Posted in Going Green, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized

E-Waste Issues

It's an Electronics' World After All

Part 5 in a 5-part series

We have come to the fifth and final blog topic for our series about green initiatives for office buildings. Previously, we have discussed green roofs and living walls, implementing tenant recycling, enhancing energy efficiency of HVAC systems and the importance of water conservation. And as far as water conservation goes, I maintain the most important watering concern for anyone is keeping the dog’s bowl full at all times.

Today, we are going to explore environmentally-sound electronics practices in the workplace. We’ll cover the problems associated with discarded electronic waste and ways that you and your tenants can employ smart electronics usage practices to save energy and money.

The problem with e-waste

  • According to the EPA, more than 2.25 million tons of televisions, computers, monitors, keyboards, and peripherals were tossed into landfills. I just don’t get the attraction to staring at a screen. But humans seem to really enjoy it. My advice is to turn all of it off and go for a nice, long walk.
  • Electronics use precious materials such as copper, aluminum and even gold.
  • Millions of electronics are shipped to developing countries where they are dissembled, often in a crude manner, which exposes workers and the environment to contaminants such as mercury, sulfur, and lead. See what I mean? Turn the things off!

The solution for handling e-waste

  • Team up with a reputable electronics recycling company and educate tenants on the environmental impacts of proper recycling practices.
  • Purchase products that do not have “planned obsolescence.” That is a fancy way of saying that you shouldn’t buy things that have a limited shelf life. Buy stuff that lasts.
  • Simplify. Making due with less is something our ancestors did out of necessity. Try to remember that the more you have, the more you have to take care of, store, clean and repair. Sometimes, less is more. The more my wife and I give our son, RJ, the more he has to bury.
  • Encourage tenants to turn off computers and printers when leaving for the day.
    • Electronics should be on a power strip with an on/off switch, otherwise electronics can continue to draw power when turned off as long as they are plugged into an active power supply. I once knew a Chihuahua who bit into the plugged-in cord for a curling iron. Although he survived the experience, the sight of him biting into a live wire haunts me to this day!
    • PCs and monitors have a finite life relative to the number of hours they are turned on.
    • Computers and other electronics produce heat, which can unnecessarily increase the cooling load of offices. I have found that this is true of practically anything in heat.
  • Use products that have been labeled with the Energy Star endorsement:
    • Encourage tenants to purchase energy-efficient computers and appliances.
    • Energy Star products use less energy. For even small-sized office buildings, this translates to substantial annual energy savings. The window-unit on our doghouse does a good job cooling our entire living space.
    • Note that no two products are identical. One Energy Star-certified product can use less than another Energy-Star model. Learn how to read labeling carefully so that you can select the most efficient products.
  • Cell phones:
    • Some tenants assign cell phone devices for every employee. Cell phone technology changes very rapidly and companies often end up swapping out old phones for models with the latest functionality.
    • Phones can be recycled with other electronics or they can be donated.
  • Toner cartridges:
    • Distribute information to tenants about the benefits of recycling printer cartridges. Improvements in manufacturing processes enable remanufactured cartridges to print images equal in quality to those produced by new cartridges.
    • Most toner ink is petroleum-based, and can emit volatile compounds when used. Encourage tenants to use soy-based cartridges to cut down on indoor air pollution. But shy away from the soy-based doggie treats. I prefer beef-based, myself.

When it comes to office electronics, it’s important to remember the green slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” By observing this practice, it is entirely possible to drastically reduce the amount of items used. Encourage tenants to delay purchasing new equipment as long as current electronics work properly. Reusing toner cartridges and cell phones puts less of a strain on natural resources. And recycling keeps electronic waste out of our landfills!

Thanks for reading our series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential properties. Remember that beyond the environmental and social benefits, green initiatives can result in real cost savings for building owners and tenants. And a penny saved is one you can put towards buying gourmet dog food.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Going Green, Uncategorized

Waste not, want not.

Every Drop Counts!

This is part 4 of a 5-part series.

So far in our series of green initiatives for office buildings, we have discussed the benefits of installing green roofs and living walls, implementing tenant recycling, and enhancing energy efficiency of HVAC systems. Today, we are going to take a look at what is arguably our planet’s most abundant and precious resource—water. I’m not just talking about the little metal drinking bowlful that I get! Buildings use a lot of water in many different ways!

As with other green improvements, focusing on water conservation might require considerable upfront costs. But these can easily be recouped. Simple fixes can pay immediate dividends. For example, a leaking faucet can release up to 1,000 gallons of water every week, which will add up to savings of $300 a year. A 10-story building could have 50-100 faucets. That wasted water really adds up!

For today’s discussion, we are focusing on water conservation efforts for tenants in “typical” office settings, instead of businesses that use large amounts of water in manufacturing processes.

Some water conservation changes could also potentially provide the extra benefit of tax advantages. Be sure to check with your accounting firm for information about possible state or federal credits.

