In 2013, the City of Lawrence launched a new educational program for small businesses that provides access to information and tools businesses can use to save energy and money. Green Business Leaders developed from a desire to teach businesses how to slash their energy costs by making relatively simple improvements to buildings. The program graduates would earn recognition as a leader in the business community for their efforts and assist the community in meeting our greenhouse gas reduction targets.

“The City of Lawrence is committed to reducing our energy use, saving taxpayer dollars, and reducing our emissions,” Eileen Horn, County-City Sustainability Coordinator, said. “We believe that businesses are an instrumental partner in reducing our community’s greenhouse gas emissions. Through this new program, we convened experts – from our city, utilities, engineering firms, and business organizations – to share best practices and proven energy-saving strategies with the business community.”

City Commissioner and downtown business owner, Robert Schumm, participated in the program and had an assessment done for both his restaurant and business.

“I thought this was a very valuable exercise in demonstrating how to save energy in large, commercial buildings,” Schumm said. “The program offered many opportunities for businesses to take advantage of to improve their energy efficiency.”

Schumm has started the process to convert his building’s fluorescent lighting to LEDs. Twelve downtown businesses signed up for the inaugural program, which began in January and ended in May 2013. The businesses attended workshops on business friendly energy-efficiency programs, rebates and incentives, lighting and HVAC efficiency solutions, and tracking business energy usage with the Westar SmartStar meter program. Participants received a free walk-through energy assessment from Westar Energy and GBA Architects+Engineers at their business, which targeted building-specific ways to save money and improve efficiency. Businesses committed to share lessons learned from the energy assessment and completed the energy improvement projects identified in the assessment. Participating businesses were: The Roost, Pendleton & Sutton, Paul Werner Architects (OneTwoThree), Mass Street Sweet Shoppe, Shark’s Surf Shop, Weaver’s, Callahan Creek, hobbs., Global Café, Z’s Divine, Gould Evans and Buffalo Bob’s Smokehouse.

“I think the businesses got real value from the program, as they learned the most practical, cost-effective ways to slash their energy costs,” Horn said. “The energy saving measures were simple – changing light bulbs, installing programmable thermostats or setting back thermostats – but the savings were significant.”

 untitledAt Shark’s Surf Shop, the energy assessment found that by replacing T12 lighting fixtures with T8 fixtures and replacing incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs, the business would save $830 per year. Shark’s Surf Shop has since replaced all of the incandescent bulbs in their display window with compact fluorescent bulbs and are considering other changes, as needed, to replace lighting.

“This was a great opportunity for downtown and small businesses,” said Mary Cox, with Shark’s Surf Shop. “The walk-through for the assessment was really beneficial. The staff from Westar and GBA Architects pointed out some really easy ideas that made a lot of sense for our business.”

If each of the participating 12 businesses made the recommended changes to their buildings in their energy assessment reports, they would save $26,000/yr in reduced energy costs, and save the energy equivalent of 22,000 gallons of gasoline or the equivalent energy usage of 30 homes.

“The Green Business Leaders Program really highlights the impact that each small business can have in reducing energy use, saving money, and helping us achieve our community’s sustainability goals,” Horn said. “We look forward to partnering with more businesses in 2014 to learn together how best to save energy and money.”

Several of the participating businesses have already completed retrofits or projects that were recommended as part of the energy assessment.

Sarah Etzel, Vice President of Finance and Operations for Callahan Creek, served as the program lead for the company’s downtown headquarters.

“Taking part in the Green Business Leaders program earlier this year was a great opportunity for us to strengthen our emphasis on conservation, and it supplied us with proactive steps to take for Callahan Creek to become a greener business,” Etzel said.

 untitled“We took particular interest in the findings from the energy audit, which included a thorough review of our energy costs as well as recommendations for simple changes we could make to reduce our energy consumption and decrease our operating expenses. For example, the audit revealed that we could recognize substantial savings by simply replacing any incandescent lamps that we had with compact fluorescent light bulbs, which is a change we have since undertaken throughout the majority of our facility.”

“This was one of the best opportunities for downtown and our business,” Cox said. “The representatives were thorough and informative throughout the whole process. Everything was great – the speakers, the programs – I would give it an A+.”

The Green Business Leaders Program was sponsored by the City of Lawrence, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, Westar Energy, GBA Architects+Engineers and Downtown Lawrence Inc. The 2014 program will expand to a city-wide program. ■

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