Saving Green While Going Green: Hii Highlights NYC Sustainability Incentives for Businesses

In a new series on Sustainable Business, the Human Impacts Institute will be highlighting our favorite sustainability incentives for New York City Businesses and Beyond. Do you know of a great incentive?Send it our way


With increasing awareness of environmental degradation in recent years, the list of options for businesses to “green” their operations have grown in scope and in application. Today, many companies and organizations such as Con Edison, Energy Star, Home Depot, the Department of Environmental Protection, Staples, and even Verizon Wireless offer financial incentives to motivate businesses to ensure sustainability in their practices. However, some of these incentives are hard to find or understand for small business owners, strapped for time and personnel. This week the Human Impacts Institute (Hii) will be highlighting our favorite incentives for energy assessments, water conservation and cell phone recycling in NYC.

Energy Reduction with Con Edison

Energy usage is one of the most expensive and most polluting components of a small business. In a city where over 75% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, the majority of which is from electricity usage and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), reducing a businesses energy load has huge impacts on local community health (high emissions=high asthma rates) and the global environment.

This week, the Human Impacts Institute is highlighting an incentive from Con Edison, which offers businesses in New York City a program to help reduce their energy consumption called the Small Businesses Direct Install Program. This program includes incentives such as a FREE energy assessment of your business, as well as energy efficiency recommendations and free installation of energy-saving equipment (CFLs, low-flow aerators, and programmable thermostats). This service is available to any business in NYC with an average peak, monthly energy demand of under 100kW. The assessments for this program are handled by Con Edison contractors (so don’t be surprised that the assessor is not from Con Edison!) who will send an energy assessment specialist to your business to analyze how to reduce energy load.

For more information, and to sign up for your free Small Business Energy Survey, contact Con Edison online or call them at (888) 945-5326.

Water Conservation with DEC

Water is essential to all life, yet we waste it in almost every aspect of our daily lives. For direct and indirect uses, Americans use more than 380 billion gallons of water, or approximately 1,668 gallons per person, per day. Many wouldn’t think it, but reducing energy usage also helps conserve water: each gallon of gasoline per week requires 1,000 gallons of water to produce.

Some of this water waste is through industrial practices and food production, where large-scale water conservation initiatives are crucial. However, there are many ways to save water in the home, at school, and at the office, including:

  • Conventional U.S. toilets use five gallons of water per flush while ultra low volume toilets use one and one half gallons per flush;

  • You could save up to 27 percent more water by taking showers instead of baths;

  • Doing dishes by hand can save twice the water used in a dishwasher;

The NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) both manages our water system for the City and provides incentives for New Yorkers to conserve water resources. Through it’s FREE Water Audit Service they conducts a leak assessment of your property including dye tests of toilets, measuring the flow rates of showerheads, and faucets and the flush volume of gravity tank toilets. At the end of the survey they will issue a summary letter which describes any leaks found by the survey, any water saving devices that need to be installed, and estimates for potential savings from the repair of any noted leaks and/or water-conserving measures.

The DEP water assessment is only for building owners and requires access to a majority of units in a building. This can be a great way for small business owners to do outreach to their local community, engaging property owners and neighbors in reducing water waste for their whole building!

For other tips from DEP on how small businesses can reduce their water usage and energy costs, see their publication at:

Cell Phone Recycling for Safety with Verizon

Electronic waste is about 2% of trash in U.S. landfills, but accounts for nearly 70% of the toxic waste in the Country. Nearly the moment one purchases electronics, such as cellphones, they become obsolete, are lost, stolen or damaged. In addition to the waste issues, electronics also require many minerals that are both mined in poor conditions for workers, as well as have heavy extraction impacts on the environment and local communities. With a high demand for these new devices, there is also a rise in mining worldwide which ultimately causes even more environmental degradation.

As a cell phone buyer, what do you do with your old cell phone? Unfortunately, many of them get stuffed in the closet or–even worse–thrown out in the trash. As recycling programs become more available to consumers, Verizon Wireless, has responded with their Hopeline Recycling Program, which doesn’t just recycle phones, but recycles them with a purpose: to help victims of domestic violence.

The HopeLine Program, refurbishes and recycles old cell phones and uses proceeds from the sale of any donated phone to fund non-profit agencies and to purchase wireless phones for victims of domestic violence. This provides safety for many domestic violence sufferers and assurance that cell phones are being put to good use. For more information on how to donate your phone (free shipping!), check out Verizon at:

Going Green, Saving Green

Today’s businesses understand that saving money, while going “green” is not only good for publicity, but also helps run a more solid, sustainable company. As interest grows, incentive programs change to the increasing demand for ways to get involved with this growing movement. The Human Impacts Institute will continue to keep an eye on the ground for new incentives and ways business can truly foster sustainability in their daily activities.

By Ron Comstock, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Sustainable Business Intern and Tara DePorte, Founder and Executive Director, Human Impacts Institute

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