Sustainability leaders should consider sponsoring employee activities in October for Energy Awareness Month.
Energy Awareness Month, created in 1991 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), promotes energy awareness and energy savings. Increasingly, corporations, institutions, and governmental agencies are participating by launching their own internal programs.
An energy awareness program offers sustainability and energy teams a number of benefits. Energy awareness promotes energy reductions that save money. Regardless of whether some hold skeptical views on climate change or tempered enthusiasm for sustainability, energy savings are real and needed savings for many companies, where energy costs are the second fastest growing cost center after health care. Most companies can reduce their energy spend by 5-15 percent through energy efficiency projects with strong financial returns.
A program this fall can complement a company's Earth Day activities in the spring. This provides an organization with two major companywide opportunities for education and awareness. The two programs, Earth Day and Energy Awareness Month, reinforce the fact that energy and carbon are the flip sides of the same coin -- energy reductions lead to carbon reductions and vice-versa.
A fall awareness program reinforces the "we walk the talk" message from senior management as well. Many employees are aware of -- and, hopefully, have read -- their company's CSR report. An October program buttresses efforts to demonstrate senior management's commitment to energy and carbon abatement.
An energy awareness program is also another occasion for sustainability and energy teams to work more closely together. Especially in large organizations, we continue to see that when sustainability teams and energy teams work jointly, mutual benefits are realized.
Setting up and running a program does not need to be difficult. The DOE provides free resources and promotional materials (pictured right), while the EPA through its Energy Star program also offers free, useful tools.
In addition to awareness and education, sustainability leaders can sponsor and coordinate team-based "Treasure Hunts" to identify energy savings. This video highlights a Treasure Hunt at General Electric through which the team identified $3 million of savings.
Effective programs emphasize energy savings at home, not just at work. Employees may be energy aware at work, but not always at home. Home energy audits, now often subsidized by local utilities, are very effective at pinpointing home savings through improved lighting, better HVAC and simple home improvements. Increased awareness of the benefits of energy reduction at home directly translates to increased awareness at work.
Maintaining internal momentum for sustainability and energy reductions can be challenging for sustainability leaders but an October Energy Awareness Month program is an easy opportunity to keep efforts moving in the right direction and save money. Don't let this opportunity pass.
Paul Baier is vice president of sustainability consulting at Groom Energy and a senior contributor at GreenBiz.com.
Wide image CC licensed by Flickr user Roomic Cube. Tall image licensed by Flickr user shuttermonkey.