Dedicated effort, knowledge sharing and other learnings from the Greenbiz Forum

By Jake MacArthur, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at REI, MEM Candidate at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Member of Net Impact

A few weeks ago, I attended the GreenBiz.com Forum 2012 in San Francisco. The mix of keynotes, conversations, workshops and opportunities to network with other professionals sparked new ideas for continued improvement. In particular, I enjoyed hearing Nest Labs’ Matt Rogers’ One Great Idea and the keynote interview with the founders of Method. I was inspired by each of these companies’ ability to re-envision mundane and established products into innovative solutions to energy consumption and plastic waste.

Sitar Mody (EDF), Kirk Myers (REI), Alex Michalko (REI) and I presented our experience with EDF Climate Corps as a workshop on breaking down the barriers to energy efficiency. After reviewing programmatic successes and continued challenges, we broke into small groups and discussed the participants’ barriers. The workshop provided tested tools and highlighted our work at REI.

As a 2011 EDF Climate Corps fellow at REI, I worked primarily on identifying and evaluating energy efficiency projects at the corporate headquarters in Kent, WA. The REI Corporate Social Responsibility team joined the Climate Corps program in order to address a few specific barriers to achieving greater energy efficiency:

  1. Lack of resources
  2. Challenges with information sharing

Put simply, the facilities managers are too busy with their daily responsibilities to stay informed of efficiency opportunities and they lack the time to fully vet vendors. As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I brought training, program experience and a network of peers to remove these impediments. By serving as an energy efficiency clearinghouse, I coordinated projects across the cooperative and shared stories. My work culminated in one particular project – a smart lighting retrofit of one of the corporate office buildings. This retrofit, installed a few weeks ago, will save REI an estimated 175,000 kWhs and $15,000 annually. The project includes detailed monitoring and a controls system that will ensure accurate evaluation and long-term persistence. An added bonus, REI will be hiring its fourth EDF Climate Corps fellow to seek out even more energy savings this year.

Barriers to future efficiency gains will undoubtedly arise, but through continued innovation, dedicated effort and knowledge sharing, we can make dramatic cuts in energy use and operating costs.

EDF Climate Corps places specially-trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.