When Dale Dental's Dave Lesh told Cal-Lab members in Chicago how much the hotel industry saves every time we don't request fresh towels delivered to our rooms daily, he jokingly suggested we go out of our way to demand them. Under the "guise" of saving the planet by saving water and energy, he said, the industry is saving $250 million a year in towel-and-sheet-reuse programs.
Here's the real point: it's no guise! The fact that hotels can save money and conserve natural resources is fantastic. Dave was pointing out that hotels aren't being "transparent"--the buzz word in Washington these days--about how these towel-and-sheet-reuse programs also augment their bottom lines.
For many years it was a struggle to be environmentally responsible without cutting too deeply into profit margins but this has changed and continues to evolve. Industry has finally found ways to protect our environment and save money at the same time. It isn't an either/or consideration; we don't have to sacrifice luxuries or profits to do our part.
I like to think of being socially responsible as living in a world of transparent green. It means thinking responsibly about how we use our resources; in whatever ways we can--even as simple as using energy-efficient light bulbs when practical and timers on night lights--every little bit contributes to the whole.
It may have taken 40 years--(so did Moses)--but it really is a drop in the time-bucket; this issue of LMT celebrates Earth Day's 40th Anniversary* with stories about how laboratories and manufacturers are protecting our environment, saving energy and maximizing their return on investments. These are good and self-protecting things we're doing and our request for examples of green solutions met with enthusiastic responses from members of our community.
Here's an example of my own: we got HVAC estimates for LMT's new building using a variety of systems. One choice was tax-creditable under-the-floor radiant heat--a not-yet-mainstream and extremely expensive option. It would have been ideal for our space because the common area ceilings are over 28-feet high and we have no need to heat the air space above our heads. The cost, however, was double a standard system. It would take well over 15 years to see any financial return on this investment. If I was 30, I may have gone for it.
Instead, we came up with a shoe-string strategy: we opted for the more affordable, traditional HVAC system but purchased high-efficiency furnaces and A/C units that also came with a tax credit. Then we used the more expensive but very air-tight foam insulation (instead of fiberglass batts) in the roof and installed reversible ceiling fans. The tightly sealed and well-insulated building holds temperatures steady for hours after the timed heating or cooling setbacks. We found that the cost ratio of our utility bills to building size is considerably lower in comparison to that of our previous office space.
On the other hand, back in our more idealistic days many years ago, my husband actually packed a brick in our suitcase to take to his folks in Florida. He installed this brick in the tank of their toilet to reduce the amount of water used per flush. Laugh all you want. This was his way of making a statement to show his love for our planet and it was well intended. Since then, both of us have become a lot less zealous and have come down to earth.
In other words, everything in moderation; we do what we can comfortably do. Of course, here at LMT we also do all the things that have become commonplace since Earth Day made its debut: we have separate containers for recycling, cut up used sheets of paper for internal note pads, reuse paper clips and shipping materials and use energy-efficient light bulbs wherever possible, even though I'm not the mood-lighting type and love everything to be bright. And green.
*Earth Day was founded by former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Seven years in the making, Earth Day made its debut on April 22, 1970, after Nelson "repackaged" his idea as a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment.