Stay Green Over the Holidays

Photo for Stay Green Over the Holidays, morgue file0001994043352Even the most committed “tree hugger” may find staying green during the holidays a real challenge. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the typical American tosses out an additional 25 percent more trash, according to industry experts. Add to that the extra energy that holiday lights produce, and you’ve got a recipe that’s actually counterproductive to living green.

Help is at hand from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which offers businesses and home owners a list of tips to cut waste, conserve energy and otherwise “be green” during the holiday season. But why stop with the holidays? Many of the ideas can be used year-round.

Buy gifts that are kinder to the environment. These include items such as low-flow shower heads, cloth shopping bags, a solar-powered calculator, educational eco-toys, a refurbished computer, backyard composter, a rain barrel, a refillable thermos bottle, and recycled-content stationary and note pads. Also, cheaper doesn’t always mean better. A less expensive item may wear out long before its more expensive counterpart, and thus become a candidate for the landfill.
Buy rechargeable batteries and battery chargers to accompany electronic gifts. It should come as no surprise that an estimated 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holidays. Spent batteries contain metals that can contaminate the environment if not disposed of properly.
Consider upgrading to energy saving LED holiday lights and strands that are up to 90 percent more efficient than conventional incandescent holiday bulbs. Put lights on timers to save energy and electricity costs.
Have clearly marked recycling containers scattered about the room at your holiday parties. Make it easy for guests to recycle their cans, bottles and used paper goods. Send them home with leftover food stored in recyclable containers.
After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Contact your local solid waste department to see if they collect and mulch trees.
Recycle any burnt out holiday lights. For information about how EverLights can help safely recycle your lights, batteries and other electronic waste, visit our website or call 773-734-9873.

What “green” holiday tips are you incorporating at your place of business? Share them here so that others can benefit, and be inspired.

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Save Money on Holiday Lighting with LED Bulbs

DCF 1.0By now, you’ve probably hung your Christmas holiday lights. Maybe you’re still using those old incandescent strands, but consider this: LED holiday lights, while more expensive upfront, can save on energy costs and last up to 40 seasons.

What’s holding you back? If you’re still hesitating, consider these additional benefits.

• LED light strands are cooler than incandescent bulbs, and they’re also made of plastic, so the risk of breakage and fire is less.

• The chance of personal injury is reduced. If you’re one of those families where dad typically falls off the ladder hanging lights, you’ll appreciate not making the annual visit to the emergency room.

• A 50-bulb strand of LEDs, run for 100 hours, will use only 5 kilowatt hours compared to 35 kilowatt hours with regular bulbs. At 12 cents per kilowatt hour, that’s $3.60 per strand off your bill. If you have an especially large outside display (like the ones you see on TV news), you could save as much as $3,600 per 100 hours.

• LEDs no longer throw off that cool, bluish tint and can now be dialed to the color you want. Also, warm white LED holiday light strands are fairly easy to find. Some strands even have built-in timers, which can help reduce energy consumption.

• Another benefit of LEDs is that strands can be linked into much longer strings than typical incandescent bulbs because of the lower power requirements. Experts say you can connect up to 45 strands in one row. Compare that to about three with traditional bulbs.

• Artificial trees with strands of LED lights already on them are increasingly popular. If you consider that time is money, going artificial will keep you from spending countless hours struggling to untangle all those lights.

• If your objective is to reduce your overall energy consumption, battery operated items such as window candles or door wreaths may be your best bet. You might spend a few bucks on AA batteries, but they’ll probably the entire holiday season.

And come early January, don’t forget to safely recycle all those spent bulbs. Call us at EverLights and find out how we can make recycling bulbs easy.

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Chicago Is Building a Green Resume Under Emanuel’s Leadership

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReducing emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting Chicago’s infrastructure from hotter summers, more precipitation, and other climate shifts are part and parcel of the sustainability plan under Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Judging from the response so far from local environmentalists, he’s doing a great job.

