YOURBUSINESS BY DENISE NORBERG-JOHNSON
As lifetime building cost calculations
clearly show the value of implementing environmentally conscious choices,
electrical contractors have assumed an
especially valuable role in applying LEED
principles to lighting and smart-building
systems for their clients.
But what have you done in your own
facility and how do you help your own
employees minimize negative impacts on
the environment? This month and next,
we will look at simple ways to save money
as you commit to becoming a green organization. Employees, customers and the
community will appreciate your dedication to the cause.
The three R’s—reduce, reuse and
recycle—should be part of your daily
operations, and management must make
a clear declaration of the expectations
you have for your employees. Solicit ideas
from everyone in the company, and provide incentives and rewards to facilitate
changes in the corporate culture to ensure
green principles drive future decisions.
Managing this process begins with
an energy survey. Utility companies offer
free energy surveys as well as rebates
and incentives. Sustainability consultants or “carbon offset providers” also
provide help with analysis and procedural changes, and their websites often
include free carbon footprint calculators.
The Carbon Fund calculator, available
https://carbonfund.org/business-calculator, includes sections on office
emissions, fleet vehicles, travel, employee
commuting, company events, paper and
shipping. The “How We Calculate” page
provides background statistics that can be
used to make your own quick calculations
on the impact of individual factors.
You don’t need to build a new LEED
facility, install a solar-energy system,
plant a roof garden or replace all of your
flush toilets with composting versions,
and you have little influence over the
decisions made on your project sites. It’s
easier to start by implementing simple,
low-cost eco-friendly practices.
Ironically, technology has not produced
a paperless environment in most companies. An efficient system for scanning,
storing and sharing documents only
reduces the printing of documents if
employees use it. Using monitors with
matte screens that reflect less light will
reduce eyestrain and help wean employees away from printing emails and other
routine documents. Set a good example
by sending meeting documents to phones
and tablets, providing training to help
employees efficiently organize emails and
other computer files, and setting defaults
on word processing programs to narrow
margins and print double-sided.
Remove individual waste receptacles, and establish convenient recycling
areas that include paper containers. Buy
chlorine-free paper with recycled content, which saves 55 percent of the water
and 60–70 percent of the energy normally used in paper manufacturing; it
reduces tree harvesting. Perfection isn’t
necessary; even a 50 percent reduction in
paper use will save more than $160 per
year per employee, plus another $300 per
employee in labor formerly allocated to
printing, filing and managing documents.
Assess the presence of “energy vampires”—phone chargers, televisions or
anything else with an LED display. Use
timers to turn them off at night and on
weekends and holidays. Setting computers to hibernate after 30 minutes and
sleep after 5–20 minutes can save as much
as $180 per employee annually, and using
power strips to shut down equipment
adds another $45 in per employee savings.
Fluorescent lighting lasts 10 times as
long and saves 75 percent of the energy
cost of incandescent lamps, especially
if you replace T12s with T8 or T5 tubes.
They also emit less heat, saving on air conditioning during warm weather. Motion
sensors and automatic timers can ensure
lighting turns off in unoccupied spaces.
Changing thermostat settings by just
a few degrees ( 68 instead of 72) will save
at least $25 per employee per year in
cold weather; raising the setting from 68
to 74 degrees in warm weather will save
more than $40. Again, change settings
for nights and weekends. Adjusting furniture placement and window coverings,
adding ceiling fans, and improving fresh
air flow and cross ventilation will help
employees adjust to the changes.
Plants also improve the environment.
They filter toxins and add oxygen to the
air, and the process of transpiration adds
moisture that helps cool the air in warm
weather. Plants and fish tanks reduce
employee stress and improve employee
satisfaction at a reasonable cost.
Next month, we’ll continue with
suggestions about how you can improve
practices related to vehicles, meetings
and events, and we will look at alternatives to disposables.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Simple ways to go green
A RECENT WORLD WILDLIFE FUND SURVEY found that almost half of Fortune
500 companies have at least one climate or clean-energy goal. It’s good business to
be eco-friendly, and the construction industry has made great strides in going green
without sacrificing profits. Ninety percent of the waste on any project is recyclable,
and project owners are incorporating environmental requirements into their specifications that are passed through to contractors and suppliers.
NORBERG-J OHNSO N is a former subcontractor and past president of two national
construction associations. She may be reached at