Spotlight: United Way TJA Strengthens Commitment to Community Sustainability

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Since its founding in 1943, the United Way Thomas Jefferson Area has been helping local families and in-need populations gain access to services and resources that support quality of life, including early education, self-sufficiency, and community health. And as participants in the Better Business Challenge, the local United Way is deepening its commitment to strengthening our community – by reducing its carbon impact.

Ravi Respeto, United Way President, shared some of the environmentally friendly, energy-saving measures they’ve put into place to do just that — from installing timers and motions sensors on outdoor lighting and replacing HVAC systems, to switching to LEDs for the majority of its lighting fixtures and becoming more recycling-conscious. By implementing a wide array of energy efficiency upgrades and strategies, the United Way is helping the community – and the organization itself – create a healthier, more sustainable future. 

Why did the United Way TJA join the Charlottesville Better Business Challenge? 

RAVI: We joined because we felt that United Way TJA as a leader and convener in the community had a responsibility to prioritize being good citizens around climate leadership in protecting the health and vitality of our community. By committing to improving our internal processes and structural building changes we could demonstrate our commitment in the business and nonprofit sectors to climate change awareness and leadership. 

What sort of actions has the United Way TJA taken so far to save energy (and money) or to lower your carbon footprint as part of the Challenge?  

RAVI: We’ve completed over a dozen actions, including: 

  • Benchmarked our previous energy usage

  • Comfort survey among staff conducted

  • Performed a lighting assessment

  • Use natural lighting whenever possible

  • Provide task lighting

  • Installed occupancy sensors for lighting

  • Exterior lighting on timers and motion sensors

  • LEDs used for 80 percent of lighting fixtures

  • Doors and windows closed when AC/heat is on

  • Utilize window treatments

  • Set programmable thermostats to recommended and scheduled EnergyStar settings

  • Installed weather stripping on doors/windows

  • Replaced two HVAC systems

  • Separate recyclables

  • Recycle toner cartridges

  • Purchase office consumables containing recycled content

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

RAVI: We are looking to reach 75 percent of the Better Business Challenge goal in 2019. We are exploring additional building upgrades to incorporate into our fiscal plans for ’19-’20 that may include window replacement and solar panels. 

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)? 

RAVI: The local United Way is urging businesses and nonprofits in the community to come together with local government to support policies and practices that will improve our community’s climate health and vitality. A lot of the populations that we currently serve are in need of support to have equitable access to energy efficient upgrades in their homes, which saves money on monthly heating/cooling bills and provides improved indoor air quality. 

We also suggest meeting with the new executive director of C3, Susan Kruse, and conduct a self-evaluation using the BBC Energy Scorecard.  Many businesses and nonprofits have already implemented items on this scorecard. Then look at what can be applied, budgeted for, and incorporate these changes into your business, and train staff, boards, and clients on the importance of being good environmental stewards.

Ravi Respeto next to the United Way TJA’s new five ton, 17 seer HVAC system, which replaced its 20-year-old unit.

Ravi Respeto next to the United Way TJA’s new five ton, 17 seer HVAC system, which replaced its 20-year-old unit.