Andy Cole, Climate Neutral Officer at the World Food Programme, explains the dramatic impact awareness raising efforts have had in reducing WFP’s greenhouse gas emissions and costs in Senegal, and outlines the steps necessary to running a successful emissions reduction campaign.
When it comes to helping the environment, WFP staff often ask: "Does everyone doing a little bit really make a difference?" Asking themselves that question, staff from the regional bureau in Dakar, Senegal, took a few simple steps to raise awareness among colleagues about the energy they used, and what they could do to reduce it. And the answer they found is ‘Yes’! It really does make a difference. In fact it resulted in a 24% reduction in both energy consumption and GHG emissions from 2010 to 2012, and savings of more than US$18,000.
STEP 1: Understanding energy use and identifying opportunities
Energy efficiency in the workplace can help organisations cut costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Research suggests that businesses can easily save up to 10% off their energy bills through low and no cost measures – and some save much more.
The first step in reducing energy consumption is to understand where it is being used most. Emergency Preparedness Officer Lucas Riegger, and other like-minded Green Champions (UN staff who volunteer to promote sustainability issues among their colleagues) in the Dakar bureau knew their offices well and quickly identified some key areas where efficiency gains could be made. Air-conditioning thermostats were set at very low temperatures, and rooms that got too cool were ‘warmed' by opening windows rather than turning the air-conditioning down or off. Unnecessary printing was too frequent and single-sided was the norm. Vehicles were left idling with the air-conditioning switched on and windows open.
Quantifying energy consumption is important to understand what impacts efficiency measures will have. WFP's annual greenhouse gas inventory collects energy use data for every WFP premises, globally. The electricity and generator fuel consumed is reported by each operation, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions are estimated, and the results are shared with regional and country office staff. This data acts as a baseline from which changes in energy use and emissions can be measured, allowing the Dakar team to work out whether their greening efforts were paying off.
STEP 2: Prioritising Actions
Simple behaviour change is one of most cost-effective ways to save energy and reduce emissions, and should be a priority for all energy saving initiatives. To start, the Senegal Green Champions knew they had to raise awareness. For staff to become engaged, they need to be aware of the energy consumption they have the power to control, so it's important everyone is aware that:
• They're using energy throughout the working day;
• Some things we do at work use more energy than others;
• A few simple changes can lead to big reductions in energy consumption; and
• Reducing energy consumption is important!
STEP 3: Getting started and changing behaviour
Lucas got the awareness raising campaign underway with some modest messaging e.g. ‘print less and print double sided’. Posters went up above the printers, and the local IT experts were asked to change default settings to black and white and ‘recto-verso’ printing. All-staff messages were sent out to the entire bureau on World Environment Day, drawing their attention to the environmental impacts of energy consumption and resource use.
Next came awareness raising posters developed by the Climate Neutral team in Rome. These included tips and information on the environmental benefits of switching off electrical equipment when not in use, meeting online to reduce the need for air travel, maintaining air-conditioning at 23°C, and taking the stairs rather than the elevator—simple things that everyone can do.
STEP 4: Measuring the impact
Energy awareness campaigns and behaviour change are just part of a menu of potential energy-saving actions. Their effectiveness has been shown, but it's difficult to put numbers on actual reductions in energy use and emissions. It's easy to calculate the effect of replacing a 100 watt incandescent lamp with a 12 watt fluorescent bulb, but measuring the difference of someone deciding to turn their air-conditioning thermostat up a notch or two requires more complicated calculations. However, when energy consumption drops from one year to the next, and activity levels in the office have remained the same, indications are that people's awareness of their energy use has been heightened and they are changing their energy habits.
This has certainly happened in Dakar. Electricity use from the national grid dropped by more than 41,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) from 2010 to 2012, and diesel consumption from the generators - used to provide electricity during power cuts - fell by 3,000 litres. When both electricity sources are combined, savings totaled around 52,500 kWh. That's about the same amount of electricity used in 14 average UK homes in a year. Less energy also means fewer greenhouse gas emissions: a reduction of 38 tonnes on 2010 – or 24%. Then there are the cost savings…more than US$18,000.
Numbers aside, some positive behaviour change has also been noted. Cedric Charpentier, former regional Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping Officer and fellow green champion explained:
"Some staff didn't know that aircon settings could be adjusted, and thermostats were often set to 16°C, with the windows open. That just doesn't happen anymore."
"In some offices staff have rearranged their desks to make the most of natural ventilation, and now they rarely use air-conditioning at all. We've also noticed a difference in printing habits too. Nearly every document that comes out is printed double-sided or on reused paper. The printer has jammed a few times, but it hasn't discouraged anyone. Staff seem to be embracing these initiatives."
STEP 5: Maintaining momentum
The Dakar office has made great progress in energy efficiency and sustainability, but often the hardest part is keeping the momentum up. An energy awareness campaign is a great way to get people thinking about energy, but the messaging needs to be part of an ongoing process. If we only ever saw one advertisement for a product, would we keep buying it? We don't need billboards in every office, but regular reinforcement, without overdoing it, helps to retain interest. Studies in the UK show that awareness campaigns should ideally be refreshed every eighteen months or so, to reach newly arrived staff, and help make sure the rest of us don't slip back into old habits.
The fact that energy use fell so dramatically in 2011, and fell further in 2012, indicates staff continue to practice good energy habits. Even so, the Senegal team is set to conduct a refresher campaign in 2014.
Continuing to communicate messages, but at longer intervals, is a good idea. This is particularly important in an organisation like WFP where staff are so mobile. Keep the posters up, but change the content from time to time. Try to identify what works and what doesn't and adjust the messaging accordingly. And when new equipment is purchased keep an eye on the energy consumption and sustainability credentials. Advances in technology mean it's often possible to replace older equipment with more efficient models, while maintaining the same performance characteristics.
Above all, it's vital to continue monitoring the effectiveness of the programme. Ask staff if they now think more about the energy they consume and the resources they use. Ask them what messages strike a chord and what doesn't. And keep looking at the numbers. Accurate recording of energy use data from electricity bills and fuel records makes energy and greenhouse gas reporting much easier. It also provides a benchmark from which to measure achievements. Even if direct quantification can't be made, displaying a downwards trending energy consumption graph in the office can do wonders for staff morale and indeed shows that if everyone does a little bit, it really does make a difference.
Find out more about becoming a Green Champion and meet like-minded colleagues in your office and organization.