At Ecology, we believe that every day should be Earth Day. We also believe that sustainability begins at home. We're constantly looking for opportunities to operate more efficiently, both to save taxpayers’ money and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Under state law, all Washington state agencies must reduce their emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. No sweat! Ecology — and many of our fellow state agencies — have already hit this milestone. We’re now working on the next target, which is to get 36 percent below 2005 levels by 2035. The final benchmark is to hit 57.5 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.
For this Earth Day, here are a few things we’ve done in the past year to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, plus a few more things we’ll be working on in the year ahead.
LED lighting – We upgraded all of the lights in our Lacey offices to energy-efficient LEDs. This upgrade will reduce our electricity consumption by approximately 350,000 kilowatt-hours each year. That's enough energy savings to power 32 typical American homes for an entire year.
Solar panels – Ecology’s offices in Union Gap and Spokane feature solar panels that offset part of their electrical needs. Our biggest solar installation, however, is at our Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Whatcom County. In 2018, we doubled the facility’s solar generation capacity to 25.2 kilowatts.
Electric vehicles – In the past year, we’ve more than doubled the size of our fleet of all-electric Chevrolet Bolts – and doubled the number of charging stations at our offices as well. We now have 15 Bolts (not to mention the 103 hybrid vehicles we operate). Since 2016, Ecology employees have driven more than 124,000 miles using only electric power (plus, we've tallied another 93,764 miles in plug-in hybrids like our Chevy Volt).
Not bad, but we’ve got more big things planned for the rest of 2019 and into 2020:
New roof in Lacey – Something as humble as a roof is easy to overlook when it comes to sustainability, but nobody is happy with a leaking roof! Our Lacey offices are now nearly 30 years old, and it is time to replace the lid. When we do, we’ll be adding insulation to improve the building’s energy efficiency. We’ll also be making the new roof more reflective, which should cut our air conditioning bills during the warmer months.
Eastern Regional Office – We've requested funding to add an annex to our venerable Spokane office. If approved, the new facility would be among the first buildings to be designed and constructed to be "zero energy or zero energy-capable" under Gov. Jay Inslee's executive order directing state agencies to maximize energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Even more electric cars – We love zero-emission vehicles! In 2015, Gov. Inslee launched an initiative to ensure that 20 percent of all new vehicles purchased by the state were electric. In 2018, Gov. Inslee raised the bar to 50 percent by 2020. Along with buying electric vehicles as part of our regular vehicle replacements, Ecology is using $5.5 million from the state Volkswagen settlement to help state agencies buy additional electric vehicles.