Hello everyone, I’m back from army reservist training. After two weeks in the sun, I’m as brown as our Carbonised bamboo flooring. 🙂

First, a quick apology to those who have emailed or called me.

My computer got infected with a particularly stubborn strain of virus, which in turn opened the gate for at least another 10 viruses/spyware/Trojan Horses/worms. It was a real nightmare, as they kept resurrecting after apparently being disinfected. It took many hours and 6 different anti-virus programmes, but it’s finally gotten a clean bill of health.

Then my Treo 750v succumbed to mysterious software bugs, and many calls and SMSes were either lost or disconnected. So if I didn’t respond to an email or SMS you sent, please do re-send them. Sorry for the trouble.

OK, in case you’re still wondering, 5 June was Eco Action Day 2007. This was organised by SEC and Ricoh Asia Pacific to commemorate the World Environment Day.

Since Star Bamboo is participating, I eagerly flipped through the papers to see how it went.

In the end, only 30 companies participated, falling far short of the modest target of 100 companies. What a disappointment.

So what went wrong?

The Today newspaper cited reasons such as private initiatives and first-time jitters for the poor showing.

On closer scrutiny of the article, one thing stood out:

For photocopier vendor Ricoh Asia Pacific, a co-organiser of the programme, all 60 or so staff members will leave work three hours earlier today, when all office lights and electrical appliances will be turned off. This will save about 100 kilowatt-hours, the average amount of energy in a month consumed by a one-room HDB flat.

I was surprised by how Ricoh appeared to have misunderstood the campaign.

The spirit of Eco Action Day is to raise awareness of how much energy we are wasting and encourage companies to adopt more efficient practices at work. It’s about maintaining productivity while reducing energy consumption.

It defeats the purpose if staff are getting off work early, just so they could save electricity. Wouldn’t they save more energy then by shutting down for the entire day?

For Eco Action Day 2008, I have a suggestion for participating companies: Make it measurable. Whatever is measured gets done.

That is why schools focus on exam rankings and listed companies obsess with share prices. I once drove a car which has a needle gauge monitoring the fuel consumption. Needless to say, I spent the entire journey trying to keep it as low as possible. Indeed, I spent more time looking at it than at the road situation!

If you wish to encourage your staff to save electricity, then let them know how much they are using. Better still, make it into a game.

  1. First, establish a bench mark by averaging the electricity costs for the past 6 months.
  2. Tell them the figure, and suggest ways in which they could conserve electricity.
  3. Start one month before Eco Action Day, and challenge them to save, say 25%, for that month.
  4. If they meet the target, then a portion of the cost savings goes back to them, perhaps in the form of a coffee-maker or whatever. As long as they get to choose their own prize.

The company saves money, the staff are happy, and less energy is consumed. Everyone is a winner.