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Sustainable Energy Savings

Our new look!

Today, after eight years in business, we’re excited to release our updated logo. Although we have grown and changed over these past eight years, our core values and the excellent service we deliver remain the same. We continue to provide building owners, property managers, and plant managers with complete top-to-bottom energy audits, recommissioning and engineering studies, that identify the problem areas within their facilities and provide the best solution that positively impacts the People, Profit and Planet.

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Change is on the Horizon!

After over 8 years in business we believe it’s time to refresh our brand and restate our commitment to our clients by unveiling a new look that we and our clients can stand by and be proud of. In 10 days, our logo, website, and materials will be updated to reflect our new look, BUT our AMAZING people, our CORE values of the services which are proactively done with the moxie maids and what we DO is staying the same.

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What’s on the Horizon at Como Zoo

Como Zoo Study

By Mary Stokes

 

As the first light of morning brightens the enclosure, the King of the Jungle cracks open one eye, surveying his domain with interest.

 

Something is different.

 

The quality of the indoor light, usually so brash and glaring is softer, somehow, hearkening to the gentle rays of the morning sun.

 

Schroeder is his name, and as the gorilla shakes the fine layer of condensation from his fur, he savors the flavor of the air with wide nostrils.  It is humid, with the slight morning chill characteristic of the lowland tropics.

 

More…natural.  More pure.

 

He is more at home in the enclosure than he’s been in years, the humidity and heat of the morning slowly building as the sun rises, and the lights and air control compensate, creating the atmosphere of the jungle.

 

Around King Schroeder, his troop is waking: Alice, Nne, Dara, and the latter’s 2-year-old child, Arlene.  In the distance, the sounds of the bachelor troop waking ring out, their noisy voices loud and hoarse.  Jabir, Samson, and Virgil, a group of related males, are the other inhabitants of the enclosure.

 

Schroeder tolerates them, but if they get too close to his consorts, he will warn them off.  Oftentimes, just a look from the King is enough.

 

What have the humans done now?

 

Ignoring his troop for the moment, Schroeder climbs the nearby trees and ropes to investigate.  While the others are starting their day of feeding and resting, he prods at the covered lights and discreet air vents.  A light mist is released from them, feeding the humidity of the air.

 

What Schroeder sees is only the outer shell of a complex system of climate control, lighting, and energy management.

 

In order to create the best habitat for the primates, the atmosphere is as close as possible to the animal’s natural environment while still remaining green and sustainable.  Every part of the exhibit has purpose, from the vegetation that will be used as graze for the gorillas to the harmony of lights and natural lighting.  The utilities are streamlined and highly efficient, so no energy or resource is wasted in the care of the gorillas.

 

These measures are not simply to provide Schroeder and his family with an ideal environment.  As the number of wild gorillas dwindles, it is up to the Como Zoo and other establishments like it to encourage population growth and preserve the breed.  This, in turn, requires sensible solutions to the conservation of not only animals, but energy use as well.

 

Como Zoo is creating a future for its gorillas and giving them room to grow.  Schroeder will be the father of a new generation of gorillas, thanks to the zoo staff and the new, sustainable exhibit.

 

The enclosure is a harmonious work of art and efficiency.  From the trees that provide browse for the gorillas to the climate control and lighting, its design has the future of not only the animals in mind, but the future of the establishment and future generations of gorillas.

 

Schroeder looks down on the enclosure from his perch, taking in the view.  His troop is foraging below him, little Arlene romping around and pestering the other gorillas.  He can see the multitudes of humans that pass through, eyes wide and sparkling.

 

He breathes deeply, nostrils flared, before swinging down to join his family.

 

The air is clear and fresh, the light constant and natural, and the climate comfortable.  While he may not understand the finer points of his surroundings, he is content in his tenement.

 

This is my home.

 

SES, Inc. recently completed a Gas and Energy Study of the facilities and enclosures at Como Zoo where we identified energy saving strategies such as LED lighting that will produce an annual savings of 23,912 Dtherms of gas and 1,615,311 kWh of electricity. We at SES, Inc. are very excited to have gotten to work with the Como Zoo and to look ahead at what is on the horizon.

Photo Credit: Forest, by werner22brigitte-5337 licensed under C.C. by 2.0

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Rethink Energy: Manufacturing for The Future

Effective Solutions for ManufacturingWritten by Amon O’Connor.

Minnesota’s manufacturing sector is arguably the backbone of the state’s economy, 14.7 percent in fact. According to Enterprise Minnesota, it represents the largest portion of the state’s $255 Billion GDP and makes up 13 percent of the workforce. Moreover, for every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, an additional $1.40 is added to the economy. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, this is the highest return factor of any economic sector.

 

Here in Minnesota, the combination of our location by the Great Lakes and a strong manufacturing economy provides incentive for innovation. Manufacturing has historically fallen behind the curve when it comes to sustainable energy, connectivity, and technology integration. In these times however, there is substantial evidence to suggest that manufacturers of any size should be making business decisions that connect, streamline, and improve your facility, leading to reduced energy cost and increased efficiency in production.

 

Solutions such as smart sensors, devices that make “dumb” work-horse manufacturing machinery into intelligent, adaptive devices along the entire value chain, are now being implemented in many industry sectors. This type of device-level energy management is an auspicious approach to revamping an outdated system that can add value to an already highly lucrative industry.

 

With sustainability in the limelight, the pressure in 2017 for modernization is high. If you are a manufacturer in Minnesota, the chances of there being profit from such changes is incredible. Companies like Sustainable Energy Savings, Inc. are creating answers and multifold returns to the growing need for strategic energy solutions, bringing manufacturers in line with both shareholders and the environment.

 

Both state legislators and the home inspection groups are beginning to increase their attention towards companies who are taking strides in this direction of sustainability. For example, the uptownjungle.com recognizes manufacturers for successfully developing, adapting, or modifying production processes to be more harmonious with the environment. Our specialists can enable you to dispose of bats quick and in a protected way. Visit our site Lexington KY bat removal for more subtleties on both business and private bat expulsion.

 

Sustainable Energy Savings, Inc. is proud to be part of this thriving, robust Minnesota community. Our commitment to game-changing innovation is backed with more than seven years of expertise, bringing energy solutions that impact your bottom line.

 

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The Value Proposition of Solar.

The Value Proposition of Solar

By: Jason Ackermann, CPPM

 

The Solar Industry has changed tremendously since it first came on the scene in the 1970’s. As with any mature industry the technology has improved and cost have dropped by 90%!

 

Over the past decade, the amount of residential solar has risen exponentially while both commercial and industrial property owners have been slower to adopt even with a generous federal tax credit that will offset the installation cost. The solar investment tax credit allows investors in solar energy systems to claim up to 30 percent of their solar installation costs as a credit on their taxes. In December of 2015, the program was extended by five years in order to spur the growth of commercial and industrial solar projects. If we looked at both commercial and residential rooftop solar solutions there is enough suitable, sunny rooftops in the U.S. to provide nearly 20% of the power in every state.

 

 In my home state of Minnesota, we have approximately 282 million square feet of public building rooftops. If we were to place solar arrays on the roof tops of just our K-12 public school buildings, we could create enough to power to satisfy the needs of 125,000 homes. The 30% reduction in utilities would save those school district 110 Million dollars per year, enough to hire an additional 2,200 teachers.

 

Where would a commercial or industrial property owner interested in solar energy even begin? The best place to start is always with a comprehensive energy plan that has been customized to your building. Our expert team is ready to guide you through every decision point, maximizing your investment dollars and saving you money.

 

Jason Ackermann, CPPM, is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing at SES, Inc and a Senior Consultant at Legacy Road, Inc.

 

Photo Credit: Barley Field Sunrise Morning, by kangbch licensed under C.C. by 2.0

 

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Sustainable Energy and the Road Ahead

Sustainable Energy and the Road Ahead

Jason Ackermann, CPPM

 

With the changes that are taking place in Washington and the selection of Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy, many of the subsidies for renewable projects could very well be scaled back, if not phased out completely.  As a country, we have spent the better part of two decades weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels. Renewable energy was an industry in its babyhood with almost unlimited potential and most renewable energy projects were easy to sell with a major portion being funded by large government grants and subsidies. Now that the era of incentivization is coming to its conclusion, will the Sustainable Energy sector be sustainable?

 

Or, is this the end of renewable energy projects?

 

 

Riding with the Big Boys

 

In all new sectors of business, there comes a time when the government subsidy training wheels must come off.  This is the test of any good industry.  Can Sustainable Energy become the “big-boy-bike-riding” industry that it has been touted to be for the past 20 years?

 

The answer is absolutely.

 

Now more than ever before, those that want to see sustainable practices and increased use of renewable energy sources need to change how we communicate the beneficial impact of energy projects. It is no longer enough to tout the environmental impact of these projects. Times have changed and the conversations around energy projects must also change in order to still be relevant today.

 

Bumps & Scrapes

I know it may be hard to believe, but not every company or the executives that run them, give a second thought about the environment. This doesn’t make them bad companies or executives.  To some, the capital outlays need to bring a return, because their role within the company is to steward the limited resources that they have, to bring the biggest ROI. With the potential of losing some or all government incentives, we need to better understand how to communicate to those that lead the financial realm of our companies. If you’re not a numbers guy, there is a great tool, provided by Xcel Energy here, to assist you in making your case.

 

Gaining Momentum

The benefits of renewable energy are proven to save money for many companies as well as provide an additional connection point with energy conscience consumers.  Technological advances are also continuing to improve upon the efficiency of captured energy (i.e., solar panels designed by Elon Musk’s company, Tesla), which add considerable promise for the future of many forward-thinking companies looking to shave expenses.

 

Beyond a simple cash on cash return there are many other factors within energy projects that need to be quantified in order to compete head to head with other projects. Studies have shown that energy projects not only can save on operating costs, but may lead to increased productivity and overall employee health creating a much greater impact to the bottom line than just the easily quantifiable monetary gain.

 

As the industry grows from adolescence to adulthood it will prove time and again, that for the money, Renewable Energy Projects not only pay, but create the greatest value for the organization. Looking forward, it is a very exciting time to be involved in the renewable energy sector, watching it take its first few wobbly trips down the block.  It’ll soon enough be yelling, “Look Ma, no hands!”

 

 

Jason Ackermann, CPPM, is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing at SES, Inc and a Senior Consultant at Legacy Road, Inc.

 

Photo Credit: “Cycling” by Unsplash, licensed under C.C. by 2.0

 

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Deck the Halls with LED Lights: Five Tips for Seasonal Sustainability

In this time of seasonal fun, it’s easy to get carried away by decorating, shopping, wrapping gifts, and picking a Christmas tree. It’s also easy to run up energy bills and spend more than you intended. You can avoid all that if you simply buy flight tickets for warmer lands and book an <a href=

 

By Mary Stokes

In this time of seasonal fun, it’s easy to get carried away by decorating, shopping, wrapping gifts, and picking a Christmas tree.  It’s also easy to run up energy bills and spend more than you intended.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to have a more sustainable Christmas without spoiling the wonder of the season.

 

1) Choose your tree wisely

The age-old debate rages on today: real or artificial?  And, officially, the answer to which is better lies with what kind of consumer you are.

A study in Canada found that an artificial tree would need to be used for at least 20 years in order to be more sustainable than cutting a fresh tree each year.

Christmas trees are a commercial crop, albeit one with a longer growing period, but they are more green and sustainable than most crops.  They filter carbon dioxide from the air and biodegrade much more quickly than plastics.  You can dispose of a tree in a number of ways, and even run it through a wood chipper and make mulch for your garden.

If you’re committed to keeping the same tree, artificial can be a great choice for you.  However, if you’re from the opposite end of the debate and want to be more sustainable, consider getting a pot-grown tree (not potted tree—you want a tree that was raised in a pot, not transplanted, in order to improve survivability).  Fir trees can grow quickly, and a tree that is small one year will be the right size the next.  And, when the tip starts brushing the ceiling, you can take it outside and plant it in your garden.

 

2) Use LED lights and timers

You’ve probably heard it before, but LED is better.  While incandescent lights operate at 20% efficiency and give off the rest as heat energy, usually lasting only around a year, LED lights operate at 80% efficiency, give off only 20% as heat energy, and have a lifetime of 10 years.  LED lights can be found everywhere, and are cheaper than ever.

