Businesses see green by going green

Virtually every day we hear about a major corporation announcing plans to reduce its carbon footprint. Businesses are going “green” for a very good reason. It is good for the environment and the bottom line.

Regardless of the motive, a well-run energy program may reduce a business’s energy cost 3 to 10 percent annually according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The high performers, those that saved the most energy, adopt a structured approach to energy management and established policies and procedures needed to ensure long-term results. In addition, they commit to allocating staff time and some resources to energy management.

It is important to note that, contrary to popular belief, designing and implementing an energy-efficiency program in the workplace doesn’t require capital investment or significant resources. It takes a team approach.

The best way to overcome the cost obstacle is to use internal examples of energy savings from better management practices and low-cost improvements. Toyota, for example, has someone responsible at the end of each shift to make sure every single piece of equipment is turned off.

In addition, when making capital investments (even a copier machine) use the life-cycle costs and benefits to evaluate capital expenditures rather than just initial cost.

The other challenge for businesses, particularly for manufacturers, is that investments in process improvements take priority over energy investments. One way to overcome this tendency is to consider developing indicators that measure the financial and environmental benefits, as well as productivity improvements.

A great example of this at work is at Eastman Kodak, which questioned the need to run a compressed air system at 100 pounds per square inch when 80 psi would do. The move will extend the life of the equipment and save energy.

The other common complaint is that facilities’ employees are too busy to work with the energy-efficiency team. This can be overcome by having facility employees attend quarterly efficiency meetings to review progress and benchmarks achieved.

Finally, many companies start with a bang, but the program quickly losses momentum, and poor energy habits creep back. Energy efficiency needs to become a part of the culture of your organization. It must be integrated into all the management systems, so it’s not just a flash in the pan.

Ed Mailloux is senior energy-efficiency programs coordinator for Hampton-based Unitil Corp.

Categories: Opinion