reducing our dependence on fossil fuels

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.

challenge #1

cleaner commuting

Cleaner commuting at NEMO

 

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.

 


The Math to make it work

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.

The most popular means of transport

  1. Bikes were the favorite, and some employees enthusiastically pedaled their way into the office every single day of the month.
  2. Carpooling took a little planning, but for some employees it was a great solution for reducing two gas-powered commutes to one.
  3. Half n’ Half: This was a popular one with employees who live a little further away, allowing them to park their car closer too work and bike half the distance.
  4. Scooter. Some employees have mopeds or scooters and opted to use this lower-gas option in place of a car.

what we learned

  1. It took intentionality. Committing to a commute via bicycle or public transportation takes a lot of advance planning and thoughtfulness. Side errands are more difficult, showers must be planned, and extra time must be built into the day. Even with the best of intentions, these were difficult barriers to overcome for some employees.
  2. It was great team-building. Whether by bike, foot, or car-sharing, it was fun to commute with each other. Shared rides gave time to catch up with coworkers we might not otherwise spend time with … and there may have been a few extra happy hours or mountain bike excursions along the way.
  3. It’s more about awareness. When we tallied up our final results, our hunch was confirmed. There are a lot of reasons to ride your bike to work, but if we’re doing it simply for the gas savings, there are likely other more impactful ways to reduce our carbon footprint. One long weekend trip or flight can wipe out our efforts, and as Drawdown taught us, there are bigger culprits than a personal vehicle in the effort to reduce greenhouse gasses.

 

Total Gas Reduction: 6.7%.

challenge #2

a lower-impact office

Raise the Stakes Energy

 

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.

The Thermostat Dance

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?

The End Conclusion

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.