Sometimes doing the right thing feels like a drop in the bucket. Such was the sentiment when I first became an EDF Climate Corps fellow at Procter & Gamble. I wondered how much of a difference I could make at such an industry giant. On the other hand, a leaky faucet can waste twenty gallons of water a day. Suddenly those drops start to add up.
Unlike most fellows who were looking for savings in office buildings and data centers, I was staring down a 37-acre beast of a manufacturing facility -- the Pringles plant in Jackson, Tennessee. P&G’s many sustainability teams and experts again made me wonder what kind of contribution I could make. Feeling trepidation, coupled with excitement at this unique assignment, I ventured forth.
P&G has been eager to show its dedication to sustainability. I have been fortunate enough to travel to Jackson twice since I started my fellowship five weeks ago. At the site, I have full access to the people, plant and other resources necessary to make my evaluations -- not to mention all the crunchy Pringles I could ever want to eat!
What I found were opportunities for improvement and potential for major savings in three overarching areas: lighting, roof coating and rebates.
The Pringles plant has vast square footages of support space, utilities rooms, mechanical rooms, and production rooms that operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I realized quickly that they didn’t all need to be lit 24/7. I donned my hairnet and my steel-toed shoes to uncover the spaces that could benefit from lighting timers, occupancy sensors and daylight photosensors. My growing list currently has over 100 spaces, each another drop in my proverbial bucket.
Then I took my search up onto the roof, where I discovered an expansive -- and more importantly, black-colored -- roofing cover. Standing up there on a hot summer day, I considered frying an egg on that surface. One could only imagine the amount of extra energy load this adds to the HVAC system. Fortunately, modern technology has made roof coatings available with high reflectivity and emissivity.
In addition, I discovered a financial incentive from the Tennessee Valley Authority that is only about a year old: the Major Industrial Program. This incentive is available on energy efficiency projects for large industrial facilities that have a combined payback period of over two years. Since P&G is already vested in these projects, this is just icing on the cake.
I have learned in the last five weeks that there are plenty of potential savings in any company, regardless of size, available resources or existing sustainability initiatives. All it needs is a fresh set of eyes, perhaps belonging to an EDF Climate Corps fellow, to make those savings pop. And once you pop, the fun don’t stop.
Julia Li is a 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at Procter & Gamble and a member of Net Impact. She is an MBA candidate at the Michael G. Foster School of Business, University of Washington. More coverage of the Climate Corps program is available at GreenBiz.com/edfclimatecorps. This content is cross-posted on the Environmental Defense Fund Innovation Exchange Blog.