Cambridge education firm learns green is good
The first thing you notice inside Cambridge-based EF Education is the amount of natural light, plants and large rocks that decorate its interior.
It’s fitting for an education company that has embraced the “greener” side of life over the last year, saving costs and the environment.
Going “green” is less of a trend for Cambridge companies, and can be seen as raising the bar on corporate responsibly. Last year, the city awarded Genzyme, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies, for its waste reduction tactics including recycling and composting programs. And Novartis, a Cambridge-based pharmaceutical research company was recognized for initiating 13 energy-efficient programs, and encouraging its employees to walk, bike or take public transit.
EF Education hopes that its environmentally friendly changes will one day get that same recognition.
Within the last year, the company installed a computerized system that automates its heating and cooling in the 10-story, 250,000-square-foot building.
“Every motor in this building doesn’t just turn because it should, it turns as much as it needs to,” said facility manager Nobert “Bert” Lorscheider. Rather than just blindly pumping hot and cold air into the building, the company is focusing on what the building actually needs in relation to the time of day, season and how many people are in the building.
EF, which sits at 1 Education St., was able to make the changes while remaining fully operational. And the results from the system have been seen almost immediately. Overall energy use at EF has been cut in half within the last year. And electrical consumption decreased by 60 percent in the same timeframe.
This past year, Lorscheider said EF’s recycling has become much more aggressive with bins for paper, plastic and glass recyclables on every floor. At the end of 2007, EF officials say the company is now recycling 77 percent of all its waste, a number that’s increased by more than 25 percent since 2006.
“Recycling is a great thing but getting away from using is even better,” said Lorscheider.
To put this mantra to work, EF has introduced four master copier/printer/fax machines on each floor for the entire staff to use. And in an effort to shy away from paper as much as possible, faxes are sent automatically to employee’s Outlook inboxes.
The energy saving tactics didn’t come cheap said Lorscheider. Even with a $660,000 grant from NSTAR, the company is still looking at a two-year payback.
EF took part in Commercial Solutions, a program available to NSTAR’s commercial customers. According to NSTAR spokesman Michael Durand, because of the changes EF has implemented they will see saving for years to come. Durand said EF saved about 3 million kilowatt hours of electricity this past year, which translates into a savings of about half a million dollars. The company also saved over 60,000 therms of natural gas, which means a savings of $80,000.
But it’s not all about the money, said Lorscheider. “If we are going to do anything in regards with promoting green, its not to talk about how lucrative it is if you look at it in the long term. And it is a smart thing to do from a business stand point, and it’s a smart thing to do from a social standpoint. And probably the social part is more important.”
Lorscheider is a big promoter of going green within the company, and wants to see more done to help out the environment including looking into solar panels and windmills in the future.
“It’s amazing that you can make such a cost reduction in one office and still maintain your operations. And this is perfect proof of that concept that you don’t have to change your lifestyle at all. You don’t have to start eating grass. You can have your color TV, and your computer, you just have to redirect things.”
The company is also committed to educating its employees about the virtues of going green. In the past year the staff was privy to a lecture on “living within their means”, and some staff have formed a “Green Team” that most recently encouraged employees to participate in the “bike-to-work” week last year.
Team leader Kristen Bahman sees the team as a “more intimate and personal approach to letting people know what they can do to help.”
The team of 30 participants is looking next to company-endorsed reusable water bottles for the staff and converting their cafeteria into a paperless, china-only zone.