Green IT: What Does it Mean?

green itGreen IT is defined to create more environmentally friendly ways to manufacture, use and dispose of computer equipment in our homes and offices around the world. The steps toward minimizing the environmental impact from our digital world is one that’s not as easy as it appears. When you realize how much computers are relied upon today and made in specific ways, it becomes complicated in changing their environmental footprint.

While the manufacturing materials of our computers probably won’t change in the immediate term, computers can still be recycled so the materials used in them can be used in new products. Unfortunately, the metals of gold and copper used in computers aren’t recovered as much as they should be. On Greenitweek.org, it’s noted that computers contain more chemicals than you likely ever knew, and those can end up in the environment when a computer isn’t recycled responsibly.

Here are some simple and easy steps businesses can do to support the Green IT movement:

  • Purchase electronic equipment that is energy star compliant.
  • Support electronics vendors who have a sustainability focus and program.
  • Turn off all computers and electronic equipment at night. This can save over $100 per piece of equipment per year.
  • Support electronics vendors who take back their equipment and recycle responsibly.
  • Use an e-waste vendor to recycle electronics responsibly. You can find a national database of proper recycling centers for computers through the General Services Administration.

Top 3 Recommended Sustainability Resources for Company Examples

The following three recommended resources are international organizations that offer broad information on sustainability to assist organizations, businesses, governments and communities in being greener. Keeping your business updated with sustainable practices starts at being informed of what other companies and organizations are doing to minimize resource use. Each organization has good information on company examples and application to various industries.

WRIThe World Resources Institute is a think tank that gathers information on critical areas of environmental need throughout the world. Using this research to employ experts, volunteers and WRI members, the organization forms integral partnerships that work on sustainable projects throughout the world. The resources available to the general public include the ability to create Strategic Relationships and becoming a member of a Corporate Consultative Group.

The Global Footprint Network provides cities, businesses and institutions with the ability to Global footprint networkasses their ecological global footprint. The first step towards finding out your ecological footprint is to go to the “Footprint Basics” tab, which includes a wealth of information for different groups on how to assess their contribution to environmental degradation. This website relates your footprint to that of other nations and organizations in the world, contrasting the differences created by levels of consumption and affluence.

nbis logoThe Network of Business Innovation and Sustainability is essentially a giant encyclopedia which links companies and organizations to all of the knowledge that they need to stay updated on the future of sustainability. Their network includes partners from governments, non-profits, individuals, professionals and even students. All of these people work together to teach, learn and innovate techniques and ideas about sustainability through events, workshops and discussions.

Sustainability Resources for Small to Medium Sized Businesses in Denver/Boulder Colorado

Denver is leading the way for the denvernation in striving to become the “greenest” city in the country.  Greenprint, CORE, Alliance for Sustainable Colorado and many more sustainability groups have played a vital role in Denver being named recently as 5th Greenest City Overall by Siemens.

Each of these organizations offer a wealth of resources to support small and medium sized businesses in the Denver/ Boulder area including:

Certifiably Green Denver: An Environmental Business Assistance Program with Greenprint that assists Denver businesses in identify opportunities to reduce waste, energy, air pollution and water.

CORE Catalyst: A program sponsored by CORE that matches talented graduate students from our leading Colorado Universities to do sustainability assessment and recommendation plans.

Sustainability Calendar: Managed by the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, this calendar keeps track of all the Colorado sustainability events and activities.

Here are also some other ideas and initiatives to investigate in becoming a green business:

  • The Denver Energy Challenge will encourage energy efficiency investment in our state and help advance our energy independence through large scale upgrades.  They hope to have 1,200 businesses participating by May 2013.
  • A carbon calculator is a great way to find out how you can help lower the release of carbon dioxide into our air.  This tool will help you find ways that your business can save energy and money.
  • They challenge you to join the Energy Star® Change a Light Pledge by changing at least one regular light bulb to a compact fluorescent bulb.
  • You can also find links to LEED®-certified builders or Energy Star® builders who can help you with your design plans for your business or with additions to existing structures.
  • Of course, one of the simplest ways to make a real change with very little investment is to plant a tree!

