Certifiably Green Denver Certification Criteria

Certifiably Green Denver (CGD) has developed criteria that targets environmental issues and concerns specific to the business type. To achieve certification all core criteria, plus two electives, must be met in each category. Elective criteria provide businesses the flexibility to take advantage of initiatives of the most interest and benefit to them. Additional criteria will vary depending on the industry type of your business.

The criteria are separated into five categories. The following will apply to all businesses, regardless of industry type. For your industry-specific criteria, please reach out to us.

Business Management

Sustainability has many definitions, but the basic principles and concepts remain constant: balancing economic and financial need, protecting public health and the environment, and fostering social equity to improve the quality of life for future generations and ourselves. A good first step towards making your business sustainable is getting your employees and customers involved in the process to build a culture of sustainability.

Core Criteria – Complete All

  • Develop and publicly display an environmental policy or mission statement that demonstrates your commitment to sustainability. This can include displaying your policy statement on your website and employee handbooks.
  • Develop and publicly display a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) commitment statement that includes fair and unbiased hiring and promotion practices in your workplace. This can include displaying your policy statement on your job descriptions and employee handbooks.
  • Inform stakeholders (employees, customers, vendors, etc.) about your environmental practices, the Certifiably Green Denver (CGD) program, and certification. If possible, place this information on your website. Train new employees on your environmental practices and policies.
  • Implement employee well-being with fair policies, benefits, and compensation.
  • Ensure compliance with all relevant environmental regulations, including but not limited to:
    • Universal Waste Rules (used oil, antifreeze, mercury-containing light fixtures)
    • Denver Noise Ordinance
    • Air Emission and CFC Requirements
    • Hazardous Waste Regulations
    • Stormwater Management Requirements
    • Industrial Pretreatment and Wastewater Requirements
    • OSHA Hazard Communication - Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
  • Upon certification, display your CGD certification decal/logo prominently on your storefront or lobby, and showcase your environmental practices online.
  • Submit your business's yearly energy, water, and waste usage data:
    • Energy (gas and electric): Provide monthly or annual total of Xcel bills or contact Xcel at 1-800-481-4700.
    • Water: Provide monthly or annual total of Denver Water bills if you are sub metered.
    • Waste: Contact your waste hauler for annual totals.

Elective Criteria - Choose Two

  • Create a "Green Team" to manage and document certification and ongoing environmental efforts.
  • Obtain additional sustainable certifications or recognition from verified organizations, such as USDA Organic, Safer Choice, ENERGY STAR, LEED, CO Environmental Leadership Program, B Corp, Fairtrade, among others.
  • Obtain additional certifications or recognition from the Division of Small Business Opportunity (DSBO). Categories include: Business Enterprise (SBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Emerging Business Enterprise (EBE), Minority/Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE), Small Business Enterprise Concessionaire (SBEC), Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE)
  • Choose a socially responsible bank for your business's financial needs.
  • Encourage other businesses to join the CGD program or adopt sustainable practices and refer at least one business.
  • Participate in annual community improvement programs or events (e.g., volunteering).
  • Offer incentives for employees to volunteer with environmental or other community organizations.
  • Complete a custom project fitting your needs and consult with CGD staff to ensure it meets elective criteria.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency means using less energy to heat and cool buildings; heat and circulate water; and operate lights, equipment, and machinery without sacrificing productivity or comfort. Energy efficiency can increase profits and improve productivity.

Core Criteria – Complete All

  • Register for an online account with Xcel Energy to monitor and track your energy usage monthly.
  • Sign up for an energy assessment with Xcel or another reputable energy consulting firm (such as an ASHRAE level 2 energy audit or building recommissioning) to identify opportunities for energy efficiency improvements and potential rebates or incentives. CGD staff can help with this process.
  • Require any new equipment purchases or rentals to be ENERGY STAR-rated, when available.
  • Replace all incandescent light bulbs or fluorescent tubes with energy-efficient LEDs.
  • Replace all Exit signs with energy-efficient LED or electroluminescent alternatives, and consider integrating emergency lighting with the Exit signs where appropriate.
  • Educate staff to turn off all non-essential lighting, equipment, and machines after business hours. Post signs near equipment or lights as reminders. Certifiably Green Denver (CGD) staff can provide signage.
  • Inventory HVAC systems to understand types of systems and ages of systems. This information will help planning for replacement equipment with heat pumps rather than waiting for an emergency.
  • Implement a regular preventative maintenance plan for HVAC and refrigeration equipment, including filter replacement, coil cleaning, and gasket and HFC checks. Perform maintenance at least once a year.
  • Discourage the use of space heaters and portable fans, as they are not energy-efficient methods for heating or cooling a facility. Instead, implement targeted heating and cooling solutions, such as zoned HVAC systems, to address specific problem areas.
  • Install programmable or smart thermostats and set them to maintain appropriate temperature levels for your space heating and cooling needs. Recommended levels: 75°F for cooling and 68°F for heating.
  • Implement automatic power-down computer programs (such as sleep mode) and provide advanced power strips with built-in energy-saving features for office equipment to save energy.

