Energy Savings: 5 Tips for an Employee-Led Program
“Sustainability” considers economic, social, and environmental aspects of decisions you make for your business. The value of these decisions can be measured and reported using these same three criteria – the “triple bottom line” of Sustainability. Some companies build their entire mission around Sustainability or some portion (Whole Foods, GE’s Ecoimagination). For many small and growing businesses, it can seem harder to do. Here are five tips to jump-start an employee-led energy savings program to save everybody money.
- Let the employees lead. You could act like your parents (“turn that off!”), but remember how successful that was? Instead, let employees lead this effort. Even if you have automated light switches and other equipment, energy savings depends upon people taking actions. When employees come up with suggestions, they are more likely to own it and ensure that things get done. This can be done with an energy savings team (like organizing the office holiday party) or assigning responsibility to an individual (like the floor safety/ evacuation monitor).
- Provide some tools – and make it fun. Let the energy team pick a name. “Power Mongers.” “Watt’s Cooking?” Anything crazy will get attention –that’s the point. Energy savings will require some investment. Purchase a “Kill A Watt” meter so employees can see how much power your equipment uses, and how much it costs per hour. They’ll be surprised how much it costs to run the digital picture frame on their desk. Power strips with on/off switches are a simple way for people to turn off their “vampire” appliances (printers, those picture frames, etc.) for the evening or the weekend. Put an “energy savings thermometer” on the wall, and spring for lunch when you achieve a goal. Encourage social networking to solicit and evaluate ideas, and to broadcast accomplishments.
- Send it home. Once we change our behavior, it becomes second nature wherever we go. If people save energy at home (money in their pockets!), it will be easier for them to save energy at work (money in yours). Encourage employees to borrow the Kill-a-Watt for a weekend. Give power strips away as holiday gifts. Extend the social networking to employees’ families. If employees are combining errands to save gas on weekends, they may offer to stop at the office supply store or a customer’s location if they are going to the bank for you.
- Measure the difference. Measure how much you’re saving. Good practice in Sustainability reporting involves having data – not just stories. It’s easiest to get data while you’re doing these projects. If you don’t have exact data, develop an estimate and document your basis. For example, if you turn off a copier, two printers, and two digital picture frames every weekend, you can assume 60 hours per week of not using that electricity. Measure the savings (use the Kill-a-Watt, or get power usage estimates online) in avoided costs. This is your savings in dollars. Also measure the savings in terms of kilowatt hours or gallons of gas. These environmental parameters become important for other aspects of Sustainability programs, such as calculating your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, responding to customer questionnaires, or preparing a Sustainability report. It will come in handy if your building owner elects to pursue or upgrade a green building certification (L.E.E.D. is the most common example; cities or other groups may have other designations).
- Work with business partners. Work with your landlord, building manager, or other tenants in your building. Your building management company may have programs, promotional materials, tips, or other resources that can improve or accelerate your energy conservation program. Ask building management to install programmable thermostats, or motion-sensor lighting. They may have data on how much money or energy this saves. See if building management will give you a rebate or other benefit if you can reduce your energy use. Tenants may have ideas that worked for them. Check your utility company’s website for rebates.
Energy savings is the easiest place to start a Sustainability program –you use energy all the time. It’s also an easy place to engage employees, providing opportunities for action and leadership. It has other “triple bottom line” benefits of reducing environmental impact, and creating a better work environment.