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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Steps to Greening Your Office

Sustainable Industries recently published its Green Office Guide. The Guide could not come at a more oppurtune time. Paper usage is increasing about 20 percent a year. A typical office uses about 1.5 pounds of paper a year per person. Commuting to work makes up 20 percent of of all personal vehicle use, and 93 percent of Americans commute to work using their personal vehicles. About 30 percent of the energy used by U.S. buildings is done inefficiently. 

If you want to make your office space environmentally friendly, the Green Office Guide published by Sustainable Industries, suggests seven steps you can take.

1.  Start by creating a green team. Your green team should include personnel from company's management team and financial department. The purpose of the green team is to set goals and monitor progress. 
2.  After you have created a green team, the Guide suggests consulting with a professional. It can be hard to find a professional. Ask your city government if they offer free services to businesses who want to green their operations.
3.  Choose which measure to tackle first. 
4.  Consider what measure will give you the greatest improvements in environmental impact and operations costs.
5.  Set timely goals. The Guide recommends a plan that will reduce your company's energy consumption by six percent a year over the next three years.
6.  Get everyone in your company on board.
7.  Communicate your successes. 

Paper use

Here are a few ways to reduce paper use:

1. Set your office printers to print on both sides of paper. 
2. Print more on a piece of paper by setting the margins 1.25 inches to 1 inch. This will reduce paper use by up to eight percent.
3. Proofread before you print.


Encourage your employees to carpool by starting a rideshare match program. A rideshare match program helps potential carpoolers find each other.Consider pairing the rideshare match program with a cash benefit program.


One way to make your company meetings more environmentally friendly is to do web-meetings whenever possible. If that is not possible then select a hotel from Make sure the hotel your choose is near public transportation. 


There are some easy things you can do to make your office more energy efficient. Make sure lights are turned off in a room when no one is in there. Turn off all computers and computer equipment every night before leaving. Replace light bulbs with compact flourescent lights (CFLs).

Water efficiency is also important. Installing low-flow toilets and motion sensors for faucets will save water. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Green Office Buildings Save Money, Make Money

A recently published report titled, Doing Well, Doing Good: An Analysis of the Financial Performance of Green Office Buildings in the USA by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) concluded that green buildings with Energy Star ratings generate premium rents. However, the report did not find that LEED-rated buildings generated premium rents. The report suggest that tenants and investors will pay for for an energy-efficient building, but not for one that is "advertised as sustainable in a broader sense."

The building sector accounts for about 40 percent of raw materials and energy consumption, and  for at least 30 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions. Constructed buildings use energy, and energy is 30 percent of office building expenses, "the single largest and most manageable operating expense in the provision of office space."

Green buildings result in an aggregate premium of three percent per square foot compared to identical (average) buildings. Effective rents, rents adjusted for building occupancy levels, result in rent premiums of over six percent. This implies, according to the report, that greening an existing building increases its value by "some $5.5 million."

Increasing energy efficiency by 10 percent is associated with a 0.2% increase in effective rent. This is in addition to the six percent rent premium. A $1 savings in energy costs from increased thermal efficiency results in about $18 worth of "increased valuation."

The report cites four economic benefits from investing in green buildings:

1.  Saves money spent on energy, water and waste disposal, insures against future energy price increases
2.  Improving indoor environmental quality may result in higher employee productivity
3.  A green corporate building might create a positive corporate image
4. Green buildings may have longer economic lives due to less depreciation and lower volatility in market value

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Small Businesses Don't Have the Green to Go Green

Small businesses are taking small steps to become more environmentally friendly, according to the Small Business Index survey by Wells Fargo and Gallup. The majority said they are doing at least "everything that can be justified by cost.” However, 67 percent think their customers will not pay more for environmentally friendly goods and services. In April 2007, 49 percent thought customers would pay more. 

Only 37 percent of respondents actively show their green credentials to customers, down from 47 percent in April 2007. The number one reason for showing their green credentials was "as part of a personal commitment or responsibility." The second reason was for public relations purposes, and the third reason was attracting customers.

One-third of the respondents said the current economic situation affected their plans to become more environmentally friendly. Seventeen percent said their companies are doing "very little or nothing at all"to become environmentally friendly. 

There is good news. Over the last year, almost 90 percent participated in recycling, and over three-quarters (77 percent) switched to more environmentally friendly products. Thirty-two percent said they used some form of alternative transportation (other than a car).

Forty-five percent said they assessed how much energy their company uses. Sixty-eight percent switched to energy-saving appliances, light bulbs or vehicles. Forty-five percent percent believe specific actions can be taken by their company to improve environment.

The survey has been conducted for the last 23 quarters. The current survey was conducted on January 22-February 2. It was based on 604 small business owners across the U.S.

“Going green’ has been good for the environment, and even better for our bottom line,” said Marion Hook, owner of the Adobe Rose Inn, a bed and breakfast in TucsonArizona. “We know that the money we’ll save long-term by making even small changes, such as using cisterns, florescent light bulbs and solar tubes, will far outweigh the short-term costs. We also find that our guests appreciate our efforts, and happy guests lead to repeat customers. ‘Going green’ is a part of a long-term strategy, and it will help keep our business financially sound, now and in the future.”

“At Wells Fargo we recognize the importance of integrating environmental responsibility into business practices and procedures,” said Marc Bernstein, head of Wells Fargo’s Business Direct lending and Small Business Segment. “We know that the contributions of small business owners are a vital part of the overall success of the economy, and in much the same way, we know their contributions can make a real difference in the state of the environment.”

Recent surveys indicate customers will pay for green products

Recent surveys indicate that customers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products and services. A Forester survey said 18 percent of customers would pay more for environmentally products, and recent Carbon Trust research said customers think its important to buy from environmentally responsible companies. In a Yahoo survey, 77 percent described themselves as green, and 57 percent said they made a green purchase in the past six months. 

Four out of five respondents in an Opinion Research Survey said they are still buying green products and services despite the recession. In a 2009 Cone Consumer Environmental Survey, 34 percent said they are more likely to buy environmentally responsible products. Forty-four percent said their environmental shopping habits not changed much, and only eight percent said they are less likely to buy environmentally friendly products.

In a Consumer Electronics Association survey, 33 percent said they expect to make some type of green electronics purchage within next two years. Fifty-three percent said they would be willing to buy a television with green attributes, and 89 percent said energy efficiency would be a factor in choosing their next television.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Current State of Green IT

Almost three in five executives interviewed by CFO Research Services said that their company devotes at least five percent of its IT budget for green projects. Over one-third said their company allocated 15 percent or more to green IT projects. However, one in five did not know how much of their company’s budget is spent on green projects. The survey was published as a report titled, The Next Wave of Green IT.

The majority of executives said their companies took early steps to “lessen their environmental impacts. ” Over nine out of ten companies made “incremental” or “aggressive” steps to lessen the environmental impacts. Two-thirds said their company has a formal program in place to monitor and measure its environmental performance. Over 90 percent said their company has taken “aggressive” or “moderate” steps to improve its environmental performance.

According to the respondents, in order for companies to have a more “structured approach” to Green IT policies, they will need to overcome:

  • A lack of information and trusted practices (44 percent)
  • The inability to build a solid business case for green IT investments (42 percent)
  • Shortage of capital and well qualified talent (41 percent)

The respondents expressed concerns for future risks. Fifty-six said that “decreasing the impact of energy market volatility on company operations and performance” is very important. The majority said “reducing exposure to environmental liabilities” and “improving compliance with environmental regulations” are very important. Fifty-nine percent identified “cultivating public perception of their company as ‘green’ and environmentally sound” as very important.

When asked where companies discussed their environmental performance with the “outside world,” respondents said:

  • Their annual report (62 percent)
  • Their annual meeting (54 percent)
  • A corporate social responsibility report (50 percent)

The report put respondents into two categories in order to “confirm the utility of a formal program” that measures environmental performance:  67 percent whose company had a program, and 33 percent whose company does not. Companies who have a formal program are “far more likely” to discuss Green IT projects in their annual report and at their annual meeting.

When asked if their company had quality information on IT’s environmental impact, 52 percent said their company has “complete, accurate, timely information,” and 40 percent said their company does not.

The next steps for companies who want to be part of the next wave of green IT are:

  • Establish a baseline measurement of current sustainability performance that is satisfactory for both IT and finance
  • Calculate the cost of carbon and what is at stake from the perspectives of fi nance, operations, and risk management
  • Align the enterprise’s tax strategy with its sustainability strategy and green investments
  • Determine what type of sustainability information is likely to be needed to measure progress at both the macro and business-unit levels
  • Assess whether or not that information currently exists
  • Evaluate the capabilities of current IT systems to measure, monitor, and report on sustainability criteria