Elective Criteria - Choose Two

  • Electrify your space and/or water heating systems with highly efficient heat pump technology and consider integrating heat recovery systems where applicable.
  • Electrify your kitchen with energy efficient appliances, focusing on ENERGY STAR certified appliances designed to maximize energy savings, and cut utility and maintenance costs without sacrificing quality of service. This can include refrigerators, ice makers, dishwashers, ovens, griddles, fryers, steam cookers, hot food holding cabinets, and coffee brewers.
  • If you own the building, become an ENERGY STAR Partner or pursue other green building certifications, such as LEED or Green Globes, to demonstrate your commitment to energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.
  • Source at least 25% of your energy needs from renewable energy, either through purchasing or on-site installations such as solar panels or wind turbines.
  • Offer electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at your business location.
  • Enroll in the Smart Leasing Program or adopt similar energy management practices to optimize energy usage in leased spaces and engage with landlords to implement energy efficiency measures.
  • Install energy-efficient in-line water heaters or heat pump water heaters to reduce energy consumption.
  • Install occupancy sensors or daylight harvesting controls in low-traffic areas and spaces with ample natural light to reduce energy consumption from lighting.
  • Insulate water heaters, boilers, and major hot water pipes with high-performance insulation materials to minimize heat loss and improve energy efficiency.
  • Install locking covers on programmable or smart thermostats to prevent tampering, and ensure thermostats are placed in optimal locations to accurately measure ambient temperature.
  • Install energy-efficient control devices, such as "vending misers," on all vending machines and refrigerated coolers to reduce energy consumption during periods of low use.
  • Shade sun-exposed windows and walls during the warm season using blinds, awnings, sunscreens, shade trees, or shrubbery. Consider installing low-emissivity coatings on windows or upgrading to energy-efficient windows.
  • Eliminate the use of personal printing devices and use one multipurpose central printer.
  • Complete a custom energy-efficient project and consult with CGD staff to ensure the project meets the criteria for this elective and contributes to overall program objectives.

Restaurant-specific elective criteria:

  • Install plastic strip curtains on walk-in refrigerators.
  • Turn off exhaust hoods when associated appliances are off.
  • Install electronically commutated fan motors on refrigeration equipment.

Water Conservation and Quality

Although water covers nearly three-quarters of the earth, less than one percent is clean, fresh water. Therefore, it is vital that we both conserve and protect this critical resource. When evaluating potential savings, don’t forget to consider costs to heat and treat the water.

Core Criteria – Complete All

  • Comply with the CGD’s Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs)
  • If individually metered, use online Denver Water account access to monitor usage and receive email water efficiency reports.
  • Choose WaterSense-rated equipment for new purchases or rentals, when available.
  • Install a water-efficient pre-rinse spray valve in your kitchen certified by a verified organization (e.g. EPA’s WaterSense) to ensure the equipment meets water-efficiency standards.
  • Use brooms and damp mops for outdoor cleaning; avoid hosing and detergents unless properly collected and disposed.
  • Regularly check for plumbing leaks and repair them promptly.
  • Encourage employee water conservation through education, signage, or email reminders. CGD staff can provide signage for sinks.
  • Install faucet aerators or control valves with 1.0 gpm or less.
  • Install toilets with 1.28 gpf or less.
  • Water landscapes during evenings, overnight, or early mornings, following Denver Water rules.

Elective Criteria - Choose Two

  • Install high-efficiency or waterless urinals in men's restrooms.
  • Implement drip or smart irrigation for trees and planting beds.
  • Install rain sensors for automated irrigation systems.
  • Xeriscape by reducing turf areas and plant low-water or drought-resistant plants.
  • Retrofit toilets with 1.1 gpf or less.
  • Install high-efficiency toilets with 1.1 gpf or less.
  • Reduce window cleaning frequency to an as-needed basis.
  • Complete a custom water-saving project and consult with CGD staff to ensure it meets elective criteria.
  • Maintain a property map indicating stormwater flow directions and storm drain inlet locations. Mark storm drains on facility property to increase awareness.Install 0.5 gpm sensor-controlled sinks in restrooms.

