Wasting energy wastes your company’s money, so profit by making some easy changes
(SAVANNAH) – Many companies are leaving money on the table, but that’s likely to change soon as executives discover that small investments in energy efficiency can pay big dividends. Companies can save a lot of money while helping the environment.
Green choices aren’t just good for the environment – they can be good for business and the bottom line. Many steps to reducing energy usage are simple, inexpensive and smart. Reducing energy use through energy efficient lighting, for example, lowers operating costs while also reducing carbon emissions.
“There’s a direct financial benefit,” said Camille Pope, Finance Manager for sustainable development and real estate company Melaver, Inc. Energy efficient lighting pays for itself relatively quickly, and then continues to pay dividends.
Look first for the easy and inexpensive changes. For example, simply turning off all computers or putting them on sleep mode at night will add up to energy savings and make a difference (screensavers don’t save energy).
Melaver, Inc. stopped buying bottled water and switched to a water filter and glasses because of the environmental issues with the plastic bottles and the carbon impact of transporting them via truck. This move also saves money, as bottled water averages close to $10 per gallon, versus $0.40 for filtered tap water. Also, switching out aerators on faucets is simple, cheap and can cut water use in half.
Heating, cooling and lighting account for a large portion of a building’s energy use, so making those systems more efficient can save a lot of money. For commercial buildings nationwide, almost 35 percent of energy is used for space heating (15 percent for space cooling), according to the government’s Energy Star program.
Turn back or turn off heating and cooling equipment when not needed. If you can cut back just one hour of operation out of every 12, the energy savings will be roughly 8 percent, according to Energy Star. Make sure to inspect and maintain heating and cooling equipment and weatherize, seal, and insulate for more cost savings.
Lighting uses roughly 13 percent of the energy consumed in commercial buildings, the second largest use after heating and cooling equipment. It is often cost effective with today’s technology to replace older lighting systems, resulting in a savings of 30 percent or more on lighting expenses, or 5 percent or more on overall energy expenses.
Make sure that lights are turned off when not in use. Leave on only a few for security, or use sensors.
Replace incandescent bulbs with Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent bulbs, which use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
Purchase U.S.-government rated Energy Star heating and cooling systems, appliances, lighting, etc. Energy Star products can cut your energy bills by up to 30 percent.
For large purchases, take a longer range view. Often energy efficient choices are the better financial decision long-term. Purchase fuel-efficient vehicles. For building projects, use “green” building methods and products. When renovating or building, pick water-efficient plumbing fixtures and energy saving light fixtures.
If you will be in the same location for several years, consider solar water heating, which can pay for itself in about seven years and then heat your water for free. If you’ll be in the same location long term, consider solar panels to provide your electricity.
All these moves reduce a company’s environmental or carbon “footprint.” That’s a metaphor used to represent the amount of land and area that a human population (or in this case, an organization) would hypothetically need to provide the resources required to support itself and to absorb its wastes.
A company wanting to reduce its environmental footprint should start with an analysis of its current environmental footprint as a baseline or starting point from which to reduce. Once the analysis is done (using an online calculator), opportunities to improve may become more apparent
Investing in energy efficiency and being environmentally responsible is an investment in your children and grandchildren’s futures, and the planet’s. But it is also good business. Some of the changes or investments start saving you money right away. Others start paying dividends over time.
GETTING THE COMPANY ONBOARD
When friends ask her how to get their company to think green, Pope tells them to take a few steps and coworkers or employees will get involved when they see they can make a difference.
“You have to start somewhere,” she says. “Any time you’re looking at changing your culture it happens over time. Over time you’ll see benefits. The more people you get involved, the quicker the cultural shift will happen.”
“Just get started,” she advises. “Any step you take can become contagious and people will get on board. Every small thing you do helps, and collectively you can make great strides.”
It is important to bring employees into the process so they buy in and are part of the solution. Don’t just have a top-down policy – get everyone involved and brainstorm solutions in order to get a collective buy-in.
To encourage everyone to participate, translate wasted energy into a cost for the company and quantify the savings. Equate the savings to something meaningful to your organization. For a school, it could be the quantity of textbooks you could purchase with the savings, http://www.energystar.gov suggests.
“When people see the benefits of their actions, they start taking steps in their communities and in their homes and talking to friends about it,” Pope said. “That’s one of the greatest impacts you can have.”