At Officiency our mission is to support organizations and consumers in developing and implementing eco-friendly initiatives to reduce environmental impact, resource consumption and waste while maximizing efficiency within business and home environments.  We hope and strive to have Denver become the number one greenest city in North America!

Contact us and we can help you take small steps that will make a big impact.

Cities Encouraging Electric Vehicle Use

electric vehicleEvery business should consider adding electric vehicles to their existing fleet. Colorado based Project FEVER, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, assists Colorado businesses in making the transition to using electric vehicles. Denvercleancities.org explains Project FEVER:

“Project FEVER (Fostering Electric Vehicle Expansion in the Rockies) will create a readiness and implementation plan to increase electric vehicle (EV) and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) adoption across the state of Colorado. Through a collaborative research and analysis process, the project will identify market barriers to EV penetration and develop strategies to overcome these barriers in the transportation and utility sectors”

electric_ride_logoThe project spawned a campaign called Electric Ride Colorado that educates residents and businesses about electric vehicles. Its’ website suggests the Ford Transit electric vehicle for business fleets that require short routes. Taking advantage of this resource is a great way for businesses to make that first step toward moving to an all-electric fleet.

The city of Indianapolis is also taking strides to encourage electric vehicle use. It recently announced it plans to become the first city to use only electric and hybrid electric vehicles for its’ fleet. Mayor Greg Ballard is quoted in the Grand Junction Free Press  as stating, “Taxpayers could save $12,000 over the 10-year lifespan of each new electric and plug-in hybrid”. The same article explains how the city is also urging automakers to make a plug-in hybrid police car.

According to a recent article by the New York Daily News, global electric vehicle sales expected to increase by 3.8 million in 2020. Contact us to learn more about greening up your automobile fleet and learn how we can help with your sustainability plan.

Recommended Sustainability Resources for Colorado Small Businesses

Because Colorado continues to be a leader in small business implementation of environmentally-friendly business practices, our state has created an abundance of organizations and resources which can help guide a business in their sustainability plans.

CORE

CORE is dedicated to helping Colorado denverorganizations implement sustainability in their operations, products, and workforce development, focused on small and medium businesses. They have success stories that share sustainability best practices of businesses in the Colorado community.

Certifiably Green Denver

They can give free and confidential assistance with your environmental questions and concerns.  Because they work specifically with the small businesses of Denver, they can give you knowledgeable information to help with avoiding environmental liability specific to this area, while not sacrificing your profitability.

Denver Energy Challenge

You can find information regarding rebates and also find help with your energy-saving efforts.  You can even talk to an expert by phone Mon. thru Sat. (8:00AM to 6:00PM) at (720) 865-5520.  These are the people to talk to if you are preparing to do an “energy upgrade” as they will help you throughout the process.

Watts To Water

This water conservation program recognizes and awards small business for their water conservation efforts. All hotels and offices with over 5000 sq. ft. of space can participate with minimal effort, but the benefits to your business are great.

Denver Regional Council of Governments

This organization focuses on enabling telework as an alternative to commuting which will help our community reduce pollution, ease traffic congestion and create higher levels of employee satisfaction.  They can work with your company to help you implement a tele-commuting plan that can work in your situation.

The Colorado Carbon Fund

They have created the first, statewide, voluntary offset program in the U.S., with special attention paid to the GHG reduction projects in our state, which will mean verifiable and permanent carbon offsets.

Eco-officiency offers sustainability consulting services in Colorado and nationwide. We provide expert business advisors to assist organizations and individuals in becoming more sustainable in their work and personal lives.  Contact us to discover how we can help you today!

Businesses Can Obtain Energy Efficiency With LED Lighting

LED Parking GarageThe addition of LED Lights in a parking garage, lots and other areas has led to cost savings and energy efficiency for many businesses. This is due to the retrofitting of the existing lighting for these areas with LED fixtures. An article that is posted on the Scoop website talks about how hospitals are saving money by installing LED fixtures.

