How Companies Can Bridge the ‘Gigaton Gap’ and Make Money

Environment & Energy (06/19/13) Cusick, Daniel

A new study estimates that U.S. businesses that strive to curb carbon emissions by 3 percent annually through 2020 could gain as much as $190 billion from reduced energy bills. However, failure to curtail greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this decade could make it more difficult to meet carbon reduction goals over the long term, according to the report from the World Wildlife Fund and CDP based on an analysis by McKinsey & Co. Such failure could also increase the risk of business disruptions caused by extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and severe storms, the report states. Climate activists say U.S. businesses will need to close the “gigaton gap,” referring to the amount of CO2 expected to be emitted by the U.S. corporate sector by 2020 and the level of emissions necessary to prevent the planet from warming by 2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels. To achieve this, U.S. businesses must slash 1.2 billion tons (1.2 gigatons), or 25 percent, from their current annual emissions levels of 4.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent by 2020, requiring a roughly 3 percent reduction in the U.S. business sector’s CO2 emissions every year for the next six years. Hundreds of U.S. companies have already started investing in carbon reduction programs while enhancing their profit margins, according to McKinsey’s Steve Swartz, the report’s lead author. Paul Simpson, chief executive officer of CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, says the report shows that companies’ senior management must direct more financial capital toward programs and technologies to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and other carbon-intensive processes. “Investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy saves cost, stimulates innovation, creates jobs, and builds energy independence and security,” he says.

Making Energy Efficiency Attractive for Owners of Older Seattle Buildings

New York Times (06/19/13) Barringer, Felicity

For commercial building owners, replacing furnaces or boilers or reconfiguring the building’s shell involves sinking millions of dollars into an asset that the owner may want to get rid of long before the investment has paid off. However, a program at the Bullitt Foundation’s new building in Seattle is aimed at attracting the notice of commercial building owners around the country who may be reluctant to make heavy investments in such technologies. Under the program, if they, or investors, put in the capital for major efficiency retrofits, new revenue, based on precise measurements of energy savings, will keep coming in for decades. Currently, building owners, utilities, and utility regulators who underwrite some efficiency measures remain somewhat skeptical of what are called “deep retrofits,” such as swapping out furnaces, boilers, or the building shell itself — particularly for older, smaller commercial buildings, which, according to a new report, account for 47 percent of all commercial real estate outside the world of malls. Seattle City Light has agreed to the long-term purchase of energy savings from the Bullitt Foundation, whose new building is known for being ultra-thrifty with water and power. The savings will be measured by a new software program from EnergyRM, using a new kind of meter that will, from one day to the next, track and verify how much savings have occurred. The plan intends to ensure that utilities lose none of the revenue that supports their fixed costs while allowing them access to a new power source. The energy not used by Bullitt or any other building is purchased by the utility in a 30-year contract, just as if they were purchasing hydropower or coal-fired electricity. The building has already paid market rates for the unused kilowatt-hours. Seattle City Light buys them back for resale, paying for what were christened “nega-watts” more than three decades ago. The working estimate is that Bullitt will use about one-third of the electricity a new building constructed to city codes would use — a saving of more than 500,000 kilowatt-hours annually. For that savings, Seattle City Light would pay about $44,000.

Energy Department Launches New Database on Residential and Commercial Building Energy Performance

The Energy Department today launched a new Buildings Performance Database, the largest free, publicly available database of residential and commercial building energy performance information. Currently, commercial and residential buildings account for approximately 70% of the electricity consumption in the nation. The database strengthens the Department’s commitment to provide U.S. industry, state and local governments, and researchers with innovative energy data tools that can help cut energy waste and save money.

This database will allow users to access energy performance data and perform statistical analyses on more than 60,000 commercial and residential buildings across the country, and new records are being added regularly. The database includes buildings’ location; age; size and function; electricity and fuel consumption; equipment information and operational characteristics. The data can also be used to compare performance trends among similar buildings, identify and prioritize cost-saving energy efficiency improvements, and assess the range of likely savings from these improvements. An application programming interface (API) will allow external software developers to incorporate analytical results from the database into their own tools and services.

