Does Your Small Business Have a Power Style?

IBM saved $26.8 million in energy expenses in 2009 as a result of companywide conservation efforts that surpassed corporate targets. How did they do it? Last year, 1,900 energy conservation projects at 270 IBM facilities around the world helped deliver savings in energy consumption that were equivalent to 5.4 percent of the company’s total energy use.

Granted, your business may not be an IBM with worldwide facilities, but, at a minimum, your business occupies office space. There are numerous opportunities for your small business to capitalize on company conservation efforts delivering benefits to both the bottom line and the environment. In fact, more and more leading companies are becoming increasing aware of the cost savings and long-term benefits associated with implementing sustainable changes in their organization. Managing and planning a company’s operations to reduce environmental impacts can result in reductions in resource consumption, emissions, and waste streams.

Small businesses looking for quick wins with a minimum of resource outlay can see generate results:

• Install switch plate occupancy sensors in proper locations to automatically turn off lighting when no one is present, and back on when people return.

• Turn off your monitor and other office equipment when not in use.

• Turn computer off at the end of the day.

• Turn lights off in conference room after meetings and remember to turn off the projector as well.

• Use more natural light when available and adjust lighting to your actual needs.

• Unplug infrequently used office equipment. Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. These “phantom” loads occur in most appliances that use electricity, such as computers and kitchen appliances.

As part of a business sustainability plan, small efforts such as these executed consistently over time, can contribute to improved energy efficiency in your workplace.

More advanced eco actions include evaluating the following:

• Which appliances and/or equipment are consuming the most energy?

• How are these high energy consumption items being run -simultaneously, non-efficiently?

• When are these high energy consumption items running -when not needed, during peak load times?

• What kind of light bulbs are used in the business?

• Has an energy audit been performed within the last 3 years?

• Are lighting fixtures equipped with control features (sensors, dimmers, timers)?

• Is regular maintenance performed for HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning)?

• What percentage of your electrical equipment is Energy Star?

• Which energy and lighting policies do you follow in the business?

Conservation and active energy management are first steps in reducing energy costs. Take it a step further:

• Use high -efficiency HVAC equipment.

• Purchase renewable energy.

• Run non-essential high demand items during off-peak hours to minimize usage charges.

• Stagger your high demand equipment to minimize your demand charges.

• Evaluate the efficiency of your high demand equipment to improve your power factor.

• Don’t waste electricity in an unoccupied space.

• Start a daytime cleaning program to reduce lighting needs at night.

• Implement energy efficient “contests” to train and educate workers for improved eco awareness and energy efficient behavior.

Get employees involved! Employee engagement is an effective, but possibly underutilized strategy for improving energy efficiency. In fact, energy efficiency can be a gateway to wider business innovation and engage stakeholders in broader process evaluations. Suggestions made in our eco friendly training include:

• First establishing a baseline of consumption for benchmarking efforts.

• Create an energy policy for the business. Using your consumption information, you may want to identify areas of improvement.

• Implement behavior and usage modifications.

• Measure and monitor your progress.

• Communicate your success and appreciation to employees for taking eco action.

Companies that conserve energy reduce operating costs and improve their bottom line. What is your small business power style?

Article by Julie Urlaub, Founder and Managing Partner at Taiga Company; appearing courtesy 3BL Media.

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