We know many everyday champions at work have lots of ideas but can struggle to prioritize efforts and deliver impactful results. You may be a complete beginner or you simply want to discover more ideas and ways to achieve continual improvement in better energy, water & sustainability performance at work.
This step by step article focuses on helping you deliver key outcomes by overcoming frustrations through either direct hands-on action or by influencing or decision-making that impacts on energy use and contributes to 'Net Zero' in a green & business-like way by being an Everyday Champion at work.
If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito
We’ve found anyone can be a Big Green champion at work by just spending 20 minutes a day:
- Taking personal actions that are often the quickest and cheapest way of achieving energy and resource savings at work.
- Applying a few key techniques to get your colleagues involved too, doing it for themselves.
- Setting up the metrics that track your progress to inspire success.
In this guide, we describe 5 key mindsets we often promote to all everyday champions, ambassadors, gurus and key-connectors for success:
Why do it
- Help make your working environment more comfortable and productive.
- Improve your own skill sets and performance.
- Be part of a community of practice making a difference.
- Take pride in your achievements and recognition – only using what you need.
- Try out new ways of working for the future for more sustainable processes and buildings.
This is Alun, one of our first Big green everyday champions, who coordinated equivalent to over $400,000 a year in energy savings for his building (2007-2010) and has been a specialist in energy saving ever since.
Easy ways to start off
To improve performance and deliver best value for your customers.
Think about easy ways to reduce energy consumption
- Prioritize easy ways to conserve energy before significant investments in more technology (#EnergyHiearchy).
- Talk about Big green ideas and actions you can take with colleagues and develop business plans for doing more.
- Act on your ideas at work and at home – ‘Just do it’ to break through the barriers.
- Commit to successful changes long-term.
- Set measures to reduce consumption and right size any future investments made.
Target inevitable avoidable waste in most operations
In practice, we are all human and naturally risk-averse, so we err on the side of caution and over-provide on our services.
Thus, we consume more energy and other resources than needed. This overprovision is what we call ‘avoidable waste’.
Many have demonstrated they’re saving 2-5% in utilities resources use, and then achieving the same again, year on year.
This is not about just reducing consumption – optimize across all your objectives for best overall value.
“Take up the Big Green Challenge – we all need to be smarter about how we consume energy, particularly during the times we use our buildings less”
Simple steps to raise your awareness and understanding
- Find out about your current energy and utilities consumption and cost.
- Highlight your energy waste through energy reviews (day and night) – take photos.
- Understand how your activities impact on energy use and the importance and benefits of better performance.
- Think about how any future changes may impact on energy use and performance.
- Talk to senior managers about the opportunities and what’s required in terms of financial and other resources to improve energy performance.
Step 1: Make it Local – what you know
Focus on local activity
- Put an energy-saving hat on and go out into the areas you know well to look for opportunities for improvements.
- Think of energy as a service. Talk to your customers about what’s important to them.
- Look for ways to reduce consumption for equipment and processes you use or influence.
- Think about operational, technical and behavioral ideas to find a more effective & better ways of delivering service.
- Keep records to log your ideas and actions, track progress and share them with others.
Connect with others
Connect with colleagues who also can affect your significant energy and resources use:
- Those with hands-on control of substantial energy use.
- Those with decision making capability which impacts on sustainability performance.
- Include top managers, design, sustainability, procurement and local facilities colleagues.
- Don’t forget service partners, contractors, other specialists and consultants.
- Anyone who’s interested in influencing local energy use.
A Restaurant Team’s Fire-up Schedule Example
Big Idea: to raise awareness of equipment operational times and make it easier to make changes in a coordinated way:
- Identify the equipment which consumes significant energy
- List out the equipment, its power use and the hours it’s on
- For each, challenge operation times and discuss ideas for reducing power demands ways to reduce running hours
- Track the loads on targeted equipment (e.g. using daily diaries) and try out ideas to save energy on a trial basis
- Continually review and adjust the fire-up schedule as possible
Total savings: $51,000 a year from 25% reduction in consumption
Step 2: Make it Focused – Pareto 80/20
Prioritize your actions
We know everyday champions can spend a lot of time thinking about being more efficient, but with limited success in becoming more sustainable.
