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Editorial: Ball rolling on common-sense energy-savings initiatives

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GOING green has become fashionable at this early stage in the 21st century, but a coalition of local groups are literally walking the walk in saving energy and reducing the carbon footprint on the community.

In the process, they’re also saving money.

Well-known energy-saving methods have been tapped in abundance locally, most notably solar power, but local businesses and institutions are applying a wide range of other approaches to produce a healthier environment and reduce reliance on more traditional resources such as coal and oil.

One of the more intriguing programs under consideration is an effort by employees of Cummins Inc. and officials of the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District to determine the feasibility of capturing gas produced by the landfill and using it to generate energy.

The materials needed to produce these gases are certainly in abundance at the local landfill.

Officials from the solid waste district estimate that the local facility will produce so much gas over the next 12 to 15 years that regulations will force them to either capture it or burn it off.

Either approach will involve a significant investment in infrastructure, but one that could be accommodated through development of a commercial use for the gas.

One potential revenue source could be the delivery of the gas to plants in or near the Woodside Industrial Park, which is close to the landfill. A model already exists in Marion County, where gas from a southside landfill is pumped to the nearby Rolls-Royce plant, which has saved more than $2 million in the heating of two large manufacturing plants.

The involvement of the Cummins employees in the planning process is in keeping with the philosophy of partnerships in the public private sector that has been a major influence on the city’s growth for several decades.

Officials at Columbus Regional Hospital are taking an even broader approach to energy savings. Central to this attitude is the commitment to adopt an energy-savings mind-set in all aspects of business operations ranging from energy-efficient light bulbs to sensors that automatically turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied.

Hospital officials undertook this latest effort with implementation of energy-saving devices beginning in 2011, and already the results are showing up on the bottom line. Officials estimate the hospital is saving about $40,000 a year so far and have even more ambitious goals in the future, notably reducing energy usage by 20 percent or more in the next three to five years.

While many look upon the “green” movement as a “feel-good” experience, savings like those listed above constitute extremely practical reasons for rethinking how we obtain and use energy.

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