Rising energy costs and the economic downturn coupled with national and local incentives have encouraged many local companies to seek alternative options. At ATCIC, we’ve been exploring innovative and practical ways to make the agency environmentally friendly. The illustration to the right identifies the various locations of ATCIC’s 44 facilities, which present an array of opportunities.
“As a community organization we strive to be good stewards by investing in cost-efficient technologies that are environmentally responsible – that’s important to the agency, our funders and stakeholders” said ATCIC Director of Facilities Donna Spencer. In 2006, ATCIC upgraded many of its building’s lighting structures with more energy-efficient materials and newer technology. ATCIC then began to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles, replace air conditioning units with Puron (instead of Freon), installed recycled flooring and most recently, installed solar panel units. Ongoing efforts include the recruitment of environmentally friendly contractors, an agency-wide recycling program, the expansion of courtyards and planting of trees.
Other projects include the maintenance of organic gardens. “People ask why we invest money in landscaping, and I explain how these gardens benefit consumers in multiple capacities,” said Spencer. Gardening can be used as a therapeutic tool for individuals with mental illness. It allows people to become interested in a new activity, gets them outside and physically active, is relaxing and can be rewarding as plants grow and produce flowers and fruit.
The new solar panel installation on the roof of the Next Step crisis respite facility (see photo above) includes 117 solar modules, rated at 200 watts each. It is expected to generate 30,346 kilowatt hours of green power annually.
The annual energy savings will be enough to power three average Austin homes for a year, and is equivalent to removing four cars from the road (saving 34,461 annual vehicle miles); preventing the pollution of 19.6 tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 24.7 pounds of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), 27.4 pounds of Nitrogen Oxide (NOX) and 19 pounds of Carbon Monoxide (CO); and planting 673 trees (approximately 34 acres of forest).