Since most large buildings use thousands of gallons of water every day, let’s explore some of the ways that you can ensure you use those gallons wisely:

  • Piping and Water Systems:
    • Ensure hot water pipes are properly insulated for increased efficiency.
    • Perform an inspection of all water pipes to uncover leaks which not only waste water but can also cause problems such as rot or mold growth.
    • Check water pressure to make sure is the gauge is not set higher than necessary. Install water pressure regulators, if needed.
  • Bathroom Water Conservation:
    • Installation of low-flow toilets, which can reduce water requirements from about 4.5 gallons per flush to 1.6 gallons. I just “go” on the landscaping. Talk about reusing water!
    • Faucets should be continuously monitored for leaks. And tenants should be asked to report problems to their facility management team. Faucets can be replaced with lower-flow models which can save water without inconveniencing tenants.
    • Urinals can be changed to automatic flush models.
    • Close the lid unless you want Fido to recycle your toilet water, himself. Personally, I prefer unclaimed water.
  • Landscaping:
    • Choosing the right plants for your climate zone can reduce irrigation needs substantially.
    • Consider xeriscaping some landscape areas. This is particularly important for offices located in the Southwest, where large expanses of green lawn are water wasters! As much as we dogs love to run on grass, some sand is just fine. Just let us know in advance if you’ve planted any cactus.
    • Install rain sensors so sprinklers are turned off when they are not needed.
    • Adjust the irrigation schedule for seasonal sun and rain patterns.
  • Graywater Treatment Systems:
    • Systems collect untreated wastewater from bathroom and kitchen sinks and, in some instances, clothes washers.
    • Collected water is integrated into landscaping irrigation.
    • Proper signage is important to keep people (especially splashing children) away from recycled water. Maybe consider installing a fence to keep pooches out.
  • Train tenants and their employees to follow sound water usage practices:
    • Limit dishwasher usage by running only full loads.
    • If the offices have shower facilities, encourage employees to limit shower times.
  • Cleaning and Maintenance:
    • Instruct your maintenance staff to use sweeping or other methods to clean sidewalks or patios, instead of spraying water.
    • Cleaning crews should manage water usage properly.
  • Don’t wash your dog:
    • You know me and my pals hate the garden hose! Take us to the groomer or just leave us alone. A little dirt never hurt anybody.

Water conservation can be achieved through changes to physical processes and materials as well as adjustments to tenant and maintenance personnel behaviors. An important step in the process is to keep track of your water usage before and after changes are implemented, so you and your facilities’ team can see the long-term savings in actual dollars. I use a spreadsheet to track the critters I chase and a corresponding score for each critter type. It’s wonderful to see my long-term successes!

Visit us next week for the final entry in our 5-part series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential properties. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact the good people at RJ Westmore, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Going Green, Uncategorized

Greenscaping Office Buildings

Go Green Today!

It’s time to get “green!” This is the first in a series of blogs about how building owners and tenants can embrace green policies in a variety of areas. When I want to get “green,” I tear into a package of Greenies! They keep my chompers looking sparkly!

This week we will examine trends including green roofs and “living walls,” which are becoming popular for aesthetic and economic reasons.

Green roofs for commercial buildings have substantial vegetation and a growing medium planted over some type of waterproof membrane. For the purposes of today’s blog, we are talking about green roofs or living walls which have vegetation, not those with other  green feature such as solar panels or dog runs.

Green roofs are low maintenance as well as attractive (sounds like a canine I know…), whether the green space covers the entire roof or just a portion of a rooftop garden area. Through proper planning, a green roof can become a place for tenants to enjoy the natural environment in a private atmosphere. Some green walls also feature edible plants, which give tenants a free source of snacks and great conversation starters.

Your facility management team should work closely with the green-roofing installation team to ensure that the building—

  • Plantings receive adequate yearly sunlight
  • Roof system has enough structural integrity to handle the increased weight of plants, soil, and patio or structural garden elements. The company you select to install the plants should also account for the dramatic weight differences between wet and dry soil. I don’t mind the weight differences of wet and dry food – they are both satisfying!
  • Provides the best for the climate zone and amount of sunlight for the varieties you want to plant.

Benefits abound if you choose to plant vegetation on roofs and walls:

  • Increased air quality of the surrounding area. Some living wall structures can be integrated into a building’s air circulation system, effectively “scrubbing” the air.
  • Provides a natural habitat for birds and other animal life. Oh please, let there be squirrels I can chase!
  • Selling point for tenants who appreciate ecologically-friendly buildings
  • Storm water control, including a reduction in contaminants in rainwater runoff
  • “Greywater” can be used in some building-designs to water plants
  • Energy savings provide a buffer between the ambient temperature and the roof’s insulation. Living walls can also provide shade.
  • Life of the roof materials benefit from ultraviolet protection, allowing vegetative roof membranes to last longer than conventional materials
  • Wellness and aesthetic appeal – tenants will benefit from exposure to more natural surroundings. Why do you think I love going on walks in the park?

Admittedly, potential disadvantages to green roofs and living walls should be considered prior to installation.

  • Maintenance issues, such as pruning of vegetation and ensuring HVAC systems still function properly. Living walls require frequent attention to support structures and plant life.
  • Increased short-term costs, compared to traditional roofs
  • Nature might intrude too much. Vegetation could attract birds or harmful insects to the area. Just ignore those squirrels – okay?

Green roofs and living walls can provide tangible benefits for building owners and tenants. In this tight leasing market, offering green features could be what sets your building apart from property owners and managers who offer more traditional office space.

Visit us next week for part 2 in our series about green property strategies.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact some of the “greenest” folks I know, at RJ Westmore. Their e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.