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The Plan to Reverse Global Warming: In Praise of Paul Hawken’s Drawdown

May 24th, 2017

While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Paul Hawken, he has had a uniquely positive and profound effect on my life. From Ecology of Commerce to Blessed Unrest, I have been consistently motivated and reinvigorated by his insights. And now he and his impressive network of concerned world citizens are about to have a profound effect on the greatest challenge facing all of us – global warming. As usual for Mr. Hawken, his thinking, his insight and his voice rise well above the clamor all around us.

His current “Paperback” DRAWDOWN is, to be sure, a very BIG paperback. And that befits a work with the subhead, “The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming”. Does that sound like puffery or hype or at the least self-inflating? Not on your life. It’s a work – not by any means just a book – that elevates the entire discussion of global warming to a level never before experienced. It truly is a Plan in the best sense of that word, the very idea of which would be intimidating enough to make most of us mortals retreat from, but Mr. Hawken instead, advanced, and has admirably pulled it off.

What DRAWDOWN does is nothing short of amazing. Hawken formed a highly-credentialed network of contributors – 70 DRAWDOWN Research Fellows from 22 countries, 128 Advisors and some 40 reviewers (all esteemed scientists) who tested the models and fact-checked the work. This formidable brain trust identified, researched, and ranked the top 80 solutions currently known, that can, when deployed, achieve drawdown – “that point in time at which greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline on a year-to-year basis”. The well-devised matrix for determining the top solutions is driven by the goal: identifying each “based on the total amount of greenhouse gases they can potentially avoid or remove from the atmosphere.” But Hawken and company don’t stop there. As Chad Frischmann, one of the chief contributors, says in his “NUMBERS” introductory section detailing the methodology of their calculations, DRAWDOWN also “…(enumerates) the total incremental cost to implement the solution, and the net cost or – in most cases – savings.”

The spectrum of solutions is comprehensive. “All is connected… no one thing can change by itself”, Hawken has previously said. Each one comprising several solutions, the organizing Solution categories are: Energy, Food, Women and Girls (yes, even social phenomena like educating women and family planning are calculated and included as a category), Buildings and Cities, Land Use, Transport and Materials. Judiciously interspersed through the book are articles and excerpts that further inform the subject, including an excerpt from Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, “On Care for Our Common Home.” There is also a tantalizing section called “Coming Attractions” which touches on some of the more futuristic, less likely and predictable solutions (not figured into their Top 80) that may become viable over time. My favorite is the Elon Musk-inspired Hyperloop – a significantly updated version of the pneumatic tube designed for transporting humans.

Our organization, EnerChange, has as our Mission Statement: Transforming information into action. Through some initial communication with the DRAWDOWN Team, facilitating action is apparently going to be a big part of Phase 2 in their development, once they feel they have successfully enough launched the amazing book I feel fortunate to have and to hold. Assuming appropriate action takes place in support of these Top 100 Global Warming Solutions, the future – at least to me – seems brighter than I saw prior to DRAWDOWN.

You can learn more about Project Drawdown and the book by visiting them HERE.

Steve Seidl

Executive Director, EnerChange

Switching to Energy-Saving Appliances May Be Cheaper Than You Think

March 14th, 2017

Energy Saving Appliances
If you’ve shopped for appliances recently, you’ve likely noticed that energy-efficient appliances dominate the market. When they’re sitting on the floor of a showroom, the price difference can be a big factor. Yes, a refrigerator with an “Energy Star” sticker may reduce your carbon footprint, but when you’re spending money, environmental responsibility may take a backseat to your bank balance.

But that added expense may not be as bad as it seems on the surface. You may pay more for your energy-saving appliance today, but once your item arrives at your home or business, the savings will begin. It’s important to consider how much you’ll be able to save before completely ruling out energy-efficient appliances while you’re shopping.