The database tools have been designed to meet the content and usability needs of public agencies, building owners and managers, contractors, energy efficiency program administrators, and financial institutions, with over 1,000 users testing the site since March 2013. The Department hopes that public and private stakeholders will continue to submit data and expand the resource. All data is made anonymous and protected by stringent privacy and security protocols.

The Buildings Performance Database was developed for the Department’s Building Technologies Office by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Building Energy Inc. The Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality.

Denver Energy Challenge Celebrates Past, Present and Future Savings Of Over $10 Million

June 12th event recognizes program achievements, participants and partners and announces next steps

Denver Energy Challenge logo

Denver Environmental Health’s Denver Energy Challenge staff, partners and participants will celebrate more than $10 million in energy savings and announce the program’s next steps at a recognition event from 4 to 6 p.m. June 12 at the Pepsi Center.

Denver’s Energy Challenge: Past, Present and Future, will highlight the culmination of grant funds utilized to build a program that has helped more than 6,260 homes and 1,260 businesses become more energy efficient since launching in 2010. The event will also provide the opportunity for the City to announce new expanded efforts to provide sustainability services for businesses and residents.

Attendees include speakers and representatives from the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, U.S. Department of Energy, Xcel Energy, EnergySmart in Boulder County, Colorado Energy Office, energy efficiency contractors, program partners and homes and businesses who reduced more than 49 million kilowatt hours (enough to power Red RocksAmphitheatre for 55 years) and saved more than $10 million over the life of their upgrades.

The Denver Energy Challenge provides no-cost energy advising for residents and its low-cost energy loans are available for Denver residents and businesses to help increase energy efficiency and sustainability.

“Our partners are committing to real improvements in their communities by integrating energy efficiency into thousands of homes and businesses across the nation as a result of the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program,” said Danielle Sass Byrnett, Director of the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, Building Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy. “Programs such as the Denver Energy Challenge are leading the way to a range of benefits, including new jobs and economic growth, increased energy security, reduced waste, and a cleaner environment for our families.”

For more information about the Denver Energy Challenge, visit

For more information about the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Neighborhood program, visit

Make it a Green Easter

Easter is just around the corner – here are a few tips from Huffington Post on how to make your holiday a little bit greener:

The Eggs: 
Most supermarket eggs come from notoriously filthy and inhumane commercial outfits, not old MacDonald’s farm. As the conditions of factory farms come to roost, many conscious consumers are demanding eggs that meet environmentally sound standards. You can demand the same by purchasing USDA organic eggs. For extra eco-brownie points, support your local farm. Find yours at

The Homemade Eggs: 
If you’re super eco-conscious and vegan, then you’re probably skipping the laid eggs altogether. Good for you, but don’t get tempted to the dollar-store’s jumbo plastic selection. Make your own “fake ones” with homemade paper-mache or cornstarch clay.

The Egg Dyes: 
Skip the unholy mess of pellets and artificial food dyes. Fruits, vegetables and spices offer a wide range of color possibilities: from bright red to lavender, orange and blue. Just boil eggs (local and organic please) in water and a teaspoon of vinegar. Add ingredients below for desired color. Let simmer for at least 15 minutes. For a darker shade place the brew in the fridge for some overnight saturation.

Pink: beets, cranberries, frozen raspberries.
Red: red onionskins.
Orange: yellow onionskins.
Lavender: grape juice.
Light Yellow: orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, celery seed or ground cumin.
Yellow: Ground turmeric, saffron.
Pale Green: spinach leaves.
Blue: canned blueberries, red cabbage leaves.
Beige/Brown: strong brewed coffee.

Eggs dyed with onionskins, from

The Candy: 
Peeps, lollipops, pecan nougat, jellybeans, and even Smucker’s Puckers are just a few Easter favorites. Aside from creating hyperactive chaos on Easter morning, Easter candies are grossly over-packaged. Yes, it is nice to get your egg in perfect condition, but does it really need to come swaddled in corrugated body armor? Look for the candies that come in the least amount of packaging. Cadbury Schweppes has the idea and is now offering eggs wrapped only in foil and without a cardboard box, cutting the company’s Easter packaging by 798,073 pounds.

