Energy Awareness at Work

One of the major problems highlighted as part of our energy audit was employee awareness of energy wastage.  This was obvious just on the walk around when the number of lights and computers left on was visible to anyone with their eyes open.  As a consequence, we were offered several one hour training sessions to try to raise the awareness of staff about the cost of leaving things switched on.  This was sold to us on the basis that most people, even advocates of energy saving, don’t even think about saving energy at work and are often unaware of just how much leaving some devices on standby could be costing.

So, I organised three sessions for all the employees on site that day, and was impressed to see that everyone did turn up for the sessions.  Only one person asked if they could miss it (I obviously said no as they are the biggest sceptic that I know and believe that climate change is just a government scare tactic to introduce more taxes).  I also (admittedly a bit belatedly) sent an email to other departments and sites inviting them to send someone over if they wanted (I had only one response, and everyone else ignored me) – this is obviously not currently a priority within the Company – although I believe this may be about to change with the requirements for the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC).

How did the training go?  Well, it was not the most dynamic of deliveries I have ever come across.  There were some interesting facts and figures about the cost of leaving appliances on standby, which did seem to be news to some people in the room, but other than that there did not seem to be very much content and certainly nothing that I thought would influence many people to change their habits.  There was also a large concentration of effort about the Carbon Reduction Commitment, despite my assurances that there really was nothing that I could do about it at my lowly level.  Maybe I was a little prejudiced though, because it wasn’t news to me, but apparently some people did not know that leaving their mobile on charge for longer than required was wasting money.

So, results of the training, no immediate effects were noticeable, although it did get some people talking about it.  I have since discovered that more warehouse staff are turning lights off as they leave the room (I discovered this second hand due to a comment from maintenance that they are having to replace more bulbs).  Most disappointing though is that people in the office are still leaving lights and IT equipment on – one of our biggest wastes of energy.  So, although it did not change the world, it was probably worthwhile as it did what it said on the tin and raised employee awareness with regards to energy usage – now it is up to me to start getting them into new, better habits.

The Verdict – The report from the Energy Audit

As previously mentioned the audit arranged by the Carbon Trust was pretty thorough, and conducted by someone who did seem to know what he was talking about.

About a month after the audit I received a report which was followed by a feedback session.  The report gave an overview of the findings, and detailed a number of carbon reduction opportunities with their pay-back time.

Two sites had been audited, and it wasn’t always perfectly clear which data and suggestions related to one or both of these sites. There were some useful (and relatively cheap) suggestions.

The report, as expected, concentrated on the use of gas and electricity at the site.  A breakdown of the electricity use for the site was provided; unsurprisingly it is the Plant itself and the lighting which constitute the biggest proportion.

The recommendations for the site vary in magnitude and expenditure from a pay-back time of less than 6 months to approximately 2 years.

The top three suggestions anticipate reducing the carbon footprint of the site (currently estimated at 642 tCO2e) by 41.3 tCO2e: a reduction of approximately 6%. The top three priorities were listed as:

  1. Implement the findings of the report with regards to our energy management.
  2. Improve lighting.
  3. Shutdown of IT equipment.

The other changes require an expenditure in excess of £10k, but expected to produce a carbon footprint reduction closer to 10%.  These are also changes that will take longer to implement and so, if deemed appropriate, may be saved for next year.

The report concluded with an energy management matrix, summarising their view of our energy management practices (to be honest, this is not very good reading).

The matrix looked at the following: Energy Policy, Organisation, Training, Performance Measurement (improvement in this area is underway — more about this in a later blog), Communication (as with most companies, we have already realised that this is an area where much improvement can be made) and Investment (this is perceived as our best performing area).

I will publish a series of posts over the coming months with the detailed verdict; planned improvements, and how I am dealing with the fact that the actual cost savings are quite minimal compared with total expenditure and our profitability.

Energy Audit at Work.