Reduced Operating Costs

Manufacturers must meet regulations when building appliances that they’ll advertise as energy savers. As a result, owners enjoy substantial cost savings on electricity after making the switch. For instance, an Energy Star-certified washer uses 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than washers that don’t offer that feature. While results can vary based on the type of washer, Energy Star estimates that this one appliance can save a household $45 a year on utilities.

In addition to the appliances inside a home or business, the HVAC system that provides heat and cooling can bring a savings. Energy Star estimates that switching out an HVAC system in a home can reduce utility bills by as much as $115 a year. For businesses and commercial building owners, upgrading to a more energy-efficient unit can reduce operating cost without sacrificing tenant comfort. It’s important to consider these factors, especially if your HVAC system is more than ten years old.

Rebates

When consumers switch to energy-saving appliances, the planet benefits. To encourage homes and businesses to shift toward contributing to environmental efforts, the government offers federal tax credits each year. Information on obtaining these rebates is available on Energy Star’s website. Currently, tax credits are only available for solar energy systems, but it’s important to watch this page to see if any changes are made as the legislative season continues.

In addition to tax credits, consumers can also benefit from product rebates, available by geographic location. These rebates are offered by local municipalities to encourage conservation of resources and can save a consumer hundreds of dollars on the purchase of a new appliance. By researching the rebates and tax credits available before you start shopping, you’ll be able to accurately compare the cost of an energy-saving appliance to one without those features and determine if it’s worth it. Restrictions also apply to each of the rebates you’ll find, so you should pay close attention to the fine print as part of your decision.

Buying new appliances can be challenging, but when you know the full cost savings that can come from purchasing an energy-saving appliance, you can make a fully-informed decision. Depending on the length of time you plan to stay in your current building, you may find that you easily recoup the extra cost of an energy-saving appliance through reduced utility costs, making it well worth it.

If you’d like to learn more about saving energy and money, contact one of our Energy Managers.

Michael T’Kach
(952) 562-8697
mtkach(AT)enerchange.org

Jeremy Davis
(952) 562-8695
jdavis(AT)enerchange.org

Businesses Move Toward Renewable Energy Sources

February 22nd, 2017

Renewable Energy Consultants

Consumers are more aware of environmental issues than ever, and this is reflected in the products and services they choose each day. When a business gains a reputation for being environmentally conscious, people pay attention, not only buying from them or using their services but also becoming loyal customers and telling others about that brand.

In the past few years, businesses of all sizes have begun investing in environmentally-friendly solutions. This includes choosing renewable energy sources over traditional sources like coal and fuel. While many businesses can’t afford to make the switch all at once, some companies now opt to shift toward renewable solutions when it’s time to make building improvements or relocate. Here are a few major areas seeing significant movement toward renewable energy in business.

Renewable Energy in the Workplace

One of the first areas that businesses target with their sustainability efforts is their own office space. This starts with offering recycling options around the office and eventually extends to other changes, such as using non-toxic cleaning supplies. Solar panels have become increasingly popular on commercial buildings as businesses realize the cost savings they can achieve by moving off the grid. In addition to solar installations, businesses are also becoming more conscious of the many design changes they can make during construction to save electricity.

Renewable Energy in Manufacturing

A trend is underway to move toward cleaner manufacturing processes. This is a larger-scale movement than those launched by individual businesses, often being requested at the government level. Industrial pollution is an ongoing problem globally, and businesses that want to demonstrate their environmental commitment choose manufacturing processes that prioritize sustainability. Options for manufacturers include using green materials, investing in the same renewable energy sources that offices use, and reviewing every step of the manufacturing processes to pinpoint waste and find ways around it. Even small changes like using recycled materials can significantly improve a business’s environmental responsibility at a minimal expense.

Renewable Energy and Information Technology

The devices and networks people use every day actually create an environmental issue. Even worse, the energy powering our country’s data centers is on the increase. Realizing this, large corporations are taking serious measures to cut back on the amount of energy data centers consume. Google is leading the charge by demanding that all of its data centers operate 100 percent on renewable energy sources. Like Google, many other technology service providers are searching for ways to reduce energy consumption in their data centers and server rooms. Fortunately, they have help from equipment manufacturers, who also consistently make an effort to create products that operate more efficiently. IT professionals can further their energy efficiency efforts by choosing equipment and peripherals that are more energy efficient or use less power on a daily basis.

