Green Washington 2011: Agriculture/Natural Resources


Winner: Viva Farms
Nonprofit partnership with WSU Extension recruiting and training sustainable farmers.

GREEN ACTIONS In April 2009, this nonprofit launched the state’s first English/Spanish sustainable small business incubator, offering beginning and Latino farmers lessons in organic and ecological farming as well as access to land, tractors, greenhouses and cold storage. The goal: to train a new generation of sustainability-sensitive farmers to replace the many farmers expected to retire in the coming decade.

RESULTS The incubator lowers the startup costs of farming from between $10,000 and $30,000 to just $5,000, helping eliminate money as an obstacle for aspiring farmers. More than 90 people have completed Viva Farms’ bilingual farming, ranching and business planning courses. Eight new farms have been successfully launched at Viva Farms’ 33-acre farm incubator, with many others established throughout King, Skagit and Whatcom counties. One important result: greater availability of organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables while using less water and protecting soil quality.

Runner Up: Wilridge Winery & Vineyard
Seattle’s oldest continuously operated winery opened its own vineyard in 2007 near Yakima.

GREEN ACTIONS Sixty percent of the carbon footprint of winemaking comes from the bottle. In an effort to reduce that impact, Wilridge Winery offers refillable bottles and kegs. The winery has long sourced grapes from single-vineyard sites in Washington and Oregon; its own vineyard operation is solar powered, organic and certified biodynamic.

RESULTS In addition to producing a hyperlocal product for Seattleites, Wilridge has cut down on carbon emissions with its refillable containers. The company’s vineyard has minimized the environmental impacts of producing wine by returning all waste products to the soil.

2016 Community Impact Awards: Green Products & Services

2016 Community Impact Awards: Green Products & Services

Winner: Optimum Energy, Itek Energy, Rice Fergus Miller

Gold Award:
Optimum Energy
Location: Seattle  |  Employees: 60  |  Top Exec: Bert Valdman, president/CEO   |

“Being green” is not a trend at Optimum Energy. The company, which enables campuses, health care facilities, pharmaceutical plants, data centers and other commercial buildings to cut energy costs by up to 50 percent, believes society must reverse the pace of climate change. The firm’s cloud-based platform and its associated technology optimize heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, the largest consumer of energy in most buildings. This technology has enabled customers to save about 500 million kilowatt hours of electricity, reduce carbon emissions by nearly 290,000 metric tons and save more than 100 million gallons of water. “We have to reverse the pace of climate change, and we can’t do that unless we’re able to do more with fewer economic and physical resources, without comprising the environment,” says CEO Bert Valdman. “Accepting the status quo is not an option. We must develop the tools and technology to become more sustainable. And we must do so on a straight-up economic basis, without subsidies.”

Silver Award: 
Itek Energy
Location: Bellingham  |  Employees: 88  |  Top Exec: John Flanagan, founder/CEO  |

Itek Energy manufactures high-powered solar modules in Bellingham. The company also works with nonprofits to power low-income housing, the Bellingham Food Bank, homeless shelters and community buildings. In the past four years, Itek Energy has locally built and sold in Washington more than 160,000 solar modules, which will produce more than 50 gigawatt hours of renewable energy every year. 

Silver Award:
Rice Fergus Miller
Location: Bremerton  |  Employees: 44  |  Top Exec: Steve Rice, principal  |

Architectural, interior design, planning and visualization services to several markets, including senior living, fire and emergency services, health care, hospitality and community. For almost three decades, the firm has focused on projects that build and strengthen community. The company is housed in a reclaimed auto service center that is one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the United States.