Last year the California drought led to state mandates for businesses and households to cut back on water usage. While many California homes and workplaces made eco-friendly changes simply because of these mandates, Crestwood Healing Center Pleasant Hill had just launched a major environmental responsibility project, aimed at reducing water and energy usage, increasing sustainability and limiting general waste. Creating a facility team later dubbed the Green Machine, the project has, in less than a year, achieved much more than they could have ever hoped.
The environmental responsibility project developed out of recognition of the large amount of plastic cups that were being thrown away in the facility on a daily basis. But the first and biggest priority for the Green Machine became water conservation, though the intention from the onset was not simply a response to the drought. The team knew that to make real, sustainable change, it would be important to involve the entire facility community. The project kicked off on Earth Day 2015, with the Green Machine providing educational presentations, giving out reusable water bottles to be used instead of disposable cups and with staff and clients making specific pledges on how they would be more environmentally conscious.
For water conservation, part of the work to be done centered on general maintenance and repair around the building. The team identified leaks throughout the facility, and proceeded to replace and repair toilets and sinks, while also installing faucet aerators and water-efficient showerheads that were provided for free by the local water company. Other water conservation efforts included education and awareness on how to reduce water usage when showering, shaving and brushing teeth. One resident, James, who has helped lead the charge on water consciousness, said, “I try to conserve water by turning off the shower when soaping up and shampooing my hair.” Ultimately due to all these water conservation efforts, the facility cut its water usage by a whopping 45% in 2015, which is 20% more than the statewide mandate! A year after launching the environmental responsibility project, the facility has saved more than a million gallons of water and counting.
Additionally, the environmental responsibility project at the facility has focused on becoming more sustainable and reducing waste. The facility has accomplished this through a composting project and by fixing a failing recycling system, as well as by creating Dreamcatchers Empowerment Network positions for clients to work in both composting and recycling. The Green Machine also got clients involved in upcycling, a process in which materials that would otherwise be thrown out, such as plastic cups, are turned into new items, such as “flower” bouquets.
To reduce waste, the Green Machine decided that it must start with a new mindset around awareness on how much trash was being routinely created. Part of the fix was changing practices, such as cleaning with rags instead of paper towels, while also placing a huge emphasis on using reusable items, such as reusable water bottles and shopping bags instead of disposable ones. Frances, a resident who is one of the biggest supporters of the project, said, “I hang clothes in the window to dry so I don’t use electricity and I turn off the lights in my room and other rooms when no one is in there.” The early results have included a $1,200 reduction in energy costs and saving 25,500 plastic cups that were normally used one time for water when taking medications and then thrown away.
Education has been one of the greatest tools the Green Machine has used to make change, and in addition to regular environmental events in the facility, they have begun making more of a difference outside the building as well. One way is working alongside their partner organization, Putnam Clubhouse, a Contra Costa County community organization where adults with mental health issues go to build skills and make valuable connections. The Green Machine and Putnam Clubhouse members are working together on a monthly cleanup of the Berkeley shoreline and so far have had 51 people involved making a positive impact on the community.
As the environmental responsibility project at Crestwood Healing Center Pleasant Hill looks at next steps after a year of massive accomplishments, the Green Machine is aiming at expanding their environmental practices to continue reducing the facility’s impact on the Earth, while ultimately getting the facility certified as a green business. As the team celebrated the first year of the project on this year’s Earth Day on April 22nd, the Contra Costa Water District joined them in the festivities to recognize the huge successes in conservation. With a little education, effort and care for the planet, the Green Machine hopes its message can inspire others to make a similar impact in their community for the environment.
Travis Curran, Campus Administrator
Crestwood Healing Center Pleasant Hill
Chloe De Lancie, Project Coordinator
Crestwood Healing Center Pleasant Hill