Sustainability
Improving Retirement Living with Energy-Efficient Technology
Randy Michael
Randy Michael

Energy conservation is both a personal and professional passion for me. I am always looking for new ways to reduce energy consumption. I believe each one of us has the capacity to change, to look in our own energy mirror and discover ways to take small steps to reduce energy consumption, conserve natural resources and protect the environment.

That is why I am so excited about a new initiative at Asbury, a not-for-profit organization that manages five senior living communities across the country. The entire community is participating in a new and innovative energy conservation program. The residents at Asbury are truly bringing the 2015 Earth Day theme: It’s Our Turn to life.

Since 2008, Asbury has reduced operating expenses by finding more cost-effective ways to use and purchase gas, electric, water and sewer services. That’s great news. But unless you reduce consumption, you’re simply wasting energy more efficiently. And reducing consumption requires meaningful behavior change.

To change behavior at Asbury, an energy-efficiency plan was developed to create green buildings and engage residents in sustainability. To jump start the program, energy audits were performed and the infrastructure was upgraded in a number of Asbury facilities. Internal stakeholders provided input on the plan, and an energy manager was hired to teach the residents new ways to think about energy. Residents learned the value of taking simple steps like turning off the lights when not in the room, shutting off the water faucet when brushing their teeth, and using Energy Star rated appliances.

Technology also plays a big part of the education and engagement aspect of the Asbury partnership. Large interactive kiosks near each main dining room will allow seniors to view energy consumption in real time as compared with other buildings and other sites. This friendly competition is a real conversation starter, rooting out waste and introducing seniors to state-of-the-art technology.

At the heart of the program are the “Greenability Teams.” These volunteer groups meet each month to learn more about energy issues and to challenge themselves—and each other—to find new ways to reduce energy. In the home setting, residents are switching to energy-efficient lighting, monitoring thermostat settings and using large appliances in the evening when the drain on energy is lowest. In common areas, if the residents see energy being wasted, they are encouraged to notify staff. The end result is less waste, and a reduction in electricity, natural gas and water use.

These small changes really add up. Over five years, it is estimated that this energy program will cut carbon dioxide waste by 5,515 tons, equivalent to the emissions from 1,161 cars. In addition, we will reduce electricity by 6.6 million kilowatt hours. It would take 23,000 trees to remove the amount of carbon dioxide produced by that much electricity.

Resident lives are enriched through education, social interaction, improved air quality and healthy physical environment. And the cost savings are being reinvested in the Asbury facilities to cover the cost of improvements that benefit the residents. Now that’s a real win for the residents, for Asbury and for Mother Earth!

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Randy Michael is Senior Director, Energy Management Services for Sodexo.

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