Being environmentally responsible, also known as being a green business, is smart business. Although you may have to invest in your infrastructure before saving money, it can pay off.
“What I would say to the C-suite executive or business owner who believes that it's too expensive to be energy efficient is that is not completely true," says Kobi Karp, principal at Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design, a Miami-based architecture design firm that specializes in sustainable buildings.
If you're looking for ways to improve energy efficiency in your workplace, you may want to mull over some of these strategies.
1. Replace an energy hog.
Molly's Spirits transformed into a green business, or at least a greener one, in 2017, three years after the Denver-based upscale liquor store opened.
Rufus Nagel, Molly's Spirits CEO, was looking to lower his energy costs, which were pretty massive. For starters, his store sells over 12,000 products in a 30,000 square foot facility with 80 cooler doors leading to refrigerated storage.
Molly's Spirits also does hundreds of alcohol deliveries each week, to individual consumers and large-scale events like weddings. For a time, the gas bill for seven delivery cars was pretty steep—around $2,000 a year.
So in 2017, Nagel replaced one of the cars with an electric car. Not long after, he replaced his entire fleet. Each electric car generally drives 20,000 miles a year, which translates into $810 in electricity costs on each vehicle.
“On fuel alone, we save $1,200 per year per car, resulting in a savings of $8,400," Nagel says.
“The greater savings, though, is capital cost savings because electric cars have no maintenance and do not break down," he says.
There's also the maintenance savings: Nagel figures that Molly's Spirits saves at least $1,000 per car in maintenance costs over the lifetime of their cars, “and probably another $1,000 in longevity."
Nagel says there are benefits to going electric than just the money, too.
“[It] convey[s] clear branding that Molly's believes in reducing local air emissions," he says. "This is a very big quality of life issue in the Denver and the greater Front Range [in the Southern Rocky Mountains], which suffers from inversions in the winter causing smog."
It's not that Molly's Spirits doesn't have energy bills, but its total energy costs have definitely come down.
2. Build energy efficiency into your green business.
If you're starting a new business or moving into a new place, you'd do well to think about energy efficiency from the get-go, says Karp.
He suggests making sure your building has as much natural light as practical—it could save a business as much as 25 to 80 percent on energy costs.
You might also want to think about using laptops over desktops as well.
Making energy-efficiency improvements and investing in renewable energy does ultimately increase the bottom line of a financial statement, but it also creates a positive impression of a business in the minds of its customers.
—Leila Dillon, vice president of marketing and communications, Ameresco
“Desktop computers tend to consume between 65 to over 250 watts of electricity compared to laptops, [which] normally use between 15 to 60 watts," Karp says.
He is also a big proponent of renewable energy sources such as solar panels, even if they're expensive. You may need to use a line of credit or take out loans, but the investment in your infrastructure can be worth it.
“The amount that you will save monthly will eventually add up, saving you a ton of money," Karp says. "Utilizing energy-efficiency techniques will end up costing you two to three times less than traditional power sources."
3. Turn seemingly useless space into something energy friendly.
Businesses could be doing a lot with their space to make it more energy efficient, says Leila Dillon, vice president of marketing and communications at Ameresco. (Ameresco is a renewable energy and energy efficiency company headquartered in Framingham, Massachusetts.)
“Even relatively minor improvements can have a profound impact for organizations, and they are often budget-neutral," Dillon says.
“For instance," she continues, "replacing old or outdated lighting fixtures with LED sources is a low capital investment that can significantly trim down monthly utility bills. Some businesses also choose to conduct HVAC upgrades, water reclamation and employ advanced building controls to generate additional savings that can be reinvested into the business."
She also has intriguing idea for any business that has an outdoor parking lot.
“Businesses with uncovered parking lots can create solar canopies covering the lots, creating cost-effective and clean onsite energy," Dillon says.
Vinay Amin, founder and CEO of Eu Natural, a supplement manufacturer in Henderson, Nevada, says he has been thinking of trying this, possibly before the year is up.
“There is a 30 percent tax credit on installing solar panels by 2020. After that, it drops to 26 percent," Amin says. “The quotes I've obtained thus far suggest the pricing is around $35,000 for 4 to 5-kilowatt system. The expected return is anywhere between 9 percent and 14 percent."
Amin already had programmable light switches installed at his building, costing $670 plus tax for 10 fixtures with labor.
“It's a long-term investment," he says, but one that is already paying off: His energy costs are about 19 percent less than they were.
Eventually seeing more profits isn't the only benefit. Your energy-saving ideas may attract more business and goodwill from your customers.
“Operational cost savings aside, we're seeing more consumers show an interest in companies and brands that prioritize social and environmental responsibility," Dillon says. "Making energy-efficiency improvements and investing in renewable energy does ultimately increase the bottom line of a financial statement, but it also creates a positive impression of a business in the minds of its customers."
4. Stay up to date on business energy saving ideas.
Let's say you want to save your working capital for now instead of investing it on technology and building materials to transform your company into a green business. It's still an issue you may want to pay attention to. At some point, you may want to jump on the business energy saving bandwagon.
Karp says that in the next couple years, we're likely to see “zero energy building technology" take off.
“Zero energy building technology will use a combination of renewable and efficient energy, creating a building that can generate the resources needed to power and run itself," he says.
Meanwhile, artificial intelligence will allow real-time analysis of energy use.
“The AI will instantly alert people when energy is being wasted and then take action towards reducing consumption," Karp says. “Another tech on the horizon is advanced window controls that will use sensors and microprocessors to automatically adjust shading based on the amount of available sunlight and the time of day, ensuring proper lighting and comfort, saving energy and money."
That's the thing. Being a green business not only helps bring in the green stuff, it can help keep your company from some of the other less pleasant colors—like being in the red.
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