By Julia Andrews
Business Energy Action is a program of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR), and in its first year it has helped more than 50 businesses reduce their energy needs. The program aims to have participating businesses reduce their consumption by 5% per year for three years. Energy efficiency is a significant part of the overall statewide plan to have 90% of Vermont’s energy needs be met by renewables by 2050, which is why Senators Leahy and Sanders worked to secure federal funding for Business Energy Action.
One town that is seeing positive results from the program is Manchester, Vermont. Tucked into the southwest corner of the state, Manchester is a quaint, picturesque Vermont town that thrives on tourism. It is also home to Hand Motors, a quiet leader in energy efficiency in the state.
Jim Hand, the co-owner of Hand Motors with his brother John, credits his children, who attended Middlebury College, for educating him on energy efficiency. That first lighting project switched the company over to more efficient CFL bulbs, which then led to an even better upgrade to LEDs. This alone is now saving $1,400 to $1,600 per month.
Also, in one year, after replacing a 40-year-old oil furnace with a new, efficient propane boiler, the company has saved a whopping $25,000! While lower propane prices contributed to the savings, it’s clear that the boiler is making a major impact.
“Hand Motors was interested in efficiency even before it became such a mainstream idea,” said Jim Hand. “We’re really proud of the efforts we’ve made here at the company and in the Manchester business community over the years. We’ve also embraced efficiency as a practical business matter, as you can see from our boiler project. We have saved a lot of money over the years.”
Vermont Country Store, another Manchester-based firm, is well known for its old-timey products. But their approach to energy use is anything but old fashioned. They have also upgraded to an efficient boiler that reduces their energy needs while keeping their employees and customers comfortable.
The company has also swapped out their lighting to LEDs in the warehouse. LED lighting is a great business investment because they are highly efficient but also keep spaces very well lit. The company likes the results of the warehouse project so much that they are in the process of moving to LEDs for their outdoor lighting as well.
Smaller businesses are also finding ways to participate. Gringo Jack’s, a downtown Manchester landmark, is participating in Business Energy Action, too. But their approach has been a little different. Without a budget for replacing equipment, they have opted to focus on behavior change with employees. In order to save energy, the restaurant staff is focusing on things like ensuring the door to the outdoor seating area is closed when not in use. They are also shutting off the grill and other kitchen equipment during the slow times in the afternoon when they are not in use.
“Business Energy Action is one of the many ways that we fulfill our mission to help companies make socially responsible choices,” said Andrea Cohen, Executive Director of VBSR. “Business Energy Action is interesting in that it appeals to companies more broadly, too. You don’t have to identify as a socially responsible company to want to save money and reduce your energy needs. Many companies have joined for practical purposes, too.”
Currently, Business Energy Action is enrolling companies in its second year of operation. Though the program is operated by VBSR, any company is welcome to sign up, regardless of whether it is a member. To learn more, email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org. The upcoming Renewable Energy Vermont conference will also include a Business Energy Action panel discussion on October 28, www.revermont.org. The panel includes some of the program’s biggest success stories: Hand Motors, Black River Produce, and Vermont Public Radio.
Julia Andrews is a communications professional that works from her home office in Westford, Vermont. Business Energy Action is one of her clients.