Climate Corps 2010: Passing the Efficiency Baton at ServiceMaster

Any member of a sprint relay team knows how important the baton handoff can be for the success of the team. A smooth handoff can give the team the advantage it needs to win the race, while a fumbled handoff can waste precious seconds -- allowing competitors to catch up -- or even result in disqualification if the baton is dropped. Thankfully for me, my relay partner just showed up.

Leg One

In the first leg of the race, ServiceMaster decided to participate in the EDF Climate Corps program and hired me as the fellow for this summer. Jamey Jones, ServiceMaster’s vice president of Environmental Stewardship, had already worked to develop ServiceMaster’s first corporate social responsibility report (PDF), which was issued last year and is currently being expanded with more information for this year’s report. ServiceMaster also commissioned a study of its greenhouse gas emissions produced by its fleet and the electricity demands of its facilities to quantify the environmental impact of its operations.

That’s where I take the baton:

I arrived at ServiceMaster’s headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., in May and hit the ground running. So far this summer, I have identified opportunities for ServiceMaster to save money through installing lighting retrofits, computer power management software and window tint, among others at its:

• Franchise headquarters
• American Home Shield 24-hour call center
• Terminix branch locations
• TruGreen branch locations

With direction from Jim Steffen, director of Fleet Engineering and Technical Support, I also analyzed means to reduce fuel consumption within ServiceMaster’s corporate fleet of more than 18,000 vehicles and researched methods to meet California Air Resource Board’s emissions requirements for diesel vehicles.  Using my analysis, ServiceMaster executives are planning to purchase hybrid gas-electric vehicles for use in the company’s California fleet.

While the key component of my work is making recommendations which have a positive net present value and a short payback period, all of my work may go for naught if no one at ServiceMaster ensures that my ideas get implemented once I go back to school in the fall. That’s what I worried about until I met Robert Johnson, one of ServiceMaster’s newest employees.

This is where I pass the baton:

Robert -- a fast-talking, silver-haired, bundle of energy -- was recently hired as the director of Energy and Sourcing at ServiceMaster.  He has his Certified Energy Manager accreditation and previously worked with the U.S. Army as a resource efficiency manager at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif. In other words, he’s a good candidate to continue my work after I leave.

In the one week I have spent with him so far, I have already given him a tour of the company’s facilities and introduced him to projects I wish to present. He has helped me by reviewing my work and suggesting even more methods that ServiceMaster may save energy. Like a good relay team, it is good to collaborate and train together before the big track meet, or in my case, presentation in front of ServiceMaster executives.

With two weeks remaining for me in my internship, I will continue to carry the energy efficiency baton a bit further. However, I can be confident that when I pass the baton to Robert, my work now has a higher likelihood of being implemented and making a real difference for ServiceMaster’s bottom line and for the planet.

Hopefully next summer, ServiceMaster will participate in the EDF Climate Corps program again and the succeeding fellow will pick up the baton to continue the work Jamey, Robert and I began.

Dylan Hedrick is a Climate Corps fellow at ServiceMaster and a Net Impact member. He is an MBA Candidate at Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University. Further coverage of the Climate Corps program is available at GreenBiz.com/edfclimatecorps. This content is cross-posted at Vault and the Environmental Defense Fund Innovation Exchange Blog.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Philo Nordlund.