The world of energy is in the midst of a massive transition, as renewable sources of power are rapidly gaining ground on fossil fuels and in many cases overtaking their dirty counterparts. A new era of energy is dawning. Against this optimistic backdrop, we took on a month of energy challenges as a team. We selected two team challenges intended to decrease our overall consumption of fossil fuels.
In the end, we realized some of the ways we could have the largest impact were actually some of the simplest actions we could take.
NEMO’s 24 employees make their way to the office each day via a range of methods, many of which rely on gasoline-powered vehicles. While some employees are within a mile and walk their way into the office in downtown Dover, while others live more than 30 miles away and have few choices for their trek to and from Dover.
With this awareness, we took on fuel consumption as an office challenge rather than an individual one, setting a goal of reducing our collective gas consumption by 10% for one month. July’s long days were accommodating of a variety of early and late schedules, but the sweltering temperatures were a deterrent to human-powered transit. Luckily, our office has showers, and they were used more heavily than usual during July.
If every single employee who lived within 10 miles of the office avoided using gasoline for the commute for the entire month, we’d still only reduce our collective consumption by 9%. This challenge would require creativity and participation from some of our employees who drove from neighboring states.
Total Gas Reduction: 6.7%.
For our second challenge we took on the space where we spend our time together: our headquarters in Dover, New Hampshire. Our office is located in a refurbished textile mill (check it out here). While the mill is 150 years old, the space is actually fairly efficient. Some employees were surprised that our monthly electricity usage wasn’t that different from their own homes.
This made increasing our efficiency a challenge, but we thought there might be a few ways we could still improve, most notably air conditioning.
Instead of the typical 70 degrees, we decided to set our thermostats at 78 degrees for the month of July. This also happened to be a record-breaking month in terms of heat, and the notion of sweating during the workday wasn’t appealing to all employees. However, the challenge did what it was intended to do: it created conversation. What are the tradeoffs for reducing our carbon footprint, and when do they go too far? Is there an easier way to achieve the same reduction of impact?
While we did reduce our year-over-year consumption of electricity during the month of July, we again talked about the relative impact of this result compared to the effort required by our employees. When the results were tallied, we realized our time was better spent continuing to improve the logistics of our own supply chain, for which the numbers are exponentially larger than the power consumed by 24 of us during the day.