ASHEVILLE, NC – Shutting down computers, turning off lights and changing work schedules. Those are some of the strategies the city of Asheville used to save more than $65,000 in energy costs last year. The city implemented these and other programs by challenging employees to find ways they could save energy on their own.
“A little goes a long way. We had hundreds of city employees taking the extra step to conserve energy and participate in our sustainability programs,” said Maggie Ullman, the city’s energy coordinator.
The results paid off. Over the last year, the city reduced its municipal energy usage by 867,000 kilowatt hours, which is the same amount of energy it takes to operate City Hall for six months. As a result, the city reduced its municipal carbon footprint by 623 tons.
The city points to three key sustainability programs as major contributors to the organization’s success during the last year: the compressed work week, an automatic computer shutdown program, and the employee energy conservation challenge.
* The compressed work week, where employees typically work four ten hour days as opposed to a traditional five-day week, was first piloted in the Public Works Department and soon spread to other divisions. The schedule allows the city to realize energy savings by utilizing buildings, computers and other equipment 25 percent less. It also reduces the carbon footprint associated with employees commuting to work. About 180 city employees currently work a compressed schedule.,/p>
* The computer shutdown program utilizes software to automatically turn off more than 500 city computers at 8 p.m. to reduce energy usage.
* The energy conservation challenge encouraged employees to voluntarily reduce energy usage wherever possible. Simple acts like turning off lights when rooms were not in use and adjusting thermostats made an impact, especially in smaller facilities like community centers and fire stations.
As part of its strategic plan for the city, the Asheville City Council included a focus area on green initiatives, stating, “Asheville will be the southeastern leader in clean energy and environmental sustainability while preserving and enhancing the city’s natural beauty.” In April 2007, City Council adopted a goal of reducing the municipal carbon footprint by 2 percent every year. Staff conducts an annual energy inventory to track the organization’s progress on energy usage.
Asheville will use a Sustainability Management Plan adopted by City Council in June to guide ongoing efforts to further reduce energy consumption. To view Asheville’s Sustainability Management Plan or for information on other city sustainability programs, visit www.ashevillenc.gov/green.