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It's Easy Being Green
Surviving the Power Crunch in the Silicon Forest
Roderick Armageddon and Jessica Repa

The economy is in a slump and the power is nearly out — rolling blackouts keep hitting California and the rest of the West is running out of water… no, this isn’t Bruckheimer’s latest multi-billion dollar Hollywood schlock, this is real life — real time. Anvil thought it might be wise to deliver to you, our readers, a set of standards for energy conservation to help you and your corporation reduce operational and personal costs while effectively increasing corporate profit margins and personal satisfaction, all while living up to that section of your business plan entitled "Corporate Responsibility." Just in case personal satisfaction isn’t enough for you, many of these strategies will actually help build customer loyalty through positive public relations while addressing the imminent power shortage occurring worldwide — how’s that for a lip-smacking coat of icing on your energy-conscious cake? For those of you residing in the Pacific Northwest or Silicon Valley where water is in short supply and blackout reports are becoming as common as weather reports, you must act immediately — conserve today. The following tactics will help reduce your burn rate, improve your bottom line, and create a better future.

"This isn’t about being environmentally conscious or socially responsible or for the betterment of humanity. This is just about better business," Chris James, FatEarth.

1. Turn off your computer at night

We figured it best to start at ground zero on the scale of energy conservation evolution. An obvious one that shouldn’t be easy to forgot, this will save uncountable loads of energy and will give your box a break from the constant whirring. While you’re at it, always choose ENERGY STAR® products whenever possible… it really does make a difference.

What’s the reason for leaving your computer on when you go home anyway? So the cleaning crew can see your nifty new Star Trek Voyager screen saver? Really… if you’re not in the office, do us all a favor and power it down. Shame on you.

2. Use compact fluorescent bulbs to light your office

The ROI for this tactic is irrefutable. Many offices, stores or factories can easily reduce lighting without affecting productivity. Turn off as many unnecessary lights as possible. Use task lighting instead of overhead lighting, and light only those areas that are needed at the time. Providing the right lighting can save up to 15 percent on your lighting bill. Replace your high-use incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights. A compact fluorescent light uses 75 percent less electricity to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb. The compact fluorescent will last about 10,000 hours as opposed to the 600 to 1,000 hour average life of an incandescent. By replacing a 100-watt incandescent with an equivalent 25-watt compact fluorescent, you can save more than $90 per bulb in electricity costs over the 10,000-hour lifetime of the compact fluorescent.

It might also be wise to make sure that bulbs, fixtures, lenses, lamps and reflective surfaces are cleaned regularly. By removing grease, dust and other dirt, you can increase the output of your lights. Install automatic room-lighting controls to turn lights on or off depending on occupancy or time of day.

Many argue — and respectfully so — that incandescent bulbs provide better light for your eyes… for the most part this is true, so our first suggestion in solving this problem is to look beyond the lights - start seeking as much natural light as possible. If you have the option of using two banks of florescent overheads as opposed to a incandescent table lamp, make the decision that gives your head the smallest amount of pain… but definitely choose between the two and shut the loser off. Chances are those endless games of solitaire are doing more to give you headaches then the lights.

3. Drive the speed limit

Who knew that driving the speed limit (or preferably slightly below the speed limit) would actually save energy? Hopefully you did. The simple manufacturing process of petroleum consumes energy - not to mention the burning of said fuel — by driving slower, you consume less of that petroleum. It will also save you some dollars by avoiding a speeding ticket or two. True, we could argue for years about what the speed limit should be (based upon safety figures and reaction time studies), but modern engineering has given vehicles lower torque curves that let them rip across the highway using higher gears and lower engine speeds (below 2700rpm)… in comparison, a 1990 Geo Storm whirred along at 70mph at about 4000rpm — not only was the engine screaming at mind-numbing decibels, the fuel economy was shot to hell. So what if it only had a 1.8-liter engine? Spinning at that speed it got fuel mileage like a Hummer. The message here is to use high gears, go easy on the gas pedal and ditch the curb-crashing SUV’s — especially if there’s only two of you packing all of your REI spoils to the mountain… shame on you.

If you’re choosing to drive an electric car for that daily commute or to use as a delivery car, our advice is to stick with a hybrid, like those currently offered by Honda and Toyota. Hybrids generate their own electric power through regenerative breaking by teaming small, highly efficient gas engines with electric motors - they actually get better mileage in stop-and-go city driving then on the freeway - a much wiser choice than a pure-play electric. After all, when you plug that pure-play into the wall socket, where do you think the electricity is coming from? Chances are it’s not a gaggle of gerbils spinning away in a giant wheel farm somewhere in North Dakota — more than likely it’s coal, nuclear, or salmon-smashing hydroelectricity. With Dubya in the big house, looks like the source of that electricity will continue to be our dirty little secret. Shame on you again. Our advice? Take a bus. Ride your bike. Carpool. Walk. Stay home.

