Recently I was speaking with the Founder of Green By Design. In telling her my background, I mentioned that I sell electrical products to factories around the State of Georgia. I told her my frustration at the fact that hardly any of the factories I've called on have an active Energy Management program. At this she was greatly surprised. Living in San Fransisco and entrenched in the Green Community she is surrounded by a cocoon of sustainable thought. I assured her that Georgia was probably the polar opposite of San Fransisco in regards to Sustainable thought (we are improving though!). We both came to the conclusion that we (those of us actively working to bring about a more sustainable and energy efficient future) are still in the MINORITY.
She had read many articles about different companies' efforts to reduce their energy and water consumption and thought all companies were like that, and yet I had to remind her there was a reason these companies were profiled: they were doing something different! That something was placing a value on the energy and water they use, and actively seeking to reduce that energy and water.
March's issue of Automation World (a magazine analyzing trends in factory automation) had a whole issue on Sustainable Manufacturing! They interviewed the president of Harbec Plastics, Bob Bechtold. From the article titled "Making Dollars and Sense of Energy":
While Bechtold admits to harboring a certain tie-died-save-the-Earth-hippy streak, his alternative/Green energy investments at Harbec have all been driven by economics.
As the quote from Bechtold points out, while we all would love to think helping the environment is an ingrained characteristic of manufacturers, this is just not the case. They are in business to make money, and unless saving energy (and thus the environment) can help make them more money faster (reduce cost = increased profit), there is an excellent chance they will not have an Energy Management program.
One of the issues manufacturers in Georgia and the South face is that electricity is so cheap! It's hard for most people to value something that is cheap. While making energy efficiency investments will always be a good long-term decision, it may not pay back as quick as it would for Bob in NY or GreenByDesign's friends in California. And the unfortunate truth is that many manufacturers can't make decisions for the long term, as they don't even know if they will be in business next year.
So does this mean all is lost? That manufacturers and factories will only install Energy Management programs based solely on short term economic decisions?
I say no. There are those companies out there with LEADERS who realize that saving energy is a sustainable decision no matter what. These companies aren't just concerned with the current cost of energy, because they know that cost is going up. They realize that if they continue with their energy gluttony , their customers will begin to strike back over environmental concerns. They realize that eventually, the Government is going to regulate CO2, and they want to get a jump on the game. There are companies out there that have an eye to the future, and they believe it is going to be a cleaner, more efficient one. These companies have leaders that realize what Sustainability is about, and they have hired Energy Managers to meet part of their Sustainability goals.
The Automation World article mentions Stephen Stokes, V.P. of business and climate change for AMR Research inc., and his 2008 report, "Crossing the Great Divide: Sustainability as Corporate Strategy". It closes with one of his quotes that sums up everything quite nicely:
Energy is cheap as chips right now. It's a no brainer that we treat it with contempt. But that is going to change.
It will change...eventually, but it will happen much faster if people like you demand that it happen. Call or email your favorite company's marketing/PR department and ask them what they are doing to actively save energy or if they have an Energy Manager. Look at your own company, do you have an Energy Manager? If not, WHY? You don't need an expert, maybe just someone who makes sure everything gets turned off at night. Become the Energy Manager for your own home or small business!
A Sustainable future will only happen when enough people step up and LEAD us to it!