One of the Mayor’s first moves was to eliminate the city department responsible for aspects of the Chicago Climate Action Plan. Instead, the Mayor made agencies responsible for certain components that fell under their scope. The effort is being coordinated by Karen Weigert, who bears the title of the city’s chief sustainability officer. Weigert applauds the changes, indicating that they have allowed the administration to act more quickly, thereby building a green resume.

Among the accomplishments since the Mayor was sworn in May 2011 are accelerating plans to close two coal-fired power plants. The plants were blamed for polluting two working-class, minority neighborhoods for more than 80 years.

The city has also pledged to expand curbside recycling to all 50 wards by the end of 2013, repair some 900 miles of water pipes, and it has encouraged the owners and managers of the city’s largest commercial buildings to slash emissions by 20 percent over the next five years. The administration also pledged that all newly-built public buildings would need to be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. By 2015, the city will also add 180 acres of parkland, 18.5 miles of lakeshore trails, and 100 miles of protected bikeways.

The Mayor is getting good marks for his ability to get things done that were only on the wish list of the previous administration. His ultimate goal is to reduce the city’s emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by mid-century. Indeed, a lack of clearly-defined goals was where the previous administration fell short.

Cutting energy consumption of privately-owned office buildings is getting an especially big push. The rate of retrofits for older, less-efficient buildings, through programs like the voluntary Chicago Commercial Building Initiative, has increased by a third.

The Mayor may not be a tree hugger, per se, but he’s definitely committed to going green and earning the city a reputation that can help stimulate economic development and external investment in Chicago.

What are your thoughts about the job that the Mayor’s administration is doing to help the city go green? How is your building helping to fulfill his sustainability mission?

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Upgrading a Garage with Lighting

Like many older office buildings, the four-story garage at 500 Davis Center in downtown Evanston was in need of some TLC, including a lighting retrofit. Constructed in 1978, it still relied on T12 fluorescent bulbs, which were a huge drain on the building’s energy bill.

Richard Similio, on-site property manager for Circle Realty Advisors which manages the 10-story office building, turned to EverLights as a one-stop shop for a lighting retrofit. EverLights’ first order of business was to recycle all the existing fixtures by safely removing the bulbs and ballasts.

Step number 2 was to upgrade to a newer technology that included the purchase of the best energy-efficient lamps and ballasts available. EverLights’ solution was to provide GE 28-watt T8 fluorescent lamps and energy-efficient ballasts.

Finding the right occupancy sensor was another story. The EverLights team showed him almost a dozen products before he finally settled on Leviton’s PIR fixture mount occupancy sensors. They were installed by Hardt Electric directly above each of the 200 parking stalls. Calibrated to stay on at 15-minute intervals, they automatically turn off unless movement is detected. To ensure driver safety, the lights remain on at all times in the driving lanes.

EverLights also provided GE T8s for hallways, elevators and restrooms. Twenty exiting incandescent EXIT signs were replaced with Surelites LED lamps EXIT signs. The total estimated energy savings is $10,855 a year. With ComEd incentives, the lighting will have paid for itself in 3.3 years.

“We couldn’t be happier with the result,” Richard said. “It is exactly as we envisioned it.”

Think it may be time for a lighting retrofit of your own? Make no mistake: a retrofit with energy-efficient lighting will help you save dramatically on utility costs. Technologies that support dimming will give you the ability to control lighting with additional energy savings. Plus, retrofits reduce pollution given off by the power plants that make all those lights turn on. Why hesitate?

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Cast Your Vote for Recycling

This week’s election may have divided us as a nation, but there’s one thing on which most would agree:  we need to do a better job of recycling.

Thankfully, there’s a day for that. America Recycles Day, turning 15 on November 15, may not rank up there in the public consciousness with major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but an estimated 2 million people will celebrate it at public events ranging from electronics collections to a recycled art show. Though many of the events will be fun, there’s a serious side to recycling that should not be overlooked.