“GE says that the upgrade of the Michigan hospital has saved the facility nearly $170,000 annually in combined energy and maintenance expenses.”

Businesses will benefit from improved security, reduced maintenance costs and the conservation of energy. New LED lighting fixtures provide ten years plus of life before they need to be replaced. This is a great way for any business to reduce their carbon footprint, lower energy costs and help the environment.

Many parking spaces will need to be retrofitted to install a LED lighting system. The main benefit of using LED lights is that they are cheaper to operate than a high-pressure sodium fixture. Another benefit is the reduction for any maintenance that is needed. This includes the cost to replace a fixture that has failed or stopped working.

Another benefit is LED lighting provides even lighting that can illuminate a parking lot or any parking space more evenly than other lighting solutions. Adequate lighting is important for any outside area and even inside a building.

LED lighting can use motion detectors to turn from low to high to light up any area. Motion can be detected up to 50 feet away. A business that is looking to save money on their maintenance and lighting costs will need to consider adding LED lighting to their parking garages or outside lots.

If you have any questions about the use or LED lighting for your business, then contact us for more information.

Water Conservation is Important in the Workplace

When considering eco topics in relation to the workplace, energy efficiency usually comes to mind before water conservation.  However, experts agree water conservation is equally if not more important.  Here is startling statistic on water:

“Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water or about 0.007% of the entire world’s water supply is available for human use (that’s approximately one teaspoon of water out of a full bath tub).”

It is crucial that industries and public institutions get serious on water conservation.  Water is used in schools, commercial buildings, recreational facilities, and many other workplaces in watering gardens, in the manufacturing process, in the cleaning of floors and equipment, in the cooling of buildings, and of course, in toilets and wash rooms. Of all the water used in major cities, those industries and institutions account for 25% of the use.  So if businesses banded together, there could be a significant difference made in water quality and conservation.

Here are some ideas for small and medium sized businesses could start conserving water:

  • Turn of unnecessary flows to equipment and machinery
  • Switch to low-flow automatic faucets within the facility
  • Install low-flow toilets in each restroom
  • Limit or reduce the watering of lawns or consider xeriscaping
  • Use non-potable water to water flowers and plants
  • Use non-toxic and biodegradable cleaners and solvents
  • Offer filtered water to employees and costumers instead of purchasing bottled water
  • Make your staff aware and involved in the conservation efforts, perhaps by offering water conservation training

None of these things may seem like they would have a big effect on the conservation effort.  But if enforced and sustained, these changes, over time will make a difference. If you would like more ideas on saving water or have any questions about water conservation, please feel free to contact us.

Five Recommended Business Books on Sustainability

The following short list is comprised of five books that offer real world guidance and advice on sustainability in business.  These books can help business owners, managers, organizational leaders and environmental managers/sustainability coordinators to improve their organization’s economic performance as well as their environmental impact.   All of these books stress how important this green evolution is for the future of our businesses, our people and our planet. We hope that you will find them to be valuable additions to your green library. If you would like to start employing green practices in your business, please contact us, we would love to help you.

The Business Guide To Sustainability: Practical Strategies and Tools For Organizations  Authors: Darcy Hitchcock and Marsha Willard

“This easy-to-use manual has been written by top business consultants specifically to help managers, business owners, organizational leaders and aspiring environmental managers/sustainability coordinators to improve their organization’s environmental, social and economic performance.”

Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution  Author: Auden Schendler

“If we’re going to cut CO2 emissions 80 percent by midcentury, it will take more than a recycling program and some hemp shopping bags. We’ll only solve our problems if we’re realistic about the challenge of climate change. In this witty book, a sustainable business foot soldier with over a decade’s worth of experience illuminates the path.”

