Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) looking to enhance their environmentally responsible practices was the audience for a recent seminar hosted by Business in the Community Ireland and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The seminar gave practical insights into how SMEs could reduce their environmental footprint by conserving water, preventing waste and being energy efficient. Compelling presentations delivered by SSE Airtricity, the Musgrave Group, Dundrum Town Centre and a representative from the EPA’s Green Business Programme all demonstrated the savings that could be made from running a business responsibly. Having been inspired by the case studies the attendees were then invited to take action during a facilitated roundtable session supporting them to develop an environmental policy and a three point environmental action plan for their own organisations to implement.
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Kevin Hourigan, Business Energy Efficiency Manager at SSE Airtricity, provided case studies from a local public house, a grocery store and a hotel that SSE Airtricity had supported to deliver energy reducing initiatives in its role as an obligated party under the Energy Efficiency Directive. Replacing incandescent lights with LEDs, replacing chillers and freezers, and retrofitting motion sensors resulted in savings of between 14% and 44% off the energy bills of all three of these DLR based businesses.
Kevin’s advice to the businesses present was to focus on enhancing the energy efficiency of elements that use the most energy in their organisations (for example air conditioning units) to get maximum cost savings over the long term and the shortest pay back times.
Environmental expert Colum Gibson from the EPA’s Green Business Programme outlined how over the last five years, €10.2million potential cost savings had been identified by the 240 companies participating in the Green Business Programme – that’s an average of €42,000 per company.
Recently, to reach a wider audience, a free resource efficiency tool called “TREE” was developed for SMEs. It is an online questionnaire comprising 25 multiple choice questions on water, waste, energy and environmental management. Attendees were encouraged to use “TREE” so that they could receive a resource efficiency score for their business, a report identifying opportunities for waste reduction and improved efficiency and a resource efficiency action plan tailored to suit their business.
Kerstie Flanagan from Patel Tonra represented the Musgrave Group and spoke about how waste can actually be a resource. Businesses they work with receive a rebate for baled cardboard and plastic and hence waste segregation pays dividends! Patel Tonra has been managing waste contracts for the Musgrave Group since 2002, supporting the organisation to manage all its waste more efficiently and instil best practice in waste management at its warehouses, distribution centres, retail partner stores and to its customers.
Kerstie’s advice to reduce waste costs was to bale cardboard and plastic, put everything else that can be recycled in the green and brown bin and to avoid using the black bin. Of course it is even better to prevent waste at source and to reuse products.
With a footfall in excess of 18 million visitors per year, 170 tenants, of which 45 are food and beverage units, Dundrum Town Centre consumes circa 500,000 litres of water per day. It was no surprise to discover from Gerry Cahalin, Logistics Manager for the Town Centre that water conservation is of paramount importance and that the Centre continually monitors its water usage. In recent years flow restrictors were fitted to all toilets and washrooms and sensor controlled taps were installed saving 40% on water usage. Undertaking leak tests is a regular occurrence in the Centre, however as Gerry outlined, this is something all businesses and households should be doing. All it involves is first identifying where the water meter is, turning off all water using equipment or taps (usually this is done at night,) taking a meter reading and after a period of time taking another meter reading. If there is a difference it suggests it is likely there is a water leak unless background water use can be accounted for e.g. by devices being in use that must be kept on and that use water.
Ensuring there are no leaks is the first step to saving money on water bills and this is only possible when water use is monitored on an on-going basis. In Dundrum Town Centre each tenant monitors and pays for their water usage as sub meters have been installed and hence it pays for them to conserve water and train their staff to do so also.