Environmentalism, once considered a trend or a cult and derided by many as “tree hugging”, has become part of corporate culture evidenced by sustainability missions identified by leading corporations. Sustainability is a broader concept but the principle is simple: Everything we need to survive depends, directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates the conditions under which humans and nature can co-exist in productive harmony. This assures that future generations will have the water, minerals and resources to protect their health and general well-being.

Incorporating sustainability practices and environmentally-friendly products into our homes and businesses is an important goal for everyone.  Though there is plenty of education available for anyone who looks for it, many people are still unsure of how to best incorporate ‘green’ products, services and practices into their lives.  We’ve asked a few experts in the sustainability business to make a few suggestions.

“Superior Lighting’s niche in the sustainability effort is reducing the energy consumption of our customers,” explains Bill Swarbrick of Superior Lighting.  “We do this by reducing their light bill, which accounts for 40% of the energy usage in a building.  We are seeing the costs of the technology required to do this come down as new technologies, such as LED lighting, are becoming more economically feasible.”

“Buildings account for 68% of electrical consumption, 12% of total water consumption and 39% of carbon dioxide emissions,” Bill Swarbrick continues.  “Reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy and providing clean air and water for future generations ultimately affects the security of the nation.  If you’re considering a lighting upgrade in your business, we will do a complete lighting audit of your facility.  We are a ‘trade ally’ for OPPD and can assist with all the utility rebates that may be available.  Our niche is signs and lighting.  We help our customers reduce energy costs by replacing obsolete high energy use lamps with modern energy conserving systems.  This not only includes using lamps employing the latest technology, but also installing sensors which detect room occupancy and automatically shutting down lighting.”

Optimizing energy usage is a task that Engineered Controls can also help business owners achieve.  ““With the increase in global demand for fossil fuel it is essential that businesses do everything they can to optimize the energy they consume, develop long term strategies for developing alternative forms of energy and educate their employees to the importance of being energy accountable people.  Companies like Engineered Controls have a big party to play in getting new and existing building owners in the green building movement,” says Pat Killeen with Engineered Controls.  “Building control technologies play a big role in assisting buildings in meeting the new (and expanding) energy requirements.  Engineered Controls can assist in total building control with occupancy sensors to control lighting, optimize HVAC system performance, monitor and control energy usage, monitor and control carbon dioxide or CO2 by way of introduction of fresh air into homes and buildings, monitor and control potable water use in a facility and many other ways to help provide a healthier and more energy efficient environment for occupants.”

“We are partnering with Honeywell, a major energy products company, that is spending sizable research and development funds to develop new products that will improve our lives and reduce energy,” continues Pat Killeen.  “Engineered Controls also employs specialists in Energy and Environmental Optimization programs that assist building owners to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings through implementing different Energy Conservation Measures (ECM’s) ranging from lighting control and retrofits to equipment optimization programs to equipment replacement.  These ECMs typically offer a building owner a payback (ROI) ranging from six months to six years.”

Maintaining a comfortable, attractive office is important to every business owner.  However, continually putting in new carpets, furniture and other furnishings can be wasteful, both on your budget and for the landfills.  Josh Eike with Corporate Care Midwest says, “We provide restorative and maintenance cleanings for carpeting, hard surface floors, chairs and panels in commercial office buildings.  Our sustainable value proposition is ‘don’t replace it—restore it’ because this keeps waste out of the landfill, provides a healthier work environment and is significantly less costly.”

Corporate Care is committed to helping you minimize your impact on the environment.  By utilizing green cleaning techniques and a complete line of green chemistry, they can develop a 100% green maintenance program for your office.  Their unique system is designed specifically for each individual aspect of your company’s interior finished.  It offers flexibility which enables them to continually monitor and manage your needs and respond accordingly as changes occur within your company.

The interior of your office is not the only thing that needs attention.  Keeping up with the exterior maintenance also has tremendous effects on cost savings to the owner due to lower utility costs.  According to Western Waterproofing, the sealant joints around windows and other openings, if properly maintained, will save not only in utility costs but eliminate moisture and air infiltration.  Open mortar joints contribute to further deterioration of the façade as well.  Western Waterproofing can aid you in eliminating any unneeded utility and maintenance costs, thereby creating a more efficient and greener environment.

Working with the right professionals to help you with your efforts to be more environmentally efficient is of the utmost importance.  Most businesses don’t have staff members who are educated in environmental upgrades and other ‘green’ improvements, so it’s always better to contact those who specialize in this area.  Here are some tips on choosing the right companies.

Gather a list of names

After you’ve decided what type of professionals you’ll need to complete your project, you should write down a preliminary list of candidates.  Get these names from friends, family and co-workers who have had good experiences with these companies or from local construction associations who can recommend reputable companies in the field you’re needing.  Once you have a preliminary list, you can begin meeting with the candidates to determine which one best suits your needs.

Find out their experience and training

You’re going to want to work with professionals who are skilled in their field and the way most people become skilled in their field is through training and experience.  Ask the candidates about their educational background, special classes they have attended, how long they’ve been in the business and any other questions that might help you to determine their skill level.

Make sure they’re insured

Professional contractors should have the proper insurance and licensing that is required in the areas they perform work in.  If something goes wrong during your project and someone gets injured or property is destroyed, you don’t want to be responsible for paying for it and you certainly don’t want to get sued.  If a contractor is properly licensed and insured, you will not have to worry about this.  All reputable contractors will be more than willing to show you the documentation of their license and insurance.  If they refuse or seem uncertain, you’ll probably be better off choosing a different contractor.

Ask for references

Asking for references is good idea no matter what type of professional you are looking for, but becomes crucial when you’re searching for a contractor to do a large renovation of your business.  Ask for references of businesses they have worked with in the recent past or are currently working with.  Call the businesses and ask them questions about the quality of work the contractor performed, how easy they were to work with, if they had any problems with them and any other questions you’d like to know the answers to.  You might also want to go take a look at a project that has been recently completed and one that is in progress so you can get a feel for the contractor’s work and for what their work space looks like while they are on a project.

Being environmentally conscious is important to everyone and is especially important to business owners who not only use a significant amount of energy, but who are also setting an example for others.  As Bill Swarbrick of Superior Lighting states, “Our resources are not infinite. Conservation should be part of every company’s strategic planning, if for no other reason than to assure the company’s survival for years to come.”