Tag Archives: energy efficiency

A new resource for energy-efficient applicances

With energy costs pushing up these days, many consumers have been looking to find even small ways to save money on their gas and electricity bills. Appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, televisions, computers, and dishwashers all use a lot of energy, and older models tend to be less energy-efficient than newer ones.

If your appliances are outdated, unreliable, and in need of being replaced (appliances tend to have a life span between 6 to 12 years), TopTenUSA is a good website to find the most efficient new appliances on the market and save money on your long-term energy costs. Free web-based rankings of the ten most energy-efficient appliances in a variety of categories are available on the TopTen USA website, along with pricing, specifications, local and online retail options, and personalized rebate information.

According to the Bryn Baker of the World Wildlife Foundation, “TopTen helps consumers make informed decisions on household products that can help fight climate change by reducing energy consumption, while saving money on electricity and gas bills.”

Baker continues: “Even small shifts in the products that consumers buy and use every day can produce a considerable impact: just a 10 percent shift in current sales to the most energy-efficient products could eliminate the release of nearly 3.5 million metric tons of carbon-equivalent gases each year, which is like taking 600,000 cars off the road. If all products used in the U.S. were TopTen ranked, the country would save over 270 million metric tons of CO2 and more than $46 billion dollars in energy costs over the product lifetimes. That would be like taking all the automobiles off the road in California, Florida, New York and Texas.”

TopTen functions similarly to Consumer Reports, as a non-profit organization that is independent and does not accept product samples or payments from manufacturers. The key criterion for listing is energy efficiency but, depending on the type of product, may also include environmental, health and safety concerns.

Norman L. Dean, the president of TopTen USA, says: “We’re spurring an upward spiral toward efficiency—the more consumers demand it, the more emphasis manufacturers will place on efficiency. Rather than copying technology to meet a standard, manufacturers will be innovating to be the best.

“We make it easy for consumers to find the most energy- and money-saving models, which in turn encourages manufacturing innovations that will make products in the United States even more energy-efficient. …TopTen USA intends to transform the American market from the one of excessive energy use to one that actively sustains products with the highest practical energy-efficiency.

“By doing so, TopTen USA helps tackle important issues such as climate change, pollution of the environment, the national security threat from our dependence on foreign oil supplies and high energy bills.”

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Monetary Incentives for Energy Efficiency

One common quip about switching to renewable energy and energy efficient appliances is the higher initial start-up costs. However, there are many, many opportunities to get money for implementing energy-saving changes to your business or home.

One website, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, lists many of the possible incentives and grant opportunities that you can apply for from the state, federal government, and major utility companies.

Grants, incentives, and other financial aid exist for solar, wind, geothermal, and other types of renewable energy, as well as for general energy efficiency. Check out the long list of incentives for Pennsylvania business owners and residents: http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?re=1&ee=1&spv=0&st=0&srp=1&state=PA, as well as the equally long list for those in Maryland: http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?re=1&ee=1&spv=0&st=0&srp=1&state=MD.

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“Everybody Can Do Something”: Sustainability Summit Recap

On November 18 the Trail Town Outreach Corps and the Trail Town Program hosted a Sustainability Summit to kick-off the GAP SBN. With a packed agenda the Summit offered business owners information on joining the network, how to get a free sustainability assessment and real-world practical advice and anecdotes from fellow business owners who have successfully implemented sustainable practices and seen the benefits of doing so. Over the course of the day, an unofficial theme emerged from our three speakers: Whether changes are big or small, zero-cost to higher-reach, everybody can do something for sustainability.

After a warm welcome from Cathy McCollom, director of the Trail Town Program (and fair-trade coffee from Reilly’s Best in Ohiopyle) Eric Martin of Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle started things off with a compelling and candid presentation about the challenges and successes his operations have experienced. Being in the business of “eco-travel,” over the past nine years he has been incorporating sustainable practices at his rafting company, retail store, Falls City Pub, and the Trillium Lodge as much as possible. As he sees it, sustainability is “not just for hippies anymore.” While encouraging, Eric was also realistic about the hurdles he and his employees have faced (ineffective local recycling options, an abundance of rafting equipment made from petroleum products, etc.). He stressed that sustainability does not mean a lower level of service, in fact, it’s about making smart business decisions that don’t cost a lot and often even save  money. Specifically, sourcing materials locally for building, lighting a bath house with passive solar methods (not a single lightbulb was used!), reusing scrap materials, recycling and making bio-diesel saves resources and money. For other initiatives like using “Greenware” biodegradable cups, the extra investment is worth it for the customer engagement, interest and appreciation. By getting a little creative, “rethinking the process” and engaging his employees and customers in the process he continues to expand his sustainable practices and create a unique brand identity for his businesses and experience for his customers.

