New Perspectives: How Businesses Can Become Energy Star Partners

 
You've likely seen the Energy Star label on products, but did you know that buildings as well as businesses can also become Energy Star certified? Launched in 1992 as an initiative of the EPA, the Energy Star program began with the sole purpose of helping both homes and businesses improve their energy efficiency. Since then it has welcomed more than 18,000 partners and certified 20,000 businesses, as well as 1.2 million homes.
 
Boston is no stranger to the Energy Star program. In fact, it boasts one of the first buildings in the country to receive an Energy Star label. Two Twenty Two Berkeley in Boston's Back Bay area received its certification on June 9, 1999, and more than 10 years later it still uses close to the same amount of energy, despite a 40 percent occupancy increase.
 
Hines, the international real estate development firm that built Two Twenty Two, stated in their Energy Star success story that one of the greatest benefits of the Energy Star program is its benchmark tool, which allows them to track multiple properties. According to Hines' Vice President of Operations Greg Brown, "The Energy Star Building Label makes a clear statement about the property's ability to deliver value. It's starting to show up on more and more requests for proposals. As more owners become aware of it, the Energy Star designation will become a competitive advantage."
 
While Energy Star offers a wide range of services to help companies use their energy more efficiently, businesses looking to partner with Energy Star aren't required to utilize all of them. In fact, Energy Star only asks that their members:
 
- Develop and implement a plan to improve energy performance
 
- Measure, track and benchmark energy performance
 
- Educate their staff and the public about their partnership and achievements
 
The application process takes about five minutes online and after that, members have access to all of the Energy Star programs, services and publications, and are eligible for the annual Energy Star Small Business Award.
 
The Energy Star Small Business Award is awarded each year to four businesses from across the United States that "...represent excellence in energy efficiency and are great examples of financial and environmental stewardship." The winners are chosen from the success stories submitted by members and the winners are not only acknowledged on the website and promoted in the Energy Star newsletter, but a press release about their achievement is also sent to their regional media outlets. It's also a great way to show customers how committed the company is to saving energy and promoting eco-friendly efforts.
 
While the Energy Star label can apply to corporations with multiple franchises, it can also apply to home businesses. Because of this, energy-saving plans don't need to involve the complete construction of new buildings (though Energy Star does provide a list of Energy Star certified architects and construction companies) or the purchasing of all new energy-saving equipment
(though there are loans available for just that purpose). In fact, they can begin with something as
simple as changing a light bulb.
When deciding what changes your business can make to become more energy efficient, consider some of the following simple improvements:
 
- Utilize daylight more efficiently in your office for lighting, from using reflective surfaces such as mirrors to installing skylights.
 
- Where the sunlight is too intense, install sunshades and/or plant trees before cranking up the air conditioner to combat the heat.
 
- Replace standard light bulbs with CFLs or LED lights, which can cost about 75 percent less to run.
 
- Spring clean around your outdoor HVAC system and make sure the intakes aren't blocked with debris and/or overgrowth.
 
- Install weather stripping, plug holes and leaks and use fans where possible to improve your heating and cooling system's performance.
 
- Encourage employees to use less hot water and bring reusable containers to work for meals and beverages.
 
- Stay on top of air filter replacements to keep the HVAC running efficiently.
 
- Install a programmable and/or wireless thermostat so temperatures can be adjusted when the office is closed.
 
- Install motion detectors that turn off the lights when no one is around.
 
No matter how you choose to approach your energy-saving business plan, even changing a light bulb at your home office and using natural light a little more often can make a big difference in the long run. For more information on the Energy Star program and how you can sign up to become an Energy Star partner.
 
What efforts is your company making to save energy and go green? Would you consider becoming an Energy Star partner? Why or why not?
 
Today's guest post was graciously submitted by Brent Hardy. Brent Hardy manages facilities and sustainability programs for Extra Space Storage. Their Worcester self storage facility has undergone both solar and lighting retrofits to become more sustainable.