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Five Steps for Planting the Seeds of an Energy-Savings Program

In recent years, the term “green your office” has become increasingly prevalent in our eco-conscious society. Corporations large and small have either introduced or are beginning to take steps toward implementing environmental efficiency programs to show their commitment to sustainability and cutting costs. Environmental credibility has become an increasingly important aspect of a business’ reputation and their workforces pride themselves on achieving measurable improvements.

Many environmental compliance officers with whom I have spoken have told me that their organizations have the best intentions and the desire to make their environmental mission statements a reality; however, they have been forced to operate in survival mode for a number of years due to the economic climate. Doing more with less has become the new standard for companies across the country, and trying to implement environmental initiatives with fewer dollars and resources has become seemingly impossible.

I’d like to offer a five-step action plan for making your energy-savings program a success:

–Step One: Understand that Your Employees Are Your Biggest Assets: Internal communications play a vital role in ensuring targets and goals become results. A strong plan that involves your employees – every step of the way – in the implementation of your sustainability program will create strong ambassadors and is a lynchpin for its success. From experience I can assure you that your employees will take great pride in their environmental sustainability contributions that are extremely rewarding and can help improve morale.

–Step Two: Understand Your Baseline Costs: If you are creating a utilities savings initiative, for example, you will need to establish a baseline to measure how much electricity and power is being consumed and shape your goals from there. In addition to facilities research, I highly recommend an all-staff survey to pinpoint major sources of waste that may have gone unnoticed. It will help measure staff sentiment toward current facilities and help them feel more involved in the green initiative.

–Step Three: Time-defined Goal Setting: It is important to define the scope of work at the start of your initiative so you have a checklist handy to track your progress. Rome wasn’t built overnight. Your compliance goals and metrics should increase year-over-year, with year one perhaps delivering the least reward as you factor in planning and employee training. A sustained plan with defined outcomes will offer your company increasing success year-over-year.

–Step Four: Define Focus Areas for Energy Savings: Electricity and printing consumption are generally top of mind for many organizations and are traditionally the first steps toward creating a formal program. The following are some suggested areas in order to focus your conservation efforts:

a. Energy-efficient lighting: Pre-programmed, energy-efficient lighting is one of the easiest ways to achieve significant cost-savings in a short period of time. In a recent cross-office sustainability program, Canon U.S.A. replaced thousands of incandescent and halogen lights with low-carbon lighting. We also installed automatic switches that rely on motion sensors that switch off when a room is not in use. Select lighting was also removed, deactivated and/or reduced altogether in areas near sources of natural light (windows) and low-traffic areas (hallways).

b. Computer Screens: Legacy CRT monitors are more prevalent than you may think and replacing them is an easy way to reduce energy consumption. Donating the unused CRT monitors to locations such as local schools, charities, libraries and Goodwill are a nice way to further extend the value of your energy consumption efforts.

c. Environmentally Efficient Printing: Individual multifunctional printers are great for individual home offices but large office printing should be networked and centralized. Consider a consolidation plan to replace individual printers with networked multifunction printers in order to reduce energy consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions. Make sure your new purchase complies with EPA’S Energy Star guidelines and is equipped with software that defaults to duplex, black-and-white printing, and routes print jobs to the most energy-efficient printer available.

d. Operations Management: Research shows that an inordinate amount of energy is consumed during non-working hours. Consider limiting the hours that you light your office during the business week and on weekends. Staff who need to stay late or work on weekends should inform facilities if lighting is needed beyond allotted hours. Unnecessary lights can also be automatically turned off after-hours based on the use of motion detectors in some areas.

–Step Five: Make employee training an ongoing program:  Employee education and training will continue to play an important role in the success and longevity of the green program. Brown bag lunches hosted by your office ambassadors and Earth Day celebrations are two effective ways to engage employees and keep the green momentum going.

Armed with the five-step approach above, environmental compliance officers at organizations can help their companies achieve measurable improvements in the short-term, and affirm their commitment to responsible corporate citizenship in the long-run. At the end of the day, the conservation of natural resources will have far-reaching implications and benefit employees, consumers and generations to come.

Mario Rufino is manager of Environmental Management for Canon U.S.A.

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3 thoughts on “Five Steps for Planting the Seeds of an Energy-Savings Program

  1. All good points for those starting out – with one exception: CRTs are energy hogs no matter where they’re plugged in. Far better (if your goal is reducing footprint) to recycle them than hand them down.

  2. There is a lot of great advice here, and it also tells the backstory of the sustainability officer: well-intentioned, under-funded, and siloed. It highlights what we see every day in our customer work: the importance of a holistic approach to energy management particularly as it pertains to sustainability.

    I’ve taken a crack at MY five steps here.


    Phil Adams, President World Energy

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