Saving energy by telecommuting – four ways to make it work

30 million people already work from a home office at least once a week. With the average employer spending about $10,000 in energy, real estate, and production costs per employee annually-telecommuting can be a win-win for the employee and employer.

Ever considered allowing some of your workers to telecommute? The practice has multiple benefits – from reducing your company’s environmental impact to increasing productivity.

When it comes to applying for jobs,  many young professionals consider  work flexibility as important as salary and other benefits.  As a recruitment tool,  embracing telecommuting can be very a great benefit for job seekers.

You’d certainly be part of a trend, as virtual workers are on the rise: more than 30 million people already work from a home office at least once a week, according to a study by the Telework Research Network, and experts believe that up to 63 million people will work from home by 2016.

Virtual workers reduce costs:

An August 2012 survey from Telework offers illustrative numbers on the environmental impact that would take place if those who have compatible jobs worked from home half the time:

  • The oil savings would equate to over 37 percent of our Persian Gulf imports.
  • The greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce permanently off the road.

Wondering how your workers might fare? Check out the following online telecommuting calculator (from GovLoop, with the help of HP) that uses information from a variety of studies and federal databases to break down the savings into the categories of money, time and pounds of carbon dioxide. For example, say you’re an SUV driver with a 30-mile, one-hour round-trip commute, who only travels to the office twice a week.

According to the calculator:

  • Money saved: $6,170 per year
  • Time saved: 156 hours of productivity
  • Greenhouse gas reduction: 4,196 pounds per year

Businesses can help their bottom line, too: Govloop says the average employer spends about $10,000 in energy, real estate, and production costs per employee annually. Administrative expenses, such as the need for desktop computers, office furniture and land lines, also could be reduced with a telecommuting workforce.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are four tips for initiating a virtual work schedule into your organization:

  1. Decide who can effectively telecommute.

    Before you allow the entire office to telecommute, figure out which functions make sense for a work-from-home schedule. If someone is in a more collaborative role, they may hurt productivity if they are out. But it might make perfect sense for a salesperson, who can work on the road most days.

  2. Decide what the schedule should look like.

    There’s no need to go all or nothing with telecommuting. Consider easing into it by having one day a week that is a telecommute day and see how it goes. Workers probably would be more effective telecommuting in the middle of the week, keeping Monday and Friday available for kicking off and ending the week with meetings or other team projects.

  3. Set clear expectations for the team.

    Make sure that workers are equipped with what they need, such as a landline and high-speed internet, to do their jobs effectively. Also have an agreement about what hours they will be available to the team. Ensure they realize that working from home is “working,” not doing chores or childcare.

  4. Check in on a regular basis.

    You don’t want to feel as though you are micromanaging your telecommuting employees, but there also is a case to be made for ensuring that they know they are being held accountable.

Most workers love a telecommuting option because it improves their work/life quality and for that reason they are apt to be highly committed to getting their job done successfully. Giving them the option when it makes sense can help improve their commitment to the company while improving the environment and your company’s bottom line.

Brought to you by

Save a buck and a tree. Think before printing at the office.

“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.” The interesting thing is that while offices are quite adept at recycling, it’s vital to realize that recycling is actually the third best option, after reducing and reusing materials.
Image of man with head in copy machine
Out of all the waste that's being land filled, more than 40% of that waste is paper, which can pollute the environment.

Most school kids today learn a new version of the “3Rs” to accompany good old “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.” Today, they learn “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.” The interesting thing is that while most companies are quite adept at recycling, it’s vital to realize that recycling is actually the third best option, after reducing and reusing materials.

Paper waste, in particular, is staggering. Typical business offices generate about 1.5 pounds of waste paper per employee each day, and financial businesses generate more than two pounds per employee daily.

Here are a few ways businesses can incorporate the first two Rs, which means there is even less to recycle.

Reduce

  1. Think before you print. Encourage your staff to rely on electronic files, which save space as well as paper in the office. If you have proper computer backup, electronic files are even safer than paper documents that can be lost to fire, flood or theft.
  2. Change the settings on computers and printers. Make “double-sided” copies the default. Reduce margins and font size to maximize the paper that you use. Print in the lowest-grade possible for pieces that won’t be sent to clients. Use fonts like Times New Roman or Arial that use less ink and take up less space. The cumulative difference of these small actions can be substantial.
  3. Keep track of printouts and copies. Most people have no idea how much paper they are using, so see if you can set up a system to track what is being printed. You can also configure your copier to ask for a code prior to making copies, which can alert staff to when they are making more copies than they need. Measuring weekly totals is likely to inspire workers to minimize their personal paper usage.
  4. Use the “print preview” feature to see how the document will lay out so you don’t waste paper printing multiple copies to check formatting. If you want to proofread on your screen, temporarily increase the font size which helps illuminate typos and other errors.

