In part 3 (Sustainability), I mentioned that to make profit you need to charge more or spend less. For this part, you need to make more or use less. In part 3.1 (Water), the best we can do for water usage is zero, therefore meaning that it doesn't cost anything. For electricity, we can actually make profit by selling it back to the grid if we have an abundance of it. It's possible to have a utility bill with a negative number!
To start, it's best to focus on reducing the amount of electricity that gets used. Perhaps the easiest and cheapest thing you can do is in lighting. In part 3 (Sustainability), I did some quick math to show that replacing one light bulb with a CF saved money in the long-run. But, that's bad advice pretty soon. Compact fluorescent bulbs are being replaced with a much better bulb -- LED. They are quickly coming down in price, so switching to those instead for the most commonly used lights is probably worth it. According to this comparison:
- Incandescent: A typical 100 watt bulb puts out 1700 lumens, uses 100 watts (obviously), and lasts about 1,000 hours before it burns out.
- Compact fluorescent: Some that I purchased in 2008 also put out 1700 lumens, but use 26 watts, and are rated to last 12,000 hours.
- LED: Scaled up to 1700 lumens, a LED bulb would use about 17 watts, and last over 50,000 hours. They're also better for the environment.
I'll be covering the topics of heat (including water heating) and AC, both huge electric users, in the next part (3.3). For now, check out this list of household electric users and follow along as I hit some of the bigger ones:
- Refrigerators/Freezers: Use the outdoors instead if it's winter and cold enough, or a basement year-round if you have one, otherwise the best you can do is an Energy Star one.
- Clothes Dryer: Hang clothes outside if possible. This sometimes results in them being a bit stiff, but they will soften during wear. Even in winter, clothes will mostly freeze-dry outside after a while. Or better yet, hang them inside and they will add humidity to the air. Go naked as often as possible to reduce the amount of clothing that needs to be washed. (In the winter, heating may cost more so bundle up instead of going naked.)
- Clothes Washer: Go with a front-load Energy Star, since front-load machines use less water. Hand-washing is an option too, but is more work. If you're only looking to kill bacteria and remove odors (and nothing else), skip the washer and just freeze them.
- Dishwasher: Washing by hand is always best, but go with an Energy Star if needed.
- Electric Range Top: Check out an induction one for a shared or commercial kitchen. For homes, it might be a bit expensive as an investment. As always, go with an Energy Star. Microwaves are more efficient than range tops, so use them instead whenever possible.
- TV Systems: Computers can play most anything now, and have cheap tuner cards available. This is assuming that your monitor doesn't have a TV hookup built in.
- Computers: Unless your playing the newest resource-intensive games, you don't need much of a system for playing videos or surfing the net. Check out this list for low-wattage PC's. I'm a proud owner of a Zonbu, which can play movies and do most everything I need. (I don't have the subscription -- instead I installed Xubuntu Linux and use a USB HDD. The Zonbu OS works great out of the box also.) All-in-all, the Zonbu averages 10 watts and the HDD averages 5 watts.
For resorts that have guests with electrical hookups, consider measuring the electrical usage for each site (or each permanent site at least). Users who use too much can face additional charges, or get a refund if they do not use much. A super-easy way to do this is by using a kill-a-watt on each site, assuming the hookup is less than 15 amps. (I'm sure higher-amperage versions exist too.) Program in the cost per kilowatt-hour once, and reset the meter when someone moves in. The accumulated electrical cost is then displayed in real-time. If people know their electrical usage isn't "free", they'll be more likely to conserve it. Even if you don't use a kill-a-watt in this way, it's still a good investment because you can find out just how much each electrical device is costing you per month.
A less obvious idea is to put a small label by light switches and appliances, which shows the cost per hour of when they are on. It won't limit people's ability to use them, but at least they'll know it isn't free to leave things on all the time. Also, they can make smarter decisions about what to have on. As an example, we have a 23 watt CF room light and a bright 500 watt halogen light in the living room. It's easier to turn on the big one, so it took a conscious effort to break the habit and use the cheaper one instead.
Now that the electrical consumption is minimized, it's time to switch over to generating it.
Is your venue sunny? Don't just brag about it, use that sunlight for another form or profit! Solar panels are getting cheap and getting common, which make them a great investment. There is a huge variety available, so you'll need to look around and choose one that works for your venue. If you have a new building in the works, consider using it to focus extra sunlight onto your array.
Is your venue windy? Put up a wind turbine. They are normally more cost-effective than solar cells if both options are available. Hills make great funnels for wind, so a turbine at the top edge of a hill would work best. Buildings can also direct the wind if positioned correctly.
Is your venue by a river or stream? Consider hydro power, since it is the most cost-effective solution when compared to solar and wind. If you only have rain or city water, they do have small ones that can make use of it. I'd love to see a resort put one of these in their shower rooms to light the area as the showers are running.
Is your venue on a hot spring? Not only can it provide all the heat you need, but it can provide the electricity you need as well. Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska got funding to build a low-temp geothermal power plant that supplies all of the power they need.
Does your venue have a restaurant? Or are you good friends with a restaurant owner? Waste vegetable oil is an energy source that restaurants often pay to get rid of. Culvers is one of the first chains to start using waste veggie oil to power their cars. No company car? Use the "vegawatt" to turn it into electricity and free heat.
Other creative solutions include piezoelectric, which turns any motion into small amounts of electric. Clubs in Rotterdam and London are using this in the dance floors with pretty good returns, and researchers are moving this to other actions such as walking and driving. Also, don't forget about human power, like the gyms that let people generate the electricity.
Minimize electrical waste, and maximize electrical generation to whatever extent you can afford. I presented the basic ideas for doing this, and thousands of individual solutions exist. Picking the best one for a venue depends greatly on the venue, so I leave that task up to you.