Each year, it costs four hundred billion dollars to power commercial buildings and manufacturing facilities in the U.S. Now a presidential challenge is encouraging building owners to reduce their energy use by twenty percent.

3M, Macy’s, Whole Foods, and Hilton Hotels are just a few of the 250 participants so far. What really excites Maria Vargas, Director of the Better Buildings Challenge for the U.S. Department of Energy, is the second part of the challenge: participants then share the results so everyone can learn what works.

Vargas: “Because nothing sells like success.”

The DOE does not offer a financial incentive, but in the end, most participants save money. Since the challenge began in 2011, they have together achieved about eight hundred and fifty million dollars in energy savings.

Vargas: “When you save energy, it’s all good. You’re able to take money that used to be spent on what was an overhead cost and either reinvest it in your organization, or if you’re a school district you buy more text books. Or if you are a city government you’re able to offer other services.”

And by sharing what they’ve learned, Vargas says the participants are helping the United States reduce our energy waste.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

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DOE Better Buildings initiative

John Wihbey

John Wihbey, a writer, educator, and researcher, is an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a correspondent for Boston Globe Ideas. Previously, he was an assistant director...