A Friendly Challenge Saves Thousands in Utility Costs

Jan. 10, 2019 (CAMP RIPLEY, Minnesota) — The Minnesota National Guard’s environmental programs office is housed in humble brick and mortar at Camp Ripley Training Center, just to the left as you enter the main entrance. It’s a simple office building, with winding cubicle mazes and the distant hum of office noises. However, what the average visitor might not realize is that this office is responsible for significant energy and cost savings for the Minnesota National Guard.

Lori Ruff, the environmental sustainability program manager, is responsible for some of these savings. Four years ago, she helped to enact an initiative that would save the Minnesota National Guard money and energy with the simple actions of education and awareness.

“The Energy Efficiency Challenge is a behavioral program that specifically looks at energy use in our facilities,” said Ruff. “We’re in our fourth year right now of the Energy Efficiency Challenge and we’ve saved almost $600,000 dollars in utility costs so far.”

The savings come from educating the end-user – the Soldier, Airman or civilian employee – about energy conservation and how simple acts like turning off lights when you leave a room can make a lasting impact. From there, the facility manager tracks their building’s energy consumption, reports the findings and creates best practices to continue the decline of energy waste.

In 2018, the Minnesota National Guard was awarded the Federal Green Challenge from the Environmental Protection Agency for its initiative with the Energy Efficiency Challenge.

“The Energy Efficiency Challenge was seen as a great success as far as the Soldiers and the end-user in the facilities taking that leadership role on and influencing others and being able to have such a great impact and have so much savings,” said Ruff. “That over half a million dollars has been saved is quite a big deal, just from being more aware of the way you are using electricity and energy.”

Ruff says that the environmental program’s initiatives have seen continued success over the years because of support from leadership.
“The support for sustainability comes from the bottom up,” said Ruff. “That we have support from the end-users, the Soldiers out there every day, but also all the way to the top level with the adjutant general and our other leaders is the reason we are able to be so successful with our sustainability program in Minnesota.”

The Minnesota National Guard places fiscal and property responsibility as one of their top priorities because a sustainable and energy efficient organization keeps our members training in resilient facilities.

“Soldiers need a realistic training environment to train in,” said Jay Brezinka, environmental program manager for the Minnesota National Guard. “And if we don’t provide that realistic training, it’s very hard for the end-user to meet their mission.”

Sustainability is something that gives Soldiers the ability to train and support the mission.

Story by Sgt. Sydney Mariette, Photos by Sgt. Sebastian Nemec