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution Authors: Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins

“In this groundbreaking blueprint for a new economy, three leading business visionaries explain how the world is on the verge of a new industrial revolution. Natural Capitalism describes a future in which business and environmental interests increasingly overlap, and in which companies can improve their bottom lines, help solve environmental problems and feel better about what they do all at the same time.”

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things Authors: William McDonough and Michael Braungart

“Reduce, reuse, recycle” urge environmentalists; in other words, do more with less in order to minimize damage. As William McDonough and Michael Braungart argue in their provocative, visionary book, however, this approach perpetuates a one-way, “cradle to grave” manufacturing model that dates to the Industrial Revolution and casts off as much as 90 percent of the materials it uses as waste, much of it toxic.”

Green Project Management  Authors: Richard Maltzman, David Shirley

“Detailing cutting-edge green techniques and methods, this book teaches project managers how to maximize resources and get the most out of limited budgets. It supplies proven techniques and best practices in green project management, including risk and opportunity assessments.”

Going Paperless Reduces Carbon Footprint

For most small and medium sized businesses reducing paper consumption can significantly reduce an organizations carbon footprint. If the US cut office paper use by just 10 percent it would eliminate 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases which is the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road for one year. According to reduce.org, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year. Further paper statistics conclude that it takes an entire tree to generate 12,500 pieces paper, of which only 5% will ever be recycled.

As companies of all sizes realize the constraints that paper places on their businesses, they are exploring the many advantages offered by a paperless office, as identified in the article, Becoming a Paperless Office.

Even though the principles of a paperless company are beneficial, it can be challenging to leave behind a data format on which your business has always relied. Here are just a few easy tips that can start your business to reduce and recycle paper;

  • Use both sides of the paper. You can set your printer default to print both sides, make double-sided copies, and use the backs of single-sided documents that have served their purpose.
  • Think before you print. Double check print/copy properties before you print, only print the necessary pages, and share documents whenever possible.
  • Put forms, newsletters, articles and any other applicable documents online. Your management, employees and customers will have immediate access to what they need. 
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle. If your company does not yet have a recycling program, get one started. If you have one, make sure you employees know how to properly use it. Be sure to use post-consumer recycled paper whenever possible.

Going completely paperless is a commitment that will take your company time to fully implement. A first step is getting better organized electronically Then, start by improving overall automation of processes. As identified by the numbers, if every business made improvements it would make a significant impact to climate change.

Benefits of Being Paperless For Businesses and Non Profit Organizations

As a rule, many businesses and non profit organizations have been hesitant from becoming more eco-friendly because they worry that doing so is too expensive or time-consuming.  But, in recent years, more and more of them are realizing that going green can actually be cost-effective and improve efficiency.  Becoming paperless seems to be a growing trend that fits both those benefits.

Paper makes up about 25% of all landfill waste.  It also can account for 40% of all of the wood that is harvested all around the world.  It is also one of the largest users of raw materials, including fresh water, energy, and forest fibers.

The United States is by far the world’s largest producer and consumer of paper using nearly 3.7 million tons or 700 billion sheets of copy paper each year. The American paper consumption is over six times greater than the world average. We use enough office paper each year to build a 10-foot-high wall that’s 6,815 miles long. That’s more than the distance from New York to Tokyo.

Beyond the environmental impact, there is a high cost to paper as well. While the paper itself is a major expense, businesses must expect to spend 13 to 31 times more that amount just to use paper in their offices It not only includes the purchase the paper, but also includes equipment purchase and maintenance, printing supplies, filing cabinets, paper organizing supplies, paper storage, and the expense of having employees file, sort, manage paper. So, that ream of paper that cost $5 could really be a $155 to manage the full life cycle cost of paper. (For further information on the cost of paper refer to the article, The Cost of Managing Paper)

Because of the electronic age in data management organizations truly need very little paper in their offices. Businesses who transition to electronic processing and filing find that their employees spend less time locating and organizing the necessary documents. Becoming paperless is a great first sustainability initiative for small and medium sized businesses to make that not only saves money but improves overall operational efficiency. Contact us to learn more about how to start the paperless office in your organization.