When a business commits to finding ways to reduce its carbon footprint, that business can win over the many consumers who are concerned about conservation. The growing trend toward renewable energy sources means businesses, manufacturers, and service providers will be able to not only show their environmental commitment, but they’ll also be able to save the money they were spending on utilities and manufacturing processes.

If you’d like to learn more about saving energy and money, contact one of our Energy Managers.

Michael T’Kach
(952) 562-8697
mtkach(AT)enerchange.org

Jeremy Davis
(952) 562-8695
jdavis(AT)enerchange.org

Top 10 Benefits of LED Lighting

January 25th, 2017

LED Light Benefits

LED Lighting Benefits

  1. Long Life – Long lifetime stands out as the number one benefit of LED lights.
  2. Energy Efficiency – LED is today’s most efficient way of illumination and lighting, with an estimated energy efficiency of 80%-90% when compared to traditional lighting and conventional light bulbs.
  3. Ecologically Friendly – LED lights are free of toxic chemicals.
  4. Durable Quality – LEDs are extremely durable and built with sturdy components that are highly rugged and can withstand even the roughest conditions.
  5. Zero UV Emissions – LED illumination produces little infrared light and close to no UV emissions.
  6. Design Flexibility – LEDs can be combined in any shape to produce highly efficient illumination. Operational in Extremely
  7. Cold or Hot Temperatures – LED lights are ideal for operation under cold and low outdoor temperature settings.
  8. Light Disbursement – LED is designed to focus its light and can be directed to a specific location without the use of an external reflector.
  9. Instant Lighting & Frequent Switching – LED lights brighten up immediately and when powered on.
  10. Low-Voltage – A low-voltage power supply is sufficient for LED illumination.

EnerChange representatives are fully informed regarding all available, relevant rebates. Rather than attempt to research and compute the rebate advantages yourself for your organization, let EnerChange do the work for you and bring you back a recommendation. If you’ve thought at all about improving the lighting in your facilities, please contact us today so you can take full advantage of these rebates at the same time improving the environment you manage. If you follow this suggestion you can take back your money that’s already on the table.

Contact one of our Energy Managers to discuss rebates for your nonprofit before time runs out.

Michael T’Kach
(952) 562-8697
mtkach(AT)enerchange.org

Jeremy Davis
(952) 562-8695
jdavis(AT)enerchange.org

Sustainability Forum: Threats and Opportunities

January 2nd, 2017

As you may know, our friend, Mike Conley has been writing and speaking on the challenges pertaining to the “perfect storm” since the publishing of his book Lethal Trajectories in 2011 . Sustainability management is an important part of that effort and has led to partnering opportunities to add leverage to his efforts.

Recently, Mike has been doing some work with Clifton Ware, Editor & Publisher of the SEF (Sustainability Education Forum) News (www.citizensforsustainability.org). Clif and Mike have agreed to team up on a pilot seminar entitled the “Sustainability Forum: Threats and Opportunities.” Along with Matt Hoiland and Alan Ware, Mike Conley will be presenting an abbreviated version of the Perfect Storm at this forum.

This Forum will be taking place Saturday morning, January 7, at 10:30 AM. Details can be found by clicking here, and the program will be about two hours – or less – in length.

Top Energy Trends in 2017

December 30th, 2016

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As Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility,” but in this case change “power” with “knowledge.” As consumers, we are able to choose how we affect the environment with our purchases. Using knowledge and what we know, we can shape how we consume energy in 2017 and make better decisions that can affect many generations to come.

