Posts Tagged ‘Energy efficiency’

Energy Efficiency and Consultant Training with Jim Simcoe and Ecolife Consulting

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

I met someone here in San Diego I’d like to introduce you to - Jim Simcoe, the founder of Eco-Life Consulting.  Jim is advancing the green business cause in a few ways, including helping property owners to green their sites, helping to create green benefits packages, and training people to work as eco-consultants.  I had coffee and chatted with Jim, getting to know each other - I think Jim has a lot to offer.


“I came into this business when I owned a real estate company and saw the tremendous amounts of waste on new building construction sites,” says Simcoe.  “After doing research I found that the business I was in (real estate/development) was a major contributor to the environmental crises.  As a lifetime lover of nature I began my endeavors into green building and green remodeling.”  Like myself, having kids give Simcoe an even greater motivation for incorporating sustainability in his work, providing for a brighter world for their future while finding ways to make these changes financially attractive for businesses to implement. 


Today Jim consults for businesses in several areas, delivering value as well as reducing their environmental impact:


Sustainability strategy development and Implementation:  Establishing a vision is the first step in designing a sustainability strategy, followed by implementation of changes in daily business practices.   Jim has experience delivering value with consulting for cost effective efficiency moves for commercial properties, schools, and homes, reducing wasted money and resources. 


Creating a ‘Green’ Employee Benefits Package:  Money is not the only factor in the work satisfaction of employees.  Developing a green benefits package can attract and retain top talent, keep employees motivated, and increase productivity when employees see that the company’s beliefs are aligned with their own.


Sustainability training and education:  No matter how great your sustainability goals and plan are, they’re not likely to work if your employees don’t understand or don’t agree with them.  Education and training ensure that your employees understand your sustainable initiatives and are committed to them.   Jim also provides an Eco Consultant training program you can buy, with a set of 6 DVDs covering a full range of sustainability topics to learn the ropes and hit the ground running with your own business. 


Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference”, providing green opportunities for people from any background.  He is also the author of “Greening Your Business on a Budget” and “Starting Green: An Ecopreneur’s Guide to Starting a Green Business from Planning to Profits”.  As the founder of Starting Up Green ( and an expert blogger for Fast Company, Croston is showing others how to thrive in the green economy. 



Greening Your Business on a Budget

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Greening Your Business on a Budget

Greening Your Business on a Budget

Many people believe that making their business more environmentally sustainable is too expensive or difficult, and would hurt their bottom line.  One of the important lessons that green business leaders have found though is that going green can actually save money, and a lot of it.  Businesses waste $ billions on energy, water and other resources.  Some of the largest corporations like Wal-Mart, DuPont, and 3M have found that wasting less makes their business more competitive, and if it has worked for them it can work for your business too.  I spell out the bottom-line savvy green steps that businesses can take in the e-book “Greening Your Business on a Budget”, which has just been released with Entrepreneur Press.

In the course of working on “75 Green Businesses” and my next book “Starting Up Green” (to be released in Fall 2009), I’ve talked to a great variety of people providing services that help the bottom line by going green.  Many of these steps save money through actions like improving energy efficiency, traveling less, and wasting less water.  Other steps like going carbon neutral can increase visibility and build brand value by demonstrating your commitment to helping the environment as part of doing business.  Often going green can even increase productivity, unlocking the energy of employees, partners, and customers who connect with your green mission and want to get involved.


In “Greening Your Business on a Budget”, I focus on the actions that businesses in many industries, and of any size, can take to help the environment and their business at the same time.  The chapters in this e-book include:


        Chapter 1: A Quick Look at Your Business’s Goals

        Chapter 2: Quick Methods to Green Your Facilities

        Chapter 3: A Quick Look at Greening Your Office

        Chapter 4: Quick Steps to Greening Your Transportation

        Chapter 5: Quick Moves for Greener Human Resources

        Chapter 6: Quick Pointers for Green Computing

        Chapter 7: A Quick List of Potential Green Partners

        Chapter 8: A Quick Guide to Greener Marketing

        A Quick Conclusion

        The Quick Green Checklist


All of the steps described are analyzed according to their impact on business fundamentals, and a checklist for your own green self-audit is included.  While the list of steps in this e-book is long, it’s still just a start.  We have a long way to go, and this book is only one small part of the story.  Not every action makes sense for every business, but by looking through resources like this and translating words into action, you can make an important difference for your business and the world.


The Nation’s Chief Sustainability Officer

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

With Obama’s inauguration just a few days away, the economy is still at the top of the agenda, but this does not mean that environmental initiatives are forgotten.  With just a few days left before he takes office Obama toured the Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Company in Ohio that makes parts for wind turbines and gave a speech there about the economy.   He talked about the latest economic stimulus package being proposed, hoping to save or create 3-4 million jobs.  Many of these jobs are tied to expanded use of renewable energy, a long term investment in both the economy and the environment. 