Additionally, it’s wise to invest in a timer for both your indoor and outdoor lights.  It’s easy to remember to turn the lights off when you don’t actually have to remember to turn them off!

 

3) Donate unwanted items and recycle

You know that old 28-inch TV you hope Santa replaces this year?  And that umpteenth pair of socks from Grandma?  How about the cheesy office coffee mug you’ll never use?  Don’t throw any of them out; donate them to your local Goodwill or other second-hand store.  Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Christmas season.  Don’t fall into that category; donate your unwanted or replaced items where they will do the most good.  And if they’re not worth passing on, be sure to appropriately recycle them based on your city’s guidelines.

 

4) Reuse wrapping paper, ribbon, and gift bags

If you’re one of the few who manages restraint while opening presents, then saving your wrapping paper is a great way to avoid creating trash and spending your hard earned cash on wrapping paper for next year.

Or, if like most of us, you gift-bagged everything, then be sure to save those gift bags, and all that annoying tissue paper!  It might be a pain to de-crinkle it all, but if every household saved the majority of their wrapping paper, bags, and tissue paper, that would be one less bag of trash from each family going to the landfill.

Think of the population of your city.  50,000?  25,000?  That means anywhere from 7,000–15,000 thousand families, and that many fewer bags of trash.  It would equal a significant amount of less trash created.

While we know that not every family will be able to reuse their paper recycling is the next best option.  Be sure to follow your city’s guidelines for recycling wrapping paper.

 

5) Make your own gifts

One of the better options for saving money is to simply make gifts rather than buy them.  They are often times more meaningful to people, and don’t have to take much time to make.  The possibilities are endless; check out this list of handmade gifts and instructions for some ideas.

Even something as simple as a homemade ornament or a knitted scarf can be more meaningful than an expensive toy or gadget.   If you have children, put their creativity to work making cards or ornaments; they’ll enjoy it and so will you.  

If you want to be even more green and sustainable, give the gift of your time, a coffee date to talk and catch up, an afternoon of baking and enjoying each other’s company, or a movie date with your spouse.  You could offer to babysit for the young couple in your life so they can go out to dinner or give 10-minute massage coupons to your loved ones.  Quality time is a precious gift that is often understated.  It is undoubtedly one of the most meaningful gifts and your friends and family will treasure it.

 

There are plenty of ways to stay sustainable this holiday season.  From LED lighting to creative gift-giving, sustainable practices can be found even during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

 

From all of us here at SES, Inc,

We hope you have a sustainable and blessed Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

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www.ses-inc.org

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: “Christmas” by HolgersFotografie licensed under C.C. by 2.0

 

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Google will use 100% renewable energy in 2017

 google campus mountain Googleplex renewable energy

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Google today said it will be able to power all of its global data centers and corporate offices from 100% renewable energy in 2017, a goal the company has been working toward for years.

Six years ago, Google began signing long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly from solar and wind farm suppliers. The company’s first contract was to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Iowa.

Last year, Google purchased another 842MW of renewable energy, nearly doubling the clean power it had purchased, which took it to 2 gigawatts (GW) of cumulative renewable power.

Google renewable energyGoogle

“Today, we are the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That’s bigger than many large utilities and more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back to the future,” Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure, stated in a blog.

Google pursued a multi-pronged approach to reach its 100% renewable energy goal, buying electricity through power purchase agreements (PPAs) that locked in contracts for carbon-free energy at a set price. The guaranteed revenue from PPAs also allowed renewable energy suppliers to invest with confidence in additional capacity, such as wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. Google also started creating more efficient facilities that would use less energy.

Google has signed onto 20 renewable energy projects around the world — about two-thirds of which are in the U.S. — amounting to more than $3.5 billion in clean energy investments.

Google also purchased its power through renewable energy credits, each one of which represents 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity sold separately from commodity power sources and fed into the general electrical grid.

Google renewable energyGoogle
Where Google’s energy comes from.

“Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60% and 80%, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option,” Hölzle said. “Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy.”

“Our ultimate goal is to create a world where everyone — not just Google — has access to clean energy,” he added.

Corporations increasingly demand more renewables

Google is far from alone in working toward achieving 100% renewable energy usage.

In September, Apple announced its commitment to running all of its data centers and corporate offices on renewable energy, joining a group of other corporations committed to the same clean energy goal.

Also in September, Microsoft announced plans to power its data centers around the world using 50% renewable energy by 2018. Click over here. The company also plans to boost its use of renewable power for its data centers to 60% by the early 2020s.

cumulative corporate renewable energy

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Last year, Apple announced it was investing $850 million in a solar power plant through a partnership with First Solar, one of the nation’s largest photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers and provider of utility-scale PV plants.

Increasingly, corporations are also pressing governments to change policies to favor the use of renewable energy, which — depending on the region — can be less expensive than power from traditional sources such as coal-fired power plants.

Increasing the use of renewable energy has become a targeted goal of almost half of Fortune 500 companies, according to one report. In 2014, more than half of Fortune 100 companies collectively saved $1.1 billion in energy costs by rolling out renewable energy programs.

“Operating our business in an environmentally sustainable way has been a core value from the beginning, and we’re always working on new ideas to make sustainability a reality,” Hölzle said.

This Article originally appeared on ComputerWorld.com

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Five Benefits of Utilizing ISO 50001 EMS

Five Benefits of Utilizing ISO 50001 EMS

 

By Mary Stokes

For any business concerned with their triple bottom line (3BL), ISO 50001 is probably in the near future.  It’s an energy management system that hits each of the 3BL categories (people, planet, profit), gives a good return in each area, and is taking the world by storm.

 

There are numerous benefits to utilizing such a system, but here are the top five.

 

1) Structured approach to energy management

 

The ISO 50001 has a structured approach to managing energy that is invaluable to businesses and manufacturers alike.  While any business can resolve to manage energy more efficiently, anything less than a structured approach risks being ineffectual.  In fact, the pilot projects that used ISO 50001 found that it shifted their take on energy management; it “…became a way of doing business, instead of a project-by-project undertaking.”

 

Because the ISO 50001 utilizes the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) approach, it allows for continual improvement as well as integration with other management systems.  It creates an environment in which the goal is to strive and challenge not only the business, but its employees.

 

2) Involvement of management and employees

 

In this area, ISO 50001 excels.  Because it requires both employees and management to take part in gathering data and reporting it, it improves communication and accountability.  It encourages people to take an active interest and responsibility in their company’s energy management strategies, and creates a positive cycle of feedback and correction that gives a business the ability to take preventative action and adjust goals.  The ISO 50001 shares the responsibility for energy reduction among management and employees, thus spreading the increase in work manageably.

 

We already know that employees perform better when they take ownership of their work and feel that what they do matters.  The ISO 50001 takes this a step further, involving employees in the lifeblood of the business through the PDCA approach. Visit website here. It does cost in terms of time and effort, training, and maintenance, but it gives back in employee involvement, responsibility, and value.

 

3) Reduced emissions and energy waste

 

Additionally, the PDCA approach allows businesses to promote energy awareness and make informed decisions about energy use.  Energy is one of the largest costs, particularly for manufacturing businesses, but it is a controlled cost.  Better energy use and maximized performance makes it possible to decrease energy cost as well as consumption.  This in turn reduces energy wastage and emissions, which are quantified by a third party, lending credibility to your business. 

 

4) Increased profitability and savings

 

Because the ICO 50001 centers on reducing energy waste, it creates savings.  Its focus on continual improvement also creates not only better energy expenditure but better products, as businesses find more efficient processes and save on energy costs. Check site here . In the Superior Energy Performance (SEP) cost-benefit analysis paper, businesses were documented as having a 12% average reduction in energy costs within 15 months of implementing practices like ISO 50001.  In facilities with more than $2 million per year in energy costs, payback was less than 1.5 years, and less than 2.5 years for facilities with energy costs of $1 million a year.

 

In particular, the PDCA approach creates an environment in which products are improved and increase in value.  Additionally, the necessary changes and improvements are low-cost or even no-cost, which creates even greater opportunity for improving savings.

 

5) Potential business partnerships

 

Last but not least, implementation of ISO 50001 is beneficial for businesses looking to partner with other businesses.  Excellent management of energy is attractive to business partners, especially if they utilize ISO 50001.  It is already a widely known and trusted method of measuring and managing energy, and because of its transparency, it has proven itself to be a worthwhile investment.  It creates a competitive environment in which businesses and manufacturers thrive.

 

The ISO 50001 has been in play for only 5 years thus far, but businesses continue to adopt it; it has proven its worth over and over.  In fact, it’s projected that it could influence 60% or more of the world’s energy use in a variety of sectors.

 

It’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon—the benefits are clear, the return is good, and you strategically position your company to leave a greater impact on the world.

 

Photo Credit: “Road” by Larissa-K, permissions through C.C. by 2.0

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Why Tesla’s new solar roof tiles and home battery are such a big deal

Why Tesla’s new solar roof tiles and home battery are such a big deal

On October 28, Tesla unveiled its new solar roof tiles. Few of us in attendance, if any, realized the solar roofing tiles were actual functional solar panels until Elon Musk said so. Sure, it’s a neat trick, but what’s the big deal?

Why does it matter that Tesla is making a fashion statement when the point is green power and a future where we aren’t so dependent on fossil fuels?

I’ve heard from some people suggesting that this is nothing new, because of other similar previous projects, including Dow Chemical’s canned solar shingle project, for example. Others are wary of Tesla’s ability to sway consumers with a solar solution that sounds like it’ll still be quite expensive in terms of up-front (or, with payment plans, deferred but net) installation costs. Still others aren’t clear on Tesla’s goals with this product, or how it fits into the company’s overall strategy relative to its electric vehicles.

Looks matter

It’s easy to dismiss the aesthetic import of how Tesla’s tiles look, but it’s actually important, and a real consideration for homeowners looking to build new homes or revamp their existing ones. The appearance of the tiles, which come in four distinct flavors (Textured Glass, Slate Glass, Tuscan Glass and Smooth Glass) is going to be a core consideration for prospective buyers, especially those at the top end of the addressable market with the disposable income available to do everything they can to ensure their home looks as good as it possibly can.

As with other kinds of technologies that are looking to make the leap from outlier oddity to mainstream mainstay, solar has a hurdle to leap in terms of customer perception. Existing solar designs, and even so-called attempts to make them more consistent with traditional offerings like the above-mentioned Dow Chemical project, leave a lot to be desired in terms of creating something that can be broadly described as good-looking.

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It’s like the VR headset — Oculus and Google can make claims about their use of fabric making their headsets more approachable, but both are still just options somewhere along the curve of things with niche appeal. Neither is very likely to strike a truly broad audience of users as acceptable, and neither are solar panels that don’t succeed in completely disguising themselves as such.

Halo effects

Tesla has been referred to as the Apple of the automotive world by more than a few analysts and members of the media, and if there’s one thing Apple does well, it’s capitalize on the so-called “halo effect.” This is the phenomenon whereby customers of one of its lines of business are likely to become customers of some of the others; iPhone buyers tend to often go on to own a Mac, for instance.

For Tesla, this represents an opportunity to jump-start its home solar business (which it’ll take on in earnest provided its planned acquisition of SolarCity goes through) through the knock-on effects of its brisk Tesla EV sales, including the tremendous pre-order interest for the Model 3. It’s strange to think of halo effects with big-ticket items, including vehicles and home energy systems, but Tesla’s fan base shares a lot of characteristics with Apple’s, and because they’re already purchasing at the level of an entire automobile, the frame of reference for what constitutes a valid halo purchase is actually appropriate.

tesla-powerwall

Tesla, like Apple, scores well with customer satisfaction and brand commitment, and that’s something that no one trying to sell a solar home energy system at scale can match. As strange as it sounds, “buying a roof because you like your car” might be the new “buying a computer because you like your phone.”

Benefits beyond basic solar

Tesla’s solar tiles claim to be able to power a standard home, and provide spare power via the new Powerwall 2 battery in case of inclement weather or other outages. Musk says that the overall cost will still be less than installing a regular old roof and paying the electric company for power from conventional sources. But Musk’s claims about the new benefits of the new solutions don’t end there.