Pareto’s law tells us 80% of the benefit typically comes from 20% of the ideas.
Think strategically about your efforts, aligned to the organization’s goals and enhance the overall energy productivity & value of the services you’re involved in.
We’ve found that the secret is often to tap into local expertise and creativity to create the new and more effective and efficient practices that we need.
Follow the ‘5-R’ methodology to ensure you have the most cost-effective way of reducing impact and making subsequent investments in energy supply.
- Is it needed? — Switch it off
- Is it over-providing? — Turn it down
- Is it working as intended? — Fix it
Be Lean, Clean & then Green
Most organizations sensibly adopt a ‘Lean’, ‘Clean’ and ‘Green’ approach to ‘Net Zero’ improvements (#Energy Hierarchy).
1) Start with reducing demand to match service levels with customer needs (Lean).
2) Then improve the efficiency of building services systems and facilities (Clean).
2) Then invest in renewable energy and low carbon energy supply systems (Green).
A University Estate Team’s 100 Day “Quick Win” Action Plan
Big Idea: to target heating as it’s the largest utility cost for most buildings.
- Consolidate workspaces and switch off buildings that are no longer needed.
- Turn down the temperature in other areas where it’s too warm (1°C reduction saves 8 to 10% in heating bills).
- Reduce any uncomfortable cold draughts using draught stripping.
- Make regular checks for opportunities for systems not working optimally.
- Only then replace inefficient equipment and invest in improving insulation levels.
Total savings: $193,000 a year achieved in reduced heating costs
Step 3: Make it Continual – do it together
Work with colleagues to lock in savings through continual improvement.
- Quick wins are about individuals working by themselves in areas they know well.
- Bigger wins that stick come about when an everyday energy champion and teams work closely together.
ISO 50001 is the world’s energy management standard to help us coordinate our efforts through continual improvement.
This is about getting fitter in the way we run our processes and facilities and then staying fit; engineers may think about it as a process of continual commissioning.
The mindset needs to be one of challenge, trying out new ways, asking for feedback and continually improving as we go.
Rather than waiting for a big step change project, it’s better to take an incremental approach to making improvements — you learn and make savings as you go, and you’ll find the step changes happen naturally.
Build habits: rethink a habit for 21 straight days then continue to do it for another 90 days for it to be a way of life (#21/90 rule).
Role modelling demonstrates to others what can be done – stories you tell can help reinforce opportunities and impacts.
An Airport Team’s Approach to Making Lighting Improvements
Big Idea: innovation trials looking at different ways to improve lighting by involving users across the airport.
- Local colleagues identify over-lit areas to remove surplus fittings and install basic controls (quick wins).
- Engineers trial different solutions: from easy-fix retrofits (saving 30 to 60%) to the latest LED fittings (saving 50 to 80%).
- Local facilities staff look at the best ways to switch and control lighting locally (saving up to 90% in targeted areas of use).
- Bringing together all of this work into a simple menu of standardized and proven lighting solutions
- Roll out the standardized approach with a $1.3m lighting upgrade project
Total savings: $515,000 a year (2.5-year payback)
Step 4: Make it Desirable – create the ‘Win Win’
‘Win Win’ stands for benefits for both the organization and the people involved.
The ultimate outcome is a ‘Win for All’. Ultimately ‘Win’ should work for our organizations, customers, the planet, and also ourselves:
- Company directors and managers may support projects that deliver big savings at minimum cost, helping to make the organization a leader in the industry, enhancing customer service, competitiveness and delivering Net Zero goals.
- Energy and environmental gurus and specialists may better support ways that help accelerate the change part of their energy and environmental strategies.
- Service partners and suppliers may want more user feedback to help them improve their products and services and give them a competitive edge.
- Local staff and managers may want to take pride in delivering a better service and develop their skill sets and performance to give them greener eyes for the future.
Be careful about tech-only solutions
Efficiency technologies and controls have great potential for energy saving, however often:
- There’s a risk they don’t achieve the desired savings, or savings fall away over time, as key stakeholders may not be properly bought into the process.
- In practice, tech solutions totally rely on a social and behavioral context; negotiation with and acceptance of new technologies by colleagues should be a fundamental part of any (continual) optimization process.