Energy is an industry that’s constantly evolving, and it’s difficult to keep with what’s happening in the energy world, but here are some things to keep an eye out for in 2017 in energy:

  1. More Businesses Move Towards Renewable Energy – With global warming on everyone’s radar, sources for energy are a big concern for businesses, so many companies like Google that house large warehouses of servers are moving towards renewable energy. In 2017, the search engine firm (amongst many other services the company offers) will operate entirely on renewable sources and buying excess energy.
  2. More Benefits for People/Businesses – Do you find it’s too difficult to make the switch to energy saving appliances? Most local energy providers offer rebates on water heaters, furnaces, and any other appliances that you may need to replace — giving the consumer another reason to make the switch.
  3. Solar Power – Solar power was the cheapest for of energy in 2016, and while it may have had some setbacks in 2016, according to the Economic Times, solar power will speed up “the tempo for solar panel installation at homes, schools and hospitals; plans are afoot to expand the rooftop program to government buildings by providing target-based incentives” in cities like New Dehli and all over India. In China, the price of PV cells have peaked, but “EnergyTrend predicts that the rush will surely come because the recent policies continuously stimulate Chinese domestic market demand in first half of 2017.”
  4. Recycling – While recycling is not new, finding new ways to consume and reuse items will be a huge push in 2017 as we become more aware of how things are made and how they will decompose in landfills. Cities are even getting deeper into recycling by adding compost options for customers. Find out what your recycling options are in your town.
  5. President Trump’s Energy Policies – Renewable Energy World shares their prediction on how President Trump will go green in 2017 since “renewable energy is the most efficient way to make the U.S. independent and self-sufficient. U.S. citizens like independence and so does President-elect Trump. Many U.S. families have gasoline-powered electric generators in their garages. If policies are made to curb feed-in tariffs and net-metering, Tesla will just sell more batteries and more households will go off-grid. The PV revolution has just started and it will take more than a policy shift to stop it.” Forbes isn’t so sure; they share  their thoughts that “Mr. Trump also indicated during his campaign that he intended to rescind the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan (which aims to cut carbon emissions from power plants), with intentions to cancel the Paris climate agreement that world powers signed in December 2015.” One thing we do know is that 2017 will bring change.

Winter Checklist – Saving Energy and Money This Winter

November 28th, 2016

Winter Checklist for Saving Energy and MoneyWinter is rapidly approaching, which means that homeowners have turned their attention to making sure their furnaces and fireplaces are working. For commercial building owners and facility managers, that need to prepare is magnified. They aren’t merely heating a couple of thousand square feet. They’re heating a large building with multiple tenants, and efficiency can make a big difference in their bottom line. Even shaving a small amount of cost off of monthly utility bills can improve cash flow.
Identifying those small savings opportunities can be difficult, though. This checklist can help you as you prepare for the coldest months of the year.

Automate Your Thermostats
When your budget allows, invest in thermostats that can operate on a schedule controlled by your own management team. Set your thermostats to run at a low temperature at night, warming up in the early morning hours to prepare for tenant arrivals. If automation isn’t possible, lock your thermostats and mandate they remain at a lower temperature, making sure you keep your building comfortable while it’s occupied.

Utilize the Sun
The sun is your best friend when it comes to keeping your building warm. Make sure the blinds on the side of the building that gets the most sun remain open throughout the day. If possible, have tenants close blinds at night.

Find Leaks
Every building will have areas that are more thinly insulated than others. Locate areas of the building that might be letting outside air in, particularly around doors and windows. Even sealing some of those up can help reduce your costs.

Have Your Heating Unit Checked
At the start of each season, invest effort into having your heating and cooling units serviced. This will help identify a malfunctioning system that may not be operating at peak performance. By finding the problem early, you’ll also avoid a major breakdown on the coldest day of the year.

Say “No” to Space Heaters
Property managers often have a restriction against space heaters in workspaces. Not only do these units consume a great deal of electricity, they can also be dangerous.

Replace Incandescent Bulbs
You can save money year-round by simply replacing your incandescent bulbs with LED lights. LED lights emit very little heat when compared to incandescents, which release 90 percent of their energy as heat.

