Green adds another level of comfort for consumers

Posted 6/23/09

When Mike Miller’s employees and other tenants in the building began complaining about the shoddy lighting conditions in their offices and …

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Green adds another level of comfort for consumers


When Mike Miller’s employees and other tenants in the building began complaining about the shoddy lighting conditions in their offices and hallways, he did what many business owners are starting to do: He went green.

After years of messing with a variety of lamps and bulbs that either constantly flickered or burned out, and raised energy costs, Facility Manager Lea Morse brought in Heritage Electric to assess the situation at 1901 W. Littleton Blvd., Littleton.

The team analyzed the building, made recommendations, and installed some samples for everyone to evaluate.

“I’ve heard nothing but compliments and positive feedback about the improved lighting in the halls and offices,” Morse said.

Miller is also planning to replace his large old boiler with three new energy efficient boilers.

But more than happier and healthier employees (studies show appropriate, efficient and adequate light use increases comfort, security and productivity in the workplace), Miller also saved about $4,000 on energy costs from February to May, compared to 2008.

What’s more, his savings seem to be increasing each month.

Going green has been elevated to a key business strategy for employers today, according to Robyn Beavers, founder of Google’s Green Business and Operations Strategy Team in an HR Magazine article.

“In the future, a company’s carbon statement will be as prominent as its financial statement,” she said.

Like Miller, many business owners are starting to understand the impact of green awareness on business.

Forward-thinking business owners are recognizing that the changes serve the interests of the growing numbers of green-aware customers, resulting in revenue opportunities according to a 2008 Ernst and Young report surveying business leaders to learn more about green business strategies.

Consumers expect companies to be more socially responsible and to make environmentalism part of the brand.

Many business owners believe that changing their processes to fit in with a more eco-friendly world will be expensive and time consuming.

While it is true that environmentally friendly products can be more costly to purchase, in the long run they can save a business an awful lot of money, according to Heritage Electric.

For example, using high-efficiency light bulbs, such as compact fluorescents, costs 75 percent less to run than standard light bulbs and will last 10 times longer.

Using e-mail as much as possible, instead of sending faxes, will also significantly reduce a company’s overheads. According to document delivery company Captaris, an enterprise with 30,000 employees that sends and receives two pages a day can save over $2 million a year by digitalizing its paperwork.

There are numerous other small things a company can do to make business more environmentally friendly, including reducing waste by recycling paper, making sure to dispose of items such as unwanted office furniture, batteries, lighting and plastic in the appropriate manner, and choosing suppliers that back packaging for reuse.

Businesses can also take steps toward reducing carbon emissions through the CarbonNeutral Company.

Meanwhile, the market for green products and services has exploded in recent years as a result of the increasing number of people deciding whether or not they use a company based on their environmental standpoint, according to Ernst and Young.

Arapahoe County is already home to a handful of green purveyors, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

The OCA is an online, grassroots nonprofit that campaigns for sustainability. They are the only organization in the country exclusively focused on promoting the views and interests of the nation’s estimated 50 million organic and socially responsible consumers.

If you searched Google for solar powered restaurants in the United States, you'd find only a handful of names — and Mi Cocina Mexican Restaurant in Littleton is one of them.

In fact, the Mexican restaurant, 1600 W. Belleview, was the first of its kind in the country to use solar renewable energy for a percentage of its business operations.

The solar awning structure is expected to cover up to 20 percent of the electric utility consumption.

What’s more, the cost of installation was offset by a rebate from Xcel Energy and a federal tax credit for businesses that utilize renewable energy options.

Mi Cocina owner Saul Sierra told Colorado Community Newspapers in Novemeber that he’s been taking steps toward becoming eco-friendly for some time.

And while it could appear he knew exactly what he was getting when he signed up for solar panels, the truth is he didn't.

"I make bean burritos for a living," he said. "I wasn't one of those people who always had an interest in it. I was in the dark. My interest in renewable energy started only a year and half ago."

On Nov. 18, Lighthouse Solar, the premier supplier of renewable energy solutions out of Boulder, installed 28 solar panels on an awning structure above Mi Cocina's existing patio.

"Instead of installing the panels on the rooftop, we put them over the patio so people could see how clean renewable energy works," Sierra said.

Ultimately, Sierra says, he sees his restaurant as an example business to educate the community and encourage the use of renewable energy sources.

"I don't consider myself an educator," he said. "But I can give people the basic information.”



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