Tesla’s tiles will actually be more resilient than traditional roofing materials, including terra-cotta, clay and slate tiles. That’s because of the toughness of the glass used in their construction, according to Musk, who demonstrated the results of heavy impact from above, using a kettlebell as you can see in the video below.

Originally posted on TechCrunch.com

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Rethinking the Death Star: A Sustainable Approach to the Universe

Rethinking the Death Star: A Sustainable Approach to the Universe

 

By Mary Stokes

 

In response to the humorous petition for the U.S. government to begin construction on the third Death Star, White House Budget Manager Paul Shawcross replied, “Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be explolited by a one-man starship?”

In this season of political rhetoric, it’s a relief to find that we as Americans can all agree on something.

Politics aside and as sustainability obsessed as we are, it got us scratching our heads, was the second Death Star destined to fail?

 

If the Empire had used today’s sustainable practices to boost production, reduce costs, and make the best use of the available materials, perhaps the Death Star would have been completed on schedule, and if it had been fully operational, would the Rebel Alliance have been able to destroy it?

 

Supply Chains, Budget Cuts, and Unrealistic Expectations

One of the main problems Moff Tiaan Jerjerrod, the commander in charge of the Death Star’s production, ran into with the Death Star project was supply chain breakdown and accompanying budget cuts.  When one considers the size of the Death Star (160 km in diameter) and the required materials, it’s not difficult to imagine that supply chains could be difficult to maintain.

However, this is the Galactic Empire we’re talking about—it has dominion over thousands of planets and trillions of people under its control.  Even while waging a war with the Rebel Alliance, there were plenty of sources for the raw materials.

 

So the real question is, why were there problems with the supply chains?

 

Well, consider that a sizeable portion of the Empire’s resources were sunk in finishing the Death Star.  While it would be logical to assume that, for a project of such importance and magnitude, they would make the acquisition of materials a priority, the fact remains that such a project was a huge drain on the Empire’s resources, considering they also maintained a huge military force.

 

The time factor is important to think about, too.  The first Death Star took 22 years to finish; the second was scheduled to be finished in 4–5 years. Despite considerations that the Empire wasn’t starting from scratch with design and R&D, the obvious obstacle was the increase in size in addition to drastically reducing the project schedule would have put a massive strain on all involved.

 

While we hope most of you don’t have to worry about being force choked on the job if you are unable to meet deadlines, unrealistic timelines are nonetheless a real problem.  While challenging deadlines may encourage employees to rise to the occasion, inversely, unrealistic deadlines will intimidate them and squash their creativity, removing their sense of value.

 

People: The Most Valuable Resource

Although, Moff Jerjarrod worked exhaustively on the Death Star, daily poring over its plans and wading through a sea of endless paperwork.  Nevertheless, he was threatened with death if the Death Star was not completed on time.

Talk about a dead-line!

Which leads us to another issue in which Moff Jerjarrod faced difficulty.  A shortage of workers.  While droids performed the majority of the building, it was still necessary for people to both oversee and repair said droids.  The Empire being a militaristic force, it’s possible that the majority of its able citizens were drafted into the Imperial Military, so we can assume available laborers and craftsmen were few.  The Empire had to maintain a strong military presence in order to control its citizens.

 

The use of fear as a motivator and method of domination was a core principle in the Empire, thanks to a prior Grand Moff, Wilhuff Tarkin.  The problem was, as evidenced by many dictatorships, fear can bring order and discipline—to a point—but there is no love lost between ruler and subjects, and that can lead to downfall as surely as poor planning skills and project management.

In short, members of the Empire had no real stake in its future; all they had to look forward to was a violent death if they failed their Emperor.  Clearly, the Empire did not buy into the idea that “a person that who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”

 

If the triple bottom line had been implemented, and if the people were encouraged to take an active part in development and were made to feel part of the bigger picture, who knows how far the Empire could have gone?  Alas, the Empire’s disregard for people shorted them in an area they really could not afford.  People who are not valued will not produce value.  But what else would you expect from one of the greatest institutions of galactic evil?

 

Learning from the Past

In addition to its other problems, the Empire seemed to have forgotten that, ultimately, simpler is better.  The terminal fault of the first Death Star, the vulnerable thermal exhaust vent, was reconfigured in the second Death Star.  Instead of one larger vent, there were numerous tiny ones that were heavily armored and could close to avoid any projectiles.  However, the problem was not merely the exhaust vents, but the Empire’s inability to learn from past mistakes.

The loss of the first Death Star was an unprecedented disaster.  The loss of the second one was foolishness on the part of the Empire.  The Rebel Alliance succeeded in destroying the fully operational Death Star, which was capable of movement and complete defense.  Even if its planet-destroying laser could only fire every 24 hours, it had a multitude of other weapons.

The simple truth is that building a second Death Star was a terrible move for the Empire.  If a fully operational one couldn’t survive its first space skirmish, what chance did an incomplete Death Star stand?  It was a black hole, sucking up resources and manpower that could have been allocated for more productive ventures. Read more on our website .

Sometimes, the projects that seem promising turn into dead ends, and must be scrapped.  It takes wisdom to make such a decision, but while it can be difficult or disappointing, it’s also an opportunity to learn and grow.

While confidence is not necessarily a bad trait for a business, arrogance often leads to ruin.  Project failure is not an ideal part of business, but it can be incredibly constructive for your business and employees if you can turn it into a learning experience.  Celebrate the individuals you employ; encourage them to take ownership of their work.

 

May Sustainable Practices Be With You

The Empire demonstrated a lack of self-awareness that is crippling; no one seemed to realize the toll their regime took on the galaxy or, indeed, on itself and its own people.  It failed to follow many basics of running a successful venture, including sustainable practices.

Sustainability practices involve frank assessments of a business’s impact on people and the environment.  It is a struggle to better not only your business, but yourself, and encourage your people to do the same.

The Empire failed to overcome basic problems like supply chain breakdowns, budget cuts, and unrealistic deadlines because it had no contingency plan for failure.  It failed to make the most of its most precious resource -its people- because it had no value for its individuals, and it utterly failed to learn from its past mistakes and move past unsuccessful projects.

 

Photo Credit: “Space” by Guillaume Preat permission through C.C. by 2.0

 

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Standards To Improve Sustainable Manufacturing

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Anyone who’s ever covered a wall with sticky notes to clearly map all of the steps in a process knows how valuable that exercise can be. It can streamline workflow, increase efficiency and improve the overall quality of the end result. Now, a public-private team led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a new international standard that can “map” the critically important environmental aspects of manufacturing processes, leading to significant improvements in sustainability while keeping a product’s life cycle low cost and efficient. Check this voyeur nude pussy by this new portal

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, manufacturing accounts for one-fifth of the annual energy consumption in the United States–approximately 21 quintillion joules (20 quadrillion BTU) or equivalent to 3.6 billion barrels of crude oil. To reduce this staggering amount and improve sustainability, manufacturers need to accurately measure and evaluate consumption of energy and materials, as well as environmental impacts, at each step in the life cycles of their products.

However, making these assessments can be difficult, costly and time consuming, as many manufactured items are created in multiple and/or complex processes, and the environmental impacts of these processes can vary widely depending on how and where the manufacturing occurs. Additionally, the data collected are often unreliable, frequently not derived through scientific methods, and do not compare well with those from other types of manufacturing processes or from processes at different locations.

Graphic showing sustainability aspects for measuring and evaluating the performance of manufacturing processes. A new international standard created by a public-private team led by NIST guides manufacturers with a formal method for characterizing their processes to achieve environmental goals. Credit: NIST

 

These issues are beginning to be addressed through a recently approved ASTM International standard for characterizing the environmental aspects of manufacturing processes (ASTM E3012-16). The guide provides manufacturers with a science-based, systematic approach to capture and describe information about the environmental aspects for any production process or group of processes, and then use that data to make informed decisions on improvements. The standard is easily individualized for a company’s specific needs.

 

“It’s similar to using personal finance software at home where you have to gather income and expenditure data, ‘run the numbers’ and then use the results to make smart process changes–savings, cutbacks, streamlining, etc.–that will optimize your monthly budget,” said NIST systems engineer Kevin Lyons, who chaired the ASTM committee that developed the manufacturing sustainability standard.

“We designed ASTM E3012-16 to let manufacturers virtually characterize their production processes as computer models, and then, using a standardized method, ‘plug and play’ the environmental data for each process step to visualize impacts and identify areas for improving overall sustainability of the system,” Lyons said.

For their next step, Lyons and his colleagues on the ASTM sustainability committee plan to define key performance indicators (KPIs)–metrics of success–for manufacturing sustainability that can be fed back into the E3012-16 standard to make it even more effective.

“In the long term, we’d also like to establish a repository of process models and case studies from different manufacturing sectors so that users of the standard can compare and contrast against their production methods,” Lyons said.

Through a collaboration with Oregon State University, NIST held regional industry roundtables in Boston, Chicago and Seattle to learn how best to introduce the benefits of the sustainability standard to U.S. manufacturers, especially small- and medium-size firms. A report about those meetings will be published later this year.


Story Source:

Materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Photo Credit: “Pumpjack” by Skeeze used with permission from C.C. by 2.0

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It’s the question we’ve wondered about since we saw the Star Wars original trilogy. Could the second Death Star have been saved?  What if today’s sustainable practicies had been utilized in order to boost production, reduce costs, and make the most efficient use of the available materials?  Would the Empire have won if the Emperor hadn’t passed on false information to the Rebels, thus alerting them to its existence?

What difference would sustainable practices have meant for the Death Star?

Supply Chain Management

One of the problems Moff Tiaan Jerjerrod, the commander in charge of the Death Star’s production, ran into with the Death Star was supply chain breakdown and accompanying budget cuts.  When one considers the size of the Death Star (160 km in diameter) and the required materials, it’s not difficult to imagine that supply chains could be difficult to maintain.  However, this is the Galactic Empire we’re talking about- it has dominion over thousands of planets and trillions of people; even while waging a war with the Rebel Alliance, there were plenty of source for the raw materials.  Not to mention that as a militaristic power that ruled primarily through fear, it would be logical to assume that the Empire could wrest resources from anywhere they pleased.  While the general populace would not have been aware of the Death Star’s existence, they would have been used to the Empire taking what they wanted.  Also, considering that a sizeable portion of the Empire’s resources were sunk in finishing the Death Star, it would be logical to assume that for a project of such importance and magnitude, they would make the acquistion of materials a priority.  Additionally, the Death Star was situated to orbit the forest moon of Endor, a rich source of needed elements.  Presumably, they were able to mine their own resources directly from the moon.

However, this brings into play a potential problem with having an object with the mass of the Death Star orbiting the forest moon of Endor.  It’s been speculated that, since the Death Star had to continually be aligned with the bases on the moon in order to keep the shields intact, there would have to be additional propultion on the Death Star to keep it’s orbit constant with the spin of the moon, in addition to keeping a constant distance from the forest moon.  Because the Death Star always occupied that space adjacent to the forest moon, it would have caused both tidal disturbances and possibly quakes on the moon.  THis could have played havoc with the mining efforts on the moon and contributed to the overall shortage of supplies.

Ideally, the Empire would have secured several avenues of resources, and done so in a way that was minimally invasive to the suppliers, cut out any middlemen and minimized the number of hands the goods passed through, and ensured a steady supply of the materials.  Whatever means the Empire used to procure materials, it apparently did none of these things.

People:The Most Valuable Resource

Another issue in which Moff Jerjarrod faced difficulty was a shortage of workers.  While droids performed the majority of the building, it was still necessary for people to both oversee and repair said droids.  The Empire being a militaristic force, it is also possible that the majority of its able people were drafted into the Navy and other military forces, so the number of laborers and craftsmen may have been few and far between.  Also, since the construction of the Death Star was a secret, they were further crippled in their ability to gain workers, since a high level of security was necessary to prevent the premature discovery of the Death Star.  The problem lies not only with the shortage of workers, but also with Moff Jerjarrod and his superiors as well.  A man who worked exhaustively on the Death Star, daily pouring over it’s plans and wading through a sea of endless paperwork, Moff Jerjarrod was nevertheless warned by Darth Vader that unless the Death Star was completed on scheduyle, the wrath of teh Emperor would be forthcoming.  Despite working his men and himself into exhaustion with what he thought of as an impossible task, Moff Jerjarrod did not complete the Death Star by the time the Emperor arrived, visit workerscompcalaw.com to know more about the Death Star.

