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Energy Efficiency Adds to Nonprofits' Bottom Line

October 14, 2013

DENVER - Colorado nonprofits are learning to do more with less, and that goes beyond stretching their funding. More than 200 of them have worked with Energy Outreach Colorado over the last five years to increase their energy efficiency and save money on their utility bills.

For example, Denver Urban Ministries installed solar panels and took advantage of staff training offered by Energy Outreach Colorado. According to the ministry organization's executive director, Tammy Mulligan, energy efficiency is about more than dollars.

"While green efforts are not directly a part of our mission, taking care of things and people is, and so, I think it's made us a better organization, in that it matches our values," she declared.

Mulligan said they're seeing savings of about $200 a month in their utility bills, from such steps as encouraging workers to turn off unused computers and lights.

October is National Energy Awareness Month. Energy Outreach Colorado raises money to help limited-income Coloradans and nonprofit groups afford their utility costs.

Nicole O'Connor, education manager at Energy Outreach Colorado, said many nonprofit groups are working so hard on their missions, they might not have considered innovative ways to cut their utility bills.

"They have vital services, they're doing wonderful work in the community, but until you take the time to really sit down and say, 'Have you thought about some of these additional things you could do in your building?' You just find that they haven't really thought too much about it," she said.

O'Connor said nonprofits and individuals can see a 5 to 7 percent savings by just turning off lights in the house, setting their thermostat at an appropriate level, and other behavior changes. That savings can climb to 20 percent if they choose major changes such as new windows, doors and HVAC units.

Tammy Mulligan said the extra savings her group is seeing gives them some padding during tough times.

"The reality is, because funds are being cut in so many ways, this is just helping to fill some shortfalls for us," she said.

Saving energy also reduces a business or homeowner's effect on the environment, particularly in terms of carbon emissions.

Stephanie Carroll Carson/Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - CO