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The Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez has become the first casino in the United States to earn TRUE Zero Waste certification from Green Business Certification Inc., said a spokesman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which owns and operates the facility.

Green Business Certification independently recognizes excellence in green business industry performance and practices globally.

Through innovative recycling programs and community partnerships, the resort diverted more than 2.9 million pounds of waste, or 90.94% of its overall waste stream, from local landfills in 2018.

TRUE is an acronym for Total Resource Use and Efficiency, and of 120 TRUE-certified projects in the United States, only 11 are certified at the silver level.

The casino is the first in Indian Country and the first in Santa Barbara County to be TRUE-certified and only the second facility in California to earn the silver-level certification.

Chumash Tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn said it is an honor and a source of pride for the tribe and all the resort’s employees to have the casino recognized for their zero-waste efforts.

“As the original stewards of the Santa Ynez Valley, our tribe understands the importance of minimizing our impact on the environment by any means necessary,” he said.

“The casino’s Facilities Department has taken our recycling efforts to another level, and it has required a lot of cooperation throughout our resort to get us where we are today — preventing more than 90% of our waste from reaching local landfills.”

To reach its 90% waste diversion goal, the casino’s Facilities Department complemented in-house recycling efforts with new partnerships, including with local programs, and participation in innovative programs, Kahn said.

They include Santa Ynez-based Veggie Rescue, which collects prepared food from the resort for distribution to people in need; Santa Maria-based Engel & Gray, which turns landscape trimmings and preconsumer food scraps into compost; and Santa Barbara-based Textile Waste Solutions, which transforms used uniforms into industrial wiping cloths.

Nonlocal programs include Clean the World, which sterilizes and reprocesses used hotel amenities like soap, shower gel and shampoo and sends them in hygiene kits to undeveloped countries; and Frontline International, which processes used cooking oil into bio-diesel fuel.

CARE, for Cups Are REcyclable, collects and compresses foam cups, then sends them to the Dart Container Corp. for processing into picture frames and crown molding, and TerraCycle turns discarded cigarette butts into plastic shipping pallets, park benches and picnic tables.

The resort received a certificate of distinction from TerraCycle for being its top collector of discarded cigarette butts every year since the partnership began in 2013.

“The Chumash Casino Resort proves that you can have a successful enterprise while also being mindful of the environment,” Kahn said. “We hope we can be a model for other Indian gaming properties in California, other large companies across the country and other local businesses that want to reduce the environmental impact they have in our community.”

For more information about the Green Business Certification, visit www.gbci.org.

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County Reporter/Associate Editor

Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.