Replace Units
If any of your heating or cooling units is due for a replacement, consider the extra energy savings that comes from purchasing one of today’s energy-efficient appliances. This extends beyond your heating and cooling to any other appliances in your building, as well. If you want to make a bold move, consider solar roof panels that can help you channel natural resources to power your building. Check to see if you qualify for any tax breaks for making the switch.

For facility managers and commercial property owners, saving money is top priority. With every dollar you can cut on your expenses, you have another dollar of your monthly income staying in your account. By taking small measures at the change of each season, you can prevent costly breakdowns while also ensuring your tenants remain comfortable.

Watering Systems
Drain and winterize your outdoor irrigation systems. This will minimize the risk of freeze damage to the pipelines. There are three types of water removal methods: manual drain, auto drain, or blowout.

Wood Fireplaces
To avoid a deadly situation, be sure to inspect your fireplace before lighting it a blaze. Have smoke detectors checked to confirm they are working properly and invest in a professional chimney sweep.

How Tesla’s Solar Energy Panels Could Change the Roofing Industry

October 31st, 2016

While solar panels can already be found atop businesses and select homes, they’re far from becoming widespread. Despite the benefits solar roofing brings to the environment and utility bills, installation is simply too cost prohibitive for many families and building owners.

Elon Musk has a vision that may change all that. The famous inventor and business magnate recently revealed his latest project, a new roof that combines shingles with solar cells. Instead of covering a roof in solar panels, Musk’s innovation doesn’t just make solar roofing more affordable. It actually can be installed for a lower cost than traditional roofing.

The Benefits of Tesla’s Solar Panels

Traditional solar panels face challenges in cloudy, overcast conditions, since the panels rely on the sun to gather power. Musk has a plan for that, as well, utilizing a version of Tesla’s wall-mounted battery to provide power when it can’t be gathered from the sun. Although many consumers think of Musk’s Tesla as an automotive company, the electric cars were always intended to further the widespread availability of sustainable energy.

Musk’s panels have benefits beyond affordability and electricity generation, though. His solar panels are more attractive and insulate better than other solar panels. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages is durability. Since they’re made of glass, they can outlast traditional roofing tiles, which often have to be replaced after only a decade of wear. Tesla’s solar panels will be able to withstand snow, rain, sun, and grime, with Musk estimating a lifespan of 50 years.

The Merger

For his demonstration, Musk installed his solar panels on four of the homes on the set of the former hit TV show Desperate Housewives. The fanfare was all in an effort to convince his shareholders that his $2.2 billion acquisition of SolarCity, the largest U.S. installer of home-based solar panels, is a good idea. If approved, manufacturing would start next summer in Buffalo, New York. Both Tesla and SolarCity are currently unprofitable, though, leading many to wonder if the merger is a good idea. Musk believes together, the two companies can revolutionize sustainable energy.

One problem Tesla has faced in the past is with its battery, but the rooftop battery will extend power beyond previous editions, providing 14 kilowatt-hours of electricity at a cost of $5,500. This is enough power to keep a four-bedroom home powered for a full day. By combining the battery with the solar panels, Musk believes most homes could operate as they do now without pulling any electricity from the power grid.

The bad news is that even if the merger goes through, the roofs won’t see availability until mid-2017. Even then, only a couple of homes will have the roofs at first, gradually expanding from California to other states. The technology probably won’t be in place for those who need a roof replacement soon, but homes with new roofs may be able to see solar panels by the time their current tiles need replacing. In the meantime, photovoltaic solar panels are sold by some local providers for households and businesses that have the money to purchase them.

Want to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint? Save Energy and Money with These Tips

September 29th, 2016

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Consumers have become increasingly aware of the impact their daily activities have on the environment, from the cars they drive to the items they toss in the trash. On a person-by-person basis, small changes make only a small difference in the much larger impact people have on the ecosystem. But for businesses, those small changes can add up to significant benefits. If you’re looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint while also saving money, here are a few small changes you can make in your facilities.

