Just a Little Greener
Recently, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy announced that U.S. energy use over the past few years has been on the decline. According to the report, U.S. electricity sales saw a peak in 2007 and have fallen slightly since. What's more, while the report says the recession explains the drop in 2008 and 2009, it goes on to attribute the continuing decline to more efficient buildings, lighting and appliances. Further, as building owners—from homeowners to large-scale commercial facility owners—continue to improve the efficiency of their buildings, the trend might even pick up speed.
With Earth Day right around the corner, now is a good time to take stock of your operations and see where you might be able to go a little greener—and save a little green in the process.
If you're starting from scratch and planning a brand-new building—whether it's a recreation center, fitness club, waterpark, sports arena or something else—be sure to talk to your design team about strategies for reducing your building's use of electricity and other resources. Whether it's installing a variable frequency drive on your pool's pump to use only the power you need, or it's making good use of natural light to improve your members' health and reduce the amount of time you'll need to rely on electric lights, there is a multitude of ways you can improve your building's ecological footprint, inside and out.
But what if you have to work with what you've got? Older buildings can use up a lot of resources. But there are still small steps you can take to make things a little better. If you have the budget for renovations, you will save money in the long term with new HVAC systems, more efficient windows and lighting, ventilation systems, and systems to help monitor energy use. You might even be able to find government grant money to help cover some of the costs of these changes.
If even renovations are out of your scope, there are still small—and worthwhile—steps you can take. They could be as simple as turning the lights off when a space is not in use. Or you could start up a recycling program.
When it comes time to replace equipment—whether that's exercise machines or the computers in the office—look for energy-saving solutions. If you've got landscaping that needs replacing, consider using local varieties of plants that fit in with your climate. You'll need less water to get an established—and beautiful—landscape.
You can also take a look at daily practices at your facility. Can you green up any of your cleaning supplies? Can you change the way you schedule programming to make it possible to shut off lights for a period of time? Do you have a concession stand where you could switch to recyclable or compostable packaging?
Whatever you do, don't throw in the towel. While changes to one facility won't change the world, you can make a small difference. And if you tell others about what you've done and how you've done it, that difference will spread outward in ripples that could end up affecting facilities all across the country.
This month, I invite you to weigh in with your thoughts. Have you taken steps to make your facilities a little bit greener? We'd love to hear your suggestions and share them with other readers! Let us know what you've done by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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