4. Use two sided sheets of paper

If it works for your business and their isn’t an executive-level mental block on this concept, consider ink-jet printers, which use 90 percent less energy than laser printers. Better yet, don’t even use paper — invest in a PDA to take notes, and for presentations, and send the files ahead of time. Unless you’re in graphic design, publishing or advertising, the only reason to print anything should be as a last resort. Many companies charge for printing and have an allocated amount per employee — which will be able to pinpoint the culprit who is printing unnecessary amounts.

Studies have shown that with the increase of online media and alternative sources of communication, print production has actually increased! Apparently we’re scared of virtual information and now go out of our way to hold onto anything we can actually hold onto. Once again, shame on you.

5. Consider alternative ISPs

ISP companies such as Iris Communications rely on solar, wind or other alternatives for energy instead of your standard energy sources. These firms are just as reliable as the other hosting companies; they have a much lower burn rate (and are therefore more viable and stable companies) and offer the same degree of reliability and uptime as the competition. Their prices are also fairly competitive. The lesson here is to get off your dead ass and think about the whole chain of energy, versus the end product that you interact with. We know it’s not easy and the results may not be extremely tangible… but someone’s grandkids will thank you down the road. If they don’t, ask your grandkids to beat them up.

6. Telecommute and make pajamas your corporate attire

As an addendum to the previous diatribe on driving, a great way to save energy is via telecommuting — there’s no need to consume double the energy. Companies need to explore flexible work time systems and telecommuting as a standard work format. It’s also important to note that lap top computers since use up to 90 percent less energy than a standard computer — potential incentive for a performance and mobility upgrade.

For many people out there, a 45-minute commute each way is less then desirable for a variety of reasons. There are definitely costs involved with working from home, but the savings are dramatically higher when compared to the cost of commuting. The big issues with this one are A) Do you have the technology to effectively perform your work remotely? B) Can you actually remain productive at home when the weather starts turning sunny? C) Can you effectively communicate to your employers that the amount of money and energy that will be saved by your telecommuting are dwarfed in comparison to the amount of money you’ll be saving on your wardrobe (especially for the ladies out there)? We dare you to add up all of the expenses involved in commuting for a year — make estimates on increased vehicle maintenance — you’d be shocked… this doesn’t even include the evil from the emissions you’re car is belching out.

7. Take public transportation to work or carpool

We brushed on this one earlier…for inhabitants of the great Portlandia: think of all of the interesting people you’ll meet on the MAX that you’d never ordinarily run into. For BART riders in the Bay Area: Think of all the AvantGo reading you can catch up on - think of that extra networking you’ll be able to do. You can close more sales, make more friends, and get more personal time by avoiding the traffic. Aside from the environmental and cost savings, the real advantage to public transportation is gaining perspective…look at those around you and think about your fellow humans for a while. You’ll see all walks of life on public transit - many you don’t want to see, or smell — but the perspective will do you some good. Hopefully it will take the chip off your shoulder and help you realize that your income and title does not define you. If it does, you’ve got bigger issues then the public transit system can solve. The biggest downfall to public transit is the shared airspace — which no doubt affects how many colds you do or don’t get during the year — however it may just help your immune system build up more of a tolerance - there’s something to be said for exposure! Always remember: is it half empty or half full?

8. Send workers home for a week

Sun Microsystems and HP implemented radical cost-cutting measures by asking their employees to take mandatory vacation for a week in an effort to reduce operational costs. This tactic saves money and energy. Tell your employer or employees to do the same — just make sure it happens at the same time you had already planned on taking time off to catch that Brittany Spears concert in Orlando — which you were riding your bike to, of course.

9. Shield your office from the sun and cold

This is both for comfort and energy savings… if you’ve got so much glass around your office that you feel like you’re part of Siegfried and Roy’s animal entourage… pull the blinds, slide the curtains, drop the shades! The cooler you can keep your office space in the summer, the less energy your HVAC system will have to pump in to keep the room cool. Same goes for the winter… pull the drapes shut if it gets cold — I don’t care if they’re the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen, they’ll act as an additional insulator for single and double pane windows alike.

For cooling your offices in the summer, set the thermostat in your workspace to 78 degrees during work hours, and raise the setting to 85 degrees when the space is unoccupied. The energy savings can be significant - as much as two percent of your air conditioning costs for each one degree that you raise the thermostat. If all businesses in California set their thermostats to a higher temperature, the State would save 770 megawatts for every two degrees. Or, California could just keep the AC on all the time and take the power from everyone else - Oregon and Idaho don’t need it anyway (tell that to Intel and Micron)!