Reuse

Have to print? Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper every year — enough to build a 12 foot high wall of paper from New York to California. Eliminating office paper from your waste may reduce your waste bill by as much as 50 percent. Here are some ways to make it easy to re-use your paper.

Untitled Infographic

Brought to you by

Repair It or Replace It – What’s the Most Energy-Efficient Choice?

We’ve all been there—gazing woefully at a washing machine that’s stopped spinning, or a refrigerator that’s lost its cool. But, how do you decide whether to repair it or replace it? Here are some crucial things to consider.

We’ve all been there—gazing woefully at a washing machine that’s stopped spinning, or a refrigerator that’s lost its cool. You dutifully call your repair shop and wait for the verdict. And when the estimate comes in, you have to make the expensive choice of whether you are throwing good money after bad by paying to fix the appliance, or whether it’s time to cut your losses and buy a new one.

Here are four questions to ask to help you answer the Repair or Replace conundrum:

How old is the appliance  

This is the key factor for two reasons:

  • What is the expected life of the appliance? In other words, how long can your existing piece realistically be expected to last after the repair, and
  • An even more important factor: how energy efficient is it? Energy savings alone can help justify replacing some appliances that aren’t working as they should. As just one example, if all refrigerators sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR certified, the energy cost savings would top $400 million each year, and prevent eight billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions—equivalent to the emissions from 750,000 vehicles.

Is it a quick fix?

It’s surprising how many repairs can be diagnosed and fixed easily by doing some research and watching a how-to video. RepairClinic.com is a great source for DIY-ers, and you’d be surprised how much intel you can find on YouTube as well.

What is the incremental cost of the repair?

Spending $600 to repair the motherboard of a refrigerator that would cost $1,000 to replace might not be the best use of money. It’s painful, but if spending $400 dollars will extend the life of the appliance by 10 years, rather than two, it will be money well saved. A good rule of thumb is not to spend more than 50 percent of the cost of a new product on repairing the old one. And, if this is a subsequent repair, think twice before repairing at all.

What will happen to your existing appliance?

Don’t just tote it to the landfill – when you purchase a new appliance, the store typically will take your old one away and recycle it in an environmentally friendly way. They often reuse many of the parts, so you know that your piece is being repurposed. Thinking about sticking your old fridge in the garage? You might not want to – [C1] energy hogs have no place in your home. Another option for recycling is to search the database on Earth911.com  which will offer environmentally friendly options based on your zip code.

If you do need to replace, this is your chance to make a wise choice: do your research and consider energy usage as a top factor when you purchase your new appliance. Also, only buy what you need – the more bells and whistles on a piece, the more opportunity for things to break.

Then, once you get it home, ensure that your new appliances perform at their peak by using them in the most energy-efficient manner possible. Conservation is everyone’s job!

 

Brought to you by

Is it Time to Pull the Plug on Your Garage Fridge?

Remember that old joke: “Is your refrigerator running? Well then you better catch it!” Now, we should be rethinking that old joke. It's time to unplug.

Remember that old joke: “Is your refrigerator running? Well then you better catch it! The update should be: “Is your garage refrigerator running? Well then you better unplug it!”

Do you still have that massive old fridge consuming prime real estate in the garage? You probably used it over Super Bowl weekend to keep your beer cold while you cheered on our Patriots—but maybe that should be the end of its run, because garage space is not all it’s consuming!

Here are some of the pitfalls of keeping an old garage fridge:

  • It’s an energy hog. This is the main reason, of course. The strides that have been made in energy-efficiency over the past decade are staggering. Today’s refrigerators are up to 75 percent more energy efficient than models produced in the 1970s and 80s. In fact, if all refrigerators sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR® certified, the energy cost savings would grow to more than $1.4 billion each year and 19 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions from 1.8 million vehicles.
  • It costs money. The EPA estimates it costs about $205 to run a 1980s refrigerator every year, compared to $50 for a 2013 ENERGY STAR®® qualified model.
  • One is better than two. If you really need more space on a consistent basis, consider getting a larger fridge rather than running two. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient America, one fridge is more efficient that two larger ones.
  • You probably don’t use it very often. Think about how often you really use it—probably just over the holidays or for parties. And, with the exception of summer parties, most other holiday times offer you the option of the “outdoor refrigerator.” Yes, soda stays just as cold when left outside in cold temps as it does in the refrigerator. And during the warmer months, tossing your drinks in a cooler with a bag of ice is a cheap and simple alternative to using a refrigerator.
  • Your garage is one of the worst places to have a refrigerator. Few garages are insulated so that means they are even warmer in the summer, forcing the fridge to work that much harder.
  • Your fridge is likely using outdated and inefficient technology. One study estimated that 15 percent of U.S. homes have a second refrigerator that is at least 20 years old – when standards were far less energy efficient.
  • It’s easy to recycle. If you do get rid of it, don’t just take it to the dump. Check here for safe options for recycling it. According to ENERGY STAR®, recycling an older or second refrigerator properly can lead to savings of $300 to $700 over a five-year period, and avoid up to 20,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

