It’s not easy being green, but that’s not stopping Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont from taking major steps towards increasing the energy efficiency of its Berlin headquarters, as well as encouraging employees to take measures at work to improve the company’s “green” potential.
BCBSVT has teamed with local environmental organizations, including Efficiency Vermont, to offset many of the expenses associated with greener operations. For instance, the company’s heating bills dropped by 30 percent within two years of installing the heat system, and energy efficient lighting upgrades saves BCBSVT around 12 percent per month on its electricity bills. Perhaps most impressive is the company’s waste management monthly costs, which dropped by more the 45 percent as the company recycles and composts more and more garbage.
Here’s a list of some of the green initiatives taking place at BCBSVT:
- BCBSVT’s facilities department installed 208 new energy-efficient light ballasts in the Berlin headquarters’ second floor south wing in 2011. These energy-efficient lights are scheduled for installation company-wide in the near future. On most of the floors in Berlin, the light ballasts consist of four fluorescent bulbs. The new, two-bulb ballasts draw less power and could save the company up to 68 percent per light in energy costs.
- Facilities also continued replacing the older, 400-watt parking lot fixtures by installing new energy-efficient lights. BCBSVT partnered with Efficiency Vermont and purchased the 150-watt LED parking area bulbs for much cheaper than the retail rate. These lights, located on sides of the Berlin building, cost $165. Efficiency Vermont is subsidizing $150 of that cost. Facilities replaced 23 of the fixtures in April and plans on installing 17 more next year.
- In agreements with Green Mountain Power and EnerNOC, BCBSVT uses its onsite generator during peak energy times, such as hot summer days and snow-making months. GMP alerts BCBSVT to turn on the generator at the Berlin office for three to four hours since it operates at a lower rate per kilowatt. For that convenience, GMP pays BCBSVT a premium which ends up saving the company approximately $20,000 on our electrical bill annually. EnerNOC also gives BCBSVT $1,000 per month to periodically go offline and use our generator. Both measures save BCBSVT around $30,000 per year on its utility bills.
- BCBSVT’s ongoing composting program, started in 2006, has resulted in more than 50 tons of material composted, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 25,000 gallons. Every two weeks, the Montpelier-based Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District visits the Berlin offices and hauls away truckloads of compostable material. This material is then distributed to local compost facilities.
- The company also actively recycles materials, especially returnable bottles and cans. BCBSVT’s Employee Association gathers the returnable bottles and cans, putting the deposit refund towards in-house events. In 2010, the Employee Association collected $283.30.
- BCBSVT recycles its shredded documents in creative ways, as well. SecurShred helped BCBSVT further cut waste costs another 60 percent by recycling most of the shredded paper for farmers to use as bedding for their animals. At the end of 2011, SecurShred shredded 105,017 pounds of paper.
- BCBSVT actively encourages its employees to carpool on their way to work. Carpooling saves gas, thus cutting the amount employees spend on their fuel costs per month. It also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Working with Burlington-based Local Motion, employees have recently learned of creative ways to bike to work. A few employees from the Montpelier-Barre region recently started their alternative commute to Berlin.
- Members will also notice a greener change to their explanation of benefits, or EOBs. Much like bank statements, EOBs will now be sent to members as monthly statements.
- BCBSVT also plans to make most members’ certificates of coverage, along with other materials, available as online documents by this year’s renewal season. Members will still be able to receive a hardcopy of their certificate if they request one. These proposals will help cut paper and mailing costs and save our member’s money.
- In 2012, the company will continue switching over its lighting units to LED fixtures, both inside and outside its Berlin headquarters.
- BCBSVT also hopes to upgrade its heating boilers in the coming years, thereby reducing its carbon dioxide output by 2 tons per year.