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Measurement-related studies, resources, and initiatives

How to measure your environmental impact at work: Water

Posted by Sadie Miller on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 @ 09:46 AM

measure your impact waterThe Green Team ROI Tracker, True Impact’s latest web-based measurement tool, helps calculate the impact of employee-led sustainability projects. This series provides step-by-step instructions for how you can measure the impact of your own Green Team initiatives, using frameworks embedded in the ROI Tracker.

With analysts forecasting a 40% global water shortfall by 2030 and a host of associated financial, regulatory, and reputational risks to business, companies are increasingly attentive to strategies for tracking and conserving water.

The following organizations offer a range of useful resources:

  • The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has many resources for water sustainability at work. In collaboration with Irbaris, IRRC Institute and Ceres, WBCSD developed a free excel-based tool, Ceres Aqua Gauge, to help companies assess, benchmark and advance their water management approach.
  • For a tactical guide to conservation, provides 100 Ways to Conserve Water.
  • The EPA WaterSense program lists many resources to help corporations save water. The Fix A Leak Week encourages individuals and companies to check fixtures and irrigation systems for leaks (Download the Fix A Leak Week PDF). They also certify water-efficient products and appliances through the WaterSense program.
  • The Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) has developed a water sustainability tool to help you better understand and guide your own organization's relationship to water.

Strategies for tracking & measuring excess water use

Regardless of what strategies your organization adopts, tracking and measuring your activities and water-reduction impacts is key to proving, and improving, the value of those strategies.  Here are four simple examples of how to conserve water and measure changes in water use.

1.    Tighten leaky faucets

According to the EPA’s WaterSense program, a leaky faucet can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.

How to measure: Count each sink that is leaking water from the faucet or the base of the spigot, and multiply that number by 3,000 gallons per year. This calculation assumes water leakage of one-drip-per-second, so if a faucet drips rapidly (two drips per “Mississippi”), multiply your result by 2.  (If you’re using our Green Team calculator, count that faucet as two faucets in the calculator).

2.     Stop running toilets

A constantly running toilet uses 200 gallons of water or more every day – the equivalent of washing 20 loads of laundry. (Source: U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Water Science)

How to measure: If you can hear water cycling through a toilet after the bowl is full, count it as a running toilet.  Multiply the number of running toilets at 200 gallons per day by the number of days running to calculate annual water loss.

3.     Test leaking toilets

Leaking toilets are also called “silent leaks,” often caused by a broken or degraded flapper that leaks water from the toilet tank to the bowl. A silent leak can waste up to 7,000 gallons of water per month.  (Source: EBMUD Water Smart Tips)

How to measure: To test for leaks, add about 6 drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and leave it for a half an hour. If the water in the bowl becomes tinted, you have a leak between the tank and the bowl. Check and replace toilet flappers that may be causing leaks, and count each leak at 84,000 gallons lost per year.

4.     Seal irrigation leaks

The U.S. EPA WaterSense program calculates that a running irrigation system with a leak the thickness of a dime can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month. Here are two options for measuring a leaking irrigation system.

How to measure:

a.     Flow meter

With permission of your buildings and grounds or facilities manager, turn off the main cut-off to isolate the irrigation system from the water supply. Using the system’s flow meter, determine if the system continues to use water. The flow meter will alert you to leaks and measure the amount of water lost.

b.     Counting Leaks

If you cannot measure a leak through the water meter, check irrigation tubes for leaks, nozzle seals for water, and sprinkler heads for weeping. Count each water leak from the system as one leak, wasting 75,600 gallons per year per leak, according to  EPA calculations.

Water conservation numbers

Measure Your Impact with the Green Team ROI Tracker

True Impact’s Green Team ROI Tracker uses embedded sustainability calculators to quickly provide you with environmental impact data on your Green Team initiatives. The ROI Tracker measures employee environmental impact on water through dollar savings and gallons of water saved. The impact data provided by the Green Team ROI Tracker will help justify your water-reduction efforts and reduce your water risk.

GT ROI Tracker Water
For more measurement tips for Green Teams, see our comprehensive Green Team ROI Tracker Measurement Guide. To learn more about True Impact’s measurement work, get in touch.

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Tags: Sustainability

How to measure your environmental impact at work: Electricity

Posted by Sadie Miller on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 @ 03:20 PM

measure your impact electricityThe Green Team ROI Tracker, True Impact’s latest web-based measurement tool, helps calculate the impact of employee-led sustainability projects. This series provides step-by-step instructions for how you can measure the impact of your own Green Team initiatives, using frameworks embedded in the ROI Tracker.