  • Recycling creates jobs. Millions of Americans are employed by companies that recycle, but consider this fact: much of the recycling effort cannot happen without public participation. The simple act of recycling and buying recycled products can create the momentum that builds materials markets and fills the supply chain of recycled materials that can help fuel our economy.  
  • Recycling makes a huge difference in our communities. There are some interesting stats out there. For example, the number of cans recycled every 30 seconds equals the number of people who could fill an entire pro football stadium. Recycling just one aluminum can saves the energy equivalent of powering a 46-inch LED TV for 3 hours.  A glass container can go from the recycling bin to a store shelf in as few as 30 days. The list goes on and on. 
  • Recycling is not that difficult. It just takes basic knowledge and a sincere commitment to become an active, effective participant.

 “Command central” for America Recycles Day is this website. It’s where you can register your recycling event, find a local event to attend or at the very least, make a deeper commitment to sustainability. The site offers a Recycling Locator by category, a cool way to reduce the number of unwanted catalogues you receive in the mail, and other goodies.

Most importantly, recycling is not, and cannot, be a one-day event. It requires a 24/7/365 effort by all of us to find the best ways to recycle, reuse and reclaim.

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New Rules for Fluorescent Lamp Ballasts – Are You Ready?

There’s more to the month of October than autumn leaves and Halloween. October is also National Energy Action Month, an initiative from the federal government that encourages Americans to work together to boost the economy, help the environment and make the U.S energy independent.

Some new rules governing fluorescent lamp ballasts were created last year to help the nation achieve some of the goals listed above. They were released by the Department of Energy in November of 2011 and have two provisions:

  • Establish a new metric to measure ballast efficiency.
  • Set a higher standard of efficiency for the T5, T8 and T12 ballasts made today.

The new metric is called Ballast Luminous Efficiency (BLE), and in short, here’s what it does: Takes the lamp out of the equation when measuring the total load.

Details of the BLE are outlined very well in this whitepaper published in October of this year by the Lighting Controls Association, a trade group “dedicated to educating the professional building design, construction and management communities about the benefits and operation of automatic switching and dimming controls.” From the DOE’s perspective, the new regulations have very tangible benefits: $20 billion in consumer energy cost savings by 2043.

The whitepaper addresses the kind of ballasts covered by the BLE and offers more specific details on technical requirements.  Professionals in the lighting design and installation – as well as commercial and residential property managers – should take note of these new rules and plan accordingly. 

However, we have two concerns:

  • What’s being done – by the industry and the DOE – to make sure news of the November 2012 provisions gets communicated? We did a Google search and found online articles, like the whitepaper referenced here, but nothing on the DOE site.  (If you find relevant content online, please share.)
  • The rules will be enacted starting November 14, 2014. After that date, the government will prohibit the domestic manufacture and importation of products that don’t meet the new standards.  Deadlines sometimes get extended, and sometimes rules aren’t followed. Will that happen if the DOE pushes the compliance date past 2014? And, is the DOE (or federal government) prepared to enforce the regulations?

Are you familiar with the BLE metric and new DOE rules governing ballasts?  Do you agree with this development?  What are you doing to prepare or educate your team and your clients?

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Kelly Gallagher: Rosie Award Winner

On August 20, 2012, Waste & Recycling News announced its latest round of Rosie Award winners, and our very own Kelly Gallagher (pictured on the right) was one of this Kelly Aaron portraityear’s winners!
Waste & Recycling News created the Rosie Awards to recognize the women who have dedicated their knowledge, time and energy to the industry. Named after Rosie the Riveter, the iconic and enduring symbol of the power of the American woman, the awards recognize women who inspire greatness with their leadership, work ethic, vision, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Only 12 women were selected as winners this year out of 60 nominations.
We are very proud of this award, and would also like to congratulate the 11 other winners.
Want to read Kelly’s full interview with WRN? You can find a copy of it right here!

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