By Cameron M. Burns, CLEER
(December 17, 2013)
When employees at Alpine Bank started looking at reducing the bank’s environmental impacts in the early 2000s, no one knew what might be possible in terms of energy reduction—if anything at all. Today, a decade later, a third of the 36 branches in Alpine’s network have achieved energy savings topping 40 percent, and most of the rest are saving between 10 to 40 percent of their previous energy use.
Alpine Bank’s environmental efforts began in 2003 when bank employees formed an initiative to reduce the bank’s impacts. The idea soon grew into a dedicated employee-driven “Green Team.” The team decided to strive for ISO 14001 certification, a rigorous, internationally-recognized environmental management standard. In 2006, the team earned this global distinction with its comprehensive action plan that included ways to save energy, water, and paper—and devised ways to minimize impacts of vehicle fleets, cleaning products and more.
All told, in the decade since Alpine Bank started on a path to reducing its environmental impact, Alpine Bank’s facilities manager John Evans estimates the bank has saved about $250,000 on its energy, water, paper and courier fuel reductions. “What is so amazing is that this was downright daunting at first, and we had more questions than answers,” said Evans. “As it turns out our capital investment in upgrades was minimal, we realized huge results, and much of the work was far easier that we thought it would be.”
Another unintended and positive result of the bank’s green initiative was the introduction of the popular Environmental Loyalty Check Card, a program that has reinvested $918,000 in grants that support local environmental nonprofits since it was introduced in 2004.
All told, 14 branches cut energy use by 30 percent or more, and 21 branches cut energy use by 20 percent or better. There are more astonishing success stories, illustrated by some branch locations that chose to fully engage with the Green Team and its recommendations:
- Between 2006 and 2012, the Breckenridge branch cut energy use by 63 percent;
- Telluride cut energy use by 55 percent; and
- Dillon cut energy use by 47 percent.
Alpine Bank has also added Clean Energy Economy for the Region’s (CLEER), a Carbondale-based clean energy non-profit, Energy Navigator to several of its branches and buildings, allowing Evans to monitor energy use in those facilities.
Alpine Bank’s Central Operations building monitors its electricity use and sub-meters the electricity needs of its sizable data center. Energy Navigator helped verify that heating and cooling was being well managed with programmable thermostats and helped facility managers engage with bank workers to continue to trim energy use at the site.
The Central Operations’ data center recently received a major “free cooling” upgrade. Anytime the outdoor temperature is cool, costly air conditioning units are automatically turned off and fresh air is used to keep servers cool. Energy Navigator verified a 25 percent savings from this upgrade and the GarfieldEnergyNavigator.org website also provides humidity data to help facility managers remotely monitor equipment performance each day.
“When it’s cold enough the free cooling system operates 24 hours a day and saves us 25 percent,” said Evans. “The AC units come on when the outdoor air is above 50 so the savings is reduced on warmer days. So during the coldest months we can save up to 4,200 kilowatt-hours per month—worth up to $460 at 11 cents a kilowatt-hour.”
Alpine Bank’s Grand Junction bank branch and office tower recently received new computerized heating/cooling controls, and Energy Navigator is providing charts of 15-minute electricity and gas use to help facility managers tune controls for maximum energy savings.
Evans credits Alpine Bank VP David Miller, Green Team Chairman, for leading the Green Team to its various achievements, which have included national, regional, and local environmental awards for individual bank locations and Alpine Bank as a whole. Not only that, but the organizational culture has transformed to one of environmental responsibility and sustainability, an ethos that is becoming top-of-mind with each of Alpine Bank’s 500 employees.
“You know, the really fascinating thing about this is that saving resources and reducing carbon emissions can be relatively easy, inexpensive, rewarding, and offer a good ROI,” said Evans. “Plus it’s the socially responsible thing to do.”