Green teams aim to reduce electricity usage in their corporate offices in order to reduce their  company’s greenhouse gas emissions, cut costs, and promote more responsible practices. This post will guide you through a range of energy reduction techniques -- including tactics for reducing power consumption of computers, monitors, and office kitchen appliances -- and then walk you through steps for tracking and measuring the impact of such practices.  Heating, cooling and lighting also contribute to electricity usage; those topics will be covered in other posts in the How to Measure Your Environmental Impact at Work series.

Ways to Conserve at Work

When seeking to reduce electricity usage in the workplace, consider the following best practices:

  • Create an Employee Energy Conservation Challenge L'Oreal's "I've Got the Power" program, for example, successfully reduced corporate energy consumption by appointing employee “Energy Champs” and leveraging social media.
  • Upgrade to ENERGY STAR products - ENERGY STAR a well-respected, government-backed symbol for energy-efficient products and practices, designed to help consumers save money and protect the environment.
  • Encourage employees to shut down computers - Ford Motor Company estimates that “powering down” computers not in use translates to more than $1.2 million in savings and a reduction in Ford’s carbon footprint by 16,000-25,000 metric tons annually.
  • Implement energy treasure hunts – First developed by Toyota, Energy Scavenger Hunts are hands-on events that turn energy audits (seeking opportunities to reduce energy consumption) and a scavenger hunt.
  • Use a power strip to avoid “Phantom Load” –  Phantom Load, also known as “vampire power” and “idle current,” describes electricity that electronics and appliances use while they are turned off or in standby mode. Unplugging electronics or using a power strip to turn off power can decrease this energy use.

Whatever approach(es) you choose, the best time to plan how to measure the impact of your efforts is prior to implementation.  The following sections provide some guidance.

Measuring Electricity Conservation

Determining the impact of your energy conservation efforts means evaluating the resulting change in electrical usage, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh).  Note:

  • A watt is the electrical unit of power.
  • A watt-hour is equal to 1 watt of power supplied to an electric circuit for 1 hour.
  • A kilowatt-hour (kWh), the equivalent of 1,000-watt hours.

To determine the number of kilowatt-hours your Green Team has saved, do your best to determine how much energy usage has changed after the implementation of your initiative compared to beforehand (accounting for external factors such as time period and weather conditions). If your building and facilities managers do not have data on your electricity usage, here are two other ways to measure reductions in energy use:

Option 1: Manual Estimates

A quick internet search or review of device user manuals will give you the energy use for specific devices, or you may find any of a number of web-based calculators that will do this calculation for you, such as the kWh Energy Savings Calculator at Pays to Live Green. Note that some devices, like computers, use different levels of electricity based on their usage. Example ranges of device wattage include:

electricity wattage

Source: Estimating Appliance and Home Electronic Energy Use

Once you have the wattage of the device, determining how much energy it uses is straightforward arithmetic:

  • (Wattage × Hours Used Per Day) ÷ 1000 = Daily Kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption

More detail on the application of this formula is available at

Option 2: Actual Tracking

Alternatively, use a power meter like the Kill a Watt to establish actual baseline usage (i.e., how much energy is consumed before your initiative), and then measure the change in energy usage after your initiative. Measuring unit change is ideal for a localized program like Energy Treasure Hunts and campaigns to power down computers when not in use.

Measuring the Impact of Electricity Conservation

Once you track or estimate your reduction in energy usage, you can translate this change into impact on greenhouse emissions and cost savings using various information sources:

Option 1: Manual Calculation

To most accurately assess cost savings, contact your building manager for your actual cost of electricity, and then multiply the amount of energy saved by the cost per kilowatt-hour.  The average retail price in the US in 2010 was 9.83 cents/kWh, with average state prices for electricity ranging from 6 to 25 cents per kilowatt-hour (source: the U.S. Energy Information Administration).

The majority of electricity in the United States is generated from fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil.  The burning of these substances emits CO2 into the atmosphere. By reducing your usage, you are decreasing your emissions at the average rate of 6.9 x 10^-4 metric tons of CO2/kWh. (Source: EPA).

Option 2: Automatic Calculation

A variety of calculators exist in the public domain that incorporate average values of electricity usage and cost to help you estimate your impact.  The EPA and ENERGY STAR have, for example, created a simple calculator (click here to download the Excel calculator) to estimate typical savings from ENERGY STAR qualified computers and/or power management features.

True Impact’s Green Team ROI Tracker uses a similar approach, but for a broader range of sustainability initiatives, converting them to metric tons of CO2 reduced and kilowatt-hours and dollars saved.

measure electrical conservation

For more measurement tips for Green Teams, see our comprehensive Green Team ROI Tracker Measurement Guide. To learn more about True Impact’s measurement work, get in touch.

