One way for small businesses to green up their operations can be through choosing a renewable energy source, whether it’s a rooftop solar installation or the purchase of clean energy through their local utility. However, a much lower hanging fruit for small business sustainability initiatives, and one that can have a big positive effect on the bottom line as well, is reducing the energy demand of the business.
Of course, improved energy efficiency doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as getting solar power does, but it should be an essential element of any business sustainability plan, whether renewable energy is part of the mix or not, and and having an energy audit done is an important first step.
By training students to conduct free energy audits for small businesses, the Green Impact Campaign is helping both parties, by helping students gain important green business skills while also identifying big energy savings for businesses.
Students are trained to use a cloud-based energy audit tool, called GEMS (Green Energy Management System), which they use to answer prompts about the business as they do a walk-through of the building. Once all of the data about the business’ energy and water use has been entered, said to take about 20 minutes, the GEMS tool generates a report about energy efficiency recommendations, with both the estimated costs and estimated savings for those suggestions.
According to the Green Impact Campaign website, small businesses in the US incur about $60 billion per year in energy costs (along with generating carbon emissions from that energy), yet most of them could cut their energy consumption by an average of 20% with an appropriate energy efficiency plan. By participating and having students conduct the free energy audits for them, small business owners can have a very good idea of what they need to do to increase the energy efficiency of their business, how much it will cost, and how much they will save by doing so.
Since its inception in 2011, Green Impact Campaign has helped students at more than 70 universities to conduct energy audits at more than 300 small businesses, identifying a cumulative annual energy savings of 2 million kWh, the equivalent of about $250,000 in savings.
According to an article by one of the founders of the program on New Global Citizen, the students also gain from it, by being able to get real-world experience in sustainability and energy efficiency practices:
“Through their involvement with Green Impact Campaign, students have an opportunity to deepen their knowledge on energy-efficiency and sustainable business practices by being able to touch, see, and interact with sustainability concepts in a real-world setting. Many student volunteers have gone on to internships and jobs with firms that specialize in energy audits or sustainability consulting. Others have gone on to take their sustainability knowledge further by sitting for and passing the LEED Green Associate exam, enabling them to work in the green buildings industry.”
Small businesses can register here to get a free energy audit, students can join here to be a volunteer, and for other community organizations, the Green Impact Campaign is also looking for partners and sponsors here.
For those students who are seeking to start a sustainability consulting service, or to run a green home consulting franchise such as Pono Home, the Green Impact Campaign could be a great way to get a foot in the door and get some hands-on training.