CU Takes Round-Trip To Sustainability

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DULUTH, Minn.-One CU is stressing that sustainability efforts should not overlook the "human aspect" of conserving resources, even as it puts in place changes it projects will deliver $50,000 in annual savings.

Members Cooperative CU is making sure its new sustainability plan includes practices that improve the lives of staff and members.

"When we look at sustainability we have traditionally focused on our carbon footprint," said Ralph Hamann, CFO of MCCU. "But you have to extend the concept out a bit and consider the human aspect."

For example, a back-office employee was driving 90 miles round trip to the main office everyday. The CU has a branch only two miles from her home. Now the staff member drives to the nearby branch several days a week, reducing the need for her to be at the main location. Hamann said the employee will save $1,000 a year, reduce wear and tear on her car, and cut her driving by 9,400 miles, which helps the environment. "And we have a much happier employee," noted Hamann, who said the credit union is conducting an employee survey to determine if others could benefit from a similar arrangement.

To help members and the environment, MCCU plans to use savings achieved through sustainability initiatives to subsidize incentives to encourage members to switch to electronic services, a move Hamann said could also save the CU about $25,000 annually.

The $300-million MCCU has been practicing sustainability since 2004, using energy-efficient methods and environmentally friendly materials in construction. But after attending a seven-month sustainability course from local non-profit Sustainable Twin Ports, the credit union realized it could be doing more. "There was a lot we were missing, and some of it was very simple things that you wonder why you did not do them before," Hamann said.

The credit union learned it could replace high-wattage bulbs in overhead lighting with bulbs that use less energy at two of its largest and oldest branches, and use two bulbs instead of three in the fixtures. The change will save $4,000 annually.

Action Plan Yields Savings

"Because of the Sustainable Twin Ports program, we now have an action plan that we expect will save us $50,000 a year when fully adopted," Hamann said.

The following are highlights from the plan, and include measures already in place:

The CU's new contact and data center's heating system captures heat from the computer server room and distributes it throughout the building. The system has backup gas heat. Annual savings: $10,000.

In several branches the heating systems were designed to run year round to ensure maximum comfort, allowing employees to heat or cool at the same time. Now boilers are turned off during summer months. Annual savings: $1,000.

Instead of purchasing compressed air canisters that release tetrafluoroethane (a greenhouse gas) to clean keyboards, the CU purchased a handheld vacuum. Annual savings: $800.

Printers now use eco-friendly fonts that use up to 50% less toner, and have been switched to economy mode and double-sided printing for normal office use. Annual savings: $3,000.

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