Energy Efficiency Week (as part of Climate Week)
We all use energy in our everyday lives, and it is necessary for the work many of us do. It is easy to then dismiss the idea of saving energy in the workplace, especially if your work is mainly done on a computer. In the month of August at the five biggest Scottish Government sites we used enough energy to power a TV for a staggering 367 years, which in turn generated enough CO2 to fill 730 Edinburgh trams! The Carbon Trust estimates that UK businesses waste between 10% and 20% of the energy they buy, so it is likely that we could reduce this figure through better energy use habits.
We’re promoting the idea that everyone can ‘Make Small Changes’ to their working habits in order to reduce energy consumption in the workplace. Being more careful about the way you use energy at work is a useful habit to get into, as it can be transferred to home energy use and can then directly save you money. Although the figures on workplace energy use can seem daunting, if everyone does their bit we can reduce our energy consumption, save money and cut our carbon footprint.
Let’s Get the Show on the Road
For Energy Saving Week we took our ‘Make Small Changes’ roadshow to three of our biggest buildings.
The aim of our roadshow was to make people think about the energy they use, and how they can reduce it both at work and in the home. We realise that it’s difficult for individuals in some of our buildings to reduce their energy use. We think it’s important that people understand that they may be limited in what they can do to save energy at work, but if everyone makes small changes, the overall effect will be significant.
At the roadshows we gave out some new leaflets that give a wealth of tips on saving energy in the home and at work. Lots of people tried out our hand-powered electricity generator, to find out just how much energy goes into lighting up an old-fashioned incandescent bulb, and how little effort is needed to run a modern efficient LED bulb with the same light output. To reinforce this message we also gave away a selection of big and small LED light bulbs for people to try out at home. Home Energy Scotland came along too, giving out lots of practical advice about how people can save energy at home at no cost. They also helped people request surveys of their homes to find out more about condensation and ventilation, insulation, and upgrades to boilers and windows.
Workplace Energy Saving
Many of us use computers for the majority of our work, which means they are turned on for most of our working day. However, there are still ways to use them more efficiently and save energy. There are a few myths about the way computers use energy, which can lead to the belief that it is more efficient to leave them on. For example, some believe repeatedly turning computers off reduces their lifespan, wasting the energy needed to produce new ones. This isn’t actually true; leaving computers on when not in use reduces their lifespan because moving parts wear out faster.
Likewise, many people believe a computer monitor uses less energy when the screen saver is on. In fact, LCD screens use the same amount of energy no matter what colour they’re displaying, so it is more efficient to just switch them off. Turning off one PC monitor which is usually left on overnight and at weekends saves 1kg CO2 every year. That’s potentially 1kg per person, which can really add up when you consider a whole organisation. As well as making sure it’s off when you leave the office, consider turning your monitor off any time it’s not in use – whether you’re at a meeting, making a cup of tea or even just reading through some paper documents.
Along with computers, other office equipment could be used more efficiently. If you’re the last person to leave the office at night, check things have been switched off rather than left to go on standby. A photocopier left on overnight wastes enough energy to produce over 1500 copies, so making sure yours is switched off could make a big saving.
It’s also worth considering whether you’re using the most efficient appliances. In our area at Saughton House we had four devices (two printers, a scanner and a photocopier), all using energy even when they were not in use. We replaced these with an efficient Multi-Function Device (MFD) which could perform all the functions of the existing devices. The MFD has a secure ‘follow me’ function for printing, whereby staff can send something to print then scan their card on the printer to release it. This reduces the amount of things which are printed but not collected, which was a problem with the previous devices. The four devices we had previously used 11.4 kWh each week, but the new MFD only uses 5.4 kWh a week. It took a bit of time for staff to get used to the new device, but it is undoubtedly more efficient and better for the environment.
It’s not just the equipment used in a working day that can waste energy: the office space itself can be inefficient. A dripping tap wastes enough energy in a year to fill over 3,000 soft drink bottles, so it is important to report all faults of this nature. Nobody likes working in a warm stuffy office, but make sure the heating isn’t on before you open a window. Also make sure you close any open windows at the end of the day, as a typical window left open overnight wastes enough energy to drive a small car over 35 miles!
Home Energy Saving
Getting into good habits at work will help you be more aware of your energy use at home, where you could make real savings through more efficient habits. There are things you can do at home which will make a real reduction to your annual energy bills. Turning appliances off completely instead of leaving them on standby may seem like an obvious one, but it can make a real difference. A study carried out by Uswitch found that up to £80 is wasted in the average home due to appliances left on standby. As you can see from the infographic, TVs are the worst offenders but people are also likely to leave games consoles and set top boxes on standby. When you consider what you could do with an extra £80 a year, making sure you switch appliances off at the wall suddenly seems worth it!
It is also important to remember to unplug chargers for devices such as mobile phones and tablets, as these can use energy even when not connected to a device. If chargers for devices such as mobile phones were unplugged when not in use, the UK could save enough energy each year to power 115,000 homes. This is more evidence that small individual changes can make a big difference.
Another simple thing which could save you money is using energy saving lightbulbs. Which? Magazine found that if you replace 10 lightbulbs with energy saving ones, you could save up to £70 a year on your energy bills. Energy saving lightbulbs have come down in price in recent years so this is definitely worth doing, and can also be transferred to the workplace: if you use a desk lamp, consider using an energy saving bulb.
Check out the Energy Saving Trust for more information on saving energy in your home and money on your energy bills.
For more information about energy consumption on the Scottish Government estate, have a look at our Sustainability Performance data.