It might also be wise to select a programmable thermostat that makes it easy to adjust the settings as well as regulate the temperature when you are closed to avoid unnecessary cooling costs. Consider a locking cover over the thermostat to avoid having employees tamper with the temperature settings. Also, don’t allow electric space heaters anywhere near your offices unless there’s someone on staff with lupus (www.lupus.org) — these heaters are not only dangerous, but they make the thermostat think it’s warmer then it really is, thus keeping the heat off longer. We all have our own comfort levels (this could be yet another reason to telecommute), but the cost of comfort is substantially more important then the comfort of your personal space. Shame on you.

10. Turn off the office lights at night

Hello, McFly! If you’re not there, turn off the lights! Period (See number 2 for more insight). Check out the Peakload Reduction Incentives and Rebates available to your company… there might even be some cold, hard cash in it for you.

Aside from the obvious strategy of shutting the lights off when no one is there, many offices, stores or factories can easily reduce lighting costs without affecting productivity. Turn off as many unnecessary lights as possible. Use task lighting instead of overhead lighting, and light only those areas that are needed at the time. Providing the right lighting can save up to 15 percent on your total lighting bill. That’s $1500K in savings for every $10,000 spent — that’s not chump change.

11. Think about how you spend

Burn rates for companies such as FatEarth are zero to none — they have no operational costs except for salaries because they consume very little and do not require waste management — they recycle everything. Reuse your computers — donate them to charity, turn them into art, or recycle them. Recycle everything. Make a corporate compost box. Pack your lunch in edible wrapping. Don’t wash your clothes more than once a month — OK, scratch that one. Don’t buy anything made with Styrofoam and if you do, find a way to use the foam for the next 20 years. This requires one major shift in your thinking about energy conservation: effort. Open up your eyes to what you’re doing and constantly question how it could be streamlined or recycled. Spend less on everything and always ask for a lower price. There is true beauty and strength in boldness.

12. Kill the misconception about high costs to turn green

Environmentally friendly things are not more expensive and are indeed more cost effective. Who the hell started rumors contrary to this? Chances are it was big business… small businesses can act fast and streamline processes more efficiently. GE, Ford, Proctor and Gamble, they all have to make major operational shifts to change the way that they do business. This is indeed expensive, but how many companies out there are playing in that space? And if you are, chances are you’re worrying about a 50-year roadmap anyway, so maybe a little investment now will indeed pay off by 2035. If you run into this type of thinking, question it constantly. Spread the word that environmentally friendly does not mean economically evil.

13. Diversify — look at the vast array of new, viable options available

When thinking of your environmental strategy, remember the words of FatEarth’s Chris James: "Its like a portfolio, you can put all your eggs in one basket (like the stock market), and if it plummets, you don’t do very well."

Other companies are looking internally, not only to lower costs and improve the environment, but also to diversify revenue streams. Tillamook Cheese factory is turning manure into a renewable resource. Heck, maybe we can turn leftover apple cores and banana peels from our Dilbert-ites and corporate-lake-goose-droppings and turn that into energy? How come we aren’t trapping methane gas off of landfills — its energy, and its available now. The fact is, we have the means to spread our energy consumption across solar energy; wind energy and hydrogen fuel cells — as well as a host of other options currently in development. Aside from changing where and how we obtain our power, the real key is just simply using less of it. In a country where SUV’s keep getting larger and super-sized just isn’t filling enough, this concept may be hard to swallow (pun intended). For those who see it as a bitter pill, buck-up and grab a spoon full of sugar.

Think twice before you plug it in or turn it on… after you read this and get up for a cup of coffee, will your monitor go to sleep after 2 minutes? No? Well maybe it should. Shame on you. There really is no secret ingredient to saving the economy or turning a profit — but there are ways to pull your company out of the sludge and into the future of environmental and economical responsibility. Build your own strategy for slimming down operations by proactively implementing green practices that simultaneously help your company save money. That’s all good for the bottom line and for your best client: Planet Earth.

Need help developing a green plan for your company? Take a look at www.FatEarth.com and www.BetterBricks.com - both have great information about what companies can do.  Also, FatEarth can offer five free hours of consulting for any business interested in implementing energy efficiency - check out FatEarth and let Chris’ crew help you design a solution that best fits your company’s willingness to make a difference. This is your chance to help others embrace the concept that environmental and economic sensibilities aren’t really that far apart after all.

Other links:

www.usgbc.org

http://www.eeba.org/ 

http://www.eren.doe.gov/menus/energyex.html 

http://www.aceee.org/ 

http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/flex/tips_business.html

A special thanks to Chris James, President of FatEarth, Inc. Chris’ contribution to this article saved us considerable energy that normally would have been expended on countless hours of additional research, binge drinking and microwave pizza preparation - all accompanied by energy-raping decibels of Nine Inch Nails and Barry Manilow.


Roderick Armageddon is Chief Thinker for Stage Nomad - a non-profit artistic collective, Rod writes from his home on Mars.

After a hard day of marketing at Webridge, Jessica enjoys playing the role of actor in local theater productions. Look for her in an upcoming movie with Brad Pitt.

 

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