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  • Caroline Shelly, CID, LEED AP-BD+C, HF Planners

Smalls steps to take to help a facility go green

Now a days corporations are interested in putting their best foot forward by taking steps to prove they are environmentally conscious, and thus reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. By doing so, they not only help improve the environment, but they also attract more employees. One of the items that help retain good employees after pay and benefits is working for an environmentally conscientious company. However, with so much information about creating a green program, headaches can result just trying to determine where to start, not to mention what would be the most visible to employees, and also easy to implement and maintain.

It is important to first understand what greenhouse gas emissions are and why we should be concerned. When greenhouse gases are trapped in the atmosphere they heat up and start warming the planet’s surface. As a result – weather changes, ocean levels rise, and food crops become more difficult to grow. Of all the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the majority are related to energy consumption, and most of those are carbon dioxide. Office buildings are responsible for 39 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (US Green Building Council). Since 1992 the EPA has worked with organizations to help them save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making their buildings and plants more energy efficient. Some steps to solve these headaches include:

1. Selecting Environmentally Responsible materials. Research manufacturers who develop products that incorporate environmentally responsible processes into their plants. More and more carpet manufactures, furniture companies, and wallcovering plants are developing processes that are more environmentally friendly. These can be found with a certification from various testing companies like the Forest Stewardship Council and Carpet & Rug Institute.

2. Using energy efficient equipment. Look for the Energy Star label on equipment from lighting to water fixtures. Energy Star can help companies commit to improving efficiency that saves money and is good for the environment.

3. Improving work environment efficiency. Various strategies exist to improve the work environment. These include working from home which results in a lower carbon footprint per employee; creating more collaborative spaces where employees are not hidden behind office walls; and integrating more of a home atmosphere in the workplace where controls exist to sensor use of the space and automatically turn off lighting when no one is around.

4. Utilizing more natural lighting. One of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) strategies includes the access to more natural light for all employees, a term known as Daylighting. Daylighting creates a more productive environment that also gives a sense of wellbeing and better health benefits to the employee. This strategy usually means moving the private offices from the exterior to interior of the space so more people per square foot can enjoy and benefit from the daylight.Other strategies beyond your typical township recycling requirements include incentives for carpooling, using public transportation, purchasing from local vendors, donating unwanted/unused items to the community, and using biodegradable plates and utensils. The long term goal for a company should resolve headaches associated with Going Green by integrating solutions that have the greatest impact on improving the environment.Caroline Shelly, CID, LEED AP-BD+C is principal at HF Planners in Raritan NJ.

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