Charlottesville Climate Collaborative

United Way Thomas Jefferson Area joins the Charlottesville Better Business Challenge

Our United Way focuses on people, supporting programs around school readiness, self-sufficiency, and community health. We don’t directly contribute to environmental causes, but we do respond to the pressing social needs of our time of which supporting sustainability of the environment is of great importance. To support this work we are proud to join scores of other local businesses who are going greener by taking on the Charlottesville Better Business Challenge.

The challenge is organized by the Charlottesville Climate Collaborative, a nonprofit that seeks to “catalyze climate action through community-wide collaborations.” Why join in? The United Way is all about collaborations, of course, and a greener community is a healthier one. The United Way is also a catalyst for community convening and leadership, and supporting climate action with other local businesses and nonprofits helps to create common goals around sustainability in our community.

“We joined because we felt that the United Way, as a leader and convener in the community, had a responsibility to prioritize being good citizens around climate leadership to protect the health and vitality of our community,” said Ravi Respeto, the United Way’s president. “By committing to improving our internal processes and structural building changes, we could demonstrate our commitment in the business and nonprofit sectors to climate change awareness and leadership.”

What actions has the United Way taken to meet the challenge?

The most significant step was to replaced two aging HVAC systems with a high-efficiency system. Programmable thermostats are set to EnergyStar standards. Weather stripping was installed on doors and windows.

As part of the challenge process, we benchmarked our previous energy usage and found lots of other ways to reduce it.

There were several steps involving the office lighting, including the use of LEDs for 80 percent of the lighting fixtures. Occupancy sensors are used for indoor lights. Outdoor lighting is now controlled by timers and motion sensors. Track lighting is used in place of overhead fixtures. Natural light is used as much as possible.

We’ve also improved our recycling practices, making sure we always separate recyclables, recycle toner cartridges, and purchase office consumables containing recycled content.

We are looking to reach 75 percent of the BBC goal in 2019. And we are exploring additional building upgrades as we make our fiscal plans for the months and years ahead. Potential upgrades include window replacement and solar panels.

UWTJA is urging other businesses and nonprofits to come together with local government to support policies and practices that will improve our community’s climate health and vitality.

“A lot of the populations that we currently serve need support to have equitable access to energy efficiency programs,” Ravi said. “These programs will help them save money on monthly heating/cooling bills and enjoy improved indoor air quality. We are in the business of strengthening families through actions that benefit all members of our community, climate advocacy and sustainability are important to the long-term welfare of our community. Partnering with other area nonprofits to do this important work is essential to the United Ways vision for healthy communities.”