Going Green in West Oakland

If you’re serious about trying to lessen the impact of your own actions on the environment, you may have looked into the environmental practices of the businesses in your community before choosing a shop or vendor. Or perhaps you are concerned about how pollutants generated by local businesses may harm you, your children, or others in your community. For people who live or work in West Oakland, with air pollution many times higher than in the rest of Alameda County, encouraging businesses to take up more sustainable practices is paramount. Yet even if small businesses in that neighborhood want to make needed changes, they may lack the resources to do so.

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. EPA Region 9, Community Energy Services (CESC) partnered with the Alameda County Green Business Program and the California Air Resources Board in 2016 to create Green West Oakland. Part of the Bay Area Green Business Program, which not only verifies that businesses meet higher standards of environmental performance and offers public certification that consumers and neighbors can trust, Green West Oakland also provides support to local businesses to help them comply with environmental regulations and take actions to conserve resources, prevent pollution, and minimize waste. The goal of Green West Oakland has been to increase Green Business Program participation and awareness in the underserved West Oakland business community.

CESC recently attended a celebration and press event in honor of Green West Oakland’s work (held at Mandela Foods Cooperative, one of the newly certified businesses). The event showcased business leaders who participated in the program, EPA administrators involved in the grantmaking, leaders from the organizations involved (including CESC’s Martin Bond), and others involved in the project. Check out our great video about the event!

With support from Green West Oakland, twelve businesses have begun the certification process through the Green Business Program, and dozens more have become aware of opportunities to improve their business practices. Congratulations to the twelve businesses in West Oakland that are in the process of becoming certified as Green Businesses!


Brown Sugar Kitchen
Sandy Walker/Ellen Webb Dance Foundation
La Bonne Cuisine (recertification)
OMSS Truck Scales & Mini Mart
Zella’s Soulful Kitchen
West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project
Craig Communications
Every Dog Has Its Day Care
Mandela Foods Cooperative
Starline Supply Company
Pipe Spy



The Green Business Program tracked the environmental impacts of the Green West Oakland Project, and it has made a difference!

Are you interested in greening your business or helping a local business to do so? Although the Green West Oakland project has been completed, the Alameda County Green Business Program still offers technical assistance and incentives to many types of businesses towards Green Business certification. CESC also helps small and medium-sized businesses with energy-efficiency upgrades including lighting, refrigeration and referrals to HVAC programs. Contact us now.

CESC Supports Green-Collar Jobs, Part Two

Last week, we told you a bit about the role Community Energy Services Corporation plays in workforce development locally, and we profiled Bill Pittman, former construction intern with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project. The Family Sustainability Project has two parts: it helps low-income North Richmond residents through home renovation and other asthma environmental remediation services, and it brings workforce development to that neighborhood through internships. Over the past three years, twelve interns from North Richmond have worked alongside CESC staff to bring these asthma environmental remediation services to North Richmond. Along the way, they have acquired new skills while getting paid, received job-seeking support, and came away with a laptop computer.

Family Sustainability Project Intern Spotlight
In the summer of 2016, intern Anthony Williams of Richmond had just graduated with an AA degree in business administration from Contra Costa College when he heard about the opportunity for a paid administrative internship with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project. Anthony was interested in building up his admin skills.

CESC Administrative Intern Anthony Williams

CESC Administrative Intern Anthony Williams

As a CESC intern Anthony has gained those admin skills, and then some. He has learned the database for CESC’s residential programs, provided customer follow-up via letters and calls, and assisted in other clerical duties including filing and organizing. He’s pleased that he has beefed up his software skills. He’s learned most of Microsoft Office, especially Excel. He has also done client outreach, attended outreach events, and learned office etiquette.

Now 26 years old, Anthony started community college in Vallejo right after high school, but he was unmotivated and dropped out.  Anthony then had a number of part-time retail jobs, working at places like Walmart, Target, Starbucks, and Macy’s. He usually had at least two jobs at one time. Sometimes his work day went from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. This situation was highly motivating for him. He knew he had to get an education if he wanted a better work situation. He moved to Richmond and enrolled in Contra Costa College, where he got an introduction to business, office skills, and how to work with people and groups.

Anthony was thrilled to get a paid internship after graduating, and he admits that it isn’t what he thought it would be. “I thought an internship would be unpaid. I thought I’d have to fetch coffee for the boss and water for the dogs. Instead, I feel like I’m one of the team here.” Since his internship is part time, it allows him to take classes at San Francisco State University, where he hopes to get a B.S. degree in management.