WHile he was passed over by the Emperor, his inability to complete the project eventually caused the Imperial loss in the Battle of Endor.  However, it is less Moff Jerjarrod’s failing than that of his superior – the Emperor.  The use of fear as a motivator and method of control is an ultimately destructive practice, as evidenced by the Empire.  It can bring order and discipline-to a point- but there is no love lsot between ruler and subjects, and that can lead to downfall as surely as poor planning skills and project management.  The Empire did not buy into the idea that “a person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”  If the triple bottom line had been implemented, particulary in the ‘people’ area, and people were encouraged to take an active part in development, if they were made to feel part of the bigger picture, who knows how far teh Empire could have gotten?  Alas, the Empire’s disregard for people shorted them in an area they really could not afford.  People who are not valued will not produce value.  But what else would you expect from an insititution founded on one evil man’s idea of total control?

Learning from the Past

In addition to its other problems the Empire seemed to have forgotten that, ultimately, simpler is better  Ther terminal fault of the first Death Star, the vulnerable thermal exhaust vent was reconfigured in the second Death Star.  Instead of one larger vent, there were numerous tiny ones that were heavily armored and could close to avoid any projectiles.  THe time required to build the Death Star was also minimized – 4 or 5 years as compared to 22 for the original Death Star – but the original fault of the Empire remained: overconfidence.  The Empire demonstrated a lack of self-awareness that is crippling;no one seemed to realize the toll their regime took on the galaxy or, indeed, on itself and its own people.  The totalitarian Empire is meant to evoke images of Nazism, and it fulfills its purpose.  However, it failed to understand that when evil is rampant, sooner or later, good will rise up to confront it.

Sustainability practices involve frank assessments of a business’s impact on people and the environment.  It is a struggle to better not only your business, but yourself, and encourage your people to do the same.

Would sustainable practices have ensured the completion and survival of the Death Star?  Absolutely.  But in doing so, they would have negated the need for such a weapon.

 

 

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Like It Or Not, Sustainability Is Now Core to Your Business

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What used to be considered green virtue has now morphed into a crucial competitive tool.

 

That business has a role to play in improving the environment and dealing with climate change is certain. What is much less so is how to do that, and for some, whether to try. After all, companies feel comfortable doing business as usual, and few want to threaten their competitiveness in favor of green virtue. Check this family strokes christmas

Our point is that this is not an either or question. A growing number of examples—from diverse industries—show that sustainable business practices can be good for business from the bottom-line up. For example, Unilever (UN -1.70%) has developed washing-up fluids that use less water—and sales are growing fast, particularly in water-scarce markets. And most everyone can name a favorite product or two whose brand is intimately associated with its green credentials. My point is that sustainability can be much more—that it has a role in any and all sectors.

Here are a few examples that McKinsey has been involved with that prove the point. (For confidentiality reasons, we cannot use the company names).

 

⦁ A major brewer identified some 150 possible improvements that could reduce GHG emissions—while saving $200 million over five years.

⦁ When a water utility benchmarked its performance against that of other utilities, it figured out where the biggest opportunities were—in this case energy and chemicals. After four years, the results were in: less leakage, fewer customer complaints—and $178 million in savings—a 25 percent reduction in operating costs.

⦁ A state-owned industrial company in China increased the energy yield of its coal significantly simply by tracking it better, making sure the first mined was the first used. That improved energy efficiency as well as carbon intensity, while reducing costs 13 percent.

The nitty-gritty of sustainability programs can get complicated. But the principles are actually pretty simple—and should be familiar to executives. First, and most important, is to acknowledge that sustainability is serious. The case is not that difficult to make. In a McKinsey survey of 340 executives, more than 90 percent said risk management—whether from consumers, regulators, or the market (for example, high resource prices)—was an important factor in pushing them toward sustainability initiatives.
Once the decision is taken, define priorities, set measurable targets, evaluate costs and benefits, and create consistent incentives, including those related to executive compensation. For example, Nike (NKE -2.05%) tracks its suppliers on a range of metrics, including quality, timeliness, cost—and sustainability. Falter for long on any of these, and the consequence is fewer orders. Result: many more suppliers are hitting their sustainability mark. DuPont (DD -1.22%) has no trouble justifying its sustainability initiatives to shareholders: it is generating billions in revenue from products that reduce emissions. Intel (INTC -0.32%) has a dedicated finance analyst whose job is to calculate the value of its sustainability efforts. To reduce emissions and improve other environmental metrics in its food chain, Wal-Mart (WMT -1.48%) tracks not only GHG output, but also yield, water use, and other factors per ton of food produced. In addition to achieving environmental improvements, it cut the price of food and vegetables in the United States by $3.5 billion.

It is important to define targets that are both specific and achievable; it’s better to say “Eliminate X million pounds of packaging,” than the vague “Reduce the footprint of our packaging.” As of August 2014, though, a McKinsey analysis found that only one in five companies in the business marketing 500 had explicit, long-term sustainability goals, even though more than a third (36 percent) said sustainability was a top-three priority.

The larger point is this. Real sustainability efforts are core business efforts; because they are not always easy, they can help a company to raise its game and perform better in all kinds of ways. In mid-2014, McKinsey did a study that found a strong correlation between resource efficiency and financial performance; the companies with the most advanced sustainability strategies did best of all. In a study for the Harvard Business School that drew similar conclusions (higher return on equity and assets for higher-sustainability companies), the authors concluded, “developing a corporate culture of sustainability may be a source of competitive advantage in the long run.”

To think of sustainability as a niche gets it wrong. To do it right, companies need to be rigorous, goal-oriented, and accountable. The evidence is building not only that sustainability initiatives work, but that they are an important factor in creating long-term value.

 

Jeremy Oppenheim is a director of McKinsey & Company, based in London and a global leader in the Sustainability & Resource Productivity network. In 2014, he served as program director for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Martin Stuchtey is Director of the McKinsey Center for Business & Environment and is based in Munich.

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3BL for the People, Planet, & Profit

 

 

By Mary Stokes

Despite it’s catchy name, 3BL isn’t the newest craze in boy bands.  3BL , also known as The Triple Bottom Line, was a phrase first coined by John Elkington in his 1994 book, Cannibals With Forks.  He identified it as a method of reporting profit that considers a business’s impact on the environment and society, in addition to its regular bottom line.  Its foundation – sustainability of people, the planet, and profit – is just as applicable today as it was 22 years ago. Fore info about invisible male hero

Clients and employees alike pay more attention to businesses if they are committed to people and the environment.  Utilization of 3BL positively affects a business’s publicity by creating accountability to the public concerning societal and ecological bottom lines.

Clients want to purchase products and services that come from responsible businesses; in fact, in the Cone Communications 2015 consumer study, “91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit but also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues.”

Employees are more engaged when they feel their employing business has the same values they do.  3BL also encourages businesses to give back to their communities through charity, volunteering, and other means.  Implementing 3BL also has the benefit of both short-term and long-term profitability, just as other formats of sustainability do.

The key is that 3BL is more than just sustainable practices with regard to environmental impact; it’s about a balanced approach to business.  While actual measurements for 3BL can be tricky, it is vital to study the interactions of each bottom line and understand how they affect one another.  As a business begins to equalize each bottom line, profit does not decrease in importance.  However, as each area becomes a focal point, the overall profit shifts from financial value alone to societal and ecologic value combined.  A hybridized profit can be difficult to define, but it is utterly worthwhile.

Some notables that have embraced 3BL are Patagonia, Southwest Airlines, and Seventh Generation.  While these companies are somewhat larger, there is a movement within smaller businesses to utilize 3BL as well.  Though they are not always as visible with regard to societal and ecological impact, there are similar benefits to implementing the practices of 3BL for smaller businesses, including “increased employee engagement, improved standing in the local community and the building of a sustainable business model.”

3BL is an invaluable system for evaluating your business’s profits on several levels.  As Mitch Tyson, Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Electron Beams puts it, 

“You can rationalize that the triple bottom line will make your company more successful, which it will, or you could pursue it because it reflects your values as a person. . . .  The triple bottom line and sustainability aren’t new management techniques.  They aren’t the latest management fads.  They are concepts that challenge each of us to balance the way we successfully run our business and the world that our children’s children will inherit from us.  3BL is about creating a future for your business-a future in which it is financially, ecologically, and societally prosperous.”

 

Mary Stokes is a technical and creative writer based in Minneapolis, MN. Photo Credit: “Hands” by stokpic, licensed through C.C. by 2.0

 

Sponsored by SES, Inc.

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Engineering Studies: a Tool in Your Belt

A Tool in Your Belt

By Matthew Strebe

What if you could reduce utility costs 5-20%, have a more comfortable work environment, and improve productivity and throughput?

Engineering Studies are a tool in your management tool belt to do just that. A study can also reduce operating costs and improve building performance. Simply put, studies can be to a building what a tune-up is to a vehicle. More about joker wild

The How-Tos Of A Successful Engineering Study
With a few simple steps, a plant manager or owner can execute a successful Engineering Study.

Schedule An Initial Consult With A Study Provider
At S.E.S., Inc., this initial consult is free. A consult will provide valuable information in four primary areas:

  1. Eligibility – a consult will determine a facility’s eligibility for studies and other rebate programs such as lighting, heating, cooling, etc.
  2. Rebate strategy – a consult will help develop a strategy to maximize rebates available.
  3. Internal resource requirements – a consult will give the customer an idea of the potential magnitude of the rebates. Knowing the rebate amount helps determine out-of-pocket costs as well as additional resources required.
  4. Management buy-in – by being more informed, you will have the knowledge critical to getting the buy-in you need from your management/ownership.

Get The Management Team And Maintenance Staff On Board With The Idea
Since business alignment is crucial to the success of a study, this is your next step. Let the information do the talking. Management often pays attention when one shows that a typical study will save between 5% and 20% of the annual gas or electric bill.

Example: A food processing plant operates 5 days a week, 24 hours per day, and has approximately 200,000 square feet of production space. About $50,000 to $200,000 in electric and gas reductions may be identified during the investigation process.

Identify And Connect With the Property’s Utility Representatives
The utility representatives are a great resource and often understand the history of the property. In addition, they can save you paperwork time by providing bill history and other facility information required directly to the Engineering Service Provider electronically.

Initiate A Study With A Study Provider
A study provider will complete an  in-depth study, provide a report, and follow up with the project team to discuss associated energy saving opportunities, and building and production improvements. A study may provide the financial justification needed to address more complex and capital intense projects. Examples of this may include that new condensing boiler that was waiting until next summer, or a large controls upgrade that will improve the existing user- unfriendly system.

For more information, visit us on our website at www.ses-inc.org or contact us here.

Uponor

Case Study:

Uponor, Inc., Apple Valley, Minnesota
Year Founded:
Its origins go back to 1620 as Wirsbo in Virsbo, Sweden. Current corporate parent headquarters is Vantaa, Finland
Operations:
24 hours/day, 7 days per week

Uponor, Inc., a Manufacturer’s Alliance partner, has worked with Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy, and associated consultants for a number of years and continues to build on past successes, especially in the area of sustainability. 2015 is no different. The Uponor team partnered with S.E.S., Inc. for engineering and technical measurement support to identify and develop strategies for additional process improvements.

The Uponor team provided detailed operation and technical information to S.E.S., Inc. This information and further investigation led to controls upgrade opportunities, HVAC improvements, and an air compressor upgrade. S.E.S., Inc. maintained close communication to Xcel Energy to garner additional incentives and rebates making larger capital investments more attractive. Ultimately, the project provided the technical and financial justification to make changes needed to:

1. Make tighter process control improvements

2. Reduce the energy intensity on a per foot basis

3. Improve equipment and process reliability

 

From A Director Point Of View – Rusty Callier:
At Uponor we believe in the triple bottom line – people, planet, and profit – and operational excellence. One does not take away from the other but need to balance and blend in a way that our actions, while sustainable, make for better people process and provide a return on our investment.

