Efficiency equals energy savings at Alpine Bank
Alpine Bank invested close to $1 million during the last decade to improve the efficiency of its corporate culture and infrastructure.
So far, the investment has netted about $250,000 in savings on energy, water, paper and courier fuel, said John Evans, the bank facilities manager, who spends about 60 percent of his time on energy efficiency at each of the bank’s 36 branches.
Alpine Bank started looking at reducing its environmental impacts in 2003, but no one knew what might be possible in terms of energy reduction — if anything, Evans said.
A decade later, 12 branches in Alpine’s network achieved energy savings greater than 40 percent and most of the rest are saving between 10 and 40 percent, he said.
The idea started with bank employees, who urged management to take steps to reduce the bank’s impact on the environment. The idea soon grew into a dedicated, employee-driven Green Team.
As its first goal, the team decided to strive for ISO 14001 certification, a rigorous, internationally recognized environmental management standard, Evans said.
In 2006, the team earned that global distinction with a comprehensive action plan that included ways to save energy, water, and paper — and proposed ways to minimize the impact of its fleet of vehicles, cleaning products and more.
“What is so amazing is that this was downright daunting at first, and we had more questions than answers,” Evans said. “As it turns out, our capital investment in upgrades was minimal, we realized huge results, and much of the work was far easier than we thought it would be.”
One unintended consequence of the green initiative was the introduction of the bank’s popular Environmental Loyalty Check Card, a program that resulted in $918,000 being given in grants to support local environmental nonprofits since 2004.
All told, 14 branches cut energy use by 30 percent or more, and 21 branches cut energy use by 20 percent or better.
■ Between 2006 and 2012, the Breckenridge branch cut energy use by 63 percent.
■ The Telluride branch cut energy use by 55 percent.
■ The Dillon branch cut energy use by 47 percent.
So much of the energy savings depends on scheduling heating and cooling for when bank branches are occupied and when they and not, Evans said.
Workers need to feel comfortable in their work environments if work is to get done. But when employees are out of the building, heating and cooling can be turned dramatically down for real energy savings.
For example, the bank maintains a temperature of 60 degrees in the winter and 85 degrees in the summer during times when employees are out of the buildings, Evans said.
Alpine Bank has also added the Energy Navigator, which allows Evans to remotely monitor energy use at several of its branches and buildings.
“I can keep an eye on it from home,” he said.
The navigator, provided through Clean Energy Economy for the Region, a Carbondale-based nonprofit, monitors electricity use and sub-meters the electricity needs of the large data center at Alpine Bank’s Central Operations building.
Energy Navigator verifies that heating and cooling is being properly managed using programmable thermostats.
Monitoring allows Evans to watch which buildings are keeping temperatures within acceptable limits. When temperatures exceed parameters, he can call up a branch manager and alert him or her to the situation.
The Central Operations’ data center recently received a major free cooling upgrade.
“When it’s cold enough the free cooling system operates 24 hours a day and saves us 25 percent (of energy costs),” Evans said. “The AC units come on when the outdoor air is above 50 degrees so the savings is reduced on warmer days. 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 downtown Grand Junction branch and office tower recently received new computerized heating and cooling controls. Energy Navigator is providing charts of 15-minute electricity and gas use to help facility managers tune controls for maximum energy savings.
More upgrades are in the works for the Grand Junction building, which has not been able to reduce energy use beyond the 17 percent mark, a significant reduction to be sure, but not what Evans hopes to see happen during the next two years or so.
Alpine Bank Vice President David Miller, Green Team chairman, led 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, Evans said.
Not only that, but the organizational culture has transformed into one of environmental responsibility and sustainability, an ethos that is becoming foremost in the mind of each bank worker, Evans said.
Changing the corporate culture takes time. Efficiency and savings contribute to the company’s bottom line, but the lesson must be repeated frequently before all of the bank’s 500 employees will become fully engaged in the greening of the company, he said.
“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 (return on investment),” said Evans. “Plus, it’s the socially responsible thing to do.”