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Tags: CSR Metrics, Sustainability

How to measure your environmental impact at work: Recycling

Posted by Sadie Miller on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 @ 11:05 AM

measure your environmental impact recycling

True Impact recently took on the challenge of capturing the impact of Green Team projects. The result of our efforts is the Green Team ROI Tracker, a tool crafted to calculate the impact of employee-led sustainability projects. This series provides step-by-step instructions for measuring Green Team initiatives.

Recycling and employee-led Green Teams often go hand-in-hand. In this post, we share strategies for measuring your employee recycling initiatives to justify, communicate, and improve your recycling program. For information on starting a recycling program at work, visit EPA's WasteWise website.


Recycling's Triple Bottom Line

There are economic, social and environmental benefits to recycling on an individual and institutional level. The recycling benefits — creating jobs and increasing US competitiveness, preventing pollution, conserving natural resources, and sustaining the environment for future generations — listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be powerful motivators for individuals, and can also provide a competitive advantage for companies.

Economic - Reduce Hauling & Disposal Costs

An EPA whitepaper (download PDF) explains, recycling reduces the cost of waste disposal through lower hauler fees, disposal charges, and equipment service costs, while generating revenue through selling recyclable materials. Less waste and more recycling positively improves the bottom line.  


Environmental - Reduce Greenhouse Emissions

Waste prevention and recycling reduces greenhouse gases by reducing emissions, saving energy, and increasing forest carbon sequestration. Most relevant for your Green Team, recycling will help minimize CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.


Social - Strong Community Development

Recycling produces social benefits for your corporation. An EPA Fact Sheet (download PDF) describes how recycling contributes to strong community development that is relevant for corporate communities. For example, bringing your employees together for a common goal of recycling could create a more united corporate culture.



Measuring Recycling Initiatives

In order to measure the employee environmental impact of diverting waste from landfills, you must understand how to collect your usage. Here are some tactics for measuring the most common recycled materials: paper, plastics, glass, and cans.


Paper is the most common material in landfills, accounting for 40% of all landfill waste. One million tons of recovered paper is enough to fill more than 14,000 railroad cars. (Source: Earth911). Some examples of how to reduce paper waste include eliminating unnecessary printing, increased use of double-sided copies, making more recycling bins available, and improving communication and education on recycling.

Here are two ways to measure your paper reduction efforts:

  • Option one: Your building may already pay for paper recycling by the ton, so use recycling records to determine the change from one month to the next.
  • Option two: Alternatively, determine how much of the paper that you bought was recycled in order to estimate how many pounds you diverted from the waste stream. If you recycle 100% of the paper you buy, you have recycled 50 pounds a case, 5 pounds a ream, and .16 oz. a sheet.

Paper recycling estimates

Plastics, glass & cans

In order to measure your environmental impact on recycling these materials, here are two options:

  • Option one: Estimate recycling by weighing a sample of bins on recycle day and extrapolate the number of pounds recycled for the whole office.
  • Option two: Collect the weight of recyclables from the recycling vendor. Compare the month before the recycling initiative and the month during the recycling initiative to calculate change in recycling behavior.


Tools to Measure Impact

Once you measure your usage, you can calculate your environmental impact and business cost savings in a variety of ways, including manual calculations, EPA Calculators, and the Green Team ROI Tracker:

  1. Manual calculation: Calculate your CO2 Reduction from recycling by using the EPA's ReCon Tool. For every metric tons (2000 pounds) you recycle, you save 2.87 metric tons of CO2.  
  2. EPA: The EPA Recycling Content Tool helps companies evaluate the greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits associated with increasing the recycled content of materials. The EPA’s Waste Reduction Model helps organizations track greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions.
  3. The Green Team ROI Tracker: True Impact’s Green Team ROI Tracker uses a platform-agnostic sustainability calculator to provide environmental impact data on your Green Team initiatives.

Green Team ROI Tracker Electricity


For more measurement tips for Green Teams, see our comprehensive Green Team ROI Tracker Measurement Guide. To learn more about True Impact’s measurement work, Contact Us.

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How to measure your environmental impact at work: Commuting

Posted by Sadie Miller on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 @ 01:32 PM

commuting measure your impactEmployee-led volunteerism and environmental engagement has become central to companies’ CSR portfolios as employees form “green teams” to affect environmental impact in the workplace. Green teams offer on-the-ground expertise and enthusiasm to make significant steps toward sustainability. However, there are challenges to evaluating the global outcomes of decentralized efforts. In this first installment of our “How to Measure Your Environmental Impact at Work” series, we’ll be outlining ways employees can measure the impact of their commuting-related green initiatives.


