Note: This article was originally published as a sidebar within the “Time to Get Lean and Green” article, Precast Inc. July-August 2010.
It doesn’t take millions of dollars to adopt environmentally friendly practices. In fact, green initiatives often result in cost savings. Here are six ways you can start making your company (and your own home) a little greener:
- Switch to CFLs: Go through your facility and replace all of the bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which not only last longer, but also reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions coming out of your plant and into the environment. A CFL bulb uses 75 percent less energy than a standard incandescent bulb, generates 450 fewer pounds of greenhouse gases from power plants and lasts 10 times longer than its incandescent cousin. Learn more about CFL usage online at www.energystar.gov.
- Use ENERGY STAR appliances: When it comes time to replace that refrigerator in the break room, select only ENERGY STA R qualified products, which cost 10 to 30 percent less in operating costs to run. Using energy efficient products and practices, the ENERGY STA R program saved enough energy in one year to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars – all while saving consumers $14 billion on their utility bills. More than 50 types of products can earn the ENERGY STA R, including appliances, lighting, home electronics and home office equipment. Find out which appliances qualify at www.energystar.gov.
- Avoid VOC-based coatings and paints: Volatile Organic Compounds or “VOCs” have been a key component of the composition of oil-based paint, and can also be found in traditional latex-based paints. Exposure to VOCs in paint can trigger asthma attacks, eye irritation, respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness and ther symptoms. Prolonged exposure has been linked to kidney and liver disease and even cancer. The good news is that alternatives are available, and are endorsed by the “Green Seal” certification (based on VOC content, the absence of chemicals, durability, performance and other criteria; visit www.greenseal.org). These alternatives include low-odor or low-VOC paint, zero-VOC paint and nontoxic or natural paint. Find out more about healthier options at: http://eartheasy.com.
- Harvest rainwater: Did you know that every inch of rain translates into nearly 600 gallons of water for every 1,000 square feet of roof? Environmentally conscious business owners are tapping this natural resource and reducing reliance on other water sources by using rainwater harvesting systems that are installed on a roof, which serves as the catchment area. Gutters act as the conveyance system, while cisterns hold the water and are complemented by a pump-based delivery system and a filter- and/or purifier-based treatment setup. Such systems can be added to existing roofs, or installed on new buildings, and used to minimize the 100 to 250 gallons of water that the typical American pulls from municipal systems or private wells. Check out the Rainwater Harvesting Community for more information at www.harvesth2o.com.
- Be water efficient: Kitchens, bathrooms and utility areas are all hotbeds for excessive water usage. Cut the waste by installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, both of which help save resources without sacrificing water pressure. Also consider installing dual-flush commodes, which use a variable amount of water, depending on how much is needed. See the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website for more information on water efficiency: http://epa.gov/watersense.
- Tune up your building: Lessen your facility’s impact on the environment by tuning it up in a few key areas: the HVAC system, windows and doors, and insulation. A professional HVAC checkup can result in 5 to 10 percent savings on heating and cooling bills, while also cutting down on the carbon dioxide emissions coming out of your building. Don’t forget to clean or replace air filters monthly; upgrade windows and doors with energy-efficient models; and improve the efficiency of those portals by replacing old weather stripping with newer options. Finally, make sure your building’s walls and attic are well insulated; if not, enlist a contractor who will use a “blown-in” insulation technique to fill in any voids that may be causing hot or cool air to escape.