Uponor has had many successes working with S.E.S., Inc. over the past two years. All highlight some great story of collaboration, research, evaluating, testing, and implementing changes. A few do stand out more than others.

Here are some successes:

  • Air compressor upgrades have resulted in a 50% reduction of preventative maintenance (PM) costs
  • Electric cost per unit of compressed air has been reduced
  • Electric utility billing rate structure changes have resulted in substantial savings
  • Ability to speed up extruders while maintaining the same rate of kilowatt-hour consumption

While this list does not include all we have been able to accomplish partnering with S.E.S., Inc.,  it is a good representation of the relationship that has developed over the years. It is a lot to just keep up with growth and the daily grind of running a 24/7 operation, and having a trusted resource like S.E.S., Inc. in your corner to sniff out sustainability wins helps tremendously.

Matthew Strebe is a MN Licensed Engineer and ASHRAE certified
professional at Sustainable Energy Savings, Inc.  
Article originally posted on the Manufacturers Alliance Insider, “Engineering Studies: Why They Could Be the Best Thing You Do For Your Plant in 2016“,  January 2016.   Header Photo Credit: Licensed through C.C. by 2.0.  Photo Credit: Uponor with permission

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Don’t Hate the Player: How Fun and Games Can Encourage Sustainable Choices

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On some level, most of us are in the business of behavior change — whether we’re trying to lose a few pounds ourselves or whether we’re promoting energy efficiency. It goes without saying that habits are hard to break, even when someone has gone out of their way to make the better choice fairly easy. Know more about king of chicago
As communications guru Andy Goodman points out in his “free-range thinking” column [PDF] this month, most of us opt for the escalator instead of the stairway. Highway speed trap cameras do little to reduce speeding. And handy garbage cans in public places haven’t stopped littering.

So, it seems guilt trips and even real penalties don’t always do the trick. But what if we make it more fun to do the right thing?

That’s what Volkswagen challenged local thinkers to do in Stockholm. Their contest, The Fun Theory, resulted in a bunch of clever ways to make games out of healthier, safer, or more environmentally mobileapp friendly choices — many with great success.

Here’s one to combat escalator laziness:

In a subway station, a staircase was converted into a piano keyboard. As commuters walked up and down the steps, each stair played a corresponding note. At first, a few adventurous individuals tried the stairs and even attempted to play songs. Over time, there was an eye-opening (and waistline reducing) 66 percent increase in use of the stairs.”

The YouTube video about this project went viral and has had over 17 million views!

 

What about a “carrot” rather than just a “stick” to reduce speeding? Another Stockholm experiment replaced highway speed signs with a “Speed Camera Lottery.” They still issued tickets to speeders, but if you passed the sign going the legal speed or slower, your license plate number was entered into a lottery to win a pool of money funded by — you guessed it — the ticketed drivers. “During a three-day test, average speeds on this stretch of Swedish highway dropped from 32 to 25 kilometers (20 to 16 miles) per hour.”

 

 

Then there’s the litterbug problem. Check out this garbage can triggered to free play funny sounds — like a cartoon-inspired sound of something dropping an absurdly long distance — when you throw your trash in. In this experiment, “more than twice as much trash was deposited in this bin as the next nearest in the park.”

 

 

There are more Fun Theory projects, including a “bottle bank arcade” for recycling and a clever (if somewhat troubling) way to make it more fun for kids to keep their seat belts on.

So, how can we make more fun out of sustainable behaviors? We know that one great way to motivate people to cut home energy waste is to tell them how much energy their neighbors are using. That’s a game of sorts — or at least friendly competition (and social marketing). Are there more ways to “gamify” our efforts?

Gabe Zichermann, consultant, author, and all-around game king, defines the the approach as a way of using “game thinking and game mechanics to engage people and solve problems.” (His consulting business is called Dopamine!) Here are his “six rules of gamification”:

1. Understand what constitutes a “win” for the organization/sponsor. In other words, clearly identify the behavior goals and outcomes. What do you want people to do?

2. Unpack the player’s intrinsic motivation and progress to mastery. “We need to know what drives our users and how our application moves them along a path of mastery in their lives … what are our players’ hopes and fears, anxieties and aspirations?”

3. Design for the emotional human, not the rational human. We make many of our decisions quickly and based on emotion, not rationality.

4. Develop scalable, meaningful intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. “A good solar energy system of gamified design relies on both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to drive short- and long-term behavior. Human motivation exists on a continuum that is only served — in practice — by both kinds of rewards.”

5. Use one of the leading platform vendors to scale your project.

6. Most interactions are boring: make everything a little more fun. “This doesn’t mean that we need to trivialize our work … rather, we must remember that the average player lives in a world devoid of daily positive reinforcement, surprise/delight, and meaningful sociability. By aligning our experience with their desires, and striving to make every encounter more meaningful, we can bring fun to every grey, dull corner of the world.”

While these rules are obviously business-oriented, and big fun isn’t always an option, there are certainly some lessons here for everyone evergreenmaids.com. First and foremost is that we need to understand what motivates the people we’re trying to reach — what are their hopes and fears, what makes them feel good (or bad), what imbues status, and what identity are they seeking for themselves?

 

By Anna Fahey on Feb 13, 2012, from Grist, cross-posted from Sightline Daily.  Photo Credit: Licensed under C.C. by 2.0

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Take Credit for Your Business Part II; New Opportunities on the Horizon

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In a 2011 blog Article, Take Credit for Your Business, we discussed how the R&D Tax credit provided potential sources of cash for manufacturers of all sizes that have incurred expenses in pursuit of new or improved process (e.g. Additive Manufacturing), products (e.g. new product engineering, or applications of AM throughout the product development lifecycle), performance, reliability, or quality. However, until 2016 the reality was that many small and mid-size companies and their tax advisors felt it was simply not viable to pursue this tax credit. The reasons included the complexity of the documentation, the cost of hiring experts to do documentation, and general confusion over what expenses qualified and which did not. In many other cases, the tax credits generated could not be used because of limitations created by current tax rules. So it’s not surprising that the majority of companies that have historically taken advantage of this benefit were big businesses.

We are pleased to report, that this situation has changed due to some late legislation that was passed in December 2015: the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015. That legislation, in addition to making the tax credit permanent for the first time in the credit’s 35-year history, significantly enhanced how small and mid-sized manufacturers (SMMs) can benefit from the research tax credits they can generate, utilizing the following significant provisions:

  • Eligible SMM’s may now claim the credit against the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) to offset AMT for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015.
  • Some start-up companies may offset payroll taxes with the credit: beginning in tax years beginning after December 31, 2015, certain start-up companies will be allowed to utilize the research credit to offset the employer’s payroll tax (i.e., FICA) liabilities.

How are these significant changes? In years past, a large number of eligible SMM’s (especially S Corporations and other flow-through entities) did not pursue the R&D Tax Credit because the AMT prevented them from using the R&D Tax Credits that they could generate. In addition, young companies typically don’t have a need for tax credits because their expenditures are higher than their sales, thus creating operating losses. Both of these new changes will allow a higher number of companies to immediately monetize the credits they can generate!

According to Scott Schmidt of Black Line Group, the definition of R&D under the law remains much broader than most people realize. For example, time and materials spent prototyping using AM technologies and equipment, costs to experiment with different designs and materials, the design/engineering of new parts and components, and periodically activities related to software development, can all potentially generate R&D Tax Credits.

Manufacturers of all kinds, including those that design and develop their own products, as well as contract manufacturers and job shops, can all take advantage of the R&D Tax Credit. Both the customer and vendor (job shop/contract manufacturer) of an R&D part can take the credit, since the customer will have qualified expenditures around the “PRODUCT” development/improvement activities of the part or component, while the vendor will have qualified expenditures associated with developing the “PROCESS” for making the part.

Schmidt encourages potential and first time users of the R&D tax credit to get ahead of the game and immediately start documenting their “qualified costs” in preparation to start pursuing the R&D Tax Credit in 2016. He notes that companies that make parts for their larger customers in particular (e.g. metal stampers and fabricators, precision machinists, mold builders and plastic injection molders, tool and die makers) should seriously begin to evaluate whether they are eligible for the credit.

Note:  the information contained in this article should not be interpreted as advice or as an endorsement of any product or service, and cannot be used by the reader for promoting, marketing, or recommending any matter or actions addressed in this article to other parties. Mr. Devereaux is not a tax expert and anyone who wishes to pursue this credit should consult a tax accountant for advice.

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Ready For Take-Off, Announcing the Newly Redesigned Website for SES, Inc.

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We are proud to announce the new, streamlined website for SES, Inc.  Travel on over to our Home Page to see what we can do for your company.

www.ses-inc.org 

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Don’t Fear Sustainability, Celebrate It

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Photo Credit:Blisstree
By Mary Stokes
There is an unending struggle to understand sustainability, because well, let’s face it – it is a difficult concept to nail down.  It’s tough to even define sustainability in a way that does not exclude part of what it is.  In navigating the murky waters of  which sustainable practices are best for individual companies, a few, let’s say “myths”, have reared their ugly heads causing companies to shy away from what could be the next steps in expanding their company’s presence.
That said, we want to debunk a number of myths concerning sustainability, especially when it comes to small businesses.

1) It’s Only About Being Green

While “being green” is the most recognizable component of sustainability, it is not the entire focus. Sustainable practices have the benefit of minimizing environmental impact in mind, but they are also designed with the bottom line as a primary focus by cutting costs and increasing profits.  To say that sustainability is solely concerned with the environment is incorrect. It is more accurate to say that environmentally sound practices and cost saving measures are intricately entwined and they gain momentum symbiotically.  It is difficult to have one without the other.

2) It Is Expensive

Perhaps the most commonly held belief about sustainability, is that it is expensive to put into practice. This largely depends on the area in which a business desires to be sustainable.  Implementing sustainable practices might be as simple as finding a way of  adjusting lighting, heating, and air conditioning.  It could also be the process of revising the way items are manufactured. Some companies have been able to introduce an additional revenue stream by recycling excess materials.  Depending on the vision and goals of the business, the practices of sustainability can be as varied as the companies that implement them.

It should be noted here that a sustainability consultant should be in every small businesses figurative Rolladex.  A knowledgeable consultant can minimize expenses, streamline processes, and prioritize cost saving measures.  Sustainability consultants can offer a variety of services, ranging from air and water balancing to custom component 3D modeling, each option carries the potential for savings and lower overall costs.  Keep in mind, that even small changes can make a visible difference.

3) There Is No Immediate Return

A common concern businesses have is that the return for implementing sustainable practices, is not immediate.  This is not necessarily the case; many sustainable changes involve decreased energy use and will be readily apparent in the electric and gas bills for the month following the implementation.  Additionally, a business that is visibly investing in sustainability will receive positive attention and brand recognition.  That’s right, sustainability is good for marketing!

Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface Inc, a textile manufacturer, says of the reality of sustainability for his company, “Sustainability has given my company a competitive edge in more ways than one…It has proven to be the most powerful marketplace differentiator I have known in my long career…It has rewarded us with more positive visibility and goodwill among our customers than the slickest, most expensive advertising or marketing campaign could possibly have generated. And a strong environmental ethic has no equal for attracting and motivating good people, galvanizing them around a shared higher purpose, and giving them a powerful reason to join and to stay.”

The value in positive PR, brand recognition, lower costs, and decreased environmental impact cannot be overstated.  Customers notice and appreciate the effort to be environmentally and economically sustainable, and a new customer base is formed with those who purposefully search out businesses that are concerned with sustainability.  Talented employees are attracted to a business that cares about the bigger picture, and this in turn encourages them to care about the business.  Even simple changes can prove to be enormously beneficial, and can improve efficiency, both for the short and long term.

4) It Is Difficult and Time-Consuming

Another practical concern for small businesses is that any changes required to be sustainable are difficult or require an excessive amount of time to implement.  Let us put you at ease, sustainability does not have to be difficult nor time-consuming to implement.  It can be as simple as adjusting how the heating and air conditioning take effect; or as involved as testing and reformatting of systems used, but again, a good sustainability consultant can alleviate both of these concerns, allowing you to marshall your energies towards running your business.
We understand that each business is unique, and sustainability needs will differ from business to business, but sustainability is something to be embraced and celebrated, not feared.