Strategies for more sustainable commuting

Programs intended to reduce environmental footprint of employees commuting to work commonly include the following components:

1. Carpooling
Carpooling can generate significant social value -- it reduces pollution, traffic congestion, builds relationships, and saves money. And for every gallon of gas you save through commuting, you also prevent the emission of more than 19 pounds of carbon dioxide. (source: EPA)

2. Alternative transportation

  • Bus, train, and light rail: Many employers offer reduced bus and train passes and tax sheltered transit funds to promote mass transit use.
  • Bike and walking commutes: In addition to bicycling commuter programs, LEED-certified office buildings include showers and bike storage to incentivize bike commuting.

3. Telecommuting

According to the nonprofit Telework Coalition, if the 41 million Americans with telework-compatible jobs worked from home once a week, we would reduce 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year.


Tactics for measuring participation rates and impact

Sometimes implementing a sustainable commuting initiative feels like the easy part, as compared to tracking program participation and calculating its impact.  Green teams can track the impact of programs intended to green employee commutes using the following methods:

Tracking Participation (Option 1): Leverage Exisiting HR Data

Leverage employee benefits enrollment to gather the environmental impact of commuting programs. In collaboration with your human resources department, determine the number of new employees taking advantage of alternative transportation incentives such as bus and train pass discounts, commuter sign-ups, and health-related biking benefits. Better yet, integrate simple questions about commute length into benefit enrollment forms, to help aid impact-measurement efforts (addressed below).


Tracking Participation (Option 2): 60 Second Surveys

If administrative data are unavailable, create an enticingly short survey to distribute among employees, both to identify the number of people taking advantage of sustainable commuting options and the nature of their participation.  (Don’t worry about gathering data from 100% of participants – a sample can provide enough data to extrapolate the ballpark level of participation from across the entire employee pool.)  Email employees a brief survey including the following questions, as relevant:


commuting questions resized 600


Calculating the environmental impact (Option 1): Manual calculations

Once you'd collected the above data from your employees, simple arithmetic generates your commuting initiative’s CO2 reductions. The sustainability firm Strategic Sustainability Consulting has a fantastic white paper, Reducing Your Organization’s Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions, that calculates the carbon impact of workplace commuting. Below are the carbon calculations, using Strategic Sustainability's estimates, to measure the impact of your initiative:


commuting calculations resized 600


Option 2: The Green Team ROI Tracker

Many publicly accessible sustainability calculators are designed for personal or small business use (you can find excellent calculators here, here, and here). However, these resources are often fragmented and single-issue focused, and not optimized for systematic business use. We set out to address this shortfall by creating the Green Team ROI Tracker, a composite set of calculators designed to address a broad range of potential green team projects.

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Tags: CSR Metrics, Sustainability

Sustainability Measurement is Part of the Brand: Hilton

Posted by Farron Levy on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 @ 05:03 AM

Hilton Brand Sustainability

Hilton owns fewer than 50 of the 3,800 hotels that fly the Hilton flag, but the chain’s brand standards govern what the independent owners can do.  While every big hotel chain has a sustainability program, reports Marc Gunther, Hilton was the first major hospitality company to require sustainability measurement as a brand standard.

And how they’ve activated this commitment is a strong example of how simple tracking and benchmarking can be a powerful driver for continuous improvement.  Reports Marc:

Just for fun, I asked Chris to give me a peek at the monthly footprint of a single hotel. He picked the San Francisco Hilton (above), which has an exemplary record. Among other things, we learned that carbon emissions per square foot of the hotel were 8 lbs per month, water usage was 148 gallons per room per month and waste was 5 lbs. per room per month. Those numbers don’t mean much, without context, but what was interesting to me was that they were all far, far below system-wide averages–indicating that there’s plenty of room for improvement elsewhere.

Hilton’s tracking efforts have identified their San Francisco property as a top performer, and that same system also identifies those properties that don’t perform as well.  Hilton now has a powerful lever for change: it knows what works, so it can do more of it; and what doesn’t, so it can intervene and improve.

This same principle can be applied to anything – even (and perhaps especially) to other corporate citizenship activities that often lack performance measures (think grantmaking, volunteerism, and other community investment initiatives).  Which investments resulted in new skill development for employees, generated the most meaningful social impacts, or generated the most recruiting or sales leads?  Simple things to track; powerful insights revealed.

Maybe it should be part of your brand too.

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Tags: Sustainability, Brand measurement, Continuous improvement

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