We often assert that small sustainable practices add up. So what are some specific examples? Honestly, the examples are everywhere!
Sustainable Practices in the Office
First, let’s talk about energy use and sustainable practices in the office. This is a good place to start, because these opportunities apply to a lot of businesses. A 2016 Minnesota Department of Commerce energy efficiency study led by Seventhwave found that the average cubicle in Minnesota office buildings used 332 kwh/year, roughly the same amount as an efficient residential refrigerator. When applying this finding to an office building with 500, 1,000, or even 5,000 offices and cubicles, those numbers really add up. The study noted that in high performance buildings, workstation plug load can account for up to 55% of the building’s total energy usage!
However, we can apply two simple sustainable practices to help curb this energy usage: 1) turn on computer power management, and 2) turn off the monitor when you leave your desk. If you are using more than one monitor, turning off the second when you are focused on just one can easily reduce electric usage by 20%. Applying these actions to an office building with 1,000 workstations, you can likely eliminate the energy usage of 200 workstations entirely!
Another simple sustainable practice offices can use is to reduce the number of printers they are using. The National Renewable Energy Lab did a study that showed that up to 60 workstations could share a single printer effectively. In Minnesota, Seventhwave found an average of one printer for every 4 workers. Assuming that entities might retain a few personal printers for use in sensitive areas like HR, it is reasonable to assume that offices could adjust to one printer for every 15 staff. In an office with 200 workstations, for example, this would be a shift from 30 printers to 8. Not only would this save electricity from each of those printers, but reducing the amount of printers used could also reduce the need for IT support for the various printers, toner supplies, etc. Again, the savings really add up!
Sustainable Practices for Fleet
Another business arena where sustainable practices add up to savings is fleet operations. A variety of businesses are starting to recognize the waste associated with fleet idling. Some estimates suggest that semi tractors might idle as much as 4 to 8 hours per day, even though this costs $5,000 to $12,000 per vehicle annually. Idling diesel engines is a great example of tradition getting in the way of reality: historically drivers idled diesel engines to keep the engines warm and operating. But with new engine technologies, the idling can actually increase maintenance costs. Experienced drivers need to adjust their habits to the new realities of their equipment.
A challenge associated with motivating sustainable change is that individuals tend to discount the impact of their actions. “I’m just one person,” Bill thinks, assuming that it won’t matter if he leaves his computer on all weekend or idles the company truck while he runs in for some coffee. By demonstrating how savings add up across an organization, sustainability leads can empower people to become part of the solution. Coupled with well-designed recognition efforts that reinforce the desired practices, these cumulative results can help inspire the sustainable practices we’re all seeking.
Learn more about how our program can help your organization embrace sustainability, cut costs, and boost employee engagement via our on-demand webinar or contact us to talk about how we can help you maximize your sustainability results.
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