Up next was Mike Dreisbach (a self-proclaimed hippie) of the Savage River Lodge in Frostburg, MD. Since opening the Lodge with his wife Jan over 10 years ago, working with nature has always been a guiding principle behind all of their business decisions. From building with the contours of the land (and in the process cutting down fewer trees, which in turn shades the cabins, negating the need to spend money on air conditioning), to repurposing a huge array of materials on the property (a military bridge as an exciting entrance to the Lodge, discarded wooden docks became bridges for trails, fryer grease finds new utility as biodiesel), resource conservation (cloth hand towels and napkins, optional freshening service, rain barrels for watering plants, water in ziploc bags above doors to deter flies) and sourcing food for the restaurant locally (from Amish farmers and home-grown herbs) and much more… Mike estimates that his practices, which admittedly take a little bit more elbow grease, saves him over $45,000 annually. Mike echoes Eric’s sentiments about customer satisfaction and engagement saying that his practices create new business opportunities and new markets; people come to the Lodge again and again because of its commitment to sustainability and are willing to pay for it. While the accomplishments of the SRL may seem intimidating, Mike reminds us to start small. The impressive achievements at the Savage River Lodge have taken over 10 years to implement.

Before lunch we discussed the Great Allegheny Passage Sustainable Business Network and how to join. Explore this site more for details on the GAP SBN or contact us (mwyman@progressfund.org) for an application.

Midday we were nourished by a fresh, local lunch from the Lucky Dog Cafe who also implements sustainable practices like using local produce, antiobiotic/hormone-free/free-range meat and making biodiesel.

After lunch we heard from the Trail Town Outreach Corps about the FREE sustainability assessments they offer to businesses. The assessments are conducted in six categories (waste, water, appliances and office equipment, HVAC, lighting and beyond the building)  and are designed to help you identify ways to reduce energy and resource consumption and save money. The assessments can be tailored to suit the needs and concerns of individual businesses. Contact Elisa Mayes, Trail Town Outreach Corps Project Leader for more information or to schedule an assessment at emayes@thesca.org.

Simultaneously, Brad Smith, owner of the Confluence Cyclery offered tours of his bike shop, a historic building on the town green which he has renovated with utmost attention to environmental sensitivity and energy efficiency. Starting from the ground up he and his wife Maureen revamped an energy nightmare into a sunny, warm and attractive storefront. They installed radiant floor heating, an extremely efficient system complete with a double furnace. They worked with a local plumber with little knowledge of this type of renovation to design the system, increasing community connections and valuable skills for this young plumber. They uncovered the transom windows for better circulation with the added benefit of daylighting in their retail space, eliminating the need for air conditioning and excessive lighting costs. For insulation of this older brick structure, they used blow-in foam insulation. In the bathrooms they installed an on-demand hot water heater and a waterless urinal in the men’s room. While the costs were initially expensive, Brad and Maureen believe that their investments will pay off in the long run.

At the day’s end Elisa  left us with these inspiring thoughts from Albert Einstein: “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” Thanks to all the businesses who attended for leading the way in creating a new story and a sustainable future along the Great Allegheny Passage. Remember that there is incredible knowledge among your fellow business owners and look to them as a resource when you have questions about sustainability, from eco-friendly insulation to local produce to green cleaning supplies, “the wisdom is in the room,” so to speak. The summit provided a great day of information sharing and networking, but it shouldn’t stop there. Keep the inspiration and conversation flowing. That is what the GAP SBN is all about! You can start by posting your comments below!

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Filed under Business, Creative re-use, Green on the GAP, how-to, in Southwestern PA, inspiration, Local Food, Outdoor/Bicycle Outfitters, Resources, Triple bottom line