By: Karolyn Bradley, Facilities Manager
Canadian businesses consume an estimated 1.04 billion gigajoules of energy annually. That’s nearly double the equivalent of yearly household consumption for all Ontario homes.
It’s a significant burden on the country’s energy resources and a high cost for business owners. Sixty-nine per cent of Canadian businesses say that cost savings are the greatest benefit to energy efficiency, yet only 27 per cent believe they’re doing all they can to save energy.
Last week’s Earth Day and this year’s upcoming Maclean’s The Green 30 announcement reinforce the importance of energy-conscious planning for businesses. We won our first The Green 30 award in 2014 as an environmentally sustainable Canadian company, and we consistently look to improve sustainability initiatives each year to reduce our footprint and decrease energy costs.
Here are some easy ways we’ve improved energy efficiency that could work in your office.
1. Conduct a Waste Audit
Monitoring your office’s waste will help quantify how much and which type of waste your company generates. In our case, we noticed that we threw out a lot of paper despite a few recycling bins around the office, which brings us to our next tip…
2. Make Recycling Easy
Paper and paper products account for more than one-third of all Canada’s waste. The country uses six million tonnes of paper and paperboard annually and only recycles around 25 per cent of it. To make recycling easier, place recycling bins at each desk and decrease the number of garbage cans around your office.
While we’re on recycling, you can also recycle or refurbish your office furniture. In our case, a fresh coat of paint was much cheaper than replacing our filing cabinets.
3. Make Washrooms Energy Efficient
Exchange your office’s paper hand dryers with high-efficiency air dryers or low-consumption paper towel dispensers that use recycled paper. Install low-flush toilets and touchless faucets to cut down on water consumption. High-efficiency toilets can use up to half the water of regular toilets.
4. Take Advantage of Natural Light and Heat
You might already know this but the sun is pretty powerful. It sustains life on Earth, but on a smaller scale, it can help reduce your lighting and heating bills. Install large East- and West-facing windows in your office and let the sun help heat your office during winter. Drawing the blinds during summer will keep your office cool.
Floor-to-ceiling windows cut back on lighting and heating costs in our main lunchroom
5. Ditch the Disposable Dishes
Use ceramic dishes and mugs in the office to reduce paper or Styrofoam waste from the morning coffee and lunchtime rushes. Clean mounting dirty dishes by assigning different staff members for daily dish duties or suggest a You Use It, You Wash It policy.
6. Install Motion Sensor Lighting
Motion sensors mean you’ll only use room lightning when you need it. And the other bonus: you’ll never have to worry about forgetting to turn the lights off again.
7. Switch to LED Lights
LED lights use up to 90 per cent less power than older incandescent bulbs, and their lifespan is significantly longer, meaning you’ll save in energy and replacement costs. You may also qualify for provincial energy efficiency rebates depending where your office is located.
8. Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances
Using Energy Star quality appliances in your office kitchen can help reduce appliance energy consumption by up to 50 per cent. Consider your office’s daily microwave use; your savings could be substantial.
9. Reinsulate Your Office Building
This tip requires a little more upfront investment, but the long-term savings are worthwhile. Some older buildings bleed heat in the winter and leak cool air in the summer, driving up energy costs. Reinsulating your building’s walls and ceiling will create an air-locked, energy efficient office.
In our case, before renovations our office building was an old warehouse. We heavily insulated the ceiling and walls, and now our building’s energy consumption is considerably less.
10. Plant Exterior Trees and Plants
If your office has the space, strategically plant exterior trees and plants outside your office. They’ll work as insulation against biting winter winds and act as shade against the scorching summer sun.
We're lucky to have space for trees and plants outside our office
11. Encourage a Green Work Commute
Incent staff members who choose public transportation. Offer rebates to employees who ride the bus or carpool to work. Encourage biking or running to work by having bike racks, showers and change rooms available.
12. Install Intermittent Energy Block Heater Outlets
Intermittent outlets will help reduce your office’s energy costs during winters that require employees to plug in their cars. Rather than continuous electrical output to your car’s block heater, intermittent outlets cycle on and off, still keeping your car’s engine warm without the constant energy usage.
Depending on your time and financial resources, it’s possible you can only integrate a few of these tips into your company’s eco-friendly strategy. And that’s OK; you should start somewhere. What’s important is that you’re reducing your business’s footprint on the environment, working towards sustainable practices and reducing costs.