The Chocolate: 
As most of us know, chocolate comes from the cocoa bean, a crop harvested in some of the most economically and environmentally disadvantaged parts of the third world. According to reports from the BBC and New York Times, cocoa producing regions are writhe with environmental and humanitarian iniquity.

This Easter, why give your children chocolate made from the sweat and sometimes even blood of less fortunate children? Swap the waxy dollar-store chocolate for organic and fair trade alternatives. Fair trade certification ensures chocolate is made under both environmental and humanitarian standards. According to the Fair Trade Organization (FTO), these standards are quite stringent, ensuring the minimum use and safe handling of agrochemicals, conservation of water, controls on gathering from the wild and deforestation, a ban on GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). For a list of delicious organic and fair trade chocolate options click here.

The Bunnies: Live or Stuffed? 
According to the House Rabbit Society, a national, nonprofit bunny welfare organization, each spring, unwanted, “former Easter rabbits” fill local rescues, humane societies and worse dumpsters. Unless you’re in it for the long haul and know how to take care of one, please, don’t put a live bunny in your Easter basket! Leave little Peter Cottontail be . . . to hop down the old bunny trail . . . hippity hoppity, Easter’s on its way.

An Eco-Friendly Custodial Closet Makeover

Our GBS team is available to assess the needs of your facility, why and how certain cleaning tools and equipment are currently being used, and fine tune your green cleaning goals. We can also look at what cleaning products and equipment are already stored in the custodial closet, as well as the overall appearance of your facility. This tells us a lot about how effective the  current cleaning program is, where there may be room for improvement, and where worker productivity could potentially be improved.

The Green Starts Here

In an effort to do our part in sustaining the environment, we are driven to practice what we preach. Running a janitorial company faces a unique set of challenges when going green. It has become our policy to try it out in our office first, and if it works, we’ll introduce it to our clients:

USE SLEEP MODE – Electronics left on idle waste enough power each year to suck the usage of 18 power plants

RE-USE – Re-use everything you can, from memos to storage bin.

THINK BEFORE YOU TOSS – The average person produces 1,600 pounds of garbage each year.  Can it be re-used?

USE GREEN PRODUCTS – What we do should be for other’s benefit just as much as it is our own.  We only have one earth.  So far.

Eco-Friendly Snow and Ice Removal

One recurring question our building managers have this time of year – what’s the best way to remove snow and ice without destroying the earth?   The best and cleanest way is naturally not the easiest – it takes some hard labor. Shovel the snow and break up the ice. That’s the best way.

Snowblowers are loud, annoying to neighbors and gas-guzzling.  Plus, they don’t clear away the ice that’s beneath the snow.   But an electric snowblower uses less energy, makes less noise, and gives off no emissions in stark contrast to its gas-powered counterparts – so if you must blow snow, electric is definitely the way to go.

If you cannot break up the ice that’s built up, sprinkle something gritty on the ice for traction until it melts naturally – sand, cat litter, or even bird seed are good choices.  These things won’t melt your ice, but they’ll help you travel over it safely until sunshine and warmer temperatures do make the ice disappear.  But too much of anything can be bad for storm drains.  Sprinkle sparingly and let Mother Nature do her job.

If you simply can’t wait for Mother Nature to take care of things, you can melt the ice.  Lots of people use salt for their driveways and walkways.  Salt is a really abundant, naturally occurring resource. It shouldn’t hurt the environment, right? Wrong! Salt can get into our waterways and poison the fish and vegetation. It is also corrosive and can damage cars, leading to reduced sustainability of vehicles.  Whenever possible, avoid using salt as a deicer.  Calcium magnesium acetate-based deicer is expensive, but it is a more environmentally friendly ice remover than rock salt.

Heat.  If you are up for a project –  install a radiant heating system into your driveway. This method uses electricity, but if you power the heated driveway in an eco-friendly manner, this can potentially be the easiest way to remove snow and ice.

Being from eco-friendly place like Boulder – there’s a company out there who really does this right.  We’re happy to recommend Eco Snow Removal’s services to our Boulder county clients.

