Become a Certifiably Green Denver Business

1. Overview

Certifiably Green Denver makes it easy for you to make your business go green. We'll work with you to:

  1. Assess: We offer free, personalized assessments from sustainability experts. We will identify opportunities for your business to improve efficiency and reduce waste.
  2. Plan: We create actionable plans that remove guesswork and headache from implementation. We'll also help you find ways to maximize your cost savings.
  3. Connect: We connect you to the resources you need. These resources will set you up for success on your sustainability journey.
  4. Certify: We'll certify your business with our program. This will make you more marketable to employees and customers alike.
  5. Promote: We will highlight your success across our communications channels. Our communities love to support a sustainable business!

We'll work with you across five dimensions to improve sustainability:

  • Energy Efficiency: We'll help you identify ways to reduce your energy use such as:
    • Reprogramming thermostats
    • Managing equipment
    • Installing LED lighting
  • Water Conservation: You can save thousands of gallons a year. We'll help you:
    • Switch to low-flow toilets
    • Install sink aerators
    • Find water-efficient equipment
  • Resource Management: We'll show what you can do to:
    • Reduce waste headed for the landfill
    • Make more sustainable purchases
    • Set up successful recycling and composting systems
  • Alternative Transportation: Encourage walking, biking, and transit through:
    • Bike racks and scooter parking areas
    • Transit passes for employees
    • Items that improve walking accessibility
  • Business Management: We'll help you:
    • Verify that you comply with environmental standards
    • Engage your workforce to continue improving impacts
    • Publicize your accomplishments 

2. Certification Criteria

We have criteria that targets issues and concerns specific to the business type.

To get certified, you must:

  • Achieve certification all core criteria in each of five categories
  • Achieve two elective criteria in all five categories

Elective criteria give you flexibility to pursue initiatives that interest and benefit you most. These criteria will vary depending on what industry you are in. 

Business Management

Sustainability has many definitions, but some basic principles are constant:

  • Balancing economic need
  • Protecting public health
  • Improving environmental health
  • Fostering social equity
  • Improving quality of life

A good first step is to build these values into your company culture.

Core Criteria – Complete All

  • Develop an environmental policy or mission statement. Display the statement publicly. This can include:
    • Putting your policy statement on your website
    • Posting a sign about the statement in your store
    • Including the statement in employee handbooks
  • Develop a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) commitment statement. It must include fair and unbiased hiring and promotion practices. Display this statement publicly. This can include:
    • Including the policy in job descriptions
    • Including the policy in employee handbooks
    • Posting a sign about the statement in your store
  • Inform stakeholders about your green practices and Certifiably Green Denver. This can include:
    • Putting this information on your website
    • Training new employees on green practices and policies
    • Including your green practices in vendor agreements
  • Prioritize employee well-being with fair policies, benefits, and compensation.
  • Ensure you are in compliance with with all relevant regulations, such as:
  • Display your certification decal in your storefront or lobby. If possible, add the Certifiably Green Denver logo to your website. 
  • Submit your business's yearly energy, water, and waste usage data:
    • Energy (gas and electric):  Provide monthly or annual total of Xcel Energy bills
    • Water: Provide monthly or annual total of Denver Water bills if possible
    • Waste: Contact your waste hauler for annual totals. 

Elective Criteria

  • Create a "Green Team" to manage and document certification and ongoing green efforts.
  • Get verified sustainable certifications or recognitions, such as:
  • Get certifications or recognition from the Division of Small Business Opportunity (DSBO):
    • 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 Certifiably Green Denver. Refer at least one business to us to start going green.
  • Take part in annual community improvement programs or events
  • Offer incentives for employees to volunteer with environmental or community organizations.
  • Complete a custom project that fits your needs. Consult with program staff to ensure it meets our criteria.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency means using less energy to:

  • Heat and cool buildings
  • Heat and circulate water
  • Operate lights and equipment

You can do this 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. This will let you check and track your monthly energy usage.
  • Sign up for an energy assessment. You can do this with Xcel Energy or another reputable energy consulting firm. This will help identify opportunities for energy efficiency improvements. Your auditor can also point you to potential rebates or incentives.
  • Require any new equipment purchases or rentals to be ENERGY STAR-rated, when available.
  • Replace all incandescent light bulbs or fluorescent tubes with LEDs.
  • Replace all Exit signs with energy-efficient LED or electroluminescent alternatives. 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. We can provide signs that you can place near equipment or lights.
  • Look at your HVAC systems to learn what types of systems you have. It is also good to know how old your equipment is. This information will help you make a plan to replace aging equipment. Save yourself from dealing with an emergency breakdown!
  • Put in place an annual maintenance plan for HVAC and refrigeration equipment, including:
    • Filter replacement
    • Coil cleaning
    • Gasket and HFC checks
  • Discourage the use of space heaters and portable fans. These methods are not energy-efficient ways to heat or cool a facility. Instead, install targeted heating and cooling solutions. For example, you can use zoned HVAC systems.
  • Install programmable or smart thermostats. Set them to appropriate levels for your space heating and cooling needs. We recommend: 75°F for cooling and 68°F for heating.
  • Install automatic power-down computer programs such as sleep mode. Provide advanced power strips with built-in energy-saving features.

