energy effcient

The Federal Green Challenge – Working for a Better Tomorrow

By André Villaseñor

The motto of EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) program is “changing how we think about our resources for a better tomorrow.” One team of federal employees has been doing just that by changing the minds of colleagues through education and outreach.

The Chet Holifield Federal Building is a one-million square foot federal building in Laguna Niguel, California, occupied by 1900 federal employees representing about a dozen government agencies. The building is named after a long-term former member of Congress from California.  Through the creation of a “Green Team,” five of the building’s federal agencies are leading the charge toward moving Chet Holifield’s occupants in the direction of energy efficiency, water-use reductions and increased recycling. The Green Team, consisting of employees from Citizenship & Immigration Services, the Internal Revenue Service, and the General Services Administration was formed to carry out the goals of the Federal Green Challenge (FGC). The FGC is a national initiative of EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program, challenging EPA and other federal agencies to lead by example in reducing the Federal Government’s environmental impacts around the nation.

The Chet Holifield Green Team was pleasantly surprised to learn just how much they could reduce their building’s environmental impact through a series of cost-effective behavior change strategies. The Green Team pursued a multi-pronged strategy of engaging all 1900 building employees in a variety of educational activities designed to raise environmental awareness, including e-waste collection programs, informational posters, Earth Day/Week events, and training workshops. The ‘green’ education and outreach provided by the Green Team motivated and enabled employees to act more sustainably. The Green Team carefully measured the results of its progress on a monthly basis for a period of one year, both by tracking actual data on metrics such as electricity consumption and recycling, and collecting anecdotal information using employee surveys about activities such as commuting. I witnessed this diligence first-hand by participating in a series of Green Team phone calls with the employees of the Chet Holifield Federal Building.

Clearly, the Chet Holifield Green Team put into practice a winning equation of inspiration and cooperation that adds up to a better tomorrow. Chet Holifield’s end-of-year results for 2012 include a 21% increase in recycling, a water-use decrease of 7.4%, and a fuel decrease of 2.5%. Not only did the Green Team get the environmental results it was aiming for; Chet Holifield employees have changed the way they think about their use of resources, which holds great promise for a better tomorrow for Laguna Niguel and beyond.

About the author: André Villaseñor, a Waste Division employee, fulfills EPA’s mission from Region 9’s Southern CA Field Office in Los Angeles. He is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Trying To Change A Lightbulb

By Amy Miller

Painstakingly I am switching from incandescent light bulbs to energy-saving CFLs.  One by one as bulbs burn out I twist in newly purchased energy saving bulbs.

I started in the bathroom, under glass sconces where you couldn’t really see the weird shape of the bulbs. Who needs aesthetics for the five minutes you brush your teeth.

Then I made the jump to one, just one, tubular bulb in the bedroom. No one told me these lights take a few minutes to get fully bright. I’d think to myself, “It wasn’t so dark in here last night when I was reading, I’m sure it wasn’t.”

Proud of my diminishing footprint, I spread CFLs to the dining room chandelier, porch lights, kids room, pretty near everywhere but the living room with its vintage chandelier. But then I started pondering the Mercury Question and quickly removed CLFs from places where they might get broken, like tippy end-tables and my 9-year-old’s night-table.

EPA’s website says if every American home replaced just one ENERGY STAR light bulb, each year we’d save enough energy to light 3 million homes and reduce energy bills by $600 million.

A lot of us don’t like CFLs because we are not used to the way they look, or we think the light is harsh and don’t know alternative hues are available. We also think they cost more. We forget that the CFL will last about eight times longer, and use a fourth as much electricity.

Funny thing. I was in Haiti recently, one of the poorest countries on earth. And guess what? They use CLF bulbs far and wide, where they have electricity. You know why? They can’t afford to pay extra. When most of the families can’t even afford shoes for their children, the economics play out differently. It’s not about conservation or climate change. It’s about stretching every penny.

At the school I visited, electricity comes from three sources: 1) solar panels; 2) public power that sometimes comes on from 2 to 5 a.m. or not at all and 3) a diesel generator, used for backup..

So the fact that a CFL will uses about a quarter of the electricity of a similarly bright incandescent means not only money savings over the life of the light bulb, but also an extra few hours of reading – or cooking – each night, before the solar-fed batteries are empty.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Energy-Saving Tricks and Treats

By Brittney Gordon

For many, Halloween is one of the best holidays of the year. From the endless bags of candy to the costumes, it is the one night where adults and kids alike can pretend to be anyone they want to be, and have a lot of fun doing it. For weeks friends have asked me what I am going to dress up as, but to tell you the truth I haven’t the foggiest idea. I am kind of last minute when it comes to this holiday (okay, all holidays) and I will probably run to the costume store just in time to get the scraps leftover by the more time serious Halloween shoppers.

While I may be slow when it comes to picking out a costume, I am focused on being right on time when it comes to the energy efficient things I can do in my home this Halloween. Below is a simple list of things we can all do to save energy and protect the environment before and after we go trick-or-treating.

Trick for heat: When is the last time you checked your heating system’s air filter? You should do it every month and change it every three months. While you are at it, this is a great time to have a qualified professional tune up your system with a pre-season maintenance checkup. If it’s time to replace your system, look for the ENERGY STAR.

Protect Yourself from Vampires: No, I am not talking about the latest “Twilight” movie. Instead I am referring to “vampire power” or standby power. It is the electric power consumed by electronics and appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode. ENERGY STAR qualified models use a lot less energy in standby mode. Looking for an easy way to remember to turn everything off? Plug all of your electronics into a power strip. Flipping the switch turns everything off at once.

Don’t Waste Your Heat on Ghosts: By properly using a programmable thermostat, you can ensure that you are not unnecessarily heating the home when you are away or sleep. Programming a lower temperature for when you go to work and go to sleep can save you up to $180 a year in energy costs—a pretty sweet treat!

Check for more energy-saving tips.

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a communications team member for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. She came to EPA in 2010 after a career in Broadcast Journalism.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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My Heating Experience during the Snowstorm

By Denise Owens

After last year’s snowstorms, I decided to purchase a heater for my home in case the power goes out again. The fireplace helped, but it just wasn’t warm enough. I needed more.

After visiting several stores, I realized that there were a variety of heaters to choose from. I saw several energy efficient heaters, but they all required electricity; therefore I decided to purchase a fuel heater.

That required me to also purchase fuel, so I was thinking to myself, do I really want to do all of this? But then I realized that my electricity seems to go out for every weather condition.

Once I purchased the heater, I decided to try it before the next snowstorm actually arrived. The heater felt great and it kept my house extremely warm. But when I turned it off, I then noticed there was some smoke. As soon as I noticed the smoke I began to think to myself, what are the side effects from this heater?

After the power was restored I decided to do the research I should have done prior to purchasing the fuel heater. I then realized that it is not the best thing to use, but what do you do for a heat source when your power goes out for days?

Check out DOE Energy Savers and EPA’s Burnwise Program information.

About the author: Denise Owens has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency for over 25 years.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.