The $850 billion economic stimulus plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, includes support for renewable energy, and energy efficiency.  The details of the plan being unveiled include $20 billion in incentives for a variety of forms of renewable energy, and $54 billion to improve the grid and to invest in energy efficiency in buildings, the electrical grid, and transportation.  In addition to solar and wind, the plan includes incentives for a broad range of other forms of renewable energy such as waste to energy, methane from landfills, and geothermal energy.


President-Elect Obama said in his speech:


“That’s why, as part of our Recovery and Reinvestment plan, we’re committing to double the production of renewable energy in the next three years, and to modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes.


In the process, we’ll put nearly half a million people to work building wind turbines and solar panels; constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to new jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.”


This sounds like a big leap in the right direction, and it’s about time.  We have some leaping to do. 


We’ve had a great deal of grass roots action on the green front, with people, local and state governments taking the lead in the absence of environmental leadership at the US Government level.  This might be changing.  While the grass roots efforts are a wonderful start, an effective response to the problems we face requires a coordinated effort at the highest level, with strong leadership.  Many businesses these days are hiring Chief Sustainability Officers, the Chief Green.  Obama might just be our next Chief Green for the US, providing national leadership on both economic and environmental recovery.


During the presidential campaign (remember the campaign?), Thomas Friedman remarked that he was less concerned if we have the first black president, or the first woman president, than if we have the first green president.   The show’s not over yet, and hasn’t even started but the previews look good.  Let’s keep the green grass roots growing, and do what we can to support this kind of bold national action that moves us forward toward a brighter future.

Talking about Green Opportunities with Eric Corey Freed, Organic Architect

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Eric Corey Freed

Eric Corey Freed















They say that every cloud has a silver lining.  In the case of the cloud hanging over the building industry it seems to have a green one.  The building industry has been at the epicenter of the housing crisis, the credit crunch, and the recession, all rolled into one.  Housing starts have plummeted to record lows, but through all of this, the green building movement has kept on growing.



As principal of organicARCHITECT in San Francisco, Eric Corey Freed is a well known and highly-regarded green architect, helping the green building movement in its quest to change our buildings to be part of a more sustainable world.  Through his speaking, design work, consulting, and educational work he reaches out to the broad and growing green building community.  He is the author of Green Building and Remodeling for Dummies, and working on two books, Sustainable Schools, and Green Home Green Pockets, both coming out at the end of 2009.  I recently spoke with Eric about the opportunities in green building and the rest of the green economy.


While nobody is immune from our economic turmoil, green building seems to be doing relatively well.  “There have been statistics that while building was down in 2008 green building was up 30%, although this does not include the fourth quarter,” said Freed.  “Everything is slow lately, but specific, different areas have picked up.  For example, building owners who are looking to stand out in the market are turning to greening buildings.  There’s a pick up in the business for large commercial projects where green building is a good differentiator to stand out in a tough market.”


While green building is holding up well, the economic situation has had an impact, changing the features people look for in buildings.  “The downturn forces people to rethink priorities,” said Freed.  “I’ve seen a definite transition from green finishes which might be seen as a luxury to saving energy and saving water.”  The continued strength in green building can be attributed to the value it provides as a long term trend and not a fad. “We estimate that on average it costs about $4 per square foot to get LEED certified, but it pays for itself at a rate of $67 per square foot including energy saved, according to the US Green Building Council,” said Freed. “In times like these people bear down, turning to options like solar panels where there is an economic benefit.  We’ll see a boom in companies like Sustainable Spaces that address energy efficiency in buildings, and we’ll see businesses like this around the country.  Any contractor or home inspector could make this transition to the green collar economy.”


The green building movement creates opportunities for a variety of workers and businesses.  “I would say that there are opportunities for any trade that is loosely connected to energy or utilities (including water or sewer), whether manual, blue collar work, companies that are leasing solar equipment, or Joe the green plumber,” Freed said.  “The more that green building grows, the more pressure and opportunity there is for these business, but they have to change.  They have to change what they do, change their marketing, and change their priorities.”


Economics have a big impact on decisions and priorities, as we have seen in the wild swing in the price of gas.  “When gas was $4 a gallon, businesses had to change, and people were choosing smaller cars and smarter driving habits,” said Freed.  “The same goes for electricity.  When we have a carbon tax, when the cost of electricity goes up from 12 cents to 24 cents a kilowatt-hours, everyone will have to address energy efficiency.  The important thing is that it’s not from an abstract carbon footprint perspective, but from showing a tangible impact on the bottom line.”


There is a huge opportunity for businesses that improve the energy efficiency in millions of existing buildings in the US, helping to save money now and save resources.  To start a business improving the energy efficiency of buildings, some specific certifications are needed but they can be readily achieved.  “The main certification is Energy Star HERS rating,” said Freed.  “HERS raters are trained and certified in energy efficiency and building.  You have to take a class and take a test, very similar to home inspectors.”