For a free on-site assessment, please feel free to contact us at 612.237.8647 or at support@ses-inc.org.  We have partnered with several fantastic companies around the Greater Twin Cities area and it would be our pleasure to serve you as well.  

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Sustainability in the most – ahem -unlikely places

 

Demonstrating Blue Box

Photo Credit: Sanivation

How far can a company go in it’s efforts for sustainability?  You’d be surprised.  But we here at SES, Inc believe that the best sustainability efforts push boundaries in an effort to produce the best results for the people we serve, and while we can’t take credit for the efforts of the company in the article below – we certainly applaud them for, umm, thinking inside of the box.

This sanitation start-up in Kenya turns poop into a sustainable source of fuel

It’s easy to take something as ubiquitous as a toilet for granted when you live in a developed nation like the US.

But for many people around the world, lack of proper waste disposal and sanitation systems can cause widespread disease and even death.

To help solve this problem, Andrew Foote and Emily Woods started Sanivation — No. 55 on the BI 100: The Creators — a sanitation startup that installs in-home toilets in East Africa and turns the waste into briquettes of sustainable, environmentally friendly fuel.

Foote and Woods came up with the idea for turning waste into fuel as undergraduate students at Georgia Tech in 2011. The pair developed a thermal treatment system for human feces as a research project and later entered their work into Start-Up Chile, a business accelerator in South America.

While in Chile, they explored the sanitation space, encountering several startling statistics about developing countries, including the fact that 90% of waste is disposed of without treatment and that diarrhoeal disease is the second-leading cause of death of children under the age of 5. From there, Foote and Woods decided to go all in with the business.

Sanivation Blue Box storefrontThe storefront for blue box toilets. Courtesy of Sanivation

Sanivation set up shop in Naivasha, Kenya, in 2013 with Foote as CEO and Woods as chief technology officer. Today, the company serves 650 people in the community there.

Foote and Woods knew from the beginning that to succeed they’d need to cover the entire system from start to finish. The lack of existing infrastructure in some parts of Kenya means that providing toilets or a treatment system wouldn’t make much of a difference; both must exist to effect systemic change.

So instead of providing one component of the waste-treatment business, Sanivation operates an end-to-end service. It installs private, container-based toilets in homes, and they are maintained for a $7 monthly fee. The waste collected from the toilets is taken to a processing plant, where it’s turned into fuel briquettes that work as an alternative to charcoal. This full-circle model takes a necessary system and elevates it into something sustainable and useful.

“People always joke that we’re running not one business but 10 businesses,” Woods says. “As a startup, it’s complicated, it’s logistically difficult. But we haven’t found anyone to reliably source any one component of this to. Right now, if we want it done right, we have to do it ourselves.”

Getting toilets into homes

The concept of in-home toilets was a hard sell to locals, much less an entire system.

“How do you market something that people feel uncomfortable talking about?” Woods says.

In Naivasha, where outdoor pit latrines are the norm, the mention of an in-home toilet led many to immediately picture an open latrine inside their home — not a preferable alternative to the outdoor version. So Sanivation branded their version as “blue boxes” to dispel the negative connotations potential people had with the word “toilet.”

Burning briquettes_CoSanivationBurning briquettes. Courtesy of Sanivation

On top of that, Sanivation had to convince clients, many of whom can’t count on a steady monthly paycheck, that paying the monthly fee for the toilet was a worthwhile expense.

Training customer-service representatives and maintaining communication with clients proved to be another challenge, especially once the team realized that many homes in Naivasha don’t have addresses. Undeterred, they developed an address system themselves.

In the end, these bumps in the road, and a host of others, helped Sanivation improve its product. The company thrives on client feedback, constantly seeking constructive criticism directly from their customers.

“If we’re not doing a good job, our client is not going to pay the next month,” Foote explains. “By being beholden to our clients and delivering quality services to them, we always learn that keeping good, open communication channels is really important.”

From feces to fuel: how it works

No existing toilet system meant that no existing treatment plant existed in Naivasha, so Sanivation designed and built one from the ground up. Led by Woods as CTO, the team developed a parabolic mirror treatment system themselves, harnessing the natural energy from the sun to heat up waste and kill germs.

Briquette manufacturingManufacturing briquettes. Courtesy of Sanivation

Sanivation combines two waste streams in a metal bucket — human excrement and carbonized agricultural biomass waste, which comes from things like sugarcane gas, corn cobs, rose farms, and rice husks — and heats it to a temperature that neutralizes harmful pathogens and allows the waste to be transformed into a briquette of fuel.

The briquettes have been a hit with local businesses, which purchase them directly from the Sanivation team.

“Our charcoal briquettes outperform traditional charcoal,” Foote says. “So we’re actually selling them at a higher price than traditional charcoal per kilogram, and we’re saving our clients money because they burn longer and have less smoke.”

Sanivation sells 7,000 kilograms, or 15,400 pounds, of the alternative fuel each month and consistently empties its stock.

“We need more poop to be able to keep up with demand,” Woods says.

The entire treatment process demonstrates a core aspect of Sanivation’s business model: relentless innovation. With no outside infrastructure to rely on, Woods and Foote must adapt and change almost daily to meet needs and advance their mission.

Looking to the future

Going forward, Sanivation’s biggest goal is also its biggest hurdle: scaling the company.

Sanivation operates 100 toilets in Naivasha and plans to expand to more than 500 by the end of 2016. The company is also working with refugee camps to build customized systems and train residents to operate them on their own.

Sanivation_tour of BlueBoxSanivation cofounder Foote explains the blue box toilets. Courtesy of Sanivation

Though a few other businesses are attempting similar container-based sanitation systems, none have reached a large scale yet, which leaves the space open for innovation and growth.

Woods says the company is going to have to change to be able to reach the scale it wants.

Sanivation may still be small, but it’s already affecting people’s lives. Foote recalls an older customer coming up to him one day and bending over with her hands pressed together in a salute of gratitude.

“You could just see that the toilet had so much more impact than as a public-health thing,” he says. “This lady typically had to squat over some feces and urine-laced slab, and now she had a nice, comfortable way to go to the bathroom. And she was so thankful for that.”

*Originally posted in the Business Insider by Emmie Martin

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You’ve Been Thinking About Plastics All Wrong

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Photo Credit: Carlos Jasso/Reuters

 

 

By Jeff Wooster

Plastics are an indispensable part of our lives today, and recent advances in material science have delivered truly amazing products from dissolving heart stents to lifesaving air bags to smart packaging that both protects our food and warns us when it’s about to be “past its prime.”

But over time, and with plastic being used in a growing number of products, some people have come to believe that these modern materials have greater environmental impacts than the materials they are replacing.

Is this true? Simply put, no – according to a comprehensive new study on the comparative environmental impacts of plastics.

A new study by the environmental consulting firm Trucost, “Plastics and Sustainability: A Valuation of Environmental Benefits, Costs, and Opportunities for Continuous Improvement,” is based on natural capital accounting methods. This methodology measures and calculates the value of environmental impacts—such as consumption of water and emissions to air, land, and water—that typically are not factored into traditional financial accounting.

The findings likely will surprise many. The study finds that the environmental cost of using alternative materials is four times more than that of using plastics. Trucost found that replacing plastics in consumer products and packaging with a mix of alternative materials that provide the same function would increase environmental costs from $139 billion to a whopping $533 billion annually. That’s primarily because strong, lightweight plastics help us do more with less material, which provides environmental benefits throughout the entire life of products and packaging.

dow chemicalDavid McNew/Getty Images

These results disrupt the commonly accepted narrative around plastics—the assumption that traditional materials have less environmental impact. In fact, these findings stand that assumption on its head.

The study builds on earlier research by Trucost for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that looked at the environmental costs of using plastics. That study did not ask: compared to what? In other words, since we need cars, packaging, electronics, and other consumer goods, what would be the impact of using materials other than plastics to make them? The new study answers that question.

Everything we do impacts the environment, whether simply breathing air, mining bauxite, or harvesting trees. The Trucost study takes a comprehensive look at these impacts and their costs. It looks at the entire life cycle of products and packaging—from extraction to disposal—and gives us a fuller look at the overall environmental impacts.

Natural capital cost accounting is similar to life cycle analyses, which is now accepted as the most comprehensive way to assess the impacts of materials, products, and packaging. To help ensure that the study’s methodology and data were sound, the results were reviewed by two of the most respected practitioners of life cycle studies—Denkstatt in Europe and Franklin Associates in the US.

By comparing the environmental costs of various materials we use, and by using decision-making tools made possible by these studies, we can make better decisions.

For example, the study will help consumer product companies and policymakers make smarter decisions about what we produce and how we produce it. By understanding the environmental impacts of the materials used to make car bumpers, food containers, electronics, and athletic wear, we can transparently enhance sustainability and reduce our impacts on the environment. In other words, this study can help drive informed policies that deliver greater benefits to people and the planet.

While comparing environmental impacts is critical, we must dig deeper. We also need to reduce those impacts. The report’s authors recommend steps to help further reduce plastics’ overall environmental cost, such as by increasing the use of lower-carbon electricity in plastics production, adopting lower-emission transport modes, developing even more efficient plastic packaging, and increasing recycling and energy conversion of post-use plastics to help curb ocean litter and conserve resources.

They also called for enhanced environmental leadership by the plastics industry, noting that the industry has “direct influence, or indirect influence… over a significant share of the environmental costs of plastic use… (and) is well positioned to play an enhanced leadership role in driving improvements in the environmental performance of the plastics value chain.” The plastics industry has embraced this challenge and has committed to ongoing innovations that will advance sustainability across major market sectors and the globe.

This new study helps provide the clearest and most comprehensive picture to date of the relative environmental costs and benefits of plastics compared to alternative materials. And by providing a path forward to further reduce these relative costs, the study provides valuable insights into how these materials can even further contribute to sustainability.

Jeff Wooster is global sustainability director for Dow Packaging and Specialty Products and chair of the American Chemistry Council’s packaging team.  The Trucost study may be found here .

*Article originally posted in the Business Insider, July 29, 2016

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The Benefits of Sustainable Manufacturing

By Jerry Jasinowski, Fmr. President of the National Association of Manufacturers

If there is one salient feature of U.S. manufacturing today even more dramatic and promising than the growing re-shoring trend, it is surely the shift to sustainable manufacturing which is transforming the manufacturing landscape even as it boosts corporate earnings and fosters diverse innovation.

My interest in this topic began with the teachings of W. Edwards Deming whose revolution in quality improvement consistently stressed that “one must learn to do more with less.” I also found my contact with young people evoked a consistent theme that they wanted to improve the environment and give back to their community. Based on this, I proposed to the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University where I am on the Board of Trustees that they undertake a project to focus on the positive activities corporations are taking in this area. This led to a new report, “Success Paths to Sustainable Manufacturing,” which you can access here.

Our research focused on 12 prominent corporations including Caterpillar, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Proctor & Gamble and General Dynamics that are in the forefront of the sustainability movement. We looked for core themes that enabled the companies to embrace sustainability successfully, and cited numerous examples of those successes.

There are many obvious means for achieving sustainable manufacturing such as reducing use of energy, reducing use of water, decreasing emissions from manufacturing processes and reducing physical waste. And there are myriad benefits — demonstrating a company’s commitment to community and stakeholders, meeting regulatory requirements and consumer expectations, earning awards and positive media coverage and attracting a new generation of bright young people into manufacturing careers. Others include creating wildlife habitats, deploying renewable energy production at plants, turning waste into revenue streams and improving communities where manufacturing facilities are located.

Of course, there is also a more crass and fundamental reason — money. Reducing consumption of energy and water and production of waste by definition saves an enterprise money, sometimes lots of money.

One of the companies reported that while growing 40 percent over the past 15 years, it had saved about $7 billion through sustainable manufacturing practices. Another firm reduced its manufacturing footprint in North America from 15 million square feet to 5 million square feet, even as the company grew, which reduced its bills for energy and real estate while increasing operational efficiency. Yet another has embarked upon a campaign to reduce its energy use by 20 percent by 2020 saving $80 million a year. And still another eliminated 14 hazardous waste streams, reducing its annual waste disposal tab from $750,000 to $40,000 in one year.