Low Flow Showerheads

If your buildings include shower stalls, a more water-efficient showerhead can dramatically cut the water used during each shower. Standard showerheads use 2.5 gallons of water per minute, but their low-flow counterparts cut that water use to below two gallons. You could also replace your toilets with more water-efficient versions. In a building with multiple showers and/or toilets, you can significantly cut water consumption over the course of each month.

Faucet Aerators

One of the easiest changes to make is the addition of an aerator to each of your faucets. This small device screws onto a faucet head streamlining the water coming out to ensure as little water as possible is wasted. You should be able to tell if your faucets already have aerators on them by looking for the flow rating on the side. If you do have an aerator and its rating reads 2.75 gpm or higher, you need to replace it with one of the lower-rated versions on the market today.

Newer-Technology Water Heaters

If you haven’t replaced your building’s water heater recently, you might be able to find significant cost savings with an upgrade. It’s important to choose a water heater that fits the fuel availability in your area. Tankless water heaters have become especially popular in recent years, since water is headed directly, rather than being stored in a large container. A tankless water heater also occupies less space, which can help you in areas of your buildings where storage is limited.

Regularly Maintained Equipment

The equipment that powers your operations should be regularly checked and maintained to avoid wasting energy. Instead of waiting a year or longer to replace your HVAC system, make that upgrade as soon as you’re told your unit is in its final stretch. That will keep you from wasting energy on equipment that doesn’t operate efficiently. If you haven’t already, check to ensure each piece of applicable equipment is Energy Star compliant, which means it was built to government specifications regarding appliances. Also look at small things in your day-to-day operations that can save money, such as turning lights off at night.

Businesses realize the importance of environmentally-friendly practices. Not only does it protect the planet, but it saves money and impresses customers and employees. Through making a few small changes, building owners and managers can substantially cut their energy consumption, saving money and reducing their environmental impact. If enough building owners make these changes, many areas may begin to see less pollution and a better quality of living.

EnerChange offers a variety of money and energy saving programs, read about there here.

If you’re interested in saving energy and money, schedule a free energy assessment today! Simply fill out our Energy Assessment form to the right.

Reasons You Should Be Using Solar Energy

July 28th, 2016

Solar_Panel_Installation

As we are nearing the last dregs of winter, we look ahead to spring and summer. Now is the best time to consider and schedule installment of solar panels for your home or business. Why should you switch to solar energy?

Clean Energy

Solar energy is clean energy that utilizes sunlight in generating electricity, thus no environmental pollution is caused by this form of energy. No greenhouse gases are released into the environment, so we are breathing fresh air that doesn’t contain pollutants.

Green energy is important because industrialization has increased the number of vehicles on the road, leading to a lower quality of air that we breathe in. When vehicles are running, they release fossil fuel pollutants into the air, increasing the greenhouse effect and leading to global warming.

The best way to improve air quality and lower our carbon footprint is to use clean and green energy. A home that has access to plentiful sunshine can easily generate enough energy to power itself throughout the whole year.

Benefits

Would you like to be rewarded for doing some good? Check with your government listing to see if they offer any incentives with rebates or tax credits for those that utilize solar panels in their building.

Another benefit of installing solar panels includes saving money, because you don’t have to purchase electricity from your utility company. Plus, you no longer have to worry about the escalating prices of electricity — allowing you to use clean energy for electricity, heating, cooling, and lighting your home without concern.

Additional Income

Not only does installing solar panels help you save money, it can also help line your wallet. If your panels can produce more electricity than you are using, you can possibly sell the excess to the grid, allowing you to bring in extra cash. This will require some additional equipment; the Houston Chronicle put together some ideas to help you out.

Energy Independence

Like a child moving away from home and finding their own way in life, shifting from an energy provider to self-provided energy allows you access to a more reliable and secure supply of power. This will help out in cases of power outages.

Better Evaluation for Your Home

When you install solar power for your home, the property value will go up, because a home with independent and green energy will have a better value than those compared to homes that need an energy provider.