Elective Criteria

  • Electrify your space and/or water heating systems with a heat pump. 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. This can include
    • Induction cooktops
    • Refrigerators
    • Ice makers
    • Dishwashers
    • Ovens
    • Griddles
    • Fryers
    • Steam cookers
    • Hot food holding cabinets
    • Coffee brewers
  • If you own the building, pursue a certification such as:
  • Source at least 25% of your energy needs from renewable energy. You can do this by installing on-site solar or wind or by purchasing it with a subscription.
  • Offer electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at your business location
  • Install energy-efficient in-line water heaters or heat pump water heaters.
  • Install occupancy sensors or daylight harvesting controls. These are most effective in low-traffic areas and spaces with ample natural light.
  • Insulate water heaters, boilers, and major hot water pipes with high-performance insulation materials. This will cut heat loss and improve energy efficiency.
  • Install locking covers on programmable or smart thermostats to prevent tampering. Ensure thermostats are in locations where they can measure ambient temperature.
  • Install energy-efficient control devices on all vending machines and refrigerated coolers. This will reduce energy consumption during periods of low use.
  • Shade sun-exposed windows and walls during the warm season. You can do this with 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. Consult with us to ensure the project is suitable for this criteria.
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

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

  • Follow our Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs).
  • If individually metered, use your online Denver Water account access. This will let you check water 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. It should be certified by a verified organization like the EPA’s WaterSense.
  • Use brooms and damp mops for outdoor cleaning. Avoid hosing and detergents unless they are properly collected and disposed.
  • Check for plumbing leaks often and repair them promptly.
  • Encourage employee water conservation through education, signage, or email reminders. We 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 

  • 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.
  • 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. Consult with us to ensure it qualifies for this criteria.

Resource Management

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It's more than a mantra. It can save you resources and money. Purchasing products with recycled content increases the demand for recycling. It also drives improvements in the quality and price of recycled materials. 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. This will help identify waste types and recycling percentages. You must use the Waste Audit Form we provide.
  • Conduct and record evidence of ongoing internal education and training on:
    • Recycling
    • Composting
    • Waste reduction
    • Other environmental topics
  • Buy 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. Your signage should have both pictures and words.
  • Use green cleaning products and soaps, such as Safer Choice-rated items.
  • Provide only reusable kitchenware for staff use in breakrooms.
  • Stop using single-use coffee pods. Opt for reusable alternatives or regular filtered coffee.
  • Properly dispose of electronic waste and ink cartridges/toners. It is best to do this 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 cut or take back non-recyclable product packaging. Buy in bulk when possible.
  • Offer filtered water or water bottle filling stations for staff. Stop offering single-use plastic bottles.
  • Dispose of hazardous waste materials properly.
  • Comply to Bring Your Own Bag requirements. 

Elective Criteria

  • 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.
  • Put in place a written green 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.
  • Buy 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. 

Food Industry Specific Criteria 

These criteria are in addition to the ones above.

Core Criteria:
  • Serve in-house customers with reusable service ware.
  • Buy seafood from sustainable sources
  • Buy 10% of food products from locally grown/produced sources.
  • Cut the use of Styrofoam plates, cups, and takeout packaging.
  • Keep lids on all containers when not in use.
  • Install at least one food waste prevention strategy, such as donating excess food.
  • Ensure your business follows all Skip the Stuff requirements
Elective Criteria 
  • Become a Zero Foodprint Member.
  • Take part in a reusable container program or deposit system. For example, reusable to-go containers or growlers that customers can return.
  • Buy at least 25% of ingredients from locally grown/produced sources.
  • Educate staff, take part in food reduction trainings. Create a protocol to reduce your business’s food waste.
  • Use cloth instead of paper napkins and table cloths.
  • Switch to reusable coasters instead of napkins (or use no coasters at all).
  • When preparing take-out food orders, cut the amount of packaging used. For example, do not double-wrap or double-bag items.
  • Buy at least 10% certified-organic ingredients. 


Core Criteria – Complete All

  • Install an anti-idling vehicle policy for employees, customers, and vendors. We recommend limiting idling to under 5 minutes per hour. You can include temperature-based exceptions. 
  • Encourage alternative transportation methods for commuting, such as:
    • Biking
    • Walking
    • Carpooling
    • 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.
  • Merge 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. Place this information on your website if possible.

Elective Criteria 

  • Install secure bike racks for customers and employees.
  • Provide plug-in vehicle charging for customers with electric vehicles.
  • Transition company fleet vehicles to electric vehicles or electric bikes.
  • Offer free or discounted bus passes or Eco-passes to employees.
  • Support and incentivize employee participation in Bike-To-Work Day or Way to Go.
  • Become an EPA SmartWay partner or affiliate.
  • Install GPS/routing devices on delivery vehicles. This will improve fuel economy and reduce vehicle miles traveled.
  • Offer shower facilities for employees who walk, jog, or bike to work. These can be either on-site or at 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. Consult with us to ensure it meets elective criteria 

3. Application Process

Sign Up

Sign your business up to get certified. The application provides us with contact and basic information about your business. This application also subscribes you to our newsletter. This will let you stay up to date on the latest business trends and helpful resources. You can unsubscribe at any time.


Our team will reach out to you to better understand your sustainability goals. We will also provide you with:

  • The core certification criteria 
  • Our industry-specific certification criteria

All criteria is available via PDF and, upon request, any language.

  • Not ready for certification? We will provide consulting services to help you meet your annual goals. We will also connect you with the appropriate resources.
  • Ready for certification? We will provide you with a certification assessment. This assessment will go through all required criteria needed to meet certification requirements.

Review of Application & Feedback

After we review your assessment, we will reach out with any questions or feedback. We will identify what you need to meet the requirements and help you through the process. We will also discuss the industry-specific requirements needed.

Get Certified as a Green Business!

If your business meets all certification requirements, you will get approved for certification! 

Maintain Your Certification

To maintain your certification, you must do the following each year:

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

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

4. Application

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5. Recertify Your Business

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