My 7-year-old son, who has yet to learn the art of sleeping in, came bounding down the hallway at the crack of dawn the other morning, turning on every light between his room and the living room along the way. As I stumbled after him, bleary-eyed and ready for a cup of coffee, I couldn’t help shaking my head as I flipped off switch after switch.

Energy is expensive. It’s a finite resource, and I think we can all agree that using as little of it as possible is a good thing. Except that for a lot of people, that way of thinking seems to end as soon as they leave their homes and head off to work or school. I frequently write about energy efficiency, and I’m sure you educate your customers on how to save energy in their homes and buildings, but do we actually practice what we preach?

I frequently lecture my son on the merits of turning off the lights when he leaves the room, turning off the television when he’s not watching it, and closing his curtains during the day to keep his room cool when he’s not in it. But do I turn the light off when I leave the women’s restroom at work, or when I exit the break room? No, I don’t, and I should.

So, as members of the contracting community — where selling energy-saving solutions is high on our list of priorities — why are our energy-saving habits so often restricted to our own homes? Maybe it’s because as soon as we no longer have to sign that monthly check made out to the utility company, we lose the motivation to save as much energy as possible. But what we don’t realize is that we are still paying for it indirectly, and it’s not cheap.

Recently, I spoke with Chris Tyler, Green Schools Chair and Board Chairman of the Kentucky U.S. Green Building Council (KY USGBC). He told me about his kids’ school — Rosa Parks Elementary in Lexington, Ky. — which cut its energy consumption by 47 percent simply by changing behavior patterns. The district spent very little money, but received a huge return on investment.

But how did they do it? They started by forming a sustainability team made up of volunteers, including Tyler, who considered all the missed energy-saving opportunities at the school. The team worked with the school’s HVAC operations to cut down the run time of the school’s HVAC system by four hours each day. The school is now saving a staggering $50,000 each year.

Couldn’t your school district benefit from an extra $50,000 a year? I bet your company could, too. What about your customers? Are they open to shaving hundreds of dollars from their utility bills?

We can all make a change. Begin by contacting your school about getting involved. See if your school has a green team or a PTA group dedicated to this cause. If it doesn’t, be vocal about getting one started. All you need is a few dedicated individuals to get something like this up and running.

You can bet I’m planning on volunteering soon. Will you join me on this quest to curb energy consumption in your community?

Publication date: 7/8/2013 

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