Go Green Begins at Work

Staying a Waste-Free Work Environment

One common challenge with implementing green initiatives is that sometimes you just can’t get your staff on board. You do everything in your power to get staff to listen; you host mandatory training sessions, provide plenty of signage and then have to remind the staff when they forget. Keep in mind, you are asking people to change their behavior, so there is always an adjustment period.

While it may take some time to get your employees on board, there are immediate changes you can make that they may not even notice. The following tips only need a one-time installation and will begin to start saving you energy and money instantly.

1. Change your lighting. If you’re familiar with energy-efficient lighting, you know what to do. Start by changing out your incandescent bulbs to CFLs, upgrade your Exit Signs with a LED retrofit and have an electrician change your tube lighting from T- 12 to T- 8 compatible. If this is confusing, contact your electric company. Often times, a representative will come out and perform an energy audit for you providing estimates of costs and returns on investments. You will find many changes will pay for themselves in just a short amount of time, often around a year. In Chicago, Go To Green is a fantastic company that helps small businesses reduce their energy consumption by providing information and rebates.

2. Conserve power with timers. You have efficient lighting, now make sure it’s off when it’ not in use. The most effective method is by using timers. Bathrooms and closets are the most logical place to start as the space is used less often. If a light is left on in a bathroom or closet, it could be quite some time until someone comes around, and even then you can only hope they’ll turn the light off. These areas may seem like the only places you would want to install timers, however longer timers could be put in offices, hallways and conference rooms for when activity there slows down. It’s totally up to you.

3. Reduce water usage. Fixing leaky faucets may be an obvious route to reduce your water costs, but there are a few more options. By installing aerators in your faucets, you can reduce the amount of water coming out of your faucet by about 30%. Additionally, to ensure no one walks away from a running faucet, install automatic sensors so that the faucet will only be used when a person is detected. Finally, look to your toilets to reduce the amount of water is used. Dual-flush retrofits can be installed and decrease the amount of water used per flush by as much as half. So much water savings with so little effort!

4. Identify practices and products relevant to your business. No two companies are the same so it’s hard to describe all the options. One company may be strictly an office while the other may be a bustling shop or restaurant. Research energy saving practices and products to best fit your business. If your hours of operation are between 9am to 5pm, install a programmable thermostat that will adjust the temperature to waste less energy when no one is in the building. If you are a restaurant with coolers, invest in plastic curtains to keep the cool air (and your money) from flowing out when the door is open.

At Blue Plate, two innovative and business specific additions we’ve introduced are the VendingMiser and the Smart Strip. The VendingMiser is a sensor installed on our vending machine that detects when people are present. The machine goes into a sleep mode reducing the energy consumption while still keeping the food at an appropriate temperature should somebody show up and buy something.

The Smart Strip looks like a surge protector but has a greater purpose. By plugging in the modem of a computer into the main outlet and the speakers, printer and monitor into the remaining outlets, this strip recognizes that once your modem is off, so too should be your other electronics. Therefore, electronics are never accidentally left on and you don’t need to go through the work of turning all your various electronics off each night. This same concept can be used with other systems such as your entertainment center. Once the TV is off, the DVD, cable box, and speakers will automatically be shut down.

While it’s very important to get your staff on board with green initiatives, I hope this gives you some helpful ideas on how you can start making your business greener with just a few simple and often affordable changes.