If you spend over £50k on energy each year then the Carbon Trust will perform a free energy audit of your Company and will then issue a report which will highlight areas that they feel could be improved and the cost and payback time for any such investment.

As a site we pay more than that each year on electricity alone, as a Company, goodness only knows.  So, late last year I booked a survey.  This took a little while longer to complete than initially expected, partly due to the internal requirements at our Company, and partly due to the person allocated as our Account Manager going off on paternity leave!

First of all, the Carbon Trust did not carry out the survey, they subcontract this work to a number of consultancies (this also adds to the timeframe as there is communication between the Carbon Trust and the consultancy, the Carbon Trust and the company requesting the audit and the consultancy and the company being audited)  – all a bit overly convoluted!

The audit lasted about three hours, partly discussing problems encountered / solutions offered to other (nameless for the sake of confidentiality) companies and partly walking around the site and talking to the maintenance department about electricity supplies and compressors (something I will freely admit I know little about and which I will hopefully rectify in the coming year).  It seemed as though there were areas that he had already decided would be the main places for consideration – I am not sure whether this is because he had visited one of our smaller sites or whether it was because these are usually areas for improvement at most companies.  These included the aforementioned compressor, lighting and the voltage used to power the lighting.

About a month or so later we were issued with a fairly comprehensive report with recommendations for improvement, costs and potential savings.  These varied in complexity and price, the easiest being training to raise energy awareness…

Recycling at work.

Our Green Team started off with a brainstorming activity to identify areas where we thought improvements could be made.  From this we decided that the most obvious area to look at first was recycling as there were no facilities at the moment (apart from a skip for cardboard and recycling of cling wrap) with all other waste being sent to landfill.  It also seemed one of the easiest to tackle as recycling has been a high priority for a number of years in Daventry, with the council providing excellent facilities and being the first in the country to meet government targets for household recycling.  Unfortunately, they do not seem at all interested in helping businesses in the area to recycle.

How have we done so far?

Two of the team spent a lot of time trying to find someone to take away our recycling.  Some were not very helpful, a couple were more interested in the confidential shredded waste which is controlled from head office and therefore we had no authority to change, and some were just too expensive.

We have provided bins for the collection of bottles, cans and plastic which are then put in a particular skip provided by local Company, Cawleys and, at the same time changed our supplier of the cardboard skip to Cawleys, which saved enough money to provide the recycling facilities.   Although there were some complaints initially that, heaven forbid, people are being asked to wash out their containers, and empty an extra couple of bins, it has in the main been well received.

We have also removed a larger skip from site which was originally rented in order to get rid of some particular waste some years ago and which now seemed to have a few broken pallets and bits of metal put in.  The pallets are being taken away for free by a local company (we may be able to find someone to pay for them at some point, but this is not a priority) and we have had the skip removed which, at a conservative estimate has saved us £1500 a year.

In addition to this, we have found a local company that will take away some perspex chips that we use as part of our business (saving about 5kg of plastic going to landfill every month) and other sundry items that they sell on to schools and playgroups for craft purposes.  The envelopes that were thrown away with the perspex are reused up to four times eah and we have even had other sites bring their perspex to us so we can send it for reuse.  Although this last part makes only a small difference, I think it has raised awareness at other sites of what we are trying to do.

In addition to this, the search for someone to recycle has allowed us to get a cheaper quote for the rest of the general waste that will save us a further £750 per year.

So, what more can we do.  I think we need to look at providing more facilities for general paper and newspapers, as well as for some of the less obvious things such as batteries.  I am also planning to invest in a cardboard baler which will bring down the collection price of the cardboard and then look to try and sell or get a better price for some items such as wooden pallets and cling wrap (although the price of recycled materials has dropped dramatically in recent months following the collapse of the oil price).  We also have intermittent pallets of waste that can be recycled, so my next task is to find a way to advertise some of these internally and see if they are needed at any other site.

Has anyone out there had any successes or failures recycling at work?