- Combining technical and people solutions can lead to more enhanced bigger energy savings than anticipated, savings locked in longer-term.
Procuring new equipment:
New appliances are still bought by many on a “buy the cheapest” basis, only considering the lowest purchase price. The highest eco label may not be the most sustainable one to buy. For example, when buying a new fridge freezer, you may think an A+++ is the best. However, tools like ‘Total life costing’ may show that the A++ is the most sustainable from a whole-life financial perspective, offering lowest life-time cost whilst also achieving over 50% reduction in carbon emissions, and better features for users, compared to the A model.
This most sustainable best buy for you will depend on optimizing across all your key objectives.
Step 5: Make it Yours – metrics that sizzle
Include a range of measures for best results
Look for a combination of metrics that measure success but also help generate the green sparks and sustain momentum over the longer term:
- Make it personal — Track the number of ideas and actions
- Make it focused — Quick win savings (measured bottom-up)
- Make it continual — Year-on-year energy reduction
- Make it desirable — Track positive outcomes
Set your measures to motivate and embrace change, track progress and take pride in only using what you need.
The best measures to use will depend on your organization and the others involved – start simple with know what would work best.
Life is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance you must keep moving.
This is the philosophy for sustaining your momentum.
Momentum – ideas to lock in results long-term
Make connections with others as a way to continually draw on new ideas through collaborative networks, clubs and projects.
Operational controls, design standards and procurement processes can help reinforce key behaviors and performance.
Monitoring and targeting processes can help check behaviors and identify problems quickly enough to maintain momentum.
We’re all learning all the time. Studies show that local ownership and control is often one of the most effective ways of delivering lasting change for better sustainability performance.
Gain mastery through continual learning, innovation and personal leadership. Learn through experience and perseverance to further develop your confidence and resilience.
Best of luck and enjoy the process!
A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
We all need our own blend of just doing it, strategic thinking and a hands-on approach.
What we can all do
This code or practice is used by one of our clients, an international logistics company to help guide their everyday energy & sustainability champions.
Our Energy and Sustainability Policy sets out how we take our environmental and sustainability responsibilities seriously. We all have a role to play in this to minimize avoidable resource waste, reduce our climate change impact and contribute to continually improving our services and products.
Commit to continual improvement of our energy performance within our buildings and processes
ISO 50001 is the energy management system standard that is helping us do this – follow our approach & process on our Better Sustainability Forum
Recognize energy efficiency as a key objective for what you do
Include energy on meeting agendas and as individual and project objectives. Set energy objectives and targets; provide resources and report results
Join in on our energy saving campaigns
Communicate the importance of energy saving, look for opportunities in your local areas and encourage colleagues to save energy
Continually question current practice and look for energy savings
Program in regular reviews looking for opportunities to switch off or turn down energy consuming processes that you are involved with
Invest appropriately for medium-term energy efficiency of new buildings and systems
Procure new buildings, systems and equipment based on whole life costing and good practice energy efficiency standards
Check energy efficiency when accepting handover of new buildings or systems
An air-conditioning unit that is accepted after it has been properly commissioned so we are sure it performs properly with minimum energy use
Switch it off or Turn it down to switch on energy savings
Lead by example and switch off all unnecessary lights and equipment to save energy and keep cool, particularly when you finish work in an area
Regularly service assets in a manner which promotes efficient use of energy in operation
Regular planned maintenance that includes regular reviews of operational control set-ups to optimize energy performance
Tell us about opportunities for energy savings across our buildings that you see but are outside of your direct control
Please share your ideas, comments and suggestions on our Better Sustainability Forum
Do it today and tell us about the energy savings you implement
Develop an action plan and implement in a timely manner – share your actions on our Better Sustainability Forum
Why it matters
Many of our customers are leading in this; so they are asking us to do more. We have committed to deliver 40% cuts in our carbon emissions by 2030. We know organizations typically waste 20-30% of energy they buy within buildings and processes; it is inevitable we have similar opportunities within our operations too. We can all benefit from doing better through our teamwork and continually improving our skills and performance – let’s collaborate and celebrate together.
Thank you for your support
Written by James Brittain