Small Business: Benefits of 'eco-efficiency'

Making changes to be ecologically and economically efficient

Making changes to be ecologically and economically efficient makes helps the community and the bottom line. (Credit: iStock)

Jamie Herzlich

Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

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While most corporate buildings have black roofs, Apollo HVAC Corp. installed a white, reflective "cool roof" at its Bay Shore facility last summer.

Because it doesn't absorb as much heat, it can reduce the temperature above a ceiling by 30 to 40 degrees and lessen the facility's air-conditioning load.

Apollo has made other changes to be more "eco-efficient" -- both ecologically and economically efficient -- including upgrading its lighting and HVAC units, using greener office products and participating in an e-waste recycling program to dispose of its old electronics.

"It's a social responsibility," says Rudy Holesek, president of Apollo HVAC, which designs energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. Holesek, former chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council's Long Island Chapter, said he believes more companies want to be eco-efficient.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that 52 percent of respondents rank eco-efficiency as a high or growing priority.

So what does being more eco-efficient actually mean?

Make use of resources. It's deriving "business value by making better use of your resources," explains Don Reed, a managing director in PwC's Sustainable Business Solutions practice in Boston. It's not just reducing your environmental footprint, but also deriving value for your company in the form of cost savings or improved efficiencies.

Companies should consider all the benefits of becoming eco-efficient, even those you can't put a dollar value on, he notes. "Use your instincts about how does this make employees happier, enhance your brand, increase loyalty, etc."

Look beyond energy. Many companies strictly focus on energy usage, but it pays to look for efficiency opportunities in other areas such as waste, packaging, paper products and even chemical and pesticide usage, Reed says.

Alan Mindel, managing member of The Viana Hotel & Spa in Westbury, started planning even before the 116-room facility was built. He wanted it to get LEED certification -- a standard for measuring building sustainability -- from the U.S. Green Building Council, so he and his partners had to plan accordingly, down to recycling demolition refuse from the previous structure.

The hotel has rooftop solar panels, paperless check-in and check-out, and an energy management system with a smart digital thermostat and sensors in each room that adjust heating and cooling based on whether it's occupied or vacant.

These features added about $2.5 million to the $20-million facility costs, estimates Mindel, who has seen some energy savings but says it will take years to recoup the overall investment. "I don't know if it will pay off; I think time will tell."

LIPA rebates. In the meantime, the two-year-old hotel, which was recently LEED-certified, has applied for rebates through the Long Island Power Authority. LIPA has a commercial efficiency program of incentives for making energy enhancement and improvements.

The program has grown, says Michael J. Deering, vice president of environmental affairs at LIPA. In 2010 it had 900 applications; LIPA is forecasting 5,000 applications for 2013.

Companies can call LIPA at 800-692-2626 to get a free energy assessment of their facilities to identify potential savings.

Upgrades. A simple upgrade to more efficient LED lighting could result in savings up to 40 percent, says Deering.

Holesek upgraded his facility's lighting five years ago but is upgrading again because of more recent improvements.

While he's gotten LIPA rebates, Holesek cautions business owners to make sure planned improvements are eligible under LIPA guidelines. "Planning your [equipment] replacements is very important."