Category Archives: Sustainability for Businesses

The Cost of Wasteful Power Use

Cost of Wasteful PowerMore and more businesses today are realizing the importance of saving energy and taking steps to conserve. However, even with the best of intentions, many organizations still waste power. Particularly for a large company, there are hundreds of ways they may be consuming excess energy of which they’re not aware. And that energy can end up costing them, without their even realizing it.

Ways Organizations Waste Power

Many companies are replacing their buildings’ wasteful, incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LEDs, which operate much more efficiently and can last for years. However, those same buildings will leave their energy-saving lights on 24 hours a day, whether anyone is on the premises or not. A few low wattage emergency lights should be used to illuminate the paths to the exits, but other than that, a building’s lights should all be powered down once it closes for the day.

Similarly, many employees will leave their computers on all night, to make it easier to jump back into a project the next morning. Or they’ll leave them running during the day, even if they’re going to lunch, or spending the next two hours in a meeting. This sort of individual employee behavior can be difficult for a large company with multiple buildings to regulate, but it can end up costing them a lot of money — anywhere from $50 to $150+ per device that remains in use. Official company policy might be to set computers to go to sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity, and for all computers, printers, and copiers to be turned off entirely at the end of the night.

Even after adopting conservationist habits, however, both for individuals and the organization as a whole, there’s still the problem of energy vampires to contend with. Energy vampires are appliances that continue to use power even if they’ve been turned off. Computers are major offenders in this regard, as are televisions and device chargers. Even the microwave and coffeemaker in a company’s break room are draining energy while idle. Anything with a digital clock or an indicator light on it is an energy vampire.

In individual homes, the way to combat these energy vampires is to unplug them. Adopting this as a company policy, however, would be difficult to enforce. Fortunately, there are power strips that can automatically cut the power to an individual device as soon as it’s turned off. Or, if there’s a device that needs to be left on, such as a laser printer, it can be plugged into a special outlet on the strip that provides it with continuous electricity, while still cutting power to other devices on the same strip. This way, companies can conserve that energy without even having to think about it.

Ways Organizations Can Save Power

Addressing the individual causes of wasteful power usage is only the first step in saving energy. It’s also important to be proactive and implement policies that stem energy use at the source. This means finding ways not only to reduce the power being used by appliances within the organization, but to reduce the need for those appliances.

For instance, the single biggest drain on most buildings’ energy use is heating and cooling. To combat this, many organizations invest in energy-efficient HVAC systems, which can keep buildings comfortable for less energy and less money. But those organizations can reduce those costs even more by putting in a few deciduous trees around the building, such as oaks or elms. In the summer, they provide shade, which helps to cool the building naturally, reducing the need for air conditioning. In the winter, they lose their leaves, letting in the sunlight to warm the building, thus reducing the need for heating.

Companies can also reduce energy use by creating functional outdoor areas. By putting in a few outdoor tables and chairs, along with some greenery, employees can have a place to eat lunch or even hold meetings outside, thus saving the energy they would have used, had they taken up a room indoors.

Wasting power costs much more than most organizations realize. Not only does it waste huge amounts of money, it also increases their carbon footprint and ultimately damages the environment, making it a high cost not only for them, but for everyone. With just a little vigilance, however, companies can become more aware of that wastefulness in all of its forms. And with a little creativity, they can find ways to eliminate it, and reduce the cost of their power use significantly.

What Is Energy Conservation and Who Is Responsible for It?

Energy Conservation Energy conservation ensures that future generations have access to enough resources to live comfortably and continue progressing. It’s everyone’s responsibility, from individuals to sustainable businesses.

What Is Energy Conservation?

Energy conservation refers to adapting one’s activities to cut energy use entirely — for instance, by turning off computers instead of putting them to sleep. The term is often confused with “efficient energy use,” which, in contrast, means using less energy for everyday tasks, such as by switching to energy-efficient appliances and making sure equipment is running optimally.

Conserving energy does not just lead to a greener environment, it also reduces operating costs, prevents the depletion of resources and increases the lifespan of equipment. All of these help businesses save money in the long run and enable companies to be more competitive.

Examples of Energy Conservation in the Business World

There are a number of ways sustainable businesses can work to conserve energy:

  • Smart Strips. These alternatives to regular power strips are able to sense when a device is off and cut its phantom power. Smart Strips are usually a far more convenient option than unplugging devices.
  • Printing. Paper waste is a considerable concern in many workplaces; however, sustainable businesses can go a step further than simply recycling used paper by sending emails instead of printing memos and, whenever possible, printing on both sides of a sheet of paper.
  • Lighting. Turning lights off when the last person leaves at the end of the work day can cut hours of wasted energy use. Companies should also consider installing motion detectors in less-frequented areas, such as break rooms and restrooms, to keep more lights turned off during the day.
  • Heating and cooling. In many climates, it is a viable option to turn off air conditioning or heating during the last hour of the day. Alternatively, it may be possible to install a timer on the thermostat to turn off the heating or cooling system at regular intervals.
  • Carpool. Setting up a carpool system allows employees to share rides to work limiting the number of vehicles in use on a daily basis.

Although consumers are just as responsible for energy conservation as organizations, businesses are in the position to make a greater impact than individuals and are often judged by the actions and the efforts they take to preserve the environment.

That said, how each of us conducts our life has an impact on others. The small difference we make at home can reverberate to make an ever greater difference with our neighbors and neighboring businesses.

Every Organization Needs an Environmental Management System

environmental management systemsAn Environmental Management System (EMS) helps sustainable businesses implement systems that help reduce an organization’s impact on the environment while improving operating efficiency. An EMS is comparable to a financial management system, but instead of measuring expenditure, income and financial performance, an EMS helps an organization meet sustainability goals, comply with environmental regulations, and improve health and safety for both employees and the community.

EMS Features

Every EMS has the following features:

  • They process, review, and improve an organization’s environmental goals, while analyzing long-term and short-term environmental impact – as well as how the company is meeting legal requirements.
  • They create programs that will help the company meet targets and track and measure the results.
  • They improve employee awareness and competence in environmental issues.
  • They allow companies to continuously make improvements to their sustainability efforts.

Benefits of Having an EMS

There are many benefits of having an EMS, including the ability to help organizations:

  • Minimize environmental impact
  • Reduce waste
  • Reduce energy costs
  • Make the most of all available resources
  • Improve corporate image, performance, and profit
  • Improve compliance
  • Increase employees’ understanding of the importance of environmental concerns and the extent of their own, individual actions

Sustainable businesses who want to manage their efforts and ensure they are meeting compliance requirements need an EMS. These systems remove the complications that often come with monitoring objectives and compliance requirements. This results in faster achievement of sustainability goals, including lowering costs and reducing environmental impact while avoiding fines and government intervention.