Green Workplaces Generate Big Energy Savings - Humboldt State Now

Green Workplaces Generate Big Energy Savings

Students are helping HSU rack up thousands in energy savings while gaining skills for a green career through a statewide student-run program that promotes energy efficiency and education on college campuses.


Since fall 2011, student-interns of the Humboldt State chapter of PowerSave Campus Program have been working with staff and administration offices to evaluate and improve energy efficiency and implement sustainable practices. Through the team’s Green Workplace Assessment and Certification Program, a number of offices have already been certified, but now with faculty and staff’s help, the group is expanding its outreach to the entire campus.

The evaluation focuses on energy, water conservation, recycling and waste management, purchasing, community involvement, and transportation. The process takes approximately one semester from start to finish and begins with the participating office identifying a contact person (the office Sustainability Champion) who will work with PowerSave Campus HSU throughout the assessment.

“The office sustainability champion has to know the office, and the people and the habits of their coworkers,” says Jason Landers, a member of PowerSave Campus and a senior working on a degree in Environmental Management and Protection with a focus on Planning.

Student interns administer an initial survey, which creates a baseline assessment of the office. The students will confirm the survey’s findings and then make suggestions for improvement, like upgrading lighting, installing power strips to office equipment, and adding recycling and compost bins.

According to a 2014 report from the HSU PowerSave Campus, its Green Workplace Assessment Program has evaluated 17 departments and reached more than 280 employees of HSU. The recommended upgrades—everything from installing more efficient lighting to adding power strips to office equipment—translate into more than $36,000 in potential energy savings on average.

PowerSave Campus interns are completing the assessments for all the departments in the Administrative Affairs division with the offices of HSU’s Dining Services and Center Arts. Now, PowerSave Campus and HSU’s Office of Sustainability are challenging the rest of campus to take the efficiency assessment.

“We learned a lot about our day to day operations through the assessment tool. It was so helpful to have PowerSave work through all the assessments for the departments in our division in a year. We are now using these results to change our behavior. We have the potential to see over $100,000 in annual savings. PowerSave has assessed over 20% of the departments on campus to date. We would like to challenge all departments on campus to take the Green Workplace Assessment. The savings across campus could be very impactful,” says Joyce Lopes, Vice President of Administrative Affairs.

HSU is committed to improving sustainability in many ways, and that’s why we’re encouraging all offices and campus groups to take the energy efficiency test. So many energy upgrades are done behind the scenes, the Green Workplace Assessments makes improvements in a way people can see every day,” says TallChief Comet, director of the Office of Sustainability.

According to Landers, the reception to the sustainability assessments has been very positive. “After we’ve done the assessments, we start to see the energy consumption metrics, and you see $30,000 in potential savings per department per year—all from simple retrofits in staff offices. It’s really cool to see that we’re making a difference and people are responding and want that difference.”

The PowerSave Campus program is operated by the Alliance to Save Energy and is funded by ratepayers of California’s investor-owned utilities, including Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and others. To learn more about the Green Workplace Certification Program, visit