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Sage Products invests in green energy

CARY – Sage Products Inc. is saving the environment one watt at a time.

The manufacturer and distributor of health and personal-care products is leading what it hopes will become a countywide initiative to support green energy by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for 50 percent of the company’s annual electricity consumption.

Sage, among the top 10 energy users in the county, estimated its investment this year at 2,963 megawatt hours of renewable energy – or about half of its annual energy use. Energy flows in to power renewable energy credits and reduces the company’s carbon footprint.

Company spokesman Mike Nygren said the initiative represents a reduction of at least 3,248,011 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, or the CO2 equivalent of consuming 165,135 gallons of gas or 3,426 barrels of oil. Looking at it in another way, the equivalent to the electricity used for an entire year in 184 homes.

Under the program, the RECs bought through Constellation Energy – a business unit of Exelon – are being used to fund wind farms in central Illinois and Wisconsin through Constellation’s NewMix Wind program. Matt Lawson, Constellation’s supervisor of green initiatives, said corporate participation in the voluntary effort at first doubled annually and has jumped 30 percent to 40 percent a year during the past few years. Lawson said the company will sell about a million RECs this year nationwide. One REC equals 1 megawatt hour or 1,000 kilowatt-hours placed on the grid.

The average home uses 10-megawatt hours a year.

While there is no direct financial benefit to participating companies, Lawson said, it does reduce their carbon footprint and spark the development of wind arms. What was a 20 megawatt wind farm in 1997 is most likely producing 800 megawatts to 1,000 megawatts today, he said.

“They’ve grown in number. They’ve grown in size and they’ve grown in technology,” Lawson said. “What we need now is more understanding.”

Through the purchase of RECs, Sage is supporting the operation and development of facilities that generate clean, renewable energy.

“Everyone at Sage is focused on our commitment to environmentally responsible business practices. All of our associates are encouraged and empowered to find ways to reduce wastefulness across the entire company,” said Sage President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Brown in a written statement. “No ideas are too small, and we are not afraid to invest in opportunities that help on a large scale, such as renewable energy.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency more than half of U.S. electricity custom­ers have an option to purchase some type of green power prod­uct from a retail electricity provider, but the rest do not. RECs provide buyers the option to select renewable resources to meet their electricity demand. RECs also can be applied toward LEED certification and the Energy Star progam for buildings and manufacturing plants.

RECs promote sustainable energy without requiring the development of an on-site renewable installations, be they wind, solar, hydro, and/or biomass.”

There are two basic types of RECs:

• Compliance RECs are used to satisfy a state Renewable Portfolio Standard – which requires electric utilities and other retail electric providers to supply a specified minimum amount of power to its customers from eligible renewable energy sources.Compliance RECs are certified and verified by state environmental agencies.

• Voluntary RECs, like that bought by Sage, promote sustainability initiatives. In both cases, the purchase is verified. Voluntary RECs are certified and verified by independent voluntary program administrators such as the Center for Resource Solutions, which administers the Green-e Energy certification program,

in conjunction with regional REC tracking systems Annual audits ensure that RECs are not being double-counted or sold more than once; that the RECs sold are created during a specified time; and that the RECs are of the exact type that the marketer claims to be selling.

The audits are performed by certified accountants and auditors following specific audit protocols, and then reviewed by the program administrator to evaluate the results. The audit reports are sent to Green-e for review to make sure the participating company met their responsibilities. All participating companies and the results of their annual audit are posted on the Green-e website at www.green-e.org. Other information about RECs is available at by calling Constellation at 866-237- 7693 or visiting www.constellation.com.

Lawson said buying a REC from Constellation encourages the development of wind farms and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels.

“It helps the environment and allows companies to make a claim that they are helping the environment. They are leading by example,” Lawson said. “Because of the physical restraints it is difficult to buy electricity from a wind farm. What RECs do is separate the good part, the renewable power generated and all of the clean energy benefits. We strip out that part and sell it to people. We make it easier to invest in green power.”

Nygren said RECs is just one of a number of energy-saving initiatives instituted by Sage. Others range from for efficient lighting and climate-control systems, to shrinking its waste stream. For example, Nygren said packaging its incontinence wipes in soft-sided packages rather than rigid tubs uses 90 percent less plastic. Also, Comfort Bath Pre-Moistened Washcloths and other wipes help conserve water in health-care facilities. For more information, visit www.sageproducts.com.

“Essentially it costs us more money, but the owners of the company believe it is the right thing to do,” Nygren said. “If enough private businesses invest in technology, maybe we’ll get somewhere.”

Brown agreed.

“As one of the largest users of energy in our community, we have to reduce our carbon footprint because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Sage’s support of renewable energy is a major part of our commitment to reduce waste in every aspect of our business.”

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