Energy Management and Lighting, Maintenance and Operations, Sustainability/Business Continuity

Earth Day 2023: Five Ways to Make Your Facilities More Sustainable

Earth Day 2023, which is being celebrated on Saturday, April 22, has a theme of “Invest in Our Planet.” To participate, facilities management professionals should consider ways to invest in making their facilities more environmentally friendly. Sustainability often benefits not only the planet, but also the bottom line.

Here are five ways to make facilities more sustainable:

1. Renewable Energy

Facilities management professionals should consider upgrading their facilities to renewable energy sources, whether by buying green energy from off-site projects or self-generating power with on-site projects.  

According to government figures, 20% of all electricity generation in the U.S. is provided by utility-scale renewable energy sources, with the most common being hydro, wind, and solar power. Facilities can enter contracts to buy the output or attributes of these large-scale renewable energy projects. They can also install or lease smaller-scale, on-site projects, such as rooftop solar or microturbines.

Facilities that install renewable energy sources not only help protect the environment, but also may become more resilient in the event of power outages, receive federal tax credits, and sell excess power back to the utility for additional revenue. As it turns out, a solar project may even help pay for your facility’s next roof!

2. Energy Efficiency

Facilities management professionals should consider ways their facilities can become more energy efficient.

LEDs: Meeting this goal could be as simple as switching from compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. LEDs produce light up to 90% more efficiently than CFLs. While CFL bulbs burn out, LED bulbs gradually decrease in light as they age.

ENERGY STAR: Energy efficiency efforts could involve upgrades to the building itself to become ENERGY STAR certified and buying ENERGY STAR products. ENERGY STAR is a voluntary program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To learn more, check out Facilities Management Advisor’s article Back to Basics: How Businesses Can Participate in the ENERGY STAR Program.

Energy Audits: Facilities management professionals should perform an energy audit on their facilities so they can further increase profits and reduce environmental impacts. They should consult with the U.S. Department of Energy or other expert organizations for further information on audits.

3. Waste Prevention and Recycling

The EPA recommends that facilities management professionals consider ways they can prevent waste and recycle as much as possible.

Waste Prevention: To prevent waste, facilities management professionals should consider ways to change or limit the use of products. For example, office workers should be encouraged to only print necessary documents. Facilities professionals should consider reuse as another option, such as repairing or washing used products, appliances, and building materials. For example, furniture in a college dormitory could be cleaned rather than replaced. Companies should consider donating items they no longer need, such as old books.

Recycling: Facilities management professionals should encourage workers to recycle as much as possible. This can be as simple as providing recycling bins in breakrooms for aluminum, plastic, and glass soft-drink containers, as well as paper products. Flattened cardboard boxes can also be recycled. Facilities professionals should double-check with their local recycling provider on what materials can and cannot be recycled. More information on what items typically can be recycled is available here.

4. Green Cleaning

Proper cleaning of any facility is important for everyone’s health and safety. Facilities management professionals should consider environmentally friendly solutions by using products as part of the EPA Safer Choice program. There are more than 2,000 products qualified to carry this “Safer Choice” label designated for businesses, office buildings, sports venues, and schools. Products on this list have to meet strict requirements regarding ingredients, product performance, pH, packaging, and more. Most stores carrying cleaning and household supplies sell Safer Choice products, and they can also be purchased online.

5. Green Transportation

To encourage green transportation, facilities management professionals should consider having bicycle racks available for those who ride bikes. They should consider installing electric vehicle charging stations where employees can charge their vehicles for free. Sidewalks should be installed around the building to encourage walking.

Workplaces looking to relocate should consider sites that are pedestrian-friendly, in mixed-use development areas, and near mass transportation hubs like trains, buses, and subways. Employees should be encouraged to walk from work to retail and restaurants and to their homes. Workers should also be encouraged to carpool.

Renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste prevention, recycling, green cleaning, and green transportation are all ways that facilities management professionals can help be kind to Mother Earth.

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