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Give. Advocate. Volunteer...Be Energy Efficient?

The United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area is one of the seventy businesses that have joined the Better Business Challenge, an initiative by LEAP and Better World Betty that encourages businesses to become greener. Points are given for assessing current practices (such as reviewing a year’s worth of utility bills) and implementing sustainable changes (such as replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLS or LEDS)

We are exited to start earning points for incorporating greener practices in our daily operations. To become “certified,” we have to get at least forty points in the areas of energy, water, waste, purchasing, leadership, and transportation. With the help of LEAP we have started benchmarking our energy and water usage so we can set reduction goals and identify areas in which we can improve sustainability.

I am helping Alaina Schroeder with this energy efficiency challenge as one of my internship projects here. Since the start of the challenge, we’ve been reading up on “greener” practices. Alaina attended a meeting where she learned about more efficient lighting and we met with our two volunteer UVA student Better Business Challenge “concierges” to discuss our options. Now, they are off researching light bulbs, lighting assessments, energy audits, etc. for us.

Peter Brooks 015Being such a small organization has both pros and cons for the challenge. The transportation category doesn’t apply at all and because we use relatively little water (especially compared to restaurants), our water saving options are also limited. I have made an inventory of all electrical equipment in the office; it would have probably taken me days had we been much larger. In addition, it turns out we are already doing a number of sustainable things in the office. We recycle, store and make documents available online, we print double sided, and we’ve planted drought resistant plants that we don’t water at all. 

We hope that as the challenge continues our energy and water costs go down with the changes we implement. This way, the Challenge will not only help us contribute to a greener planet, but will also make it possible for even more of our funds to go towards community projects instead of bills.

We will keep you updated as the challenge goes on with the improvements we have made. If you are interested in joining, the official deadline to join the Better Business Challenge was October 1 (extended from September 15) but they are more than happy to accept participants throughout the fall.

 Submitted by: Ellen Janssen

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