Do something grand for Earth Month by fixing a leak in your office or home. Or, just save water and money in your office year-round with these conservation tips from EarthShare.
Office Water Facts
According to the EPA, water-efficient appliances would help the country save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion per year. Of course, using water also uses another precious resource: energy. Letting your faucet run for just five minutes uses as much energy as running a 60-watt light bulb for 14 hours.
When you equate those figures to commercial buildings, which account for 40 percent of the country’s energy usage, you’re talking about a substantial amount of energy and water that could be saved with simple efficiency practices. Of course, these costs can also significantly reduce the operating costs of your business.
So how can you get your workplace into greener pastures?
Conduct a Water Audit
A water audit analyzes a facility’s water use and indentifies opportunities to make it more efficient.
According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a water audit of your office building includes a review of domestic, sanitary and landscaping processes and can sometimes be performed for free by your utilities company. Water audits can also be performed by a hired contractor (NRDC recommends consulting the American Water Works Association’s Guide to Suppliers before hiring a contractor), or done by your office manager using free water audit software from the AWWA.
Upgrade to Water-Saving Appliances and Fixtures
Water-efficient appliances, often referred to as low-flow fixtures, include faucets, showers and toilets, and can save water while adding to your bottom line.
For example, after performing a water audit, the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Portland, Ore., implemented a variety of water-saving measures, including low-flow appliances. Savings from these fixtures alone amounted to more than $50,000 per year.
If your business is struggling to come up with the initial capital to make the green investment, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable division should be your next stop—in 2007 alone, the EERE awarded $574 million in financial assistance to help businesses, universities and industry upgrade to renewable and energy efficient technologies. And don’t forget to contact your utilities company to learn about available incentives and tax credits for increasing your building’s efficiency.
Consider Native Plants and Advanced Irrigation Systems
Planting native and drought-tolerant plants can help reduce water use as they are “well-adapted to regional climates, soils and pests,” and thus require less watering and fewer pesticide treatments, says NRDC. Check out the Plant Conservation Alliance to learn what plants are native to your region, and make sure your preferences are made clear to your property landscaper.
Of course, vegetation needs water to survive. Upgrading to a more advanced irrigation system, such as one that senses the soil’s watering needs and is equipped with rain sensors can save millions of gallons of water and drastically cut utility bills. Just look at Harvard Business School — an initial investment of $250,000 now brings the school a $50,000 annual water savings and conserves about five million gallons of water every year.
The Green Benefits of Water Efficiency
Increasing your workplace’s water efficiency is one of the best long-term strategies for cutting costs and giving back to the environment. The next time you run the faucet in the company kitchen, consider the green benefits of auditing your current water usage, upgrading to low-flow fixtures and creating a more sustainable landscape for your workplace.
Water Conservation Resources
WaterSense, U.S. EPA
Green Business Advisor, National Resources Defense Council
A Water Conservation Guide for Commercial, Institutional and Industrial Users, New Mexico Office of the State Engineer
Green Building Resources, United States Green Building Council
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Division, U.S. Department of Energy