With a new office in St. Louis and a company commitment to energy efficiency, Brightergy assesses our sustainability situation, and answers the St. Louis RCGA’s call to go green.
by Cindy Bambini
The Green State of the STL Office
In February of this year, Brightergy Solar Solutions came home to the St. Louis County city where we were founded in 2003– Webster Groves. The leased office space is in an old brick building almost at the corner of Big Bend and Laclede Station Road. Our new offices were formerly the home of Dan Dee Shutters, a longtime fixture in the Webster Groves business district.
The first floor space has been fully renovated with black and gray modern furnishings. There is plenty of space to accommodate our planned growth. The basement however, tells a completely different story. Rickety stairs, stone walls, damp floors and a couple of secret rooms reveal the true age of the building – something just shy of ancient! It looked like significant work for some Harrisburg Water Damage Restoration experts (or any others, really) to be able to rid the basement of the dampness, all the hidden mold/mildew and whatnot, and make it functional and efficient. The striking difference between the old and the new made me think about the sustainability of our new space – certainly the functionality had been sustained over time, but what about the space itself was thought through sustainably in the renovation and its operation today?
I took a mental inventory – ample natural light (check), programmable thermostat (check)….um, um…uh-oh…time to get to work.
With the full support of my co-workers, I contracted with a single stream recycling company and hired a green cleaning company. I purchased green office and cleaning supplies, and replaced disposable serving ware with real china, coffee cups and silverware. To further cut down on waste, I outlawed bottled water and contracted with a service with reusable multi-gallon jugs. And I signed us up for the St. Louis RCGA Green Business Challenge.
Making it Official: the St. Louis Green Business Challenge
The St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (the RCGA) is basically the chamber of commerce and economic development organization for the St. Louis metropolitan region. The St. Louis Green Business Challenge helps companies and organizations adopt sustainable practices that yield financial benefits and reduce environmental impact.
In its third year of existence, the Green Business Challenge is open to St. Louis area businesses and runs from March 31 to October 31, each year. Businesses participating in the Challenge complete a scorecard measuring their achievements in six areas:
- Forming Company Green Teams
- Increasing Energy Efficiency
- Improving Indoor Environmental Quality
- Reducing Waste
- Conserving Water
- Providing Clean Transportation Options.
Of a total possible 285 points on the challenge scorecard – our modern, comfortable office logged only 45. Pathetic you may say, but I think not. Instead, I see opportunity. As a tenant, it’s hard to make changes to the physical property but there are some things you can do.
For example modern business should have efficient LED lights as they use up to 75% less energy than a standard light. CFL lights are an appropriate substitute though nowadays almost anything can be replaced with LED. Even this bud light neon sign uses LED so if you own bar or just want some whimsical office decor lighting then that is a decent way to reduce energy consumption. Another way to reduce lighting costs is to install sensors that turn lights off when there is nobody present in the room. You could make use of a popular occupancy sensors installation specialist to introduce this to your office though it might require participation from your landlord. And overall landlords won’t do many changes in the way of efficiency, not until they’re forced to by law.
In a way that is good, because it enables the kind of changes that have a more profound impact – changes in our habits, behaviors and daily practices. Personal individual changes make us think about our impact on the environment. However, there are things like double glazing, water-efficient bathrooms, and better AC installation that could significantly make a business greener. Personal change only goes so far.
We are forming our green team and awaiting our meeting with Jean Ponzi, the Challenge resource consultant who just happens to be an employee of the Missouri Botanical Gardens Earthways Center (translation – experts in sustainable business practices). In the meantime, we are looking for ways to internally reduce the impact of our daily work habits while we work externally doing the same through the deployment of solar energy in the region.
(Self-appointed green team leader, Brightergy St. Louis)