These new business opportunities are part of the rising green collar economy, providing good jobs and businesses for those displaced from older, greyer, industries.  In addition to those who work on buildings, there are a wealth of opportunities for related businesses such as marketing, billing, web design firms, education, and other essential services.  “Along with the surge in companies that are part of the green economy there will be an equal surge in companies like these that are fluent in the language of sustainability, such as marketing companies that know how to speak to consumers about these things,” said Freed.


Beyond the first and second wave of green businesses, there will be a third wave, the teachers, Freed predicts.  “The first wave is the people doing the hands on work in the field with green collar jobs in renewable energy or green building,” said Freed.  “The second is the people doing the marketing, websites, accounting, hiring, and whatever else businesses need behind the scenes.  The third wave is teaching, at all levels.  We need people that take all of this information and make it available in an easy way for all sorts of green building topics, and other sustainable business areas.  We need good teachers.”


If you are thinking about getting involved by starting a green business, what should you keep in mind?  Freed advices green entrepreneurs to be humble.   “There is nothing wrong with saying we know we’re not perfect.  You can say ‘These are the things we’re doing, and here’s what we want to do that we haven’t figured out yet,” but not making broad claims about being green.  Look at the most admired companies working on sustainability, like Interface.  Ray Anderson will tell you all the things he’s doing wrong, things he is still figuring out.  Be humble and honest.”


“When somebody comes out and says we’re a green company, and its one green product, then they can really get in trouble with consumers.  They would be better to lay it out, to be honest, and open, to say, ‘Well, we’ve only got one green shoe today, but here is where the problems are, and we’ll keep working on it.’  Businesses don’t like it a lot of times, but there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘We don’t know how to do that yet.’”


Building a green business is not just a destination, but an ongoing journey.  “These things take time,” said Freed.  “It doesn’t happen overnight, but plant these seeds now and it will happen.  The more seeds you plant, the better, as long as they are the right seeds to help create the change.”  It sounds like there is plenty of room still for entrepreneurs to plant seeds today for the green businesses of tomorrow. 


Fighting Vampires with Good For You, Good For the Planet

Friday, December 5th, 2008

The vampires in Twilight are not the only ones to worry about.  The multitude of electronic devices in our homes and businesses often drain power even when they are off because of the power used in standby mode, leading some to call them vampires.  Energy efficiency is a global issue, and a global opportunity as well.  One of the companies tackling this opportunity is Good For You, Good for the Planet (GFP-GYP), based in Madrid, Spain.  GFY-GFP has a diverse set of products under development, including one tackling the problem of standby power drain.  Standby power has been estimated to consume 10% of electricity in European homes, and as much as 26% of the electricity in Californian homes.   One no-tech solution is for people to unplug devices they aren’t using, or to turn off power strips, but as is often the case such activities are hard for even the most well intentioned individuals to keep up for the long term.  We need solutions that take care of themselves, eliminating the problem automatically without human intervention.  GFY-GFP believes this is just what they have invented with their 100%Off product. 


The problem with standby devices is that they continue to use electricity even when an appliance or other electrical device is off.  To deal with this problem some governments are requiring that new devices use less energy when on standby, but this still does not reduce consumption to zero.  The 100%Off device however can automatically switching devices completely off when it senses they are on standby mode.  When appliances are plugged into the device, it analyzes their pattern of power consumption to detect if they have gone into standby mode.  GFY-GFP is currently talking with global companies in Europe and Asia who are interested in commercializing the 100%Off device.  “We believe a big company has to take this business to do it properly and turn it into a standard worldwide,” said Silvia García Alonso, Director of Business Development.


Improving energy efficiency will often pay for itself over time, and that should be the case with the 100%Off.  “We expect a final price between €10-15, and the user will get the product repaid in less than 12 months,” said Alonso, although the final price will depend on the company that commercializes it worldwide.  “With our technology we can have different configurations, as a power supply or a power strip.  A range of products can be launched to fix all the needs around the standby for all kind of appliances, and in a pretty cheap way.”


GFY-GFP has a number of other products in various stages of development, including the Wicler, a gadget that fits on the handlebars of your bike providing radio, playing MP3s and Bluetooth access to your phone.  Biking is a green alternative to using cars, and more cities worldwide are considering increased use of bike lanes to reduce pollution, traffic, and climate change.  With its built in speaker, the Wicler can avoid the safety concern of bikers who might tune out their surroundings with earbuds, and it even comes with a built in light and a bell for an all-in-one bike appliance.  The Wicler is already marketed in Europe, and GFY-GFP is talking with potential distributors in the US. 


As well as developing their own products, GFP-GYP is also open to working with others to help them move their ideas forward.  If you’re interested, take a look at their website, and perhaps you may see your product there in the future as well.