ADVANTAGES OF GOING GREEN
Melaver sees reducing its carbon emissions as part of its environmental and social responsibility. The company is committed to sustainability – the triple-bottom line approach to economic performance, environmental impact, and social engagement with the community.
Many large companies are finding a business advantage in going green – not only in lower operating costs, but also in consumer awareness of their efforts.
“For us, that’s not our reason for doing it, but for some companies it is, and those companies are all seeing a benefit,” Pope said. “(Going green) is bringing some companies to the spotlight and forefront. … Based on what I’ve seen, they’re getting pretty good bang for their buck.”
Many of these large companies are discovering that carbon reduction can mean cost reduction in the form of lower energy bills and other savings.
“After a couple of years, it has a real financial and environmental benefit,” said Tommy Linstroth, Head of Sustainable Initiatives for Melaver.
Wal-Mart and Kroger, as well as several other large corporations, have found ways to save big money through energy efficiency and environmentally friendly initiatives. PepsiCo, Nike, Kraft Foods and other large corporations have said they are dedicated to reducing their carbon footprints.
Melaver, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders program.
“We’re sort of an anomaly,” as a relatively small real estate company since most members of the group are large international and manufacturing companies, said Tommy Linstroth, Head of Sustainable Initiatives for Melaver. “We’re in a unique position, and we’re learning as we go.”
Collectively, small companies can make a big difference for the environment because they represent a huge portion of the economy. Small businesses in particular can implement changes that quickly reduce their environmental footprint. And cost savings may be even more important for them.
Nearly 98 percent of all U.S. firms employ less than 500 people, with 90 percent having fewer than 20 workers, greenbiz.com noted. Small businesses generate more than half of the private gross domestic product and nearly half of all sales activity, and they consume more than 50 percent of all commercial energy use, according to greenbiz.com.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
When companies lower their emissions, the overall effect can be remarkable, said Sara Barczak, Safe Energy Director of the non-profit educational and policy resource Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
“The beauty of working to reduce your carbon footprint is that there are so many other advantages – societal benefits, an improved economy and an improved environment,” Barczak said. When companies reduce their carbon footprint, that creates jobs, especially ones related to technology, cleaner energy and energy efficiency, as well as making possible cleaner fuels and less air pollution and water pollution. “It’s a win-win in terms of making a difference for our future.”
“It’s important for companies in Savannah and the coastal area to work to reduce their carbon footprint because we will be on the frontline of the predicted effects of global warming – sea level rising, tropical storms, and diseases spread by factors such as mosquitoes,” said Barczak. “It’s our obligation to do whatever we can to lessen our contribution.”
Melaver, Inc. has been focused on environmental responsibility for generations, Pope said, and the company donates funds to tree plantings, green power and such because of its passionate commitment to the community and the environment.
Melaver, Inc. employees are hoping other small companies can benefit from what they’ve learned at the forefront of the green movement.
“We have one of the most ambitious plans of reaching net carbon neutral, and we’re happy that we have already reached that goal,” Linstroth said. “Hopefully we can use it as a teaching tool.”
Melaver, Inc. is a third-generation, family-owned business based in Savannah, Georgia. The company recently received the Business of the Year award from Buy Local of Savannah for its local commitment to environmentally responsible projects. The company developed one of the first LEED certified buildings in the U.S. that is also on the National Register of Historic Places. It has also developed the first all-retail LEED shopping center in the country, Abercorn Common, including the first LEED McDonald’s worldwide.
Contact: (912) 236-0781
RESOURCES FOR REDUCING YOUR CARBON EMISSIONS:
First, analyze your current environmental footprint as a starting point. Visit http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html
For energy saving tips and information, visit
Other ways to reduce carbon emissions
Some of these suggestions might not save your company any money, but they will help the environment.
Think of how your company operates. Are there more environmentally friendly ways to create the same product or provide the same services? Your competitors are likely considering the same question.
Encourage carpooling, which saves gas money and reduces emissions from the thousands of miles of commuting that were avoided.
Consider reusable mugs, glasses and water bottles instead of disposable cups and bottles
Consider all the environmental costs associated with your purchases, such as how far they had to be transported.
Consider the packaging of your products and purchases; is it excessive and wasteful?
Choose environmentally friendly products and items made from recycled materials when possible. Use materials such as bamboo flooring that are rapidly renewable, unlike woods that take many years to grow.
Donate items when possible instead of throwing them away.