John Horn, Senior Environmental Specialist, Kansas City, MO-based Great Plains Energy Service/KCPL, on sustainability and environmental practices …
Q: What does green mean to you?
A: The first thought that comes to mind is money, quite frankly. We found in the early days, the green chemicals cost more. They were green for the suppliers. Now, the suppliers are beginning to fill that market niche and we’re finding that those products are no more expensive than anything else. And because of lower disposal costs at the other end, if there’s any material left over, we save money. Being green is green for us right now. We’re finding that we actually save money rather than spending money. It kind of raises my hackles when I hear somebody say, “Oh, we’ll have to budget X number of dollars extra because we’re going to go on this green program?” Well, not if you do it right.
Q: Are there certain organizations that you have used in your process of finding information?
A:In the Kansas City area, we have an organization: EEBN (Environmental Excellence in Business Network). It’s the result of a not-for-profit organization here called Bridging the Gap. It [received] an EPA grant to start this networking, and it networks environmental professionals and other people in business [on] sustainability ideas; ideas on how to get things, how to handle wastestreams, and right now, we’re starting to look at by-product production that can be used as raw material for other industries. We’re trying to make matches there rather than having to dispose of these by-products. The whole purpose is to get people together to meet each other, to network ideas, and to just have a face and a name so they can talk.
Q: What initiatives has your company taken in terms of lessening the impact of your facility on the environment?
A: We’ve had huge initiatives in our power production side. On the office side, we remodeled and rebuilt our service centers and our home office. We went into low-energy lights and electronic ballasts. That allowed us to cut our air-conditioning load because of less heat being put off by the lights and the ballasts; not only the savings in electricity from the lights, you have the savings on the air-conditioning. That was significant. It was over 20 percent on the air-conditioning load. Then, we also went into longer-wear carpet, and we went into better glass and window systems to keep radiant heat from coming into the buildings. We also went to variable airflow in the air-conditioning systems so people could control and be more comfortable without just having to crank up the compressor.
Q: Why is sustainability important to you?
A: In our company, it’s a matter of personal integrity. It starts at the very top of the organization with the CEO, and our last CEO made it one of the hallmarks of the administration – to be a good corporate citizen, both in the community and in the environment. And we’re not only thinking green, but we have proactive programs that we have funded to reintroduce endangered species that have died out in the area, and we’ve built wetlands. But on the commercial side, we do it in a way we can make and save money. It’s been very comforting to work here and know that, at the very top, there’s a sense of integrity. It’s just a moral issue, quite frankly, and it should be for everybody.