It goes without saying that initiatives like these also generate positive reactions among the public, increasing the likelihood that environmentally conscious young people will pursue careers in progressive manufacturing firms. Sustainable manufacturing is a wave of the future.

 

Originally posted in the Huffington Post, December 2014 

Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, served as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. 

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Revisiting Mr. Ford

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I was chatting with my 11-year old Grandson, Alex recently.  I always find these discussions illuminating.  You see, Alex has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.  If you are familiar with children who have this disorder, you know that amidst significant social challenges, there can be this ribbon of super intelligence that presents itself when you least expect it.

So there we were, sitting side by side, me reading from my Kindle and he playing with some angry birds on his I-pad, when he asks me, “So, what are you working on at EPA now, Pop-Pop?”

I reply, “Oh, I don’t know, Alex, I guess I’m working on solving a puzzle of sorts.  We are trying to bring people together as a team and help people in this country who make things.  We want to help manufacturers make things that are better for them, better for you and better for the environment.”

He was quiet for a moment and I thought that perhaps I had given him TMI.  Ha!  He was just processing.

“You mean like Henry Ford when he invented the assembly line process for making cars”, he says, as he twists his I-pod to launch a particularly elusive angry bird.

“Yes, I replied, “like that.  It is hard sometimes to get the right people together and solve problems as a team.”

At this point, he put the I-pod down and I thought the conversation was over.  He popped up and announced that he was going to play on the computer.  As he left the room, he looked back at me and said, “Well, for a puzzle like that, why don’t you think like Henry Ford?”

I smiled and returned to my Kindle when I paused and then realized that Alex was right.

Over the last several decades we have become so specialized as a society that, perhaps, we have allowed it to affect the way we think.  As a result, when we address issues like jobs, advanced technology or preventing pollution as they pertain to American manufacturing, we typically confer with those in our peer groups, thought-leaders, if you will, assigned to one station within an assembly line. This may have worked well in the past, but I’m not sure it will work to solve problems illuminated for us by this new concept of sustainability.

We cannot redesign a headlight without first making sure the automobile chassis has been re-constructed to accept it.  Similarly, we cannot expect innovative ideas associated with advanced technology to be accepted by American manufacturers if they are not yet ready to pursue them.

What I’m suggesting here is that to be successful in helping American manufacturers thrive in this new era of sustainability, we need to turn traditional thinking on its side and engage with those in the sustainability assembly line with whom we traditionally have not.  Perhaps, this is why the E3: Economy, Energy and the Environment framework has been so successful.

Food for thought.

This post was originally posted on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) BlogTom Murray joined EPA way back in 1971 and has never lost the passion for pollution prevention and helping manufacturers become more sustainable

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Getting the most out of your sustainability program

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                                                                Photo Credit: StockVault

Sustainability initiatives won’t create lasting value if they’re poorly managed. Here are four lessons from companies that are doing it right.

Among retailers and consumer-goods manufacturers, commitment to environmental and social objectives can take many forms—whether it’s distributing fair-trade products, reducing materials used in packaging, or ensuring humane working conditions at suppliers’ factories. Unilever, for one, has a detailed Sustainable Living Plan, and among the company’s goals for 2020 is to halve the greenhouse-gas impact of its products over their life cycles. Swedish furniture maker IKEA has installed more than 700,000 solar panels in its buildings worldwide and has committed to own and operate more than 300 wind turbines. British retail group Kingfisher’s sustainability plan, which it calls Net Positive, aims not only to make frugal use of natural resources but also to restore and regenerate the environment—“putting back more than we take out,” as the company says.

These programs can be powerful agents of change, both toward greater alignment between customer and corporate interests and toward a culture of systemwide innovation in products and business models. Yet some skepticism remains as to whether sustainability efforts have any impact on financial performance in the short and medium term. Our recent research provides answers to both of these questions.1 In this article, we discuss how companies are creating value from their sustainability programs and what practices enable companies to keep these programs running smoothly and effectively.

How sustainability programs create value

In previous work, our colleagues have outlined the various ways that companies can use sustainability initiatives to manage risk, drive growth, or improve returns on capital (Exhibit 1).2 In our latest research, we sought to unearth examples of how companies are actually doing it. We found that companies that built sustainability into their operations saw immediate benefits, which gave them the momentum to do even more.

Risk management

Of the companies we surveyed,3 more than 90 percent could point to a specific event or risk—such as consumer pressure or soaring commodity prices—that directly triggered their commitment to sustainability. More than half cited long-term risks to their businesses: 26 percent said they wanted to avoid damage to their reputations, 15 percent were seeking to prevent regulatory problems, and 15 percent said they wanted to eliminate unnecessary operational risks. Indeed, we found that the value at stake from risk-related sustainability issues can be as high as 70 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (Exhibit 2).

What do these risk-management efforts look like in practice? The US-based candy companies Mars and Hershey offer two examples. To secure their future supply of cocoa, both companies are investing in the sustainability of their suppliers. Mars supports smallholder cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire by providing high-quality seeds and fertilizers as well as training; it is also investing in research to improve the quality and performance of cocoa plants. Hershey sends experts to teach its suppliers best-practice farming methods; its CocoaLink mobile-phone service offers advice and market information. The company also contributes to local education initiatives and the fight against child labor. Both companies have set a goal of having their entire cocoa supply sustainably sourced by 2020.

Growth

Nearly half the companies we surveyed (44 percent) cited business and growth opportunities as the impetus for starting their sustainability programs. Redesigning products to make them more sustainable, for instance, can yield tremendous financial benefits. Unilever developed a brand of dishwashing liquid, Sunlight, that is equally effective but uses much less water than other brands; sales of Sunlight and Unilever’s other water-saving products are outpacing category growth by more than 20 percent in certain water-scarce markets.

Apparel companies such as Europe’s C&A now use organic cotton, which is grown without synthetic chemicals or genetically modified seeds. Consumer demand for organic cotton is rising: in 2014, C&A sold 130 million garments made from the fabric, up from 85 million in 2012. C&A plans to use organic cotton in 100 percent of its cotton products by 2020.

Returns on capital

Most of the companies we surveyed said their sustainability initiatives began with a focus on reducing resource consumption: 97 percent of them are conducting initiatives to increase energy efficiency, 91 percent to reduce waste, and 85 percent to save water in day-to-day operations.

Puma, the sporting-goods manufacturer, has been measuring its ecological footprint and that of its largest suppliers since 2005. It aims to reduce the waste it generates, as well as its water and energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, by 25 percent compared with 2010. The company is making steady progress: between 2010 and 2013, Puma reduced waste generated per employee by 35 percent and cut energy consumption by 4.2 percent.

Bringing discipline to sustainability programs

Even with a sustainability agenda in place, companies often encounter problems with execution. To bring more discipline to their sustainability efforts, companies would do well to follow four principles commonly associated with performance management: select a few focus areas, set measurable goals, conduct cost-benefit analyses, and create incentives for employees and suppliers.

Focus, focus, focus

We found that many companies choose more than 10 areas in which to concentrate their sustainability efforts; some choose more than 30. It’s hard to imagine how a sustainability agenda with such a large number of focus areas can get the necessary buy-in and resources to be successful. In our experience, the best approach for maximizing impact is to select three, or at most five, strategic priorities.

For example, Coca-Cola’s sustainability framework—which it calls Me, We, World—encompasses its initiatives to improve personal health and wellness, the communities in which it operates, and the environment. The company reports making material, tangible progress on metrics related to three specific areas of focus within this framework: well-being, women, and water.

To emulate Coca-Cola’s success in identifying focus areas that are a good fit with corporate strategy, a company should study what matters most along its entire value chain through internal analysis and dialogue with suppliers, customers, regulators, and nongovernmental organizations. The end product of these efforts shouldn’t be a mere laundry list of vague ideas but rather a systematic sustainability agenda.

Set measurable goals

For each focus area, a company then needs to set clear, quantifiable goals with a long-term orientation (five years or more) and communicate those goals both internally and externally. Notice the difference between a general aspiration to “reduce the impact of our packaging on the environment” and a specific, measurable goal to “eliminate 20 million pounds of packaging by 2016.” Another example of a specific goal comes from a coalition of apparel retailers and manufacturers including Benetton, H&M, Inditex, and Marks and Spencer: these companies are aiming for supply networks with zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.

Publicizing quantifiable goals motivates the organization, forces leaders to allocate resources, and promotes accountability. An analysis of companies that are part of the Carbon Disclosure Project found that those that announced their goals to the public did better when it came to cutting emissions—and also had better financial returns on such investments.

Conduct cost-benefit analyses and communicate the results

Making the business case for sustainability might sound like an obvious thing to do, but apparently it isn’t. Only around a fifth of survey respondents reported that the financial benefits are clearly understood across the organization.

Many companies have struggled to quantify the financial impact of their social and environmental initiatives, in part because of the distributed nature of that impact: savings or profits arising from sustainability initiatives are commonly spread across various parts of an organization. It is therefore advisable to appoint an executive as the “owner” of each target, meaning his or her team continually tracks the costs and benefits of sustainability actions. Tracking should also extend to indirect effects, such as an enhanced corporate reputation and increased customer loyalty, which pay off over the longer term.

Marks and Spencer tracks progress against its sustainability commitments, as laid out in the company’s Plan A program. The commitments generated £145 million in net benefits in 2013–14. These benefits are regularly communicated to shareholders, employees, and consumers; for instance, the company’s latest annual report mentions Plan A more than 70 times.

Create incentives for employees and suppliers

The top reason that survey respondents gave for their companies’ failure to capture the full value of sustainability was the lack of incentives to do so. Only 1 company in 12 includes sustainability criteria in calculating performance-based compensation for executives, and only 1 in 7 rewards suppliers for good sustainability performance. Among survey respondents, 37 percent named short-term earnings pressure as a reason for poor sustainability results; about a third named lack of key performance indicators and not enough people being held accountable.

Companies could learn a lesson from sporting-goods maker Nike, which directs more of its business to suppliers that receive high scores on its Sourcing and Manufacturing Sustainability Index. This index, one of Nike’s tools for assessing factory performance, gives sustainability factors equal weight with quality, cost, and on-time delivery. Nike requires lower-performing factories to resolve issues in a timely manner or else face penalties such as reduced orders or even a termination of the business relationship. The incentives seem to be working: between 2011 and 2013, Nike saw a 19-percentage-point improvement in the number of suppliers that met its standards.


Ultimately, each company must define its own sustainability philosophy in the context of its specific business and mission. The examples described here illustrate the competitive advantages that sustainability initiatives can offer. That said, even the most exemplary commitment to sustainability doesn’t change the fact that the earth’s natural resources are limited. A longer-term solution will therefore require new—circular and regenerative—business models that decouple economic growth from resource consumption.

Download the full report in which this article originally appeared, Perspectives on retail and consumer goods, Number 4, Autumn 2015 (PDF–7.01MB).

About the author(s)

Achim Berg is a principal in McKinsey’s Frankfurt office, Nils Schlag is a principal in the Düsseldorf office, and Martin Stuchtey, based in the Munich office, is the director of the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.

The authors wish to thank Sheila Bonini, Kerstin Humberg, and Steven Swartz for their contributions to this article.

*Originally posted in McKinsey Insights

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Where Sustainability Thrives, So Does Longevity

Sustainability is a word oft batted around, but what does it actually mean for your company?

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By Mary Stokes

There is certainly confusion concerning what sustainability is, and which parts of business it affects.  The UN’s Bruntland Commission in their 1987 report, Our Common Future, defined it as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.  While this is applicable as a way of life, it is equally important for businesses, especially with regard to manufacturing and business practices.

The goal of sustainable development is to create an environment that lends itself to longevity.  In an age where many businesses are not expected to pass the 18 year mark, longevity is a desired yet elusive trait.  However, it does not have to be; sustainability is the key to not only corporate longevity, but also corporate success and flourishment.

Sustainability does not mean the end of innovation.  Rather, it encourages a different type of creativity in each aspect of a business’s workings.  This may mean updating and changing practices in the manufacturing aspect, or simply modifying the surroundings to create a more energy-efficient environment.  The ideal approach is a blend of short-term and long-term changes, with a focus on both the immediate return and the future return.  A balanced approach will improve the potential for longevity without causing strain by reducing profits.  Implementing sustainability actually encourages innovation by challenging businesses to brainstorm new approaches to decreasing waste and improving production.

