richmond is already home to a bio-diesel production facility and a manufacturer of biodegradable plastic products, and plenty of other earth-friendly businesses are in various stages of development. One is Metro Dog, a pet day care, boarding, and training facility at 3117 Pierce Street off of Central Avenue, which opened its doors in December. Owners Diane Livoti and Alison Smith are long-time dog professionals who have been environmentally-conscious consumers for years. They see Metro Dog as an expression and extension of their personal values.
A green business is one that considers the health and environmental impacts of its practices; conserves energy, water, and other resources; and takes serious steps to prevent pollution and waste. Metro dog certainly fits the bill, having taken environmental issues into consideration every step of the way.
While building out the 17,000-square-foot former paper plant, Livoti and Smith chose recycled rubber flooring and paints free of air-polluting volatile compounds. They have retrofitted the building’s old lighting system as part of PG&E’s Smart Lights program and their company van is fueled by biodiesel. Products offered for sale in the retail area have passed socially responsible and environmental scrutiny, and poop is picked up using biodegradable plastic mitts. The business is almost entirely paperless, and the paper it does use has the highest post-consumer content available. All marketing materials are printed on 100% recycled stock with soy-based ink. Furthermore, Metro Dog uses only biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products.
In the planning stages are solar panels for the roof and a new filtered water system for the entire operation (drinking water for dogs is already being filtered). Internal air circulation at Metro Dog will soon use specially designed fans to dramatically increase heating efficiency by distributing air evenly throughout the large warehouse space, a boon to indoor air quality and dog health.
Perhaps most cutting-edge of all its green endeavors, Metro Dog is developing a pilot program with local utilities to send its dog feces to an anaerobic digester, which turns organic matter into methane fuel.
Livoti says one of the most satisfying aspects of creating Metro Dog has been developing relationships with other businesspeople and helping them keep waste out of the landfill. Dog beds are stuffed with polyfill scraps from a Richmond sleeping bag manufacturer and outside fencing is made of leftover chain link from a construction site. Wood chips donated by local tree-trimming companies are used in the outdoor play areas, where microbes in the wood neutralize urine solids – another example of the facility’s green approach to sanitation.
Equal to Livoti and Smith’s environmental focus is their attention to customer service, reflected in Metro Dog’s 24-hour schedule, fair pricing, and convenient location near popular canine recreation areas at Pt. Isabel and the Albany bulb. Most important to the East Bay’s discriminating dog community is Metro Dog’s commitment to positive reinforcement techniques and stress reduction for animals. Small groups of dogs convene in spacious surroundings, are carefully supervised, and get dedicated rest time. No aversive techniques are ever used.
For its environmentally responsible efforts, Metro Dog is the only dog business to have been green-certified by the Contra Costa County Green Business Program.
Creating an earth- and pet-friendly business isn’t easy or inexpensive, but Livoti says the non-tangible payoff is worth it. “It’s emotionally, ethically, and politically satisfying for both Alison and I to be conducting our business in a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable way. We go to bed feeling good about what we’re doing in the world.”
To learn more about Metro Dog’s philosophy and services, visit www.metrodog.com. For a list of green business in Contra Costa County, visit www.greenbiz.ca.gov/ShopGreenCCC.html.