Still feel like you need a second fridge? Consider unplugging it when not in use. Or purchase an ENERGY STAR® rated fridge – just be sure to shop carefully. Assess which features you most need and make the most energy-efficient choice among the different ENERGY STAR® styles – for example, an over/under rather than a side-by-side style. And then, make sure you use it efficiently.

The best strategy? Say goodbye to your garage fridge, and hello to lower energy bills and a cleaner environment.

 

Brought to you by

How to Use Your Appliances Efficiently

Your appliance is only as energy efficient as the way you use it. Here are some simple tips to help you maximize your energy savings.

Have you recently purchased an EnergyStar appliance? Congratulations on doing your part to save energy —and money!  Last time we looked at the benefits of EnergyStar appliances and the value of spending a little more on your purchase to save money in the long run.

Your appliance is only as energy efficient as the way you use it. Here are some simple tips to help you maximize your energy savings:

  1. Stay full. Your washing machine or dishwasher uses the same amount of water and energy when you run it half-full as completely full, so run full loads for maximum efficiency. Your freezer and refrigerator do better when they’re full too. It might sound counterintuitive, but in the event of a power outage, a full freezer and fridge will keep your food at the safest temperature longer.
  1. Take your temperature. Almost 90 percent of the energy consumed by your washing machine is used to heat the water—dialing down from hot to warm can cut energy use in half, while effectively cleaning your clothes. Also, keep in mind that many of today’s laundry detergents are formulated for use in cold water, so they might do the job just as well. Saving energy can also help save your clothes—washing them in cold water can help keep colors bright and avoid setting stains, as can air drying them rather than using your dryer.
  1. Cook smart. Did you know your microwave uses 30 to 80 percent less energy than a regular oven does? And, if microwaving isn’t the ideal method for cooking your food, consider using a toaster oven—its smaller size will use less energy too, and a crockpot is even better! Here’s another crazy fact: a pot without a lid uses 60 percent more energy on the stove. They say there’s a lid for every pot – so find the right size for yours!
  1. Make your oven a multitasker. Got your oven heated up anyway? Take advantage of the energy used to heat up the oven in the first place, and do as much baking as you can. Go ahead and throw in an extra chicken breast to bake for soup tomorrow, or mix up some banana bread. Ditto the dryer—drying multiple loads one after the other lets you make use of the residual heat.
  1. Maintain your machines. Keep your appliances clean for maximum efficiency. That means cleaning out the lint trap as well as hoses in your dryer; checking the trap and spray arm in your dishwasher for food particles; and vacuuming the coils of your fridge.
  1. Make the most of modern machinery (usually). Worried that these “energy-saving devices” are wasting energy while you’re saving yours? Don’t! Hand washing dishes actually wastes both water – up to 5,000 gallons compared to an ENERGY STAR dishwasher – and uses twice as much energy as a dishwasher. And it would be impossible to fathom how much less energy a washing machine uses than the ol’ fill-up-the-tub-and-slosh-them-around method. The one appliance where you should go easy? The dryer—air dry whenever possible!

Don’t waste the energy-efficient properties of your appliances by using them improperly. A little forethought and planning will ensure that you are getting the maximum value from your hard-working household helpers.

Brought to you by

Shopping for Energy-Efficient Appliances? We Have 5 Questions You Should Ask.

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to save money? It might sound counter intuitive but sometimes you have to spend to save – and that is the case with energy-efficient appliances.

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to save money? In the first of a two part series on home appliances we look at Energy Star appliances  and the idea of having to spend money to save money.

Homeowners hoping to take advantage of first of the year sales can often find good buys on appliances at home improvement stores.  While we favor buying local over national big box stores-consumers have a myriad of choices. And while you’re looking for the quietest dishwasher or the roomiest fridge, make sure to look for something else—the most energy efficient one.

The #1 thing to look for? The ENERGY STAR® certification.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if every appliance purchased in the U.S. was rated to ENERGY STAR® certifications, we would prevent annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 420,000 vehicles and save 25 billion gallons of water and $580 million in energy costs.

