NEWS

Web publishing company provides a blueprint for going green

Lisa Lillelund

Doing the right thing for the right reasons can bring many benefits to the workplace, to the employees and to a company’s bottom line.

Just ask the Ipswich-based international Web publishing and data base company, EBSCO, which has saved an estimated $80,000 annually on its utility bills alone through a fledgling environmental program led by employee volunteers dubbed the “green team.”

From the solar-heated water employees use to the sneakers on employees’ feet, which the company collects and turns in for recycling when they’re worn out, EBSCO rarely misses an opportunity to turn off a computer, turn down the heat, convert to more efficient lighting or reduce its paper use — even if some of the return on investment, like solar panels, reaches out 15 years, based on current energy prices.

“While the financial payback from some of these investments has not been great,” said company president Tim Collins, “we feel that the ideas we’ve implemented have made sense from a business perspective because environmental responsibility is important to our customers and our employees.”  

“It feels good to work at a company that is striving to do the right things for our environment. We are all encouraged to find ways to lesson our impact on the environment,” said Beth Garry, an EBSCO employee.

EBSCO Publishing actually began by recycling.

Company headquarters are located in restored former mill buildings along the Ipswich River and grew into a publishing and online database company, www.ebscohost.com, that employs 1,146 workers worldwide -- 762 in Ipswich.

“Our environmental programs began from a simple desire to do what is right,” said Collins.  “Over time, being environmentally responsible has become a part of our company culture and an important aspect of who we are as a company.”   

CFO Tom Wheeler added up the electricity savings estimated from the various conservation measures implemented during the past couple of years and calculated that EBSCO Publishing saved around 700,000 kWh of electricity and reduced utility bills by at least $80,000 due to various energy conservation and efficiency programs.

This translates into preventing more than 1 million pounds, or 500 tons, of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Considering that most electricity in the U.S. comes from coal-fired power plants — which in addition to carbon dioxide also emit mercury, lead, sulfur dioxide, and cadmium into the atmosphere and water — the reduction in pollution from EBSCO becomes more significant.

The effect of this electricity savings is equivalent to at least 47 households’ yearly electricity consumption or 3,204 fully mature trees planted or 65 passenger cars off the road for one year.

But convincing employees to change their behavior and become more conscious of saving energy and reducing waste proved an initial challenge.

Enter the “green team.”

In April 2006, EBSCO formalized efforts into an “initiative” by creating an inter-departmental “green team” consisting of about 25 employees.

Company volunteers interested in generating ideas and implementing new programs to reduce the company’s impact on the environment make up the green team, and they meet every couple of months during normal working hours and communicate regularly with one another via e-mail.

While many of the capital investments, such as the 384 solar panels on the rooftop and the solar hot water heater in the cafeteria, are decisions made from the top down — decisions which require capital investments and have a longer pay back time -- the green team leads many of the daily practices and programs within the company.

Art director Steve Tierney first came to the green team to create a marketing campaign and not as an environmental advocate.

“Getting in the habit of recycling at work led me to recycle at home. I was one of the first on my street to recycle. Now I’m an advocate. Our family of four used to fill two toters of trash. Now we are usually down to just one,” said Tierney, who lives in Beverly.

In the company café over lunch, Dr. Larissa Lucas, a physician who works on EBSCO’s medical database, discussed the green zone campaign. 

“As a relatively new employee, I felt the culture immediately,” said Lucas. “You can literally feel that the company is taking measures to save energy on heating and cooling bills when you come in to catch up on work over the weekend. The heat is turned down so low that you have to bundle up in the winter with a warm sweater. Although it’s cold, I am glad that the company is not wasting energy all weekend.

"Also since EBSCO encourages the use of public transportation, I benefit from their reimbursement of my train commute to work each day. I live in Salem and take the train to Ipswich. It’s more relaxing and productive riding on the train compared to driving. I often read medical journals. With Wifi on the trains now, I can catch up on e-mail correspondence as well.”

Note: Lisa Lillelund is a sustainability consultant and a regular columnist on the environment with the Beverly Citizen. She welcomes your comments at lisa@mangonetworks.com.