Operations: HQ Energy and Water

Energy

Energy Use at HQ

In 2014, we explored opportunities to reduce our building’s energy consumption. From an assessment by consultants, we learned that approximately 79% of our building’s energy consumption is for heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC); 14% is for lighting; and 7% is for plug load.

We have conducted extensive lighting upgrades. The majority of our building now uses efficient, dimmable fluorescent lamps. We are also making plans in 2015 to install lighting motion sensors in low-traffic areas of our building, such as storage areas, conference rooms, and shower rooms.

Regarding plug-load, in 2015 our IT department will be updating computers from towers to laptops and replacing our phone system with newer, more efficient technology. While energy efficiency was not the driver for these upgrades, the expected reduction in energy consumption is a nice bonus!

Because of these efforts, we have seen an overall reduction in the amount of electricity used by our building over the years. As expected, the solar energy created by the panels on our roof has decreased as well. Turns out solar panels, people, and cars all slow down with age. Today, solar provides just over half of our HQ electricity needs. This is great, but we have a ways to go before we reach our goal of net zero electricity.

This brings us to HVAC...

In order to better understand the opportunities associated with our HVAC systems, we had engineers assess our equipment. They found that in addition to equipment being near the end of its useful life, some of it was not sized properly. This is unfortunately a common issue for older buildings that have been remodeled, particularly when multiple tenants are involved.

The engineers helped us understand the financial and environmental implications of updating our HVAC systems; they are not insignificant. This is a common, yet challenging, example of the sustainability rubber meeting the road. How does a company justify large financial investments with questionable payback for the sake of sustainability, in the face of competing business priorities negotiated between multiple parties with different business priorities?

We are fortunate to have a landlord relationship that prioritizes sustainability but we have not yet figured this out. We are committed to staying focused on sharing our progress.

P.S. Regarding our natural gas consumption, our gas meter was not functioning for all of 2014. We have told our utility about this, and we hope to report accurate data on natural gas consumption in our next report.

Water

Water Use at HQ

In late 2013, Boulder County assessed our building for water savings opportunities. The low-hanging fruit on that list was replacing our faucet aerators with aerators that could save more water. A couple trips to the hardware store and a few sessions with a wrench later – check! Super easy.

If you look at our year-over-year water consumption for the time the aerators were installed (i.e., June – December 2014 vs June – December 2013), we reduced our water usage by 6%. This is great progress towards our goal of a 10% reduction.

Unfortunately, water consumption unexpectedly spiked in January and February of 2014, to the extent we ended up with an overall increase in water consumption for the year. Not what we were hoping for!

We’re working with our building managers and tenants to understand why this happened. In addition to being able to publish a sustainability report, setting goals and tracking our progress helps to identify operational issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. We hope to report true progress towards our water goal next year.


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2014 Goals:

  • Achieve a net zero electricity HQUntil we get there, invest in high quality offsets to balance our emissions.
  • Increase HQ waste diversion to 90% by 2017.
  • Reduce HQ water consumption by 10% by 2017; restore the balance every year through high quality water restoration certificates.
  • New policy: Eco-Products employees will rent only economy or compact cars when local driving is involved. When highway or group travel is involved, employees may rent up to a midsize at their discretion.
  • Each sales department staff will hold at least one virtual meeting, which they would otherwise fly to.

2015 Goals:

  • Achieve a net zero electricity HQ. Until we get there, invest in high quality offsets to balance our emissions.
  • Increase HQ waste diversion to 90% by 2017.
  • Reduce HQ water consumption by 10% by 2017; restore the balance every year through high quality water restoration certificates.
  • Decrease our total miles flown per $1,000 of sales by 5% relative to 2014 travel
  • Each sales department staff will hold at least one virtual meeting, which they would otherwise fly to.