Recently, Dell started recycling carbon fiber and plastics into new products, a major change that could potentially create $1 trillion of additional value.  While this is a recent change, the point Vice Chairman of Operations Jeff Clarke makes is that while their recent changes are eco-friendly, they have also created a better product with increased value, which is of equal importance.

In an interview with blogger Taylor Eason, Jon Ruel, CEO of Trefelthen Vineyards, has a slightly different take on sustainability practices.  While the demand for organic and sustainable products has increased in recent years, as the public has become more informed, he notes that the green and sustainable part of business is less for the creation of a “delicious and authentic” wine product and more for the longevity of the business, so “[they] can keep making delicious wine for years to come.”

Both businesses are concerned with sustainability, but they present a picture of both long-term and short-term gains.  A balance of both is necessary for the longevity of a business; additionally, putting sustainability to practice is encouraging a new level of innovation in business practices.

Rather than viewing sustainability as difficult or having no substantial short-term return, businesses ought to see it in light of the innovation and challenge it can bring to their practices and employees.  In fact, sustainability can drive growth by creating a competitive environment and encouraging employees to be knowledgeable and care about sustainability.

In order to have a lasting impact and create future value, sustainability is an absolute must.  The futures of businesses are impingent on their sustainable practices.  Where sustainability thrives, so does longevity.

Mary Stokes is a technical writer based out of the Twin Cities metro area.  You can contact her at www.tyrison7.wordpress.com.

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Getting straight-armed with your glove recycling efforts?

Read how this food manufacturer pushed back by participating in this gloves takeback program 

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Lundberg Family Farms of Richvale, Calif., grows, produces, packages, and markets 150 organic, gluten-free, and whole grain food products using organic and eco-positive methods. The third-generation family company’s motto is “Embrace wholesome,” so it’s only natural that embracing sustainability would be an integral part of the company’s culture.

“Our company is committed to nourishing a healthier planet and protecting the environment for generations to come,” said Ashley Vega, the company’s sustainability specialist.

A zero waste culture is a crucial ingredient of the business model. Missing from its zero landfill recipe was a sustainable outlet for its used nitrile gloves that had been worn in production. The gloves represented about 15 percent of the company’s landfill waste.

Lundberg participated in Kimberly-Clark Professional’s (KCP) RightCycle program.

The program is designed to enable companies with waste reduction goals to outlet hard-to-recycle items, such as nitrile gloves and single-use apparel, to be converted into eco-friendly consumer goods.

The way the takeback program works is fairly simple. KCP provides a receptacle for the discarded gloves and single-use apparel, which the manufacturer then uses to ship to a KCP recycling center when full. The items are sorted and processed into pellets or powder, which becomes the raw material for new molded durable goods such as patio furniture, shelving, and flower pots (see Figure 1).
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Figure 1: Kimberly-Clark Professional aims to make zero landfill achievable by facilitating a simple takeback program.

Since its inception in 2011, the RightCycle program has helped divert more than 300 tons of waste from landfills. More than 150 companies currently participate in the program, a Kimberly-Clark representative reported.

Zero Waste Certification Well in Hand

gloves-w-tree
Figure 2:  Lundberg Family Farms credits the KCP RightCycle program with helping it achieve zero waste certification by taking back and recycling its spent nitrile gloves.

Lundberg recycled nearly 1 ton of nitrile gloves in its first few months in the RightCycle program. “You’re either throwing the gloves away or giving them a second life. The latter is always better,” Vega said.

The company expects its glove waste landfill diversion rate to total 4 tons annually.

“The changeover was really painless,” Vega relayed. “And our employees are actively recycling the gloves even more than we anticipated.”

The company achieved platinum Zero Waste Facility Certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council. Vega credits the RightCycle program with helping it achieve the certification.

Kimberly-Clark Professional recently expanded the takeback program to the industrial segment.RightCycle is part of the company’s Exceptional Workplaces initiative.

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Why Making Your Business More Sustainable Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive Or Hard

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It can be daunting for small business owners even to consider sustainability when they have other things to think about – like day-to-day operations and the company’s bottom line. But that doesn’t mean companies with limited resources should stay away from investing in a sustainability program.

Willis Wood, founder of Trade Show Emporium, says it’s “a common myth” that achieving sustainability costs a lot of money. “I faced the challenge of wanting to provide environmentally friendly trade show exhibits,” he says, “but at first, they were more expensive than a traditional exhibit. After working with manufacturers to get the price point down, we made it possible to get a green exhibit to be the same price of a traditional exhibit.”

Business owners contemplating how they can afford a sustainability strategy – and what the return on investment will be – need to take a long-term approach. That includes identifying business priorities, looking at the big picture, and being flexible.

Start With A Solid Framework

Sustainability should be treated like any business priority, with actual, realistic metrics that can be measured and considered in terms of a company’s overall ROI.

It’s important to have a relentless focus, recommends Kathy Nieland, U.S. Sustainable Business Solutions Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Sustainability is a wide field, and it is easy to get distracted,” she explains. “It can be hard to cut through the noise.”

Think about larger-scale initiatives, she recommends, adding that the field is moving from simple activities such as using double-sided printing in offices to transforming factories, supply-chains, and product design.

Make Integration A Priority

To be effective, sustainability needs to be worked into a business’ core strategy. This means starting with executive discussions at the top and ensuring that priorities trickle down to the everyday.

Wood of Trade Show Emporium explains that it’s important to start with a vision. “After being in the industry for a few years, I noticed the huge impact the trade show industry had on the environment,” he says.

Wood remained dedicated to his original goal, transitioning his business to recyclable and sustainable materials. “My company is now one of the top vendors for displays produced from environmentally friendly, renewable materials,” he says.

And it’s not enough just to think about what’s happening right in front of you. There are wider implications to sustainability changes as well, and it pays to look at the social, economic, and environmental impact of those changes. Wood’s company, for example, takes its program a step further by helping vendors recycle their old trade show exhibits, preventing them from ending up in landfills.

The Three Ways to Become Profitable

A recent Harvard Business Review article points out that companies will typically take three approaches to making sustainability profitable.

  1. Start with a more expensive investment to generate lower long-term yield.
  2. Bootstrap sustainability through small changes that save a lot of money, which can then fund bigger initiatives.
  3. Share sustainability efforts with customers and suppliers to create new and unique business models.

“Have a company meeting and brainstorm how to incorporate sustainability into your organization,” explains Wood of Trade Show Emporium. “Vote on the top 5 most important sustainability objectives. Then set a date as a goal for each of these objectives so that they can be met.”

Get Creative

Sustainability is far from a black-and-white field. There’s no one right way to implement any strategy, and performance metrics aren’t always fixed.

“Sustainability success measurements vary with each company’s priorities,” emphasizes Paula McEvoy, co-director of the Sustainable Design Initiative at Perkins+Will. “Savings in water and energy costs are easy to identify and for some companies, that’s the primary goal. The more interesting measurements come when companies tie their sustainability plans to their corporate mission.”

Business owners should be prepared to experiment, though, since everyone has an opinion. “Whether you’re trying to optimize office temperatures or finding an Eco-friendly soap,” McEvoy says, “people will want to weigh in. You won’t get it right the first time, but as long as you’re working towards a clear goal, that’s okay.”

At the end of the day, it’s a learning process for everyone, particularly when changes to equipment and operations are involved. And business owners shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. “Don’t overlook the educational components that will be required to make your plan succeed,” says McEvoy. “This can be as simple as posters and emails but may also require outside expertise for in-depth training.”

Written by Ritika Puri

*Originally posted in the Business Insider on November 12, 2013

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Five Benefits of Embracing Sustainability and Green Manufacturing

By Brian Lagas

Embracing sustainable and green principles is not just a trend. Cultivating sustainable and green practices helps organizations become more efficient, competitive and profitable. It’s more than simply “a good thing to do.” Manufacturers are realizing the many practical short-term and long-term financial benefits to implementing environmentally conscious improvements.

The Difference Between Sustainability and “Going Green”

“Going green” is not the same thing as sustainability, albeit they are related. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, green is more frequently associated with a singular product or process. Examples include improving a specific operation so that it does not harm the environment or creating a product made entirely out of recycled materials.

Sustainability is typically more associated with an organization’s holistic approach; it takes the entire production process and logistics into consideration. For example, you may purchase a green product made out of recycled goods. However, if that product was made overseas, and environmentally harmful methods were used to transport that product to the United States, this would not be adhering to sustainable principles.

In the manufacturing world, it is advantageous to focus on both green and sustainability. While targeted improvements can be beneficial to your company, looking at the “bigger picture” maximizes the perks of an environmental focus. Here are five critical ways to embrace sustainability and green to positively impact your organization:

1. Reduce Energy-Related Costs

Energy and water costs are a prime concern for manufacturers. Focusing on improvements can reduce these expenses. Often, these improvements are realized as annual savings as opposed to quicker, short-term cost reductions.

Switching to energy-efficient lighting and adjusting lighting levels in accordance with your production schedule will reduce your long-term electrical costs. Regular equipment inspections will also prove beneficial. For example, air compressor leaks can be a waste of energy and increase expenses. Changing how you package your products and supplies can provide cost reductions and free up space at your facility. Solar and wind energy, along with energy efficient equipment and machinery, will greatly reduce monthly utility bills. Implementing strategies such as recycling and going paperless will also save on supply costs. Sustainability can improve your bottom-line.

2. Attract New Customers and Increase Sales

Green and sustainable practices can make your company more marketable. Consumers are more conscious of the environment, and making improvements will strengthen your reputation. Whether you’re an OEM or a supplier, highlighting your initiatives to the public will help you attract a whole new base of customers, resulting in increased sales. For safe online payments, provide to your customers the most sophisticated way of fraud protection from Fully-Verified. This is important to manufacturers seeking government contracts where green manufacturing standards are often a factor.

Technology and social media have enabled buyers to easily (and publicly) promote or criticize companies for their green practices, or lack thereof.

3. Tax Incentives

There are a variety of tax credits and rebates on both the federal and state level for manufacturers who proactively implement more sustainable improvements. There may be incentives available to your business. Check out:
U.S. Department of Energy’s website
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

4. Boost Workforce Morale and Innovations

Sustainability improvements are a collaborative effort. When employees work together to identify and implement green and sustainable initiatives, it fosters a culture of teamwork and continuous improvement. Employees work harder when they are engaged and have a sense of pride in their company. By internally communicating the importance of changes and the impact they are having on the business and environment, manufacturers will positively influence their corporate culture.

Sustainability can also ignite innovation. For example, if you challenge your engineers and machinists to reduce material scraps or recycle more waste during the manufacturing process, it often leads to additional ideas for operational improvements.

5. Societal Impact

In addition to helping your company’s profitability, your actions can make a real difference. By implementing changes, you will have a smaller carbon footprint and reduce the number of toxins released into the atmosphere. Future generations ultimately benefit from improved air and water quality, fewer landfills and more renewable energy sources.

Sustainability and Green Manufacturing Success Stories

U.S. manufacturers are achieving quantifiable results by working with their local MEP Centers on sustainability and green initiatives. Some successes include:

  • E3 Review Strengthens Virginia Company’s Environmental Commitment, Resulting in Over $200,000 in Operational Cost Savings – read more.
  • Lean and Clean Programs Help New Jersey Manufacturer Realize $3 Million in New / Retained Sales, 5 New Employees and $500,000 in Cost Savings – read more.
  • Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI) Helps Wisconsin Company Reduce Fuel and Emissions, Recognize $75,000 in Costs Related to Shipping – read more.
  • Energy Savings Project Leads Kansas Organization to more than $61,000 in Overall Equipment Savings and $24,000 in Annual Energy Savings – read more.
  • Energy Efficiency Project Helps New Hampshire Manufacturer Reduce Energy Consumption by 10% and Save $25,000 Annually – read more.

MEP is partnering on federal initiatives to help companies: 1) gain a competitive edge by reducing environmental costs and impact, and 2) enter new markets by developing environmentally focused materials, products, and processes. For more information about MEP’s sustainability efforts, visit our website or please contact your local MEP Center.

*Originally posted in Manufacturing Innovation Blog, September 10, 2015

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