Bibb County government going green

A note written in green type appears at the end of e-mails sent out by some Bibb County officials.

“Go Green!” the message urges its recipients. “Please don’t print this e-mail unless necessary.”

Members of Bibb County’s newly formed “Go Green” committee are the ones spreading the environmentally friendly message. The group, made up of county department heads and employees, aims to make government operations more energy efficient.

“We want to be as good as anybody out there in going green,” said Steve Layson, Bibb’s chief administrative officer.

The committee, chaired by Bibb’s buildings and properties director Sam Kitchens, plans to meet monthly. Members have set goals for the group, including starting an awareness campaign, producing a mostly electronic quarterly newsletter and providing more opportunities for employees to reduce, reuse and recycle.

At a recent meeting, members talked about ensuring consistent electronics, battery and ink cartridge recycling. They also discussed encouraging employees to have their paychecks direct-deposited in the bank to cut out paper waste.

Individual departments have practiced energy-efficient techniques for years, but this is the county’s first organized effort to save money and the environment, Layson said.

Energy efficiency audits have found that most buildings, except the courthouse, already are 90 percent efficient, Kitchens said.

The challenge with the courthouse, he said, is its age. The 84-year-old building has been altered and expanded in so many places over the years that it’s hard to make it use less energy, he said.

But improvements have been made. Recent changes include replacing the air conditioners with energy efficient ones, replacing the carpet with a kind made almost entirely of renewable products and replacing the chillers and pump.

As buildings become more energy efficient, they should become less costly to run, officials said. Some savings already can be seen.

In January 2008, the courthouse used 324,000 kilowatts of power that month. By December, usage was reduced by 100,000 kilowatts, Kitchens said.

The bill also dropped from $27,000 to $24,000, he said, and it would have fell more had rates not increased so much.

Energy efficient features are added to many buildings as they are updated. The county also has received a federal grant to buy 33 hybrid vehicles and retrofit 66 diesel vehicles over the next three years.

The Bibb County Commission supports finding energy efficient solutions, Layson said, and approved money to go toward energy savings in the fiscal 2009 budget.

Go Green committee members try to balance energy efficiency and cost effectiveness. Some energy savings are so small they may not be worth the cost of implementing them, Layson said.

“We want to make sure we don’t do things just for the sake of doing them,” he said.