While he’s happy about the skills he is gaining in his internship, he loves the overall purpose of the organization (Anthony is featured in a video about working at CESC). He likes that CESC is helping low-income people get safer and healthier homes and save energy.

“I also like the management here and everyone we work with,” a situation that he admits tends to be uncommon. “Managers are very flexible and understanding. They act as mentors or coaches. If you have a problem, they’ll be with you every step of the way to help you solve the problem. And what you do doesn’t go unseen. The management here definitely let you know that what you’re doing is appreciated.”

Anthony hopes to continue in nonprofit work, ideally at CESC if an opportunity comes up. Do you want to learn more about CESC? check us out at ebenergy.org.


CESC Supports Green-Collar Jobs

Businesses need a trained workforce, and local residents need jobs. Community Energy Services Corporation (CESC) has an important role to play locally in bringing jobs—and training for good jobs—to people in the community. For over 10 years, CESC has had programs offering paid internships in the energy efficiency and home repair fields to people starting out or starting over.

Take for example CESC’s Family Sustainability Project in North Richmond. For the past three years, a total of twelve interns from that community have taken part in paid internships working alongside CESC staff members to help low-income North Richmond residents through home renovation and other asthma environmental remediation services.

Workforce development organizations like CESC partner Rising Sun Energy Center can help people remove barriers to employment and acquire skills that can get them their first job. CESC’s role is in the next step; CESC helps people go a bit further. According to Executive Director Martin Bond, “Many staff members have been hired from green workforce development programs at Laney College or Rising Sun.” The next step is to provide interns and new employees opportunities for on-the-job training for various marketable skills. You can become LEED-certified, you can become an energy manager, you can become a building operator, you can go into the trades with a focus on energy efficiency, or you can learn electrician or general contractor skills. You can learn not just how to install energy efficiency products, but also how to verify savings. You can learn about building shells, insulation, air sealing, or HVAC. These are skills that can lead into good-paying jobs.

Past interns at CESC have gone on to full-time jobs elsewhere, sometimes even at CESC itself, and sometimes internships clarify educational goals for people. CESC provides interns support in getting the next job or applying to school. Of the eleven interns in the Family Sustainability Project, five now have full-time jobs in the area, and four have gone on to college.

Family Sustainability Project: Intern Spotlight

CESC Construction Technician Bill Pittman

Former intern (and now employee) Bill Pittman of Richmond first heard about an opportunity for a paid internship in construction with CESC when a cousin told him about it in 2015. At the time, he had been unemployed for two years and was getting by doing odd jobs landscaping and other things. Bill, 52, is a high school graduate, but he wasn’t making it. He felt discouraged and worried that because he had been getting older and was “down so long” that he might never get up. He was homeless, he was couch surfing, and he wanted a steady job. So he applied for the internship, and he was accepted.

As a construction intern with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project, which combines a health and safety home repair program benefiting North Richmond with a workforce development program in the same neighborhood, Bill gained hands-on experience with plumbing repairs, carpet removal and hardwood floor installation, general carpentry, and house painting.

At first, Bill made it to work every day catching the bus from North Richmond. At the time, he had neither a driver’s license nor a car. After four months, CESC was so impressed with Bill’s progress and positive attitude that they offered him a full-time job as a construction technician, and he gladly accepted. Now he drives to work every day in his own car and has a real home in Richmond.

Since his internship days, he has continued to acquire new skills. He has learned how to install gas appliances and test them for carbon monoxide, how to test heating duct systems for leaks and how to repair them, how to install plumbing fixtures such as toilets, and how to interact with clients. His current goal is to continue to gain additional plumbing skills and to improve in all aspects of the job.

Bill now spends most of his time working with clients of Residential Energy Efficiency Services. Sometimes he also helps Jesús Ávila with the Home Repair program, the work he likes to do most because he loves helping the elderly. It makes him feel good. And “Jesús is a great mentor; he has taught me a lot.” Bill also has a lot of positive things to say about his training and his current supervision. “We have some outstanding bosses. They help you in all kinds of ways. The bosses here are patient and understanding. They work with you if you have a special situation.”

Bill is immensely grateful for the opportunity he has found at CESC to rejoin the workforce. After being down so long, he says that “now I feel that I can go a little higher.” He loves that he now has a home and a car and can afford doing things with his children and grandchildren.

Look for a spotlight on intern Anthony Williams next week.


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