Spotlight: Southern Environmental Law Center Takes a “More Synergy, Less Energy” Approach

SELC staff members wear layers on chilly days so they can use energy-saving settings on their thermostats.

SELC staff members wear layers on chilly days so they can use energy-saving settings on their thermostats.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is the largest environmental organization in the Southeast, with 80 attorneys in nine offices throughout six states and Capitol Hill. Its regional headquarters is located on the downtown mall on West Main Street, while its second Charlottesville location – its “Virginia Office” – is just around the corner on East Water Street. SELC’s mission: to use the “power of the law to champion the environment.” Naturally, as defenders and protectors of our region’s environment, it made sense for them to join the Better Business Challenge, says SELC office manager Anna Rossberg. (Both offices are participating in the Challenge.) 

In this Q&A, Rossberg shares how the local offices are leaning into the Challenge as a team (they’ve dubbed themselves the “Green Team” internally) and adopted the mantra, “more synergy, less energy” to mobilize action. She also shares how the thoughtful energy efficiency measures they are implementing throughout the workplace can inspire energy-saving changes for employees at home! 

Why did the Southern Environmental Law Center join the Charlottesville Better Business Challenge? 

ANNA: As an environmental organization we felt a responsibility to join the Better Business Challenge to engage with the community and do our part to make Charlottesville a greener city. It only makes sense for SELC to be part of this initiative. We understand how important it is to save energy in the workplace and reduce our carbon footprint. We are also a competitive group who love a challenge and want to win! 

What sort of actions has the SELC taken so far to save energy (and money) as part of the Challenge?  

ANNA: The first thing we did was form an energy team, our “Green Team” and our tagline is “More synergy, less energy.” We meet monthly to track our progress and share ideas. We’ve already done several actions from the Scorecard and even some beyond. We have begun ordering paper from a green office supply company. Many staff members have turned off their overhead lights and are opting for natural lighting or task lighting. We had a zero-waste reception in the office in September — all waste was either compostable or recyclable. We had Batteries Plus Bulbs do a lighting assessment of both offices, and LEAP has done an energy walk-through in one of our offices. As a result, we just installed all new programmable thermostats in one of our offices, and new LED lights in one of the suites. 

What sort of energy-saving and carbon footprint-reducing measures are you looking forward to exploring or implementing (as part of the Challenge)? 

ANNA: We hope to install more LED lighting throughout the offices, with a goal of 50% installed by the end of the Challenge. We are also exploring the option of buying RECs to pay our energy bills. Currently we are also looking at options for a more streamlined process for composting. We would like to invite LEAP to provide a presentation to our staff on ways to save energy at home and in the office.    

What advice would you offer other local businesses or organizations who may be interested in saving energy, going green, or reducing their environmental impact (in addition to joining the Challenge)? 

ANNA: There are many things a business can do to save energy and everyone wins! Saving energy is better for the environment and your business saves money. Installing programmable thermostats is a great place to start. Using compostable flatware for office parties is a nice alternative to plastic. Once the excitement builds for saving energy in the office, staff will also be mindful of energy savings at home. Some of our staff members have joined the Home Energy Challenge to address home energy usage, so the excitement is spreading!   

New LED bulbs being installed at the SELC office!

New LED bulbs being installed at the SELC office!