Fifteen years ago, Christa Alexander and Mark Fasching started selling extra produce from their prolific vegetable garden. They invested in some chickens, then some livestock, some more land, and before they knew it were farming full-time. Fast forward to today. Jericho Settlers Farm is a thriving diversified, organic farm with a large number of wholesale clients as well as CSA, farmers market offerings and a farm stand. And now, by pairing onsite solar power and biomass heating with energy efficiency, the farm has managed to extend its growing season almost to year-round.
Vermont’s communities are trying hard to use less energy for their buildings, facilities and services — reducing both municipal energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. When thinking about how we use energy we tend to focus on the most obvious consumers of electricity and fuel. Lights, furnaces, water heaters and appliances are the first that come to mind. It’s easy to forget about the many processes taking place behind the scenes. One such process that may fly under the radar is wastewater treatment.
In early February, Efficiency Vermont hosted its 16th Better Buildings by Design conference. One of my favorite events of the year, Better Buildings brings together our partners from the building, design and clean energy industries. More than 1,000 attendees from across the country attended this year’s conference, which offered more than 40 workshops over the course of two days. This year I kicked off the conference with some welcoming remarks and talked about the role I see energy efficiency playing in the industry, as a unifier. It’s a common-sense solution that isn’t up for debate, because it’s hard to argue that no matter where our energy is coming from, we should try to use less of it.
At Efficiency Vermont we are always looking for new ways to help our customers save energy. Two years ago we started considering how we could work with businesses to help them save big by cutting their energy use in half. We had a lot of questions: Would businesses be interested? Would our customers be willing to rise to the challenge? Would the projects be economically viable?
It seems simple, but it bears repeating: Keeping costs down helps Vermont businesses succeed, and energy is one of those costs. We can help business owners reduce that cost with energy efficiency solutions, and strengthen storied Vermont industries like granite manufacturing in Barre. The granite industry in Barre reaches as far back as the early 1800s, and it expanded in 1875, when the central railroad reached Vermont. As the granite industry grew, so did the city of Barre. Yet the granite industry is not thriving as it once was.
Energy keeps Vermont businesses running, helping them create good jobs for Vermonters and grow the state’s economy. As a business grows, so can its appetite for energy — and the accompanying energy bill will grow, too. Businesses in Vermont are looking for ways to reduce energy costs. This is where efficiency can offer a clear opportunity for businesses, and here at Efficiency Vermont, we are eager to be a partner in helping business leaders to seize that opportunity. Businesses can reap wonderful benefits from energy savings.
Beer matters in Vermont. Not only do we have more breweries per capita than any other state, we also consume 25 percent more beer than the national average per capita. That’s not surprising — if everyone else’s beer was as good as Vermont’s, they’d drink more of it too. The brewery industry is also an increasingly important part of Vermont’s economy. According to a study released last year by the Vermont Brewers Association, “Vermont’s brewing industry operations and investments, including food sales, other merchandise sales at breweries and brewpubs, and new plant and equipment capital expenditures, generates $199 million in total economic activity and 1,575 jobs in the state.
Improving the efficiency of your lighting is one of the best ways you can save on energy costs. Energy-efficient LEDs last up to 50,000 hours, generate less heat, and give better-quality light than older technologies. Switch frequently used lights first. The biggest return on LEDs comes from lighting that’s always (or frequently) on—for example, your exterior lights. Look at cooler and display lighting.
Okemo Mountain Resort, like many other Vermont ski areas, is always on the lookout for ways to save energy. A recent opportunity was found in one of the resort’s most basic areas of operation: the ski lifts. Ski lift mechanical systems, housed at the terminal where people board, must be kept warm in order to operate. There are heaters in each lift terminal, and although they’re needed for only a few hours each day before the lift opens, they’re important. Failure to heat the equipment in a timely manner can result in an inoperable lift.
Machinery, lighting, HVAC — if you’re not using something, then logic says: shut it down. So why do so many of us continually forget? Here are two ways to turn that around, so your business can start saving right away:
Get yourself and other employees to take these simple actions: turn off the lights when you leave a room, and shut down equipment when you leave for the night. Communicate the importance of shutting things off, and post reminders near lights and equipment. Or take it further and post a schedule, so people know exactly when to turn things on or off—especially useful if your equipment needs a warm-up period.