The Green Impact Campaign truly lives up to its name. The DC-based nonprofit provides students with training and tools to conduct free energy efficiency assessments for local small businesses. The students win through the job training and experience in the field through volunteerism and the businesses win with money and energy savings. Green impact win-win.
College students are the cornerstone of the campaign, volunteering to conduct the energy assessments for local, small businesses in their own communities. As part of their volunteer service, students receive hands-on experience for future careers working in energy efficiency or other environmental fields.
“We work with college and high school students across the country to help them learn about energy while helping small businesses save energy,” campaign co-founder Daniel Hill noted.
“We felt small businesses were being neglected when it came to energy and sustainability. Cumulatively, small businesses in the U.S. contribute $60 billion in energy costs every year. But the problem is that most small business owners lack the time, knowledge, or resources to know where to begin in saving energy.”
Although enhancing sustainable planning is the linchpin of the campaign, this work with students has a tangible benefit. High school and college students interested in pursuing the environmental or energy field as a career find that participating in the Green Impact Campaign has a demonstrable effect on their prospects.
“We provide an opportunity for these students to learn in the real world while gaining real skills and making a real impact…In fact, nine out of 10 students that have gone through our program say the Green Impact Campaign helped them get a job or advance their existing job in the energy and sustainability field.”
After a 30-minute online training session, student volunteers use a mobile app to conduct 20-minute, free-of-charge energy assessments in a given facility. Based on gathered data, the app then produces customized, ready-to-implement recommendations that can save a business up to 30 percent on energy costs.
According to Hill, the Green Impact Campaign has helped 70 small businesses realize $60,000 in annual energy savings just in Montgomery County. Nationally, the campaign, which operates in 35 different states, has helped about 500 small businesses identify $1 million in energy savings.
In and around Montgomery County, the Green Impact Campaign is working on a pilot program with Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT), a leading real estate company based in Rockville.
Since August 2016, campaign volunteers have evaluated energy usage in about 25 small businesses that lease space from FRIT in Rockville Town Square, Bethesda Row, and the Village at Shirlington in Northern Virginia. On average, those assessments have found a 12 percent energy reduction for these businesses, with average payback periods of less than one year.
Business leaders can attest to the campaign’s effectiveness.
“Working with the Green Impact Campaign was very beneficial to my restaurant,” said Adam Alfano, manager of Palette 22, an Arlington eatery that participated in the pilot. “We were provided with a thorough assessment and shown affordable opportunities to be more energy efficient.”
So, too, can FRIT, which lauded the program as a boon to not just sustainability but the landlord-tenant relationship.
“The tenant engagement project we are piloting with Green Impact Campaign is an innovative approach to expanding energy efficiency programs beyond the area the landlord controls,” said Chris Brown, FRIT’s sustainability director. “What we found was more than just encouraging! The adoption rate and participation by the tenants significantly exceeded expectations and was incredibly well received as a positive landlord and tenant interaction.”
The pilot will wrap up at the end of the 2016, at which time campaign and FRIT officials will review results and go from there.
“This approach is a total win-win. Students advance their learning while businesses lower their costs,” Hill said. “And in the end, we all have healthier, more profitable communities.”
By Scott Harris. Scott is a freelance writer who lives in Montgomery County and covers the environment and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.