Monday, August 18, 2008

Sustainability? We're all about that!

Sustainability at Second Wind is more of a work in progress than an accomplishment. Some things we’ve done from the start, more from frugality than some green ethic. Sure, we get extra credit for being in windpower, but most of us extend those values from our work product to our daily activities.

Number one, our facilities have always been in existing buildings. Despite lots of PR about LEED certified this and that, it’s always more sustainable not to build. The average age of the buildings we’ve occupied over the years is about a hundred years old, starting with the fabled spare bedroom in Walter’s house (constructed 1850).

Number two, Second Wind is located in a densely populated area. Somerville is four square miles and has 77,000 residents. We are part of the Boston transit system, and buses and subway are right nearby. No one gets in their cars to get lunch at Second Wind – there are far too many choices within an easy walk in and around Davis Square. Less than half the employees drive to work every day – we have walkers, bikers, T-riders, with the mix depending on the weather. The MBTA offers a T-pass program where employees can get their monthly T-pass with pre-tax dollars, sort of like a transit 401K, and we have quite a few who participate. Our urban location means that even our deliveries are more efficient – the UPS truck’s stops are about 100 yards apart, rather than a long way down some scenic country road. Another fun benefit of being in the Boston metro area is Zipcar. It’s a car sharing service that Second Wind belongs to – employees can use a car for an hour or a day.

I believe our most significant contribution takes no daily effort at all – it’s just being where we are. However, we do have some active efforts as well. All cardboard is recycled, and we also recycle mixed paper. I can tell by looking at the dumpsters that cardboard is about half our total waste – so that’s significant. Those initiatives are courtesy of our landlord and have been in place since we moved to Summer Street. Thanks to the City of Somerville’s comprehensive curbside recycling program, we also recycle cans, bottles, and any plastic with a number on it. Compliance with this is mixed – some people won’t take the extra step, and others are overly enthusiastic and put used paper coffee cups in there.

Speaking of paper coffee cups, those come from outside, not from Second Wind. We have always had an eclectic collection of cups, plates and silverware to eliminate disposable use. There’s a homey cloth dishtowel in the kitchen (changed weekly, thank you very much). Those paper towels we do use are part recycled, as is our TP (from Staples). We're using their recycled content papers for everything, and different stuff for letterhead and marketing collateral.

Our biggest inefficiency is the HVAC system. As we’ve grown, there was no thought put into integrating the systems. Although we are stingy with the thermostat, the balance is not great. We’re looking into that now through our NStar energy audit. We did upgrade our fluorescent lights a few years ago to the more efficient type, and are almost completely switched to the LCD monitors rather than the piggish CRTs. We also applied for the program to get some of our energy from windpower (from the Horizon Maple Ridge project, I believe).

We’ve been participating in Go Green Davis, the Davis Square green business roundtable, to exchange ideas with other companies in the area. As I said, our sustainability is a work in progress rather than an accomplishment.

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