Resource Management

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reducing consumption, reusing existing materials, and recycling as the final step saves resources and money. Purchasing products with recycled content increases the demand for recycling and drives improvements in quality and price. Check for health hazards associated with the products that you use, and look for less toxic alternatives.

Core Criteria – Complete All

  • Appoint a waste coordinator to oversee the success of recycling and composting programs.
  • Perform a waste assessment to identify waste types and recycling percentages, using CGD-provided Waste Audit Forms.
  • Conduct ongoing internal education and training on recycling, composting, waste reduction, and environmental topics, documenting dates and methods.
  • Purchase 100% recycled content paper products with at least 30% post-consumer content.
  • Recycle cardboard, mixed paper, cartons, and accepted aluminum, steel, glass, or plastic containers
  • Compost food scraps and yard waste.
  • Clearly label trash, recycling, and compost containers with signage that has both pictures and words.
  • Use environmentally preferable cleaning products and soaps, such as Safer Choice-rated items.
  • Provide only reusable kitchenware for staff use in breakrooms.
  • Eliminate single-use coffee pods, opting for reusable alternatives or regular filtered coffee.
  • Properly dispose of electronic waste and ink cartridges/toners, preferably through a certified E-Steward company.
  • Set printers and copiers to default to double-sided printing.
  • Reduce paper usage by adopting electronic forms or contracts where possible.
  • Collaborate with vendors to minimize or take back non-recyclable product packaging; purchase in bulk when feasible.
  • Offer filtered water or water bottle filling stations for staff and eliminate use of single-use plastic bottles.
  • Dispose of hazardous waste materials properly.
  • Comply to Bring Your Own Bag requirements.

Elective Criteria - Choose Two

  • Offer incentives for customers who bring their own reusables.
  • Only issue a receipt if customer asks for one or offer paperless receipt options.
  • Donate outdated but usable equipment and supplies to nonprofits or schools.
  • Implement a written environmentally preferred purchasing program.
  • Buy local products to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
  • Use reusable metal or nylon coffee filters, or a French press.
  • Request cleaning/sanitizing product suppliers take back empty containers.
  • Purchase used furnishings or those made with reclaimed or recycled materials.
  • For catered events (lunches, meetings, etc.), institute a zero-waste policy.
  • Collect and recycle plastic film and plastic bags from within your business operations.
  • Collect and properly dispose of hard to recycle items.
  • Complete a custom resource management project and consult with CGD staff to ensure it meets elective criteria.


Sustainable transportation reduces pollution by increasing the quality of public transportation, cycling and walking, uses cleaner fuels and technologies, encourages trip consolidation and planning thus reducing vehicle miles traveled.

Core Criteria – Complete All


  • Implement an anti-idling vehicle policy for employees, customers, and vendors, limiting idling to under 5 minutes per hour, with temperature-based exceptions.
  • Encourage alternative transportation methods for commuting, such as biking, walking, carpooling, or public transit.
  • Offer telecommuting and flexible schedules to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
  • Fuel vehicles early in the morning or late in the evening when possible.
  • Consolidate errands into a single trip to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
  • Educate staff on maintaining recommended tire pressure to maximize fuel efficiency.
  • Share carpooling, vanpooling, biking, walking, and public transit information with staff and customers, and place on your website if possible.

Elective Criteria - Choose Two

  • Install bike racks for customers and employees in a secure location.
  • Provide plug-in vehicle charging for customers with electric vehicles.
  • Transition company fleet vehicles to electric vehicles or electric bikes.
  • Support and incentivize employee participation in Bike-To-Work Day or Way to Go.
  • Offer free or discounted bus passes or Eco-passes to employees.
  • Become an EPA SmartWay partner or affiliate.
  • Install GPS/routing devices on delivery vehicles to improve fuel economy and reduce vehicle miles traveled.
  • Offer shower facilities for employees who walk, jog, or bike to work, either on-site or through a nearby health facility.
  • Incentivize customers or employees using alternative transportation with discounts or coupons.
  • Develop "green driving tips" and vehicle maintenance checklists for customers.
  • Complete a custom sustainable mobility project and consult with CGD staff to ensure it meets elective criteria

To maintain certification, businesses must annually:

  • Comply with core criteria
  • Report energy, water and waste metrics
  • Complete at least two new elective criteria

CGD staff will follow up with certified businesses annually. Staff can help your business overcome technical issues and challenges. We will also help ensure your business continues to meet the certification criteria.



All references to products, processes, and services above by phone, name, trademark, or manufacturer are only informational. They do not represent an endorsement of any particular product or entity by the CGD Program. If you know a firm who would like to be added to this list, please have them contact us.