The challenge of environmental sustainability is a conflict that is defining this generation. Arguably the greatest aspect of that challenge is the question of how to save the environment without sacrificing our quality of life. Some would argue that we can’t have it all; that there’s no way to safeguard Earth’s ecosystem without giving up the conveniences of civilization, especially profitable businesses. Others would counter that the pessimists are vastly underestimating the ingenuity of our species. Many of the solutions to our problems are actually simpler than you think. There are several measures that the business community in particular could take in order to make operations more energy efficient.
Use Renewable Energy
One of the most important ways to make ourselves more energy efficient is to change the source of our energy. Many businesses are tied to the local grid and thus have limited flexibility regarding the source of their power, but a good method of detaching from that grid is the use of a solar panel system. Solar power is becoming less expensive and more versatile all the time, and solar panels can now be affixed to nearly anything to provide power. Large rooftop solar panels can power an entire building, but solar energy can also be decentralized. Compact panels can be used to recharge electronics like smartphones, or passive solar heating systems can streamline and reduce your reliance on traditional energy sources.
Get an Energy Audit
You can’t solve a problem that you don’t know exists. Many business owners vastly underestimate the amount of energy being used in their daily operations. An energy audit is a survey and subsequent analysis of energy flows in a building. This means far more than just monitoring the overall energy cost itself. An audit will take a hard look at issues such as air leakage from windows and doors during temperature extremes by using infrared cameras. They will also address the physical condition of equipment like air conditioners or heaters and break down energy use by device to find potential wastes of energy. With more people working from home these days, getting a home energy audit could solve two problems at once.
Switch Devices Off When Not in Use
Speaking of electronics, simply switching off a gadget that isn’t being used at the moment can do wonders for improving energy efficiency. In 2010, Cornell University began a program encouraging students to turn off the lights when not in use after calculating that the university was losing up to $60,000 per year through lax efficiency in this practice. We tend to look at energy efficiency as primarily an engineering issue, but the human factor in saving power is just
as vital. Computers are another major power draw. A desktop computer typically uses somewhere between 65 and 250 watts. Laptop computers normally use half as much, so switching your business culture from less static to more mobile could save a good deal of energy in the long run.
Reduce Energy During Peak Demand
The phrase “peak demand” refers to the time, usually between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., where energy usage is at its highest rate. Knowing when a business uses the most energy allows you to target your audits of energy usage and create flexible solutions. One idea that’s been gaining momentum has been the staggering of work shifts and tasks in order to break up periods of high energy demand. Don’t be too concerned that this will lead to a lack of productivity. Shorter shifts also appear to make workers themselves more efficient, thus compounding the benefits.
The choice between environmental sustainability and economic growth is a false one. As technological progress marches on, new and innovative solutions are being found which allow a maximum of gain with a minimum of ecological impact. Human beings have always been at our best when we’re thinking our way out of a crisis and new technologies, along with new ways of using them, have the potential to create a brighter (and more profitable) future.