Our Green Cleaning Shopping List

With the onset of winter come long, lazy days spent inside gazing at…..DIRT!  DIRT EVERYWHERE!  If you simply can’t relax until the place is sparkling, head out to your local market and pick up these essentials:

  • Distilled white vinegar (sold in the cooking section of most supermarkets)
  • Baking soda
  • Olive oil
  • Borax (sold in a box in the laundry aisle)
  • Liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s brand, found in most natural foods stores)
  • Essential oils (super concentrated natural plant oils found in natural foods stores, usually in the cosmetics section)
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths
  • Newspaper

Here are a few basic “recipes” and techniques to get you started:

  • Glass: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Spray on glass and wipe clean with old newspaper or a lint-free cloth.
  • Countertops and bathroom tile: Mix 2 parts vinegar and 1 part baking soda with 4 parts water. Apply with a sponge, scour, and wipe away.
  • Floors: Mix 4 cups of white distilled vinegar with about a gallon of hot water. If desired, add a few drops of pure peppermint or lemon oil for a pleasant scent. After damp mopping the floors, the smell of vinegar will dissipate quickly, leaving behind only the scent of the oil.
  • Wood furniture: Mix equal parts of lemon juice and olive and oil. Apply a small amount to a cloth, and rub onto the furniture in long, even strokes.
  • Toilet bowl cleaner: Sprinkle a toilet brush with baking soda and scrub away! Occasionally disinfect your toilet by scrubbing with borax instead. Wipe the outside of the toilet clean with straight vinegar.
  • Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, 3 cups hot water, and 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use a spray bottle. Wipe clean.
  • Mold and mildew: Wipe with straight vinegar.
  • Air freshener: Sprinkle essential oil on a cotton ball, and stash it in a corner of the room. If you have kids, make sure it is out of their reach as essential oils are very strong and could irritate their skin. Lavender is a relaxing scent that is great for bedrooms, and cinnamon, clove, and citrus oils are great for the rest of the house. You can stash a few in the car too—try peppermint, which may help you to stay alert.

Why Green Clean?

Green cleaning is defined as cleaning to protect health without harming the environment. It has been found that widely used cleaning products can have serious adverse effects on the health of building occupants and janitors. At the same time, these cleaning products are harming the environment. Green cleaning is a widely accepted movement to make cleaning for the health of building occupants and janitors a primary concern, while minimizing the harm to the environment through better purchasing practices and cleaning processes. Green cleaning means emphasizing the environmental sustainability of cleaning operations and overall building health (i.e. indoor air quality) and not solely evaluating building cleanliness based on appearance.

How does green cleaning work?
Green cleaning is more than just substituting chemicals; it involves choosing cleaning processes that improve the health of a building. Methods include preventing dirt and dust from entering the building and using effective and efficient cleaning methods, such as HEPA filtration vacuums and micro fiber cloths. The focus on the process of cleaning means that custodial training is an integral step in the process; in addition, comprehensive training is required to ensure that custodians are using the products in a safe and ef1icient manner. Green cleaning also takes into consideration the product’s entire life cycle, favoring concentrated products that are packaged in reduced, refil1ab1e, or recyclable packaging.

Benefits of a green cleaning program
Health benefits for workers: Most people spend 90% of their time indoors, forcing them to be exposed to the chemicals that are used in buildings. The chemicals used in cleaning products have been linked to multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome, allergies, contact dermatitis, headaches, dry eyes, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Instituting a green cleaning program helps to improve indoor air quality, which in tum, helps to increase workers’ productivity, decrease absenteeism, and reduce medical and insurance costs.

Health benefits for custodians: Custodians spend their entire day working with harmful chemicals, giving them an increased chance of injury. Cleaning chemicals can cause many health problems for custodians, including: eye damage, skin burns, headaches, asthma, organ damage, reproductive disorders, and cancer. The Janitorial Products Pollution estimates that the average janitor uses about 23 gallons of chemicals per year, of which 25% hazardous.  Switching to green cleaning products and processes decreases the overall use chemicals and hazardous products, which decreases risk of injury to custodians.

Environmental benefits: Cleaning products contain many ingredients that produce environmental effects. Two examples include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contribute to photochemical smog, tropospheric ozone, and carcinogenic indoor air quality, and phosphates and nitrates that contribute to eutrophication in waterways.

Contact GBS at if you’d like an estimate to take your office cleaning program to the next level.