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Energy Awareness

Deadlines. Projects. Presentations. Meetings. Add them up and your employees may think that any effort to save energy around the office is a nice idea, but hardly a priority. So when you want to lower your company’s energy costs and reduce waste, the inevitable question arises: How do you get your employees to buy-in?

The first step is breaking some ingrained worker habits, which might seem impossible. But Kevin Burns, Manager of Conservation for the Orlando Utilities Commission, says it’s a matter of being smart about how to reframe attitudes so that saving energy isn’t a “have to” but a “want to.”

“When you help employees plan the battle, they don’t battle the plan,” Burns says. “You might be surprised that you have employees who want to help. Ask them to come in and offer their ideas.”

Incentives can also help, inspiring employees to form new habits that run the gamut from turning down thermostats when the office is empty to powering down computers at night.  “I’ve seen game application play into it, where employees compete for rewards to see who has the biggest impact,” Burns says. “We all like a good competition.”

In that case, the person who controls the air conditioner might be a lock to win. According to Burns, “More than half of your energy bills in Florida are attributable to air conditioners. So it’s no surprise that your biggest opportunity to save is in cooling.”

Businesses can also inspire their employees to make the connection between conservation at the office and at home. “Convincing people to save energy at work can relate directly to their private life,” says Paul A. Smith, a mechanical contractor and project manager for Service America, a Fort Lauderdale-based company that offers service plans for all household appliances. “Supporting a corporation's desire to save electricity by switching to LED lighting, or using motion sensors on bathroom and stairwell lights, or using energy management systems for air conditioning translates into energy saved for the company, the community and directly for the employee.

Even when they’re turned off, many of our electronic devices continue to draw power while plugged in. A 2015 report by the by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that the always-on energy use by our inactive electronic devices translates to $19 billion  a year — about $165 per US household on average. That’s roughly the output of 50 large (500 megawatt) power plants, and it accounts for 25 percent or more energy waste. Desktop computers rank among the biggest offenders, which is why Smith says employees can play a major role just by turning them off when they're not being used and connecting their devices to smart power strips that eliminate idle load.

— Lou Carlozo, Tribune Content Solutions Writer