Make Your Business Green

By Craig Schill
GreenEriePA Writer

Is it Worth It to Green Your Business?

Absolutely! According to Gary Diley, Environmental Manager of Erie Insurance, being environmentally conscious as a business goes hand-in-hand with being a successful business and haing productive workers. Becoming a greener business starts with saving energy, and to do that, it is best if one understands how much energy is consumed by every light and appliance in a building. In order to discover this, the best way is to use the EPA's energy star portfolio manager, which is a bench-marking application for discovering a business's energy consumption totals. Information is entered about the property and details about what sorts of lights and appliances are present, and eventually a score is given that reveals how "green" your building is. 50 is an average score, anything below it is below normal efficiency, and anything above it is above normal efficiency. A score of 75 is good enough that a business should seek an energy star certification.

An easy first step toward greening a business involves turning off and/or unplugging lights and appliances when they are not in use. For lights, occupancy sensors have been designed so that if someone is not present in the room, the lights turn off after a short amount of time. Surprisingly, lights account for a large proportion of the energy consumed by a business. Therefore, converting light bulbs over to more efficient ones may be crucial in lowering the monthly energy bill. However, in order to keep a productive work environment with happy workers, light level and color quality must be considered. In dealing with computers, the sleep or hibernation cycle should be utilized and computers should be shut down when leaving for the day.

Diley also notes that programmable thermostats are also very important. Some actually connect to mobile devices and can be remotely controlled. These thermostats are important in more efficient temperature regulation. For businesses that have a maintenance staff, Diley recommends challenging them to come up with some of their own ideas to save energy. However, the workforce should never be impacted negatively as a result of changes because this could hinder the business as a whole.

For recycling, Diley says to "find a champion" among your workers, meaning someone who is motivated to get everyone involved. Constant communication in the workplace is a must. Single stream recycling, where all recyclable materials are thrown into one receptacle, is most desired as it makes things simpler along with finding the right waste hauler who will handle your materials efficiently and responsibly. Green maintenance is also key as product selection and their uses become very important. For example, a business should try to use "green" cleaning products that are manufactured in a way to make them less harmful than other similar products, but still get the job done. Deciding between paper towels or hand dryers and low-flow or high-flow toilets is also crucial.

When painting a room, use paints with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC's),which are bad for the environment. Also, when purchasing furniture, reupholstering old pieces is a great alternative to buying new furniture, and if new furniture is necessary, there should be attempts to purchase from a manufacturer who uses more recycled materials than others.

Diley acknowledges that most decisions involving trying to make a business greener are not clear-cut. However, all decisions should be long term may it not only affect the present, but also future generations in a good way. The best way to make these decisions is through life cycle cost analysis, where costs such as maintenance, repair, and disposal are involved rather than just initial costs. In speaking about LEED certification or just becoming greener in general as a business, Diley says the most important part is indoor environmental quality, not saving energy. After all, it should always be about the students at a school or employees at a workplace to make the institution run most efficiently.

Videos:

  • Green Roofs Part 1: (Penn State Extension) A video discussing pros and cons to green roofs and the types of plants that can withstand the conditions of green roofs. Many benefits can be seen by installing green roofs.