Of course, replacing an appliance in good working condition is never a smart choice. But if it’s time to upgrade your kitchen or laundry room appliances, consider an ENERGY STAR® choice.

Besides looking for the ENERGY STAR® designation, here are five other questions to ask yourself before you purchase an appliance:

  1. What size do I need? Buying a refrigerator or washer with a larger capacity than you need will end up using more energy in the long run. Carefully measure the space you have available, and then make sure you are purchasing the right size for your household needs: For example, a couple needs a smaller-capacity washer than a large family.
  1. How much does it cost to run? Each appliance will have an “Energy Guide” label that allows you to compare the typical annual energy consumption of the model you are considering with others. (Note that the Energy Guide itself doesn’t indicate the energy efficiency of a particular appliance. By law, each appliance must carry one.) Bear in mind that the overall energy cost—not just the purchase price—is an important factor in making a cost-effective choice that will allow you to save money for years to come.
  1.  Is it the most energy-efficient “type”? This is where things can get confusing. The ENERGY STAR® designation is awarded to the best-performing appliance in its class, but it only rates refrigerators that are similar makes. So for example, a top-rated side-by-side refrigerator/freezer with an ice dispenser will still use more energy than one with a top-mount freezer that might not qualify for an ENERGY STAR® designation. The issue is the same with washing machines: A front loader will only be rated against another front loader, not against a top loader.
  1.  Do I qualify for a rebate? Enter your zip code here to find out what programs you might be eligible for. Don’t forget to save your receipt and other paperwork to make redemption hassle-free.
  2.  How will I dispose of my old appliance? Many stores will offer to recycle your old appliance for you—be sure to take them up on the offer! They know how and where to dispose of it in the safest way. Having old appliances around your house is not only unsightly, but can be dangerous, as children may climb into an unused fridge or dryer and get inadvertently trapped. For more information on recycling an appliance, check here.

Predictions call for a cold winter, so when you combine that with rising electricity prices, we end up with the “not-so-perfect storm.” So while you’re cleaning up at the store on an appliance sale, remember that you’ll also be cleaning up your household’s bottom line, not to mention our environment as a whole when you make an energy-efficient choice.

 

Brought to you by

5 Easy Ways Your Small Business Can Save Money

As any entrepreneur knows, Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” And with the right energy-efficiency strategies, your small business can save hundreds—or even thousands—on utilities this winter. That’s no small change.

As any entrepreneur knows, Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” And with the right energy-efficiency strategies, your small business can save hundreds—or even thousands—on utilities this winter. That’s no small change.

Here are five quick fixes:

  1. Change your light bulbs. If you haven’t already, look into one of the exceedingly energy-efficient alternatives to old-school “bulbs.” Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use about one-fourth the energy and lasts ten times longer than a comparable traditional incandescent bulb; and light emitting diodes (LEDs)(check out one of our videos about LED lights) use only 20 to 25 percent of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace.
  2. Install motion sensors. Your mother always told you to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but somehow it’s easy to forget. Rather than constantly reminding employees, make it easy on them and install motion sensors in indoor and outdoor areas. Outdoors motion sensors provide an extra layer of security around the perimeter of your building without requiring you to leave lights on all night. And indoors, they are ideal for places that are infrequently used, such as rest rooms or store rooms.
  3. Turn down the heat. Office temperatures typically make you feel like you live in “Opposite World”—freezing in the summer when you’re dressing light and boiling in the winter when you break out your turtlenecks. You want your office to be a respite from the elements, but there’s no need to go overboard. Set your thermostat right around 68 degrees for a comfortable, not tropical, temperature and leave it there—or better yet, invest in a programmable one. Don’t let all those new holiday sweaters go to waste!
  4. Invest in a dishwasher. That unsightly jumble of lunch dishes and coffee cups could be costing you money! In addition to being a conduit for germs during the cold and flu season, hand washing dishes actually wastes both water – up to 5,000 gallons compared to an ENERGY STAR dishwasher – and uses twice as much energy, both the kind you pay for and the kind you expend. Your utility bill – and your employees – will thank you.
  5. Defang the vampire. Also known as “phantom load,” “vampire energy” is the electricity that PCs, chargers and office machines use when they are plugged in even when they are off. The easiest way to avoid having electricity (and money!) leak all night is to plug machines into a power strip that you turn off every evening.

All small business owners know that wasting energy on the wrong goals is a recipe for disaster—wasting energy on your utility bill is too, but these quick fixes can help! Simply making these small, inexpensive changes will make it so your small business can save money this year.

 

Brought to you by