Friday, May 8, 2009

Going 'green' means happier employees, members

MADISON, Wis. (5/7/09)--Keep your credit union employees healthy, and they'll be good to your members.

That's the motto that Michigan State University FCU (MSU FCU) in East Lansing has embraced with the construction of its new green headquarters building.

"Our CEO [Patrick McPharlin] is firmly committed to keeping employees happy and making their surroundings nice," Joyce Banish, MSU FCU vice president of university and community public relations, told News Now. "He thinks they will better serve the membership and raise the level of service."

The headquarters building opened in September and is seeking Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) certification, which should be decided shortly, Banish said. MSU FCU is confident it will receive at least a silver rating, but is aiming for gold.

MSU's building uses an air purification system, thermapane windows and recycled materials such as low toxicity paint on the walls and bamboo floors. Lights automatically turn off if there is enough natural light in the room--and because all of the offices are located on the outside of the building, 75% of the workday's light comes from the sun, Banish said.

"People who are exposed to natural light are happier," Banish added.

The credit union also reduced its water use by 40% with waterless urinals and low-water toilets. Landscaping around the credit union requires little water and the plantings actually filter out oil and runoff, Banish said.

MSU FCU offers employees a cafeteria so they don't have to drive to get lunch, and an exercise room, a walking path and a shower area to encourage them to walk or bike to work. The credit union recommends carpooling and gives employees are given an incentive to drive compact cars by offering them parking spaces near the front of the building.

Besides leaving a smaller footprint, the building has increased energy savings and has made happier, healthier employees. Employees that are happier and healthier will be more productive and have less sick time, and the credit union has better retention, Banish said.

MSU FCU members also "love" the new building, she added. "The university and community are very dedicated to preserving the planet."

A green building can be more costly than a non-green building, but it depends on a building's quality and size. The cost difference between LEED and non-LEED buildings could be a difference of 1% for large buildings, and 5% for smaller buildings.

"The costs are minimal when you consider the energy savings," she said.

Banish said credit unions wishing to go green should:

Use e-statements and e-mail instead of direct mail;
Cut out disposable items--such as styrofoam coffee cups;
Encourage healthier lifestyles for employees to cut down on sick time; and
Upgrade or remodel using recycled materials and low toxicity paints;

In California, Redwood CU (RCU), Santa Rosa, also has embraced green concepts. RCU's administrative office and Santa Rose branch is LEED-certified. The building received a silver rating after RCU remodeled the 1960s-era building. After purchasing the building in 2005, RCU modified it to make it more light and energy efficient.

Some of the features include:

Recycled and/or renewable construction materials, including carpeting, linoleum, hardwood flooring and lighting fixtures, and a recycling program for materials removed from the building during the remodel;
Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde-free paints and finishes;
Environmentally sound water-based adhesives for carpet and flooring;
Automatic stepped lighting to maximize the use of natural light, and motion sensors that turn off lights when they detect that a room is unoccupied; and
Water-efficient restrooms, landscaping and irrigation.

"The result of this remodel has not only been an environmentally sound and positive workplace for nearly 200 of RCU's 350 employees, but the facility also provides a comfortable and healthy atmosphere for members to conduct business at the on-site branch and two ATMs," RCU said on its website.

The remodel allowed RCU to consolidate its administrative work force from three buildings into one, reducing the need for cross-town travel. The new facility has a 200-seat community room that provides space for company meetings and events, and events for nonprofits and community groups at no charge.

RCU also pursued green friendly efforts in its new Cloverdale branch, which opened last year. The credit union used green materials for the paint and carpet.

RCU has been recognized for its sustainability efforts by the City of Santa Rosa, the Sonoma County Business Environmental Association and the California Credit Union League.

Robin McKenzie, Redwood CU senior vice president of marketing and public relations, also noted that at a recent annual meeting, the credit union hired a green caterer who offered an environmentally friendly food setup. RCU also participated in a recent parade in Petaluma, Calif., where it provided a hybrid vehicle and handed out recycled shopping totes to attendees.

"We offer a website for tips and resources for members to go green," McKenzie said.

RCU encourages e-statements and use of online banking. It also offers "green" loans, hybrid vehicle loan discounts and socially responsible investments where members can invest their money in funds that maximize return on investment and social responsibility.

"RCU's members, employees and communities are interested more now than ever before in doing business with or working for organizations they can trust, who do the right thing, and who are committed to their communities and the environment," McKenzie told News Now. "RCU is very committed to all of these things, and we work hard to demonstrate our commitment in many ways. We consistently hear from members and employees that they appreciate and feel proud of RCU for our green efforts.

"Being a true partner in sustainable practices and hearing positive feedback from our members, employees and communities is the true reward--even more so than the awards we've received in this area," she said.

For more information, use the links.

courtesy of

No comments: